Damn You 2016

It’s not enough that you have to take some of the most talented people from us this year, it’s not enough that you’ve infested a hefty chunk of the rest of us with a level of mindless idiocy that defies credulity, no, you had to add in plot twists that none of us would dare use because fiction has to make sense.

Honestly, it’s enough to make a person think you’ve outsourced your plotting and character development to some third-rate hack whose primary method of character development is to degrade the characters by every means available and whose preferred form of plot advancement it to kill the nicest ones left. There’s a damn reason TV Tropes calls this kind of work “crapsack”.

Except, dear 2016, there isn’t even crap in your sac. It’s all hot air. Stinky hot air, to be sure, but anything festering the way you do is going to smell bad.

Look, I’m not a world-renowned author or anything like it, but even I know that too many coincidences will turn an audience off, and if you kill off every character or destroy all their redeeming features, there’s a good chance you’ll be condemned to the Literature shelves, where redemption is something to be feared rather than welcomed.

You don’t want that, do you?

What’s that? You don’t deserve redemption?

2016, that’s the point. Redemption comes for those who don’t deserve it. It’s what makes a redemption plot so powerful: the unworthy character who is granted redemption is then obliged by any number of factors to spend the rest of his, her, or its existence trying to become worthy – and in the process redeeming other unworthy folk and expanding the whole cycle.

But you’re dying and you won’t have time for that? Pish. It didn’t stop Scrooge in A Christmas Carol. He got a whole new lease of life from his redemption. You might not get that, but you just might convince 2017 that it’s worth doing things differently, like taking out the nastiest bastards instead of the decent ones (yes, I know you got that piece of excrement with the cigar – no, the other cigar. Considering who you seem to have outsourced to, I was figuring you thought he was one of the good ones).

So there it is. You’ve got a few weeks left. Are you going to take the redemption plot offering, or are you going to continue on your merry way and go literary?

No, I’m not making the decision for you. You’re a big year. You can do this yourself. You have agency.

No, you don’t get to blame anyone if you get it wrong. You’re a big year. You have agency. You’re the only one who can make yourself do something.

What do you mean that’s not what people say? Of course it’s not what a lot of people say: it’s easy to blame someone else for your crappy decision-making. It’s easy to claim that you did something stupid because you’re poor, or because you’re something. That’s one nice fat slap in the face to everyone poor or something who chooses not to do stupid shit, isn’t it? Did you really mean to insult all those people like that?

Yeah, that’s what I thought.

Of course I’ll forgive you. Whether they will is up to them.

It’s your call, 2016.


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51 responses to “Damn You 2016

  1. What’s 2016 done this time?

  2. CACS

    Bravo! (applauds)

  3. Draven

    ehh, it can just go away. I give it three weeks or so.

  4. Luke

    Redemption requires repentance.
    I’d rather see it go out with the grim determination of Captain Ahab.
    There are yet more experts to be laid low, more narratives to be crushed, one last glorious finale reminiscent of Hamlet remaining.

    • Except that sort of ending takes way too many people with it for my liking.

      • BobtheRegisterredFool

        I recently read and enjoyed the second MHI memoirs book.

      • Luke

        Life takes way too many people for my liking.
        But it’s the best available option.

        Let us not perseverate on the perfect that is the enemy of the good.
        Let us cheer lustily for the villains brought low, and raise a glass for the heroes who die in glory.

        • And weep over the ashes as there is nothing left at the Hamlet ending.

          • Luke

            The whole of Denmark was immediately better off once the scheming royalty and court successfully managed to exterminate each other.

            That there was nobody left standing on the stage was a *happy* state of affairs for the fisherman or swineherd.

    • Kate Paulk

      It does. And literature doesn’t believe in repentance.

  5. Yeah, 2016 doesn’t quite have the nasty plot twists of 2005, but it is working hard to reach that low. And agree on the “oh come on, quit bumping off the good guys. Thin out the villains for once.”

  6. I was surprised to see him stagger in; not just because he was supposed to be on his death bed, but because he’d taken the pledge. He slowly made his way to the bar, his bones creaking as he sat.

    “Whiskey, neat.”

    “What kind?”

    “Surprise me.”

    I filled a shot glass with the brand he once favored, and set it before him. He sipped then smacked his lips. “Oh, that’s good.”

    I expected him to toss it back as he did in his younger days, but he set it down. Then I noticed the paper in his hand.

    He followed by gaze, sliding the paper toward me. “It’s a tract.” His face became stern. “Repent! The end is near!” He laughed until his coughed. “You can say that again.”

    I said nothing to that. I’d seen it before, regular as clockwork. They come in young, with energy, only to age and end up an obituary.

    How they age, that’s the thing. Some become happy; some sad; some bitter; some angry; some sentimental; a few going out with the same energy as they came in, a middle finger held up at the reaper.

    I wasn’t sure which path he’d taken. There was a hint of sadness in his gaze; but also wistfulness.

    “What brings you out?” I said.

    “Wanted to see the old haunts one last time.” He took a sip, the whiskey barely going down in the glass.

    I waited.

    “Maybe I could have done better,” he said.

    “We all can say that.”

    He sighed. “True. You think your have all the time in the world. Make a mistake? No problem: do better the next time. Then one day you look up and you can’t. No time left.”

    He pocketed the tract. “Repent.” He took another sip.

    I waited, but his gaze had shifted to the glass. Whatever he saw there, it wasn’t whiskey.

    He barely touched his drink as I tended the other customers.

    “I wouldn’t have done it different,” he said as I walked by.


    “My life. I could have been better about it, but some things have to be done, you know? Like settling a tab. Speaking of which -”

    “You’re caught up.”

    “Just making sure. Thing is, much of what happened was set motion before I took over. Things come due. Things come to a head, Things are done.”

    “Like a bill collector coming around for the rent,” I said.

    “Yes. Or a repo man. We get the blame for things out of our hands.” He tossed the shot glass back just like the old days, and motioned to it. I refilled it.

    He clasped his hands around it as though warming himself. “I was called ‘literary’ today.”


    “Literary. Like one of those books high brow critics love but makes everyone else puke. All gloom, despair, and agony.” He took out the tract and looked at it before pocketing it and taking a sip.

    “Until today, I thought things were looking up. That’s not literary. I think things are going to work out well for the new boy. I really do – if I can hold it all together.”

    I raised my eyebrows at that, but he ventured no more. I had some guesses. “And if the new boy holds it together after he takes over?”

    He gave me a sad smile before sipping his whiskey. “To repent, you’ve got to change more than what you do; you’ve got to change how you see things, too. But I don’t know what I could have – or should have – done differently. Yeah, there was the bad, but there was good, too. Just like there’s going to be good and bad on the new boy’s watch. But I think people will remember more of the good.”

    He sipped a good bit of his drink on that. “You’ve been a great friend.”

    “I just listen.”

    “Sometimes, that the best a friend can do.” He tossed back his glass, setting it down on the bar as he stood, pulling his wallet from his pocket.

    “It’s on the house.”

    “Thanks, but I can’t take it with me.” He placed some bills on the bar. “Keep the change. And tell the new boy ‘best of luck’ for me.”

    “Sure thing.”

    “Oh, and give him this for me.” He placed something in my hand.

    I knew what it was before it dropped into my palm. It was what I’d given when he’d started, a gift from his predecessor, something I’d long passed to each in turn. A little reminder. I closed my fingers around it. “It can always be worse, can’t it.?”

    “It could have been a lot worse on my watch, too.”

    I nodded. “Merry Christmas.”

    “And a Merry Christmas to you. And, maybe, just maybe, a happy New Year.” He gave me a wink. Then he stepped into the night and was gone.

    • Now I want to know what ‘It’ was.

      • BobtheRegisterredFool

        I’m pretty sure Kevin has written an original response to Kate’s column. In which case, this is 2016, and IIRC clocks, scythes, and banners have some association.

        • It seemed to be an original to me. I’m still curious what the pass down was. I can think of several possibilities. Up to and including an apple from the Garden of Eden or a nail from the cross, with a range in between.

          • Holly

            One of thirty peices of silver.

            A bit of the Enola Gay.

            A used bullet.

            A scrap of a flag.

            An egg.

            Might be more impactful to leave that one up to what the reader brings with him than to spell it out.

          • I did have a specific item in mind, but it works better not to state it.

            I really hope I didn’t step all over Kate’s post. It just came to mind that one person’s good year is another person’s bad. Sometimes a year is bad for everyone, but years like 1929 and 1941 are rare. So are really bad years like 72,000 BC. And this year Kate became a US citizen. That alone makes it not completely bad.

        • That was my impression, too.

    • Kate Paulk


  7. Alan

    …”You have agency.” — Uh, what? I mean who? What agent would take a story like this one?

  8. 2016 is the year I lost my dad, my family home 3x over, and had to be a good citizen and vote for a frakkin’ Democrat. For President.

    2016. SUCKED.