How Not To Ask For A Favour

A few days ago, I got this email asking me to write a story. It was cleverly done, and although I was ridiculously busy at the time (still am, in fact) I was halfway to agreeing because the person making the request had clearly put some thought into it and because the scavenger hunt thing did sound like fun. Then I changed my mind. Because, as I continued reading, it became clear that the person hadn’t actually put half as much thought into the basic manners of their request as they had into making it sound clever. In other words: sounds clever but lacks courtesy. Here’s the email:

To write a story for a complete stranger

Hello.

This is going to sound awfully weird. I do hope this email doesn’t end up in your spam- I have no idea how to get past the spam filter. I am no Nigerian Prince nor am I able to increase sexual potency in any form.

What I am here for is to ask for a short story written free of charge for me. You see, I am in gishwhes.  (https://www.gishwhes.com/) If you have clicked the link, you will see it’s a scavenger hunt in which proceeds (from the entrance fee and whatnot) goes to charity.

There’s 180 plus things to do with points to get. Some are downright insane. Snorkelling gear and get past the checkpoint. Get a skyscraper to spell Gishwhes from its lighting. Skyscraper must span at least 30 stories.

This one I am doing though, is item 78.

Get a previously published Sci-Fi author to write an original story (140 words max) about Misha, the Queen of England and an Elopus. -Annie Houston.

So while I am able to crank up a story, I am certainly not a published sci-fi author.

Which is why I ask now, out of goodness in your heart, or curiosity in creating such a story, to help my team achieve Objective 78.

If you don’t really mind helping us, there is deadline set by the organiser of gishwhes. I have 5 days left as of this email.

Thank you for your attention. 

Yours truly, [redacted]

PS: I am actually nerve-racked at writing a published author. Also, as you can see, I am bad with emails.

What amused/annoyed me was that, while eagerly trying to hook me by explaining who they weren’t, the writer had then completely forgotten to explain who they actually are, let alone provide any proof of it. I did eventually run an identity check on the person (I was attending a seminar and had rather limited Internet access) but I rather think that if you’re asking someone for a favour, the burden is on YOU to prove who you are.

On top of that, the person apparently had done enough research to (a) find out that I have a few published stories in the genre they’re looking for, and (b) find my email (not that difficult) but somehow, neglected to find out what my name is. I’ve started emails with “Hello” before – when I was directing my request to a generic email address and didn’t know who would be picking it up, or when I had no idea who the contact person for the organisation was. In this case, however, I think that if you know I’m a published writer and you know my email, you ought to know my name as well.

Long story short: between the above two points, for all the person’s pains to try and make the request sound genuine, it actually still sounded like a scam.

AND THEN I found out this person had sent the exact same email to goodness knows how many other writers.

I did try to be kind. I guessed from the tone of the email that the writer was not too experienced in professional dealings. So I replied:

Dear [redacted],

 While I appreciate the effort you have taken to compose your email in an attention-getting manner, I am sorry to say that I am during these two months very preoccupied with work – the kind of work that pays the bills and gets me published with my byline intact.

I would also like to point out that for published writers who make a living from their work, a short story, even a brief one, represents actual money, and we are far more likely to respond to a request like yours if you actually identify yourself rather than relying on an event description and “proceeds to charity” as a hook. This is not to say that people will turn you down; I’m sure that you will find someone happy to help out; but please take this into consideration as you contact other writers.

 I wish you good luck in finding a writer to assist with the story.

If my tone came across as short-tempered, I have to attribute it to lack of sleep, a painfully tight schedule and a lot of looming deadlines at the time. In any case, I never heard back from them. Presumably they found a writer willing to help. I hope they get better at cold calling, though. Some people could take offense at their approach and respond in worse ways than I did.

Intolerance – YOU Might Be The Next Target

Update: MDA has clarified with the organisers that there was never any intention to threaten the event or the hobbyists attending it. Nevertheless, my point still stands: if one person or group can be the target of discrimination, so can any other person or group. All it takes is one individual with an agenda or an axe to grind, and anyone, anyone at all can arbitrarily come under attack. That’s what people are afraid of now. And that’s what we need to be careful of, any time we feel tempted to decide that someone else is somehow morally inferior to us.

 

We’re feeling threatened.

This weekend, a large hobbyist event takes place at the Marina Barrage. The organisers have received two advisories: one from the police, warning against revealing outfits, and one from MDA, suggesting that the hobbyists not wear their costumes on public transport. Yes, it’s a cosplay event. And to be absolutely frank, the advisories were more like gentle requests, and the arguments about revealing costumes and wearing your stuff on public transport have been going round the cosplay community for a while.

This time, though, there’s been an uproar. People became very upset about the advisories. They’re alarmed, angry and feeling threatened. In particular, they feel threatened by the religious right. Last year a churchgoer called the police on a cosplayer because she didn’t like the girl’s costume, and the same church has several times instructed security guards to chase cosplayers away from public venues. I was one of the hobbyists thus chased away on one occasion.

Why the reaction? Just look back a few weeks, when the National Library Board, in response to a complaint from one individual with an agenda, withdrew three books about alternative family structures and scheduled them for pulping. A public trust was broken then, and it was further broken when comics depicting non-mainstream romantic relationships were banned or permitted based on whether they included violence against people in those relationships. And you know what? It isn’t just people in non-mainstream relationships who feel threatened now.

Coming so soon after the religious right attacked books in the name of crushing homosexuality, cosplayers – whose hobby is vilified in some quarters for ‘promoting immorality’ – are worried. Are we the next target? The right-wingers were held off by the minister. Are they coming for a softer target? Are they coming for us?

And this is where the broken trust shows. The library wouldn’t protect minority families. Cosplayers are afraid that the police or MDA won’t protect us. If the right-wingers come to the event and attack someone whose costume they don’t like, people feel they can’t trust the authorities to protect them. Some people are actively making contingency plans for dealing with incidents caused by moral vigilantes.

For that matter, what guarantee does ANY minority – by race or religion or sexual orientation or hobby- have that the authorities will protect them? Look how easy it is to arbitrarily cause trouble for someone. When anyone with an agenda can assemble a collection of names – real or fake – on a petition and get the authorities to act against a group they don’t like, no one is safe.

And yes, I myself feel threatened on a personal level. Will someone with a narrow interpretation of their religion one day influence a client to fire me because of my hobby?

This is the real slippery slope. Not the presumed sexual immorality that some people are so obsessed with, but the erosion of everyone’s safety, everyone’s peace of mind, everyone’s rights. When discrimination against one minority is actively supported, everyone is endangered. No matter how upright a life you might lead, no matter how well you conduct yourself, there is no guarantee you will not be the next target.

Ban Homosexual Budgerigars!

The last pet budgie I ever kept. You can’t even tell properly whether it’s a a male or a female!

Today I realized that the AVA should ban budgerigars because they are against family values. Pet shops should be prevented from selling these birds. Budgerigars are dangerously popular as pets, especially for young children, but what kind of family values are our children learning from them???

Having kept budgerigars for close to 20 years, I have observed these appalling, anti-family traits in them:

Male budgies have uncontrollable homosexual inclinations. Give a couple of male budgies access to each other and there’s a 90% chance that they’ll try very enthusiastically to mate. If one of them isn’t keen on mating, the other one might rape him. And when they’re not going after each other’s backsides, they’ll be humping the perch, the toys, the food containers and, given a chance, their owner’s hand. What will little children think, looking at their pets doing these pervy things?!

Female budgies attack their own eggs viciously. I’ve had a female budgie which didn’t even lay her egg in the nest box we provided. She squatted and pooped it out as if it were, well, poop. And left it on the floor with the rest of the poop. When I retrieved it and put it in the nest, she picked it up and threw it away! This is child abuse and child abandonment! It might even count as abortion!! What a horrible example a bird like that would set for a young, impressionable owner!!!

Male and female budgies can’t always be told apart. Lutino males are particularly hard to distinguish from females, especially when young.  Their cere isn’t the same colour as a normal male budgie’s – it can be easily mistaken for a female’s. It’s a disgusting deception! It teaches children that it’s ok for a boy to look like a girl!!

Budgies follow abnormal child-rearing practices. The female might throw the male out of the nest and raise the chicks all by herself. It’s a terrible example of one-sided parenting! What’s worse, sometimes two males cram themselves into the nest together to hatch the eggs and raise the chicks!! This is absolutely against family norms!!!

In view of how these birds do not represent pro-family values, I urge the AVA to ban their sale at pet shops and possibly ban local bird farms from breeding them. We must protect our helpless young children from absorbing the wrong lessons.

Come to think of that, my Congo African Grey is (almost certainly) male and seems to be desperately in love with my father. The bird must be homosexual. And you can’t tell male and female CAGs apart either. Ban them too!

[And now, we get serious. Because if ANYONE actually tries to take this seriously and tries to get MY birds banned, I will take it as a personal attack. And I will hunt that person down and give him, her, it or them so much shit that maybe they’ll have to run right away out of Singapore like one of the founders of the anti-Pink Dot page, who apparently had to run away overseas at one point because he was under investigation for spreading hate speech.]

  • One Writer’s World

    ...is the blog of Singapore-based freelance writer Mint Kang. A bit of industry talk, a bit of real-life observations, a bit of armchair philosophy, a bit of randomness. Welcome to my world, or not.
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