Category Archives: Uncategorized

Something Promo This Way Comes

*The Free Range Oyster has collected the promo for the week, but meanwhile (says she) I’m just posting a quick update on the status of the writer.  We’re moving the older boy out this weekend, since medschool starts next week.  The emotions they are mixed. He’s afraid he’ll change and no longer be able to relate to us.  That doesn’t worry me so much.  He IS change, and has been since he was put on my tummy the day after he was born.  We all are change.  And his move is overdue and would have happened before, but for financial circumstances and our needing his help fixing a house.

What worries me is less palpable.  I’m looking forward to more time to write without the kids (since when house sells #2 will be leaving the nest to rent his own place) and at the same time I worry I’ll go into one of my writing fugues and emerge on the other side and they’ll be middle aged, and I’ll have missed decades of their lives.  OTOH that’s the dilemma of every relationship (and novel.)  Hold each other close and do nothing means the relationship (or the novel) dies.  Do something and make life worthwhile, but miss all the time of just hanging out with your spouse and kids.

This family has always been fairly hard-and-fast going.  And yet, we found the time to have fun together.  This might be a little more difficult as miles between us lengthen when the kids get jobs, etc, but… maybe it always be so, to an extent.

When I was dying (well, everyone said I was) in an ICU 19 years ago I realized the most fun I had in life wasn’t the expensive trips or the vacations, but going out on a Saturday with Dan and the boys with nothing much to do and ending up at garage sales, or the zoo.

I don’t know what form that fun will take in the future, but I think it will happen, and I look forward to it.- SAH*

Hail, well met, and welcome to the weekend! I hope you all have lovely plans for raiding and loot- er, relaxing and constructive activities before Monday comes skulking in again. We’ve a couple of intriguing new entries this week from OldNFO and TXRed, and some resubmissions from CJ Carella, who wanted (quite justifiably) to show off the lovely new covers. I’ve got to run – we’re receiving the final Oyster Clan refugees from the Glorious People’s Democratic Republic of California today – so go buy good books, read good books, hug your loved ones, and remember to pillage before burning.

As always, future promo post entries can (and should!) be sent to my email. Happy reading!

Jason Dyck, AKA The Free Range Oyster

Codemonkey, minion wrangler, and teetotal tippler

JL Curtis

The Grey Man – Changes

When Texas Deputy Sheriff John Cronin thwarts the Cartel’s plan to get paid to smuggle Muslims across the border, he becomes the target of the Cartel once again. One try fails, but the cartel isn’t about to give up. With his granddaughter, Jesse, still recovering from her last run-in with the Cartel and now far away with her Marine husband on a military base, Cronin only has to worry about the innocents around him.

One way or another, this old school law man plans to end this cat and mouse game for good. But, this time, the Cartel is playing for keeps; ending this war might just cost the old man his life.

Either way Cronin plans to go out on his feet, fighting tooth and nail.

Alma Boykin

When Chicken Feet Cross the Highway

The next-to-last thing Alexi Zolnerovich wanted to see on I-25 was the Little House on Chicken Feet crossing eight lanes of traffic. He survives the Interstate only to find his grandmother missing, and hints that trouble from the Old Country followed the family across the water.

Can a young man’s determination and North American magic stop Baba Yaga?

C.J. Carella

Armageddon Girl

New Olympus Saga Book 1

College student Christine Dark wasn’t happy. Her social life sucked, she spent too much of her time playing computer games or reading sci-fi novels (and the occasional paranormal romance) and she felt like she was missing out on everything.

Fate had something special in store for her, though.

Without warning, an unknown force drags Christine out of her world and takes her to a whole new universe, an alternate Earth where superhuman beings have existed since the end of World War One, a world filled with strange and dangerous characters.

Christine soon learns she too is more than human, and that her choices may save her new home… or bring about its destruction.

Doomsday Duet

New Olympus Saga Book 2

In the sequel to Armageddon Girl, Christine Dark and Face-Off must face their inner demons while they try to save Earth Alpha, a world where superheroes are real and danger is everywhere. Can a former gamer chick endowed with cosmic powers and a murderous vigilante deal with their differences – and their growing attraction for one another – and escape the shadowy forces hunting them?

Meanwhile, Ultimate the Invincible Man finds himself a wanted man, persecuted by his former colleagues; Condor and Kestrel fight for justice while indulging their twisted sexual desires; and Cassius Jones, the hero known as Janus, reveals the terrible things he discovered during his exodus in outer space.

Filled with action, adventure and romance, Doomsday Duet continues to explore a world filled with superhuman beings with all too human failings.

Apocalypse Dance

New Olympus Saga Book 3

The End Is Here.

Christine Dark and Mark Martinez face their greatest challenge yet. Captured by the Dominion of the Ukraine, where they face torture and death, they must find a way to outsmart the Iron Tsar, escape, and deliver the world from utter destruction. Meanwhile, other heroes and villains forge alliances or battle each other as the fate of Earth Alpha, an alternate reality where superheroes are only too real, hangs in the balance.

Jeff Duntemann


Caught violating Earth’s Zero Tolerance for Violence laws, Peter Novilio is sentenced to a one-way trip to Hell, Earth’s prison planet in the Zeta Tucanae system. Hell is forever: Two centuries earlier its ecosphere had been infected with microscopic nanomachines that destroy electrical conductors, condemning its inmates to a neo-Victorian steam-and-gaslight society without computers, spaceflight, or any hope of escape.
Peter soon learns that he has been framed by Earth’s paranoid world government, and is offered a pardon in return for conducting a reconnaissance mission to Hell and back. There are hints that Hell is developing impossible technologies or has even neutralized the wire-eating nanobugs entirely. How he will return from Hell is a secret known only to his grim mission partner, agent Geyl Shreve of Earth’s shadowy Special Implementer Service.
But Peter has a secret as well: He is a member of the outlawed Sangruse Society, and in his blood flows the Sangruse Device, Version 9, the most powerful nanocomputer AI ever created. Although supposedly Peter’s protector and advisor, the Device answers to no one but the Society’s mysterious leader, and has reasons of its own for visiting Hell. Peter soon discovers that he is little more than a disguise, caught in a covert war among Earth, a revolutionary group bent on overthrowing Earth’s government, Hell’s ingenious inmates, and the deadly mechanism in his veins. For as fearsome as it is, the Sangruse Device itself is afraid—and the fates of whole worlds would be decided by the threat that the Cunning Blood has discovered outside of space and time.

Social Injustice – 60 Guilders

Social Injustice – 60 Guilders

One of the things that most people who aren’t hopelessly mired in conspiratorial thinking have figured out is that the Holocaust—referring to the whole 12 million dead—was a rather evil thing to do. However, some people seem to be confused as to why it was an evil thing to do.

Here’s what I mean. There’s this underlying tone, whenever you see people talking about the “Jewish-Bolshevik conspiracy to destroy Germany” and the “stab in the back” theory of why Germany lost World War I, that the latter was come up with out of whole cloth by the German aristocracy and military while the former was Hitler’s own insane twist on the theory.

Unfortunately, neither one of those statements is entirely true. First, while Germany would have ended up losing World War I even without its internal issues, the fact of the matter is that the morale issues and general disaffection that led the German high command to sue for peace in 1918 were exacerbated by socialist agitation. The most obvious result of this was the Kiel mutiny, when the sailors of the German navy refused to go out and have a last “glorious” battle with the British and proceeded to set up a socialist-led soldiers and workers council, and eventually forced the German government to overthrow the Kaiser. In other words, the “stab in the back” happened—it’s just that it was more of a result of Germany’s loss of the war than the cause of it.

As to the “Jewish-Bolshevik conspiracy”—well, the awkward thing is that a disproportionate amount of Jews were involved in leftism in this period. Many of the leaders of the Spartacus League, which was heavily involved in the 1919 Spartacist uprising that attempted to take over Berlin, were Jewish, as were many within the Bolshevik uprising in Russia itself. The reason for this, of course, was that a disproportionate number of Jews were intellectuals, and intellectuals are often attracted to leftism. Now, the emphasis on Judaism was part and parcel of a longstanding pattern of German and European anti-Semitism, while the destruction of Germany/the German people was a case of a toxic combination of “They believe, as I do, that their policies are bad for Germany” and projection.

However, it should be noted that both of these theories, like all the really powerful lies, had a little kernel of truth in them, and a lot of belief behind them. There had been a socialist uprising in Germany that served as the straw that broke the camel’s back, and there were a number of Jews involved in the German left.

This brings me to a particularly unfortunate book I was required to read in college called What About Hitler, which, in the process of attempting to claim that total pacifism was the only possible Christian way of thinking about war and violence, mentioned that Hitler, under just war criteria, was justified in his actions. I should note, in the author’s defense, that this was a dig at just war theory rather than a defense of Hitler.

Anyway, that just really seemed wrong to me, but I couldn’t put my finger on why. Then it hit me. Any sort of justification Hitler might have been able to scrounge up under even the most ludicrously loose interpretation of just war theory was thrown out the window when he decided to engage in genocide, because attempting to annihilate entire people groups—Jews, Germans—for the actions of a secret or not-so-secret cabal, is wrong, because almost all of them will have committed no crime except possessing the temerity to be conceived in the wrong woman’s fallopian tube. For that matter, this is why going after any sort of group of people based on birth characteristics—race, sex, parentage, and the like—is a bad thing.

Unfortunately, that underlying tone of “Of course what Hitler and the Nazis did was unjustifiable, they were wrong about what was going on around them” whenever the topic of the Holocaust is discussed implies that, if they had been right, what they did would have been, at least, justifiable. In other words, there’s an acceptance of the underlying logic of collective justice going on there, and when you put adjectives in front of justice, you almost never get justice.

Which brings us to the current brawl in SF/F and the wider culture. There’s a very large swathe, of Western society that has regressed, though they call it progress, to the idea that one should deliberately punish all members of a group for the actions, real or imagined, of a few members, and to the idea that because members of a group are overrepresented in a particular area that it is a deliberate choice on the part of the group, rather than an accident of history.

You see it nearly everywhere. The idea that SF was somehow filled with racist, sexist hatemongers until…well, as near as I can tell, around five years ago is ludicrous when you have H. Beam Piper writing stories where racial intermarriage has turned almost all of humanity a nice shade of brown and there are heroic characters with names like Themistocles M’Zangwe. But, even if that were true—what, we should stop reading (and buying books from) straight white male authors for an entire year? Because a bunch of people they never even met were theoretically jerks?

On a societal level, however, that’s not especially important. However, you see the same kind of thing with the recent controversies over Michael Brown, Eric Garner, and Freddie Gray. Because white cops were involved (even if they weren’t the only ones there), and the dead men were black, suddenly all cops, particularly white ones, were evil, racist, brutal, Gestapo agents. For that matter, all of white America was somehow responsible for the supposed unfair targeting of black men by police, as well as the racial disparities in arrests. Because, apparently, all of white America is responsible for Ferguson’s city council kidnapping Lady Justice and whoring her out to Mammon, New York’s government deciding to be a bluenose, the crime-ridden sinkhole that Baltimore has become, and the weirdnesses of the American criminal justice system.

And if those don’t ring your bell, pick a controversial topic in our society today, and I will almost guarantee that it’s controversial because someone has decided that collective justice is something we as a society should engage in it. Confederate flags, stop and frisk, removal of tax exemptions, affirmative action…I could go on, but I am a guest here.

Now, the thing is, a certain amount of “collective justice” is inevitable—there is, to quote John Piper, a fine line between legitimate probability judgments and racism (fill in with whatever –ism you like). But it should not be a societal value, because when society starts tarring all members of a group with the actions of a few of its present-day members or members who the present-day members have never met, that’s when people decide it’s better to be hung for a sheep than a lamb.

In the best-case scenario for that eventuality, the fabric of society frays a bit more, and we’re all a little worse off. In the worst case, the crops are exceedingly well-fertilized the next year.

Slide In All Directions – A Blast From the Past Post, September 2012

Are you nervous?  Confused?  Distressed?  Don’t be!  Tune in for the next episode of Sarah’s blog.

Yesterday, at an ordinary get together between friends, we found that we were all waking up in the middle of the night with cold sweats.  Now, this being the type of gathering it was, most of our cold sweats centered on the election and since most of them do for a living this non-fiction thing I do sporadically and more intensely right now, we’re all dead-tired, hollow-eyed and walking into walls as is.

But there were enough people in other fields and who aren’t as intensely political present, that the sense of unease and discomfort, the sense that we’re standing on thin ice is not just politics.  “Something is going on here.”

What is going on here – and the reason I’m having cold sweats over the election – is ultimately the same thing that is going on in publishing.  It’s good and it’s bad, it’s exhilarating and terrifying, and the people who are terrified have declared war on it, and even those of us who’ve embraced it are scared.  Very scared.  You see… the future is not what it used to be.  In fact, it never was.

It’s impossible now to read the golden age of science fiction without getting two things: the confidence and the hopefulness.

The hopefulness I can fully get behind, but the confidence, the certainty that they knew what the future held – that baffles me.  Oh, not absolutely.  I’ve read enough of history and of the nonfiction writings of the first half of the twentieth century to realize they thought they had it all figured out.  (The only thing that confuses me is how they didn’t know how it had worked in the past.  I’m guessing they thought their technology was so extraordinary it made what had failed in the past possible.  Or perhaps it was simply the Soviet Union’s propaganda, making it look like it worked THERE.)

It is clear, even from Heinlein’s juveniles that they expected a world-wide government with tighter controls over people’s private lives than even we have managed to inflict on ourselves.  And it works because… because… because… Science!

In Heinlein’s books, because the man was aware of history, there was a hard science of psychology and also one of politics that made all this possible, if not desirable.  (Even in the early books, his characters strive to escape other people’s plans for them.)

People travel around the world, they fly to the stars, and all of it is overseen by variations on FDR’s regime – more or less benevolent – which makes the whole thing work.

I guess when the USSR had apparently pulled a medieval kingdom into the 20th century in a couple of decades – as far as the information coming out, at least – this made sense.

Of course, there was also how rapid and visible progress had been, and how we BELIEVED we had everything under control now.

Let’s say the USSR was very short of an advertisement and that any regime that tried to apply that to the whole world would be a sad, mad, fractured regime.  Let’s also say most of us know that now, at some level.

In many ways the wars of the 21st century so far have been wars against global communication.  Those who resent their people’s ability to see that they aren’t the brightest/bravest/most civilized in the world turn to religion and bitter, limiting beliefs and try to erase that which “offends” them by showing them their inferiority.  And I’m not JUST talking about Muslim countries.

It boggles the mind to read early 20th century books where travel across the globe was cheap and almost instant and there was no resistance to this modernity, this change.  Even the handwavium of “hard science psychology” can’t quite but leave us baffled.

We’re aware now that there’s more difference between cultures and religions than that.  (We’re also trying to claim those are genetic – well, not us, but the other sect of Luddites bedeviling us.  Never mind.  Jean Jacques Rousseau’s fault.  If I had only one bullet, and one time machine…  Never mind.)

Part of this was of course that the two generations before ours had seen their world change enormously – from horse and buggy to intercontinental flight – and embraced it, and couldn’t imagine anyone NOT.

But what they’d embraced was… a physical change.  Yes, machines could spin faster than humans, and that meant no childhood labor, but machines were still making the same goods in the same way.  They still had to be transported over distances.  You still had to go in to work every day.  Etc. etc. etc.

And their projections of the future, those things they so confidently embraced and foretold, were more of the same: people worked across the globe, but they went in to a physical location to work; they flew spaceships by being members of the astrogator’s union; and writers would maybe fax their work in, but books were still printed or somehow encoded in a physical form.

Turns out it didn’t work out as advertised.  Might it have?  Well, part of it was, I think, impossible from the beginning.  Like… the world cultures all effortlessly becoming a sort of ersatz 50s America for instance with their different customs so much décor.  (Weirdly I think that’s how most people who preach multiculturalism see it.  Part of this, of course, is that the future comes – always – from America and being a nation of immigrants who willingly abandoned their culture and keep only the… scenic portions, we fail to get that culture as a group experience is different.  I recommend one reads the parable of the crab bucket.)

But in the Western World we might certainly have had the population multiplying wave, and the strength of mind and purpose to NOW have colonies in the solar system.  Only… we didn’t because of the peculiar nature of the Boomer generation.  (Are you blaming the boomers again, Sarah?  No, not blaming.  But that they were in many ways the first generation in which even the poor were well off by other generation’s standards, that they were massive in numbers, and that they were the target of soviet agitprop made a difference.  How could it not.  And no, I’m not one of them.  Nor is anyone really after somewhere in the mid fifties.  That idea is a fiction they created to remain relevant.  Born in 62 I “got here afterwards” and to an extent at least early on defined myself in opposition to them.  To paraphrase P.J. O’Rourke, my generation turned its back on the sit-ins and love-ins, cut our hair and got jobs.  Someone had to.)  They not only didn’t have children early but they also went hook line and sinker for luddite nonsense rising to the levels of religious hysteria.  They turned on their own species, though I don’t think they were aware of that, and decided we shouldn’t leave this planet, because like Lord Byron we were “mad bad and dangerous to know.”  They, in fact, decided theirs was the pinnacle of achievement, and that life should be frozen just like this, with perhaps a little decay and population reduction, but never below the tech of the thirties, or above the tech of the sixties.  (I still think, btw, all this was Soviet Agit Prop.)  They would preside over the turning point into gentle decay, and the human race would live ever after like a contented dowager, taking up increasingly less room and reminiscing on her youth.

Only… change doesn’t work that way.  Nor does technology.  The bright minds who might have designed a better kind of rocket, finding themselves thwarted went into computers.  This was allowed because, after all, it was just improving what already existed.

Only it wasn’t.  And the people who are scared of technological change, of societal uncertainty, caught on too late.  In the nineties they scrambled to talk down the computer revolution, to pile on on online commerce as soul destroying, to guilt us into abandoning email and AIM.  The government, ever as clued as big publishing houses, lumbered around doing the bidding of the people who believed government was the future (because they are the ones who go into government careers, by and large) and kicking over sand piles with lawsuits against various tech companies.

And they were oh, so horribly inefficient.  They’re still trying.  The current front in this battle is the “Amazon is evil” moaning and beating of chests.

They won’t succeed.  And the quake of technology of which we’re feeling the first rumbles is going to make the industrial revolution seem like a storm in a teacup.

No?  Think.  What we’re seeing happen in publishing will happen in education and it will happen in every other field too.  Except for a very few jobs, jobs will get uncoupled from a place.  Now, instead of choosing from the best qualified candidate in your city, you can pick worldwide.  Outsourcing?  You ain’t seen nothing yet.

What will it do?  Even my mind boggles.  I think overtime all skilled people around the world will become comparable in salary, but that’s okay because cost of living will equalize too.

The way there will be …. Horrible in many places, and unsettling in the best of them.  BUT on the other side there’s a society where how far you get is limited only by how hard you’re willing to work.

I think the change that’s coming, and which my grandchildren might see the end of (though I’ll tuck away a hope that increased longevity will allow me to see the middle of it) will refashion the way individuals the world over think of themselves.  It might at that bring the triumph of the American way of life – once the present generation of doubters shuts up or disappears – because a constitutional democratic republic is the best way to manage a diverse and pugnacious society.

BUT my guess is what it will birth will not be a worldwide regime, but something far more complex, fractured and interesting.  People might at long last really be able to experiment with forms of government they believe in, (even if they are stupid, yes) by living near other like minded people, regardless of what they do or what natural resources the area has.

At the end of this I suspect we’ll have a sort of federalism writ large.  And the savings in time and manpower – from not having to fly containers of data around, for one – and the improvements in science from around-the-world instantaneous communication and better education-at-will; and the loosening of the grip of governments on economies (through distributed workforces) will  usher in an era of prosperity that WILL propel us to the stars.

I can see it.  It’s so close I can taste it.

So can the luddites.  Which is why they’re screaming and thrashing around like banshees and making use of 20th century communications tech to TRY to keep the future at bay.  It annoys me, because if they succeed the transition will be unnecessarily painful, unnecessarily bloody, and I might not live to see the other side.

What makes me wake up in the middle of the night is the fear that the land I love, and my children born here, will not live as an entity to see the other end of this either.

But that’s a personal and minor quibble.  Technology and knowledge, once they reach a certain point, cannot be wholly stopped.  You can change their course from what seems logical.  But eventually, to quote Leonard Cohen, “Things are going to slide, slide in all directions, Won’t be nothing you can measure anymore.”  And then… they’ll settle in a new pattern.  And move on.

Whether the future continues to come from America or someone elsewhere picks up the flag; whether it’s now or five hundred years from now – a more free world is coming, one that allows for more individual definitions of happiness and satisfaction…  for life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

And the people now trying to stop it will be bumps on the road.

Perfect Justice

So, Jeb Bush — Jeb Open Mouth Remove All Doubt Bush — was running his mouth.  First of all he says his son gets teased for his skin color (in Florida?  Well, paint me purple and call me Edna, but are they living in another planet?) Then he said he explained to his son that our nation is not one of “perfect justice YET.”

Am I the only one who shuddered at that sentence?  The pursuit of “perfect justice” be it racial, economic or whatever has filled millions of graves.  Now, would Jeb Bush do that?  I doubt it.  Or at least I don’t think so.  He’s a soft-Euro-socialist not a Stalinist (which means yeah, in certain circumstances the lesser of two evils) but the phrase is still worrying for a demonstration of brain-rot and how lazy thinking gets into people’s minds and ejects reason and sense, and can cause horrible evil.

I confess I never promised either of my sons perfect justice.  And when people remarked on their “beautiful” olive skin, I said “thank you.”  (Though honestly, how does one take credit for skin tone.  “Yes, ma’am.  My family worked on that tan for GENERATIONS.”)

I also confess not only don’t I understand American attitudes to race, I don’t “read” race the way Americans do.  That is one thing in which I’m very foreign (or perhaps from another planet.)

Look, I’m not saying Portuguese aren’t racist, okay?  Like most Europeans not only are they more openly racist (they make jokes all the time) but “race” often means nationality.  My mom classified not just my kids as mixed race (arguably Dan almost for sure has Amerindian ancestry, though you can’t tell it by HIM as such) but also the children of my friend who married a Frenchman.  Oh, and “mixed” is bad.

I’m saying that unless it comes up (such as in a joke) or it’s rather obvious (like the friend who married a man from Africa and half her family didn’t show up at the wedding) they don’t mention it.  And various degrees of tan/African features mean nothing because… well… Portugal.  (I once made a cover for a friend’s romance and she told me she couldn’t use it because people would think it was about POC.  The girl she was talking about is a dead-ringer to my older son’s Godmother, and my 5th cousin or so, who never considered herself anything but Portuguese and white.)

Add to that that even in Portugal I felt like someone from outer space on that, as many other things.  Unless you had an accent and had arrived from Africa last week you were just “a little dark” as far as I was concerned.  Mostly because I can’t be bothered.

But people born and raised in America?  Ah.  That gets… fascinating.  When what’s his face said we needed to talk about race my reaction was “talk about?  Can we get them shut up about it ALREADY?

There is a delicate dance of race and racial stereotypes and implications in this country that I not only don’t get, but have no interest in learning.  And there is — as admittedly elsewhere — considering “race” what is in fact “culture” like Hispanic or Arab, even if all of us fall under various tan-lines.

So… part of this goes back to that perfect justice thing.

I tend to forget race exists. And I certainly don’t look at strangers’ faces and analyze them for racial characteristics.  I was mildly amused when older son was drawing me and drew me a shade darker and said “Wow, you look black.”

At which point I said “Oh, yeah when I was young and spent a month a year at the beach, and wore an affro” (Shut up, it was the seventies.  Also, no, you’ll never get to see pictures.  I think. I wore it tastefully pulled back with a thin blue ribbon, Roman style.) “people IN PORTUGAL referred to me as “the young lady of color” which in that time and place was the same as saying ‘that chick just arrived from Africa.'”

But it didn’t bug me one way or the other.

As for older son, well, he’s older son.  We have had indications before that people read him as racially mixed with a good dose of Africa, particularly since the teacher known to mess with kids with that ancestry made his life miserable in first grade.  But I mean… he’s a little darker than I and it’s a ruddy sort of dark, somewhere between Dan and I for tone.  (Unlike younger son who gets darker every year and is Mediterranean looking.)

So, while we were looking for an apartment for him imagine my confusion at getting delicate probing as to my husband’s race, and also clear indications that people of various levels of tanitude, including the extreme, assumed Robert was one of them.

And this brings me back to that perfect justice thing, again.  While looking at the cheapest and possibly nicest of all the apartments, it became clear to me I couldn’t let my son live there.  You see, unlike a certain SF/F writer who thinks it’s open season on her, I didn’t think my son was going to get killed because at first glance he might be identified as mulatto (the fact he helped me fix a balcony and a fence doesn’t help this perception.  I mean, in a day he looked like me after a month at the beach.)

I am, however, not a total moron.

Police in that area has been off the leash longer than the militarization of police.  Arguably they are now MUCH better than they were in the seventies.

And the areas are sketchy and often on the verge of outright warfare.  Which meant that putting my kid there, when he’s likely to come home at all hours, possibly wearing all black (scrubs) when he’s big and hulking and therefore looks like he’s menacing while standing still and smiling is NOT a good idea.

So, I told him we’d have to spring for the extra $300 to go to the next area up.  (I noted, btw, that all the students in that complex were thin, blond people.)

Perfect justice?  Oh, h*ll no.

However it is the neighborhood’s character, not its skin tone that lead the police to be trigger happy.  That the character is covalent with the skin tone is what might cause my kid to be misjudged.

And the character is admittedly not the police’s fault, even if they do get a little trigger happy.

It is the fault of a culture that tells kids of a certain tan that they are “made fun of because of their skin tone” (do you remember being in school?  You could get made fun of for standing still.  My cousins managed to tease my best friend because her name was Isabel which rhymed with papel.  So the taunt went something like “Isabel, she’s made of paper.”  Yeah.  Not much sense, but it hurt, anyway, because we were all kids.)  It is the fault of a culture that tells kids we’ll work to get them “perfect justice.”

What is perfect justice, short of paradise?  Who is like G-d, that he might stand above us and judge what justice is perfect for whom?  Who even can judge races in this increasingly mixed land of ours?

I mean, my kid is technically Latin, as am I, and I was prepared to have people react to him as Latin.  (He looks Cuban to me!) But people are reacting to him as mulatto, which he certainly isn’t and we never thought of.

How do you even judge racism in those circumstances?  (And I’ll point out we experienced none, since most of the people assuming Robert was mulatto were black.) How do you JUDGE?

But when you look at every little kid who is darker than average and treat them differently, you’re going to create a completely messed up culture.

And weirdly the people like Robert’s first grade teacher who are outright racists and thing the worst thing possible is to be mixed race, and who try to put mixed race kids in remedial classes and convince their parents the kids are slow, are NOT the ones doing the worst harm.

No, those are people like Jeb Bush, who think that stopping kids teasing other kids is “perfect justice” because what the kids are teased about is skin tone.  They are people who tell kids with a tan or African features or whatever that “the man is keeping you down.”  They are the people who tell minority (ah, whatever) kids that they are being “microaggressed” because someone looked at them funny.

We all experience (trust me) frustration and failure in life.  To give these kids the impression that not only is nothing their fault (and a lot of it won’t be.  That happens to everyone too) but that they can’t do anything about it until someone delivers “perfect justice” and that the world has it in for them is a way to create a community of crazy, aggressive, dysfunctional people.

This is how we end up with a woman who attended NYU and whose parents networth is more than ours for three generations COMBINED thinking she’s a victim and everyone is out to get her.

No matter if they endure more of the teasing and glaring than others, telling these kids “yeah, some people are *ssholes, ignore them” is ultimately the best course (and the one we followed, except with that teacher, where we had to get the kid IQ tests in order to ignore her because the school was backing her.)

Because going after everyone who in their heart judges my kids as a stereotype and treats them differently wouldn’t create perfect justice.  It would create… how do you say?  Oh, yeah, mass graves.

My husband who presents as very white (good thing he didn’t grow up with us.  His name is Daniel which also rhymes with papel, and I can see my cousins singing “Daniel, Daniel, white like paper.” :-P) also gets treated differently oftentimes because he’s short, or because he forgot to shave, or because he’s slightly overweight.  Does that fall under perfect justice, too?  Man, those mass graves are going to need bulldozers to fill them.

THERE IS NO PERFECT JUSTICE.  Unless you clone humans to all look perfectly alike, we’re all going to judge each other on color, height, size, expressions, features, etc.

Provided we revise those opinions on an individual basis, it’s okay.  It’s being human and coming from tribal social apes.  Identifying “my band” was rather critical to our ancestors, after all.  Other bands could eat you or worse.

Now, particularly in a multi-ethnic (not just multi-racial) nation like ours it’s important to consider “tribe” something different, like say “believes in the constitution.”

BUT people will still revert to default modes, because people are people.  And you can’t cure people of being people and those who tried are known as… oh, yeah, “History’s greatest butchers.”

Perfect justice is an illusion.  I’d love to pay $300 less per month, and admittedly, if my kid were skinny and blond I could.  But then if my kid’s size and coloration weren’t linked to “danger” in the cop’s heads, that neighborhood would be much more expensive.

So, “in a perfect world” is irrelevant, because there was never and there never will be one.

And if do-gooders like Jeb Bush stop trying to help us achieve “perfect justice” we’ll rub along as best we can in this one, ignoring the *ssholes and doing the best we can.  Provided we stop lying to children and excusing their failures and their occasional grievances, and teaching them that what matters in the end is to work hard and be the best you can, and that if you do that you’ll succeed despite your skin color or features.  Yeah, you might not achieve the moon on a platter, because luck comes in there, too, but you’ll do much better than if you never try.

Teach your children well.  Regardless of their tan-status.

ALL lives matter.

Dealing in Stereotypes

*Maybe the “I have no strength” is tiredness.  I’m fuzzy enough I almost posted half a novel here, instead of this blog.  Fortunately I noticed before I pressed publish.*

Sorry to be so late with this. I didn’t exactly wake up tired or in pain, which is an improvement over the last few months, just scattered and feeling rather as if I didn’t have any strength in my arms, which is odd.

So it took me a while to get to this.

Yesterday my friend Dave Freer blogged on stereotypes, and I’ve been mulling on what he wrote while I cleaned.

Stereotypes are of course a tool of the trade for writers. We have to know what the stereotypes are in people’s minds, and therefore use them to suggest things we can’t thoroughly describe. (No one can thoroughly describe everything, even in a long book. Nor would you want them to. It would get truly tedious.)

Sometimes I fail at this, the same way I have trouble picking fonts for covers, because the stereotypes in my head are not the same as in most of my readers’. Take Irishmen for instance. I actually know something about the stereotype here, because it’s all over the books everywhere. However, if I’d tried to write an Irishman (or woman) when I came here, and assumed that my readers knew to round out the character with extreme politeness, drive and organization, it would backfire, and at best people would think I was being creative. At worst it would be a “wait, what?”

I suspect the Portuguese stereotype for Irish tells you rather more than you want to know about Portugal, but also about the sort of Irish we got in Portugal. Here you go people looking to make a new living, perhaps not drawn from the higher echelons of society. There you got either rich people, or people who came over as upper servants to British residents. In either case, the unruly Irishman stereotype doesn’t apply, even if both agree on song and poetry.

In the same way I often disappoint on the Portuguese stereotype, because my family runs to relatively tall, I haven’t been in the sun much the last few years, and oh, yes, I fail to be outwardly and loudly pious.

Partly it’s because most of the Portuguese you get here are from the isles whose culture is about 100 years older than the continent. So my grandmother would be more like the rest of the Portuguese here.

For instance at Liberty con years ago, while I was sympathizing with a writer who is – I think – 1/6th Portuguese, I said my shoes were lovely but were killing my feet. (I have since ditched them. It’s a pity. Very steam punk, but painful.) She asked if my granny would have said I deserved it for my vanity and that it was the devil torturing me. I honestly can’t remember my grandmother ever threatening me with the devil for anything, and her only comment ever on vanity was that if I kept looking in the mirror I’d neglect the true beauty which was inside. (I was about five.) But more than that, if someone had said that, openly, in our circles, people would have looked at them like they’d grown a second head. It’s simply not something you talk about in public, unless it’s as a joke.

Anyway, so as with me picking fonts for covers, if I use national stereotypes I have to check that I’m not misfiring. (Historic fonts for me often read western or horror to Americans.) For instance, recently an Indian fan explained to me that yes, there is a stereotype for Indians in the US and it’s NOT as I’d have assumed from the ones who have worked with my husband “unholy intelligent, mathematically gifted, ambitious and hard working.” Who knew? I certainly didn’t.

So I’m not going to rely on stereotypes too much, of course. And sometimes the stereotypes I use are those of the character’s time, not mine. For instance a character in Shakespeare’s time would expect every Italian to be aggressive and possibly a poisoner.

However, as Dave put it, some stereotypes exist because they’re true. Not in the particular, of course, because each individual IS individual. But if you’re writing a Spaniard and make him small, black haired, voluble, and excitable, people will get some of those qualities even if not very well sketched out. (This leaves Jason Cordova right out, as he’s not like that at all, but again, it works in general.)

I prefer to use stereotypes for my secondary characters, which prevents my having to draw everyone fully out.

Anyway, so, what is this about other than writing?

The problem with stereotypes is not in writing – unless you populate your entire world with them, of course or use stereotypes only a few people share – it’s in life.

I find a lot of people think in stereotypes. I’d like to say it’s just the left, but you know that’s not true. Or at least I know. It took a long time for some people on the right to stop treating me like a leper because Latin, graduate degree in Liberal arts, writer. They KNEW I was one of them crazy European SJWs and they kept waiting for me to show it. (They probably are still waiting.)

However the left, particularly the left in my field, are particularly prone to stereotyping and completely unaware that they’re doing it.

It’s been somewhere between funny and sad to watch people like Madame Butthurt trying to fit me into their mental map. Having taken off after me, in the complete conviction that I was a white American woman who had never travelled outside the country (and a lot of them having made comments to that effect to me, Amanda Green AND Kate Paulk) she was thrown off base at finding I was Portuguese. Then she tried to say I fled to the US to escape the revolution and was therefore an evil fascist (which would have required me to pack really slowly, as I came over in 1985, at least permanently.) And then she wandered in circles, and for all I know is still wandering in circles (I don’t know. I have a life), making the perma Tourette’s-like accusations of “racist, sexist, homophobic.” None of which make any sense in my particular case, but never mind.

Then there are flowers like the persons who invaded my facebook page, the screenshot of one of which Cedar posted yesterday. First, the guy, who apparently has an history having managed SOMEHOW to make himself persona non-grata at HWA and who seemed to think that anyone not agreeing with his choice of (socialist) candidate for the presidency was a “fascist” and longed for a “fascist” dictatorship (Those libertarians, always longing for dictatorship.) He also seems to be a dyed in the wool anti-Semite (and here allow me to put on my stereotype hat and say “of course he is.”)

Then there was the woman who posted “Hilary 2016” and when I said “Yes, she does have a vagina and got where she is on the back of a man, what a fine example for our girls” she said what I’d posted was “ew” (really? I could be a lot more “ew”) which seems like the objection of a two year old, and as we piled on the reasons her skankiness the carpetbagger SHOULDN’T be president, she said we were very angry people and that she’d have to block us and ran away.

The second one is more indicative of the type of non-reasoning I see involving stereotypes. The people most addicted to stereotypes learned them in college (which is why they think they’re the truth and not stereotypes. Hint: Marxist classifications of victim classes are NOTHING but stereotypes.) They not only learned these stereotypes, like that anyone who doesn’t agree with them or their professors is “racist, sexist, evil, doubleplusungood” but they have learned that if they find themselves agreeing with those people on the slightest thing, then you become one of them.

And this is why my colleagues on the left try to find ways to dismiss me (“Oh, the Portuguese were colonialist” – um… yes, but not as bad as the Belgians. All human breeds were colonialists. “The Portuguese are just Europeans.” “Fascinating. Perhaps you should share that wisdom with the bars in France who as little as ten years ago had ‘No Portuguese or dogs’ signs.”) or ways to make what I have to say irrelevant. “She’s just angry” (yeah, and? I actually am not, or at least only at some specific publishers, and not for anything public. But what if I were. Since when is being angry a reason to dismiss someone. Take the woman who came to yell at my mom because I’d bit her son (for good and sufficient reason but never mind) if my mom had said “oh, you’re just angry” instead of explaining why her son had come by his just deserts, the fight would have escalated to blows. Yes, the woman was angry. She thought I’d attacked her precious son for no reason. Which, were it true, would make anyone angry.) Or applied to everyone who disagrees with them “You’re jealous. You’re a bad writer.” Even if we were – and honestly, give us evidence, please, evidence we can’t cherrypick out of your darlings too – why would that dismiss arguments that have nothing at all to do with envy or our quality of writing, such as when I say that most books pushed and promoted are boring and incredibly predictable to anyone who studied Marxism as much as I was forced to?

I am admittedly jealous of some people’s writing skill. I have for instance, been studying P. F. Chisholm’s way with an historic mystery, because that how I deal with jealousy of another’s craft. I learn.

I am occasionally a bad writer, particularly in these blogs, which are unproofed and often written early morning or late night.

None of which means my opinions on stories or writers are therefore invalid.

And if I say something in a repulsive way, it might make you recoil, but a reasoning human being won’t say “that’s just ew” and dismiss it that way.

People, however, who are afraid to see real human beings behind stereotypes WILL. Because they can’t think of real people or of issues individually. They see only categories. And they KNOW that if they step outside the reservation they’ll find themselves BECOMING the stereotype they dread.

When they call us names, it’s a sort of incantation to make the bad thought go away.

Which is why when they (by which I don’t mean liberals, but people so impaired in reasoning that they respond illogically to any challenge to their world view. Not all liberals are like that, and some conservatives are) produce art it tends to be flat and lifeless.

Piers Plowman by any other name.

Unmasking the Clown- Cedar Sanderson

Unmasking the Clown – Cedar Sanderson

I’m not only a writer. I’m also a student working on a science degree, but for fifteen years now, I have been a performer; an entertainer whose job was to amuse others, make children smile, and generally forget their cares for a short time. Although this was a long, slow development for me, and originally not my intent to do, I was thinking about it the other day as I put the red nose on.

We all wear masks. Most of us would no sooner go out in public without that barrier between us and them than we would walk out of the house in our underwear. My mask for performing is simply more visible than the intangible most people use. When you see a clown, with the nose and the smile and the silly clothes, you expect to laugh, be amused, and enjoy the show. Before I ever tried clowning, I was on the puppet team for a year, and was really hidden. The thing is, you can do things while you are hiding behind the mask you would never consider doing without it.

I have a touch of agoraphobia, and for me to just walk into a party as me, and start talking to strangers is impossibly difficult (agora = the marketplace, or the mall, in Greek. So, literally fear of the mall). But as a performer (even without the red nose, which I rarely wear) I can make an entrance, dominate the room, and keep them laughing until I’m ready to go.

It’s exhilarating, and exhausting. I was thinking about it the other day because I was so unprepared to be a clown that day. It had been a stressful week, capped with arguing on the internet, and the last thing I wanted was to walk into a room full of strangers. But I’m a professional and I can slip the mask down and go onstage at the drop of a hat. I pay a cost for it, though. It takes a lot of energy to do this, even though I’m not a physical performer.

I once watched a professional entertainer I worked closely with go through what once would have been called a mental breakdown. The audience never guessed. He’d get up and have them all in stitches, and go home to sit in the dark and contemplate ending it all. It was only when, very near the end, he was finally unable to force himself to go to performances that his clientele had any idea something was wrong. He didn’t end his life, but he did leave performing. It’s a huge part of your life, when you do this job.

The arguments I’d been involved with online – one direct and personal, the other tangential and more amusing than stressful – reminded me of these masks we wear. It seems to me that when we are online we forget that the masks give us a buffer. We leave them off, and with them, the manners and courtesies we would observe if we were in that roomful of people. Not that we are all clowns. Nor that introverts can, with enough training and given little choice in the matter, become clowns (although I am living proof of that).

Rather than attempting to understand the other, to put ourselves in their shoes, people unmask on the internet and focus only on their concerns. Presented with a statement they see as wrong, they instantly go on the attack. Presented with the opportunity to attack, they lose all empathy and forget that there is another person on the other side of the screen, with feelings, thoughts, and differences. The dehumanizing effect of unmasking and then attacking leads them into behaviours they would never consider if they were looking into the other person’s eyes.

Consider this. If you assume that everyone you interact with knows the same things you do, has had the same education, shares the faith and beliefs you profess, then you are impossibly naïve. But I see this online. It may happen in a more personal setting, but there at least you can read the body language of your audience. That confused puppy cock of the head, wide eyes, and mental ‘baroo?” reaction to an angry statement. Online, you don’t get that. If you react with unthinking anger, they can’t, in turn, see the assumptions you have made to reach the conclusions you did.

We risk much, by stripping off our masks and letting our inner selves show. We risk more by the loss of empathy that communications without body language bring. Unmasking the clown can show the depth of pain and anger that most of us have learned to keep in check. But it boils out when the mask is off and we don’t care what others see.

I watched this happen the other day. A knee-jerk reaction to a badly phrased statement. One forgot, or never bothered to learn, that the other didn’t have the background he did. He went on the attack, to the deep bewilderment of the person being attacked. But worse than the public attacker was another who kept on a mask, but in private went about spreading lies. Humans are all too fallible. Unmasked, they can be downright repulsive.

And then there are the trolls. I’ve written more than once about the fuzzy edge of normalcy. The internet can facilitate the person who is borderline incapable of living a normal life to contribute to society. It can also enable a person who is full of venom to prey on anyone weaker than themselves. Some trolls are capable of rationale, others make you scratch your head and wonder if they really do live in a cave or under a rock, they are that far out of touch with reality.internetexchange

I screencapped this conversation segment because it was literally jawdroppingly wrong. There are times you simply have to wonder how much of a mask they can put on, to hide behind? What did trolls do before the internet?

This exchange left me amused rather than angry. It’s fairly clear in the course of the conversation that something was seriously wrong with the mental workings of the mind behind the screen. This, I find, doesn’t upset me.

What upsets and angers me is the sort of mind that feels the need to bully those who are unable to fend them off for whatever reason. The first argument I referred to, the one where a person went off privately, that was a bully in action. They took advantage of another who was at a vulnerable point, goading them into going on the attack rather than directly confronting themselves. I have no sympathy for cowards.

I find that I am also upset by people who I liked and respected suddenly going off the deep end. Being able to have a debate sometimes means that not everyone will agree with you. If you cannot bear to be disagreed with ever, then you need to withdraw from social media. If you can disagree, except on that one thing… then you may need to stop before hitting send and decide if this is worth the fight.

And above all, we must learn to remember that there is another person on the other side of the screen. One that is, or isn’t, self. I was explaining the immune system to my son the other day, and how the body reacts to invaders that aren’t self cells. The angry inflammation isn’t caused by the invader, it’s caused by the overreaction to the invasion by the body’s systems.

I’ve seen that, in groups of likeminded people. Feeling under attack by those who are outside the group, for whatever reason, they overreact when their personal pet beliefs are prodded. Yes, they are tender, but they can’t realistically expect everyone around them to walk on eggshells. Stripped of their masks and vulnerable, they overreact and as I can attest, an out-of-control immune system can kill a person. So can the overreaction and immaturity of group members.

Moderation is key, I was taught as a girl, to everything. We put the masks on to moderate our behavior to suit the environment we enter. We must remember to moderate our reactions, or risk shocking and killing the support group that keeps us all functioning as a body.

But I don’t Wanna be cured – a blast from the past from April 2012

*Sorry to BFP you guys, but I had a horrible night.  I think I’m channeling Emily because for some reason my shoulders feel broken at night — I think my pillows are in bad shape, and I’m a side sleeper.  At least I hope that’s it — then the morning was full up.  So, here’s a post on addiction.  Enjoy.*

“The truth is, I’ve got a monkey on my back, a habit worse than marijuana though not as expensive as heroin.  I can stiff it out and get to sleep anyway……..  The fact is I am a compulsive reader.  Thirty-five cents’ worth of Gold Medal Original will put me right to sleep.  Or Perry Mason.  But I’ll read the ads in an old Paris-Match that has been used to wrap herring, before I’ll do without.”  Robert A. Heinlein, Glory Road.

My name is Sarah A. Hoyt, and I’m a reader.  Unlike my struggle with writing, which more closely resembles an unhappy love affair, where I’ve walked away several times, only to be pulled back by the stories that form spontaneously in my head, I can’t say I’ve tried very hard to give up reading.

This is weird, because any way you look at it, reading is expensive.  And like with any drug, once you’re good and hooked on a series, you’ll do anything to get the next fix.  Anything, including but not limited to spending the grocery money for the week because, well, you can live without eating for a week, but you can’t live without reading for a day.

You know you’re an addict when you face this dilemma and the little voice at the back of your head goes all helpful.  “Buy it,” it says.  “Think about it.  Food you can only eat once, but books you can re-read for years.  You are holding cumulative days of enjoyment in your fingers.  Buy it, I say.”  (If this were the little cartoon demon sitting on my left shoulder, he’d be wearing glasses and carrying his own little book.)

Part of it, as in any addiction, is habit.  I won’t say that I don’t remember a time I couldn’t read, because it’s not precisely true.  But it’s only not precisely true because I also remember learning to walk.  So I remember lying on my stomach on a sun-warmed patio with a stack of comic books and trying to remember what the words were that my brother had read to me when I last had that book in hand.  I know I was reading – and attempting to write – by four.  For this my brother – nine years older and with no resistance to nagging – is largely to blame, since he read me those same comic books over and over again.  It also helped that Portuguese is largely phonetic.  But most of the blame must go to my parents who had absolutely no concept of “age appropriate reading.”

When I entered fifth grade, I was shocked to find most of my classmates were still reading lavishly illustrated books with more pictures than words, and on subjects as exciting as “Anita” (the girl who did everything in Portuguese children’s books) “Takes an airplane trip.”  I’m not saying I didn’t read those too.  Of course I did.  Some of my less than clued relatives gave them to me for my birthday or Christmas.  I didn’t mind, except that of course, they didn’t last very long at all.  And by that time I was fully into Clifford Simak and Robert A. Heinlein and Asimov and Anderson and Rex Stout and Earle Stanley Gardner and Agatha Christie.

Actually birthdays and Christmas were a great source of annoyance.  You see, my parents didn’t allow me to tell the sweet old relatives that I just wanted money.  That was unmannerly.  But as short on money for books as I always was, the best I could do out of those festive occasions, should the relatives be informed that I liked to read  Science Fiction, was Jules Verne or H. G. Wells.  Until I was old enough to go to school in the big city nearby and discovered I could exchange books at the bookstores, I read all of Verne and H. G. Well, of course.  The problem was that they weren’t “real” science fiction.  Not about the future as I’d like it to be.  Also, the translations were often awful.  But I read EVERYTHING.

I read Dumas (yes, all of them, even the ones that appear to have been paid by the word) and Sir Walter Scott and Twain.  My parents eventually told my relatives that it would be easier to give me Portuguese Historical novels or history books.  And even later, they sort of gave up and started giving me money to buy books.

By that time my brother and I were on an equal footing as addicts.  Often the only money we could spare would buy us half of that month’s science fiction release (one book per month, yes.)  To this day he chortles that my marrying an American saved us the epic fight we’d otherwise have had over who got to keep those part-ownership books.

Portugal doesn’t have – or didn’t in my day – public lending libraries.  Not even subscription libraries as those found in Regency England.  It has a public library but it is more like our library of congress.  And every new school I entered had what they called a “library”, usually stocked by some well meaning lady in the previous century.  So, did I read the manuals of young ladies’ deportment and lives of saints that those mostly consisted of?  Duh.  They were print.  And any print is better than going without.  BUT being me and unable to leave well enough alone, I thought of all those kids who wouldn’t be so lucky as to come from a family of bibliophiles with hundreds of books laid by and hidden everywhere from the attic to the potato cellar.  Every school I ever attended I started a library club which held fundraisers to buy books, and which requested of the parents one book for the library, in commemoration of their kid’s graduation.  Even in college, I vastly improved the American Library.  Okay, at least I filled it with Science Fiction.  I think it was an improvement.  (I’ve wondered, if I can get the address, if we could convince Baen to donate to it.)

When I became an exchange student, in 12th grade, for the first time I entered a house with no books.  No, this is no disparagement of my host family.  My host mother, particularly, was very kind to me and responsible for who I am today.  But they weren’t readers.  Not really.  My host brother and sister read magazines, but that was about it.

So… my first day in the US, in Stow Ohio, I made them take me to a bookstore.  I bought Assignment In Eternity.  Then I found the public library.  You lucky sons and daughters, you don’t know how good you have it.  I volunteered at the library because then I could check out unlimited books.  And I did.

When I found myself newly wed and broke, we set aside 3 quarters of our entertainment money for books.  And like all junkies, we quickly discovered where we could get the most book for the money.

Now, when I’m hard pressed and under the gun, I might just reread the familiar, so that I can put it down and go back to work.  A riveting book can cost me five hours work time, you know?  I start it and then have to finish it.  Heck, I can only exercise to audio books, which is costing me a small fortune.

And yet, I don’t want to be cured.  Let them say we read this much because we can’t handle reality.  I say reality is for wusses who can’t handle fiction.

Argument and Offense

Lately I’ve been seeing blow ups not only in all my groups on facebook, but on my private email lists, blow ups between people who granted have bloody nothing in common beyond opposing socialism.

This is perhaps to be expected.  I mean we’re living through the crazy years, the mania for eating dirt spreads to the South East, the “serious” discussion in Sci fi is “Should you even acknowledge gender”, we’re financing Iran’s quest for a bomb, Donald Trump tops (a minor, but much publicized) poll for president (with 17%) cats and dogs sleeping together.  The end of the world.

As I’ve said before I can judge the general mood of the nation by how fricking crazy the drivers are on the road.  And right now they’re pretty crazy.  And just as at other points of high tension, arguments and screaming are breaking out over the stupidest things.

I hate it because right now I’m not feeling up to this kind of nuttiness.  Perhaps it’s envy I can’t join in the fights, who knows?  Right now berserking would about kill me.

BUT what struck me is what is the difference between genuine argument and argument by “I’m offended” which quickly devolves to mud slinging and name calling?

I mean, free speech and all, so we certainly need to know, right?

What I’m seeing to a great extent in mostly conservative-libertarian corners is people snapping over points of disagreement they SHOULD have known were there.  But they’re snapping because they feel attacked from all sides, even nominally their own.

This is silly.  Discussion is important otherwise we become like the SJWs.  It is also human.

So maybe we should lay down some rules for “disagreements with people who are roughly going the same way we are.”

1- It is important to remember you are a broad coalition with many aims.  Some of you are almost as opposed to each other as to the people on the left.  It is important to remember that’s fine.  Once we take the left’s corrupt and murderous hand from the tiller, you can feel free to fight with each other.  Until then, if you love the constitution, you’re going our way. LEARN strategy.

2 – So you’re in this forum and someone made a joke/comment/etc. part of which offended you.  Consider DO YOU NEED TO COMMENT?  Is this issue so fargin important that you just HAVE to start an argument?  Remember you know our coalition is broad and not homogeneous.

3- If you HAVE to speak up, be as specific about the instance of disagreement as possible (it’s that important, right?) and present proof.  Arguments might still develop over what you consider proof, but it is less likely to go toxic.

4- If you don’t have to speak up in public, but still feel offended, pm the offender, or just say “I’m hurt.” in private.

5- REMEMBER YOU DON’T have the right to NOT be offended.  I am friends who people who offend me at least once a month.  I have friends who believe things I find deeply offensive.  I understand why they’re coming from, why they believe that, and why taking offense is counterproductive: I’m not going to change their minds.  So I avoid the subject and talk of other things. And we’re still friends.  And largely speaking we’re “going the same way.”

6- When someone raises a hue and cry and you vaguely agree with them, don’t immediately jump in on their side.  See if they violated one of the rules above, and if they did, well, ignore the mess till it passes.  If they didn’t, run it through the checklist yourself to see if you need to jump in.  “Is this something I need to be public on? Is this something that’s going to change anyone’s mind? Is this just going to create bad feelings to no purpose?”

This is not aimed at anyone or any group or list in particular, but I’m tired of seeing pointless arguments flare up everywhere.

Being offended is a great tactic for the left, because they command positions of power and can “group shame” on an epic scale.

For us all it can do is tear us apart and allow those who would divide and conquer us to do just that.

Don’t fall into this habit.  Beware agent provocateurs.

In the end we win they lose, but we can’t just react without thought.

Ripples In The World

Sorry this is late.  I am very tired/dragging, partly because the monster tiredness hit yesterday, I went to bed at nine thirty, then had a conversation with a family member that not only prevented me sleeping till well past midnight, but gave me the sort of night where you fight shadows in your sleep.  So I’m tired and achy.

For those who sent donations recently and to whom I haven’t answered because a ton of things are slipping as I’m trying to deal with older son’s (and his evil cat) moving out, as well as with getting the house ready for sale — I’ll get to it.

I meant to explain, because we sound as though we are in financial trouble — we’re not, precisely.  We are simply in a tight position, right now and until house sells.  We have no other debts, though we have financial obligations, such as helping sons with their tuitions (though not nearly most of it) which we promised to do if they took useful degrees.  The financial trouble will come only if house just sits and doesn’t sell, and I hope that’s not the case.

This is in fact one of those gambles you take for a better position, because if house sells as we hope/expect, then we can substantially reduce our mortgage debt, be able to help the boys more and also stop running scared.

My problem is that I don’t have the nerves to be a gambler, so I sit there imagining the worst possible outcomes.  It’s who I am.  As I said nervofage, or nervibore.

The other problem — one of you whom I will not name unless you choose me to — researched the surgery I had and tells me the normal recovery time is six months, and that either my doctor lied when she told me it was six weeks or I misunderstood, which is possible due to being high as a kite on percocet at the time.

Anyway, I thought it was six weeks and I’ve been impatient and trying to do what the guys need me to do (this whole house stops if I go to bed, as does the “house to be finished and sold”) and working more than I usually do even while healthy.

So, the whole Tiredness that Falls On You From Nowhere and which I’ve nicknamed The Stupid Tired, because I can’t function and nothing matters, and you could tell me the house is on fire and I’d ignore you and try to lie down and sleep (and sometimes just find myself lying down with no idea how I got up the stairs) is apparently a NORMAL symptom during recovery from this surgery.  For six months.  Which means I’m normal (for what I’m sure is the first time in my life.)

What difference does this make?  Well, today not much.  I have to go to the other house for the glass man (he fixes your panes) and while there, I might as well wax the front room floor, though cleaning the kitchen might wait till tomorrow.

Going forward?  Well, I’m afraid I might have done damage — I swear I thought I was following doctor’s orders — so I’ll try to rest more, but I will also try to write more.  Despite the Stupid Tired, stories have been bubbling up, and I’m reading again (three days after house death-march.  At the end of that I couldn’t even LISTEN to stories.)  I have my story for the Black Tide antho started and I WANT to write it.  (Rocky Mountain High plays a part in it.  No, REALLY.)

But I might schedule naps in the afternoon.

Meanwhile the point of this post: All of us make ripples in the world.  All of us change culture for the better or worse.  It might be small ripples, a conversation you had that someone else thinks about that leads to them having another conversation.  Sometimes the ripples turn big.

When I decided to start speaking and come out of the political closet, it was because I caught ripples of something vaguely hinted at in a post at a large and influential blog, where, to my knowledge, no one reads me.  But clearly because it was a very specific thing, someone talked to someone who talked to someone.  And I had been feeling a “pressure” to speak out, and suddenly that pivoted me out of the political closet.

Most of the ripples of what we do might never be obvious to us.  Jim Butcher speaks of that in the beginning of Side Jobs.  Others we think are really important and aren’t.

But the thing is this: some things that seem small or playful are the only things that can do the really big jobs.

I’m not announcing I’m closing the blog.  I need to say this, because my being late and what I’m going to say next will seem to lead to it.  It doesn’t.  This blog does its job and serves its purpose and I don’t know how big the ripples are, but I’ll leave to someone more omniscient than I to determine that.  I’ll just do what I can. (I might run more guest posts, because fortunately I have a dozen or so waiting, and I’ll be able to run them once the “help older son find apartment” run is done and I’m home to approve/nix comments.)

But yesterday I was reading something that truly made me ill about the culture and our government’s response to it: to whit that Planned Parenthood is selling fetal organs and our government’s response to it is to investigate the whistle blowers.

And the thought that ran through my mind was: this is too big and too sick to be handled by blog posts speaking directly to the point.  This needs stories that build the culture as it should be, that make people think and question things about humans and what happens to a culture that views humans as commodities.

That’s a big and slow job, like getting rich slowly.  It’s a job for fiction.

Before you laugh, Heinlein’s ripples in the world — sight unseen, possibly unintended — made a little Portuguese girl a Usaian, and are probably responsible for my being an sf writer.  (I likely would have been a writer, anyway, but probably not sf, almost certainly not in the US.)  Anything I do in/to the culture is a far off ripple of his work.  And he was “just” telling stories.

So my stories — as my publisher keeps telling me — need to happen and be front and center of my work.  The blog will happen too, because it too has its place, but it will have more guest posts (when husband and younger son are done with their work in the house probably regular features by both of them) and more bfps.  But it will have my stuff too.

I’ll do that best I can. And I’ll leave for someone else to judge and access my ripples.

Dying Cultures

I’ve been reading a book by Joseph Campbell, which I can’t name — I looked it up, and they list everything, but not these books, and I think I know why — because I was reading it in the car on the way to Denver, to help boy look at apartment, and that car eats books. It will surface months from now, in the trunk, where it couldn’t possibly have got.
The book is a series of lectures on society and myth which were delivered the year before I was born at a free university type place in NYC and the title is something like “The power of myth in your life.”
I bought it at arc thrift store, 50c half price day, for the same reason Joseph Campbell is a bestseller: because his theories might or might not have much resonance in real life, but they do resound with the stories humans like to tell.
This book was an attempt, if the first half is indicative, to make the book and ultimately the Hero’s Journey relevant for everyday people and not just writers. It has that half embarrassed tone of a geek trying to communicate with normal people by bringing up “scientific discoveries” and “relevant stuff.”
The first half is also hilarious (not on purpose) which is why I hope I didn’t accidentally kick it out of the car when we got out at one of the complexes.
Mind you the laughter cringes a little in sympathetic embarrassment.
The book — again, kindly remember, a collection of lectures published before I was born — starts by pointing out that religion is dead. It might think it isn’t, but it’s a dead man walking. It has in fact been thoroughly disproved by science and archeology.
This part is unintentionally funny on two fronts: first, the author doesn’t seem to have the slightest concept of the broad swath of belief he is addressing which is a little odd since he’s an expert on myth. Even if he viewed religion as pure myth, surely he’d have studied the various ways people address it. For instance, he seems to think the only form of Christianity is the one that takes the Bible literally, and conflates this with the calculations on the age of the Earth which were in fact made by a medieval monk, and with the prophecies made by a Scottish something or other, until it baffles the mind.
Second, most of the science he cites as “proving” that we were not created but evolved (as though the two were inherently contradictory and the ‘clay of the Earth’ couldn’t mean what was found here) is now — 50 years later– thoroughly discredited. Among other things, he believed we were descended from the Australopithecines, which we most certainly weren’t, and makes inferences about our myths based on the Pithecanthropos.

Anyway, Campbell, whose (modest) aim is to convince us to believe in myth even if we don’t believe in myth, in order to save civilization, goes on to point out something I should have thought about before, something that does apply and it’s true.

When a society loses its fundamental beliefs by having them proven wrong, the society spirals down the drain.  You see increased alcoholism, a fall in birth rate, suicides and general purposelessness.

Before you apply this to our society, hold on, hoss.  Yeah, we have some of these problems, but we only hit them in the last 8 years or so, and they’re nowhere as serious or at crisis level as in other western societies.  The clustercongress in the economy and the fact that the boomers in academia have decided to found their golden years on the backs of the younger kids student loans probably have more to do with the fall in marriage and birth rate than any loss of cultural purpose.  So probably does feminism, but that is active poison, not the slow drainage of loss of cultural faith.

In fact, in many ways, we’re starting to see fight back against the extreme left in the culture.  Not in politics, yet, but politics is ALWAYS downstream from culture.  If you don’t believe me, remember how political correctness was viewed as serious in the eighties, and it is now considered a roll-the-eyes matter.

Yes, there are segments of our culture that are in that sort of death spiral of a discredited culture.  More on that later.

First let me assert that as far as I can tell, yes, Campbell is referring to a real phenomenon of “lose faith in your culture, culture dies.”

We’ve seen that in many primitive cultures when faced with more aggressive/assertive cultures and it could be argued it’s still operating in places like Japan, even if masked by abundance.

More well-read people than I have applied it to the Russian decline, which is almost a text book example, but no one has thought to apply it to Europe, except perhaps Ed Driscoll and I when we scream that Europe is dying from WWI.  And we’re being accurate but not detailed, and it’s not reaching to the roots of “dying because they lost faith in their basic values.”

First let’s discard the idea that America has — fifty years after Campbell — lost faith.  We probably display it less, because it’s not mandatory and we’re not a conformist society, but if you count all forms of religious faith, we’re a near-fanatic country, and possibly the only one in which a scientist can announce himself as a person of faith and not be run out of his practice.

You can moan about faith being greater in the past, but take it with a grain of salt, will you?  Faith in the past was political correctness in the eighties. You had to pay lip service to play, so people did.  Whether there was any more ACTUAL faith and religious devotion is not for me — or anyone else — to know.  The very imposition of social pretense of faith masked what might or might not be there.

I suspect that accounting for the fact it’s now as fashionable to be “agnostic” as it was in the past to be religious, and that taints what we hear in public, faith is more or less as it’s always been.  Something I’ve observed is that some people are naturally mystical, some are naturally materialistic, and some like me strive towards faith never ending up fully achieving it but having too much of it to give it up.

However, in Europe religion is all but moribund.  It amused me when an exchange professor talked about how he was shocked Portugal wasn’t a land of great faith as he’d heard.  Oh, yeah, sure, it was still fashionable in certain circles, but the same people would diss faith in other circles.

Anyway the problem is not that religion died there, but what we mentioned in comments yesterday: In the Europe I grew up in, there was a great faith in communism.  Not (necessarily) the road to communism that the USSR had taken.  We knew that was brutal and all.  But we also met with the Russians who were sent to visit, we read Soviet Life, and we KNEW however we got there communism was the way of the future, the only civilized society worth living in.

And by “we” I mean not me, because well… because I’m me.  My mom says my personality is the type that can’t see a freshly painted wall without making a scratch to see what’s underneath.  I don’t think I was very old when I realized Russia killed people trying to escape their “paradise” and so did the DDR and…

But the level at whic this was the assumption in ALL writing, news, literature and even education is hard to overestimate.  My history book in 11th grade defined Portugal as a society on the way to socialism, which would eventually lead to communism, the perfect the society.

The first part of this was enshrined in the Portuguese constitution because socialism (as the gentle, non-murderous) path to communism, was CLEARLY the only civilized path.

Please keep in mind, btw, that people in the US who were Europhiles or even in literary circles read these books, with this assumption, and internalized it.  And that these people are now at the peak of their careers in academia and politics, and most of the “focal points” of culture, including the media.  I don’t know if it will help, but it should make us judge them less harshly.  Unless they’re odds, people don’t question the foundational myths they were given young.

Anyway, when the USSR collapsed, what Europe lost was not religion, precisely, but it was the myth that was holding it up after they seemingly lost their religion in the abattoirs of WWI.

They knew there had been errors on the way to communism in the USSR and of course they didn’t want that, but they wanted that command economy, which worked so much better, and in which everyone had what they needed and…

And the rug got pulled out from under their feet.  Which explains what I see when I go to Europe, the despondence and anomie that pours off the walls and seeps in from the trendy cafes.  It explains how monuments are decorated with art not worthy of toddlers (we’re not that bad here) and all the other symptoms of loss and decay.  They are a society that has lost their guiding myth.  That the guiding myth was stupid and artificially implanted by power hungry serpents is of little consequence.  In an era of mass media, they bought the pervasive lie and they believed in Soviet Life.  Now, even if the horrors of the reality weren’t fully documented, they know there was rot and horror there and that planned economies don’t work, and of course, they’ve been told for years of the horrors of capitalism and freedom, so they’re left with nothing but suicide.

We too have been told of the horrors of capitalism and freedom, for at least 40 years in our schools, though it took multiculturalism to really convince the kids we were inferior, and even they might not stay convinced.  You see, it’s really hard even for non-odds to think America is terrible when at the same time people complain that we have too many things and are too affluent.  (In fact, our issues are those of the affluent, not to be confused with the issues of defeated societies.  The idea that Rome died of affluence, btw, is wrong and one of those socialist prisms applied to history.  “Let’s be poor, comrade, so we don’t get decadent” is their only offer to the world.)

I suspect eventually the kids will be all right.  Right now they’re being pounded by an awful economy and scams to make them slaves for life.  Which are of course, courtesy of the socialists of the previous generation, but they don’t know that.

And the sectors of America that have been most like Europe — Journalism, the arts, academia, political bureaucracy — are going through the same spiral as Europe too.  This is sad, but not fatal.  As someone pointed out, if you removed those sectors our economy and ultimately our society would do better.

So, what to do about it?

Stop mourning.  The story of our demise was started by people like Campbell who imagined it was “scientifically inevitable.”  And it’s grossly exaggerated.

Keep destroying the narrative, which is the remnants of that fairytale about wonderful command economies and the glitz of “Soviet Life”.

And teach your children well.

This too shall pass.