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Cultures and Lightbulbs – Alma Boykin

Cultures and Lightbulbs – Alma Boykin


There’s a joke that asks, “How many psychiatrists does it take to change a light bulb?” Answer: “Only one, but the light bulb really has to want to change.” The same is true of cultures, fictional and actual. It is possible to change culture, but it takes time, and if the majority of members of that culture prefer the old ways, things are going to remain static, especially in the deep-rooted, “90 percent of the iceberg” aspects of culture. So what does make a culture change, for good or for ill?

I ask because I’ve been reading Thomas Sowell’s latest book, Wealth, Poverty, and Politics, the one he said he wasn’t going to write (back two books ago. I hope he keeps deciding to stop writing.) It is a very nice synopsis of some of his earlier works about cultural differences and economic outcomes, with a great deal of additional material, all looking at the question of why do some groups seem to do well economically and others don’t do as well, no matter what advantages they might initially have? He looks in the very long term, and includes geography, although there are ways to overcome the disadvantages of geography (see Switzerland for a sterling example). I’ve also been reading a German book about the pre-Indo-European cultures of the Danube River Basin from Hungary downstream. Aside from being a bit too enamored of Marija Gimbutas’s theories about religion and matriarchy at times, it’s a very useful book that fills in some holes in my knowledge of the area. As with Sowell’s volume, one of the ideas in the book is that of cultural change and adoption, looking at the Greek language for pre-Indo-European language traces, as well as using archaeology for clues.*

In the case of the people who migrated into the Peloponnesian Peninsula, the need to find words for new-to-them plants and animals, as well as adopting certain local religious practices, seems to have encouraged cultural shifts and adaptations. If you come from a place without large bodies of water, and find yourself surrounded by a sea and needing to fish for food, you are probably going to start trying to placate whoever is in charge of the ocean and storms. You may absorb the locals’ deity, assuming there are locals, or you may discover a new-to-your-people god or goddess. (How that happens I leave to our anthropologists and theologians).

The Comanche Indians are another example of voluntary culture change. They originated as Great Basin Shoshone, with cultural practices that reflected the relatively impoverished environment of their home region. When they reached the Great Plains and acquired horses, their collective response was something along the lines of, “Dump that junk! Adapt, Improvise, and Overcome! Wheeee!” and they borrowed where useful, improvised where necessary, and adapted supremely well to the High Plains. A few beliefs lingered, or so anthropologists and later observers believe, but in terms of visible behavior, the Comanche became the archetypical plains horse nomads. After 1876, when forcibly confined to reservations in Oklahoma, the Comanche once more said, “Dump the old stuff, we need to adapt in order to survive,” much to the frustration of future generations of ethnographers and Comanches. They kept certain beliefs, tossed the mechanics of certain crafts and skills, and adapted once more. But this change was, to an extent, voluntary as their earlier cultural shift had been. One can argue that being stuck at Ft. Sill was not voluntary, but the decision by the apparent majority of Comanches to not pass on traditions and skills to later generations, even as crafts, and to tell their children to learn from the white men was a deliberate choice. A choice modern Comanche are trying to undo in part by working with museums and archives to back-engineer certain skills and practices.

These cases are voluntary, of cultural groups moving to new environments and opting to change their practices (and beliefs?) to varying degrees to take better advantage of their surroundings. Did some Comanches and others object to major changes? I presume they did, since they are humans, and change is not easy, especially the deep cultural ideas and beliefs that got you through hard times in the past. It’s like some families from certain long-persecuted religious groups insisting on having portable wealth, even though they’ve been in the US for multiple generations without experiencing difficulties. You never know, after all. It’s safer to plan for the worst and buy lots of gold wedding jewelry so the women can bribe people if necessary, or use it to pay off debts to money lenders during starvation-hard times.

But like the joke about the Dalai Lama and the hotdog vendor says, “Change must come from within.” The US occupation forces would have had a very hard time undoing the effects of Japanese militarism if a whole lot of Japanese had not said to themselves, “That didn’t work and it’s not worth the pain of trying to keep that tradition alive.”

What about groups that don’t adapt as quickly, or who apparently do not assimilate? People who moved to the US from other cultures and continents in the 19th and early 20th centuries faced rough times until they 1) assimilated to a degree acceptable by the surrounding society or 2) found ways to appear sufficiently assimilated, or 3) made a niche and held out until they were perceived as interesting, “quaint,” and harmless oddities (like Old Order Amish and Mennonites, certain American Indian groups, and others). The Amish, being Protestant Christians involved in agriculture, fit in relatively well when they came to the Colonies because they were surrounded by Protestant Christians who, for the most part, practiced agriculture. Yes, their pacifism and language caused difficulties, especially during WWI, but their basic beliefs continued to fit into the accepted varieties of US culture, at least until the late 20th century. Later arriving Mennonites fleeing the Russian Revolution and associated wars found ways to adapt as well, with varying degrees of assimilation.

But those changes came from within. Can cultural change be forced by outsiders? Yes, but usually it requires armed force or overwhelming numbers, more rarely through persuasion at least until the rise of cultural-equivalency and the idea that non-Western cultural practices must be better simply by virtue of being non-Western. Although the visiting professor from India I had drew the line at condemning the British for trying to abolish suttee. She was a widow of the Brahmin caste and apparently her in-laws still wanted her dead. So even for her, a little “cultural Imperialism” wasn’t entirely bad.

I tinkered with forced cultural change in the novel Hubris and its eventual sequel Renaissance. The Azdhagi had begun shifting from within, to a less pack-centered and more democratic (herpetocratic? Sauriacratic?) style of government in a meritocratic society when a series of disasters struck. In response, caused some of those changes flipped back to the way they’d been many generations before and flipped hard. Other shifts occurred over the next few generations, including a major change in Azdhagi religion. The religion kept the old forms of group ritual and the use of incense and chanted “hymns,” but the object of worship changed considerably, from a monotheistic belief to ancestor worship with additional deified spirits. Some of the stories’ characters adapted, others didn’t, and a few realized that things had never quite been what they assumed.

History, at least the history I’ve studied, suggests that the most lasting changes within a culture come from inside that culture, unless overwhelming force is applied and there is no way to revert, even after the force is (mostly) removed. This poses some interesting ideas for fiction writers, and greater challenges for policy makers.

*Why Greek and not the modern Danube Basin languages? Too many other groups have moved into the area since the pre-Indo-Europeans were there and far fewer pre-IE words remain in the Slavic and Magyar languages.


The Dumbest Idea In History

You know, recently we have been hearing a lot about how this or that or the other thing — authentic foods, yoga, certain fabrics and attires — are “cultural appropriation” and therefore a manifestation of racism and should be stopped.

This goes hand in hand with the weird and rock bottom stupid idea that culture is inherited in the genes.  This is what gets the stupid-left (yes, there is a smart left.  Mostly they pull the strings of the dumb bunnies) all in your face and screaming when you criticize a cultural behavior, like, say, wanting your women covered in sofa-slipcovers.  They call you not ignorant or provincial but “racist” and thereby reveal that in their tiny, blinkered minds, people are born with the innate fear of the magical rays given off by women’s hair, that send men wild with incontrolable lust.

It might be easier, honest to Bob, if they had children or, for the few of them who DO have children, if they’d paid any attention to their kids’ development instead of to the weird movie going on in their heads which leads them believe things like that a baby recoiling from unfamiliar appearance means the baby is racist.

The only culture babies are born with is the fauna and flora in their intestines.  No, seriously. Anyone who has or knows anyone who has adopted a child from another country/different race knows that kid grows up to be more like their family than like his/her birth family.

No baby adopted as an infant from China learned Chinese instead of the English of her adopters.  (My older son went one better and totally rejected the Portuguese I spoke to him the first year and a half of his life, learning only English.  My guess is because that’s the COMMUNICATION he saw happening, while observing his surroundings, and since no one else spoke Portuguese he tuned it out because it must be gibberish. He must be deficient in those Portuguese genes.)  No baby adopted from Africa has an instinctive liking for African music, unless he’s been raised with it.  (And then comes the question of which part of Africa, but we’ll leave that alone.)

If you’d taken my boys away at birth and given them to a perfectly normal white, middle class, suburban family, they’d probably still be odd, but their oddness might not include science fiction and fantasy.  And though they’d probably still both be good with written expression, they might not be good with written expression as we recognize it.  If they’d grown in a family that didn’t read or write that much, they might be better than their families, they would still not be up to a level recognized as excellent in society at large.

What they would still be is still tall and swarthy and built like brick sh*thouses.  Because, you see, that part is encoded in the genes.  You can’t change your black eyes to green because you grow up with a different family.  But you can be incredibly organized if you grew up with parents that required incredible organization, even if you come from a genetic background –oh, Portuguese — that is prone to the organizational method known as “let’s all pile in, and may G-d sort it out.”

I’m not saying there are no genetic characteristics that affect things other than appearance.  Of course there are.  They are a little harder to sort out from “raised with parents with those characteristics” but I’m fairly sure there are SOME.  Like both my kids are too stubborn for …  well… anything. (I remember trying to get Robert to obey me in some small thing (He’d thrown a paper on the floor, I think, and I told him to pick it up, and he was in one of his non-obeying days) which took me half an hour and a friend, watching it, said was like breaking a prisoner of war.  (Not really.  I didn’t torture him. It’s just that I had to talk him into obeying.) He was three.)  And DO trust me, we did not TRY to make the d*mn kids stubborn.  (And Robert is a lamb unshorn compared to his brother, he who made pre-school teachers tear out their hair.)

But innate tendencies do not a culture make.  Innate tendencies might dictate whether you leap out of bed with a song on your lips and incite murder in the mind of your roommate who drags self out of bed with groan and crawls till noon by the grace of coffee, but it does not dictate what language you speak, what attire you wear, or whether you think women look best when disguised as sofas.  Those are things you learned from your relatives/guardians when you were too young to think.  They might be filed under “must do” at a level where you have never examined them, but that doesn’t mean you can’t examine them. And change them.  It just means it takes time, is painful, and no one is going to do it without major upheaval requiring it.

I would never have changed my language from Portuguese to English without having moved to the US.  I mean, for one it would be weird, and mom and dad don’t speak English.  Going around the house with an interpreter would have made them think me crazier than they already thought me.  And I would never have given up my fresh bread with butter for breakfast, if ya’ll had bread delivery in the morning.  (And why don’t we have that?  It would seem to me there’s an entrepreneurial thing waiting to happen.  Bread, bagels, doughnuts or cinnamon rolls, newly made and waiting for you, still warm, in a delivery box by the door early morning.)

But circumstances dictated I changed those, and while it was difficult and painful, it got done.  Because I’m human and humans are creatures who learn and adapt.  Which means they can learn new habits, new languages, new expectations: everything that makes up a culture.

In fact, throughout history, we’ve learned and changed.  We’re not still in a cave somewhere chipping flint the way our first vaguely human ancestors did.  Or in the branches, afraid to appropriate the culture of those who walked upright.

No, when a group of humans found something, the other group followed, learned, improved.  You can still find very isolated tribes who don’t have the concept of the wheel, counting above three or past and future tenses.  BUT note the point is “very isolated.”  If they hadn’t been isolated, they’d have picked up these concepts from the cultures who contacted them. It’s called learning more “functional” concepts.

The “functional” here refers to concepts that allow you to live longer, reproduce more and raise more fat babies who will have more fat babies.

Because Western culture, the dominant culture of the world at the moment, went a little (okay, a lot) crazy after the long war of the 20th century, some seriously non-functional-in-the-long-run concepts have crept into it.  In the short run they confer a brief advantage in the fat-baby race, but in the long run they lead to fewer HUMAN fat babies, and perhaps to the extinction of those who adopt them.

One of those is this notion that people come pre-packaged with culture.  In the short run, having infected our social services, it means you’ll get more tolerance for refusing to assimilate, and we’ll indulge your ideas that all women should be covered up, and that they all should live to produce your fat babies.  This might even work on enough women to give you a genetic advantage.

But the idea that culture is innate is not only a STUPID idea (note I’m not painting this post on cave walls, so we must be capable of learning and changing), it’s an EVIL idea.

Let it take hold and sooner or later it leads to genocide.

Oh, sure, the remnants of Judeo Christian ideals, imposed on that stupid idea, means that we tolerate self-harming and definitely society-harming behaviors and shush people who criticize them as being racist.

The problem is the idea of inherited culture is fundamentally incompatible with Judeo-Christian ideas, which require self-control, discipline, ability to change and follow a set of ideals, and which in Christianity’s case, is big on redemption and conversion, both of which require you to change, to adapt and to become different in your interactions with the world

So if the idea of inherent and race-dependent culture wins out, the idea that all humans should have equal rights and that we should support and take care of those less fortunate because they are human like us and their kids might be fine, goes out the window.

What you have left is the idea that some humans are fundamentally unable to work in the modern world.

Sooner or later, then, a leader arises who says “Hey, these are sub-humans.  Let’s get rid of them.”

In fact, this has happened not once, but several times throughout history, because the idea that you’re born with your culture is one of those stupid notions humans can’t quite get rid of.  (Possibly because we are tribal creatures, at heart.)

Note this is not what I want to happen, it’s a horror I dread, but it WILL happen.  It’s not a matter of if, it’s a matter of when.  From the idea that telling someone to learn the language of the country he was born in and lives in is racist comes the idea that genocide makes perfect sense.  Because if some people can’t learn and adapt, well, then, they’re a drain on society.  And if not everyone is — within statistical variance and excluding obvious impairment — equally able to learn and contribute at least enough to pull their own weight, then why should the more able be saddled with the less able?

At the end of this thought process mass graves yawn.

But I’m starting to hear such rumbles.  All of us are.  And they’ll grow as the short-term-incentives we provide lead people down disastrous long term paths.

We must fight that idea loudly and derisively every time it comes up.  Telling someone to learn English is not racist.  Language is NOT encoded in any race’s genes.  Telling someone to show up on time for a job is not racist.  Some cultures have no sense of time, but that’s culture (and tracks fairly well with the cultures that industrialized later.)  Telling someone like me (who grew up in a culture that doesn’t prize organization) that I need to be more organized and start posting these on time is just sense.

Culture is not race.  Humans, as humans, are incredibly adaptable.  All of us came from people capable of overcoming, improvising and adapting.

Given the right incentives everyone can do it.

Does this mean people need to leave behind colorful modes of dress, interesting dishes, beautiful art?  Oh, please.  No.  It just means the main culture will absorb, change and use those parts of any culture that catch its attention.

Cultural appropriation?  Flummery.  It’s called being human.

And now I’m going to appropriate some fire to appropriate some coffee, so I can appropriate this keyboard to write stories in my appropriated language.

And proud of it.



Prepare to be Assimilated

Yesterday I was surprised when Dave Freer sent me a post that echoed almost exactly what I’ve been thinking.  In a late night (for me.  He has temporal privilege, living in Australia) conversation last night, I found that we agree in more than one thing, including how nasty things are going to get if we don’t get at least a partial course correction soon.  That is a post for another time — how the fact that the left’s escathology and the belief history comes with an arrow and that they are the inevitable “end of history” (a belief that’s religious in nature because no rational principles lead to it) has caused them to be blind to the fact that silencing opposition is NOT winning — but for now it remains scary that both of us are worried about the same things.  Why scary?  Because I’ve known Dave for… twelve? thirteen? years and the man has a gut feel for the future. Even when you really wish he weren’t right, he tends to be.

But today I want to talk about assimilation, or, in sociological terms, acculturation.  I, and Kate Paulk, and Dave Freer, and a ton of the rest of us are immigrants who went to another country with the intention of living there the rest of our lives and who had incentives to fit in and be part of that country.  (In the case of two of us, husbands. And in my case a philosophical belief in the principles the nation was founded on.)

But even then, with the best will to fit in, it’s a HARD thing.  Really hard.

It’s not just in your head either, though it is there too.

Humans are tribal, and living in a multi-ethnic society doesn’t make you less tribal.  This is why people keep looking for racists under their bed, because you know, it’s baked in, and they know they’ve “discriminated” at some point.  Only this isn’t the racism of the progressives.  Minorities can be (often are) as racist or more racist than the majority.

But more importantly, in a multi-ethnic society that tries as hard as it can to eliminate racism, you get a different kind of “racism” that has nothing to do with race.  You get tribalism that fastens onto odd things.  It’s best expressed in “Ya’ll are not for around here.”

What you might not realize if you have never immigrated and acculturated is that the way you move, the way you speak (absent accent), the way you eat and the way you walk (not to even mention handwriting) are ALL culturally linked.  Most of it is not identifiable at a conscious level, either.  Most of it is so deep that all it does is trigger the “ya’ll are not from around here.”

I know I’m fitting in better because it’s been years since people stared at me while I went about my daily business and before I opened my mouth came up to me and asked “Where are you from?”

(And btw, the reason I stopped resisting identifying as Latin is because other people are making that identification for me, usually people who have a grudge (and who, bizarrely, manage to think I’m Mexican.)  My kids came to the same decision for the same reason.  It’s one of those “you say that I am” and it actuates even when my hair is colored light brown — it has no color of its own anymore — and I’m pale from a combination of lack of sun and illness. SOMETHING is triggering this response in people.  I don’t know what it is.)

Now, when you don’t fit in, for whatever reason, you’re going to find that some people — often not the sanest people in the world — are going to have issues with you and often be hostile.

Remember this as we go through the stages of assimilation.

It starts when you find yourself in a completely different land and you realize there’s no going back.  I came over after Dan and I discussed our options and decided where we were going to live.

The choices were here or there or between and wherever, a sort of multinational, above nationality existence.

We chose the US for several reasons. To begin with there was that philosophical belief set I had which conformed best to the founding documents of the US.  Then there was the fact that Dan could never be REALLY Portuguese, even if he moved there, learned the language and acculturated completely.  He’d still be a foreigner living there.  Being Portuguese means sharing ancestry.  Our kids would be considered mestizos.  Our grandkids would probably bear “the Americans” as a nickname.  Our great grandkids might too, and by the sixth or seventh generation, THEN they would be Portuguese (and might not remember why they had that nickname, and might think it was just some ancestor who liked American movies.)  Then there was HOW we wanted our kids to grow and the options we wanted them to have.  We decided the US was our best bet.  There were no doubts our kids would be Odd and the more free the society the more outliers thrive in it.

So I came over and set out to acculturate.  Part of this involved watching a lot of old TV because it gives you the catch-phrases, the “feel” of things.  I also read a lot and pretty much everything, which helps, though what helped most was reading auto-biographies and NOT by famous people, who are presenting an image, but the sort of “my grandma wrote an autobiography and we printed a hundred copies and donated one to the library” candid shots of normal people you can get in those.

Even with the best will of the world, even wanting more than anything to fit in, it’s very hard.  Not just in America.  America might be one of the easiest places in the world, because it is multi-ethnic and a country of immigrants.

But even so, people catch the subconcious signals of “something wrong about you.”  They stare.  They don’t trust you.  Sometimes they think you’re stupid, because “smart” in a society is not an IQ test but a series of signals a lot of them subconscious.

I muddled through, but sometimes there there were days I felt so homesick that I’d give anything to never have set out on this course.  And people treated me oddly, and it’s very easy to use that as an excuse for failure.  I learned not to do it because, through friends who did it constantly, I identified it as a trap.  I chose to ignore it.  But I still knew it was happening, and it made me long to go back to my tribe, to the place I belonged.

Some number of immigrants do this.  It gets to be too much for them.  They run back “home” where “things make sense.”  I might have done it but for that philosophical conviction.  That’s how hard it is.

At this stage many people make plans to retire in the “homeland” or at least to go back after death.  I guess it’s a comfort.

And I still had that option, six years in, because the hoped-for kids had failed to materialize, so if something happened to Dan, or simply if it got to be too much for me, we could always “go to Portugal.”

Only then I had Robert.  And the most important reason to live here and stay here came into being.  And if I was to raise this child American, I certainly wasn’t going back, even if a tragedy happened and something happened to Dan.

This is the point at which you’re most offensive to natives, btw.  You know just enough of your new society to see all the warts, but not enough to see the good side or necessary side of the warts.  And you’ve been far enough from your native society for a while so it creates this glow of nostalgia.  You know you’re “trapped” in the new place, which creates resentment.

This is when the words “In my country” — meaning in the old country — come out of the mouths of immigrants.  I was lucky to watch a Turkish immigrant in a group we belonged to alienate everyone with this behavior, so I didn’t do it.  I thought it, sometimes, but I didn’t DO it.

So then came the serious-fitting-in part, helped, btw, by dad.  We took Robert back to meet the family after he was born and dad who, btw, longs to see me every year, told me not to be running back for every important event in the kid’s life.  “Don’t be like those immigrants from France who raise the kid to be Portuguese, while in France.  You made your choice, now make sure your kid knows his place. Raise him American.  We’d love to know him, of course, but he’s American and that’s where he has to fit, and live and thrive.”  This was much like Dave Freer’s FIFO advice yesterday.

So… I made my choice.  And I really started trying to fit in.  This did not involve changing our diet so much, or my clothing choices (I’m odd, okay) but a closer observation of people.  I’d have got rid of my accent, if I could.  Though being a mother helps with this too, because unconsciously you start picking up speech patterns and gestures from your kids.  I might still strike people as somewhat odd, but it wasn’t as in your face anymore.

I also stopped reading in Portuguese, because when I do that a lot, it affects my word choices and rhythm of language in English, and I was trying to get published.

And at some point, I stopped being stared at when I was at the grocery store, and I stopped feeling I stuck out as a sore thumb.  I still couldn’t write people who grew up in America.  (I still can’t write people who grew up NORMAL in America, but that’s something else.)

I don’t know when that happened because I was busy just living.  Somewhere along the line I stopped thinking of Portugal as “home” and Portuguese as “we” and instead changed that to America.

Then came the shock of going to Portugal after a five year hiatus and being in a foreign land, rubbed wrong by the way these people moved, the way they talked, the way they prepared food, a myriad little things.

Now, be aware I’m not an “ugly American”.  I’ve been to other countries (neither America nor Portugal) and reveled in the differences particularly in food and dress but also architecture and just ‘different’.  That’s the point of traveling, I think.  But it’s also easy to enjoy the difference when you know in two weeks or whatever you’ll be back home and have things your way.

It’s harder when the back of your brain remembers doing things that way and — this is hard to phrase, but it’s something like — is afraid of relapsing and of getting “trapped” in the old place.  It’s a feeling of being in a foreign land that is nonetheless eerily familiar, and yet not familiar enough that you could survive in it on your own. Because of how familiar it is, you see the warts.  Because you’re now acculturated elsewhere, it’s easy to see the solutions too and you find yourself saying “Back home we do it this way” then stop, aghast, realizing what happened.  And it’s a relief to come back to your adopted homeland.  And you feel guilty it’s a relief, because you love the people you left behind, and they would be hurt if they knew how much your prefer your new place.

This is where I’ve been for at least 15 years.  It’s where I’ll be the rest of my life.  There will always be little things that aren’t “right” about America, things I learned so far back that they’re not conscious.  Nothing big or philosophical, but the little ways of doing things.  Sometimes I can’t explain to my husband why I hate an area he loves, or vice versa (this is important while house hunting) all I can do is wave my hands and say “No, just no.” And I know I give the “indicators” of class and intelligence all wrong.  (Not REAL class or intelligence but how those markers are perceived in the US.)  I KNOW that was part of my trouble in the field.  I also know that my “I’m getting really, really angry” is mistaken for shyness or fear here, which has led to some in retrospect funny situations.

I will never fully belong either place again.  That’s okay.  It’s a choice I made. And of the two, I belong here the most.  Say I 90% belong here, opposed to 10% in Portugal.

But the process to get where I am was neither easy nor unintentional. And it involved consciously NOT romanticizing where I came from, which I find is a big temptation for immigrants of all types and colors.

So…  So this brings us to taking in refugees from a culture so different from ours as to be mind-boggling, (and you wouldn’t get HOW different unless you’d lived in one half way there), from a religion that considers itself at war (physical, not just spiritual) with us and modernity, from a place where tribe is primary above all…

Do I understand why they want to come here?  Sure.  Even if half the reason is probably wrong of the “streets paved with gold” variety.  They want a better life (or a life) for themselves and their children.

Will it be an easy road to acculturation?  No.  For one, our culture ACTIVELY DISCOURAGES acculturating.  It’s considered a “betrayal” of your “native” culture.  I was accidentally  in the room yesterday (I am ill, okay) while someone watched an episode of Dr. Ken, in which his wife accuses him (a second generation Korean) of being a lapsed Korean and brags about how she has passed on “her culture” (she’s second generation Japanese) to her kids.

The entire episode could serve as a cultural dissection of “the crazy years.”  These two people AND THEIR KIDS are AMERICAN.  That’s the only thing they are.  Yeah, okay, they come from elsewhere, as do most Americans.

BUT the message heard, loud and clear, is that you’re supposed to hold on to all this culture from an imaginary homeland, even when you marry someone from elsewhere, and pass this entire undigested baggage to your kids.  The message is that not only is there no escaping your roots, but it’s somehow bad to want to.

This is the message these new refuggee-immigrants will get, though TV, through movies, through social workers.  How important it is they hold on to their all vital tribalism.  Not just in food and clothing, but in thought.  How it’s somehow “racism” to demand they fit in into their new homeland.

Remember I’m saying this as someone who’s been there.  Acculturation HURTS.  Even when you want it, it’s a very painful process.  Think of the worst days of your teenage years, and multiply them by five or ten years of consciously dragging yourself through this process.

It’s hard enough to do when you chose this, when you love it, and when your tradition doesn’t demand you hold yourself as an enemy of your new land’s ways.  (And btw, I think that’s why it’s considered “racist”: acculturation and pushing for people to assimilate hurts people.  Bleeding hearts don’t understand that sometimes hurt is part of the growth process.)

I can’t even imagine trying to do it when immigration was forced on me, when going back was never an option, when my habits, culture and religion both encouraged me to be suspicious of my new countrymen and caused them to suspect me.

Hard?  Rather say impossible, or close to.  And then add to that telling you that you’re not SUPPOSED to assimilate.  And you’re supposed to raise your kids in the old culture.

People who have never acculturated, people who are frankly quite ignorant of what “foreign” or “abroad” means, beyond their easy, lazy, fluffy headed vacations talking to other people like them abroad, call those scared of such an influx of people in that bind “ignorant.”  I guess because they lack a mirror.

Is it scary?  It is very scary.  Can it end well?  Of course it can.

But the way it ends well is where our society cheerfully smiles and says “fit in, or f*ck off.”  We’ll embrace little Achmed and little Fatima as our countrymen, but NOT if they go around demanding Sharia, telling us to stop eating pork, and that we can’t write/make stupid parodies of Allah, as we do of every other religion/belief in our culture.  Sure, they can roll their eyes at the stupid parodies, or write outraged blog posts about our disrespect.  But they don’t have the right to try to curtail us by law, or to bring their f*cked up culture, which caused their problems to begin with, here.

I don’t see it happening, at least not while our current multi-culti elites are in power.  Which means what we’re doing is importing trouble for later.

Further more, what we’re doing is being horrible to these people and ensuring they’ll never fit in, either place.  And not like me, not 90%/10%.  No, we’re talking they will fit about 30% either place.  And because not self-selected immigrants, they’re probably not odd, not used to NOT belonging.

Of such discontent is strife and war born.

UNDERSTAND this is not what i want, not an expression of my desires.  It is what it is, and how the human animal works.

It is impossible to have this deranged belief that culture is genetic and that people can’t and shouldn’t change (a belief belied by history) and a multi-ethnic society.  At the end of that road is a war none of us wants to imagine and a far more restrictive society than any of us would like.

The only ways out of it are to either take no immigrants, certainly no immigrants in a large group (which makes it harder to leave the old country and its hates and loves behind) OR to hand to every refugee a little handbook.

The cover would say “Fit in or f*ck off.”  And the inside would explain “At home we did it–” is banned, that it’s gauche to try to pass the culture you left behind to your kids.  Oh, food and attire are fine, no one complains of that, but do not try to pass on “we hate x because in the 11th century, they”.  And the only way to stop passing that on is to be American as HARD as you can.

Which hurts.  It hurts like hell.  The generation that immigrated will never fully heal from it, and their kids will still bear scars.

But it’s the only way to make good on your choice of America.  It’s that or go back.  There is no other choice.  Making your new country fit the old is the WRONG choice.  Else, why did you leave.

Fit in or f*ck off.  No, this doesn’t mean becoming the Borg.  America is the society on Earth with the greatest tolerance for oddities and outliers.  BUT you do need to fit in minimally to succeed.  And you need to start thinking of America as “we” and not holding yourself up above the rest of your countrymen.

This goes double and with bells on if you were born and raised here.  Stop imagining there is a perfect society elsewhere and that you somehow belong to it.

Life is in great part the art of adapting to the flaws in reality that don’t match your desired state.

Sometimes all you can do is Fit in or F*ck off.


Birds of Passage – Dave Freer

*This is Sarah.  Sorry to be so late posting this.  I took meds before bed and they zonked me out later than usual.  Yeah, I’m better, but I think the sinus infection has “evolved” into a bout of the common cold.  I’m not sure what it means, and this should be a post for tomorrow, heaven willing, that write best when I’m just too sick to control it, but well enough to write.  I’m approaching the edge of this.  Interestingly, if I weren’t so out of this, I would have written a post on assimilation.  EVEN when you’re motivated, love the principles the country was founded on AND have no one of your culture around, so you can change without reproach is hard.  30 years in I still have to check myself somehow.  No one is going to do it when the incentive is the other way.  Anyway, I’ll get out of the way and let Dave be far more coherent than I am.*

Birds of Passage- Dave Freer

One of the things about migrant birds, welcome or unwelcome, a sign of snow or a sign of spring, or a sign of your crops being flattened, is that eventually they bugger off back to where they came from. Like Arnie, they will be back. But at least they go.


And no matter how welcome they were, seeing them leave is often quite welcome too.


It’s a very different thing when they come… and never leave. That requires a lot more accommodation by the entire system, and, if it doesn’t work out, and they make a pest of themselves, shotguns.

It’s an image worth keeping in mind when we talk about human migrants, refugees or just… migrants.


Now I’ve long held that U.N. definitions of ‘refugee’ is a load of fetid dingo’s kidneys. You’re a refugee when you’ve gone just far enough to escape the strife you and your family were facing. That strife is serious you-will-be-shot-your-daughter-raped if you do not leave now. It’s a slippery slope if you start allowing less rigorous definitions. That means that ‘refugee status’ extends a few hundred meters outside the range of being shot and your daughter raped. That status continues only for as long as the clear and present danger exists. When you can go back, you should.


If you can never go back you need to look for a new home. You become a prospective emigrant, facing the same hurdles and challenges as any other emigrant. Country A may feel sorry for the plight of the poor refugees huddled on the border, and allow them to immigrate. But that is not being a refugee. It’s being an immigrant. If you’re going to allow that refugee to leave the 100 yards of safety and come to your country: well it would be bitterly unfair to the native born, to taxpayers and to the legal immigrants to let them immigrate and become citizens and beneficiaries of your country without the same conditions. If you’re merely granting asylum: Their status is temporary, highly conditional, and if the clear and present danger is not there: they go home.


I was an immigrant. And like any sensible immigrant, I look at what is happening with horror, and a great deal more harshness that Mutti Merkel or your current American administration. Put simply if the situation gets to shotguns, there’s a lot scatter in that shot and it’s going to hit a lot of unintended targets, including birds like us that settled into that garden well, made it a pleasure to have them. So: sensible immigrants want the influx to stop, yesterday.


It’s not a lack of understanding on my part. Or a lack of sympathy on my part. I uprooted my family from a place where long generations had fought for, worked their guts out for, died for, for the dream of a bright future for their descendants, a place where our roots went centuries down, if not millennia. We left because the country had got to 50 murders a day, a lot of which were political and race motivated… and I didn’t see any sign that it could improve. And yes, I had invested twenty years of my life into trying. The long term, with the slow collapse of infrastructure, the growing GINI coefficient, the steady and relentless fall into corruption and bribery, got to point where I looked up and saw my Jewish friends had left, and the Portuguese ones were packing. *


Back when I had been a young conscript one of my friends had quietly got on a plane to move to Israel – where he would do more time as a conscript than I would. I was one of the few people who knew he was going, and not coming back. His family didn’t. They were liberal, wealthy and very disapproving of Israel (although non-observantly Jewish). I asked him: Why? I’ve never forgotten what he said.


“White South Africans have everything, except for a future. I want a future.”


Now you can argue about his choices, and whether he was right. That’s not important. What is important is that he left his past – and I mean left it. Went to live in a country where he knew almost no-one and didn’t speak the language, and was expected to go into military service, and fit in.


I appreciate that this is what faces many people in Africa, the Middle East. They feel they have no real future, and, certainly things are much, much better elsewhere, in the West.


They’re quite right of course. But there is nothing magical about the geography of those countries. There is no reason South Africa should not be as rich (or richer), as safe (or safer) than Europe, America – or Singapore or Australia or Japan. Those places did not magically provide riches, safety, comfort and infrastructure that works. They were paid for by long generations of hard work, by wars, by blood. Those shaped the cultures of the people that live in them.   THAT, not some magic of geography, makes them good places to live, heavenly compared to most of the Middle East or Africa or from what I gather, much of the Americas south of the US border. Oh and spare me that ‘but the West got rich off labor of Africans and stealing their minerals etc. The labor and the minerals had all been there long, long before ‘the West’ existed. Africa remains full of agricultural and mineral potential, and full of those laborers… It’s got some bright and educated men, all the potential in the world, but it remains a pest-hole, where many – as many as half of the people — dream of leaving, of going to Europe or America.


Unfortunately… the place they go won’t automatically make them rich. But that is not what they want to believe. Remember, to average African the US or Europe is what he’s seen on the movies. And yes, he has seen movies. The fact that single working mothers do NOT live in luxurious multi-bed mansions – and never actually seem to work — but live the good life, is just not believed. It’s a bit like the Gold Rush. No-one believes they won’t get rich and live in – relative to their present circumstances – idle luxury. And maybe – because present circumstances really suck – that is true. Besides Cousin Achmed has money to burn when he comes home. And when you ask him about work he’s kinda vague.


The problem is that there is an expectation. Just like those hopefuls going to find gold in California – you can tell them, but they won’t believe you.


And they’ve learned the levers to pull. They’ve learned how to game Western sentiment, Western mores and Western idealism. That lever, I am afraid is “refugee” – which is hell on the refugee who really can never go home. Who doesn’t do this for a better life… he just wants himself, his wife and kids safe. SAFE. Not being raped, not being shot at.


It’s rather like the cry ‘rape’. If we’re to protect rape victims or refugees, and I believe we should — as do most of us – then if and when someone makes a fake claim, it’s not just enough to say ‘off you go home then’. If you want to protect real victims and the sympathy and support they get in future, you have deal with abuse. For the sake of all future victims, you have to deal with it hard.


This idea seems to have passed everyone by. It’s important, dammit! This is not the last time anyone will need to flee a war zone. But unless this fixed it may be last time that anyone can.


Going back to the birds and the shotguns… someone posted ‘this is what you can do if Syrian Refugees settle in your area – take them baby-clothes, shoes etc. You want to be the Good Samaritan. He’s the hero in the story.’ Well… no. Oh, the Good Samaritan is the good guy – he’s helping the beaten and robbed guy survive. Live to live happily ever after. So what IS going to help that refugee (assuming he or she is a refugee) survive, learn to live happily ever after?


It’s not baby clothes. Or shoes.


It’s the one thing no one has given to migrants for the last forty years. Because some dumbasses decided they’d be better off without this essential, which is all they need, but might hurt their feelings. Huh. Much better to screw their lives up, and their kids, and possibly the lives of others and their refuge… than the bad-feelz for a few days.


It’s what, I promise you, they need far, far more than anything else. I have reason to know, it worked incredibly well for us – to point where when we became citizens of Australia – we had more than 1/5 of the entire adult population of the Island at the ceremony to celebrate with us – and one hell of a party. It’s why we’re happy, settled love the place we’re in, and have a huge network of friends here.


It comes down to four letters, and it’s the best thing you can ever, ever give migrant, or a refugee: Simple advice. Other, more material things – food, shelter, even baby clothes — follow on it. I must thank Inga, the Australian who gave it to us. She came to Australia as a refugee after WW2 from East Germany. She became one of our best friends, until she passed away, survived by three strong sons, a daughter, grandchildren and even a great grandchild. She survived, and did pretty well at the ‘happily ever after’ bit.


Just four letters (Ok, Inga just gave me the first two. I worked the other two out)




Fit In, or Fuck Off


It’s simple, cheap, and… not easy. But two out of three ain’t bad. And you know what? It works. There are millions and millions of historical examples. Most of us carry the mixed up genes of those examples.


It’s the one thing those refugees really need. It’s the one thing that will make sure that the West is a refuge, is a place they find that ‘gold’, is the place where their kids do not turn into terrorists.


It’s the one thing no one is giving them.




*There’s a saying back in Africa: ‘When the Jews go, it’s time to go. When the Portuguese go, it’s already too late.’ It’s a common saying, don’t ask me precisely what it means or where it is from… Maybe the former have, you might say, many generations of selection for surviving persecutions and pogroms. Besides, they tend to be bright. The Portuguese? I dunno. Maybe that because that’s where the Moors stopped, or were stopped, or because they survived various other attempts to destroy them. Or maybe they have predilection to obstinacy and optimism, genetic or otherwise – that could go a long way to explaining Sarah Hoyt and Larry Correia.

I Will Try to Post Later

UPDATE: sorry, not well enough to write a coherent post.  I think I’m going to get a blanky in the easy chair and watch the six hours of A & E Pride and Prejudice.

This latest attack of sinus issues was caused by someone who, in an attempt to sell their house, put plug in air fresheners in every room.  As luck would have it we then forgot to fill humidifier before bed on my birthday.  End result, my nose has been running like a faucet for two days.  Most of the stuff is now clear, and the running seemed to stop around five am, so I think now my nose is stuffed from being sore.  My upper lip is sore too.

Sorry for the TMIs.  Going to bed to nap now, because sleeping was spotty — as is when your nose is a faucet.

I actually have stuff to say, but it will have to wait till I’ve slept.

A BLAST FROM THE PAST JAN 2012 Blowing Steam — or The Counterfactuals Can Harm You

*Sorry guys.  Between the stress of the house closing and the vacation-that-wasn’t, I came down with the mother of all sinus infections, so I’m on a pot of coffee and STILL not functioning.  I’m going back to bed.*

A BLAST FROM THE PAST JAN 2012 Blowing Steam — or The Counterfactuals Can Harm You

Okay, before I start this, I’m going to warn you I’m going to utter several heresies.  It’s not anything I’ve never said before, but we’re so cocooned in a nest of false reality, that these things still have the power to shock.

When I was little, my mom had this gargantuan pressure cooker.  I mean, I’ve never seen another one that size.  Because mom tended to feed the entire extended family on weekends, I think she bought some of her cooking implements from restaurant supply stores.

I was terrified of the d*mn pressure cooker, because there were stories of people getting their faces blown up in them, and I’d run across the patio when mom brought it out, set it in the middle of the patio and opened the steam valve and let the steam escape, before she opened the pot.

You could hear that thing whistle a mile away, like an oncoming train.

That’s sort of what I’m doing today.

A con is a social situation and a wise man taught me that only a fool or a sadist tells the truth in social situations.  My blog on the other hand is my blog, and if you guys aren’t used to the steam by now, I’ll eat my hat.

So this is my blog post to avoid blowing up in someone’s face and/or taking half the room with me.

Today at noon I’m scheduled for a panel on how YA has changed since Heinlein and Clarke wrote for Boy’s Life.  Note that there, the “boys life” slipped in – not “the golden age” but “Boy’s Life” – pretty clever, uh?  That tells you the direction they want this panel to go.  Nifty, uh?

I don’t find this stuff amusing anymore.  At the back of my mind, clanging like a funeral bell, the thought goes “What can’t go on, won’t.”*

And guys, let’s face it, this can’t go on.  It just can’t.  We made some joking comment to older son yesterday.  You see, he had one more humanities requirement to fill and after despairing of anything interesting (no, they don’t have any classical history, which was his first and abiding love) he settled on Jane Austen.  He likes Jane Austen.  He grew up on Jane Austen.

We teased him that he would be knee-deep in girls in that class.  Both boys looked at us like we were nutbars.  They’re knee deep in girls in EVERY class.  These are stem classes, and boys are maybe ¼ the class, at best.

I’d guessed it was somewhat like that – I’ve seen our friends’ SONS fall by the wayside since middle school, while their SISTERS, not notably more endowed with brains than themselves, had As.  I’ve seen my own kids’ classes.  It’s not just that the teaching style, the demands on timeliness, putting tab A in slot B etc are far more suited to girls learning styles, it’s that many of the teachers – almost all female – have an ax to grind, and their ax ALWAYS grinds on the boy side.

But I didn’t realize that college ratios in stem were that out of whack, too.

So, do let’s talk about YA fiction – and why I’m on this panel except to start a fight I don’t know.  I don’t WRITE YA fiction, except for the novel I’m trying to re-write, and I haven’t read any specifically YA fiction since Harry Potter.  (Pratchett doesn’t count.  I’d read his laundry list.) – and Saturday morning cartoons, and commercials, and–  DO let’s.

So in Heinlein’s time there were a lot of male main characters.  Yeah, okay, fine.  If you think that women and girl characters weren’t treated with respect, then truly, you haven’t read Heinlein.  What you have read are the feminists ranting about Heinlein.  NOT the same thing.

Oh, yeah, I forgot, Heinlein’s women wore aprons – therefore eeevil.  (Not, in the fifties clothes were way more expensive, therefore aprons, and people CLEANED a lot more intensively than we do.  Heck, I still clean that way,  Look kids, I hate aprons for OTHER reasons – as in, they catch and bind, and I can never find one when I need it.  But I buy my clothes at the thrift store, so I can afford to replace the $5 pairs of jeans when I can’t find any non bleach-splattered.)

Nowadays, though…

When Marshall was three he came to me and told me he wanted to be a girl.  I get alarm bells at the back of my head, the sort of incoming signal you get when you start going “Is this serious?” and “Is it something I did?”  So, very carefully I ask him why, trying to look perfectly neutral.  (And here you guys have to trust me, but Marshall, in both learning style and presentation and play was my very much boy son.  In fact, he was the most MALE child I ever saw growing up.)

He answered quite easily, “Well, it’s just that girls get to do ALL the fun stuff.”  So I sat down with him for Saturday morning cartoons.  Yep.  Girls have all the adventures.  And boys are either dumb or evil, and sometimes both.

In fiction it’s not that naked (it is in commercials) but you get it nonetheless. 100 pound females take out armies QUITE routinely.  (Oh, fine, but Athena is bio-engineered.  And her husband is her equal.  Deal.)

I have a friend who thinks this is good.  She also thinks it’s a pendulum and this is the “revenge” for the times when “the boys got to have all the adventures.”

She is missing the point.  She is missing the point by a mile and a half.

Those stories were REAL – i.e., they fit with the universe around us – and ours aren’t.

(I told you I was going to be a heretic.  Oh, and the kid got over this impression.  More on that later.)

Look, men and women are not the same.  They can be equal before the law, but they can’t be EQUAL.  They serve different functions in society, or in a sane society at any rate.

Or look at it another way: men and women were shaped by different evolutionary pressures.  I remember reading that human ancestors first formed in bands because of pregnant females, who needed someone to look after them, and who couldn’t walk as far as the males.  I don’t know if that’s true, (I read it in Scientific American) but considering how complicated our pregnancies are compared to most animals, it might very well be.  Our young CERTAINLY require a lot more care and vigilance than most young.  And for a longer time.  It’s the price we pay for the brain.

What this means is that in general, the pregnant women and the old ones, and perhaps the juvenile males or the older males, stayed behind in camp and looked after the littles, while the men went out and hunted.  We do know from primitive tribes, most women forage.  The men hunt.

BOTH functions are essential.  Yes, meat in the diet is important, particularly for large brains.  BUT often the men come back empty handed, and it’s the women’s berries and tubers that allow the tribe to live to hunt another day.

Would a female who wanted to hunt be accepted?  I understand in some tribes they are, at least while unmarried.  BUT would it be practical to encourage all the females to hunt, and all the men to gather berries and look after toddlers?


Let’s leave aside for a moment the fact that violent exercise of that sort while pregnant might not be the smartest idea and that frankly you don’t FEEL like doing it.  Also that women athletes, who run miles every day often stop ovulating.

Let’s instead look at me.  I don’t think my husband is strange.  He’s the best of husbands (trust me) and he adores the boys.  He’s FAR more patient than I am with them.  BUT when they were toddlers, he did  not have the “psychic” bond.  (It’s not really psychic, of course, but it might be instinctive.)  What this meant was that – we shared an office – I’d get up from my desk, go running down the stairs, come back up and he’d be all like “What?” and I’d go “Marshall was about to overflow the bathtub again.”  And he’d go “What?”  And I’d have to say “Well, there was silence, then a very quiet sound of running water, which meant he was being stealthy.  And he was breathing fast.”  “How can you hear his breathing in another floor?”  And I couldn’t explain.  I just could do it.  The bond slowly dissolved, over time.  I mean, I still pay attention to them, but I’m not connected by a sensory tether.

The explanation might be as simple as women being naturally multi-taskers, while men concentrate better (hey, studies show this.)  He concentrated better on his work, but I could hear the kids.

A tribe that sent the toddlers to the bush with a bunch of men would shortly have no toddlers.

In fact, maybe some tribes did this.  It’s like my son and I the other day, trying to sort out why most people aren’t individualists.  Heredity.  Imagine the proto-tribe composed entirely of individualists.  “Come on man, today we hunt mammoth.”  “Who is gonna make me?  You and whose army?”  Yeah… if there is a tribe that did that, we’d NEVER know.

“But Sarah, we have the pill and all sorts of modern stuff, and women should be encouraged to break out of their traditional roles.  Why should you be tethered to child raising?  Let’s free that half of humanity.  That’s why it’s important to present women as leaders and—”

Brother!  You’re not listening.

You missed the part where we were SHAPED by evolution.  Evolution is a funny thing.  It takes a LOOOOOONG time.  Oh, fine, okay, we’re self-tamed, and we might change ourselves faster than nature intended.  It’s still not something you change between a generation or the next, or even two, or three or ten.  NOT when evolutionary pressures have been changing male and female brains FOREVER and picking the most successful.

And then, even if that were your goal, you’re going about it ALL WRONG.

Heinlein’s women were accomplished and they were good at many things (if you read him you know he often showed them smarter at book learning and abstract thinking than men.  They were also wives and mothers.  It is their being wives and mothers that excites the hatred of our “feminists” who, of course, are the establishment voices and who control publishing and entertainment and even our news – either de facto or the screaming at being “offended.” To them the perfectly “liberated” woman is a male.  Always.

And thereby hangs the inanity.  First, our most “accomplished” women aren’t reproducing.  Well known fact, and something that frankly I wrestle with everyday.  Part of the reason we only have two kids was probably the high stress I put myself through trying to break into publishing in our best reproductive years.  Women’s bodies aren’t BUILT for continuous high stress.  (Men’s aren’t either, but weirdly their sperm production gets better.  We stop ovulating, because, well… For men it’s “pass it on before you die.”  For women it’s “We’re always threatened, no time to have babies we have to carry and share resources with.”  We are not EQUAL.  Not before nature.)  Even women who are married (and a lot of our high achievers don’t have time for that, or lack the courage to buck the establishment) among our best performers, will rarely have kids or many kids.  The women who ARE reproducing still and in droves are either from very traditional segments of the society or being supported by the government.

If your goal is to change evolutionary direction – brother, you’re doing it wrong.

But let’s go with your goal just being having a bunch of women in power, and a bunch of men as their toadies.  I often thing that this is the goal of most boomer “feminists.”

I even understand them to an extent.  Remember, I was raised in a country that was at least 20 years behind the US.  My first big trouble was for refusing to clean up after my brother who was 10 years older.  I thought he could take his own fargin banana peel to the trash can and it wouldn’t hurt him.

The fifties were an aberrant time because so many middle class women could afford to make no money, which meant middle class men were important as sole bread winners (no, this is not normal, historically, and partly had to do with affluence, part with societal dynamics.)  That meant the culture in the forties and fifties here – and sixties and seventies in Portugal – picked up all sorts of junk about men being more “important.”  No, not in fact, I know.  There were all sorts of  protections built in for women and girls, too.  But when you’re a pre-teen you don’t see that.  You just see boys lording it over you, and you want to make them eat dirt.

And a lot of the women ten to twenty years older than I never got over it.  This is all about getting their own back, and never mind what it does to the world.

I’m going to be blunt and heretical again: men’s and women’s brains are not the same.  There is a reason men engineers are more “natural” than women engineers.  There is a reason, even now you find fewer women than men working in engineering, though we’re training more women than men.  It’s not discrimination.  It’s that  men are better at spacial visualization.

There is a reason most nurses are female – women have been shaped through evolution to be better at perceiving non-verbal signs of distress and at dealing with the sick.

Now keep in mind that I’m not talking about ANY individual.  This is “statistical likelihood.”  The best nurse I ever had was a guy.  And I’m so awfulbad at dealing with sick anything, that I even shy away from sick cats – while my older son (you know, looks like a Mafioso, is built like a brick sh*thouse) is a natural caretaker, gentle, attentive and kind to those who are sick, old or impaired, human or animal.  (He comes by it naturally.  My dad is like that too.)

No, I don’t think all women should be nurses or teachers.  I also don’t think we should push all of them – or most of them – to be doctors or engineers and push the boys to the caring professions.  And I PARTICULARLY don’t think we should shape our YA fiction that way – i.e. telling lies to the young.

And that’s what our YA has been doing.

Sometimes I wonder what future civilizations will think of this psychosis, (then I remember there won’t be any – at least not any adhering to our culture.)  What will they think of 100 lb girls taking out men four times their size in books and movies.  What will they think of all the girls who are great warriors and brilliant engineers while the man are doltish knuckle draggers.

What besides saying “couldn’t they tell reality isn’t like that?”

Which brings us back to Marshall.  Once, when he was in fifth grade, we were shopping together (groceries.  I hate shopping – deal – so I take my kids along as comedy relief.  They hate it too, but they’re funny.)  I don’t remember why I reminded him of his “I want to be a girl moment.”  He looked at me and curled his lip.  “Yeah, I got over it.  I realized it wasn’t real.  There was no relation between girls on TV and in books and real girls.  Most real girls just want to talk about hair and clothes and go shopping.  The fun ones will play space-games, but mostly they just want to treated like they’re a space-princess and rescued and stuff.  I’ve yet to meet one who likes fighting and running.”  (And here, kids – I LIKED fighting and running as a girl.  Of course mostly I played with the boys, markedly increasing my female relatives’ white hair.)

But this is all a fantasy, because once Islam takes over, all the books from our time will be burned.  After all, there’s no need for any reading outside the Koran.

What’s that you say?  Well, it will be Islam or something very similar.  Perhaps a new form of it.

What can’t go on WON’T.  You can’t keep lying to the young.  For one they notice.  For another those who don’t, those who buy the culture lock, stock and barrel don’t reproduce.

If I thought Islamists were half as intelligent as they think they are, I’d assume they were investing in our publishing houses and pushing the crazy feminists, so that when the revolt comes – it will come.  What can’t go on forever won’t – the boys would all be attracted to Islam and the girls all ready to lay down the burden of being disapproved for wanting to do what women want to do – have kids.  Nest.  Have a safe place to retreat to. – that they’d convert in droves.

I don’t think they’re that smart.  BUT I do think a correction will come.  And since it’s not a pendulum but a sort of crashing reckoning with reality, I think it will be terrible and might destroy us.

And no, that’s not what I want.  What I want is Heinlein’s world, with maybe a little more flexibility – he was working for fifties publishers, after all – where, you know, women could be brilliant engineers and work from home while raising six kids (our tech will help with this, too.)  And where men went out and had adventures, but usually in the service of women, children and civilization.  It’s a lesson boys need.

If a little more flexibility is applied, and men can stay home with the kids and not be frowned at, all to the good (though please, G-d, have technology augment their ability to monitor toddlers.)

I want a world where you can be what you want to be, regardless of what’s between your legs and some desiccated woman’s revenge-agenda.

We can have it.  All that’s standing between our world, where we’re turning men anti-social in droves, and making women so neurotic most teen girls I know are on heavy anti-psychotics (wouldn’t you be?  Grrrrrl power, but the men are keeping you down.  How do you even reconcile that?) is giving up on the stupid fantasies of stupid people.

And we might not.  We might not correct in time to save the future.

But I’d like to.  And now that YA doesn’t have to go through NYC, maybe we can.

Perhaps we should, at the very least, try.

How about some boys who are bluff, protective and adventurous?  How about some women who are smart, capable and feminine?

Or how about YAs that have kids that seem real to you, without pushing anyone’s agenda?  Isn’t that worth the trying?

*And we’ll leave for another day the fact that Heinlein’s day YA dealt with revolution, societal organization and other important issues, while ours deals with sparkling vampires.  Mind you considering the wretched preparation – educational and social – we’re giving these kids, and the debt they’ll inherit, perhaps we don’t WANT them to learn revolution.

UPDATE: Credit where it’s due.  The feminist stuff was NOT brought up.  The idea that what is being written now is just as good was… and some of it is.  Some of it appallingly bad, of course.  All in all not a bad panel, but I took issue with the claim that freezing out sf (versus fantasy) is NOT a publisher thing.  At least, I’d like someone to explain my numbers, otherwise.  OTOH — hard sf doesn’t fly with kids, no.  BUT it flies with precious few adults.

What A Long Strange Year It Has Been

So today is my birthday, and I’ve been mired in stuff I’d rather not be doing, not to mention having been snowed in yesterday.

Later on the program is seeing some houses, as we are as yet “homeless.”  We have a house, but it’s a rental and full of strange mountain ranges of boxes, so not “home.”

My husband gave me A Writer’s Emergency Pack which has 26 idea cards and 26 detail cards with helpful suggestions to try.  I’m wondering if this is like the birthday when I gave my brother The Giant Book of Dinosaurs with Illustrations. ;)

I do need to get back on the writing horse, and the vacation didn’t help, but then I was always afraid three day (which turned into two and an extra night) wouldn’t be enough, because…

What a long strange year it’s been.  It started before my bday with the discovery of something that SHOULDN’T be there, and then my doctor assuring me it was nothing just before Christmas (in the misguided belief, I think, that it would help my holidays) then discovering in mid november after we decided to rent a house, so we could clean our home of 13 years and get it ready for us to move out and sell, that what I had was not strictly speaking cancerous, but it was “highly proliferative and mutational” aka, pre-cancerous.  So surgery was scheduled, and then I came out of that to the Big Puppy Fight of 15.  Because I’d had Brad take my place due to my health issues, I felt bad about the guys getting piled on and I dove in.  JUST before we went back to the house to paint, scrape and generally make it acceptable for sale. Then I came home and finished overdue work (Novel, novella, etc.) AND THEN we had an offer and needed to hop through “new Federal guidelines rules’ because apparently what was wrong with the real estate market was NOT giving loans to people based on tan, not finances.  No, what was wrong was NOT ENOUGH FEDERAL RULES AND PAPERWORK.  And then we did final cleaning and emptying on the house which was made more fun by some of the furniture being Robert’s, which we had to drive over to him after everything was done.

Oh, yeah, Robert moved into a place of his own just as the house went up.  This was fine, good really, but it’s a huge change and I’m still getting used to the new rhythms of life.

I want to get this over with — the changes — as soon as possible, so I can sit back down and work again.  But the changes have, in general, been very positive.  I’m just ready for a slow, lazy year.  And of course 16 is an election year, which means…  Yeah.  Probably not.

However, as of right now, I’m going to write.  And later I hope there will be drinks and G-d knows there MIGHT be cake.

I’ll write at you again tomorrow!



THAT Global Village

Sorry again for being late.  My mom would call these apologies of mine “excuses of chronic late payer” and she’d have a point, only I hope now that we won’t be spending our weekends trying to keep two houses clean and two gardens in shape, that I can write my posts on Sunday.

You already know the vacation was a bust.  Two deaths (one of commenter Matt Landry, one of extended in-law family) a work emergency and then the highway getting closed for four or five hours pretty much put paid to any relaxation.  Then there is the fact our cell phone service decided not to let our phones call outside the country with no warning, and that my mother has been trying to call here while we were gone.  She sounds like something bad happened, which made for some very “fun” nightmares.

Which is why I ended up, yesterday, falling asleep right after dinner (just before seven pm) and sleeping 12 hours.  And no writing happened, but that’s okay, I can do that now.

When I woke up this morning we were snowed in, and we still are.  Which makes me feel like I should crawl back between the covers.

This is too bad, because I need to speak to several things that are alien to native-born Americans.  These include how the rest of the world works, how a religious mono-culture works, that yes, most Muslims are not actually insane terrorists BUT that doesn’t mean they don’t support the insane terrorists even as they recoil from the things they do and in the cool light of day think they are farkin insane.

It is important to explain this, because the US is so large and has been in peace and prosperity so long that the arguments that broke up all over facebook were like watching two people discuss whether the greatest danger to the Titanic was bad soup or a measles epidemic, even while the iceberg tore the ship apart.

So, let’s start with: most Muslims are not insane terrorists.  Most who come here want exactly what the rest of us want: to have a peaceful life, do well at our chosen avocation and raise fat babies who grow up to be prosperous and happy adults, who raise fat babies.

The people yelling all over facebook that they have Muslim friends and that their friends aren’t terrorists must think the rest of us live in walled compounds in Nevada.

Yes, Muslims are still a tiny minority here, but we all have or have had Muslim friends and acquaintances.  One of my son’s best friends/play girlfriends in elementary school was the daughter of the Arab Restaurant owner.  (Last I saw her, now almost five years ago, she was performing belly dance at the restaurant and was disappointed son hadn’t come with us, because she’d like to perform for him.  I relayed the message.  He hasn’t gone near the restaurant since.  I think he’s chicken.)

This girl was friendly, smart as a whip, and her parents were obviously not crazy Islamic fundamentalists, since they encouraged their daughters to attend school. I can no more imagine her strapping a bomb on than I can imagine myself doing that.  (But there are reasons for that, and we’ll go into it later.)

THAT is not the point under discussion for anyone with a modicum of sanity.

And yet the other side keeps bringing up the fact that the Muslims who dare protest against this sort of thing are few and far between.  The specter of death, beatings, etc, is brought in to justify why the great silent, non-terrorist majority does not protest.

This is wrong.

Or rather, this is more complicated than that.  The death, beatings, etc. does not explain WHY we keep finding out that a lot of the silent majority materially supports the crazies they — and I want this to be very clear — rationally disapprove of.

If I understand — and please remember I didn’t grow up here — Irish-American culture, Irishmen should get this.  I knew sane, even conservative people who supported terrorists in Ireland.  Though that’s a little different, since it was support for terrorism OVER THERE and not among their friends and neighbors.

OTOH it had a basic thing in common.  It was tribal.  If you were an Irishman, this is what you did, or at least this is what you did when someone of your own community approached you and assumed of course you’d support it.

Which brings us to the basis for the great peaceful Muslim silence if not acquiescence in these things.

They want to belong.  They want to belong with their tribe.  They want to belong with the one-true-religion (and more on that later.) Their fear of being cast out of those can at times overwhelm their human decency.

I sort of understand it, because I grew up in a religious mono-culture.  And the religion (old style Catholicism) was everywhere.  My mom carefully avoided (my family was weird, okay?) putting me in with the spinster-teacher who dragged the kids to mass every weekday before starting school.  This meant I entered school a year late.  (Well, not exactly.  Being born in November means that they could have argued for me to enter a year early, which is not the same thing.  But they’d done it for the other kids in the family.) However, my teacher, the sensible one, still had us keep a “sacrifice book.”  You were supposed to offer sacrifices for established categories every week, a minimum of 4 a week (I never did more than the minimum): Prisoners; the sick, your own sins, etc.

These sacrifices could mean going without dessert, or they could be crazier things, like tying a knotted rope around your middle so it hurt and wearing it for a day.  No, none of them involved strapping bombs on.

BUT these exercises in piety were listened to and gossiped about by everyone, and yours truly attempts to weasel her way through it were often fodder for village talk.

It wasn’t till Preparatory School, (grade five or six) when I started talking back with actual theology that my dad got tired of getting called to the school and signed the mountain of papers required to remove me from mandatory religion.  And I’ll confess what finally pushed him was that what I was being taught was the guns-to-South-America brand of liberation theology.

Now, being Americans you’re imagining me being sullen about the sacrifice book.  And to an extent you’d be right, of course.  I was so sickly and spent so much of my life in dire discomfort that inflicting more on myself for some spiritual benefit seemed stupid.

BUT the problem with these things, started very very early and pushed on you, is that they stick.  You catch yourself in your middle years reading about someone who wore an hairshirt till his skin was raw (I can achieve that with normal clothes.  YAY eczema) and feeling vaguely guilty you’ve never done that.

In the same way, I know I had to give up speaking/reading Portuguese so I COULD get as close to native as possible in English, but that doesn’t stop the gut-feeling that I should have taught the kids Portuguese; that we should be observing the traditions of Portugal, that–

Now the customs of my place and tribe by and large don’t injure anyone.  They do to some extent injure the Portuguese, but that’s their look out.

(Portuguese society like most Latin societies disdains hard work. So you can’t be seen to work hard on penalty of losing face.  It also comes fraught with the corruption of every society since Rome.  Things work by “gloves” (bribery) and “Godfathers” (Patronage.)  Ie “He who doesn’t have a godfather dies in jail” is an actual proverb.  Portuguese tend to thrive best when on their own abroad, or in a community small enough that the values of the greater society weigh in.)

I can completely imagine being a peaceful Muslim who would no more kill others than he’d fly unassisted, and who yet feels guilty he doesn’t, and gives “respect” and reverence to those who are pious enough to do it.  It is possible to at the same time think “these are madmen” and “But they’re doing what I should be doing.”

It’s the coils of tribe/culture/religion that most Americans don’t get.  Most of you, with the exceptions of some regional mono-cultures, wouldn’t even get disowned for changing religions.

And Islam is… special.  No, I don’t want to hear it.  Yes, Christianity went militant and took to the sword, partly in response to the Islamic invasions, but there is no requirement in Christianity that you take to the sword or slay infidels.  Judaism has its blood-soaked episodes, but they’re so far in the past that arguing them would be crazy.  Those were also in a very limited context, not relating to the world in general, but to one region, one people.

When I was young and seeking, I read all holy books (pretty much) and some I couldn’t make heads or tails of, and some I found a lot of wisdom in.  The Quran was the only one that horrified me.

Again, remember, tribe.  Arab culture is intensely tribal, and their holy book promises world dominion to their tribe.  Worse, if you’re not already dominating the whole world, it’s because you didn’t trust enough to control the world in fire and blood.

This is sort of the equivalent of raising kids with “high self esteem.”  When reality fails to perform to order, they feel they’re being robbed.  There is this in almost every Muslim’s heart.  Because their holy book promises temporal (not spiritual) control of the world, they feel cheated at some level.  They might understand perfectly well why the world is as it is, but the stuff learned with mother’s milk makes them feel they’ve been cheated of their rightful “Lord of the world” position.

And this is how you get perfectly reasonable and rational Muslims, conservative in American terms, even, and then you mention anything even vaguely related to religion or supernatural or tribe, and they get this crazy gleam in their eyes and start saying crazy stuff.  It’s why a Muslim who feels guilty over something serious — adultery, homosexuality, whatever — can suddenly go from sane and moderate to strapping on a bomb.  (I still think not most of them, and it would have roots in their childhood.)

Culture, particularly when entangled with tribe and religion, has a heft and a weight of its own, and a hold in the sanest of minds.

So, what can be done?  D*mned if I know.  Look, taquya and the injunction to stop attacking until you have the upper hand are a key.  Yeah, they’re sort of lying when they say they don’t want to conquer you.  But if they’re decent people (and most of them are) they’re sort of telling the truth too.  It gives them an excuse to give up on the crazy stuff, to quell the crazies.  “We’re not strong enough.  We don’t do this YET” and this gives us a window to let them integrate with the west, and to actually bring about that “reformation” we’ve all longed for, where jihad REALLY is internal struggle.

The problem is… multi-culturalism.  You see, when you go weak at the knees and approve madrasas and sharia law?  You take away the sane Muslims’ excuse that “now is not yet the time.”

Their culture doesn’t understand not exerting strength if you have it.  This is why they keep mistaking our restraint for weakness.  And you’re “respecting their culture” which means not giving the sane ones ANY excuse to change or exert pressure on the crazies to change.

What you’re doing in fact is reinforcing that whole “the imam of my childhood was right, and we are supposed to rule the world, and why aren’t I–”

The “solutions” are unpalatable, but not impossible.  They involve stuff like massive, public punishment for terrorists (yes, they’re ready to die, but not to be killed in an humiliating way, with pig-lard covered bullets) and their supporters; they involve not letting Muslim communities abroad become closed shop and little self-contained principalities: refusal of sharia, refusal of Islamic divorce, more than full punishment of the law for female circumcision and honor killings; they involve confidence in our own culture and emphasis on assimilation.

Which means all of those are impossible with the current political-and-entertainment-and-education establishment we have.

Same for Europe.  Which is why we’re careening to the other solution, the bad one.

I have in the past here explained that the reason the Zulus (and the Amerindians) were defeated was not because they were peaceful and the white man was extra evil.  It wasn’t even the superiority of weapons, which weren’t all that superior when they first met.

It was that the Zulus/various aboriginals of conquered lands were working with outdated head hardware.

This was particularly obvious with the Zulus, who were working from tribal principles (Amerindians too, but that varies to tribe, etc) and therefore when they first got European colonists they did what they’d always done: Perform a horrible massacre to warn the intruding tribe off.

They didn’t understand that Europeans weren’t really a tribe, and that the massacre would provide fuel for every European out there to decide they weren’t human and should be exterminated.

This is sort of where Muslims are.  Their history and their holy book has prepared them very badly to deal with the global village.  Oh, sure, they met Europeans in their “oh, I feel so guilty for colonialism” phase.  But Europeans have always gone through these phases, a dichotomy between Christian principles and bellicose nature.

This one is more marked, but it’s also skin-deep.  Or elite-deep, if you prefer.  Our elites might be incapable of fighting.  They’re opium smokers (the opium being Marxist multiculti) unable to see beyond the clouds to reality.

But they’re also a minority.  As are, as yet, Muslims abroad.

Yes, there’s a level of atrocity where they commit it, and the world awakes and exterminates them.  In fact that is almost the only guaranteed outcome.

Taking a firm stance now would prevent that, but we might not be able, due to the corruption of our educational institutions and media to take that firm stance.

Which leaves us careening towards a future where, as a southern friend once said about someone who annoyed her “I’d be in jail, but he’d be in hell” (if he kept pushing.)

This is sort of that “the threat of Islamic insanity would be gone; but we’d not be western society as we’ve known it these last thousand years.  What emerges from that could be worse than Fascism or Communism.”

It is important to understand this now.  It is important to eschew multi culti now.  It is important to emphasize assimilation to OUR values now.

The culture wars might sound crazy and small, compared to what happened in Paris, but they’re our ONLY chance to stop this runaway train before it kills everything we love.  And yeah, I know, it might already be too little too late.

But at this time, in this place, in the face of odds I’d rather not face, it is the only thing we have left.  Before the worst comes.




The Importance of Socks – Cedar Sanderson

*I”m going to be on later today, when I get home and my computer.  Considering this weekend, it’s possible I should NEVER vacation EVER again.

Sad news — besides France — RIP Matthew Benjamin Landry 1975-2015 — Matt was one of those fans who became a friend online and off line. I’m very glad I got to meet him in the flesh two years ago. He’s now gone beyond pain and beyond suffering, and for him it will be just a few moments before we meet again, but we will miss him.*

The Importance of Socks – Cedar Sanderson

And by socks, I mean the bits that are likely to get wet if you keep putting your mind down there in the gutter. Socks! Not sex! Although that’s important too, but it’s not what I was talking about.

I was thinking about this today as I dealt with a sock malfunction. I’d run out of clean socks… ok. Not out of socks. Out of my favorite socks, which meant I had to get into the second-string socks. And those socks, rather than holding my feet in a warm hug inside my boots, slipped down and left my heels freezing and clammy. It was a minor inconvenience – I had time in my day to go home and change my socks, but it got me thinking.

I’ve been in situations, a long time ago and far away, where warm dry socks were essential. Maybe not life or death, but certainly close. Hypothermia is not your friend, and I’ve been far enough into it often enough to know how fast it can happen. And that wet feet at the wrong time is a very bad thing. It’s not that I’m wedded to my socks. In the summer I run around happily in my bare feet. So maybe I overreact when my feet are cold and uncomfortable.

Or maybe not. These things are warnings for a reason. Like so much else in our lives, a thing that makes us a little uncomfortable and shift unconsciously from foot to foot… might be nothing. Or it could be a little precursor to a big problem. The trick is learning how to tell what is a real danger – being out in the woods a day’s hike from home, with no dry socks, below-55 deg F weather, rain… shivers. Brrrr…. And to learn what isn’t a real danger: half-off socks on campus ten minutes from home and a hot shower to warm all of you up.

Part of learning the difference is common sense. It’s clear that a tiny thing like, say, the statue of a guy in his underpants is not a threat. I mean, if I drove past it in the night I might do a double-take, or if I walked by it in the morning mist and it suddenly appeared it might make me jump. The first time. But it’s no harm. It’s not going to lurch into motion and grab me suddenly. It is, in short, socks that won’t stay up. Now, a real man in a real dark alley when I’m a young woman who’s been out clubbing and drunk too much? That’s a real threat. That is wet socks and no cover far from home and my own fault for not having packed an extra pair of socks and not put myself into that kind of danger with no backup.

Socks are a little thing. Learning how to tell what’s a big thing? That’s important. And it seems to be a skill that too many young people just aren’t learning. Perhaps because their parents never let them go camping in the wilderness, or at least not if it were going to rain. What kids need to learn is how to pack. They need to learn how to check the weather forecast. And maybe they need a parent who’s willing to give them socks for Christmas.

I give my kids socks for most Christmases. Usually, fuzzy fluffy slipper-type socks. The girls love those really fuzzy ones, the little man likes the kinds with superhero motifs on them. Of course, they get more than socks, but… But my dad, for several years running when I was a single parent, took it on himself to stuff my stocking at Christmas. I hung one for myself because the kids insisted, and I usually threw a couple of handfuls of candy in it while I was filling theirs. Dad would come in after I was through, and put socks in it for me. I loved those socks. Merino wool, warm, soft… every time I pulled them on it was like a hug from Dad. And it was one less thing I had to worry about in a worrisome time – I had warm feet.

When we’re under a lot of stress, those socks sliding down our feet can be the last straw. And it can be the little sort of thing that makes all the difference. The lifting of the last straw on the camel might be warm feet, or a full belly when your husband makes you eat an egg before you leave for that math exam, or the unexpected gift of a hand-drawn mother’s day card… without those pick-me-ups, the straw finally breaks the beast of burden to its knees, and getting up is harder than carrying on.

Most of us will go through a point where those socks, and warm feet, make the difference. I don’t know that Dad knew what he was really doing, with the socks in my stocking. I think he just wanted to give me something I couldn’t afford to indulge in myself at the time. But I’d like him to know they meant a lot. You know you’re not a kid anymore when you look forward to socks at Christmas… Who in your life is cold, and what’s a little thing you can do to warm them up? You never know what will help, and it’s not always the big things that you feel you can’t possibly do.

I know I get frustrated about the big things. But there are things in life that you just can’t fix. Oh, sure, when the front door isn’t latching properly and you can shim it up. Or when the child has fallen and scraped their knee and you can hug them, clean their wound, and send them back to playing. When there are no clean socks and you can do the laundry.

But the big things… when a loved one is ill. Or you’re in a situation where all you can do is wait for a resolution. Those, you can’t just fix. You can only ameliorate the pain of the time by doing the little things. Like making sure there are clean, warm socks. Or a casserole. Or walking the dog, or… the little things that can lift that last straw from the camel’s back.

I need to go do some laundry. Or I could steal a pair of my husband’s socks. I know he’d happily give me the last pair in his drawer – because he loves me, and that’s what you do when you love someone, you make sure the little things are right. But I won’t take his last socks. For one thing, I still do have socks. They are just ah, colorful and mostly thigh-high socks. Socks are a sign of the vast differences between men and women. I have my favorite wool socks, trouser socks, performing socks, footy socks… but him? See, like many men, my husband likes to have all his socks one color, one style, and then he never has to worry about that one sock that does go missing in the laundry.

I have a theory about those missing socks. We need to develop some kind of meta-tracker capable of piercing the quantum membrane, because you know those socks have found the parallel universe gate. All we have to do is track them through, and voila! We’ll have a way of getting there, too! So hold a warm, dryer-toasted sock in your hand, close your eyes, and walk forward, holding it out…

I kid! I kid! Socks are great, and important, and all, but they are hardly the answer to the mysteries of the universes!

Reflections of a Golden Age by Christopher M. Chupik

Reflections of a Golden Age

by Christopher M. Chupik

Recently there has been some controversy in our community about whether or not the classics of the genre have value. I’m not going to fisk that article, as others have already done so. I’m also not going to call for the genre to return to the Golden Age, though I’m certain that the commenters on a certain blog which has fifty Hugo nominations will almost certainly spin this post as such. What I’m going to do is talk about my own experiences.

It’s said the Golden Age of SF is twelve and this was true for me. When everybody else was discovering the Hardy Boys, I was leaving them far behind as I journeyed with the mysterious Mr. Bass to the Mushroom Planet. Soon I accompanied David Innes and Abner Perry in their iron mole as it broke through the crust of Pellucidar, the prehistoric world at the Earth’s core. I went to Caspak, the land that time forgot, and later was transported to Barsoom with John Carter, the greatest swordsman on two worlds.

And no, I have no idea how nobody ever noticed I was reading paperbacks with nekkid chicks painted by Frank Frazetta and Michael Whelan on the covers. I was lucky. If a kid got caught with those today he would be marched to the principal’s office, possibly suspended and forced to undergo extensive therapy.

With junior high, I discovered Doc Savage (my school library fortunately had a pair of the Bantam doubles, The Headless Men/Devils of the Deep and Secret in the Sky/Cold Death). I read Ray Bradbury’s short stories and spent my reading periods and lunch breaks and discovered a bittersweet Mars which became as real in my mind as that of Burroughs, no matter what the Viking probes had discovered.

A collection of H P Lovecraft (The Outsider and Other Stories) opened my mind to a whole new non-Euclidian realm of cosmic horror. And then I found out about Robert E. Howard suddenly I had a whole new world of adventure open up for me, from the prehistoric empires of Kull and Conan to the Elizabethan exploits of Solomon Kane. A summer visit to my uncle gave me a chance to read both 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea and Mysterious Island in the span of a few weeks. When I went to my public library, I would use their brand new computer terminals to search for decades-old books, not always finding them, but always looking.

In high school, my library had a selection of nonfiction books about SF — from the ’70s. So I got to learn what the SF field was like 20 years earlier. Such a different time: old guard vs. new, gender roles, political slapfights, accusations of fascism and sexism . . . Er, okay, maybe it’s not that different after all. Point is, I learned a lot. My list of authors grew and my horizons expanded to the edge of the universe.

I read Larry Niven and marveled at the wonders of the Ringworld. I learned the Laws of Robotics and pondered psychohistory. I read Orwell and discovered that some animals are more equal than others. Heinlein I unfortunately skipped, due to the fact that I made the mistake of believing in his “fascist” reputation mentioned in those books I had read. Because of that, I didn’t read him until adulthood, which I regret immensely now. You know, that could be a whole other post . . .

And now? My high-tech Kobo e-reader has a copy of Edmond Hamilton’s The Star Kings on it. Does it matter that I was reading this novel with a device more sophisticated than any of the computers contained within? Of course not.

One of the complaints made was that the younger generation can’t relate to “futures” where men still wear hats and they can make intelligent positronic robots but not personal computers. I say you’re not giving the younger generation enough credit. When I was reading Bradbury and Asimov, I was very aware that I was reading of future’s past. It doesn’t matter that Orwell’s 1984 is behind us (or is it?) any more than it matters that the Mars that Burroughs and Bradbury wrote about has no more foundation in reality than Middle-Earth.

It didn’t matter to me because I could see the things that hadn’t changed. Ultimately, the human experience remains consistent across the ages. Sure, superficial things like slang and fashions change with the decades (Think our modern SF won’t look hokey and dated to people mid-century? Think again.) But people still fall in and out of love. There is conflict and injustice. The universe is full of terrors and wonders yet to be discovered. It doesn’t matter if the characters are flying to a swampy Venus in rocketships or taking a starship through a wormhole to Gliese 581.

What matters is this: Is the plot good? Are the characters interesting? Is there a sense of wonder? Were you gripped? Do you want to read it again? These remain true, if you’re reading in 1915, 1955 or 2015.

The Golden Age is whenever you find it.