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A Good Servant But… – Jeb Kennison

Marxist-Feminist Poster

A Good Servant But… – Jeb Kennison

[This post was originally published at JebKinnison.com in 2014]

I’m writing about the history of government thought control and the means of
restraining it by constitutional limitations on its powers. Western
governments are more and more intrusive on private decisions, and modern
activists and feminists strongly influence government policy and propaganda
from their positions in academia, government, and nonprofits. Restricting
government’s powers to interfere in private decisions and control the media
message would give private personal decisions more room, and everyone
(except the nomenklatura) would benefit.

Feminism started out with a quest for equity in job opportunities, voting,
and freedom to choose. This initial agenda (“equity feminism”) won a lot of
support from fair-minded men and women, though even then there was a strong element of
special pleading in the movement.

By choosing to notice only the bad things that happen to women in
our own time as well as other cultures and times, modern feminists have
failed to work for truly equal treatment of men and women. Instead of seeing
individuals and their rights as important, modern feminists and other Social
Justice Warriors believe that only a relentless focus on oppression of some
categories of individuals by others is the key to righteousness, and their
collectivist view of group rights leaves little space for sympathy for
anyone who cannot claim membership in an oppressed class. They believe as a
religious cult would believe that if only they explain their beliefs hard
enough to the unenlightened, the scales will fall from their eyes and
goodness will triumph. No amount of victory in achieving their goals would
ever be enough for them to end their battles, since new groups of the wicked
can always be identified to battle against; the battle itself nourishes
their egos and so it must continue. If all their enemies have been
vanquished, villainy is defined down to catch a new
class of micro-villains whose microagressions and incorrect thoughts must be
corrected.

Note that it is no longer enough that “victim” classes be treated equally by
government and in employment and public accommodations — theirs is now a
push for equal outcomes to overcome private rights of association and
contract, so women (or men!) who desire to work less or take out more time
for family would not be allowed to bargain for those conditions of
employment by asking for less pay for less work. Implicitly all employees
with the same job title and duties must be paid the same regardless of their individual
contributions or their own desires
for a lesser degree of commitment to
the business.

Equal opportunity does not imply there should be equal outcomes, because
diversity of interests and abilities between individuals and the sexes means
there will be unequal interest in career options that require 60 hours a
week of work, intense focus on mechanical problems, manual labor, or
hazardous conditions. Similarly, you will not get or expect equal interest
in the highly social, helping professions that, on average, women appear to
prefer. Efforts to force equal employment in every company by race, sex,
age, or other class are simply doomed — any company which balanced its
workforce to match these desiderata would find themselves forced to hire
less productive employees, crippling them against their competition not so
constrained. Jesse Jackson has called for Federal
pressure on high tech firms to require equal employment outcomes in tech
jobs. When you talk to a Social Justice Warrior about this, you get an
answer remarkably similar to what socialists said in the 1970s when you
asked how any country could level outcomes (“to each according to his need”)
without the productive escaping to another country to achieve what they
could without the shackles: “Well, that’s why they had to build the Berlin
Wall.” To stop the defection of those who want to be free to follow their
own preferences, this preferred system must be extended everywhere or
somehow escape must be controlled and punished by, say, walls, machine guns,
and Gulags.

So what we have is a small but highly influential ideological group,
educated, generally well-off, and embedded in academia, media, government,
and non-profit work throughout the United States. They continually agitate
for larger and more intrusive government which would employ more of their
kind, the better to regulate away all imperfect thought and behavior.
Business and profit-making enterprise is viewed as suspect because it is
partly beyond their political control, so efforts to take control of
decisions inside businesses continue, and the expanding HR departments,
lobbyist payments, and political contributions of businesses reflect the
need to pay for protection against this bureaucratic tendency. Similarly,
hospitals and schools have responded to the increasing regulation and
government funding of their activities by hiring many
more high-paid administrators
while shorting the low-level staff that
actually do the work, because they must do so to get along in an
increasingly bureaucratized, legalized, and centrally-controlled
environment. This employment of large numbers of high-paid staff that don’t
directly produce anything of value for customers has greatly increased the
cost of domestic services like healthcare and education, and the drag on
Western economies has brought economic growth to a halt in many places.

We have seen such bureaucracies before — the churches which for centuries
held both political and moral authority over weak governments in Europe
attempted to regulate thought and action to increase their own power.
Wrangling over state religion and power led to incessant warfare. The
solution to the problem of state interference in private thought and belief
was finally found in the Enlightenment idea of separation of church and state. As Thomas Jefferson
wrote in his letter to the Danbury Baptist Association in 1802:

Believing with you that religion is a matter which lies solely
between Man & his God, that he owes account to none other for his faith
or his worship, that the legitimate powers of government reach actions only,
& not opinions, I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the
whole American people which declared that their legislature should ‘make no
law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free
exercise thereof,’ thus building a wall of separation between Church and
State.

The early history of the colonies which later became the United States is
instructive. Many of the colonies had an established church (the
Massachusetts Bay colony notoriously drove out religious dissidents and hanged the
Quaker Mary Dyer on Boston Common in 1660
) and wished to maintain their
government support for a specific religion even as the Enlightenment took hold, but it became clear that any
government uniting the colonies would have to take a neutral stance toward
religion, and enforce a set of human rights (constraints on government
action to control individual thought and choice) to allow them all to
co-exist peacefully. The great flaw of this compact, its political tolerance
of slavery and second-class citizenship for slaves, was only corrected by
the upheaval of the Civil War, which cemented the primacy of the federal
government and its enforcement of the ideal of individual rights within the
states.

Albion’s Seed: Four
British Folkways in America
by David Hackett
Fischer is an eye-opening look at the four founding British cultures of
colonial America, and how each of them continues to influence present-day
political preferences and power struggles. Other immigrant cultures (German,
Irish, Scandinavian…) were also influential, but tended to join with one
of the four founding cultures that closely represented their views,
resulting in the welter of memes of political belief now contending for
influence.

In New England, the Puritans from East Anglia settled between 1629 and 1640,
the years immediately preceding the English Civil War in which Oliver
Cromwell and the Puritan army defeated and beheaded King Charles I. Their
colony started with a rigid established church which was intolerant of free
thought.

In Virginia, settlers consisted of vanquished supporters of King Charles and
the established (Anglican) Church of England, primarily from the south and
west of England. They tended to be more relaxed about religion and more
business and trade-oriented.

Quakers then arrived in the Delaware Valley (Philadelphia area) from the
English midlands (and their religious kin from various German sects) between
1675 and 1715. Their way was strongly religious and pacifist, but recognized
the importance of freedom of conscience.

The good coastal lands having been occupied, the Scotch-Irish (referring
collectively to immigrants from the north of England, lowland Scotland, and
Ulster) settled the Appalachian hill country from 1717 to 1775. Scrappy and
suspicious of any effort to tax and control by hated distant governments,
their attitude of automatic resistance is still visible in today’s politics,
with Sarah Palin an example of the type.

Only a government which respected and mediated the difference between these
founding cultures could work for a larger United States.

As time has gone on, these Enlightenment understandings have been eroded,
and “Americanism” (the practice of tolerance and “minding your own
business,” belief in progress, self-sufficiency, and freedom of thought for
all citizens regardless of sex, race, wealth, or heritage) is less
practiced. Our Social Justice Warriors say they value freedom of speech and
thought but only for approved speech and thought; heretical ideas are to be
stamped out by denying speech and punishing the heretics. It is no longer
surprising to hear a college activist suggest that certain kinds of speech be forbidden by law.

There are signs that popular culture has taken note of the tendency toward
totalitarianism and government propaganda from the Social Justice Warriors.
Dystopian YA novels like The Hunger Games show a
population repressed and manipulated by a media-controlling central
government. The movie version of the novel The Giver takes some
shots at this mindset; a thoughtful review of the movie version in The
Atlantic
“What Is the Price of Perfect
Equality?”
gets at its politics:

Engels saw the institutions of family and private property as
deeply entwined. Part of Engels¹ objection to the institution of the family
was that it involved a ³progressive narrowing of the circle, originally
embracing the whole tribe, within which the two sexes have a common conjugal
relation.² Marxism¹s benevolent tendencies are swallowed up by concern and
preference for one¹s immediate family, which becomes the unit of basic
inequality…. Commerce and trade, it turns out, are just as dependent on
the passions as the passions are dependent on commerce and trade in The
Giver.
The true nightmare of a dystopian world is that all of these
things are interconnected, and that by losing one or the other, by
engineering it away socially or medically, nightmarish unintended
consequences will ensue.

The solution to this contention over social preferences and culture is
analogous to the separation of church and state. To accommodate all
religious and social beliefs in a framework of law and justice that respects
all such beliefs that can be consistent with universal human rights, a
government has to be prohibited from interfering when those beliefs are
practiced without harming an individual’s rights. We might call this
generalized idea “Separation of Culture and Government.”

While the modern feminists would wish to eliminate such current cultural
communities as Mormonism, ultra-orthodox Judaism, socially conservative
evangelical Christians, conservative Catholicism, and unreformed Islam from
the scene, a bargain must be struck to prevent further strife: the law will
not take a position on any social belief — it will not take sides for or
against social conservatives or Social Justice Warriors. Any individual is
free to practice their beliefs with other like-minded individuals in
voluntary association. Attempts to bring the force of the law to bear on
changing social mores and behaviors that are not in violation of individual
rights would be prevented. The law of marriage would revert to the law of
contract, with social conservatives free to enter into perpetual marriage
contracts with features like dowry, alimony, and discriminatory child
custody and support arrangements, while others would be free to bind
themselves to marriages which maintain individual property and call for
equal arrangements for child custody, with no alimony implied unless
provided for by contract. No group could punish an individual member for
behavior contrary to its beliefs except by private action: social sanctions,
excommunication, and shunning. Lobbying the central government to adopt your
preferred social arrangements by law would, ideally, occupy far less time
and attention in national politics as such efforts were struck down by the
courts.

Currently modern feminists have won considerable power to use government
support and propaganda to free women of some of the obligations of the
patriarchal culture they wanted to replace. Not only to correct injustices
in law and employment, but to increase government spending and regulation to
provide support that women formerly might have had to negotiate and serve a
partner or employer to obtain. Both ever-expanding social welfare states and
the failed Communist states reduced individual accountability and replaced
allegiance to family and employer with allegiance to the state’s goals, and
that is the model modern feminists prefer and are now working toward in the
US.

Under such a controlling regime there is far less reward for striving. Hard
work is replaced by contentious committee meetings and political struggles
for pieces of a shrinking pie. The increasing numbers of academics,
government workers, and nonprofit workers operate detached from practical
considerations of serving customers. It becomes easier to slack off, and so
more people slack off. The endpoint occurs when the productive have fled or
chosen more leisure over work, and the economy collapses after years of
stagnation. In the family sphere, we already see the endpoint in entire
communities where single mothers struggle to raise children without benefit
of a father to help and guide, young men are either in prison or involved in
gangs, and intact families with bourgeois values are forced to move away.
Women are taught that they are victims of oppressive males, and the enlarged
State will take their side in any disputes and support them directly if they
have children. What had been a safety net for people in tragic circumstances
became a way of life for millions.

Men and women who don’t want to take the role offered them in the culture
they grew up in have the choice of not doing so, or bucking their culture to
find a partner who more closely reflects their chosen values — this is
America, where you can be who you want to be! But under a government that
micromanages social arrangements and decides family custody and support
decisions based on “victim feminism,” men are never safe from rape
accusations, your children can be taken away from you easily, and the
population of women one might productively partner with has been programmed
to see themselves as victims entitled to use government to win any disputes
that might come up. If you are hardworking and successful on your own, you
are taxed heavily to support other men’s children and fund the politically
correct bureaucrats who harass your business. This thumb on the scale of
justice makes marriage a negative-sum game for many men (especially the poor
and disadvantaged), and the elevation of bureaucrats and academics above
workers in the private sphere damages men’s career prospects, unless of
course they adopt the conformist ideology.

The limited government crowd doesn’t want no government. It is generally
recognized that externalities and free-rider problems can only be handled by
a government; defense, civil justice and policing, pollution regulations,
and public health regulation (quarantines, vaccination requirements, etc.)
are areas that can only be handled by a monopoly state. But political
decision making is a blunt and inefficient mechanism, and those matters
which can be handled by private business and voluntary social organizations
should be, both for efficiency and freedom of choice. The libertarian and
smaller government crowd wants a government that concentrates on effectively
and efficiently handling matters only it can handle well. The expansion of
the government sphere at the expense of the private sphere is analogous to
Microsoft’s destruction of most competitive software applications companies
in the 1980s: using its near-monopoly in operating systems and the enormous
profits to enter the applications market, marketing its mediocre
applications and funding them when any normal company would have given up.
Eventually competitors were worn out and stopped funding new development;
Office products took over, ending most of the progress in the field for a
decade. Using the power to tax and the lack of any mechanism to disband
failed government programs, mediocre government-funded services (like
monopoly elementary and secondary education) crowded out the
privately-funded community schools, and after a century of increasingly
centralized control, local parental control of schools and their curricula
has almost vanished. Education is now heavily influenced by modern
feminists, and children are indoctrinated in feminist and anti-masculine
ideas.

It took generations for feminists and Progressives to capture the commanding
heights of government, media, education, and non-profit foundations. From
their perches they have directed a campaign to change the culture and
enlarge the State, and they have won. Federal government authority has
expanded to directing university handling of rape allegations and defunding
men’s sports teams under Title IX. Meanwhile, antiquated family law (as in,
for example, Massachusetts) remains
unreformed, designed for an era where the woman was assumed to be a fragile
flower needing protection, and forever a ward of her husband even after
no-fault divorce.

Some of these problems of feminist excess are now getting more mainstream
attention, but the best solution is the libertarian one of limited
government. Both major US parties are flirting with libertarian ideas like
an end to the War on Drugs and government surveillance excesses, but the
bureaucratic underbrush that limits freedom the most has been a part of our
lives for a long time, and few see how damaging it is becoming.
State-by-state reform of divorce and alimony laws is happening, but slowly.

Few candidates for office believe voters will support a pledge to do less.
Efforts to reduce bureaucratic and centralized control of people’s lives
have been politically difficult, until perhaps now when the incompetence and
waste of large government projects has become more obvious. While there is a
temptation for men to join feminists in playing the victim card (“Men are
victims, too! Help us!”), men don’t need special programs to regain
fairness; they need a government that stops interfering and lets organic
social relations between men and women resume a more natural course.

The Substrate Wars series (Red Queen and Nemo’s World) is a
fictionalized account of a revolution that tries to put this kind of limited
government in place for an expanding humanity.

Who’s Jeb Kinnison?

Grew up in Kansas City. I read everything I could in the school and town
library, and discovered science fiction in second grade, starting with Tom
Swift books and quickly moving to Heinlein juveniles and adult science
fiction.

When I was twelve, I discovered the collection of city telephone books in my
local library. I pretended I was doing a paper and called Isaac Asimov; we
spoke for a long time, and he sent me a postcard encouraging me to write. So
thank you, Isaac, wherever you are, for being so kind and generous with your
time. Robert Silverberg had no time for that kind of nonsenseŠ.

I studied computer and cognitive science at MIT, and wrote programs modeling
the behavior of simulated stock traders and the population dynamics of
economic agents. Later I did supercomputer work at a think tank that
developed parts of the early Internet (where the engineer who decided on ‘@
Πas the separator for email addresses worked down the hall.) Since then I
have had several careers‹real estate development, financial advising, and
counselling.

I retired from financial advising a few years ago and have done some work in
energy conservation (ask me about two-stage evaporative coolers!) and
relationship issues. My books on attachment theory have done well enough to
try fiction again, and the Substrate Wars series is the result.

I recently visited the Mormon genealogical web site, which shows me as a
descendant of Eleanor of Aquitaine, Edward I Plantagenet (King of England!),
William the Conqueror (who you might remember from such historical events as
the Norman Conquest of 1066), and Rollo the Viking. It appears that my
ancestors in between lost track of their money, lands, and power, so I was
brought up in ³reduced circumstances.²

Visit my web site at JebKinnison.com for more: rail guns, Nazi scientists,
the wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald, the 1980s AI bubble, and current
research in relationships, attachment types, diet, and health.

Interesting Times -CACS

Sarah remarked that right now a number the people who write alternate columns for her are having interesting lives.

As my life has progressed I have pondered the Chinese curse, “May you live in interesting times.” I have concluded that what is considered as interesting times changes with perspective.

When I was in school I thought of the curse as quite a threat, generally encompassing great disasters and upheavals. I thought of interesting times as The Revolution (American and French), The Late Great Unpleasantness, The Great Depression and World War II. You know, those big things you learned about in the history books.

I guess that The Cold War would likely have counted as interesting as well. The Bomb and the threat of nuclear war have always been a part of my life. My earliest political memory is a speech given by President Kennedy during the Cuban Missile Crisis. (I admit I probably only remember it because it interrupted the movie King Kong.) To my parents and grandparents the Cold War was a real and active threat, but to me it was situation normal, an ongoing background noise that was always there.

As was racial unrest. I was raised with the stories of the Freedom Rides and Goodman, Schwerner and Chaney. I recall being quite put out with my parents for not going down to join the protests in the southeast. The pastor and a few congregants from the Unitarian Church in center city Philadelphia had joined with others to take a bus load of people to participate. In my child’s brain I did not consider the real world responsibilities that my parents carried. At that time my father was working and going to law school, and my mother was taking care of me.

I watched on the TV as Watts was torn apart, as rioters and looters went on a rampage. There were major riots in the city in which I lived, although not in the immediate neighborhood. That seemed more urgent than the Cold War, but having been raised conscious of the situation, it had always been a part of my life. At one point I had organized all five year olds in my household for a protest march through my neighborhood. My mother kept the sign I made to her dying day.

Having always known the Cold War and racial unrest I did not think of them as qualifying as interesting times. They were simply what was going on, my reality. I now know better. I also sadly note, in spite of hopeful reports of their passing, that recent events have proved that they really are not gone from the world stage.

I am, obviously, older now. With experience, a broader study of history, and the wide availability 24/7 news I have long since realized that it is a truth that somewhere the world is going though some kind of interesting times. The political and social upheaval may not be on our immediate door step, but it is out there. While in the past distance might isolate us from the effects, with the global markets, it is more likely that some region’s instability will be felt.

I have also steadily expanded the definition of what constitutes interesting times. Living through a five year drought, reading about the effects of the great grasshopper plagues in the western planes, the 1927 Mississippi River flood and events such as Krakatoa have added natural disasters to the mix.

Yet the biggest change came with the realization that simply being alive meant that you were going to live through interesting times. Interesting times do not just involve disasters of cataclysmic proportions. They can be personal or familial, created by the upheavals that occur just because you are alive.

Just this year I have watched as people who I know (and their families) have had their lives change in a moment, when they receive a diagnosis from a doctor. A lovely young woman, a careful eater with an active lifestyle, had an unusual and entirely unexpected rare bi-lateral stroke. (She is slowly recovering, thank you.) A friend in her mid-forties with a loving husband and two young children had been feeling just a little under the weather throughout the summer. She finally decided to go to the doctor. Sunday morning she succumbed to leukemia after a grueling six month battle.

Moreover the circumstances do not have to be what we would necessarily call bad. A friend who has struggled to get pregnant and carry to term for years received the news that she is expecting twins. At first she struggled with fears of loosing them. Now, at twenty-three weeks along, everything looks good and she is thrilled. Still it is proving to be an exhausting challenge physically. (Those of us who have only ever had to deal with one small child underfoot at a time are doing our best to be encouraging and not to tell her of the exhaustion that comes with that.)

So now, my definition of the interesting times of the curse can be anything from the global to the personal situations that threaten to overwhelm. Even those who make the best of plans and prepared for their lives are going to experience them. We cannot anticipate or control for everything. So we best develop a sense of humor, and pray for some boring times. While you are at it make a conscious effort to treasure and enjoy those good things come your way even in the midst of your interesting times.

Inclusive of Psychopaths – Frank J. Fleming

*Once upon a time Frank’s blog was one of the things that kept me from bursting from the (glass fronted) political closet brandishing an AK-47.  Now that I’m out in the open and everything, imagine my surprise when I found Frank was writing novels.  In science fiction and everything.  Give him a warm Hunnish welcome, and go buy his book. The alternative is too horrible to contemplate. – SAH*

Inclusive of Psychopaths – Frank J. Fleming

What makes good science fiction? Is it a fast-paced story? Interesting characters? Unpredictable twists and turns?

Unfortunately, I had those outdated ideas in mind when I wrote my first novel, Superego. But as we all know, the true purpose of science fiction now is inclusiveness. Entertainment is okay, I guess, but what we really need to focus on is making sure everyone feels cared for and included and that no one feels weird, no matter how weird they are.

This is difficult for me as a white, heterosexual, cisgender male. I’m basically committing a hate crime just by existing. I’m not even sure that in this day and age I should be allowed to write science fiction. Still, I decided to examine my novel to determine how inclusive it is.

I first used the Bechdel Test, as that’s a nice objective measure. I ran into a problem right away, though, because Superego is written in the first-person perspective of a male character. It’s like I didn’t even try. Still, there are a number of named female characters in the story, and a few times they do speak to each other. Most of the time, they’re talking about the main (male) character, but I did locate a short conversation between two women about one getting the other a chair.

Boom! Passed the Bechdel Test. It’s a very feminist novel.

But does anyone care about women anymore? It’s kind of passé to combat gender bias. Plus, are genders even real? Aren’t they just a social construct or something? Then again, if that’s true, I’m not sure where babies come from… but we’re not talking about science; we’re talking about tolerance.

Anyway, instead of being inclusive of a group everyone already knows to include, it’s best to find a brand new identity no one even thought of tolerating yet. I mean, there are things people wouldn’t even think to care about now that you’ll be worse than Hitler not to care deeply about next year. And these days if you’re the first one who recognizes a new need for tolerance and inclusiveness, you’re treated just like a scientist who’s made a world-changing discovery… back when people cared about that sort of thing.

Well, that is where Superego wins out, because it highlights a group no one has even thought to tolerate yet: psychopaths. In most fiction, the psychopathic hitman is stereotyped as the bad guy, but my progressive novel makes him the protagonist. That’s because I want all the psychopaths out there to know that I understand and sympathize with them and am against all the psychopath hate they see in other novels.

Of course, many don’t share my sympathies. For instance, look at all the Social Justice Warriors out there with their ostentatious displays of how much they care for people — how do they think that makes a psychopath, someone who is incapable of caring, feel? It’s really insensitive, but those scumbags with their empathy privilege never give a second thought to psychopaths.

But not me. I care about psychopaths and their feelings (or lack there of). Does that make me a superior person? Yes. Do I look down on everyone who doesn’t share these enlightened views of inclusiveness? Absolutely. Does this make me feel good about myself? Well, let’s just say I’m typing this with one hand while using the other to pat myself on the back.

Man, it’s really enjoyable being more considerate and tolerant than everyone else. Writing science fiction is fun!

Plus Ca Change – David Pascoe

Plus Ca Change – David Pascoe

When I was a wee, young lad, my farthest horizons Down The Block To The Corner, and more distantly, The Annual 25-Hour Drive to Southern KCalifornia, I was confronted with the reality of, not only my personal mortality, but of the possibility – nay, the certainty of the extinction of humanity. No, not something as pedestrian as nuclear warfare. That, that actor who had the sheer, unmitigated gall to occupy the White House had seemed to put paid to the Gorby and the big, bad (but misunderstood, really, Officer Krupke) USSR.

No, we were all going to freeze to death as the planet chilled to a really, really, really cold temperature. Or starve. Or both, I expect. Now, I was four or five, but I’ve come to find out since that the drum of Teh Coming Ice-Age(TM) was being beaten for much longer than I knew about then. This was hard to understand – the whole freezing thing – as I started my life in sunny Pasadena. It became at least accessible once we’d moved to Spokane, and had this strange period called Winter, where the rain became this solid, oppressive, colorless thing that drifted on tiny wings of extinction. Or something.

Once I became aware of our awesome and horrifying fate, I seemed to see it everywhere. (It helped that I could read by then.) I read about it at the doctor’s office, waiting for the MMR shot (traumatizing, that. Far more than a nebulous, chilly future). I read about it when Mom took me along grocery shopping, and wouldn’t buy me the Super Frosted Sugar Bombs, or whatever toxic (but Fortified Mit Vitamins!) breakfast cereal I’d seen commercials for the previous Saturday during The Time of Kar-Tuuns. (Speaking of traumatizing, she’d never buy me the umpteen various Lego sets that I DESPERATELY NEEDED to survive, either. Moms, man.) I even heard people talking about it at church, when I could be bothered to pay attention to what the grown-ups were saying. I mean, seriously, how did they even get enough oxygen at that height? Beggars the imagination, or at least the imagination of a four-year-old.

But, yeah: we were dying, as a species. Weeeelllllll, not dying, per se, but headed toward a Bad End, and nothing we could possibly do would stop it. Except for, probably – and I’m just guessing, here, as I don’t actually remember all the recommended “solutions” from the myriad of doom-saying glossy magazine covers – spending enormous amounts of taxpayer money on untried and unproven programs that *might* undo the damage we nefarious humans had done to Mother Earth. With malice aforethought, of course.

Three decades on, we’re hearing the same tune again. Unless we cut the legs out from under our economy, unless we reject cold turkey what keeps our civilization running day-to-day (don’t believe me? Look into how much freight moves just by semi each day), unless we pour money into untried and unproven technologies built by companies with surprising amounts of governmentadministra- no, I take that back: with incestuous, cronyistic (a word, and you knows it) interpenetration that defies belief, we are all going to DIE. The earth will heat, the seas will rise, and it’s our fault because we’re horrible, horrible sinners the ones pursuing our small, avaricious, capitalistic ends while Blessed Gaia burns.

Speaking of ‘orrible, ‘orrible sinners, I recall any number of references to various types through the centuries calling the general populace to repent and … do … stuff, because the End of the World was coming. Now, at least in Western countries, a lot of people making such predictions predicated (hehe) them upon the return of the Christ. Not all, though; not by a long stretch. For some light reading, check out this list. Now, I’m not waiting around for it, regardless of how it comes.

Which is the point, really. People have been predicting the end for a long, long time now. Probably since Ogg saw a peculiar light at night, woke up Mogg and told him the sun wasn’t going to come up in the morning. (Mogg very wisely went back to sleep, since why would one want to meet the End of the World tired and cranky?) In the same way – are you ready for this lateral leap? – we now have people predicting the end of the Republic. Look, I’m not exactly looking to piss anybody off, so I’ll just lay out this quote.

It is not despair, for despair is only for those who see the end beyond all doubt. We do not. It is wisdom to recognize necessity, when all other courses have been weighed, though as folly it may appear to those who cling to false hope. (Fellowship of the Ring, p. 302)

Now, whether or not America slides further and further down the toilet into bureaucratic totalitarianism (and reading up on FDR’s Amerika, I’m not convinced we’re actually that far gone), we have things to be doing. Things that give us hope. (Not change, despite the title. Look, I’m good with change. More or less. Change is a constant, and it’s one to which we adapt, or we don’t. And often die, being historically minded.) Some keep their eyes on eternity, in one form or another. For those of us cursed to be writers, we keep one eye on eternity, at best. I trust the Author understands that. If He doesn’t, we shall have words, I expect. As for others, hope comes from the bizarre, Brownian action of existence, where billionaires enable freedom for writers everywhere. From what I read in the newspaper on the Utility Formerly Known as the Internet (another article, another kettle of fish) that’s not really supposed to happen. The Rich(TM) are out to oppress and lord their wealth over us mere mortals. Still and all, I have a hope of making a living from my writing, instead of it being reduced to a glorified hobby.

Even five years ago, that wasn’t clear. And, truthfully, in another five years, it may not be part of our reality. I hope in ten years or so, I’ll be writing posts from orbital habitat. Maybe something at one of the Lagrangian points. Which is the point, really. We take potshots at the future from the uncomfortable flux of the present using minds rooted in the past. We can’t know whether the Republic will fall tomorrow, in 2017, or centuries down the road (though I hope we’ll still be arguing about it come then). Everything changes, and we can’t know what form things will take, even in the near future. Take comfort in that, for only the mad or Marxists (but I repeat myself) claim otherwise. And if we who are familiar with bending our minds around the shapes the future may bring can’t see it, even darkly, how much more terrifying must it be to be one who clings to a failed philosophy, always expecting paradise around the next election, and never reaching it?

Eventually, those who can adapt will win. That’s us, by the way. The battlers (hi, Kate!), the early adopters, the malleable of mind, but never of conscience.

Good Little Girls

 

It won’t surprise anyone in this blog that I was a tomboy. There is a picture of me at seven or eight I posted in the diner, holding hands with my 10 year older, dark, bearded brother. I was wearing shorts and a scruffy t-shirt. (It was scruffy on account of my having a mania for it, all through that summer. Mom washed it at night – sometimes sending me into the washtank afterwards so I wouldn’t track mud through the house – and it was dry in the morning. It was orange and had a green anchor. I don’t remember WHY I loved it.) I was either barefoot, wearing flip flops or wearing my shoes from the previous winter cunningly cut into “sandals” as my feet pressed front and back.

I had long hair, but mom kept it braided, which is to say out of my way.

I was never one of those girls who wanted to be called by boys names (my best friend’s nickname was Bill, which is a novel approach to Isabel. But she was the Louis L’Amour fanatic and enamoured of the American west. I miss her terribly.) because I never had any illusions or wanted to pretend to be what I wasn’t.

And what I was was trouble with a capital t rolled into a scruffy, skinny (hard to believe) body where the scars from various exploits were hidden under dirt and mud until an adult took a hand.

I read Tom Sawyer and identified with… Tom Sawyer, and not the rather insipid love interest.

At recess at school (we had lovely long recesses, because our teacher was in her seventies and got tired easy. Okay, maybe fifties or sixties, but to me she was ancient.) I invented LARPs. I didn’t know that’s what they were until I heard LARPs described. To me they were just a new way of playing because the way people played – chase? Hide and seek? The elastic jumping game? – either bored me to death or I couldn’t do, not being the most coordinated person around.

The LARP under progress was usually dependent on what I’d just read. The most enduringly popular was Robin Hood, because it had a role for everyone, even the girls who wanted to be pretty (more on that later) and well behaved. It even had a role for the other class (our school, one room, operated different classes morning and afternoon, first to fourth grade. First and fourth shared a class. Then fourth graduated, and we were second and acquired a first.) i.e., the babies, who could be given no account roles such as “other men of Robin Hood” (if we liked them. Rare.) “Townsfolk” “Poor Town’s folk” and more commonly “Men of the Sheriff.”) Because sheriff was an important role, my best friend – a slip of a thing with huge grey eyes and honey brown hair who weighed nothing – was the Sheriff. She routinely complained about the quality of men she got stuck with.

Oh – I should point out it was an all girl’s school. The boys’ school was next door, but we weren’t allowed to mingle at recess.

Most of the girls were only too eager to play something more fun. Because between Robin Hood and the Three Musketeers (second most popular LARP. Third was WWII) we used a lot of swords, we used to jump the wall into the bamboo field to acquire “swords.” And because of that and all the fights, we had more scrapes, bruises and skinned knees than most boys.

The teacher – she says proudly – said we were the rowdiest, smelliest, most ill-behaved girls she’d taught in a decades-spanning career.

I don’t know how much of me is me, and how much the fact that I was taught not to be weak and not to wait for anyone to solve my problems. One doesn’t. I know that though my mom deplored I could only be put in dresses for special occasions and then wore them without grace (At sixteen when the distant echoes of trying to attract boys arrived, I was afraid people would laugh at me for wearing skirts, and I spent any amount of time learning to walk) and had to be watched like a hawk, lest I tear all the embroidery and frills due to a sudden need to build mud pies or climb a wall.

On the other hand, when we visited people and their daughters were insipid sugar and water little girls, my parents would trade looks and on the way home say the equivalent of “Thank G-d our daughter isn’t useless.”

We had our share of sugar and water little girls in the school. In the LARPs they wanted to play the girl parts. They were forever wanting kissing scenes (okay, we were all under ten. Yeah, we were all girls, but I think in their minds they were kissing the men the girls played) and declarations of love. If they got captured you had to be careful not to tear their dresses or muss their hair. You had to be careful when you rescued them too. And no stray swords their way, or the teacher would hear about our transgressions.

It seemed all they did was sit around in between being captured, drawing or doing their embroidery, being “pretty” and picking on other girls.

It seemed horribly boring to me, but we didn’t care. Unless one of them didn’t get what she wanted, be it a kissing scene or an important role, and then – oh, then – she would take revenge by getting us in trouble with the teacher or even with our parents.

They quickly learned not to do this to me or my best friend, because we’d wait in an out of the way place and rain destruction to hair style and dress as well as a few bruises.

But mostly that was their function. Reign by scolding and back biting. Reign by spite and malice. It seemed like a weird way to live. Even their friends weren’t really friends. We – okay, possibly influenced by Dumas and such and their ideas of friendship – viewed “friend” as a sacred bond and obligation. They seemed to view it as “this week I like you better than her. Next week, who knows.”

These “good little girls” grew up to, in middle school and high school, be the sort who would take notes with four different kinds of pen and take more care of the illustrations and penmanship than content.

That they often had better grades than I was not something to be endured, as I endured people who actually knew or did better than I. It was an offense because they had better grades by sucking up to teach and repeating teach’s opinions back at him/her.

I understood how to do it. I even knew the wisdom of it. It just seemed to me a low and spiteful type of trick, offensive to all my notions of honor.

I argued with the teachers, had notebooks even I couldn’t read (thank heavens for eidetic memory) and spent half the classes reading sf under the table, or writing my own novels (Bill, who by 12 started to go by Isa, has them somewhere. Don’t ask me. I lost contact with her years ago.) BUT I knew the subjects cold and I EXPECTED the best grade (Got it astonishingly often, too. A witness to the fairness of teachers.)

And I despised the whining and the manipulation of the “good little girls.”

By then I was old enough to know they weren’t “good” at all, or at least they weren’t what the adults expected.

Also, as politics in the country changed, they added both victimhood and social consciousness to their tricks. These girls who would ostracize you for wearing “last year’s fashion” would talk about otherizing and compassion for the other, and talk about how much they loved the poor (who wouldn’t be allowed near their frilly dresses for all the tea in China.)

My friends, of course, were the others. The people who actually studied, who actually cared for the subject, and who often didn’t scruple to show the teacher they found their behavior reprehensible. (Among these, throwing my shoes – repeatedly – at the head of the representative of the association Portugal-Russia must rank up there in bad behavior. But the teacher knew that bringing a commie in was something I’d make her pay for, party member or not. Which I suspect kept her in check. Certainly after that there were no more commie-speakers. [Repeatedly: I’d throw a shoe then the other, when he said something that annoyed me particularly. Then I’d go collect them, put them on, and go back to sitting. When he held a shoe – commie or not, poor man, being hit by a 12 year old girl – and asked what I’d do if he didn’t give it back, I pointed out I had dictionaries. Heavy ones. And that by rules he wasn’t supposed to be in the school. I got my shoe back.])

Some of them were terribly neurotic. Some were just Odd. But none of them spent their lives copying the notes in four colors in their best handwriting. And none of them would tell on you to teacher or your parents if, say, you cut art class to go watch the pro soccer club practice. (What, men in skimpy shorts. You got a problem with that?)

And we were united in rolling our eyes when a good little girl started saying stuff the teacher would approve of, and posing and pitching her voice just right.

I thought – I was naïve – that when I was an adult I wouldn’t have to deal with good little girls. They’d marry their trophy husbands, get out of my face, and let me pursue my interests in peace. The guys I liked had no use for their way of going limp and asking for help, and whining when dissatisfied, or their tricks of playing “poor helpless little me.” So, I thought—

Heaven help me. Had I been born earlier, this might have been true.

But by the time I was an adult, the “good little girls” had switched to being “feminists” because this allowed them to cry and scream about being victims, and have someone help them and given them things.

In my field of endeavor they were, once more the favorites. More infuriatingly, they weren’t even all girls. There were any number of men associating themselves with them, whining and screaming about how women were mistreated and how they, white males, had it easy, as a way of claiming victimhood by proxy and also of acquiring power to decide who are the victims and who the heretics.

I was aware – I’m strange, not stupid – from the moment I entered the field that the way of making your way to was speaking mealy-mouth to power and to repeat back at the editors what they wanted to hear: mostly neo Marxist clap trap.

But of course, that would be “cheating”. I’d make it on merit despite their hating me every inch of the way.

Well, that didn’t work at all. Or it is working, but slowly. Depends on how you look at it.

But I knew too by then that speaking mealy to power just gave us very boring stories. And I entered this field because I loved stories, so that wasn’t going to happen.

I watched the good little girls (even those with penises) preen and pose and try to outdo each other in how “other-friendly” and special they were while keeping (with the gatekeepers’ help) everyone away who had an original thought. And of course, everyone who was better than them. Good little girls are the original crab bucket. They know they’re mediocre and fear real talent. (Not talking about myself, here, but I have friends.)

And I watched circulation tank, and wished there was a place where I could wait for them, and rip their frills and muss up their hair and say “you leave me and my friends alone, or else.”

And then there was indie. (And Baen, of course, but Baen is only sf/f and only one house.) And then we were free. We could jump the wall to the next house, get bamboo for swords and play in our way. Even if it exasperated teacher/the gatekeepers.

No wonder the good little girls scream so much. They want what they always wanted. Someone to do all the dirty work for them, while they preen and pose and hold the “I’ll tell” (you hold non-approved opinions) over our heads. Instead they find themselves in an increasingly tinier ghetto, telling each other how pretty they are (with Nebulas) while the real action moves on.

I say it’s a wonderful thing. I don’t care if they’re pretty or admire themselves a lot. I care that we don’t give them power over us.

Good little girls and the people who love them are fine. In their place. Far away from the real fun and the real work. Where nothing challenging ever happens. And they can play their crab bucket games in peace.

And I’m okay with that.

As for me, and my friends… we’re going to have us some fun.

 

 

What White Privilege?- By Rhiain

*I don’t know Rhiain personally except she’s one of my fans.  But reading this I realized we were sisters under the skin.  Now, because I have spent the last five years, give or take, mainly indoors — I’m looking forward to better health allowing me to hike more again — I have only a vague soupcon of gold, (Spun Gold, according to paint chips) but my kids are… much darker and also blessed with more ethnic features.  Being treated as victims embarrasses them, even if they grew up — writer’s sons — at the edge of falling off the middle class any minute.  Because we get in trouble and we cope — though once at least I had to ask you guys for help, but that was different.  I do provide this blog almost every day for free — we don’t ask the charity of strangers?  And what is all this but charity based on the premise we’re not as good? I get where I want.  Sometimes slowly and on bleeding fingertips, but I do.  I don’t need do-gooders to reach me a condescending hand.  Apparently Rhiain doesn’t either.  Beware those who would court us, I suspect there’s more of us than you think.-SAH*

What White Privilege?
By Rhiain

I’m past the point of being tired of this white privilege narrative.

I’m not white, but the color of my skin has never affected my outlook
or my standing in society. I’m where I am now because of my own
efforts and endeavors. I do believe there is a divine purpose and
influence involved, as well, but that’s not what this post is about.

I recognize that there is a strategy at work here, since we are
constantly inundated with repetitious attempts to start conversations
about privilege and race. I don’t know about anyone else, but attempts
to shape this white privilege narrative have been ongoing for the past
year or two (or five). The claim, to put it succinctly: people who
happen to look Caucasian have sins and misdeeds to answer for on a
national scale, since your ancestors perpetrated crimes against
colored people during the 239-year history of the United States, and
those crimes continue with a subtler touch. No matter how much you
white people deny it, you are still guilty.

Gimme a break already.

This colored person is tired of being reminded that she’s not white,
that she’s owed something because of that, even though her genealogy
goes back thousands of years in the Western Hemisphere and her
ancestors were happily oblivious to all the racial crimes committed on
American soil at the time. All they did then was drink coconut milk,
eat taro, go hog-hunting and dutifully follow their own cultural
traditions, and who gives a crap about what happens on the mainland,
anyway?

“Oh, Uh-meh-ree-cah? Where dat? Can we reach it by canoe?”

When Obama won his first presidential election in 2008, a lot of
people on my Facebook friends list, Democrats and liberals all, were
literally crying tears of joy that a black man had won the office. I
didn’t know at the time that Obama’s skin color mattered that much,
until these same people accused his critics of racism for voicing
disapproval of his policies. Look: if you want to mark a milestone
here, that someone other than a white guy inhabits the Oval Office,
fine. But he is “the most powerful man in the world,” and on those
merits he will be judged. In my opinion, he hasn’t done a great job,
and I will laugh at the first Obama supporter who accuses me of racism
for publicly criticizing his tone-deafness every time he opines on gun
control.

Like I said, gimme a break already.

If anything, Obama’s win was an indicator that race doesn’t matter
that much anymore. It’s a convenient foil for those who claim to want
to see poor, non-white people advance to financial and social security
the easy way – without those same people struggling to reach success
by their own strength and efforts. Failure is a wonderful way to learn
what works to reach success and what doesn’t. Trying to dodge failure
just makes it more difficult for a person to learn the lesson the
first time. You would think this principle would be easy to
understand; apparently it isn’t.

If people want this country to reach a point where we are truly
post-racial, conversations about white privilege don’t help at all. If
anything, they’re a distraction. I don’t care if the same quarters who
started the “Let’s Talk About White Privilege” movement want to wallow
in their own victimization and self-pity – let them. They don’t speak
for me. They only speak for themselves. That they claim to represent
me is the main reason why this straw has broken the proverbial camel’s
back.

For this reason, I ignored the idiots who complained that no
currently-serving Republican Congresscritters attended the Selma march
anniversary last week. Who cares? Apparently they do. But only a few
people who attended the anniversary could actually remember what it
was like to live under Jim Crow laws, and to be treated differently
because of their skin color. Only they remember the police beatings,
the force of the firehose jets, and the dogs set upon them. Do you
think these people really cared about whether members of one political
party didn’t show up? Do the people who complain about white privilege
have an inkling of what that means to someone who experienced real
racial discrimination 50 years ago?

No, to be truly post-racial, people have to stop caring about skin
color. How often do individuals and groups of people interact with
each other on such a superficial basis anymore? This act of ignoring
one’s melanin levels, to some, is apparently “racial apathy.” To be
apathetic to the struggles, the social and economy inequality that
people of color still face is an issue in and of itself, some lament.

Post-digestion baby pap, it is.

My skin color has no bearing on how I conduct myself; it has no
bearing on who I am beyond the fact that I was born with this skin. My
accomplishments and, yes, my failures, are what make me successful.
Yes, I have weaknesses and strengths. Sometimes I try to hide my
weaknesses; at other times, I’m forced to confront them. Then, my
strengths override the areas where I fail. On those merits I will be
judged. And those who persist on claiming I’m disadvantaged and
underprivileged because I’m a woman of color can kiss my olive-skinned
derrier.

[Amen, Rhiain.  Me and mine stand with you.-SAH]

Books For The Buying – Free Range Oyster

Hail, Huns! Welcome to the weekend, and welcome to another installment of the According to Hoyt Promo Post! And look, it’s only been a week since the last one; do try to contain your astonishment. [Actually, it’s been less than a week, since you were late last time… -Ed.] *thwacks editor* … *smiles sweetly* So, go enjoy some good reading material, leave reviews of what you’ve read, soak in the lovely weather as you’re able, and above all, enjoy your blessings. Also, please remember to offer prayers, well-wishes, and general good thoughts for Our Beloved Hostess, the Beautiful but Evil Space Princess, as she ploughs through another of those lovely plot twists of which the Author seems so fond.

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

Jason Dyck, AKA The Free Range Oyster

Happy husband, bemused father, and proud Hun of Hoyt’s Horde

Lilania Begley

Farmhand

Bluehills Book 1

Wounded veteran Dev Macquire needs some farm help until he recovers. When his father, Gray, brings home a new hand, he’s dismayed to meet Irina. How can a woman do the rough, heavy work they need? As she works her way into their life, and into his heart, he’s faced with a new dilemma. Can he persuade her to stay, and to accept a new role in his life?

Irina took the job on a whim. She just wanted to work hard enough to forget why her life was on hold and her future uncertain. Daily reminded of a brighter past, a childhood spent on horseback… but her new feelings for Dev were definitely not sisterly. At the end of the summer she’d leave, it was too dangerous to risk staying near him.

As a wildfire threatens the countryside, racing toward the Macquire place, Dev and Irina discover what true partnership can feel like, working together to find the arsonist who is responsible. When the fires die out, are there embers left smoldering in hearts?

James Schardt

How the Mighty have Fallen

A lawyer witnesses a triple murder while stranded in a rural town. Events quickly escalate. Was it actually murder – or vigilante justice? The local Provost is a former hero turned drunkard in need of redemption. Will they be able to uphold the rule of law and still ensure justice is served?

Jeb Kinnison

Nemo’s World

The Substrate Wars 2

In this thrilling sequel to 2014’s Red Queen, the student rebels have escaped Earth, but the US and Chinese governments continue to try to copy their discovery of quantum gateways to find them and destroy the threat they represent to security interests. The rebels hold off Earth government attacks and continue to develop the new technology, which will change life for everyone and open a million habitable planets for colonization.

Samantha and Justin are the romantic couple at the center of the rebellion, and their fellow rebels include anarchist cyber-geeks from the Grey Tribe and some of their former professors. The rebels recruit a PR specialist from London, Daniella Pink, and begin a campaign to fight the propaganda governments have used to paint them as dangerous terrorists. When the US effort to copy their technology, led by Samantha’s former boyfriend Dylan, gets too close to success, the rebels destroy his multibillion dollar secret lab carved into a Colorado mountain. The Homeland Security surveillance the rebels suffered under in Red Queen is reversed, and the US President and security agencies discover they must go to great lengths to avoid the rebels’ listening ears.

Nemo’s World continues the cat-and-mouse game with the governments of the world as young rebels learn to use the weapon that will change the world, and unlock the universe for mankind. If they live long enough to use it!

Cedar Sanderson

Pixie Noir

Pixie for Hire Book 1

Currently on sale

You can’t keep a tough Pixie down…

Lom is a bounty hunter, paid to bring magical creatures of all descriptions back Underhill, to prevent war with humans should they discover the strangers amongst them. Bella is about to find out she’s a real life fairy princess, but all she wants to do is live peacefully in Alaska, where the biggest problems are hungry grizzly bears. He has to bring her in. It’s nothing personal, it’s his job…

“They had almost had me, that once. I’d been young and foolish, trying to do something heroic, of course. I wouldn’t do that again anytime soon. Now, I work for duty, but nothing more than is necessary to fulfill the family debt. I get paid, which makes me a bounty hunter, but she’s about to teach me about honor. Like all lessons, this one was going to hurt. Fortunately, I have a good gun to fill my hand, and if I have to go, she has been good to look at.”

Julia Blaine

Shot through the Heart

Since Galatea Fuller’s birth, she has been betrothed to Lord Harte Whatley. Without fail, he dutifully visits her every Tuesday and Friday. But only on Tuesday and Friday. Surely her up-coming, magical London Season will kindle love between them, overcoming obligation. Then Harte replaces his fickle younger brother, Pierce, in a duel – with fatal results. A third shooter is hidden in the shrubbery. Who was the intended victim? Believing both shooters are dead, Galatea and Pierce are thrown together. Despite meddling aunts and a mischievous monkey, they attempt to solve the mystery. How can Galatea – or any woman – know who she really loves.

Vampire Music

Evil vampires cannot love – can they?

Vampire Gregory Weston loves the tinge of printer’s ink that flavors the blood of those who work with books; printers, publishers, editors and librarians are among his favorite sources of nourishment. Bored and lazy, seeking amusements to fill his endless existence, he has given up his unceasing quest to become human again – until accidentally, he employs Nia, a pregnant librarian. With child? Gregory has never experienced this situation. What a diversion for dispassionate scientific study! That she is beautiful has nothing to do with it.

Sabrina Chase

Jinxers

Young Jin, starving and cold, searches a burned-out building on a bitter winter’s night. Deep in the ashes he finds a glowing crystal sphere—and unwittingly opens a portal to another world.

Unable to return, forced to hide from the dangerous and mysterious masters of the world, Jin finds friends and adventures as he learns to survive…and fight back, with the magical powers he never knew he had.

I Thought I Was Wrong

As some of you know, this is my fourth go-around with Through Fire, the book from Hades.

I don’t think it’s the book or the theme (though writing first person a woman who is very different from me is writing on the highest difficulty setting, mind) but the fact I wrote the first version while very, very (very) ill.

When I’m ill I suffer a dryness of imagination, so that writing becomes “arid” — as in I can write what happens but that’s all.  there are no incidental fall-in characters (let’s all remember Jonathan Blythe in Witchfinder is one of those), no deviations, nothing.  It reads like a textbook on the story.  Cliff’s notes, only longer.

So, I went back.  Rewriting is harder than writing, and having botched the first time, I had trouble finding the voice.

It took a talk with number three son by adoption when he visited two weeks ago to figure out that I still didn’t have it, and a sleepless night to find the voice. (Weirdly this is why writers need other writers, more than anything.  That, and of course, like PTerry’s witches, to check each other for cackling.  Since we all start out fairly mad, it takes someone else at the same level of weirdness to know when you’ve gone dangerously loony.)

Since then the book has been flowing.  I was hoping to finish it and DSR before surgery, and of course it ain’t happening, mostly because I underestimated the amount of surgery-preparation AND the amount of cleaning/fixing the other house needed (12 years is a long time and little stuff accumulated.)  Also, I didn’t expect younger son to cripple himself falling on ice.

BUT I still have hopes this at least will get done if not before, then next week.

Anyway, you’ve seen beginnings, but now I want to show you the beginning, so you see how voice changes a book.

When Worlds Collide

 

A spaceship mechanic has no place in a fairytale, not even when she’s dressed in a flowing gown and being courted by one of Earth’s most powerful men.

I was designed to be able to repair spaceships and to navigate them home safely. I had calluses on my hands from working with heavy tools on delicate machinery. I was strong enough to kill a grown man with a casual blow. And I had burner strapped to my ankle under my ball-gown.

The man courting me was a scoundrel, a dictator, and likely a murderer. And we were dancing at a spun-sugar palace, atop a fairytale island. It was his ballroom, his palace and his island. He was my only protector on Earth and my host for the last six months. He wanted me. He had been gentle and caring and solicitous of me. I wanted to escape the happy-ever-after fairytale ending.

You should be careful what you wish for.

It was a relief when the palace exploded.

We’d been dancing, Simon and I and more than a hundred other couples, twirling on the black polished dimatough floor of his ballroom while the light of massive chandeliers shone from softly glistening white walls.

It used to be the palace of the Good Man of Liberte Seacity. Simon was a Good Man, one of fifty hereditary rulers who, between them, split the vastness and wealth of the Earth. Or at least he had been.

The people gathered in the ballroom sported outfits that seemed to be spun of butterfly wings, and those that defied the shape of the human body. Other clothing harked back to the fantastical age of empires almost seven hundred years before – long, sweeping dresses and molding outfits in materials that were better than velvet and silk. My own dress was made of a form of ceramic. It felt like satin to the touch, but its dull black heft shone with pinpoints of light, as if stars were caught in its depths.   Simon, had picked it for me and had it carried in by proud couturiers, its fine, slippery folds wrapped in silk and beribboned, like a fantastic gift, that very morning.

Liberte Seacity had been formed by a bankers’ consortium at the close of the twenty first century, and like the other seacities back then it was created as a refuge from high taxes and excessive government regulation and oversight.   Unlike other seacities, it had never been designed to have any industry, any useful output. Instead, it owned other seacities – Shangri-la, Xanadu and, later, after the fish war, several European territories – where the workday business took place. Liberte itself had been designed as a resort for those at the pinnacle of that long-vanished world. It climbed up in terraces, all carefully landscaped gardens and idyllic beaches, like a dream of an Arcadia that never was. Its inevitable utilitarian levels, where valets and maids, law enforcers and garbage collectors lived were hidden, out of sight, by ceilings that formed the ground of the next level.

Approaching Liberte from the air, as I’d first done, one saw it only as a sort of white and green confection, something like an idealized wedding cake.

The palace of the Good Man topped the cake: white and surrounded by columns and terraces, built with an airy grace that would have been impossible without poured dimatough and sculpted ceramite, it might have fit a previous age’s dream of a fairy palace, an immortal fantasy.

The ballroom sat at the very top of it all, and its walls alternated with vast panels of transparent dimatough, through which – as the night fell – you could watch the sea, glistening in every direction, all around us, blue and still like a perfect mirror.

As we twirled to a tune called Liberte and composed for this ball, I faltered, looking through the window at the troop transports moored in that smooth sea. I’d known they were there: a vast, dark menace that encircled us, the much larger forces massed against Simon and the other rebels against the regime of the Good Men that had held the Earth for three hundred years. Simon and the other rebels were, at least in theory, trying to free their particular portions of the world. Even if I had my doubts about Simon’s sincerity.

“Why are you looking out the window?” asked Simon St. Cyr, ci-devant Good Man of Liberty Seacity, who, by a stroke of the pen, had made himself “Protector of the People and Head of the Glorious Revolution.”

He was slightly shorter than I, had brown hair, brown eyes and looked unremarkable. Which I’d come to believe was protective coloration to stop people wondering what he might be plotting. He had been created as the clone of a man once designed as a superspy, and for the last ten years he’d lived a life where his only safety came from acting foolish and shallow. Sometimes I wondered if he knew where the act started. And where it stopped.

His hand rested on my waist, long fingers transmitting an impression of controlled strength through the pliable fabric.

“I’m looking at those troop carriers,” I said concentrating on the music and the movement of my feet. It didn’t take that much effort, because I too had been created, not born in the normal way, and I’d been designed for speed and agility and grace.

Simon looked over my shoulder at the transports, and made a face half dismissal and half amusement. “Oh, that,” he said and shrugged a little, contriving to give the impression the glistening transports, each of them able to carry more than a thousand armed men, were a negligible detail like a spec of dust on the floor of his polished ballroom. “Don’t worry, ma petite.”

I’d not yet decided if Simon’s habit of larding his speech with archaic French words annoyed me or amused me, but calling me “little” pushed it, since I was at least two inches taller than him. Impatience colored my tone, as I said, “But shouldn’t you be worried? These people depend on you for their safety.” And this was true. As far as there was an authority in the seacity, it was Simon, whose predecessors had commanded it form time immemorial, and who had the loyalty of all troops and functionaries. At least in theory. Whether he called himself Good Man or Protector, he reigned here.

He made a sound, not quite a chuckle at the back of his throat. “And they’re perfectly safe,” he said. “Listen, those troop carriers aren’t going to do anything, pour cause.”

“And the cause is?”

“Oh, ma petite. The cause is I have it on good authority they’re mostly empty. The Usaian revolution over in Olympus and Seayork and their territories, is keeping the Good Men fully busy, and costing them more men than they can recruit, unless they start creating people in vats, as they did at the end of the twenty first century. Until they do that, though, the Usaians are giving them more trouble than they can handle. And since people created in vats still have to grow up, I’d say we have a good fifteen years respite.” He looked at me, and his brown eyes danced with unmitigated amusement, like an adult laughing at the preoccupations of a toddler. His body moved seamlessly with the music, even as he smiled at me. “Listen, Zen. I wouldn’t have declared the revolution if I hadn’t thought there were next to no chances of reprisal by the ancien regime, the global might of what used to be the Good Men consortium. I’m a revolutionary, yes, m’amie, but I’m not stupid.”

I gave him a dubious look, but something I’d decided shortly after arriving on Earth was that Simon was not in fact stupid. Truth be told, he might be too smart for his own good. He was certainly very good at keeping Simon safe and sound and at knowing the best means of doing so. And he was completely amoral about it too.

The pressure of his hand on my waist increased fractionally. I let him lead me, as I cast one last glance at the transports on the bronze-gilded sea, bobbing slightly in the current. They’d been there for twenty four hours, and they’d done nothing. Simon had to be right. He had to. Those transports were air-and-surface. Had they been filled with troops enough to overwhelm the Seacity defenses, they’d have flown in, landed and taken over, long ago. They were for show. For intimidation. They weren’t real. I could, at least, trust Simon to see what was a threat to him and what wasn’t.

We danced.

Though I came from a very different culture, born and raised as I’d been in a small and secret lost colony of Earth, as a guest of the Good Man – oh, pardon me, the Protector – I’d been taught to dance anything that might be played at the ball. This was a waltz, an ancient dance that had once been scandalous. We segued from it to the glide, a modern dance that was considered very difficult. Our bodies moved in unison as though we’d practiced together. Which we hadn’t. We’d simply been created to be good at most things physical. Both of us were made, not conceived, assembled protein by proteins in a lab, and both faster and more coordinated than normal people.

The dance floor filled to repletion with twirling people, as the sun sank completely into the sea. In the darkness that followed, the troop transports became mere black dots on the inky water.

We took a break for drinks and food, then returned to the dance floor. It was in the middle of this dance when Simon said, “Zen, listen, I need to ask you a very important question.”

My whole body tensed, and I stopped, trying to think of a gentle way of refusing his hand in marriage. I owed him so much, and though I wouldn’t marry for such a reason, I also didn’t know what form his displeasure might take if I said no. He was the sole ruler of a vast territory. If he got angry, he might exact terrible vengeance. I looked at him out of the corner of my eye, not sure how to refuse him without hurting him, and, more importantly, without inviting his wrath. I couldn’t accept him. I’d been married once. I didn’t love Simon unreservedly, as one should love one’s husband.

“Don’t be afraid,” he said.

And then an explosion rocked us.

At first, I wasn’t sure it hadn’t been part of the music, then the concussion hit, making the floor shake, and the entire airy palace tremble and resonate, like a platter that’s been struck a blow with a hard object. From somewhere below came an orange reflection, a bloom of light, immediately extinguished.

Simon stopped completely, his hands on my waist, his brow wrinkling and said, “Merde!”

I cast a look at the sea, but it remained unlit and the darker points of the transports still bobbed on the water.

Another explosion, this one more deafening. Above us, a glistening crystal chandelier swayed. Bits of crystal rained down on couples who lurched to a stop. The orchestra struck another tune but it petered out as only half the members even started playing. People screamed.

A third explosion hit. The palace rocked and Simon wrapped an arm around me and leapt, carrying me with him to the edge of the ballroom, up against the wall. I could smell him. Sweat from our exertions on the dance floor had been joined by something sharper that spoke of fear.

He lay on top of me but not crushing me, his body forming a defensive cover over mine, blocking my view, blocking my movement.

“Simon,” I said, half-protest, half entreaty. I twisted to get the burner from my ankle, but he had already grabbed it. He pointed it over my head at the ballroom’s main door. “It’s not the armies of the Good Men,” he said.

“No,” I said. I didn’t say damn it, give me my burner because he was firing it at someone, and I couldn’t really fire with his bulk atop of me. I had no idea why he was protecting me this way. I’d never needed protection. I tried to look around his shoulder, but he put his arm across to hold me in place.

I wasn’t sure if I could knock Simon out. Probably, by sheer force alone. That I knew he wasn’t plate-armored. But he was as fast as I was, and he might stop my attack midway through. Worse, attacking him would distract him from defending himself and I suppose me too. And knocking him out would leave him vulnerable to attackers. We were obviously under attack.

“Damn it,” I said. “Why weren’t you armed?”

He didn’t answer. He was breathing very fast, and he now stank of fear.

“Simon,” I said, “Let me go. I can fight.”

“No,” he said. His voice hoarse. “It’s a mob. They’ll kill you, or worse. It’s my fight.”

A fourth explosion and from outside the ballroom, echoing like it had started somewhere beneath us, came a song. Loud, and inharmonious, it seemed full of threats I only half understood, because it was in the local patois, formed when the city itself had been founded: a mix of archaic French, archaic English, some Spanish words, and a lot of Glaish overlay. Something about setting fire to the world and enjoying the flames. Something about the blood of tyrants.

I felt Simon shake. I won’t say he trembled with fear. It was more like shock, or surprise. “Merde,” he said again. Then in a louder voice, “Alexis. Alexis! Alexis, for the love of God, get her out of here.”

I’d just managed to wriggle upward, to look over Simon’s shoulder. I had no idea who Alexis was, and I’d be damned if I was going to be got out of anywhere. The ballroom as a mess, and I got the impression of violence and blood. The air smelled of burner and flame.

Someone bulky and dark, a stranger, crawled up close to us. He loomed close to us in the darkness, his body a suggestion of the white satin and golden braid constituting the uniform of Simon’s personal guard, and said, “I called my men.”

“Too late. Get her the hell out of here,” Simon said and rolled off me. The stranger reached for me.

“No,” I said sitting up. “Simon, give me my burner back.”   I had never needed, would never need some person – much less two persons – who were wholly unrelated to me, to take control. I was the one who should take control and save other people. My foster parents had taught me early on that my gifts should be used for the good of others. There were people in danger. I should protect them.

“Go. I can’t fight while you’re in danger. Go,” Simon said. “Alexis, take her.”

He pushed me upward, and before I could resist, Alexis grabbed me around the waist. He was a large man, muscular. There was no hesitation, no pause. He nodded to Simon and loped along, dragging me with him, even as I scrabbled to free myself and protested, “No, you don’t understand. I’d rather fight. I can fight. I’m stronger than—”

“Can’t do anything,” he said. “Can’t fight a mob.” He looked around. “Even my men can’t.”

I wanted to say he was wrong but then I realized I didn’t even know where the threat was coming from or against whom to retaliate and the damn man was pulling me along too fast to let me get my footing, much less get my bearings.

I ground my teeth, tried ineffectually to stop. “Give me a burner.”

But he just pulled me along amid crowds of fighting people. Burners shot this way and that. Alexis seemed to have the supernatural ability to be where no one was, cutting through the crowd, very fast, avoiding the turmoil, ducking before a burner ray flashed where we’d been. Someone bumped me. Friend or foe I didn’t know and regretted only not having the time to steal their burner.

I could no longer see Simon in the crowd. I smelled blood and fire. I stopped resisting Alexis’ pull. Impossible to fight when I didn’t know whom to fight. I might be able to shoot better than most people, but not when friend and foe rolled over, screaming and fighting. And as for hitting someone, I didn’t have time to identify the people I bumped into, much less to fight all of them. So many people. Fighting all around.

The situation was out of control and I hated being out of control.

Another two explosions, below, getting closer. The nearest dimatough pane cracked, top to bottom. They weren’t supposed to crack. The crystal chandelier fell, bits of crystal flying in all directions.

Alexis said, “Run,” and grabbed my hand and took off. I ran. Nothing else I could do in this. There was nothing to be gained in dying alongside those being killed.

Dead women can’t fight, I thought. First, stay alive, then fight.

Alexis ran into the melee, fast, his arm an iron band around my waist. People careened into me and shot at us. No shot landed. No blow either, beyond the feeling of being bruised and scraped.

He dragged me through what seemed like a concealed door, down a couple of staircases, onto a dark terrace by the seaside, in the middle of Simon’s gardens.

“Come on,” Alexis said, sounding desperate. He pulled at me. “Trust the Good—Trust the protector. He says I should keep you safe. He knows what he’s doing, if we leave his hand free.” As he spoke, explosions sounded, coming ever closer. I could hear the barbarous song from the ballroom, faint, like a haunting echo, but drawing near. It seemed to me the sounds of fighting were more muted which in the circumstances was not a good thing.

“But can Simon defend himself in this? And what about everyone else?” He as a dictator. He might be a murderer. But he had been kind to me. He might have loved me.

“We were taken by surprise,” he said. He panted, and it was good to know our race had rendered him out of breath. “I don’t know who our attackers are. We have to escape and reconnoiter. If I could fight effectively, I’d fight. The protector will take care of himself.” He pulled me down a dark path on the palace grounds and clattered down a set of staircases. His hand was too warm, rough, holding me as though it were the most important thing in the world that he take me along. “We’ll leave the Good Man a free hand. He knows what he’s doing. We’ll live to fight another day.”

We ran across an expanse of lawn and down a brick path and up to a terrace where a row of fliers were parked. Simon’s official fleet for his servants, I thought, since the vehicles all looked alike.

Alexis threw me into the passenger seat, got into the driver’s, closed the doors from the control panel. We took off almost vertically.

At once an explosion rocked us, then another.

Alexis said, “Merde.” It was a popular word.

“There’s more than the mob in the palace. Whoever these people are, they’re organized enough to control the skies. We can’t fly away.” He brought the flier down, almost straight down, but into a massif of trees, well away from the palace. I was impressed. It took training to fly like that. “We won’t be allowed to escape by air. At least… not this easily. And whatever is going on is much bigger than the palace.”

I leaned back on the seat, exhausted, feeling like I should go back and fight, but knowing it was quixotic and not very sane. There was only one of me, even if I felt I should be an army. I couldn’t believe how fast the ball had degenerated into a scene of death and mayhem. And I was starting to think even Simon’s proposal and even accepting it would have been better than this. “Those people who came in. The intruders. Were they carrying heads on poles?” I asked.

“Yes,” Brisbois said.

A Prayer For My Kind

Dear Author,

If you’re there, at the giant keyboard beyond reality, my colleague Terry Pratchett died, and I’d like to have a word with you, about his life, his work, his destination.

Yes, I know you’re not really an Author, but this is how my sadly limited human mind copes with it, so bear with me and allow me to address you as such.

This man Pratchett, you see, spent his life creating a reality, parallel to your own, but not un-akin and not a bad reflection of it, if I may say so. He used his gifts to see into the heart of men and women (and dwarves and trolls.) He brought moments of sudden understanding to hearts locked in grief or shame or fear (mine a few times.)

Sometimes his words, his thoughts, were the only thing that stretched between me and unbearable grief or physical pain. And they held, a bridge of silvery light between here and there.

But he did more. Even when fortune kissed his brow and his books were well known, and he was knighted and admired, he never assumed airs. He was the first to tell you about the hard years of rejections, the years of stumbling in the dark when his stuff just wasn’t selling. And he was the first to say if you weren’t selling, it didn’t mean you were bad. It was just luck, or how much push you got.

This man Pratchett would hug a total unknown at a con and tell her to cheer up.

This man Pratchett, he brought readers from laughter to tears in a moment and the rest of us followed, stumbling, trying to do the same, unable quite, but being shown how to reach.

I don’t precisely know what he believed. It doesn’t matter. We writers have problems with belief, caught between realities, suspended from our own dreams, spinning between light and dark and needing both to work with.  Sometimes it’s really hard to have simple faith. The thing is we rarely have faith that there’s nothing there, either.

If there’s nothing there, it doesn’t matter.

But if there is, would you please take into account he was a writer and a hard working one. An honest one, too, not running down humanity, not making a mockery of good and justice.  And that between word and word it is sometimes hard to remember to follow the strict dictates of any religion, or to attend services or to be very pious.

Take in account too that he died with his mind dissolving into dream and unknowing, the worst nightmare of those of us who work out there in the limnear dark.

Also weigh in that he was kind to cats and loved them, a peculiar infection you give to us writers to teach us (further) humility.

Consider, please, the elephants and the turtles, and the policemen and the witches who will be speaking of personal responsibility and care for others, of gentleness and justice and love even of those not perfect to young not yet born.

He was a man, take it all in all. We will not see his like as a writer again.

Take him into your eternal plot, oh, author, and write him a universe or two where he can play at world building, somewhere with books and ginger biscuits and a properly brewed cup of tea.

This I ask you, I who am a writer, and partake many of the same failings, and am not great on faith either, but hope to be treated kindly when my story is done.

If there is an afterlife, let him be there, where words are never scarce, where one is never tired, and where joy and love flow together.

Amen.

Another Of Those Updates

Ladies and gentlemen, Phoenixes and Pegasi, and the odd alien this is your captain speaking.  We’ve been over some turbulence lately, and I’ve not been handling it with my normal grace and aplomb, (for a blind elephant) so I thought it was high time you knew what was happening here up front in the flight deck.

If you’re a regular you know I used to do state of the writer fairly regularly, but there seem to have been some other things to talk about, recently, and besides I didn’t like the state of the writer and didn’t want to feel I was whining.

So, last December I had a biopsy I was told was negative.  That was true but it wasn’t PRECISELY true.  There is a growth and also some free floating suspicious cells.  I found this out early January, right after we’d decided to rent a house and move so we could clean/repair the other house for sale. That way we could remove from the house with the cats, leaving one guy behind to look after that house.

That was okay (I thought) because the surgery was set for March 16th.  Plenty of time to get the house ready.  Mistakes were made.  It’s taking much longer than I thought, partly because I’ve been sick so much the last three years that things have gotten shoved willy nilly in places and they’re neither obviously throw away or keep.  To make things slower I can’t drive and haven’t been able to for about 6 months because the hormonal stuff keeps switching my astigmatism.  (I had to drive a few blocks the other day and parked cars all seem to be starting and coming at me.  That sort of thing.) This means I have to wait for the guys to take me over/fit their schedule which means my maximum work at that house is about 4 to 5 hours and not everyday.

This is okay, as I apparently also forgot I wasn’t twenty and that nights with cramps (one of the side effects of my little friend) leave me beat.  So four to five hours violent physical work is about all I can take at any one time.

This is not a long sustained whine, precisely.  Stuff has got done, and it will probably take another month till the house is for sale.  I don’t like it, but that’s the way the cookie crumbles.  The guys will have to do a bunch while I’m laid up and recovering.

Things we simply don’t know: How long recovery will take.

This is a biggie, but I’m trying to do MY PART at the house (did you know I’m a fabric hoarder?  I know you’re shocked.  I used to sew both clothes and stuffed animals, and since I’m cheap I grab stuff at garage sales.  Continued buying for three years of being sick.  Yikes.  I shall donate about half, because I don’t think I’ll have time to sew much while getting back to writing) so that the guys can empty it in my absence.  Then only painting remains.  I’m counting on two weeks before I can paint.  I might be dreaming, who knows.

If there’s more than I was told so far.  No one knows.  Will go to pathologist.  I need some steady prayers and good thoughts because good Lord, I don’t have time for chemo.

Things we know: I have had very odd reactions to anesthesia.  So have Older son and my mom.

This is actually my biggest fear coupled with the fact I LOATHE anesthesia because I don’t like not being “at home” in my mind.

The hormonal madness likely had something to do with my problems concentrating to write the last couple years.

Where the Writing is: The damn book finally wants to pour out, but I’ve been working at the other house till too tired to THINK.  The revision is done and I’m entering changes/adjusting, and have… 4? 5 chapters left to write.  Yes, will try to finish before surgery, though it might not happen, depending.  One thing I underestimated was the amount of pre-op.

Where the Sarah is: Terrified while knowing it’s stupid to be terrified.  Making preparations in case I’m not here after Tuesday, even though I know that’s unlikely.

Where the blog will be: I have guest posts for a week.  I’d like to have them for two.  While serious complications are unlikely I have the body from h*ll and well, after both births there were weird complications, minor in younger son’s case, but consuming three weeks in older.  (And also keeping me on morphine the first week at home, which is my excuse for writing Thirst.)  So if you ever wished to see your name in lights on your very own ATH post, this is your chance!  I have to have them by Sunday night, though, when I’ll be cueing them all.

I likely won’t be in comment section Monday, unless things go extraordinarily well, and I have my tablet at the hospital.

I probably won’t be in on Tuesday which will be my first day back home.

I don’t know how much I’ll be doing here that first week, but I likely will check in now and then.

I’m not being unspeakably lazy, I’m just going to be doped.  If mind is working, plans are to do whatever else I need to get Through Fire off my hands and work on Darkship Revenge and/or dragons depending on mind.

Amanda Green, Cedar Sanderson and Kate Paulk should know how the surgery went, though not the aftermath, yet.  So if you need to know, contact them. Likely David Pascoe and Tedd Speaker to lab animals as well.

At least until I can stumble here and tell you.  My husband will post updates on his FB page.  Because of the way my page is setup he can’t post on mine.  He’ll also post in the diner on FB.

Should the unspeakable happen, (and yes, I know it’s unlikely) be aware that you, the regulars here and my much abused subscribers, were a great help particularly through these difficult two years, and that I’m not sure I could have continued functioning without your help.  I love you guys, and I think you know it. You’re kin, every fractious, prickly one of you.

Okay — end of the soft stuff.  I hope you guys will understand if I’m a little testier than usual and not hold it against me.

I will still be posting through Sunday.

No reason to panic.  This blog will now resume its flight path.  If  you look to the right you’ll see a panicked writer caffeinating in order to write, so she can go to the other house this afternoon.

If you look to your left, you’ll see  panicked fleeing cat, which means I need to go see what he just did in Robert’s office.