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Living With A Hyperactive Imagination – Kate Paulk

Living With A Hyperactive Imagination – Kate Paulk

 

A while back Sarah dropped an aside into one of her posts about the “joys” of living with an active imagination, and that maybe I’d write more about it because not only do I have one, it’s kind of… er… interesting to live with. So yes, this is that post.

Feel free to move on if you wish. You don’t have to live with it, after all.

I’ll start with a bit of an overview of the whole deal: I wouldn’t call myself terribly empathetic, but I can get to the equivalent by imagining how I’d be in an equivalent situation and going from there. I’ve done this so many times now it’s damn near automatic and looks like empathy. I’m also perfectly capable of mentally sliding myself into another world in tiny time-slices.

This makes me a very effective tester because I can put myself in the shoes of multiple kinds of user, and a very evil tester because I can think of all manner of ways to do things to software that the programmer never thought anyone would try (if I had a buck for every time a programmer has asked me “But why did you do that?”I’d have a lot more cash than I do now).

The thing about having an active imagination, though, is that most people don’t get it. They don’t get close enough to realize they don’t get it. The reaction to something completely different usually isn’t “Wow! That’s so different!”, it’s “WTF?” on a good day. On a bad day, you stand a good chance of someone calling for an exorcist, or the modern equivalent, a psychiatrist.

What most people consider “new” is usually “an uncommon perspective on something I’m used to”, so someone who can twist things sideways and find something that looks completely new is going to get hell because it’s just too different, too strange, and too much. Me, I don’t even realize I’ve done it, so I’m left wondering why I’m getting the “WTF are you on?” looks. And that’s when I’m trying to be normal.

When I’m relaxing and being myself, it goes beyond that.

My personal theory here is that a really active imagination is in line with controlled schizophrenia – you hear voices and see things but instead of treating them as if they’re real, you treat them as something to make stories from. Of course, I could be completely wrong here, but it seems close enough to work for me.

So, yes. The more lively aspects of my imagination talk to me. They show me things. So much so that I had to make the conscious decision to pay attention to the world my physical body is even though it was much less interesting (which doesn’t always translate to enjoyable) than the worlds inside my head.

I can – and have, when I’ve had bad times – lose myself for days in my imagination, just daydreaming in the form of narrative. I try to avoid that for obvious reasons. Life doesn’t happen when I do that. Bills don’t get paid, cats start getting irritated over not getting fed on time, and things fall apart. It’s not exactly pleasant.

So how do you live with it?

Start with Gandalf’s advice to Frodo about the Ring: “Keep it secret. Keep it safe.” Until you know someone is going to be able to follow your imagination without freaking out, they’re better off not knowing it exists, because in my experience, recovering from freaking out a friend just doesn’t happen. There’s always that lingering question on my end of whether I’ve gone too far, which always buggers up my judgment.

Pay attention to the world that your feet are in. This is the one that can hurt you. You need to learn to live in it or it will hurt you (something highly intelligent, extremely imaginative small children really don’t like to hear and don’t want to understand… if my experience is any guide). You also need to learn to interact with “normal” people (yes, yes, I know there’s no such thing. I mean people who aren’t like me, because the closest I get to normal is when I plank on a sphere – and yes that is a really crappy geometry joke. So kill me) without scaring the living daylights out of them.

Find a more or less socially acceptable way to let the imagination out. It could be fanfic. It could be original fiction. Or role-playing. Whatever, as long as it works, it’s good. Because – again, from my experience – if someone bottles this up for too long, the best option is that it dies.

The worst is that it twists. And when that happens… That’s a completely different post, and a much less pleasant one.

So those who have an imaginative child, don’t try to squash it, but do try to direct it in ways that won’t scare the mundanes and teach the child how to live with this world as well. Those who have the imagination themselves, if you’re still fighting it, try a few of the things I’ve suggested.

And remember, ordinary people really don’t get it, no matter how much they think they do.

A Fatal Eclipse Of Trust

Sorry, guys, we’re not all going to die of Ebola. I know, I know, we’ve been hoping for so long for the Sweet Meteor of Death that the Sweet Pandemic of Death would do, right?

But life is full of these little disappointments, and we’re going to have to live and – being us – rebuild the republic.

Which is a problem, because while we’re not all going to die of Ebola, Ebola has revealed how far gone we are in lack of civic trust.

No, I’m not accusing you of being untrusting. I trust you to be untrusting. I count on it.

The poor creatures who “trust government” much less those who think they “belong to the government” can only be kept alive, let alone safe, when surrounded by a lot of us jaundiced creatures who examine every statement of the government and who, if the government tells us our mother loves us, verify it.

But truth be told, even we trust the government, or at least the structure of society in a hundred different ways every day, unless our antenna go up at the indication of duplicity.

Things for which we used to trust the government, if not exactly to at least be in the right ballpark: Unemployment, inflation, the state of the economy, the state of the population, disease statistics, warnings about what was safe and unsafe (yes, sometimes we got the alar scare, but the truth is, it usually erred on the side of two much caution), the state of the world, the state of our enemies’ forces, the state of our forces.

There are more things I’m not calling to mind now, a myriad points that informed us that civilization was in fact still working, that statistics were still being gathered, and that we could – through them – know the state of the world that we couldn’t verify on our own.

This is not – ah – to say that we, we particularly who tend to hang out in this blog, believe in these things in whole or even implicitly. No, but we did believe in them more or less, and kind of. We would say things like “Of course, the census overestimates the uncounted in the big cities, but—” or “They’re having a panic fit over the disinfectant in smokeless cigarettes, ignore that.”

However, for the big things, important things, we trusted government. You know, weather alerts, forewarning the economy was about to take a dive, election results, that sort of “big thing.”

What Ebola has shown is that this trust has eroded to the point it’s practically non existent. It’s also revealed why.

The clown show that has been the CDC handling of it, and then Obama appointing yet another czar – a position not provided for in our constitution – and one who is JUST a political operative, shouldn’t feel anyone with confidence. And it won’t.

It doesn’t mean we will die screaming, but only because we are – relatively – lucky. As Rand Paul (who is a doctor) said the disease is highly infectious (by which I mean that you can catch it from a relative low volume of virus) but not highly contagious (by which I mean that you have to be pretty close to someone and that they’re only contagious in a small window.)

Also our hospitals are among the best in the world (still) even if under pressure from Obamacare.

I don’t mean to say that more people won’t catch this, or that we won’t be made very uncomfortable. I also don’t mean to say it’s a good idea not to institute quarantines for people coming from the affected countries and not to delay visas for those not on urgent business.

Other countries in Africa are completely closing their doors to people from those countries, and there is absolutely no reason we shouldn’t at least ensure those coming in are healthy.

Yes, it would be a bit of trouble/expense, but not as much as the stupid questions at airports and the taking of temperature (which I live in fear will keep me from coming back from Portugal, because one thing I can guarantee, after two weeks in an unheated house, where the temperature hovers between the thirties and the forties I’m going to be ill. I plan for recovery after my return.) And certainly not as much as ending up with 800 people being monitored. Which is part of the problem because we didn’t monitor/restrict the movements of the relatively few originally.

And I’m not saying we’re not going to see more cases. We are. Probably a couple hundred, or I’ll be very surprised. And those couple hundred cases will be cases that could have been avoided.

What I’m saying is that, because of the nature of the illness and the fact we have sanitation and hygiene practices, as much as because our hospitals do still function in some manner, we’re NOT going to have a pandemic.

That’s not to say things can’t get bad enough. A couple hundred cases, if they come close enough together could be enough to ignite a panic. And if you’re thinking of a panic in terms of riots and fits – oh, there will be those too, likely – you’re missing the most important point. First person – first – who catches it through traveling with an infected person, and our airlines face a crisis that will make the post-9-11 one seem like child’s play. And if you think “well people can just drive” you’re missing how much we depend on air transport for business. Yeah, true, business meetings can go virtual and so can other such things, but deliveries can’t.

But as bad as that could get, it’s not TEOTWAWKI and it will pass.

What won’t pass is the reason we’re at risk for it. And that’s the symptom of a far greater disease.

After Summer of Recovery six; after the best unemployment statistics ever, which in fact aren’t, because no one is reporting on the fact our work force participation is smallest since women joined the work force in droves; after ISIS as a JV team; after Benghazi; after the IRS scandals, which even if not fully reported have made it through, like a trickle under the door, to pollute public trust; after Fast and Furious; after journalists joining in presidential debates AND LYING in favor of the administration; after the purposely inflated stock bubble; after global warming; after the press has finally reversed itself on the weapons of mass destruction in Iraq (after spending years telling us Bush lied); after the secrecy and rumors about the current president’s past; after, after, after…

Even the sheep are restless. Trust in our institutions let alone our leaders is at a minimum.

Of course the leaders’ think if we, the goats, just stop showing where they lied, then everything would be hunky dory. But it’s not like that.

Even sheep realize when you tell them the economy is booming and everyone they know, even the relatively well off are struggling. They’re not stupid. The only people doing well have been those riding the stock market and that might be coming to an end.

So—Why is that a problem?

It’s a problem because in modern life we can’t gather information by ourselves about everything, and because we have to trust two things: the media, and the government.

The government mostly as a collector of facts, something it has done since ancient times. And the media to tell us the truth, no matter how unpalatable.

If we can’t trust them, where will we go? How will we gather true info?

Even I can’t. And I have more experience than most, both of research and of living under untrustworthy governments. But I see movements, like the recent one in real estate in this area and I wonder what is going on and precisely what it means. Is it because more people have better paying jobs? But that doesn’t accord with any statistics. Is our good neighborhood receiving the run off of neighborhoods that crashed? And why is Denver real estate running hot and as a seller’s market?

I read at an economic blog that the government is reinflating the real estate bubble, but I don’t even GET the reasons they say that. And economics is my hobby.

And meanwhile I see what I saw at the beginning of the crisis: Top and bottom restaurants closing (the middle holding fast.) Rents climbing (because so many people can’t buy.) And, because I have a kids in their early twenties, a multitude of young people with high debt, locked out of our economy.

None of this accords with “the economy is getting better.” I lived through the eighties. I know what that looks like.

So what the heck is going on? I don’t know, and neither do you. The government won’t tell the truth and the press won’t report anything that hurts this government. (One reason to vote Republican is that while they can be just as corrupt and venal, the press doesn’t protect them. And after this administration that’s reason enough. Though the fact the press outright lied about WMDs doesn’t help either way.)

And that’s a problem. In a country as complex as ours, in a world as complex as ours, the individual needs to be able to trust signals and facts he can’t gather himself.

When those are corrupt, you end up with an entire society in an hallucinatory state, and behaving like people who hallucinate will: we’ll respond to things that aren’t there, and fail to see the ones that aren’t.

And some of those might kill us, if not now not very far off, if not physically then as a society.

Ebola might cost us as many as a hundred lives (a pessimistic prognosis on my part, btw) and it might throw our economy into greater chaos.

But the lack of trust in anything our government, our media, our institutions say? The DESERVED lack of trust I might add?

That could cost us everything we still have of the republic and send us to third world status in a decade.

And all we can do about it is strive to elect trustworthy people, call the press on their lies and omissions and try to build a network of information composed of individuals.

It’s time we did the job our institutions won’t do.

Until we can supersede them.

In the end, we win, they lose, but let’s shorten our time in the wilderness.

They’ve lost our trust. Let’s rebuild parallel networks of trust.

 

Ladies and Germs it’s the book post – Jason Dyck

Good morning, Huns, and welcome to the weekend! We received some interesting submissions for promo this week, including a fascinating bit of sci-fi history. Got something of your own to promote? Want to help the Huns and lurkers to surf the Human Wave? As always, future entries can (and should!) be sent to my email. Happy reading!

Jason Dyck, AKA The Free Range Oyster

Spaghetti De-Tangler, Mercenary Word-polisher, and Twenty-First Primarch

Eberhard Christian Kindermann

The Speedy Journey

Translated by Dwight R. Decker

On July 10, 1744, a German astronomer named Eberhard Christian Kindermann thought he had made the discovery of a lifetime – a never before seen moon orbiting the planet Mars, more than 130 years before any were officially observed. Instead of announcing his discovery the usual way, Kindermann chose to dramatize it by writing a story about an interplanetary voyage to his alleged Martian moon. The result was The Speedy Journey on the Air-Ship to the Upper World, perhaps the first story ever written about a trip to Mars (or at least somewhere close by). By turns quirky and even bizarre, the story is still astonishing today for its sheer imagination as a work of pioneering science fiction. Besides traveling through space and encountering alien life forms on another world, Kindermann’s heroes even use balloons for aerial transportation nearly forty years before the actual first balloon flight in 1783. Never before translated into English, little known outside its native country, and usually relegated to uncertain references in footnotes and bibliographies, The Speedy Journey is now available after 270 years to science-fiction fans and historians, astronomy buffs, and everyone else in “the curious lower world,” as the author would have said. This edition includes the complete translated text of the original story as well as essays by science-fiction historian John J. Pierce and translator Dwight R. Decker that put it in the context of its time. The cover by Alan Fletcher Bradford and new illustrations by Donna Barr are supplemented with vintage illustrations from E. C. Kindermann’s own works.

R.K. Modena

Sparrowind

Tiny Sparrowind can’t hunt from the sky, cannot hope to best his siblings in contests of strength, and scrapes by to survive. But in the books stashed in his parents’ hoard of gold and gems he finds a greater treasure: ideals.

Deciding to make his own way in life gives him more hope than he could have if he tried living only by the way of Dragonkind, but can this dreamer of a Dragon find his place in the world?

Available from these fine booksellers:

Kal Spriggs

The Shattered Empire

The Shadow Space Chronicles Book 2

Baron Lucius Giovanni has managed to buy the human race a brief reprieve from the two alien races which seek humanity’s extinction. In the process he has become the leader of a new nation and the commander of a powerful fleet. However, victory comes with consequences. Without an imminent threat, old feuds have sparked back to life and tenuous alliances falter. There are also old enemies who cannot forget that Lucius has what they wanted. He must find a way to hold off scheming rivals, sociopathic psychics, and even former friends. If he can’t do all that and take the fight to humanity’s true enemies, billions may die under alien servitude.

Ain’t Gonna Wear Pants No More

Okay guys, we’ve known each other a long time, and I think I can ask you the really important question: are we blighted tribesmen in the literature jungle? Do we go about without pants and wear bones on our nose, like those old cartoons about explorers and cannibals?

And if not, why do we attract the sour puss missionaries demanding we put on pants in the equatorial jungle, and lecturing us about how to cultivate the land we’ve been working for centuries, and how to hunt the prey that has fed us since ever?

What I mean is…

It’s not just the SJWs…

Yesterday I was minding my own business, sitting on my front porch, reading my The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress, when suddenly an idiot dude…

I was actually on Facebook closing up before going to bed, and noticed a member of my fan group, Sarah’s Diner, had mentioned me in a thread so I went to see what it was. This was a thread outside the diner, started by Everitt Mickey. I don’t agree with him on the beginning of the thread, etc, but suddenly, lo and behold, we have missionary.

This guy came in and opened the sally by saying that he was VERY well read, but didn’t know any of the titles cited (at that point I recall some Niven) and therefore they must be in science fiction, and how science fiction, of course, ages badly. He, himself, once upon a time had read some Card and enjoyed it, but he’d only liked Enders Game. The rest of Card’s work (!) is boring and blah.

As for Heinlein, he was required reading with Starship Troopers for his speculative fiction class in University, because the book demonstrated the uses of propaganda (I was so tired by then, I didn’t even say anything about that, which of course was not the book, was the movie. The book explores war and peace and duty, but propaganda, not so much.) But they’d made fun of his naivite for having male and female soldiers shower together.

At this point I turned huge and green and started stomping around going “Sarah Smash.”

Look, it’s not that I hated the movie – and yes, I know you guys are going to kill me for it. I rather enjoyed it, but I enjoyed it for two reasons: One, I loved seeing Heinlein’s name on the big screen at last. I’m sick and tired of hearing people say that Phil Dick is better for adapting. Um… no. Hollywood just likes his ideas more. Two, I EXPECT movies to butcher the book. Things like the bullshit above are what I expect of Hollywood taking on any non SJW writer.

So I wasn’t as profoundly offended as any of you, but…

I was still rage-bound by this guy attributing to Heinlein the mistakes of the movie. So I stuck my feet down and repeated, mule-like “That wasn’t in the movie.”

At which point, the poor misguided missionary tells me he remembers making fun of that passage in class. (Kids, I’ve taken literature thirty years ago, but really, what part of studying a work is “making fun?” We studied Victorian literature which our professor clearly disagreed with, but we studied it in the context of what it was and how people lived. We didn’t “make fun” of it. How does one “make fun” as a form of studying? The only time we made fun of anything was the pictures of Phillip I and II of Portugal (different numbers for Spain) in our history books in fourth grade. We were also encouraged to deface the pictures, in what was (I now realize) a bit of indoctrination. So… it seems to me that this was not really a literature class, not one in which one learns to read and appreciate texts, right?) So I told him bullsh*t it wasn’t in the book.

And then he tells me (!) that public nudity was a theme in many of Heinlein’s books. (Nudity sure, and I will grant you I haven’t re-read his later books in more than a year, but PUBLIC nudity? Uh. You can pretty much eliminate all of the juveniles. I mean, maybe in Citizen of the Galaxy he was naked at some point, but mostly he wore a loin cloth. Even in the later books, sure in I Will Fear No Evil people went around naked or next to, but I wouldn’t say public nudity was a theme. In fact, the only one in which it could be said that it was a theme, because integral to the plot was Puppet Masters. And yeah, okay, he talks a lot about the benefits of nudity, but the nudity had a reason to exist in the book.) They had studied Starship Troopers and Mistress something of other.

By this point, I was really stomping around and going “Sarah Smash.” You see, I have this condition.

So I told him his class hadn’t in fact taught him anything about Heinlein (or probably science fiction) took exception with his using “Speculative Fiction” to call our field, made fun of his typo and generally started preparing the pot in which we should d*mn well cook these missionaries.

At which point this creature, who had been btw apropos nothing beating us with the idea that Rodenberry was the best and most prolific writer of sf/f ever to live (I’m going to guess they told him that in this class) apropos nothing every three responses, now accused me of being okatu and acted all superior.

I told him that it was more a matter of his lecturing people about things he knew nothing of and my being tired of people maligning a dead man who can’t defend himself.

(Other things I’m tired of are what is apparently a habit of American literature classes of showing you the movie for the book. Someone told me how stupid Pride and Prejudice was, and it turned out all they knew of it was the stupid movie made in the fifties, in which it all takes place in the Victorian age and which is as faithful to the book as the more recent ridiculous movie which they made older son watch in his Austen class. Fortunately older son had read all of Austen by twelve, so he decided (as happens) this was a class he needed to highjack. So, his classmates know all about how the movie is a stupid romance movie having very little to do with Austen’s work.)

But the truth is, what I’m really tired of is the academics attitudes about our field. Not just mind you that we’re stupid for reading this stuff or that no serious mind would concern itself with science fiction, but the assumption that they’re so much smarter than we are, because they took a class that “made fun” of our genre. (And not even of a book or a well liked movie in our genre.)

The truth is, they’re wrong on all points. Back when worldcon still was THE con to attend in our genre, I remember hearing organizers trying to figure out when the Mensa AG (Annual Gathering) was for the year, because if they overlapped each con had half the attendees.

Now, I’m not going to praise Mensan’s life skills or economic success or even adaptation to life as it is. The depiction of the Mensan in Dilbert was about right.

However, this is not, precisely, because these are puerile minds, except perhaps in the sense that, like minds in adolescence, high IQ people never stop pondering the big questions, which of course is where SF lives. Not because it’s adolescent, (though a lot of the SJW stuff is) but because it concerns itself with big philosophical/scientific questions. If we are adolescent, then so was Plato and so were Socrates and Aristotle.

And when they try to lecture us… well…They can take their “very well read” and stick it up their blow hole.

Look, I don’t know anyone in science fiction who reads only science fiction. I read just about everything that falls in my hands, though the last “literary” (It’s not. Literary is just a genre so they know where to shelve it. As a determination of literary worth, all it says is “My editor thought this could be read in college”) novel I read was four hundred pages signifying nothing, and so it has remained shelved.

I am going to allude to Heinlein (of course I am) in Puppet Masters when he says they don’t have anything behind the curtain that we don’t have bigger and better in Podunk.

The same goes for science fiction and the rest of “literature.” They ain’t got anything we don’t have bigger and better in our midlist.

Our mysteries are more mysterious, our adventure more adventurous, our characters more fully realized, our commies more communist, and by gum, our pretentious literary trip more pretentious and literary-wanna be. I say without rancor that I could stack “If You Were A Dinosaur, my Love” against the most acclaimed piece of bathos produced by a literature professor. And our recent Nebula winners, even Redshirts, stacks up very well against that communist piece of crap called Chronicle of a Death Foretold. At least our people use punctuation.

Unfortunately, of course, our branch of literary punkin heads are also convinced that they’re inferior to “real literature” and keep doing the fawning and abasing dance in front of academic missionaries.

They are in fact, the tribesmen who run around in discarded tourists’ teashirts, speaking a patois of our native language and gliteratty and trying desperately to be accepted by the judgmental foreigners. And then they sacrifice the shrines of their ancestors and refuse to learn our own culture and the worthy things we accomplished, in order to be thin, debased copies of the missionaries.

Me? I have had enough of them, missionaries and imitations alike. I say we should never again shut up in the face of their gross impoliteness, no longer bother to laugh BEHIND OUR HANDS at their stupid ignorance.

It’s time they realized that we’re not impressed. They depict us as wearing bones through our nose and stoking up the cannibal pot? Well, let’s.

Next SJW who goes on about non-binary gender, we light a fire made up of The Left Hand Of Darkness, Venus Plus One, whatever that book was with the three genders, which I cannot now remember, and oh yeah L. Neil Smith’s too, and for that Matter I Will Fear no Evil and Time Enough for love.

Next SJW who expounds on not having women main characters, we stack up Honor Harrington, and put the pot on top. Yes, there are a lot more, including my own efforts, but screw that, Honor Harrington will suffice.

And next literature major who comes lecturing me about our “infantile” books, gets toasted atop Bradbury and Sturgeon and Willis. Because I can.

Being stupid and poorly read might be a sad way to go through life, but when you then come and lecture people who know more and read more than you, you should by rights be committing suicide.

This tribeswoman has gotten tired of putting pants on and enduring their lectures just so they will leave us alone. They’re not leaving us alone and I’m up to here with them. From now on, I put a bone through my nose and make missionary flambe.

 

Humans Who Hate Humans — a Blast From the Past Post 7/31/2012

A few of you have asked me to write about Human Wave, and I know I have to – having come up with this harebrained idea, I have to continue with it and give it some shape.  Like a cat or a kid, it followed me home and now it’s my job to look after it.

Leave aside for a moment the fact that I think each of us, Human Wave writers can do more for writing and for the culture in general by writing fiction than by prattling on about what our fiction is or isn’t.  Humans are curious beasties, sometimes when faced with the Rocharsh stain they need to be told if they’re looking at the hideous crone or the beautiful woman in the hat.

While I agree with Charlie that the guiding principle of Human Wave is “You may” we all know there are things that we read that are HW and things that aren’t.  Even if sometimes we come down to “I know it when I see it.”

Well, let me bring a flashlight down and point it at the picture so you can see more clearly.

Part of this is Scott McGlasson’s fault, with his inferiority complex vis a vis his characters.  (It’s all his fault mommy.)  And partly it’s the way we’ve joked about loving/hating humans and how much butter exactly it takes to love them.

It is also at the heart of Darkship Renegades and if you squint intently, at the heart of my future history.

My future history starts with nations expropriating all those embryos resulting from in-vitro and making a bunch more and having them gestated in bio-engineered large animals (kind of like the mice who grow human ears) in an attempt to make up a massive short fall of people.  (Yes, I do think world population is already falling, or if it’s not it’s because older people are living much longer.  The problem is the modern state depends for its structure on having more young people than old.  At any rate this is supposed to be 50 to 100 years from now.  Shut up.  Making predictions is hard, particularly about the future.  You lays down your money and you makes your bet.  That is mine.)

These people are by and large not quite normal.  Part of it might be the timing of hormone baths and enzymes, which would be impossible to get right, no matter how modified the animal.  It could also be the environment, since they’re raised in batch lots.

And eventually people get funny and decide, instead, to create supermen and to “improve” their own children.  And then it all goes wrong because humans can’t be perfect, and being perfect can be the biggest flaw of all.

I was about to say we humans are a crazy animal, when it occurred to me that of course I don’t know how other animals are, not really.  We have reason to believe – now – that cats and dogs have some form of memory and ideation.

Perhaps all animals can dream of an idealized version of themselves.  Who am I to say?
I do know humans do.  I am – on a good day and with enough caffeine – human, or at least a reasonable facsimile thereof.

And we humans can see an idealized version of ourselves – a perfect version, without any of those flaws and imperfections that mar the human body and soul.

It has run throughout all of human history: the thought of super-humans, or of angels, without flaw.  For some of us those humans existed in Eden, seemingly perfect, until the flaw was revealed in the taste for forbidden fruit.  For others, there was a perfect civilization where a mother goddess was worshiped and everyone was happy, until the unhappy ones – what?  What’s that you say?  No, no, I read the books, that seems to be the gist of it – subverted the whole thing.  For others – Rousseau will never be dead enough – humans were noble and perfect before civilization.

We can ideate perfect humans.  We can ideate a perfect life.  And then we turn to our workaday world, chockablock with briars (and blockheads.)

This used to be disease prevalent in adolescence, particularly for well-off people.  (By historical standards, we’re all well-off, which is why adolescence is actually a recent concept.  Okay, Romans had it, but it was a… er… different thing.)  The “Why does it have to be that way?”  And the “But I hate humans” always sound, inherently, as though they were said by a sixteen year old.  (And fresh from parenting a sixteen year old, the whine-that-can-cut-through-glass is loud and clear in my memory.)

It used to be for most people, though, wealthy or not, after adolescence, some form of integration was achieved.  People came to see the ideal for what it was – something to strive towards, not something to demand.  And sometimes, in special circumstances, they came to see their flaws for… well… good things.  (Sometimes they are.  Sometimes what causes people to do best are their worst traits.)

The reason people mostly came to terms with reality is that, well… what is there besides reality?

And that’s where we got tripped, starting around the fifties or so.  I think, honestly, the issue was television.  It looks real, but it is or can be flawless.  I’ve often wondered how much of our divorce rate is based on the flawless, effortless families of the fifties sitcoms during the formative years of most now-adults.  It seems as though study after study has shown we can’t tell the difference between TV and reality.  Weirdly, no, I don’t think the down-glare on married life and what I’d call the “all relationships are sh*t” view of humanity prevalent now helps.  Neither is actually  like true reality.

Anyway, the problem is we now have – all of us – both wealth (you don’t usually worry where your next meal is coming from.  Heck, I don’t, though there have been times in my life I did, they were brief and limited) and a vivid, collective fantasy life.

This has the result of a sort of extended adolescence.  Our arts, the collective expression of our collective soul – or our culture for lack of a better word – have got stuck in the adolescent whine of  “I hate people.”  Which means the “moral” behind just about every novel, painting, story is “Humans are bad and we should all die.”

So, what’s wrong with hating humans? you say.

Nothing.  Nothing if you could choose between humans as we are and your idealized humans that can exist only in syrupy shows.

The problem is those humans don’t exist.  And the problem is the reaction of  the culture to realizing this was to go into a prolonged tantrum that amounts to “If we can’t be perfect we should all die.”

This is a problem because it’s starting to have an effect.  It’s become controversial to say “I love people.”  It’s become controversial to say “Humans have achieved great things.”

All of which would be fine, again, if you could choose to be something else.  But you can’t.  For good or ill, we’re humans and humans are all we have.

Did humanity produce Stalin and Mao?  Sure.  But humanity also produced DaVinci and innumerable saints.  Were any of the last without flaw?  Well, no.  They were human.  All humans have flaws.  Sometimes the reason humans strive to be good is that they see themselves as worse than they are.  That’s one of those flaws that’s good for you.

But seeing yourself – or your species – as unredeemable is as blinkered, as pathetic, as seeing your species – or yourself – as angel-like, with no flaws.  Neither of them have reality and frankly both of them lack internal tension.  Both of them are therefore just plain bad art.

So, can Human Wave be dystopian?  Sure it can.  You don’t really need to scratch very deeply into the world of Darkship Thieves to see that Earth is a dystopia and Eden is a barely balanced near-utopia, but one that crumbles on contact.  Humans are still humans.  Unspeakable things can happen (contemplate Max’s fate, or for that matter Nat’s revenge.)

BUT through it all, humans are still humans.  The ones who are good can be very very good.  The ones who are broken are broken in interesting ways.  The villains are – to borrow from Shakespeare – punishe’d.  And the good, if not rewarded, have a chance to reward themselves to a measure.  And the mixed can redeem themselves in future books.

Human Wave: it might be very dark, but a ray of light is allowed in.  We don’t hate humanity, because if we do we can’t love anything.  And there is always the option for a sequel.

You heard it here first.

The Beatings Will Continue

Yesterday I was reading an economist’s blog, when a millennial posted something that made my jaw drop.

I’ll say first that not all millennials are like this and not many (I hope) are this rock bottom stupid and twisted. I have to say that, because otherwise my sons – and Foxfier – will kill me in an unpleasant way. Also, because it’s true. Just because you were born around the same time as someone else, it doesn’t mean you’re just like them. That fallacy is one of the things making public schools hellish. People are not widgets, not even people with the same birth year.

I wouldn’t mention his generational status, except that it’s a matter of “Is this what they’re learning?” and as such is important.

So, I was reading this blog about how people with advanced degrees still can’t find jobs. So far, so good, right?

And then this kid comes on, informs everyone he has an MBA (An MBA!) and that until his phone starts ringing off the hook with job offers, he’s going to take every opportunity possible to vote for higher taxes. It’s not that he believes it will do him personally any good, but if he’s going to die a pauper, then how dare we have any savings, and besides, we’re all h8ers anyway.

I thought he had to be a mobi, but there was no break in his stand, no “haha, fooled you” and slowly, with growing horror, I realized he was saying this seriously.

And I was aghast.

My mind boggles that someone could go through school for a graduate degree and be ignorant of where jobs come from. I mean, everyone by ten is informed of where babies come from, but where jobs come from seemed to be a total mystery to this adult male.

How is this even possible?

And then I realized it’s possible because it’s what our media and our stories and even our text books (in the one economics course younger son took, it was all about social and economic justice, as though, you know, jobs and production were a matter of distributing around so many grams of justice here and there, and the economy were a closed pie) talk about jobs as though they were these things that are dispensed by government and which the wealthy can somehow hoard all to themselves.

Think about it. We talk about job creation as though it were a mysterious thing, somehow connected to the government (which it is.) He probably got the (incorrect) hagiography of FDR in school too, and how good it was for the nation for him to hire people to dig pointless holes.

Add to this what I call the “school mentality” – which is something afflicting writers too, particularly now with indie – in which you’re trained to do a certain number of things, and if you do them well, then you get a reward. Everyone is trained to this at the end of twelve years, much less twenty or however many it took him to get an MBA.

He did everything right. He turned in homework, took tests, got his sheepskin. And yet, the expected reward of a good paying job hasn’t materialized.

Is it any wonder he’s mad at everyone and, in a classical case of projection, thinks everyone are h8ers for ignoring his plight?

Why isn’t the president creating jobs for MBAs, filling pointless papers or something? How can the rest of us, middle aged people, smug in our jobs and in our savings (ah, I wish) not realize he is drowning. Where is our compassion? Why isn’t the country as a whole not demanding that the government do something for our young and unemployed?

The idea of an economy as a natural system, with natural laws, which the government can’t change but only distort would probably be totally alien to him, and he’d accuse us of making up stuff to justify not giving him a good paying job. He can’t understand that the government can no more legislate the economy than it can legislate rain. You can send all the water from Colorado to California (where it does no good, because farmers aren’t allowed to irrigate because delta smelt because with water as with money, the more the government takes the more it pisses away.) but you can’t make rain fall in California, rather than in Colorado.

He certainly can’t understand that by voting higher taxes for people who still have jobs, he’s taking away the excess money of the economy, the money that could be spent on things other than survival and perhaps at some point be saved enough that the person doing the saving can start a new business or invest in a promising one that will create jobs.

In a way the young know-nothing is right. We have failed him. We have failed him as a society, in what we’ve taught him and what we’ve failed to teach him.

Teach children that economics is a finite pie; that wealth can’t be created, it can only be redistributed; that all change and goodness flows from bureaucrats who can only be pressured by righteous activists, and you’ve created the perfect economic lemming who will vote for rope to hang himself and others with.

Make him believe that envy is a virtue and that the fact that he has less than others gives him the right to punish others (if I had a dime for every time I heard “Comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable” as mission statements for everything from politicians to economists in my sons’ textbooks, I’d BE one of the superwealthy.) What you have is a willing puppet of the superwealthy and their politicians, the people who are rigging society with regulations so restrictive that only huge corporations with captive lawyers can compete, and small business, small entrepreneurs need not apply.

Note too that in all this it never occurred to this young man that he could start his own business. That is probably, of course, because “what kind of business can he start that will employ an MBA?”

My sons, trained in STEM are starting businesses while in school. Multiple ones. Writing and art and music and working towards a rapid-prototyping business, and trying to think up other small streams of income. No, it’s not what they want to do for life. It’s what they want to do to pay for school. And if a job doesn’t come calling, they try to create one.

I don’t know how common that spirit is, but if it exists at all, it goes against everything the kids are being taught in school.

What they’re being taught is so profoundly stupid that it takes years of education to make rational people believe it. And it explains many things, but mostly it explains the trouble we’re in.

It reminds me of when Marshall was in the abusive middle school and they were giving him detention for stupid things (like he was supposed to get a paper signed by the teachers at the end of the class, to say he’d behaved. He’d never actually MISSbehaved, but instead of interpreting his asking for clarification as “he’s having trouble hearing” (which he was) they interpreted it as his being rebellious and mouthy. The teachers, who were mostly the parents of the girls who were harassing him with spurious accusations found excuses to delay signing the paper. And then the kid would get detention for being late to the next class. And because he was getting detentions, he was obviously bad and needed more signed papers/supervision) I once found myself on the phone with a chirpy secretary informing me that they were giving him yet another detention. I said “At this point, what good do you even think you’re doing? This sounds like ‘the beatings will continue till morale improves’” To which she chirpily and gratifiedly answered, “Precisely.”

This is when I called my husband and asked him “Is there any reason I shouldn’t go to the school and create the sort of scene in which the news say ‘three heads were found in the toilet and we’re still looking for the others?’” (Hey, look, I’m a Latin woman and they were messing with my younger son. I was being good even asking.)

Dan, who is from New England and a Mathematician, just said, “Let me deal with it.” I am given to understand he called them and was polite at them, which I’m also given to understand, coming from a New Englander is WAY more painful than heads in toilets. All he says is he informed him that they were insane and that the detentions stopped now. As in, right that minute. And they did.

Looking at the mess of what we’ve failed to teach our newly minted MBAs, all I can say is that we need to be polite at them as soon as possible. I suggest the following “No, jobs don’t come from government. No, if you take everyone’s money away you will never have a job. No, taxing others as a form of punishment is not sane, and not only doesn’t help you, but it materially hurts you in the long run. No, you are not entitled to a job because you have a sheepskin. No, your phone isn’t going to ring off the hook, because our president has your understanding of economics and is making it impossible for anyone to accumulate enough capital to create jobs. He’s also chasing jobs off shore with punitive taxation. No, this doesn’t’ mean anyone hates you. No one owes you anything. Want a job? Make it.”

We have to be polite, and firm, and speak in small words. We also need to write this in news, in stories, in blogs. We need to shout it from the rooftops and not be dismayed.

Because what they’re being taught in the schools financed by our taxes (and even some private ones) is a total distortion of reality.

And if we don’t stop this crazy train now, this is all going to end up with everyone starving. And heads in toilets.

 

ADDENDUM: If you’re interested, I started a “how to write a novel” workshop over at MGC, and I’m also guesting at Jagi Lamplighter’s blog for her Superversive feature.

 

 

Reflections

So my eyes on Twitter who secretly hates me and wants me to go rabid and start biting the cats or something, has been reporting on the very deep musings of one of the SFWA SJWs. Normally, you know, I read these and shrug, or rolls my eyes so much they’re in risk of falling out and becoming cat toys. But this time, this time the random musings of this special (unfortunately, Alas, not wall) flower struck me as odder than normal and as betraying strange assumptions about the world.

I’m not going to name her, not because I’m afraid she’ll troll this blog – I’m fairly sure she does, at least intermittently and that it fuels her mini-rages – but because there is something vaguely indecent in making fun of the mentally ill.

In the same way we’ll sort of gloss over her latest reported eructation which is that many people need to sit down, shut up and listen. THAT is just because this young (waggles hand) woman is not just privileged, she is one of the very privileged who have never had to face any hardship from birth and never had to work for a living. Which has allowed her to preserve the unconscious egotism of the three year old stomping her foot and wishing the adults would just shut up and listen!

That’s not interesting. It is chortle worthy in an adult woman fast approaching what at any other time and place would be considered middle age, but not interesting.

It just makes me roll my eyes again, and think if we really banned bossy (not the word but the stupid order-giving behavior of women (or men, for that matter) without the life experience or authority to run their own kitchen, this woman would go around with duct tape across her mouth, or possibly her fingers.

And while that image is funny, it’s definitely mean.

So, we’ll avert our eyes from it and go into her other… uh… insights.

Apparently, our hero (well, she would object to being called heroine, because the same vagina she glories in cannot be acknowledged when referring to anything she does, because apparently she’s so convinced a vagina is a handicap that any terms implying one has one – heroine, actress, lady – is immediately an insult) has been to a science fiction convention, (and how thrilling this must have been for the other people) and would like to inform the world that there are a lot of old men in science fiction who mistakenly think they are relevant to science fiction.

This was the pronouncement that made my jaw drop and made me stare at the screen.

We’ll start at the end, shall we? What the heck is “relevant to science fiction?” No, I’m absolutely dead serious.

Sure I can tell you, looking back at the history of science fiction that some writers and some editors were very relevant to the history of science fiction. The field would be completely different without say Campbell, Hugo Gernsback, Robert A. Heinlein, Isaac Asimov or Bradbury.

There are two reasons these people were so influential and we know they were influential. The first one is that the distribution went through a bottle neck. Not a huge one. There were a lot of magazines publishing stories, but even so, if you wanted to publish a science fiction short story, you had to go through the magazines.

And the second is that these people hit a current of work that was highly popular and resonated with the mass of people in their time. These people pulled readers into science fiction and made them dream. This meant a lot of the kids reading those magazines grew up wanting to write like these men.

And that’s what made them “relevant” and now part of the “relevant history.”

It wasn’t some proclamation from on high, or some pronouncement from above, but the simple fact they were very popular.

So… our SJW is doing what to be very popular and “relevant” to the field? Oh, yeah. Screaming we must be inclusive and have more minorities and women. And that science fiction serves the ends of “social justice.”

Puts hand to forehead.

Look, I’m not saying there are no women or minorities who read and write. I’m not stupid. In fact there are many more than those paraded as tokens at the awards. And there have always been.

They are a minority in science fiction – the minorities, not the women, who despite being considered a minority are actually a majority, in science fiction as in the rest of things – because they are a minority in the population. But that’s all right because a field that enjoys reading about purple tentacle aliens won’t even register someone who tans a little better as a character, and many of the white, male (and female) authors write minorities without making a big deal about it.

The Social Justice (a compound name that denies both the parts) otoh is a problem, because even at its best, where it reflects an actual problem in or current society it is – at the very best – reflecting a problem in our society right now and projecting it to the future.

Yes, I know. All literature classes in college – I have a degree in the stuff, okay? – told you that science fiction is only permissible because “it’s a disguised critique of today’s society.” They were wrong, okay? Oh, sure, the masters, like Heinlein, included aspects of today’s society in their books. They were after all writing for today’s people. But – and this will be really hard for the SJWs to understand – people don’t read fiction to reflect on the wrongs of society or the very deep problems of our day.

People read fiction – except that “literary” fiction that is read to show your friends how smart you are. That can be as boring as you wish – to be entertained. Most of them know the problems in society today, and if all you’re doing is moaning about how bad things are, the book is going to go against the wall and they won’t buy others from you.

Can you slip a new insight into their minds, while entertaining them? Sure. Can you slip one in while berating them? Only if they have some sort of psychological problem.

Yes, sure, you can right now write or edit a book that hits all the Social Justice Whiners’ points, and which will win all the awards. But what portion of the reading public – not just the public who attends conventions – will remember this book in ten years? In what way is that book relevant for science fiction, except to make people write more books like that as bait for increasingly irrelevant (if not counterproductive, sales wise) awards?

And that’s the other important side of it. “The reading public who attends conventions” is probably what 1/100th the people who read, even the people who read science fiction and fantasy.

I was recently advising a friend on what to do with his first novel, and had to tell him that he had to make a choice depending on what he wanted. He could go for a long wait, a small advance and some name recognition at conventions (I don’t think he’d get high name recognition, at least with only one book, but I could, of course, be wrong) or he could go with putting it on line, making the equivalent of an advance in the next three months and being an absolutely unknown at conventions.

I don’t remember it if was Hugh Howey (but I think so) who, having sold a bazillion (give or take) books was a total unknown at a con.

So our hero has some issues when she says that these “old men” are totally irrelevant to science fiction.

First I’m going to assume these “old men” are men who are about ten years older than our brave SJW, since that’s what she was calling “old” before. Oh, older than that too, but starting at about that point. So they’re middle aged and came in when the system was far more concentrated and there was no competition from indie.

That means they’re more likely to be known with the public at large than just about anyone who has published/will publish in recent times. Because it’s a matter of market share, see? These men’s books were in grocery stores, or at least in bookstores back in the times of yore when people actually went to bookstores.

Yes, sure, in the history of sf written by SJWs these men will be ignored. Okay. But who will even read those histories, except college professors who were always more than a little sneering towards our field? And who cares what they think?

Which brings me to the next point – and a point that’s relevant not just to science fiction – (yes, which is why I’m burying it this late in the post. Deal. I haven’t had caffeine): Who in heck goes through life aiming to be “relevant” to something or other? By which I assume it’s meant making an impact in something or other that makes them part of the history of the field?

“Well Sarah, do you want to be irrelevant?”

Uh. To be blunt and honest, there are things I’d like to change and habits of thinking I’d like to illuminate/examine. As for “relevance”? It’s neither here nor there to me.

I have published 23 books. I have two more under contract, and a bunch more started/almost finished. Will I be relevant to the field? Will anyone remember me two minutes after I’m dead?

Pardon me if I don’t give a good goddamn about it.

Oh, sure, assuming there is an afterlife where one still takes an interest in what goes on on Earth, it might be a case of warm fuzzies to have fans acclaim me after my death. Or perhaps it will be more a case of embarrassment, you know, like finding out your kindergarten class still reads your essay on how much you love your dog every year thirty years later.

I can’t even imagine a mind set in which that matters. I want to write now; I want to be read and making a living from it now; and I want to know that I did what John Wright mentioned in an essay recently “my book came to someone on her darkest day, and made that day better.” I want to do that because I have had books do that for me. I’ve had books that if they didn’t save my life saved my sanity that day or week or month. They provided me a place to hide when reality was unbearable and allowed me to regain my balance.

That I’d like to do – as a stretch goal. The first goal is making a living – That is a worthy endeavor. But being “relevant” and having college professors make appreciative noises over my books? (Shrug.) As if I could care.

And it hit me that the problem with these exquisitely indoctrinated flowers of social justice is that they never think. They were taught in school that history moves in one direction and that you have to be “on the right side of history” and they believe it as piously as any religiously indoctrinated group.

They think that their “progressive” beliefs will be validated and applauded in the future. (In this they ignore history, like the history of the USSR or most Eastern Europe or for that matter, even China.) They think if they carry the ball of Marxism just a little further and score a touchdown, or even just repeat previously won goals, they will be acclaimed by future generations, world without end.

It never occurs to them that the future – if there is to be one – might take a sharp turn towards more individual freedom and get rid of the unproductive and deadly miasmas of Marxism. It never occurs to them the future might point and laugh at their oeuvre or, more likely, considering most of them aren’t read now, completely ignore them.

They live their lives posing for the future, like supermodels pouting for a camera that might be there.

But what they’re actually posing for is a mirror, and it’s as shallow and self-obsessed as they are.

It never occurs to them that Shakespeare – to name someone who is remembered and who had an influence in the world outside literary criticism – didn’t go through life trying to strike “progressive” poses so the future would admire him, and didn’t write so that he’d have an influence. They never think that he wrote because “Susannah needs shoes. And Nan has been nagging again about living next door to my parents, and when can we build the house I promised her when I came to London?”

And they never, ever, ever, think that “relevant” is the verdict of history written by people yet unborn, in a future that we (despite our profession) really cannot predict.

This is because none of them has ever had to live in real life. All they know about life, all they know about relevancy comes from books, movies and college classes.

So in the end, while I won’t tell them to sit down and shut up, mostly because when they don’t they are so dang entertaining, it never occurs to them that it is they, themselves, who are irrelevant or that their work will never give a moment of real pleasure or amusement to someone in a really bad place.

Go forth, my friends and labor to entertain, to amuse and to make a living. And let us be cheerfully irrelevant to a history that might or might not justify us.

We’re alive now. That is what matters. Better to labor and live and be forgotten than to have never lived except in dreams of honors to come.

Now is not the time to panic – Amanda Green

*This is Sarah, with a minor addendum that occurred to me while reading the post below: Amanda is substantially right.  All my biologist contacts, including my son, say that not only are the chances of Ebola becoming epidemic here very low but the chances of its mortality being as high here as it is in Africa are small.  This makes sense if you know the conditions in Africa.  Frankly I’m more worried about its becoming epidemic and lethal in the Iberian Peninsula because of the culture and the state of the (socialized for decades) medical field there. And if you’re from Mars and reading this: I’m worried about that because all my blood relations except my sons, are in Portugal. (Not because of all the places in the world I think Iberia is the most unorganized.

I know my biologist friends are right.  But I also know panic is difficult to keep down.  However, I’ve been analyzing it, because thinking about why you feel things is the duty of anyone who would write about characters in perilous situations.

It’s not the virus. My son who volunteers at the hospital says they have at least two “What in heck is that?” viruses which are more virulent than this and most they never discover what they are (we are a military town, which contributes to that.)

No.  What is driving people nuts is this: we don’t trust our official representatives and newspeople at all. At every level, from our elected “representatives” from the President on down, and even including journalists, they have lied to us.  Fast and furious, Summer of Recovery, Benghazi, the IRS, You can keep your doctor.  Everything they say is a lie, including “the” and “and.”

So when we see this dog and pony show with ebola, we who have been in the “get ready to duck and cover, because we can’t trust these b*stards” for so long, feel the need to go all telecommuting, or to hide, or to finally activate all our protective measures.  Because we don’t trust the people who are telling us all is safe.

As I told my son “I thought I was perfectly safe till Obama assured us we were. As far as I can tell every word out of his mouth is a lie.

And even if you know enough about biology to feel safe, looking at this huge production around ebola and how the news — hello, jornolist! — are all on it, and we think of Obama’s charming habit of hiding a scandal with a scandal.  Of course we wonder “What are they hiding with this?  And how dangerous is THAT?  Duck and cover, duck and cover!”  And we think lovingly of canned beans and sheltering in place.

To be fair I don’t think what they’re hiding is entovirus.  That’s just another media circus warming up.  The actual death rate is not that bad.  We’ve had flu in this city that had more people dying very quickly.  And yes, the border-breakers of summer are probably going to bring disease/have brought disease into the country, but it will be diseases we know how to fix, just had forgotten here for a century or so. And I expect the flu epidemic to be hellish because of the mutational petri-dish of the camps.  I’m fairly sure what government and media (but I repeat myself) are hiding under the “disease” newscycle is the shocking state of foreign affairs and that we’ll wake up from the Ebola news cycle when something detonates in one of our cities, or the number of piecemeal beheadings becomes such they have to go beyond “workplace violence” as an explanation.  And then, to be fair, a lot of us are going to feel like vomiting.

I’m not worried about Ebola, but about “When the worst happens.” And the inability to trust anything we see or hear from officialdom when we need absolutely clear instructions/news.

Further this news obsession is damaging us in the eyes of our enemies as the giant that can’t handle a case of illness safely; as the country of hysterics. It makes our getting hit more likely.  And of course, it makes life in Dallas very difficult, as Amanda says below.*

Now is not the time to panic – Amanda Green

Once again, Dallas finds itself in the news. It’s not a place the city particularly relishes. I know, I know. You find that hard to believe. After all, Dallas is home of the Cowboys AKA “America’s Team.” It has had a TV show – twice – named after it. So how can I say the city doesn’t really want to be in the limelight?

It’s simple, really. As someone who has spent the majority of her life in the DFW area, I’ve had to live with the infamy of being from this part of the state. For years – many years, in fact – we had to live with the rest of the country looking down its nose at us because this was where President John F. Kennedy was assassinated. Camelot came to an end in our city and so we were to blame.

Now, we are back in the news again after becoming the place where the US recorded its first Ebola death and, not unexpectedly, the first case of Ebola contracted on US soil. And boy, are we in the news. For two weeks, local, national and international media has been flooding Dallas in search of information about how Ebola came to our city, how officials responded to it and now what happened to cause the second case.

From the beginning, when we first learned Thomas Eric Duncan, who arrived in Dallas via Brussels and Washing Dulles, had been placed in isolation at Texas Health Presbyterian of Dallas, there have been questions that needed to be answered. These questions ranged for wondering how he had managed to leave Liberia after being exposed to Ebola to how he had been seen in Presbyterian’s Emergency Room and released with only antibiotics two days before he was brought back to the hospital via ambulance. Then there were questions about how the authorities reacted to the news of an Ebola diagnosis and how those who had come into contact with Duncan were treated.

As Jacquielynn Floyd noted in her column for the Dallas Morning News, what is happening now is “the occasion for a critical test of the relationship between citizens — us — and our political and medical authorities. Either we believe in truth and transparency, or we don’t.” I’d add one more thing, it is a critical test to show whether or not our political leaders have any common sense and recognize that their actions have consequences. In at least one situation, the answer is a resounding “NO!”.

On the whole, I have to give it to the Dallas political leaders, both on the city and county level. They reacted quickly and didn’t hesitate to call in help from the state and from the CDC. The leadership was faced with a situation that no other city in the country had been and, while there might have been some fumbling along the way, they have done a pretty darned good job of handling the situation.

The fumbles? The first was in allowing Duncan’s family freedom to leave the apartment after his diagnosis. Because of that, three local schools had students who had been in contact with Duncan attend classes. Fortunately, so far at least, none of those students have shown any symptoms of Ebola. However, that oversight caused concern among parents and cost those schools money – money to make sure any areas where the students might have been were cleaned and money lost when parents chose not to send their children to school out of an over-abundance of caution.

The second was in not moving Duncan’s family sooner. We haven’t been made privy to all that went on in trying to find someplace that was isolated and yet comfortable, so we don’t know why it took so long. However, the appearance made the city look bad, especially when Duncan’s family and friends started talking to the media about how the family was still living with the dirty sheets, etc., Duncan had been on before being transported to Presbyterian via ambulance.

The third, and this is where a government official didn’t think about the consequences of his actions, centers around Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins. I’ll be the first to admit that I’ve never been a big fan of his. But his actions in going in and out of the apartment to meet with Duncan’s family and then in driving them to the home where they were being relocated to without suiting up, wearing mask and gloves, etc., showed a lack of foresight. Not because he might become infected. The chances of that happening are practically nil because none of the family was symptomatic at the time. No, it showed a lack of foresight because he didn’t consider the impact his actions would have on others. His children went to school after their father’s actions. That concerned parents and took away school resources as they had to issue reassurances to those parents and their children. Again, money was lost due to children being held out of school. Beyond that, his actions downplayed the importance of being cautious. It looked like grandstanding, whether it was or not.

But this second case of Ebola raises a number of questions, not only about how Patient One, a nurse who treated Duncan after his admission to Presbyterian, contracted the disease but also about how non-transparent Presby has been with the public. Then there is the question of whether or not hospitals that don’t deal on a daily basis with infectious diseases are capable of treating Ebola or similar diseases.

With regard to the latter, the fact that a breach of protocol of some sort leading to the nurse contracting Ebola has been used by some to point out that most hospitals simply aren’t prepared for situations like the one Dallas now faces. Dr. Richard Besser, medical correspondent for ABC and formerly with the CDC, said in an interview with WFAA yesterday that he thinks any Ebola patient needs to be transferred to one of several hospitals, like Emory, that are specifically equipped to deal with the disease. Part of me agrees with him because these hospitals have staffs that are drilled on a regular basis to handle the suiting up and removal of all protective gear as well as patient treatment. But part of me also recognizes that the logistics of moving patients to these hospitals would be a night, especially if more cases crop up in the States.

What I think we need to be focusing on instead is setting up one or two hospitals per region where suspected cases would be brought. These hospitals would have staffs trained and drilled in the proper procedures. These drills and training exercises would become part of their accreditation process just like having proper ER or medical record protocols. It would take time, but let’s face it. The world is a much smaller place than it used to be and there is no way to keep Ebola or any other disease out.

All that said, Presby has done well in handling things but there have been some major fumbles along the way as well. The administration still has not fully explained why Duncan was allowed to leave the ER when he first presented himself there. There has been a song and dance about problems with the electronic records to Duncan not telling them he’d been in contact with someone who had Ebola to who know what all. The administrators do owe Duncan’s family and Dallas in general an explanation on how the system broke down.

But that isn’t the only thing Presby owes us an explanation on. When the second case was announced yesterday, we suddenly learned that the Presby employees who had been in contact with Duncan had not been included in the number of people being tracked or monitored by the County Health Department. Instead, Presby was monitoring its own people. In the case of Patient One, she had been identified by Presbyterian as low risk.

Low risk. A nurse who, from what we are learning, had extensive contact with Duncan.

Low risk from the hospital’s point of view, presumably, because she had been suited up whenever with him.

Low risk so she was self-monitoring and calling in to Presby twice a day to tell them what her temperature was. Fortunately, she was doing as asked and she caught the spike in her temperature. She did what she’d been told to by Presby. She contacted them and was told to come in. So she climbed into her car and drove in. Which brings up a whole new set of questions about why Presby employees were – apparently – given a different set of protocol to follow than County Health had been regarding the patients they are monitoring. Those patients, if becoming symptomatic, are to be brought to Presby via ambulance. So why the difference for Presby patients?

But here is the question that is bothering many people in the DFW area: why were we not told about the number of Presbyterian employees being monitored? We have been told from the beginning of the 48 or so people County Health is monitoring. Of those, approximately 10 are being closely watched until the 21 day incubation period expires.

But we weren’t told about the approximately 40 Presbyterian employees that are being monitored by the hospital. We didn’t know about them until yesterday morning. We don’t know if they have been allowed to work and, if so, if they have been seeing patients. I know they aren’t contagious if they aren’t symptomatic but this comes down to a breach of trust between the hospital administration and the public-at-large. Our confidence in Presbyterian had already been shaken by the song and dance about Duncan’s ER visit. This has not helped.

But let’s be honest. This situation is not one any hospital could have been fully prepared for. This was not a situation where there was advance warning that an Ebola patient was coming in ala Dr. Kent Brantley. There wasn’t time to get any experimental drugs on hand. There was no advance blood work to study and base treatment plans on. There was no advance notice so additional training could be accomplished. Nor was there time to set up an isolation wing or floor with all the bells and whistles you’ll find at Emory or one of the other hospitals that specialize in infectious diseases.

There’s something else to consider. What if this had happened not in Dallas but in Chinook, Montana? Or any other small town in the country. The response times could have been a lot longer and the results much worse.

Will this be the last time we see Ebola in this country? No. I haven’t checked this morning, but there was a suspected case in the Boston area being reported last night. The answer isn’t to close our borders to all flights coming in from the affected parts of Africa. As the Duncan case proves, not everyone comes directly here from Africa. Even if you stopped every person whose flight originated in Africa, that wouldn’t put a stop to it. Someone who lives in Germany can be exposed under the right conditions without ever being in Africa. That person can get on a plane and come to the US and they won’t be stopped because they aren’t symptomatic and they aren’t coming from an affected area.

All we can do is be vigilant. We establish regional hospitals that are trained and prepared to deal with Ebola and other infectious diseases. We establish protocols that are consistent across the board and across the nation about how to transport patients with suspected infectious diseases as well as how to treat them once at the designated hospital. We identify companies that are qualified to do the decontamination of homes and vehicles and other areas where a patient might have been so they can be brought in immediately to decon an impacted area. There is something else that has to be done and that falls to you and me. We have to demand transparency from our medical administrators and politicians.

Most of all, we all have to exercise common sense. Unfortunately, out of everything, that is the one thing I’m not sure we will see. At least not from the vocal few and the media and they are the ones who fan the fire of panic.

No Help For the Meek

No amount of preaching can fix this.

No amount of preaching can fix this.

Yesterday, as we were driving around, (I took the laptop and wrote. Weird way to break a minor block, but it did.) Dan was telling me about this book he was reading and how the female main character of the book is always blaming herself for the bad actions of other people.

And he said “I thought that if it didn’t do anything else, feminism would make women realize they didn’t have to be doormats.”

And suddenly I had a blinding insight.

It ties in with the “Laws aren’t magic” post from last week.

What do laws against striking children do? They curb the swat to the butt parents who would have stopped children getting into dangerous/difficult situations that way. The parents who stop after a swat. The ones who train their kids into not doing crazy things before they’re five, so that there’s a lot less involved in watching/overseeing them and they’re more pleasant at that age.

Does it do anything to stop the “Beat him till he stops moving” parents? I don’t know. I know I read about as many horrible cases in local news. And psychologically I doubt it would stop them. Beating your child to a harmful extent has ALWAYS been forbidden. If they’re willing to do that, they’re not law abiding people.

This is the same as with guns. Forbid gun ownership and the only people who will own guns are those who don’t give a hang about laws, and therefore the community will be less safe.

I was thinking about this and realized it’s the same with feminism.

Feminism doesn’t stop women who are by nature subservient or by nature self-blamers from being subservient and self-blamers. This, btw, whatever the feminists tell you about patriarchy and the evils of capitalism, is not a characteristic of women alone. Some men are also subservient and self-blamers.

In the self-blaming part, particularly, I come from a long line of men who, like Atlas, tried to lift the world on their shoulders and blamed themselves for failing.

It’s what Heinlein calls the Fallen Caryatid.

This poor little caryatid has fallen under the load. She’s a good girl—look at her face. Serious, unhappy at her failure, not blaming anyone, not even the gods…and still trying to shoulder her load, after she’s crumpled under it.

But she’s more than just good art denouncing bad art; she’s a symbol for every woman who ever shouldered a load too heavy. But not alone women—this symbol means every man and woman who ever sweated out life in uncomplaining fortitude until they crumpled under their loads. It’s courage…and victory.

Victory in defeat, there is none higher. She didn’t give up…she’s still trying to lift that stone after it has crushed her…she’s all the unsung heroes who couldn’t make it but never quit.
~ Robert A. Heinlein,
Stranger in a Strange Land

Both men and women have this type of personality. I catch glimpses of it in myself. I know my dad has it. I know his mother had it. My older son, though he doesn’t look it, is the caryatid, and blames himself when he falls under the load. (As well as lifting a load no one would expect a human being to bear.) His brother is going that way too.

Now, this is not being a doormat, but the feminists of today would have trouble realizing that. They think a woman doing anything for men is “subservient.”

And this brings us to what is wrong with “feminism teaching women not to be doormats.” You can’t – no matter how much you preach at them – change a person’s whole personality by telling them to stand up for themselves and not be doormats. That’s not how humans work.

I know that I have certain personality traits I abhor (mostly the depressive tendency) but yelling at myself only makes me unhappy. It doesn’t change my personality.

As for subservient, my maternal grandmother was one of those gentle and helpless women. You know “her voice was ever soft” types. She didn’t curse, she didn’t raise her voice, she didn’t stand up for herself.

Was that because she’d been crushed early and told to be subservient? I doubt it. As far as I could tell, she came from two very gentle people and a very happy marriage. Unfortunately for her the man she married was not gentle and her marriage was not happy. She tried to do what she could around the edges, including various under-the-table jobs as he wasted his inheritance, but she couldn’t stand up to him, because she simply wasn’t built that way.

Only one of her children, a son, took after her in temperament. I loved my uncle, but he had all the force of a wet towel.

If she COULD have stood up to my beloved – and quite insane – grandfather, she would have. She loved her children and hated seeing them growing up in abject poverty. Her parents told her that her marriage was not working right, that she needed to stand up for herself.

But she couldn’t.

Yes, in modern days, she might have been persuaded to leave him. (Hard to tell. She had the stubbornness of the gentle and weirdly she always loved him.) BUT if she had and had fallen for another man who wasn’t as quiet and gentle as her parents, she would have the same exact issue. Her brother had the same issue, having fallen for an ungentle woman.

People are people. It’s not a “patriarchal plot” – some personalities simply aren’t dominant.

So what does the – current – feminist preaching that it’s always the woman’s fault and that no woman should ever listen to a man, and that every woman should have the upper hand in a relationship do for the meek and the mild?

Nothing. They are who they are. Only now to the long list of things they can’t change about themselves is the guilt that they can’t change who they are and take the upper hand which everyone from kindergarten on tells them they’re supposed to. It crushes them under the certainty that they’re weak and there’s something “wrong with them.”

Whom does this preaching empower? Women who would have the upper hand anyway, and who now seize this philosophy of “woman empowerment” to run roughshod over men and boys and to blame them for every failure/wrong in their lives.

No wonder the feminist movement turned bitter and into androphobia. The people it empowers are the ones who would have ruled the roost anyway, but who now seize on this as an excuse to crush both men and the meek, mild women underfoot.

Understand I’m not saying that there is no point to abused women’s shelters, or to trying to get people (men or women) out of bad situations. There is. I approve of this effort. Grandma might not have stayed away, but having people on her corner might have kept her from suffering as much as she did under her husband’s despotic rule.

What I’m saying is that preaching at her that she should “rule the family” and bring her brilliant, rakish, erratic and violent husband to heel would do nothing. She’d just have sighed and said “I know.” And felt even more guilty.

My other grandmother – my beloved paternal grandmother – if she had been less of a caretaker, would OTOH have seized on such instruction to become a tyrant. (She was in a way, her rule only moderated by her CARING for others.)

These philosophies; these injuctions that tell people how the genders would relate in an ideal world, (or the classes, or the income levels, or the … whatever) in the end only oppress the oppressed.

It’s all very well for the feminists to turn on women who aren’t “with the program” but it changes nothing, except add a layer of feminist bullying to the lives of the meek and the mild and those Fallen Caryatids (female AND male) already lifting too heavy a load.

We don’t need no (re) education. We don’t need no thought control.

We need help for those men and women who are likely to let themselves be crushed underfoot. Real help of the “here, let me lift the load a moment.” And laws that help the meek and mild save something from the bonfire of crazy spouses/family/mates.

What we don’t need is the opposite of what old charity missions used to do. All sermon, no help.

 

 

The Book Plug Returns In TRIUMPH!

*For those who can’t live without my blather, try the Friday Book Plug, Come on in, the publishing is fine. 

I’m talking about the ability to publish whatever you want and actually make money, and I quote Lawrence Block whose journey was startlingly similar to mine when it comes to indie. (Startling because we’re very different and also, he cam in decades before me. – SAH*

Book plugs from Free Range Oyster.

Happy Saturday! We’ve a nice selection of books for this week, both old favorites and new releases. So go pick up some new reading material, enjoy your weekend, and don’t forget to hug your loved ones when you can. As always, future entries can (and should!) be sent to my email. Happy reading!

Jason Dyck, AKA The Free Range Oyster

Self-Hawking Codemonkey, Mercenary Word-polisher, and Proud Minion of the Beautiful But Evil Space Princess

James Young

Acts of War

Usurper’s War Book 2

August 1942. London is in flames. Heinrich Himmler’s Germany stands triumphant in the West, its “Most Dangerous Enemy” forced to the peace table by a hailstorm of nerve gas and incendiaries. With Adolf Hitler avenged and portions of the Royal Navy seized as war prizes, Nazi Germany casts its baleful gaze across the Atlantic towards an increasingly isolationist United States. With no causus belli, President Roosevelt must convince his fellow Americans that it is better to deal with a triumphant Germany now than to curse their children with the problem of a united, fascist Europe later.

As Germany and Japan prepare to launch the next phase of the conflict, Fate forces normal men and women to make hard choices in hopes of securing a better future. For Adam Haynes, Londonfall means he must continue an odyssey that began in the skies over Spain. American naval officer Eric Cobb finds that neutrality is a far cry from safety. Finally, Rear Admiral Tamon Yamaguchi must prepare himself and his men to fight a Pacific War that is far different than the surprise attack Imperial Japan had once planned but never executed.

Acts of War is the continuation of the Usurper’s War series, which charts a very different World War II. As young men and women are forced to answer their nation’s call, the choices they make and risks they take will write a different song for the Greatest Generation.

Amanda Green

Nocturnal Lives

Boxed Set

This “box set” includes the first three novels in the Nocturnal Lives series.

Nocturnal Origins

Some things can never be forgotten, no matter how hard you try.

Detective Sergeant Mackenzie Santos knows that bitter lesson all too well. The day she died changed her life and her perception of the world forever.It doesn’t matter that everyone, even her doctors, believe a miracle occurred when she awoke in the hospital morgue. Mac knows better. It hadn’t been a miracle, at least not a holy one. As far as she’s concerned, that’s the day the dogs of Hell came for her.

Investigating one of the most horrendous murders in recent Dallas history, Mac also has to break in a new partner and deal with nosy reporters who follow her every move and who publish confidential details of the investigation without a qualm.

Complicating matters even more, Mac learns the truth about her family and herself, a truth that forces her to deal with the monster within, as well as those on the outside.But none of this matters as much as discovering the identity of the murderer before he can kill again.

Nocturnal Serenade

Lt. Mackenzie Santos of the Dallas Police Department learns there are worst things than finding out you come from a long line of shapeshifters. At least that’s what she keeps telling herself. It’s not that she resents suddenly discovering she can turn into a jaguar. Nor is it really the fact that no one warned her what might happen to her one day. Although, come to think of it, her mother does have a lot of explaining to do when – and if – Mac ever talks to her again. No, the real problem is how to keep the existence of shapeshifters hidden from the normals, especially when just one piece of forensic evidence in the hands of the wrong technician could lead to their discovery.

Add in blackmail, a long overdue talk with her grandmother about their heritage and an attack on her mother and Mac’s life is about to get a lot more complicated. What she wouldn’t give for a run-of-the-mill murder to investigate. THAT would be a nice change of pace.

Nocturnal Interlude

Lt. Mackenzie Santos swears she will never take another vacation again as long as she lives. The moment she returns home, two federal agents are there to take her into custody. Then she finds out her partner, Sgt. Patricia Collins, as well as several others are missing. Several of the missing have connections to law enforcement. All are connected to Mac through one important and very secret fact – they are all shapechangers. Has someone finally discovered that the myths and bad Hollywood movies are actually based on fact or is there something else, something more insidious at work?

Mac finds herself in a race against time not only to save her partner and the others but to discover who was behind their disappearances. As she does, she finds herself dealing with Internal Affairs, dirty cops, the Feds and a possible conspiracy within the shapeshifter community that could not only bring their existence to light but cause a civil war between shifters.

T.K. Naliaka

In Time of Peril

The Decaturs Book 1

Raised on the edge of chaos in West Africa, Christopher Decatur is back in America for college, leaving behind dunes, baobabs, nomads and urban banlieux. His history class embarks on a week-long American Revolution reenactment hiking trip near Lake Champlain, but the backwoods are no refuge from the dangers of the world as the group collides with a murderous and mysterious gang. As Chris faces an ordeal of deadly threats with uncooperative classmates in a high-stakes battle of wits and cultures against ruthless foes, Chris’s father Robert Decatur risks everything to rescue his son from the hands of evil. In Time of Peril launches The Decaturs adventure series, continuing in the sequel, A Difficult Damsel to Rescue.

Sam Schall

Vengeance from Ashes

Honor and Duty Book 1

First, they took away her command. Then they took away her freedom. But they couldn’t take away her duty and honor. Now they want her back.

Captain Ashlyn Shaw has survived two years in a brutal military prison. Now those who betrayed her are offering the chance for freedom. All she has to do is trust them not to betray her and her people again. If she can do that, and if she can survive the war that looms on the horizon, she can reclaim her life and get the vengeance she’s dreamed of for so long.

But only if she can forget the betrayal and do her duty.

Steven Johnson

Up In Smoke

Flak-Jack #1

The crooks and punks all have superpowers now – they can fry you any time they like. Who’d stay on the police force in a town like this? Only the men who need to be heroes very, very badly. Marc Chaves looks up to the superheroes who battle evil in the skies above. But all he has is a badge and a flak jacket. Will it be enough? It better be, because ready or not, Marc’s going into action as Flak-Jack, the Bulletproof Man!

Dan Melson

Working The Trenches

Rediscovery Book 4

Graciela Juarez has been an Imperial citizen for several years. She’s got a solid marriage into one of the Empire’s most important families. The Empire has been very good to her. For her self-respect, she wants to spend some time with her shoulder to the wheels of the Empire. Pulling the cart of Civilization. Working the Trenches of Empire.

John Van Stry

Champion for Hire

Portals of Infinity: Book One

William is just your typical engineer fresh out of college with a stressful job, a boring life, and not a lot of prospects of anything better in the future.

Until one weekend while hiking in the woods he stumbles across a portal to another time, or perhaps another place. The more he investigates this new world the more he realizes that it may just be able to offer him a lot more than the one he’s been living in.

However, there are forces at work beyond anything that Will has ever come across before and the local Goddess seems to have taken a liking to him. Will may soon find himself getting an offer and cannot afford to refuse.

C.J. Carella

Apocalypse Dance

New Olympus Saga Book 3

The End Is Here.

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

The conclusion of the New Olympus Saga that began with Armageddon Girl, Apocalypse Dance is a thrilling tale full of action, drama, romance and humor.

Contains adult content and language.

Armageddon Girl

New Olympus Saga Book 1

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

Fate had something special in store for her, though.

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

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

Contains adult content and language.

Doomsday Duet

New Olympus Saga Book 2

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

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

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

Contains adult content and language.