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As surely as Water will wet us, as surely as Fire will burn

When The Lights Go Out….

I was in a forum, sometime in 03, which was pretty mixed politically, and people were saying “We need to leave Iraq. We need to go back home and mind our own business.”

And then… someone said something I still remember. I remember the sound of it and that chill feeling you get up your spine when an unpleasant truth is spoken.

“If you leave now, you’ll come back when the lights go out. You’ll come back from a severely crippled America. You’ll come back in far worse circumstances, when things are more against you and it’s impossible to win.”

Well, thank heavens we’re not there yet. Thanks to the men who’ve fracked and who’ve exploited our energy resources against the express will of those who want to “skyrocket” our prices. And thanks to the men and women who has floundered and fought and struggled to survive, instead of subsiding quietly into a collective torpor where the state is going to take care of everything.

Thanks to them, the lights are on, and America is still working. Oh, not as it was. Oh, not full throttle. But the lights aren’t flickering, and we’re not Detroit.

We’re not there, but neither are we where we were in 03. And the president says we’re not going back, which of course, after five years of this most of us recognize as a sure sign that we are.

I have no idea how the news are going to dress it up. The spin I’ve heard was that this is Bush’s fault, because he created a power vacuum and he didn’t have a way to fill it. He didn’t have “an exit plan.”

I’m here to tell you the fault was of those demanding an exit plan. The fault is of those who demanded a set date for the end of the war. A set date to withdraw. A set date to let the Iraqis be themselves, to leave them to their own fate.

But Sarah, you say, wars have ends.

Yes, they do. But not like that.

I’m not going to say I was enthusiastic about going into Iraq. Unlike Bush, I’m not a compassionate conservative. (He wasn’t my horse in the race in 2000.) I’m not even really a conservative. I’m a person who errs on the side of freedom and who hates the golden-bricked road to serfdom to the state with a passionate, visceral hatred.

I believe not in isolationism but in overkill. I believe that when attacked a country should do only one thing: retaliate hard enough to make the other guy afraid to do it again.

I don’t believe in bombing aspirin factories. I believe in bombing to the stone age. I admire Israel’s habit of sending notices to their enemies to evacuate targeted sites. I admire it, but I wonder if it’s sane. And if it’s part of the reason the enemy won’t relent.

Oh, I am in general on the side of people. I hate the loss of life, particularly young life. When I first heard about war I was four or five, and I asked my father why all the children weren’t evacuated before a war started.

Dad told me about some of the evacuations in WWII. He didn’t tell me about the young man he grew up with who’d been evacuated from France to the family of (VERY) distant relatives, probably because he hadn’t thought of it in those terms. Antoine was just Antoine. It wasn’t till he visited with his children and grandchildren five years ago that the whole thing was put in perspective for dad.

But he also didn’t tell me that yes this should be done all the time. Instead, he told me war was a terrible thing and I should pray it never came near me.

I was, I think, too young for him to explain how war works.

War is a terrible thing. War is like a combine going through a field on an erratic path, cutting wheat and rose bushes, potatoes and trees at random, and pulping them. Sometimes war spares the wicked and takes the innocent. Sometimes war seem pointless, like, say, WWI, even to the people fighting it. (It wasn’t. But the peace was almost pointless, it was certainly forced, and it was only an hiatus in the war.)

War is a terrible thing because wars are clashes of cultures and because human cultures, while they’re not innate and they can change, don’t change suddenly or in any significant way unless they’re under extreme trauma. And even then the word is out on whether they change markedly and permanently or just sort of change, for a while. None of which matters, since in the end, changing for a little while and stopping attacking people that aren’t attacking it would be a vast improvement on the Middle East.

Here’s the thing, though – sometimes it’s best to have a terrible and SHORT and decisive war than a prolonged, lasts forever, claims lives, claims generations war.

It doesn’t seem that way to us, of course.

I think a lot of the pacifism of our culture and a lot of the crazy, sappy, silly nonsense that the war in Iraq has been subjected to is that we’re not just the children who came after WWII. Oh, no. We’re the children who learned about WWI and II in school from people who didn’t experience them. This means the academics have got hold of them, and if there’s one thing academics do, really well, is to take the moral high road. They might be people, in colleges, giving their opinion on things they never experienced, but they have thought really hard, and they have read books and they’re morally superior, anyway. And you should listen to them.

And so generations of children have been taught about the horrors of the world wars but not of the alternative. And they’ve been told about the spots where the cold war got hot, but not about the spots where it didn’t, or the places where the west cut and run and let the other side win. Places like Cambodia. Places like North Korea. Places like the Soviet Union itself.

This feeling of “peace at any cost” has settled in. Be quiet. Don’t make waves. War is a horror.

I’m not going to tell you war is not a horror. Or that we should have more wars.

What I’m going to tell you is that war is inevitable. It’s a result of humans being flawed creatures, not angels. It’s a result of humans being tribal. Sometimes a tribe’s internal culture will spin out of sanity and become convinced that, yes, indeed, the most important thing for its members’ happiness is to kill everyone else. Sometimes a tribe will want mastery over a resource, a place, an area that is, alas, also wanted by another. And sometimes a tribe can be convinced that no, this is not what you want. Given sufficient firepower. Given enough losses. Given enough pain. (Whether that breaks it or not, I don’t know. Japan did stop its ideas of mastery and superiority, but its birthrate is dismal. Shake the magic eight ball and ask again.)

The point I’m trying to make is that your choices are never between war and an ice cream social where feelings are discussed. Your choices are never between war and holding hands together and singing kumbaya.

War comes. It comes because we’re humans. It comes whether it’s declared or not. And it comes whether a ceasefire is proclaimed or not, weather a peace treaty is signed or not. The peace treaties of the end of WWI didn’t hold, because they weren’t real. The causes of the war weren’t gone, and the war would return as soon as another generation grew up to man the machine guns.

You declare war, usually a recognition of what is already happening. You don’t declare peace. You negotiate peace. And for peace negotiations to work, they must remove the cause of the war, or at least make one of the sides to the war give up on its claims. This is usually only achieved through massive losses that hurt the other side. If you’re not hurting, why would you give up on what you want to those other guys?

So I wasn’t crazy about the Iraq war, because I thought we should have gone in and really created a power vacuum. Bomb Saddam and his family into the stone age. Bomb every presidential palace. Destroy their oil wells or, not to be wasteful, take them over and occupy the area around them. And then let them figure out how to crawl out of the hole by themselves.

I wouldn’t like it – but I like it better than what we have now.

Bush was a better person than I. He wanted to go in and liberate the Iraqis and win hearts and minds. He almost managed it too. With his hand forced by the opposition, with demands for an exit date and an exit, he almost managed it. While being called names, he almost managed it.

And then came Obama, who is my generation, and was taught by people who thought wars could be stopped with Woodstock. He thought we could retreat, because the country was stable, and because ending the war looked so good on his resume. He didn’t get that the only way to wage war without massive casualties and destroying the place was to stay long. Stay long enough for a couple of generations to grow up. Create a tradition of democracy. Build the culture from the inside out.

No. He wanted to declare a peace and have a victory dance. And – and this is the important part – this is one act he thought would never explode in his face, because to him peace is like that. You plan it, you declare it, you leave. And peace stays. Because if you’re not fighting the other side also won’t.

This is war theory as explained by squirrel high on methamphetamines, but it’s what he was taught. It’s what most people my age were taught. I think I told here the story of a beginning writer at an impromptu workshop at a local con reading a story of a dead Iraq (female) soldier watching her own funeral. The story was weird, because it was all bathos and memories of walking in the beach and playing with her little sister and nothing about volunteering to serve. Nothing about honor, or duty or tratidion. I don’t know any military person who doesn’t think of those. But worse of all, the writer was crying as she read it, and when we told her that the story had some issues, she cried even harder. “But I have to write this story,” she said. “I have to write it, because otherwise the war will never end.”

She was my age. At the time, late forties. And stories were things that could end the war. A short story about a fighting woman, dead in the war, would make everyone change their mind and stop fighting. Or at least it would make the US change its mind, and of course, little browns peoplez would never continue the war once the evil imperialists left, right?

This is what we were taught, and the incurious, the fantasist, the idiot believes what he is taught.

There is a reason spreading despondency and doubt was considered treason. But we’ve let treason walk and talk, and teach school and write stories.  What do you call that?  What but monumental stupidity?  Oh, not in letting them do it, but in letting them claim this is the only truth, letting them corner the narrative, going along to get along. Letting them think stories and bathos will end a real war, and not stopping them and telling them they’re wrong and what’s more, their beliefs are dangerous — or pointing at them, laughing and making duck noises.

We’re going back. We’re going back when the locals have no reason to trust us. We’re going back without allies. We’re going back when Europe is on the verge of flames. We’re going back with the world burning and our economy in ruins.

We’re going back because there are worse things than that – like letting the horror that is ISIS and its seventh century culture take over the Middle East and possibly swathes of Europe.

So we’re going back. And the illusion that peace can be declared from on high is going to cost us rivers of blood. The blood of people far better than the fantasists who pushed for and declared “peace.”

Will we learn? Shake the magic eight ball and ask again.

Will it really be Power to the People? – Amanda Green

Will it really be Power to the People? – Amanda Green

(Apologies for the lateness of the post. It is my fault, not Sarah’s.)

The day has come that I never thought I’d see. WorldCon is about to commence and the newest Hugo winners are about to be named. But we aren’t hearing about that. There have been very few rumblings this past week or so about what sort of outrage will be shown should people like Larry Correia win. Instead, we’ve been hearing about how Evil Amazon has been taking food out of the mouths of poor, struggling authors like James Patterson by continuing to be mean to Hatchette.

 

Could it be that the SJWs and GHH crowd have forgotten about the Hugos? Nah. How could they forget someone they feel is too white – even though he’s Portuguese which makes him Hispanic – too male, too outspoken, too much in love with personal freedom, too hetero, too proud to be a father, etc. etc. etc.?

 

So there has to be another reason for the silence. Ever your intrepid reporter (well, blogger), I went in search of the answer and I think I found it.

 

The preliminary agenda for LonCon’s business meeting has been released and there is a lot of food for thought in it. As Ruthless Culture puts it, “The agenda appears a good deal less worrying than last year’s, which included motions to dismantle the fan categories and impose severe limitations on the use of cheaper supporting memberships to encourage people to nominate and vote for the Hugo Awards.”

 

Wow. That surely ought to have the SJW/GHH crowd’s panties in a twist, especially after Sad Puppies. Before this year’s Sad Puppies campaign, the highest number of votes cast for the Hugo before had been 2,100 in 2011. This year, there were 3,587 votes cast. That is a huge increase, most of which came, imo, as a direct result of Larry encouraging folks to actually vote this year.

 

One of the first proposals that caught Ruthless Culture’s eye, and mine as well, is an amendment to WSFS’s constitution requiring “all changes to the WSFS constitution be ratified by a vote of the membership at large.” Think about it, instead of requiring only that such amendments be ratified by a majority vote of those attending the business meeting at the following WorldCon, it requires the amendment be sent out to the qualifying membership AFTER WorldCon to be voted on. That opens the process up to those who don’t have the spare coin to travel across the country or overseas to attend the convention.

 

You can see the actual language of the motion here. What it basically says is that no longer can the WSFS constitution be amended by a motion passed at the Business Meeting and ratified by a simple majority vote at the Business Meeting of the subsequent WorldCon. Instead, if a motion is passed at the Business Meeting, it is then to be sent to the membership following that WorldCon for a vote.

 

What the impact of this will be if passed is anyone’s guess. It still means those attending WorldCon have the upper hand because they are the ones who will be attending the Business Meeting and voting on whether or not to pass the proposed amendment on to the membership-at-large. There will be those, I’m sure, who will see it as a means to remove WSFS from the “American culture” that pervades it now. (Their words, not mine.) However, with the power still in the hands of those who attend WorldCon, that sort of falls flat. Of course, so does the fiction that there is some sort of white, male, heterosexual, fanboy conspiracy to keep all others out of the culture of WorldCon and science fiction in general.

 

There is another proposed amendment that Ruthless Culture points to, this time with concern (and I’ll admit here, I’m not nearly as concerned as RC seems to be). This one deals with how Hugo nominees are proposed. The current rule states that nominations come from members of the “administering” WorldCon or the immediately preceding or following WorldCons. In other words, if you’re like me and haven’t had enough coffee yet, last year’s WorldCon, this year’s and next year’s.

 

Under the proposed amendment, nominations could come from “Each member of the administering Worldcon and any member of any convention sanctioned by WSFS in Article 4 held in the immediately preceding, current, or immediately following calendar year.” In other words, NASFIC members would be able to vote as well and this, in short, is where RC has problems. After all, that sort of thing would favor American voters and WorldCon is already has an “in-built bias toward American science fiction culture.”

 

Now, I’ll admit that the way the WSFS constitution is written right now, the only folks who could vote under this proposed amendment would be WorldCon and NASFIC members because those are the only cons sanctioned under Article 4. However, if RC were to actually read not only the introduction to the proposed amendment but the commentary below it, the purpose would become clear. It is to “extend the right to nominate for the Hugo Awards to members of all WSFS-sanctioned conventions, including NASFiC.” So the solution to the “problem” is simple — sanction more conventions from around the world.

 

Do I expect either of these proposed amendments to pass? No, especially not the one to send proposed amendments to the entire membership. Why? Because despite all they say about wanting equality and such, the SJWs and GHHers are like everyone else: they want to control and if you give the right to vote to the general masses, well, the rabble will rouse and you lose control. After all, look what happened with Sad Puppies and do they really want to risk that sort of rabble having a real say in what goes on with WSFS?

 

I also doubt the Hugo nominating amendment will pass and for pretty much the same reason. Heck, the SJW/GHH crowd accused Larry and others of buying memberships for people and then submitting votes in their names. Can you imagine the accusations that would follow should free supporting memberships be given to NASDFIC members?

 

Of course, if these two amendments are voted down, how are the “progressive” folks attending LonCon going to justify their stance to maintain the status quo? How many knots will they tie themselves into trying to explain why they didn’t open voting up to the membership at large? Hmm, this may just get interesting. Guess I’d better go lay in a supply of popcorn.

Of course, they may not be around to vote if Larry – or, gasp, Vox – wins a Hugo. Their enlightened brains might just explode if that happens. Then who will vote on the amendments? Oh, wait, I know the answer to that. It will be the folks who still possess not only common sense but the ability to think logically and to see more than three steps beyond the one they are currently taking.

Before the Fall

I’m tired. And not just because I was cleaning the garage yesterday. The thing is, I’m sick and tired of nonsense and stupidity. I didn’t realize how cranky I’d gotten about it all, until older son told me, “Mom, people are people. They’re just people. Once you get a crowd and they’re frightened, and everyone is frightened these days, you’re going to get stupid stuff. I’d say we’ve done amazingly well, overall, for how stupid people get in crowds.”

I guess he’s right. He’s certainly nicer, more patient and more willing to listen to people than I am. Me? I’m just tired.

Maybe it’s being alive for half a century by which point you’ve seen the same politicians trot out the same discredited lie at least three times, and be believed every time even though the last time turned out disastrous and even though it’s turned out disastrous every time it’s been tried. Things like trying tos top people from leaving the country with their money. Things like claiming the man is hiding the stash and that the economy can be righted on the backs of one percent of the population. (Sure it can. Confiscate all their money and the country will be well of for three days. After which we all starve. Do the math.)

Catalina and Robespierre, Marx, Lenin, Mao are dust in the dust (or really repulsive stuffed mannequins in the capitals of their countries. Comes to the same) and yet the same lies are listened to reverentially as though they were new stuff. And our press, our horrendous traitorous press promulgates these lies without thought, without bothering to investigate what the truth was, or what really happened. This is what they learned in school as the “smart thought” see, and most people don’t think at all, they just go through life bleating the things they learned as children.

I’m tired. I’m tired of the idea that if we take away people’s chance to start new businesses and benefit from them we’ll all be rich. Because, I guess, wealth comes from the air or from the withered teat of our meretricious government.

And our government – oh, h*ll – a group of whores would do better. At least whores understand business and that some control must be exerted over who gets the … ah… teat for free. They understand that the teat is not endless and neither is the other thing, which will get really unusable if you let the whole world use it. I say next time we elect a whore, not a skinny, duplicitous, indoctrinated red diaper baby with promises as thin as his addled intellect.

Because this plan of erasing our border and catering for the world is the plan to abolish the United States of America. Other countries can have borders, but we’re uniquely rich – apparently because we were born that way. Ignore the fact that almost every other land is naturally richer than us, and that the people who colonized this great nation were the dregs spit out by other lands: the lame, the odd, the strange, those who didn’t fit in. We’re rich and therefore we need to look after the entire world, yes, more than we’ve been doing. Now we’re to let them into our living room and feed them all personally.

And if I hear one more bleat about Christian charity someone is going to die screaming, and it ain’t gonna be me. Christian charity like Christian virtue is admirable, but it can only be practiced by the individual. Once you get nations involved, you have theocracy and theocracy always ends in tears, whether it’s Christian or Marxist or an unholy amalgam of the two. (Or Muslim, or presumably Hindi or Buddhist, before you ask. I just don’t know if the two ever established theocracies. I haven’t read as much history as I’d like to yet.) Also, once you have governments involved everything gets twisted. For instance, is it Christian charity to relieve the pressure on another land just enough that the people there continue to be oppressed by horrible governments rather than rebel? Does it not fall under making their lot worse? In the end, what is the calculation? What is good and what is evil when it comes to nations? Are we allowed to kill in order to save? Should we allow ourselves as a nation – including those who aren’t Christian – to be destroyed in order to give people a short term gain that will end up with everyone steeped in greater misery and nowhere to run to?

I’m tired. Some part of me suspects this is the tired before the storm, that if I actually stop cleaning and carrying and packing and writing, if I actually allow myself long enough to thing about everything, you’ll hear a scream rising from Colorado, and it will clear the birds off the trees all the way to DC.

I know that the end result of all these policies is always the same. Yeah, everyone ends up poorer, even those who will Lord it over them. But for the people who get to distribute the scarcity this is better than being rich under the present chaotic arrangement. Because they’ll get power. And that’s meat and drink to them. In the same way destroying the best healthcare in the world was worth it even if it reduces their own life expectancy because it means they get to say who lives and dies. And that’s worth it to them.

Me? I got over my urges to tell others what to do in elementary. If they obey you you have to look after them forever, and if they don’t obey you what’s the point?

And I look at this big game, and I’m just tired. Maybe I’m getting old. Maybe that’s what it is. Or maybe people are getting dumber. Or not getting smarter.

And trailing through the cleaning, the packing, the tiredness, is this feeling that something wicked this way comes.

I don’t know what it is or where it will come from, but there’s a feeling of the boot, suspended mid-air, already on the way to fall.

And I’m tired.

This is the moment before the worst happens. The moment you can grab the boot and set it gently down. But we’re creatures of history and lost in it. We’re looking up at the ceiling. Somewhere above is the floor onto which the boot is falling, but we can’t see through it. We can’t see the boot. It could be one of so many.

It could be whatever is coming over the border.  It could be our financial doom because of that and those printing presses which I understand are now as hot as the inside of some stars.  It could be an attack on us.  It could be a war in Europe.  It could be any two.  It could be any three.  It could be something else I’ve just not thought about, just like the days of waking up screaming in August gave me no hint that the horror would come in Benghazi, a place I hadn’t heard of. The horror and the total loss of faith in our current administration and their presstitutes.

And I’m tired, because being tired – and cleaning, and reading and writing, and packing and organizing – is better than sitting here, looking up and listening.

For the boot about to fall.

Rogue Magic, Free Novel, Chatper 54

Rogue Magic, the second Magical Empires book.

Rogue Magic, the second Magical Empires book.

The prequel to this — Witchfinder — is now up on Amazon.

This novel will get posted here a chapter every Friday or Saturday, or occasionally Sunday.  If you contribute $6 you shall be subscribed for the earc and first clean version in electronic format.  I think it will probably take another three months to finish.  Less, if I can have a weekend to run through and get ahead of the game.  It hasn’t happened yet.

NOTICE: For those unsure about copyright law and because there was a particularly weird case, just because I’m making the pre-first draft of my novel available to blog readers, it doesn’t mean that this isn’t copyrighted to me.  Rogue Magic as all the contents of this blog is © Sarah A. Hoyt 2013.  Do not copy, alter, distribute or resell without permission.  Exceptions made for ATTRIBUTED quotes as critique or linking to this blog. Credit for the cover image is © Ateliersommerland | Dreamstime.com

 

The Last Magic

Jonathan Blythe, Earl of Savage,

When I was very little, when mama and papa tired of me they used to send me to stay with dad’s father.

This fearsome personage, known variously as “his lordship” “the old lord” or Old Nick, all of which, to those under his rules, meant “the old devil,” was … well, he was a rogue.

At the time, my being very young, I didn’t fully understand people’s whisperings about no village maiden (and very few village lads) being safe with him. I thought perhaps he took them somewhere and killed them.

I was, of course wrong. For one, no one would accuse grandfather of being a danger to lads as such. Or lassies. When they said that they meant rather older people. For another, grandfather didn’t feed on blood sacrifice. Whether or not he might have fed on the other greatest impulse for life in the humankind, I refuse to say. For one, it was said he had elven blood.

Now, in the middle of fairyland, and standing next to a bewitching woman who came from yet another world, neither Earth nor fairy, I wondered if that was true. There was something… I won’t call it a scent, for it wasn’t physical, but something about Ginevra Mythborne that reminded me of grandpapa. In fact, I thought, that might be what first interested me in her, though not exactly what first attracted me, because there couldn’t be anything more different between Miss Ginevra’s shape and grandpapa’s.

But in another way, grandpapa, you see, had been one of the anchors of childhood. It’s not that I loved him. At least I don’t think I did. And I certainly didn’t feel safe near him. I very much doubt anyone felt safe near him. There was a reason for those nicknames and he positively exuded all kinds of danger one can exude.

And yet I understood him. I understood him in a way I didn’t understand mama or papa. I understood also that he’d never lie to me. Because he didn’t. He told me the shocking truth, bald as day, and he never thought one should water down things for children.

He’d told me things like “if someone gives you something for free don’t take it. Likely it will cost more than you can spare.” Or “Three things are likely to be lies: a pretty woman, a perfect horse, a crying orphan.”

But beyond that, he liked telling me frightful stories,and he’d taken me to the old stones, the ones the locals called King’s men, and had not told me the story of warriors transformed mid battle. Instead, he’d told me that there was a time men were bery weak and powerless, and besieged by magical creatures in their own world, they’d turend to the blood for protection. He’d told me that now it was illegal, and it might always have been immoral (grandfather was honest enough to never preach of morality) but how in the end blood magic was the most true of magics, and everything else a mere allusion and invoking of it.

And now, in the middle of fairyland it came to me. Something – something that used Ginevra as an agent, probably the mythworld – was gathering rogues from all over, and intended to use us, somehow, for power.

The hair stood at the back of my neck. In the end, the only way to get power from someone else was the blood. It was always the blood.

But then…

The thoughts came rushing upon me, like many fast horses converging on a central point. But then …. Ginevra, myself, the king of fairy and whoever else had fallen into this trap, including probably my misguided sister and yes, Wolf Merrit…. We were all people out of place in our circumstances, people fighting or accepting fate, but out of place in our destiny. And the mythworld was gathering us in.

Well, it bloody well wasn’t to give us a box of chocolates.

I wondered if my fair charmer knew. Looking at her, I said, steadily, “You realize, Miss Ginevra, when they tie us to the sacrificial stone, you’ll be right there along with us?”

She shook. Her lips opened. She started to say, “No! Not–”And then frowned at me, as her eyes widened. “How could you know?”

I should have felt fear or confusion, but her widened eyes, her parted lips, her whole look of confusion made me cackle and say, “Got you now my pretty.”

 

Apologies. Chapter will be late.

To those looking for the chapter of Rogue Magic, it’s like this — as many of you know we’re hoping to stage the house/put it up by next Spring (only because there’s no point putting it up during winter.)  We simply don’t need this much house.

Unfortunately the preliminaries of this involved cleaning the garage, one half of which has been packed tight with stuff the movers dumped there/and/or/we dumped there on final move from the last house because “we’ll go through it when we’ve rested.”  Well, then came the year of the six books while homeschooling and then health and life got interesting.

It’s not like I have the time now, and I really need to write, but we’d decided that we’d do two hours or so a day towards clearing the house so that in march all we have to do is rent somewhere, stage, and leave it undisturbed till it sells.

This morning I woke up with an infernal headache, the sort that brings aphasia and I couldn’t think IN words.  (I was grunting at the boys who got exasperated with grunted orders.)  So I thought “I’ll do two hours in the garage, then write the chapter.”

Well, it’s eight hours later.  EVERYTHING is finally unpacked/donated/tossed, and a few things kept only because we’ll have to paint and fix this place.

I think I’m going to burn the jeans I was wearing.  They’re dust encrusted and have weird stains.

One note to self — used paint rags are not precious and should NOT be kept for years on end.

The Mathematician has promised to make me cow.  So.  After dinner, I’ll write chapter.

Sorry.

The promo post! Good for What Hails You!

Happy Saturday, Huns & Hoydens! We’ve a good load of books again this week, including an entry from the elder scion of the House of Hoyt! Go, read, review, enjoy; that is all. Well, except to note that future entries can (and should!) be sent to my email. Happy reading!

Jason Dyck, AKA The Free Range Oyster

Horde Herder, Mercenary Wordsmith, and Keeper of Useless Secrets

Robert A. Hoyt

Cat’s Paw

King of Cats Book 1

Many humans know there is a mountain at the end of the universe to which a bird flies every thousand years to sharpen its beak, until the end of the mountain comes, and thus the end of eternity. What few of them know is that of the mountain only a few small grains of sand remain. And the bird that is to end eternity is alive and ready to fly. At half past noon at the end of the universe, the last great hopes of everything that exists, ever existed or has yet to exist, rests with a stray cat with alcohol issues, a Siamese cat with gender issues, and a Persian cat with pregnancy issues. Things are just about to get fun.

Alma Boykin

Cities and Throngs and Powers

Honor or freedom or yes?

The Salazar family lost everything in the Collapse of 2015 except their pride. Two years later, Mr. Salazar pays a debt with his youngest daughter, Alicia. She must work at Illif House, the mysterious mansion on the plains near the Flatirons. Alicia discovers more than she could have guessed, including a chance at independence. When blood ties threaten to drag her back into the world she’d hoped to leave forever, Alicia must choose between her family’s honor and her heart’s desire.

Laura Montgomery

The Sky Suspended

A generation has passed since asteroid scares led the United States to launch its first and only interstellar starship. The ship returns and announces the discovery of another Earth. People are star-struck, crowds form in Washington, DC, and a boy from Alaska and two lawyers grapple with questions surrounding whether ordinary people will emigrate to the stars. Calvin Tondini is one of those lawyers, and he works his way to the heart of that question.

This is human wave science fiction.

Michael Kingswood

Glimmer Vale

Glimmer Vale Chronicles Book 1

Free this weekend!

Lydelton, a small fishing town in a remote valley called Glimmer Vale, is the perfect place for two fighting men on the run to stop and decide on a plan. But when Julian and Raedrick arrive they find the town besieged by a ruthless band of brigands. Worse, the brigands have taken up station in the mountain passes, blocking the two friends’ escape. With no way around the brigands and no option of returning the way they came, Julian and Raedrick accept an offer of employment. Their mission: defeat the brigands and restore peace to Glimmer Vale.

They are outnumbered at least twenty to one, long odds even if they recruit help. But that help may not be enough when the specter of their past rears its head, forcing Julian and Raedrick to openly face what they are fleeing or risk losing not just their freedom but the lives and fortunes of Lydelton’s inhabitants.

Glimmer Vale is a short, fun fantasy adventure novel, the first installment in the Glimmer Vale Chronicles.

Also available from these fine booksellers:

Tollard’s Peak

Glimmer Vale Chronicles Book 3

Winter in Glimmer Vale – a time to remain close to shelter or, preferably, indoors. Most definitely not a time to brave the mountain peaks surrounding the valley. Raedrick and Julian certainly have no intention of doing so until a man from their past, nearly dead from exposure, appears at the outskirts of Lydelton. Once recovered, he tells them of his friend who lies injured on the flank of Tollard’s Peak, the tallest mountain in the region. Unable to ignore the stranded fellow’s need, the two Constables form a party to rescue him.

But there is more to the story than it first appeared, and very soon Raedrick and Julian find themselves struggling against far more than the elements as they brave the perilous peak. It will take all of their strength and resolve to survive their quest and get to the bottom of the mystery that drew these men into the bleak cold of the mountainside. And they are not the only ones who are searching.

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C.J. Carella

Bad Vibes

Occult consultant Dante Godoy arrives to the small town of Redemption, Nevada, just in time to help Sheriff Matilda Knobb deal with two impossible murders. Together they will confront unspeakable evils in the night.

“Bad Vibes” is a 7,900-word short story introducing a horror setting that will be explored in future novels by C.J. Carella

Steven G. Johnson

Keep of Glass

Girls can’t be knights. Not in the real world. But lately, with all the strange things happening, the real world’s gotten a lot less predictable. So why can’t Galehodin fight for the King like her brother? Well, besides the strangers trying to kill her, there’s always the angry immortal who wants her soul… literally.

Michael A. Hooten

The Curses of Arianrhod

A Bard Without a Star Book 4

There is no magic strong enough to break a mother’s curse.

On the day Gwydion ap Don discovered he had a son, the boy’s mother Arianrhod cursed him to never have a name unless she gave him one herself. Now he wanders Bangreen, exiled from his home, and trying everything he can think of to break the curse.

Left with no other option, he takes the boy to Caer Sidi, where Arianrhod lives in her own exile. But even when confronted, she refuses to name the boy, or even acknowledge him. She wants to punish Gwydion for the rest of his life, despite the fact that he still loves her.

Gwydion almost loses hope, but a tiny sparrow leads him to the wise Ousel of Penwyth, who tells him not to break the curse, but fulfill it. So Gwydion and his son return to Caer Sidi, disguised as shoemakers, to trick Arianrhod into giving the boy a name. She calls him “the fair one with the sure hand”—Llews Llaw Gyffes—and the curse ends. But in her fury at being tricked she curses him again, this time that he will never bear arms until she gives them to him herself. Gwydion swears that he will trick her again, but can he come up with a plan that both fulfills the new curse and keeps his son safe from his mother’s wrath at the same time?

Bullies Knights Savages and Komissars

Yesterday’s topic which was supposed to be about men fighting (why men fight – eh) got sidetracked into schoolyards, bullies, fights, blatant abuse, wife beating as related to fist fights and the advisability of authorities intervening in all this. Which was bad. Very bad. Because it got me thinking. And that’s bad. Very bad.

It’s very bad because I never come to the expected conclusion which I suppose is that I was wrong, violence is bad, etc., etc.

I wasn’t wrong, violence isn’t – by itself – bad but – more importantly – you can’t eradicate it from a human society, and we’re going about the problem of keeping the savage part of man controlled upside down and sideways, when we KNOW the solution. What we’re doing deliberately ignores hundreds of years of experience and we’re going to pay for this. We’re going to pay for this in awful ways. In fact, we’re going to pay for this in a lot of violence that will be targeted mostly at the defenseless.

We’ll start with me as a mother. No adult fully understands the world of children, the sudden violence and the vile ways they go after each other. In a way this is because we have a softened recollection of our own childhood. Part – son would say – is because our brains aren’t fully developed as children, and as things change, things get stored elsewhere and lost. Think of it as moving and shoving some stuff into the garage which you only open 13 years later and go “oh, wow, I didn’t remember that.” Only in this case you don’t open it ever again. (Son, who can be incredibly literal wants to point out I have the process wrong.  It’s more like living in the garage and then moving out, because memory doesn’t get moved out and into another place.  You just grow out of it, and stop using it. — He insists it’s vitally important I correct this.  So, now you’re enlightened.  Right?)

So we’ll start with my being in my early thirties and taking older son to kindergarten, and waiting outside the row of kids, then watching the teacher come to gather them in.

These were good kids, in a little mountain town. Since the mountain town is a dormitory for the larger city, most people there were white collar workers, a few artist and other creatives. There was exactly one blue collar worker, a dad who was a carpenter. (He was my buddy while standing outside with the kids, waiting for the teacher.)

And yet an observant adult could see the tides of violence beneath the surface. My kid was often a target because we’d taught him NEVER to hit anyone, because he was so outsized. (We later had to modify that. More on that later.)

When the teacher came to get the kids, not only was I relieved that I didn’t have to arbitrate those disputes, as I was totally baffled as to why an adult, any adult would want to spend their time with the kids.

They were, to put things mildly, little savages, without a glimmer of mercy, order, compassion or justice, or any of the higher values. They lied, hit, bullied and formed gangs to prey on the weak as easily as they breathed.

Here’s the thing: I don’t think the teacher was aware of all the currents (I know I wasn’t.) And I don’t think she was often able to do justice. I think most often, like a policeman, she made peace – by the method of getting them to shut up and go away – but not justice. And I know, from being in charge of kids, that it’s very easy to give in to the sweet and angelic looking one who brings you tales of the awful stuff those rough boys are doing. More on that later too.

I know many of you had experiences of awful PHYSICAL bullying in school. Note I said “physical” and note I said “many of you.” No, I was never physically bullied. I was attacked and there was what I THINK was an attempted rape, but that was middle school and I dealt with it.

I wasn’t attacked, not because I’m some sort of uber mensch but due to accident of genetics. At 5’7” by 12 and weighing in at just over 100 lbs, I was a moose. Even fighting with boys wasn’t a problem until I was about 14 and they got the testosterone boost. By 12 I was taller than most of my teachers, including males.

Given that and – yeah, I know myself – a tendency to crack heads first and ask questions later, in fact, given a preference for the fast, clean solution of a blow to the offender’s noggin I must have been a bully right?

Throughout most of my childhood, I was the center of a group of small and mousy friends. When I was fourteen the bete noir of my childhood, the man who liked arguing politics with me to prove his superiority, and who was at that point losing interest in me because I was too old for him, (and yes, that means exactly what you think it means) and who had always thought of me as a more sexual being than I thought of myself, accused me of picking as friends the skinny, the fat, the ugly, and those who would make me look good.

This startled me, because a) I didn’t think of myself as any different from my friends (and more on that later too.) and b) I was inside my head a boy. Physical beauty didn’t come into it. I knew by then I liked boys, but I had this hazy idea the boy I wanted would overlook the externals. (A surprising number of guys I dated did, considering most of them are now happy with guys. Eh.)

Throughout elementary school and into early high school, my friends were my friends because I stopped people hitting them.

Look, I knew myself – still do – and I knew I liked violence and hitting. (Physical. I’m not a verbal happy warrior.) That has receded somewhat as I got older, though sometimes I wonder if it’s just I learned to control it and sublimate it into stories.

My dad, bless him, knew that too. Probably because he recognized similar savage tendencies in himself. So he taught me a code. It wasn’t a new code.

The people I could hit were those doing harm to others. Tattle tales, particularly those either bearing false witness or distorting things were free to hit too. I was never though, under penalty of being pushed off the human race for shoving in line, to hit anyone smaller, weaker, or more defenseless than myself. Ever.

So by default I became a champion of the weak and the bullied. Until high school. When I found that my strength and size didn’t save me from one kind of bullying. What was more it was a kind of bullying I’d saved my friends from in the past, but it could still get to me.

Those of you who are women know exactly what I’m talking about. That kind of bullying was the whisper campaign, the snide remark, the glance that said “who, her?”

Look, I entered high school in seventh grade, but here I’m talking about high school as in the US – 9th to 12th grade. I entered it functionally a boy. Not physically. I had breasts from the age of eleven, which proves G-d has a sense of humor because what in heck did a tomboy want those for? But in my head I was a boy. Externally to an extent, too. I lived in my brother’s discarded sweaters and cut down shorts and pants. I had leather elbow patches. My mom had to sew holes caused by my fighting.

I left it in 12th grade, after a stint in the US, where my host mother finally got me to see the benefits of lipstick and hairdos, as a proper young lady. Okay, a weird young lady. Like my older son I dressed entire in thirties style, complete with fishnet or lace stockings, (Robert, fortunately skips those and goes with the male version, including Fedora and trenchcoat.) but hey. By that time I’d also learned to ignore idiots saying stupid things about me. But it had been a hard climb.

Which means in 9th grade I was totally unprepared for the “feminine way of fighting and enforcing group cohesion.” I was unprepared for the whisper campaign, the put downs, the giggles when I did something the group had arbitrarily decided was wrong.

Most of you were physically bullied. Let me tell you something: if that’s all you were, you’re lucky.

I won’t tell it, because it’s not my story, but one of the people who regularly guests here had her life nearly ruined by concerted, sickly sweet, concern trolling BULLYING. I’ll let her tell it if she wants to.

One of my regrets is not having gone to her school, because I’d have descended like vengeance from above and shoved the bullies’ heads in till they stopped it. Which they did.

I couldn’t do it when it was directed at me, but I came to the states as an exchange student and left them behind, and that’s a long story we don’t need to go into.

What we need to go into is violence and the way humans hurt each other, both in school and in the larger society.

It’s relatively easy for the “authorities from above” be they playground guards and the civil authorities alike, to “suppress violence.” Unfortunately that leaves the bullying of a different kind in place. It also takes off the table the solution that was used throughout the centuries to keep the violent nature of mankind under control.

Humans are violent and nasty. Every human. Given a chance the little mouse of a girl will kick the bully, or at least fantasize about it. I think most of those feminists fantasizing about hurting men that Cedar quoted a while back, were in fact bullied/hurt little girls who know they can’t fight physically. But they can fantasize.

Faced with a classroom full of violent kids, or a world full of violent adults (none of us are angels) it’s very easy to say “I’ll just stop all fighting. I’ll beat anyone who fights.)

Here’s a problem – you too are a fallible human and filled with violent impulses. (And before one of you asks – did I as a kid dispense the wrong justice? Probably not often. It was a small school and I was aware of the personalities and proclivities. Sometimes, though? Probably.) You’re going to listen to the side that seems right to you. The angelic looking and cleaner side does it for most adults. And half the time it will be the wrong side. Plus, you can’t be everywhere. One of the worst beatings I EVER got as a child, was when I cut between two houses on my way to buy mom some butter at the dairy. I was trying to save a few blocks of walking. I was jumped on by a group of the guys I’d often beat at the school (because they were repeat-violent-bullies and at this point all have criminal records.) You can’t fight a group. While patching me up mom asked “Why did you go out of the main street, where people would have intervened on a fight of many boys against one girl?”

And that’s the second part. You can’t watch everyone and everywhere. You can do two things:

You can teach kids to watch themselves, which makes them adults who watch themselves. You can’t tell them “never, ever, ever, ever fight/have a violent thought.” They’re still humans. But you can tell them the acceptable… ah… boundaries to their savagery. “Fight on the side of good. Protect those weaker and more innocent than yourself.”

And you can communicate that to the greater community. You can teach people what’s “fair fight” and what’s not. If they learned it as kids, they will enforce it when blatantly violated as adults.

In the same situation “never fight, ever, ever, ever, ever” is just going to disarm those who would otherwise jump to the rescue. (And the victim, should she ever wish to fight back.) The untamed savage? They don’t care. They’ll continue committing acts of lawlessness.

Faced with a similar problem, rulers of the middle ages, who needed their vassals in good shape to fight off invasions and aggressors in the time of chaos after Rome, invented chivalry, which is basically “you fight to defend the weak and poor and helpless.”

Did it work? Eh. In default, often, like my happy go lucky violence in elementary school.

Were these men still horribly violent to underlings and women? Surely – it was the time it was – but often FAR less violent than they would otherwise have been.

It could be argued not only isn’t there a link between wife-beating and inter-male personal violence but that there is a reverse link. I’m not sure about this. Don’t know if a study has ever been done – or a non-doctored study – and I know anecdote isn’t data. BUT I know that in the village the worst wife-beaters were the lame, the halting, the ones under suspicion of being less than manly, the ones in fact who couldn’t hold up their own as men among men. Take it for the price I’m selling it, which isn’t very much, just “this is what I’ve seen.”

In this as in everything else, it’s impossible for the authorities to be everywhere at once. It always was. It always will be.

It’s better to teach each person to channel his or her violence.

But why not teach them to suppress it then?

Because you can’t. What you’re asking is “why not make men angels, then?”

Look, we’ve cut down on personal assaults dramatically, but we’ve done it at the expense of the wave of non-physical assaults.

I think middle school was always h*ll on Earth, but I didn’t know how bad it could be until eighteen girls bullied my son by using the school authorities as weapons.

If the rule is “don’t fight” and “if I feel uncomfortable, I’ll go to the authorities” clever bullies are always capable of running to the authorities with stories, real, invented or exaggerated. In the case of my son they were wholly invented, and to boot these girls were perpetrating violence on him out of sight of the authorities. (Which I only know because I accidentally observed it.) BUT the authorities believed it was possible to completely suppress violence, and that the physical side of it was the only violence, and that a big, strong male must be at fault, always.

We’ve seen what the “don’t fight” and “use the authorities as whips instead” has done in our society at all levels. The male is always guilty and always suspect, but women can make up things out of whole cloth and no one questions it, because “they’re not violent.”

This puts power in the hands of women and men of a certain stripe: the weasels, the tale bearers, the plausible liars, the yellow streaks of sh*t, who would never face another man (or woman) in the full light of day, but who will lie and connive their way to the top.

This way, anti-bullying initiatives become bullying. Someone was discussing on FB how the Goodreads “anti-bullying” groups come down like a ton of bricks on any author trying to defend his book, or anyone else trying to protect himself from group evisceration.

Same as it’s ever been. Take away physical weapons, and people will use the authorities as physical weapons. (And psychological ones too, which is worse.)

Now, the weasels we shall always have with us (I think that’s in the Bible, somewhere.) And the wicked flourish like the green bay tree.

But when you take from society the manly weapons of open and clean, minor and non-lethal violence, what you’re left with are the female weapons: the denunciation, the stab in the back, the laughter, the snark, the reputation-destroying rumor. And the advantage is not just to women (the wrong kind of women) but also to entirely the wrong kind of man. Some men are very good at it indeed.

And what results is what we’re seeing in certain professional organizations: bullying of the ones perceived as weak. Hounding of those who don’t think with the group. Abuse of elders. In fact, the full panoply of the crab bucket.

This is because people have been taught violence that’s not physical is okay, and because they’re human and violence, group fighting and group protecting has to go somewhere.

And the advocates of non-violence can wipe their hands to the wall. I hope to heaven I’m wrong, but I predict that in less than a decade, those will be very bloody fingerprints.

UPDATE: Welcome Instapundit readers and thank you to Glenn Reynolds for the link.

 

 

And Then I Popped Him One

 

I grew up reading Rex Stout books (And all sorts of mysteries, ranging from cozies to the hard stuff. Because my dad read them.)

It wasn’t till older kid started reading them recently, and I started reading him through his eyes (After he told me, “Society sure has changed!”) that I went and looked at them through … well… new eyes.

Yes, a lot of the changes were for the better. What he was talking to me about was how some things seemed so expensive/upscale in those books, but to us are the merest common place. (I don’t even remember what.) But then I went in with fresh eyes and noticed tons of things. Guys and girls would flirt in public and often on first meeting. Yes, yes, the SJW’s would tell us we’re all so much better now, but our interactions, I’d guess would seem rather bloodless to them.

But the thing I noticed the most was interpersonal violence between males. I’d noticed the same when reading For Us The Living.

Popping a guy one for saying something funny about your girl was perfectly normal. In fact, men could punch each other out and then arrive at an uneasy truth, and sometimes even progress to friends.

If those books are an accurate representation – and I have no reason to believe they aren’t – two guys engaging in fisticuffs was a perfectly normal scene.

Ah, but we’re so much better now, aren’t we? We’re so civilized. If some guy punched another guy for being rude to his girl, why, he could be taken in for assault. And if the girl is a ninny she’d leave the guy too, for icky, horrid violence, or something.

This is better, right?

You know – I’m not sure.

I mean generally the trend in society has been towards less interpersonal violence. If one is to believe memoirs and first hand accounts, getting a duel in the middle of an Elizabethan street was not all that odd. And though other things went into it (like the fact that they could no longer do inter-domain war) duels were such a popular er… pastime that the king had to make edicts against them in the France of the Musketeers.

This might be a symptom of us taming ourselves, as time goes on. We pick for people more likely to do well in a tightly packed society, perhaps.

But at the same time, it seems very long to have come in less than 100 years, from fisticuffs in the street to people being unwilling to speak out against someone else who is doing something heinous.

And we know part of this is not natural. Part of this is the enforcement of the laws on assault, the tightening of the mesh of anti-male behavior, the de-legitimization of the code of chivalry that had obtained in Western Civilization since the troubadors.

Man is no longer allowed to fight for his honor or his maiden fair, even with words or fists. Instead…

Instead we have lawyers. And girls are insulted if someone defends them. And it all rests on the law and government, and little nuisances get magnified to major issues.

Note that this change has greatly taken power out of the lower classes – as in those who can’t afford lawyers – rendering them in effect powerless and emasculated by the “upper classes.”

I suspect, though I have no proof, it has also increased the level of thug behavior to shooting, because, well, just punching someone’s lights out isn’t acceptable.

This has rendered some movies and behaviors completely opaque to today’s teens.

And since the school is teaching them things like not fighting back because all violence is bad even (particularly?) self defense, and to run screaming to the principal instead… the feeling I have is that we’re creating a nation of snitches.

My parents had a simple rule. Yes, you were absolutely allowed to come and tell them if someone was doing something wrong. But then you were a snitch, and you got the same punishment the other kid got. So you’d better be very sure that you couldn’t deal with it yourself and that it was important enough to tell.

To this day I’m thoroughly unrepentant for giving the beating of her life to the girl who threatened to tell my friend’s parents that my friend had failed her dictation again. (My friend was severely dyslexic.) Because in my eyes there was nothing – nothing – more repugnant than the sticky-sweet girls who would simper to the adults that so and so was doing bad things, and could the adults stop it, now?

I can’t help but feel that’s what this change in the standards of interpersonal violence (particularly between males) has done. It took the power out of the individual hands (and fists) and put it in the hands of authorities, to whom you have to debase yourself by snitching. And then you have to wait till they make it all right.

It’s not, you know, that people are less prone to fighting and disagreement. It’s not that people hold fewer grudges. You see them on internet forums pouring out the crazed venom of people who tell themselves they’re too civilized to hit a fellow human.

It’s just that the power of solving disputes quickly (and often physically) has been taken out of the hands of individuals and delegated to the state and, for the very rich, to lawsuits for personal injury.

Reading Rex Stout reminded me how much simpler and more egalitarian it would often be to just pop someone one – right in the nose.

When the king of France forbid his noblemen from dueling it was to concentrate power in his hands. If they could not deal with their own problems, they’d have to come to him.

It seems we’re all French noblemen now.

 

Failing Upwards

I have bad news. You can work hard, be smart, do exactly what you want to do and still not achieve your goals.

Seriously, now, is it some kind of peculiar madness of our times, that we believe if we do everything we’re supposed to, and if we’re good at whatever we do, reward will follow? Or is this part of how humans are put together?

Is the same thing that allowed us to survive – the ability to intuit patterns of behavior and distinguish the ones most/least likely to lead to long life – as a species the thing that makes people believe “but I did x so y is supposed to happen?”

What brought this about was my husband talking about a writer (and the details are fuzzy, because he talks about these things while I’m cooking, so when a pot suddenly boils over I lose a great portion of the story) who was/is quitting writing because after ten years of trying, she’s still not a bestseller.

(Let’s ignore for a moment that for an indie to set out to be a bestseller is an unrealistic goal, since “bestseller” is a very specific thing that necessitates being stocked in the right bookstores and selling at the right velocity. You can sell very well and make a lot of money without ever being one of the recognized bestseller lists.)

Ten years. And she’s quitting because she’s not at the top of her profession. My first reaction was to grimace and say “Oh, well, ten years in I think I’d sold a short story, and they never paid me for it.”

If it were just one person, though, or even just my profession, it wouldn’t warrang writing about it. Yeah, sure, my profession attracts more people with this belief, perhaps because of how many stories about underdog makes good have become part of people’s subconscious. (This doesn’t mean we should stop writing them.)

I’ve run into any number of newbies coming to me – to me – and asking what they’re doing wrong because they have four short stories out and no award or they have two novels out and are not bestsellers. It’s mind boggling since, presumably, when they ask me for advice, they respect me, but they seem to think that awards and “bestseller” status are a measure of success. I am usually flabbergasted, but let it go. After all, as the movie sliding doors puts it “you’ll finish your novel and we’ll be rich.” Eh.

But it’s not just writers. It’s the people with degrees in puppetry and working as baristas, who sob into microphones that they “did everything right” and yet they can’t find a job in which to use their advanced degree.

In some of these cases, you have to have a heart of stone not to laugh like an hyena. I mean, puppetry? How many good paying jobs do you think are out there for that? Or, of course “Sure your mom and your cat love it, but did you really think yet another twilight clone would take you to the big time?”

But it seems to be one of those pesky human things. The idea that if you do everything right, the reward will follow inexorably. And unfortunately its converse idea, the idea that if you aren’t wildly successful at whatever, you must be doing something wrong.

Take infertility, for instance. I had no reason to think it would hit me. I got married at 22 and we started trying almost right away. When we didn’t get pregnant in a year, I went and got the books and followed the advice. We did everything right. And yet month after month our hopes were dashed.

Turned out of course my issue was more complex, probably caused by a childhood treatment for eczema, and, well, needed more than (pardon me the graphics) remaining on your back with a pillow beneath your butt after sex for an hour.

Did it stop the suspicion that somehow we were doing something wrong? Well, for us it did. Not for other people. From people who tried to slip my husband noodie magazines (yeah, because that was the problem with 20 something year olds) to my parents who, G-d help me, realized belatedly we’d never had the talk and thought I must have got it all wrong (How does one get it wrong? I DON’T know) and who tried therefore to explain to me how babies were made. At 26. Four years married. Head>desk. (Mom, dad, I’m Odd, but not that ODD.)

And then there is a vast portion of the SJWs GHHs and OWSs. They think that because things aren’t going according to plan something must have gone wrong. Of course being themselves they think OTHER PEOPLE have done the dirt to them, and that’s why things aren’t going according to plan, because they did “everything right.” And it baffles them they’re not at the top yet, so it must be someone’s fault and “the man” is holding them down.

This is normally the reaction of people who are both “good children” – i.e. conformists – and who have been spoiled and told how great they are their whole lives.

For the rest of us, the person who is failing is more likely to feel guilty. “I’m failing. What am I doing wrong?”

Now, this is a good thing. If you are failing, and you want to succeed, you should study what you’re doing wrong and try to improve. And you should seek help. (Yep, something people on this blog, starting with the writer get told rather often, right.)

But it’s not the only thing. And it also depends on what you call “success.”

Say in publishing, in the age of indie: there is no reason you shouldn’t be able to make a living from this, given enough time and a modicum of ability. (The time is my big issue. Ya’ll have noticed more guest posts? Yeah. My goal is to only write three posts a week. Hopefully (I’ve been promised) the family will step up on these. Being Hoyts and all. BUT for at least two years I need to cut back on the DAILY posting, because it does eat my other writing. I will probably do aggregator or funny stuff, too, if no guest post forthcoming. Maybe I’ll hit the gif box again.)

If you’re writing at least a short novel every three to six months and putting it up, you’ll be able to make a living from this sooner or later. (The mean seems to be two to three years.) BUT that is not the same as being a bestseller, or being acclaimed, or getting awards. Not the same thing at all.

And if you do “everything right” and go to college with a STEM degree, you’ll probably be able to support yourself. Note the probably. It depends on where you are and what you’re willing to do, because even a STEM degree is no guarantee that you’ll find something in your precise area. Are you willing to move? Learn a specialized trade? You’ll probably be able to support yourself. (The same is true, btw, if you don’t go to college and just learn a skill in demand. If I had my time again, I’d have married Dan at eighteen – okay, this also necessitates my not being clueless, but… — and taken a community college course in furniture making, instead of my fancy degree.)

Looking around our exceedingly well educated acquaintance, I don’t know a single person who works at what they studied in college. (Except maybe as a second or third degree – Hi Kate and Charlie!)

What I mean is, yeah, sure there are things you can do to increase your chances of success. Among them are trying to identify an in-demand skill, (or pursuing the thing that won’t leave you alone) learn the craft as best you can, and try and try and try again.

Does this guarantee you will succeed? Ah!

At some point I found myself in the bar of a hotel with a bunch of seasoned pros (in my field this means you’ve had a lot of vinegar poured on you.)

I thought at the time – the Shakespeare series having tanked among other reasons because of 9/11 a month before release – that I had the saddest story of all. Ah! Not even close.

Oh, sure a lot of the stories were publisher malfeasance, but find any pro who is not a bestseller 20 years in, and you’ll hear amusing/sad stories about how weird things hit each of their books/series. And you know, now that I’m one, I could tell you my own. I don’t think I’ve ever heard of a plague of locusts, but I did hear of warehouses flooded by Sandy (Our first set of contributor copies for AFGM had suspicious stains and smelled funny.)

Look – in stories the plucky character often makes good. (Unless you’re reading gray goo and why would you do that?) But that’s because stories are designed to guide you in the path of the highest likelihood of success. They’re a guide, not a promise.

Stories are an ordered system. The world is a chaotic system.

You can do everything right, correct your course, and yet never succeed at your ultimate goal, particularly if it’s influenced by factors as wholly out of your control as “being a bestseller.” (Guys, the NYT doesn’t even share that formula.) Or “having eleven kids.” You can do everything right and still fail epically.

So, what does that mean? That we should read and write gray goo and consign ourselves to hopelessness?

Uh… no. Look, the stories are a guide and are supposed to show what is possible if you cultivate certain virtues. And if you do cultivate those virtues (mostly preparation, hard work, persistence) EVENTUALLY you’ll have SOME success. In writing you might very well make a decent middle class income, eventually. Will you be a bestseller? Who knows? That’s out of your hands, and you shouldn’t feel guilty if you aren’t. You should aim for it, and do the best you can, and then be happy with each step towards it, even if you never reach it.

Because in life, yeah, it’s the journey – it’s all we have. The destination is rather final for all of us.

“I did everything right. Why can’t I make it?” Maybe you haven’t tried hard enough. Try again tomorrow. Or do find something else to do, but make sure you’re not quitting everything as soon as it gets a little tough. No one has ever succeeded without setbacks.

Everything worth doing is worth failing at a few times before you finally get it right.

You’re not perfect, neither is the world. In the intersection of the two, there’s some terrible stuff that happens, but also surprises of unexpected beauty. (If I hadn’t been stupid enough to write a bunch of short stories attempting to break in, I’d never have learned to start a story fast.)

Roll with it. Cherish the success, but don’t believe you must have supreme success or be an utter failure. There’s gradations in between.

It’s where most of us live.

And when you fail, learn something from it, so next time you can fail higher up.  If you keep failing upward you might, to your surprise, find yourself a success.

In Times of Peace -Bill Reader

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In Times of Peace

Bill Reader

 

I feel, as yet, that some do not understand a basic aspect of modern politics. I get this sense every time I read a comments section. Let me try, to the best of my ability, to elucidate the order beneath what may seem like an increasingly chaotic system.

There is a concept called “battlespace preparation”. Many have heard of it, but I’m not sure it is generally understood why it works. In its broadest sense it refers to the practice of choosing the time, place, and… most importantly… the circumstances of a conflict. This is the real meaning of the expression “in times of peace, prepare for war”. Though the expression is often mistaken as a simple restatement of “expect the unexpected”, that misses the point entirely. Control of the circumstances of a battle is the key to winning, and the proverb reminds us that our ability to control such things is much greater if we do it well in advance… in times of peace… than when they are immediate needs… in times of war.

Commonly in politics, we see it applied when someone (99.99% of the time a Democrat, which is not to our strategic advantage) accuses an opponent of a crime preemptively in order to excuse their own malfeasance later. The crime is often a generalized one that’s difficult to disprove, such as being an -ist. Obama bought practical immunity from questions about his otherwise extremely questionable past in two elections, simply by accusing opponents of being racist. Such general accusations of prejudice are very useful. Any sufficiently well-known public figure will be opposed for reasons both philosophical and prejudicial. The accusation gives followers sanction not to even attempt to differentiate the groups, however prominent the prior and insubstantial the latter. The accusation becomes a kind of magic word, spoken to protect the user from the conflict of ideas.

Sometimes, should the threat be more grave, the accusation will be more specifically tailored to the threat. Republicans are accused of wanting the economy to fail before economic numbers are released, in order to cast aspersions on conservatives who then criticize the administration’s approach to the economy. Romney is accused of being stuck in the cold war, so that when Obama handles relations with Russia like an utter imbecile, pointing it out can be called a continuation of the same attacks. The Obama administration is even now simultaneously crying about Obama’s potential impeachment and toying with the treasonous act of executive amnesty, which would more than justify such impeachment. This last item we will return to in a moment. It’s important.

This trick works because politics is, at its heart, applied psychology. Battlespace preparation plays on a prominent weakness of the human animal, responsible for many problems: heuristic reasoning. Generally, when you accuse an opponent of an extraphilosophical reason to oppose you, you frame any argument they make, regardless of how well-reasoned, as an extension of that underlying motive. And people will do it willingly, because following the heuristic is easier than working through the philosophical background. Heuristics, in essence, evolved to save energy, and the same tendency of people to do what comes most easily is a very exploitable political tool. Because deceit is the bread and water of politicians and because an opponent must de facto have a reason to disagree with you, it is functionally impossible for the opponent to shift the heuristic once it has been established. The only sure way a heuristic is destroyed is if the person using it comes to direct harm by doing so… as might happen to an Obama voter who became unemployed and had to let the electricity go unpaid because its price “necessarily skyrocketed”.

This explains much of the insanity of politics. If you pay attention to most political battles, the actual issues are practically irrelevant. What matters is who can establish what heuristics in the minds of voters. Because Democrats have a stranglehold on most media, most issues where people feel few immediate, direct, adverse consequences for assuming Democrats are right go to Democrats. These include budgetary decisions and complaints of a war on women. This is also why social benefits are a singularly intractable issue. It is much easier, and nicer, to suppose that Republicans are evil, than to work through the ugly and unpleasant mathematics that show money is not free. Immigration is a much tougher nut for Democrats to crack, on the other hand, because many Americans have had to live with the effects of a leaky border for years while the federal government merely sneered at their problems… if it doesn’t actively intervene to make them worse, as it did in Arizona. Fracking and domestic energy development is likewise flowing in the direction of Republicans because no one is particularly interested in paying more money for gas and electricity except diehard disciples of Gaia. That’s also why the Obama administration is careful to phrase things such that an unfairly despised minority, “millionaires and billionaires”, is stuck with the unspinnably unpleasant things they do. Forget policy or philosophical arguments. The country would have tossed Obama in a landslide, cheating or no cheating, if he’d come out saying he would tax everyone through the nose. But as long as unpleasant things happen to a scapegoat who “probably deserves it”, rather than to the voter themselves, the heuristic stands.

Precisely because they are so useful, such appeals are a natural outgrowth of a political system that is working. To the extent they are intrinsically unpleasant it is only because the human animal is a little unpleasant. Our remarkable feature as a species is the part of us that works hard to tame the animal, and it rightly rebels at such thoughts. Nevertheless, because politics is essentially a perpetual drumbeat wherein factions constantly wrestle to establish heuristics about the other side, and discussions of the actual correctness of policies have little effect on the outcome, it begins to take on a certain understandable sameness. We are often conscious that politics has some underlying theme even if we cannot place our finger on it precisely. This jadedness presents a certain danger, however.

The health of a society is not determined by whether politics proceeds by the psychological rules dictated above. That is simply a sign of political contention happening. But danger can be sensed in what a society is arguing about. The reason why should be familiar to us. Old married couples may argue vehemently for hours about the correct amount of time to boil an egg, and only the terribly innocent would fear for the integrity of their marriage. Another, probably younger couple may have an argument about whether to abort their first child which, superficially, may be more restrained. It may, at the very least, lack the inventive flair the older couple has developed after fifty years of back-and-forth. Yet the argument of the younger couple is just the kind of argument that can destroy a marriage.

But the arguments we are having now are only about what is happening today. In battlespace preparation you can see, essentially, announcements of what people expect to happen tomorrow. Awareness of these two aspects of politics can give a better general feel for society than discussion of the nitty-gritty issues does. Now, I freely admit that I can say nothing definite about the state of American society. Our exact conditions are unprecedented by the history of which I’m aware. Our system of government, the attitudes of our populace, the state of our nation, our status in the world, have all been approximated, but the factors that don’t fit are always arguably too significant to be ignored. Indeed, our arguments even for the status of these basic facts are contentious. But I can tell you that, by my lights, I am troubled by what we are arguing about as a nation.

In foreign policy, we are arguing with the Obama administration about whether the US has a right to defend its interests. We are, in fact, arguing about whether there is a significant difference between an ally stretching back decades or centuries, such as Poland, Israel, or England, and an enemy stretching back almost as far, such as China or Russia. We are arguing about whether nations should have meaningful and enforceable borders… essentially, in both cases, whether the US has a right to exist. That these are the battle-lines across which people strive to win support worries me almost more than the actual state of the battles. I can guess the outcomes of most battles. What I cannot guess, because we are in uncharted territory, is how long a society can survive when it is discussing whether to permit itself to function and exist.
And in the midst of all this, the Democrats are already accusing us of plotting impeachment, and even revolution. These things worry me greatly. Things that are now whispers in the background are clear and present dangers to the Democrats. If the mechanics of battlespace preparation are anything to go by, they are supplying the other piece of the puzzle themselves. They see in their plans a serious enough potential for these dangers that they feel the need to begin fighting them now, while they have a chance to establish in the minds of constituents heuristics favorable to themselves. But if indeed they fear these things, it should give us pause that they are the two most extreme and final recourses of a society endangered by its own leaders. That said leaders would want to nip opposition in the bud and solidify their own power is unavoidable, but what kind of power are they contemplating taking, what danger do they mean to place society in tomorrow, that they think these are worthwhile dangers to prepare against today? That I cannot tell you, and until they either have been removed from a position where they are able to act on their base instincts, or unfortunately, until they have acted on them and clarified exactly what reaction is justified, I doubt I will be satisfied on the point.

If there is a silver lining in all this, the very fact the Democrats are attempting to prepare this battlespace shows they, themselves, use heuristics without understanding their weaknesses. In the old saw about boiling a frog it is not the metaphor but its endpoint that is mistaken. While people will tolerate an amazing amount without responding, they will not tolerate an infinite amount. I cannot tell you how severe the abuses of power will get, nor how long it will take until people have had enough. I can tell you that someday they will have had enough… but the factors dictating when are the unknown and largely unknowable things mentioned above. We could begin to wake from our national nightmare and get back on the road to arguing about trivialities as soon as November. Or, depending on which issues are foremost in people’s minds and how fair our electoral process still is, we could be just beginning a very long road of suffering and death that will undoubtedly leave us, as a nation, much wiser… supposing it leaves us existent. In the long run, it doesn’t really matter. Sooner or later, the heuristics will run up against the reality experienced by individuals. A state that grows unchecked, becomes more obtrusive without bounds, will eventually dispel the glamour it casts over those it enslaves. The greatest danger a Democrat faces is not rebellion, but reality. And rail as they may against the immune reactions of society, it is wasted breath. If they make people sufficiently upset, they will resist, whatever their masters say.

Sarah is right. Because we stand with reality, we will indeed win, and they will indeed lose. I only pray the stars will align such that we can win now, on the heuristics being destroyed by unemployment and a poor economy, rather than later, on heuristics destroyed by a lack of food and by endless crass, uncaring centralized dictates.