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Rogue Magic, Free Novel, Chapter 58

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 Rogue, Himself

The Honorable Jonathan Blythe, Earl of Savage

 

There was a feeling like being dragged backwards through a piece of silk, which ripped as I went through. It reminded me of this time when Ferddy, the honorable Ferdinand Holloway that is, had taken us to this brothel in Cheapside, where we were supposed to lie naked atop silken sheets under which were the, so to put it, hospitality workers of the place. By their moving around and wiggling they were supposed to bring one to ecstasy, only I’d gotten annoyed halfway through, because I wanted to touch the gels, not the damned silk, and had left to have a drink at one of my favorite taverns.

Funny thing isn’t it wasn’t until I went to the second tavern that anyone – myself included – noticed I was naked. I’m not sure what this means about my normal state of dress or what people expected of me.

This time I didn’t arrive naked, which is a demmed good thing, because after the feeling of silk ripping against me, and a blink’s worth of darkness, I found myself in as elaborate a study as you’re likely to find, full of globes and mechanical contraptions, and with a gently curved glass-front window overlooking Fairyland.

And what’s more the room was full of chaps, in front of which it would be quite beyond the point to be naked: Seraphim Ainsling, his younger brother Michael, his half brother, the king of fairyland and my brother in law – and the king of Fairyland’s cher ami – Marlon, lord Sydell.

They all looked expectantly at me, as though they thought I were about to conjure a rabbit from the hat I was not wearing.

And then, without so much as a good-day, Seraphim turned to Marlon and said, “I can imagine, if the intention is to create a poisoned package of some kind that might corrupt the enemy, then conjuring Jon here into the middle of it is the way to go.”

I opened my mouth to protest, but Seraphim turned to look at me and smile a little, “Sorry, Jonathan, but you must admit when it comes to powers of corruption… Most of us still remember the games mistress and the frogs.”

I opened my mouth again, to explain that prank hadn’t even been my idea, and that turning the frogs into muscular naked young men was supposed to make her run screaming into the night, not… well, not run screaming into the night. But instead, I simply cleared my throat and said, “Where are we? And to what do I owe the pleasure?”

It was explained to me that this aerie – that’s what he called it – was by way of being the safe spot of the king of fairyland, and also, that the king of fairyland had not so much involuntarily split as split himself to hide from his enemies.

His kingdom was under attack by the mythworld, an older and darker world that claimed all our worlds came from it. If they took Gabriel Penn, such the connection between his world and himself, they would assuredly take all the world.

I contributed what I had gleaned, from Ginevra, “they mean to sacrifice those of us who are… uncomfortable in our position in life. I’m not sure why, but there is something about having great dammed up possibilities that will propel the greatest magic.”

Gabriel waved a hand, “I know that. That will give them power to take over my kingdom, myself and my world, and through it all the worlds.”

I frowned at him. There was something to what he said that made no sense, and which bothered the back of my brain, like a sweet you’re halfway through swallowing that sticks in your throat just out of reach and won’t be dislodged. But when I tried to think what it might be, it was just out of reach and refused to be expressed in words.

I’d have taken the next suggestion more easily if it hadn’t been made by Seraphim’s younger brother Michael, who wasn’t exactly what I’d call an engaging scamp, or not as we’d been at his age, but who’d nevertheless always struck me as a serious, well-intentioned and well brought up young man. So imagine my surprise as he said, “So we thought we’d have them sacrifice you, Lord Savage.”

I rounded on him, “Oh, you did, did you? How kind. I’ll have you know, young jackanapes, that they mean to sacrifice all of us. Myself, your two brothers, your sister, my sister, and a lot of other people connected to us, like the manager of manufactories for my house.”

His mouth dropped open in surprise, as though he’d never intended to give offense, which only goes to show you he had windmills in his head. And then he said, “Oh, but I don’t mean like that. You see, you have to agree to it. And you have to go into it with your mind fully alert, and be ready to counterattack. They will jump at the chance to take you, you see, because you have possibly the greatest power of the lot, and the more… ah… complicated power, being, as you are, descended from Hermes in the fifth generation.”

“I beg your pardon?” It was official. The young man was completely and utterly insane. I tried to catch Seraphim’s eye to give him my condolences that they’d have to lock young Michael up, but Seraphim was looking attentively at his brother, like an adult watching a precocious child say his lessons. Maybe the entire family was touched in the upperworks. I mean, I suppose Gabriel was no crazier than most kings of fairyland, but still that was an awful lot of crazy.

“Oh, you didn’t know?” My brother in law asked, conversationally. “Yes, the blood in your family line was not elf, as has long been rumored, though we can see how someone could have got confused, since it’s the blood of one of the trickster gods, but all the same, Lord Sydell, it is true that you have a very great power, and that if they sacrifice you, or start to, and you’re ready to counterattack, we have a chance of escaping.” I wasn’t sure what it meant that my brother in law called me Lord Sydell while Seraphim called me Jon, but neither was I going to investigate.

“Be clear at once, what is this thing about my counterattacking,” I asked, lost to patience.

“Oh, he means,” Michael explained. “The poisoned pill. You start to let them engulf your power, so you can get access to their… their magic and their… true selves, and then you act. Of course you’ll need to know exactly what to do and some of it… some of it is going to need to be instinctive, since people without the blood of the old myths can’t fully understand their power.”

“Oh,” I said. And then, as a memory emerged, “But isn’t that the spell that Merlin did that caused the world to shatter into several worlds, and which encased him in an impenetrable shell in the betweener forever?”

They didn’t need to answer. The answer was on all their faces.

“I think,” I said. “I’m going to need a seat. And a glass of brandy, if it’s all the same to everyone here.”

No man should be required to face death without brandy.

 

I won’t inflict Caturday on you

UPDATE: I have updated the subscriber page with chapter 2 of To The Dragons.

Though the temptation is massive.

Our Free Range Oyster is still dealing with family issues.  I’ll have a chapter of To The Dragons in the subscriber area later, as well as another chapter of Rogue Magic.  (The To The Dragons one is written.)

It’s cold, it’s dark, it’s dreary and I have a cat (ah! snuck Caturday on you) and a husband wishing to snuggle, and what’s more, my internet connection is SLOOOOOOOOOOOOW, which is why I didn’t put up chapter last night.  I don’t know why, but I’m going to reset to before the last critical update and see.  To be fair, I’m not sure it’s the internet.  Everything seems to have slowed to a crawl.

Though to be fair, at least my computer isn’t smoking, so it can’t be that bad.

Until they achieve this on a mass scale, we’ll have to use the internet (my love.)

But you think at least they do this brain-to-typing, so I could get these novels out of my head?

Anyway, it’s taking forever to type each sentence, so I’ll be back in a couple of hours after I do a restore on this thing.

And meanwhile, I was going to inflict cat pictures on you, but the doggyness of the internet won’t let me upload them.  Even in small version.

I’m going back to bed and restarting the day in a couple of hours, okay?

 

 

 

In Praise of Naked Apes

I grew up in the seventies, or at least that’s when I discovered history and philosophical currents. I read both the treatises from my grandparents’ time and before, the attitude of which can be summed in Shakespeare’s lines: “What a piece of work is man… etc.”

But I also read a lot of seventies claptrap moral philosophy and theorizing about man. I don’t have a very high regard for the seventies, an era that seems to me to have been heavily influenced by drug use and eye-searing polyester to the point people could believe two thousand impossible things before breakfast, which ran into lunch because they were passed out on the floor, tripping on horse tranquilizers.

Okay, maybe this was just the view of a young woman just coming of age in a country undergoing great upheaval.

However, if the sixties started it, the seventies is when the ah… new age of entertainment and thought hit the mainstream. Perhaps it was when the slow marchers got enough power to influence things. Suddenly every book and every movie seemed bent on rubbing our noses in the fact that humans were animals and not nice animals.

In anthropology – I was a weird kid. As the youngest of a huge extended-but-living-in-each-other’s-pockets family, I was very lonely (my ten years older brother was the nearest to my age) but also well provided with books, college texts, and stuff on subjects my much older cousins favored – it was the age of the Naked Ape, red in tooth and claw.

Universally the view as that we were bad, bad, bad all through and that the only hope for society was for our betters to take us in hand and change us.

I didn’t realize at the time this was a vile-prog point of view. I do realize now it hasn’t changed much.

Watching people at the DNC say “We all have to belong to something, so we belong to the government” made my hair stand on end, but if you believed that man, the human by itself, left alone, is an evil being, a uniquely evil being in the scale of the world, wouldn’t you think you needed something – some entity, some enlightened someone – to fix him? And if you don’t believe in G-d, who are you going to call? Other humans. And because you have to believe in something you believe that government somehow transforms humans into angels.

Don’t ask me. I don’t get it either. I believe both in G-d and that he created flawed humanity and believes in us and in our ability to struggle to salvation.

But whether you believe in Him or not, if you believe we humans are unredeemable, it explains both the ridiculous need for “overseers”, the hatred of humans (zero population growth and extinction-lust programs and books), “bad humans, good aliens” movies (gag) and the endless pathology of the left which seems to hate humans just a little more than they hate… everything else.

And this is nonsense.

Those books of seventies sold us a bill of goods, including that humans are the only beings who murder their own kind; the only humans who commit murder; the only animals capable of making war, and who knows what else.

None of those are true. What is true is this: we are sentient creatures built on an animal base. The structures of our rationality are built onto the body of a pre-rational animal. We are built on an ape base, and that comes with certain qualities, as much a part of us as anything we want to be or think ourselves to be: we are sexual beings; we are creatures of instinct; we are social creatures; we are both lazy and clever, an ape who makes complex things.

The important thing to remember, though, is that we have the qualities of our vices.

I’ve moaned here, and you’ve heard me moan that we’re tribal creatures. This has some awful side effects because we tend to tribal-up. Some of the effect is minor. Get a bunch of my friends and Dan’s in a room. Or just an undifferentiated bunch of IT people and writers. As the night advances, we’ll divide into two groups and roll our eyes at the other guys.

This drives the social justice warriors nuts. They want to understand/integrate/whatever the other. They want to lift up the other and debase the group to which they belong. But they too are build on the same social animal base we are. So what they end up is forming a tribe of “The people who care deeply for the other” and… well, the other. Those of us who couldn’t care less and some people who think there’s nothing wrong with them that a few swirlies couldn’t fix. (And sometimes my loyalty veers to the second tribe.) This is the basis of all oikophobia. Wanting to belong to the tribe that is achingly, achingly I tell you (stop laughing) sympathetic to the “other.” Unless the other is their own tribesmen who think they are a few buckets short of a gallon of water, to be caring deeply about people who would stone them to death for their behavior.

What they – as well as the moralists who would have us all, even the least suited to it become utter saints – fail to get is that you can’t – not as a fellow human, not even, often, as yourself – excise the bad parts of someone and leave the good standing. That’s not how it works.

As individuals or as a species we are the same: we have the virtues of our vices. So humans who are tribal might get in league against “the other” but they also, by being tribal, stand in close association and protection, and will take care of the weak and the old they consider to be their own. (The SJWs want the government to do it, but that’s something else. It’s a delusion of sorts.)

Men are aggressive, but that aggression turned to protectiveness, has caused them to die in droves to protect the homeland and women they never even met.

Yes, humans strive against each other in war, but that’s a side effect of striving FOR something.

Civilization consists of individual humans choosing to channel their natural instincts productively. A functional society consists of giving them incentives to do so, instead of killing and pillaging.

Yes, there are bad men. Yes, there are bad women too. Yes, periodically all civilizations go dysfunctional or at least dysfunctional for a while, and yes, Mr. du Toit might be absolutely right that our collective psyche is being fractured by the speed of change which creates a sort of regression in some people who would rather go howling into the dark ages than towards a future they don’t understand.

But by and large, humans have done well. It’s not just a matter of our covering the face of the Earth, not altogether bad for a “naked ape.” It’s also the fact that we can look back just 400 years to Elizabethan England and see how far we’ve come.

It’s entirely possible, mind, that Western civilization is a terrible thing. (Terrible according to WHOM?) but if you are disabled, weak, a woman, a child or just plain weird, where would you prefer to be? In a Western nation or elsewhere? And more importantly, in the world now, or elsewhen?

It’s all in how you channel your aggression. You’re not born human. You’re born something like human. A civilized society can make you human, though, and we’re getting pretty good at this.

If we understand this, we can stop the self-reflexive hatred.

Virtue and vice are one, and the denied one fuels the other. No human is so good he’s without bad impulses, no. BUT he can choose. And those impulses are often never expressed.

We might, yes, be a killer ape. But we’re a killer ape whose expansionist desires can make him dream of the stars, and realize we might even be friends with those we meet there – if they extend a hand of friendship to us.

A naked ape can’t ask for much more.

We Don’t Need A Lullaby

We’ll start at the beginning, with the Telegraph asking if the west can reinvent itself in time to meet what’s coming.

It’s a question I’ve asked here myself, but they’re asking it the wrong way.  It’s not the west, by and large, that has lost civilizational confidence.  What it has lost are elites that are on its side.  Anywhere, in any country, you find the people quite sure they’re better than any other people in the world.  This is stupid, wrongheaded and absolutely right.

Humans are tribal creatures, and who should they identify with but their own tribe? It is easier to negotiate relationships between tribes and try to find what’s best in an imperfect world than to make humans non tribal.  But our leaders don’t get that, and even when the “tribe” is mostly a consensual one of belief, our elites think this must be broken up in various ways, so as not to let the people on the street think they’re better.

Apparently the labor party in England engineered mass immigration so as to “rub conservative noses in diversity” — because in their minds these “conservatives” are those of the nineteenth century who believed color of skin was a marker and not those of the twentieth century trying to keep a culture in which women aren’t treated as chattel.  The difference between — and here we chance wording, because the British system is different but these underlying groups are the same — vile progs and sane people who live in the sane world, is that sane people would never encourage more Rotherhams in order to rub the vile progs nose in it.

Which is why the west is losing the narrative, and its elites are in the end completely cut off from reality, free to do things like tell the rubes there is a human-life-threatening crisis which they ignore in their every-day behavior.

I’ve in the past posited that our culture went into a tail spin in the aftermath of WWI.  I read somewhere, this week, and can’t find it now that this too might not be exactly true.  That it might be the narrative of world war I.  I will confess that it was always a little odd how the narrative went and how nationalism was to blame for everything.  Perhaps even then, the narrative was being shaped in favor of an “internationalist” view by those vile progs who thought that communism was the answer.

We can’t know because — due to the mass-industrial mode of communication that still remains from the 20th century, and due to the fact that this has been taken over long ago by vile progs, it’s entirely possible everything we ever “knew” from academic history to journalism is a lie.  Some days I feel like we’re stuck in the soviet union, where the future is known (and ever bleaker) but the past keeps changing.

Because most humans are tribal, they want to have a cohesive narrative, and since the narrative is provided by the elites, it seems like all of the west has lost its nerve.  But there are some signs at least that the people aren’t buying it.

Which is good, because the elites have gone howling mad.  Apparently it’s not just my impression that any airport-related industry goes out of its way to hire people who might be presumed to possibly have a grudge against the US, from Chinese people who can barely speak English, to Russian people ditto, to of course any Arab/Muslim they can get to apply.  I’ve told myself surely they screen these people.  Surely I’m just being prejudiced.  No one would be crazy enough to hire these people without serious screening.  Apparently these are just things I tell myself to go to sleep at night.

And apparently our elites really, really, really are lost in narrativium.  For instance, it is a surprise to them that Isis isn’t amenable to outreach.  They think it’s a great idea to name public centers after the man who doesn’t have a plan to deal with Isis and who frankly seems to hate the guts of the country he leads, and only reverse themselves when there’s “public outrage”.  They thought that putting a sector under control of the government would lower costs. They think they can end wars by fiat.  They think that because the enemy is nutty we shouldn’t fight it, or something.

At this time, and in this place, the strange thing is not that a governor talks about the threats coming over the unsecured border which the elites have opened (I guess to rub our noses in diversity?something the smart idiots being educated at our colleges STILL think it’s a prime priority.) The strange thing is that our president is “passionate” in his certainty that the enemy doesn’t want to kill us. This is not a problem of people who live in the real world, where if someone is armed and says they want to kill you and shows that they’re willing to kill you by beheading those of you they can get hold of, you should believe them.

It’s time to wake up.  This pervasive lullaby the elites have been playing since WWI which tells us that the cause of WWI was not different needs and aspirations, and each group of people striving to better themselves according to the way humans are humans, but it was the fault of “nationalism” and a belief in G-d and whatever else the elites despise this week, must stop.

It’s time to wake up or be killed as you sleep.  Remember, WWI not only might have been far more complex than the elites taught you (I bet it was.  Real history is messy) but also the reason it was such an abattoir was THEIR elites belief in how a war should be fought, despite new technology that made those methods just a way to kill people faster and in greater numbers while solving nothing.

The truth is the stories the elites told you were always a load of bull.  They’re desperate to establish themselves as better than you and utterly confident in their own abilities, even though everything they know of life is a narrative of a narrative of a narrative.  It turns out humans are in the end very much human, and every progressive society reverts to theocratic paganism, where the “dear leader” becomes a living or (after death) ancestral god: the Castros, the Kim’s, and apparently now that world class clusterf*ck, Chavez. Because the man who took a civilized country to a total inability to buy beg or steal toilet paper is totally someone whose ghost can dispense favors.  And hey, aren’t socialists/communists supposed to be atheist?

The elites can tell themselves these stories because they’re insulated.  Also, being selected mostly on compliance with the program and ancestry (mostly because their parents were elite, though of course our current affliction was chosen because he tans interestingly) they aren’t nearly as smart as they’ve been told they are.  And at some level, I think they know it.

It’s time for the rest of us to start the alarm clock.  It’s time to stop discounting people just because they don’t fit the credentialism which picks mostly for ideology.  This means, yes, respect indie writers, read to blogs, and maybe consider politicians who didn’t go to “the best universities” or to university at all.

In a world where the past keeps changing, all an “excellent education” signals is an ability to either be gullible or double think.

That we can’t afford.  Stop the lullaby.  Read, think, create, make yourself heard.  For a century we could afford to let our elites go emo and wallow in their own self-blame and the hatred of their own nations.  We were that rich and that insulated.  And there were enough even in the elites that retained a modicum of sanity.

That safety margin is gone.  It’s time to wake up.  The question, it turns out, is not whether the future is queer.  The question is whether the future is medieval.

The Redheaded Step Genre

When I was eight years old, I read Heinlein’s Have Spacesuit Will Travel. At the time I had no idea it was science fiction, because as far as I was concerned, trips to the moon was just what went on in America.

Hey, America in 1970 might very well have had contests with spacesuits as prizes. And contact with aliens, for all I knew.

So it went unremarked.  That was the same Summer I read Tom Sawyer and The Prince and the Pauper, so you might as well consider it my induction in the evil league of evil, since I was reading a dead white male and all.

Then when I was eleven, and my brother was studying engineering in college, he fell in with a dangerous crowd.  By which I mean he made friends with a guy who had every science fiction book ever translated to Portuguese.

My brother borrowed them and told me I was not to touch them on penalty of pain.  I later found out he was afraid I’d come across a sex scene or something and be shocked.

He didn’t realize the best way to get me to read something was to tell me I couldn’t do it.

So I read Out of Their Minds, by Clifford Simak, because that’s how daring I was.

It was, mind you, more fantasy than science fiction, but it contained Robin Hood and various cartoon characters and I thought “This is cool.”

So the next book I picked up and read, from my brother’s bedside table, standing poised and ready to drop the book and run to my room at the sound of a foot on the stairs was A Canticle for Leibowitz.

And I was like:

Futurism, metaphysics, and the kind of depressing view of human history that any teen would find deep! What’s not to like.

At which point, I went a little crazy.

The Door Into Summer; Ubik, City, They Walked Like Men, a whole lot of Keith Laumer and Poul Anderson and the obligatory, despondent anti-capitalist stuff of the mid seventies, whose titles I can’t even remember.

I wanted it all, and I wanted it now.  By the time I was thirteen, my brother and I would pool our resources and go halvsies on books.  He’s so lucky that I got married abroad and never claimed my halves.  The judgement of Solomon would have left us with half a book and half a memory.

Mind you, at the same time I was reading all the stuff that young ladies were supposed to be reading, too.

And everything I WASN’T supposed to read, including my older cousin’s Portuguese Romance Novels, which always seemed to center on a bullfighter and which always ended with him dying and her mourning him forever. (So, HEA for the culture!)

The only stuff that left any impression other than the sf/f were Dumas and Shakespeare.  (I’d come at Jane Austen much later. I had to know more about the time period.  While she liked her little bits of ivory, I liked my stories big.)

I lay in my bed at night and dreamed huge dreams and went to sleep too late, and then slept through classes. Stranger in a Strange Land, Foundation and Empire, and Ray Bradbury and wow.

And then I started writing (bad) tales of science fiction in class, and my classmates loved them.  And then I submitted one as an assignment in Portuguese class.

And I got mugged by snobbery!

Apparently this genre with all the wow and the metaphysics and the deep pondering of how things were put together and whether they could be put together another way was not only bad, oh no. It was wrong.

It was wrong, wrong, wrong. It was going to corrupt my morals and make me into a bad girl. I should read morally improving tales, like The Jungle, and Lord of The Flies and Tess D’Ubervilles

So I read all of that, and also all of Camus and a lot of other stuff that everyone said was REALLY IMPORTANT STUFF I should read.

Though I never finished War and Peace because I:

Better than sleeping tablets. Kept it on my bedside for years.

So I liked some of that stuff.  Like Jorge Luis Borges.  Though, you know, he kind of reminded me of Bradbury.

And then they assigned me 1984 and Brave New World.  I believe assigning both of those in the same year is the language teachers’ attempt at population reduction.

I believe after reading those two, most teens consider blowing out their brains. Particularly when 1984 was still in the future.

The effect on me was more like “Science fiction.  OMG, they’re letting me read science fiction.”

I’m so happy. I’m not a sad freak. Some Science Fiction is okay. Look, they even assign it in school!

So, I mentioned this to my teachers. And they told me I was wrong.

These novels were not science fiction. They were deeply significant. And they reflected stuff about the human existence. No, no, no, not like what might happen after death, or whether freezing yourself for the future would be a good idea, or even if time travel was possible — no, it reflected stuff like … like how bad society might get.

At which point I realized two things.

First for something that talked about the future to be “good literature” it had to be depressing. Because that’s how you know it’s serious.

To be worthwhile, Science Fiction has to relate to the deep, troubling, horrible darkness that pervades all of reality. Because if we are not ALL going to die screaming, we’re not SERIOUS enough.

Or, to be considered serious, science fiction has to somehow mirror our present reality.

Because our time, our concerns, our preoccupations are the most important thing ever, and the future is just like the present and just as self absorbed forever. World without end.

 

And I thought “if the future is like this forever, I’m not going.”

 

And then I thought, no, scr*w that. My teachers clearly have no clue what they’re talking about. If art were all about reflecting reality and showing dangers and pitfalls and injustice and stuff, no one would ever read for fun.  And fun stuff — all of Shakespeare — would never touch you deeply and make you realize something about humanity you couldn’t verbalize before.

And then I had an epiphany.

By that time I had read more books than any of my teachers and you know what else? The only ones who cared about their opinions were they themselves.

Perhaps they wanted/needed everyone else to live lives of quiet desperation, so they could feel better.

They could have their mirror-dancing forever. I was going to read about the future that might be. I was going to enjoy myself. And you know what else, I didn’t care if non-depressing books were not “deeply significant.” I’d do what I needed to to get a good grade, but for fun? For fun I’d read whatever the heck I liked. And I liked science fiction and fantasy.

I have some dragons to ride in Pern, ‘kay? Call me when “literature” is half as interesting.

So, imagine my surprise, when I broke in science fiction to find that somehow we’ve got invaded by English Teachers.

I got told over and over again that what I needed to write was “deeply significant” literature, by which they didn’t mean stuff like exploring the past and the future and the implications of what science might do. Or at least they didn’t mean that, if it didn’t make you want to do this:

Because the only way something can be deeply significant is if it makes you want to toss your cookies or blow your brains out.

The other option, as time went on, was for something to be really… how to put this?

All about the latest, most fashionable causes and the latest, most fashionable positions to take.

Because of course our current problems and concerns are the most important thing ever, and no one in all of the history of human kind will ever get over them. And you’d never want to read anything else, ever:

What’s this perspective you hope to gain? What does that matter? We’re the most fascinating ever, in this eternal now.

Still, some good stuff sneaked through now and then. Until a few years ago, when we found out that we wouldn’t be allowed to have fun anywhere near science fiction, because science fiction, really science fiction is deeply significant and reflects reality and…

And I thought…

Wait a minute…

You said that’s what literature was, and I said, fine, whatevs, you can have literature, but I get science fiction and fantasy.

and then it was like

Who the heck are you guys, and what are you doing in my field? Aren’t you my college professors?

But apparently, no. They’d already done their worst to Mystery and were starting to tackle Romance. In their great quest to destroy all the fun that might remain in printed pages, it was our turn.

They’re like locusts. They move from genre to genre, trying to make it acceptable to “literature”, making the fans flee in droves, and it was our turn.

Only then a miracle occurred:

Indie gave us a chance to bypass all the people who were just like our “language arts” teachers and who’d taken over gatekeeping for our field.

Now, of course they don’t like it one bit, so they’re like:

Shut up, you losers! You totally don’t count! You’re not real writers. Science fiction is not even a genre! And it’s all about space lizards and stuff.

Or at least that’s what they think they’re doing. But we’re like:

Because now that we can publish without them, their opinions should matter to us why?

Like my teachers back in High School, they’ve never read anything just for fun.  And they think that literature is all about looking at themselves in the mirror, forever.

Because, you know, they’re so endlessly fascinating.

To themselves…

So while they massage their deep insecurities

lower, baby, lower, my insecurities are SOOOOO deep.

 

And tell themselves they’re every bit as worthy as all the stuff they were forced to read in school, the rest of us whose dinosaur rampage fantasies are more fun.

The Robot Godzilla symbolizes the mechanistic quality of literature in the age of political correctness and big gigantic *ssholes.

The rest of us will continue to write mindless stuff about princesses robots giant lizards The nature of evil; the role of government; the importance of colonization of new lands to human civilization; the implications of time travel.

And, oh yeah. We’ll continue to have fun too.
Because

And also? Stick it up your jumper.

You do your thing and we do ours. You keep treating science fiction like the redheaded step child of literature. And we keep enjoying the big horizons and imagination of the genre. Because that’s how much your opinion matters to us, you guardians of culture and class who haven’t read anything published before 2000 and think past and present and all is all about you forever.

yes. That’s all there is. You. Forever.

We don’t mind. Ya’ll have fun with that mirror now, you hear?

We have spaceships (and dragons) to fly, and monsters to kill and magical cities to guard, and planets to invade and stuff.

Ya’ll take care.

Nothing but love!

A Sackful of Wrong

There were some ah… interesting comments on the post two days ago. That’s counting the ones that were approved. The ones that weren’t approved weren’t not because I thought we couldn’t debate them, but because they showed either such a bizarre misunderstanding of this community or of history or (for the win) both that they were either trolls or people I didn’t want to get in under the radar next time.

One of the for the win ones was the one who said that Salazar was recently voted as one of the best Portuguese of all time, and seemed to believe I’d been an enthusiastic supporter of the revolution and/or that the fact that people vote someone now dead almost sixty years as “one of the greatest” a big accolade. To clarify, Salazar was better than sliding into communism. That’s it. But when I say we were “poor as Job” that’s on whose head to lay it. He wasn’t a fascist, which is how American history books describe him. No, wait. He wasn’t a fascist in the sense of hating the Jews and standing with Hitler. He was a fascist like FDR in the sense of controlling every facet of the economy, starting the welfare state (national health care AND social security), crony capitalism, and a misguided and backward mercantilism.

Overthrowing the regime would have been a good thing, (only it wasn’t his regime anymore but that of his chosen successor under whom I suspect Portugal would have been a kinder, gentler version of China today and possibly very prosperous, if still soft-fascist) if the Junta that overthrew him hadn’t contained at least communist under orders from Moscow. As it was, Portugal swung the other way so fast that it gave me a good understanding of how socialism is the soft slide to communism; communism corrupts a country to get in; and I want nothing to do with either. It made me a determined anti-communist, which has cost me something, not the least in terms of career here, where “communism” is hip. Oh, and that swing destroyed the Portuguese colonies in Africa which were handed on a platter to Russian front groups. For that alone, the revolution as it happened and when it happened was a very bad thing. Talk to Peter Grant for details. It doesn’t mean that the previous regime was wonderful. What you get there is the equivalent of Russians pining for the tzar because what followed as so unimaginably worse. But it doesn’t mean the tzar was wonderful. (And in Portugal what followed was paradoxically better in material terms. Which, btw, if nothing else is an indictment of the ancient regime, because if euro-socialists can manage your country finances better than you can, whoa, dude.)

I didn’t approve that one because Portuguese history has been discussed here before and it profits nothing except when I see we’re making the same mistake. Portugal has now been more or less absorbed wholesale into euro madness which means what worked about it has ceased to work, and what never worked in Europe has filled it with wrong. That is their problem, not mine. It is the problem of Europe too. My prediction, enshrined in a future history I use as a yardstick for the space operas and which is now 20 years old, is that it will end in blood. Civilization isn’t created or controlled by laws but by culture, and though some generations of Europeans have been raised in subjection to a bunch of arbitrary international socialist rules, that is not what Europe IS.

Americans who go there and actually hang out with natives on equal terms are often shocked at the startlingly racist, sexist, xenophobic things Europeans say and aren’t ashamed to display in public.

That is European culture. I’m not judging here. I’ll just say it wasn’t for me, and so I left. The European union is a veneer applied on something much older and more powerful. Despite fast transportation, etc, the Europeans of today remember their parents and grandparents talking about beating up the guy from over the ridge who came to court “their girls.”

I found myself the unwitting cause of one of these disputes while taking a walk with a friend in the village, on a summer afternoon when my parents weren’t at home.

Note I walked in the village all the time, often in short-shorts and that this time I was wearing a dress, and that this was the only time this confrontation happened: village cohesion was already weakening at that time.

We must have been about fourteen which means that while Mr. Hormone had come calling and I had at least one seriously platonic crush that had led me into writing rhymed and metered sonnets, neither of us were thinking of boyfriends yet. This is because we were on the university-track and getting married before 22 wasn’t happening.

Also in my generation there were maybe two or three boys in the village who might have reached-up to my social level (and my friend’s) but they weren’t considered close enough to our class for our parents (yes, in Europe that matters. Sorry, but it’s another of those things that it’s hard to explain to Americans. I suspect it still maters, though now I’m too far away to be sure.) It’s not that such matches didn’t happen, but I knew if I were interested in one of them I’d have to fight my parents (and my friend’s parents would probably just stare in frozen horror.) and I didn’t like any of them enough for even a pretend-dating that would bring that on my head.

Anyway, we went for a walk. The details are fuzzy, but I think she was staying with me for the weekend while my parents were out, and we’d got bored or cabin-fevered and went for a walk.

A bunch of guys on motorcycles started calling things out to us. We treated them as we’d been taught, and as I still treat importune strangers – you let your face go impassive, and you pretend they’re not there. – In the village that would have made the guy slink away in shame, but these unspanked babies decided to follow us on our walk, back home. This was, mind you, a matter of maybe a mile at that point. We went into my parents’ home, closed the door and didn’t go near the windows. We were both a little unsettled the same way I still am (though I’ve been hardening myself) by rudeness, because it hadn’t come in our way before.

The idiots stayed outside screaming things and revving up their motorcycles. (I’m going to assume, right now that either wherever they came from had no women or that they’d heard something about all the women of the village being sluts, and believed it – which showed a level of stupidity rarely found anywhere.)

Note here that my aunt next door, a woman who had an unerring ability to take a situation by the wrong end, later told my mother that my friend and I had “encouraged” these boys, because otherwise why would they stay outside “for upward of an hour.”

Anyway, the idiots stayed outside… until word got around the village, when a bunch of village boys gathered in front of the house and started a fight, at which point the interlopers, motorcycles less than shiny, skiddaddled out of the village.

My mom in the round of gossip the next day told me why the boys intervened.

I was grateful, in either case, but they weren’t defending us because we were innocent (we were. I don’t think we even looked at these guys until they started up) girls being harassed by louts. Oh, no.

They got in a fight and sent these guys packing because they were “strangers” by which I mean they were probably from ten miles away, and “we can’t have strangers come courting our select girls.”

No one had taught that to that generation of boys. They might have heard a story or two from their parents, but the bonds between village youths were no longer what they had been in my father’s day when I suspect they’d have been classed as a gang (or the army of a city state. Whichever.)

But it was still there.

I could be completely wrong. There have been large population movements around and things are even looser. On the other hand, I hear the same spirit in the comments of shop keepers.

I suspect Europe will convulse and throw out both out of the continent immigrants and anyone perceived as a stranger, which will vary from place to place.

This doesn’t mean it will go back to some form of pure race. Pure “nationality” in Europe is a myth. It exists only in the sense that people believe it exists. In reality there have been periods like this all along where people from outside the area flooded the area. It was usually caused by or ended in tears.

I think it will end in tears and blood and that at the end of it Europe will still be Europe, although there’s a generation there who will need to be very fertile if some places are to stay viable.

I think Russia’s chest pounding is the beginning of the ball, and though they’re as importune as those boys who followed us on the motorcycles and though in the end what they will spark is a convulsion that will tear Europe into the pieces it was before the euro-delusions and/or into new and different pieces (because Europe is at its heart clannish and clan and nation don’t always coincide.)

But that’s part of my future history (where they then try to grow people in vats, to make up the difference in population, but that’s the sf bit.)

Will it come through that way? I suspect so. Things tend to happen in the world stage according to very deeply-laid patterns of culture and behavior. This is something we Americans – people of the paper and the rules – tend to not fully get.

I suspect Europeans will go back to their foundational principles, and so will we. Those are very different from each other and very different from where we’ve got, and a lot of blood will be spilled along the way, as the top-down regimes encouraged by mass industry fracture in the age of distributed producing.

That’s part of what we’re seeing. These transitions are always unpleasant. The blood is always part of these transitions, too, as is the words and the philosophy lagging the actual change.

Slavery wasn’t abolished until it had been superseded by industry (as someone pointed out here, slavery is not economically practical. But it is psychologically practical in that when there’s work no sane man will want to do for money, slavery or serfdom exists.) The “liberation” of women didn’t happen until infant mortality was so low that we could afford to have women have only one or two kids, instead of the ten or so you used to need to raise one or two.

Explanation lags change, always. Which is why communism is still around and still vocal: a philosophy created at the dawn of the age of big machines.

It is a dead philosophy walking, but to make it fall over will take blood. Because it always does, to kill zombies.

(Btw, to the extent history has a direction it is a direction imposed on it by technological development. Some forms of interaction and government are more appropriate to the level/type of technology. Hence, in the day of vast factories and concentration of the means of communication the conflicting philosophies were all to an extent top-down. As were the dystopias extrapolated. To make this clear, to understand the errors of thought in 1984, imagine a Heinlein character dropped into it. The progressives never got that. They froze mentally in the early 20th century, thus believing the arrow of history is a thing and it always points to them.)

Having touched on relations between men and women – a great part of the “wrong” in the comments was men who thought men were worthless (!) and men who thought men should “control” women, for an ideal state, both of which are somewhat bordering on the insane – I was going to go on to explain how civilization to be successful consists of both genders and all humans controlling THEMSELVES.

But that will wait till tomorrow, as I have a book to write. This is the new policy, btw. Wrong in the comments of commenters that were pre-approved before, or that seem substantial enough for you guys to enjoy chewing, will be left for the Huns to play with. If I feel I must answer I’ll do so in a post.

I’ll still answer comments, but I can’t be drawn into arguments of any length, if the books are to get written.

 

The Years The Locust Ate

On this blog, a few days ago, when I said a day was wasted, someone said Jerry Pournelle calls those the days the locust ate.

Well… the weekend sort of turned into that. Not really, but sort of, as I ended up having to put up various “fires” around the house/family. So I’m hoping to settle down and finish Through Fire this week, which means I’ll run one of the posts y’all have sent me tomorrow, probably.

But here’s the thing, I was thinking of that of “the years the locust ate.”

It’s really easy to lose track of time, particularly when you work from home and have more than one job, (between housekeeping, writing, publishing, doing covers for the family and close friends, and “expect the unexpected” moments, I think I’m up to around five or so.)

Because you’re doing this and doing that and picking up on the other, it’s really easy to come to the end of the day and have done nothing.

It’s also really easy to tell yourself “It’s been really stressful. I’ll take the week and—”

It’s not that it’s not been stressful. It’s that the more time you take, the less the habit of just writing is there to fall back on.

So, have I done any of those things? I’ve done all of those things, except take time off. The take time off thing usually happens ONLY when I’m so sick I can’t focus. Then I’ll drag off to bed and accept the week is off. But even that will break the habit. And habit is hard to establish.

Because I’m breaking in a new planning system, I thought I’d write down my observations on time management and being a writer.

They go something like this

  • Writing is mostly an habit.
  • Any day you don’t write increases the chances you won’t write the next day.
  • Any type of entertainment/habit of thought that takes you away from reading/thinking about writing is a detriment.
  • If you become totally immersed in anything, be it daydreaming or watching movies or audiobooks even, writing becomes more difficult.
  • Separating the places you do activities helps. If you do them all from home, then try to edit at one desk/in one are; write at another; and do internet work at another.
  • In the end, the only thing that counts is writing. You don’t have to be perfect, you have to get it done.

 

You can’t get back – and I can’t get back – the years the locust ate. And I’m sort of trying to accept that it takes time to recover fully after you go through a period of constant illness. I’m not good at accepting that, but it’s always been true.

But I am getting back. Becoming more myself again. And I can’t recover the time lost. What I can do is be more efficient about what I do in the future.

This is true about almost any human endeavor, I find. Turns out in the “you can do anything” past, no one pointed out to some of us that some activities have a time and after that can’t happen.

I was one of the fortunate ones who found my husband early, but even I didn’t realize how quickly the window of our fertility would close. If I had I’d have been more aggressive/gone for infertility right after second son. We didn’t. That’s a regret, but it’s also something I can do nothing about. Instead I can love the kids I have now.

In the same way, I wish I’d finished a lot of the books I started and dropped because no one would buy. That can’t be done, but if I manage my time, maybe I can finish some of them and put them up now.

I’m caught between admitting that I’m not precisely made of iron, that there will be days of just staring blankly at nothing much, and not giving myself too much of an excuse to sit on my butt.

Which I suppose means I’m human.

The years the locust ate can’t be recovered. And Atlas will always have to learn to juggle. Shrugging was always a fantasy.

Hate Thy Neighbor – Dave Pascoe

Hate Thy Neighbor – Dave Pascoe

I’ve had it. I’m done with this cunning façade. I was here to gather information on you Enemies of History, but I’ve spent so much time among you people that I’m even starting to think like you. I saw some People of Melanin Blessedness (please, PoC is so last election cycle) at Meijers last night, and was pleased that they appeared to have Made Something of Themselves, instead of feeling Compassion for their Downtrodden Existence and wondering how I could help them organize against the oppressive might of Institutionalized Racism in this so-called United States.

The evil I’ve heard uttered (so to speak; I mean, I haven’t actually heard most of you, you, you individuals speak. I mean, not in person, but I’m sure you’re full of hatey hateness, you haters) in this place, well, it’s just so, so, so very evil! You all probably beat your spouses and children and kick puppies and boil kittens. Worse, you write heroic F&SF and believe wymyn and male humans have biological differences. Differences, besides … um, well, you know. AND! You have human win! Haven’t you read any of the recent Hugo winners? Now those are some Suitably Progressive, Forward Thinking real writers: artists who know their place is to guide the next generation of Thought Leaders.

As I said: I Can’t Take it Any More, and I’m Done With You.

Forever.

***

***

Not really, but that’s exactly the kind of pabulum we’ve come to expect from the usual suspects, is it not?

The issue here is one of instruction- well, sort of. Kinda. There’s a lot of what is often called “education” going on, but the most significant – and most well-learned – lessons are about hating. Specifically, hating anybody one is directed to hate. This is Vileprogism 101, in which the young are inculcated to respond to authority figures without thought or reflection. (To be a bit more even-keeled, you can usually indoctrinate the young in any philosophy you like, provided you get them early enough.) This method is most effective when the authority figures in a child’s life all agree. Parents and grandparents who – consciously or because they were brought up the same way – eagerly look forward to the workers’ paradise to come, tovarisch, combined with the earnest pedagogy of those trained in expert teaching methods, imparting expertly-designed curricula designed by experts. EXPERTS, I say, you haters.

When these forces combine – aided and abetted by moneyed interests and powerful institutions – the skulls full of mushah, I mean, young minds eager for Truth and Beauty become Compassionate with a capital K. Which, in our current age, seems to mean they blame those who came before them for the evils they’ve been told they’ve taken in with their mother’s milk. Or formula, for those who swing that way (it should have been milk, which is Sustainable and Green and Good for the Earth and the Environment, not that you’d care, you backward clingers. I bet you’re personally responsible for Global WarmingClimate Change the Coming Ice Age, aren’t you!) Logic tends to be absent, as that would get in the way of hating people, instead of hating ideas. Classism, sexism, and racism are taught in oblique and sidelong ways, reducing individuals with agency to simple cogs in the great human machine. Women are interchangeable, men are interchangeable, one white person with another, one black person with another, and everyone exists for the furtherance of the quest for power. After which, when differences are finally abolished by imperial fiatdeclaration of the people, guided by the benevolent hand of the Great ManWomanPerson, that power can be given up and we can all have a big picnic, join hands and sing an appropriately non-discriminatory, non-patriarchal, non-white kumbaya.

The means for the Guiding Hand (or appendage of your preference) to acquire this power is through hate. Simple, ugly hate. Hate the White Men who kept black people in slavery, who conquered and raped and pillaged and took to enrich themselves. Hate the white men today who didn’t commit those atrocities, since they benefitted from them (any benefit you derived is both just and far too little compared to what you deserve). Hate the white women, who also benefited (but not too much, since they’re women and therefore oppressed throughout the world) and the cultures that enabled them to do all these horrible things.

And of course, the key is to do it under a cloak of inclusiveness and diversity. Mandatory diversity. It doesn’t matter who is actually best for the job, so long as you get you checklist all checked.

Look, I don’t hate leftists. On the contrary, I have many friends who lean in that direction (and the “I can’t be racist: I have plenty of [COLOR] friends” defense and how that somehow proves racism needs its own post at some point) and we often have good times discussing – if not political philosophies – then shared interests. Shows they can’t be too far to the left, as those who consider Lenin to be a bit too conservative embody the “everything is political” mentality.

No, I don’t hate the people; I detest the philosophy into which most of them have bought. The idea I lampooned above, in which those who disagree are accorded a moral status somewhere between child rapists and parasitic insects. In which people are not people, but widgets. It’s pernicious, that notion. And it’s infected the far right, as well. Just read the comments. Not here, as we have far higher standards of taste. Or at least, of grammar. No, the comments on more mainstream conservative publications. They attitudes are often the same as you’ll find on any from the Daily Kos, Slate or the Huffington Post. Lots of ad hominem attacks, lots of unreasoning anger, lots of advocacy of violence.

It’s not helpful, and playing by the Left’s book is akin to getting into a battle of wits with a fool. I, for one, don’t want to be dragged down to their level and beaten with experience. Or even with a board with a nail in.

Working against us are out deep suspicion of institutions and our consequent tendency to not organize sufficiently. This was pointed out in the comments – two days ago? – where it was observed that while we think of people as individuals with personal agency, our enemies move in lockstep with locked minds and hobbled feet.

And there’s an advantage. They’re big, but they aren’t nimble. Far from it. Look at how Larry’s Sad Puppies 2 campaign got the entirety of literary (as in those who read books and involve themselves in the process, not lit-er-a-choor) scifi fandom in an uproar. He predicted their actions and reactions, and they did exactly as he said they would. He had genuine flexibility of thought on his side, and all they could do was react as their programming dictated. We’re seeing this in national and global politics, where the champions of the left institute policies, and when those fail, they flail about. They attempt to rewrite history. Not “100 years ago” history, but “last year” history. Living memory is mutable (ask Speaker, or ping the elder Hoyt Spawn) but it’s hard to change recordings of the Placeholder in Chief saying “yes” one year, and “no” the next on the very same subject.

What does this have to do with hating, or rather, not hating our neighbors? We – and here that’s the greater we of all those the left would re-educate given half an opportunity – need to not resort to the tactics of our enemies. Not wholesale, at least. There’s a high road, and we should be on it. At least when it comes to motivation, and somewhat in our actions. I think we do fairly well, here. Honestly, our biggest dustups have been family affairs where we’ve disagreed with each other on relatively minor points. But in the greater community of Odds (and of Targets of the Left, and don’t think the categories don’t have a parity approaching one) we need to be, if not voices of compromise, then voices of reason. Ambassadors of good will, though never quislings to our principles.

Basically, we don’t hate the people. These are our neighbors, our family, and our friends. They’ve made choices with which we cannot agree, and that certainly creates friction. Heated words will be said; names called. That’s inevitable, especially when dealing with humans. But. Don’t stoop to hate. Not of the people. Don’t hold them in contempt. Shun them if you must, consider them wastes of flesh and air, but be careful you do not erase their humanity in your displeasure. If for no other reason than that we are not them. We do not do as they do. Don’t hate thy neighbor.

How We Got So Far So Fast

Yesterday, due to something other than raging allergies (I’m almost sure it’s not a cold, but if I don’t hit the antihistamines, I will have an ear infection again) I got really depressed.  So depressed I gave up on writing and went to see elephants.

I got really depressed because I called mom, (to see if she’s gone to the doctor yet. No, of course she’s hasn’t. She’s calling HER doctor next week when he comes back from vacation because the other doctors have cooties, and her follow-up can wait till then. Why does she have to be so stubborn?) and caught up on a lot of old classmates/relatives/acquaintances.

No, it wasn’t the usual “and then they died screaming” though when I go over I always find some number of my contemporaries, and even some of my old students have.

No, this was in a way worse.

Look, indulge me, will you? I’ll explain why this isn’t just “Hey kids get off my lawn” afterwards.

It just seems that every woman my age has been divorced three times, or is shacked up with some guy half her age who is eating out her savings. Every younger woman is having kids out of wedlock starting well before seventeen. And I keep thinking: Oh, h*ll. When did everyone who grew up with me become… low class?”

Look, the village was poor as Job, and financially we were probably the wretched of the Earth. Things I remember from my childhood could fit in a documentary on “growing up in the third world.” Stuff like getting clothes stolen from the line, because there were people who genuinely couldn’t afford clothes for their kids; stuff like eating day old peasant bed fried in lard for a meal, to stretch out the grocery money of the household; things like getting the toes of my shoes cut off when I outgrew them, so I had ersatz sandals for spring. Other things, like playing with empty containers, or thinking the days the crops were irrigated (not with water!) ideal for cork boat races (disposable, thank heavens, but…)

We weren’t rich, and my family was relatively well off.

But dear Lord, we were middle class, no matter what our actually available money was.

Middle class consisted of this, in the end: if she was pregnant, you married her; if the marriage wasn’t unbearable, you stayed married; if there was an oopsie, there might be gossip about it, but neither the husband nor the wife admitted to anything, and save for the older women everyone pretended the kid was legitimate. (And the older women just LOOKED;) men had jobs (they might not be very good at them, but they had jobs,) and most women had jobs (working in the factories was declasse, unless you were a young woman saving for a trousseau, but cleaning houses, or having your own craft business of some sort, or even “buying and selling” were normal,) kids went to school and stayed in school till 4th grade, (that is something that’s way better now) and then were encouraged to get jobs; kids behaved well in public (and when they didn’t, there were a hundred grannies to punish or report to the proper punishment authority).

If you’re thinking that sounds like a lot of hypocrisy. Yeah, a lot of it was, but not quite hypocrisy. People had an image of themselves as decent people, and if they failed they tried to fail in private and show the proper image in public.

Look, I have absolutely no clue whether Heinlein was right, and whether most marriages are rife with adultery. How would I know? Mine isn’t. My friends don’t seem to be. Maybe it’s a function of his having lived in a bohemian class for a time. For all I knew everyone in the village was beating mattresses with everyone else’s wife. The old women sort of assumed so, which was why if your distant cousin they’d never seen called on you and you were alone in the house, you had to talk on the front stoop or risk everyone thinking you were an abandoned woman. And why I was ipso facto an abandoned woman because I thought all of my brother’s friends, who’d known me from birth were as brothers to me. Being left alone with them just meant they lent me comic books. But the old women in the village knew better. (Insert the knowing ah! Here.)

And I’m not going to lie and say that all things that went on and the established mode was the best one. It very well wasn’t. For one, it was a genuinely patriarchal society in the sense that women had almost no power. And before you think this is good, think domestic violence; think someone married to someone who is a genuine head case; think child mortality that might or might not be infanticide (that was normally women, but); think having to get a letter from your husband before you find a paying job (you could start your business without any of that, though,) think being judged on whether your stoop and your curtains were QUITE clean, even though you might be starving; think having your head shaved because your dad caught you smoking; think being grounded because you let a guy walk you home from school at 10. Think too that the only case of genuine immorality in which the woman didn’t get blamed, regardless of the age difference/circumstances was the farmer’s mentally disabled daughter to whom a passing stranger “did a favor” (read, raped, since she was at best around age 4 mentally.)

And the men didn’t have it all their own way. A known adulterer might (probably would) be ambushed by the married women of the village late one night and beaten (the caveat there is that if he was looking after his wife and children they turned a blind eye to his having another arrangement on the side. But neglect or leaving the wife and children destitute wasn’t tolerated) and if a man was genuinely horrible with money, the men in the village would try to have a talk with him. And if the parents had issues, somehow their kids would always be invited to play at someone else’s house all afternoon and stay for dinner. You had to be really far gone/aggressive/scary to be left on your own. Some people managed it. (More on that later.)

It wasn’t ideal. It wasn’t in any circumstances ideal. But it was “decent.”

As I said, regardless of the fact we were all very poor, even those of us who thought (by comparison) we were well off, we were decent folk. We looked after ourselves and we looked after our own. And our clothes were clean, and so were our kids, and if a kid was sent home with lice, his mother couldn’t raise her head for a year.

To quote from Pratchett, there might be nothing to put on the table, but at least the table was well scrubbed. (And in the village most people made their own soap.)

There were people who were unhappy, of course. And there were people who managed to fall through the cracks. Women who lived in shacks and had a dozen kids by different men, and who spent their entire day drunk. Men who were horrible people and drunkards and whom the rest of the village had learned to leave alone. Maybe ten people or one per thousand.

But those were the people we looked down on “low class” people; people “without standards.” People like us, who were properly raised, even those whose parents were separated (or later divorced) or who were very, very poor, were never going to be like that. We had standards. We were middle class.

So –

Look, I’m open to a lot of alternate societies. I grew up reading Heinlein. I confess I don’t like the idea of polygamy because someone always ends up with the wrong end of the stick. (And even Heinlein saw the potential for that to happen. Think Friday.) BUT—

But even in Heinlein’s type of group marriage, there were laws and there were protections. I didn’t know how they could work, exactly, but I kept an open mind that a way could be found to make them work.

Except…

That’s not where the future went. All my old classmates, all my old acquaintances – or a significant number of them – are living in arrangements that are more similar to those of the “low class” people, the “people without standards.”

The standards of the middle class, narrow and blinkered and often unjust as they were had one thing in common: they protected women. Given a state much less willing to pay for illegitimate babies, it did its best to encourage the father to marry the mother (or SOMEONE to marry the mother) and to form a family and to at least PRETEND to be decent people, while they raised the kid in habits of social politeness, thrift and diligence.

Kids aren’t being raised that way now and my kids’ generation (I had children late) are loitering around their parents’ (mostly their mother’s) house, with no job, no degree, no future. Part of it is the economy, which sucks, of course, but the economy also sucked back when I was little and it sucked, yay, mightily in the late seventies, as my generation started selling handicrafts and tutoring and doing other minor work so as not to be a burden on anyone. Because we were raised to be decent.

And young women are being taken advantage of, because being promiscuous is hip, and guys can have kids with them and promise marriage eventually in a future that never comes. And women my age will fall for young men who just want them to support the young men in idleness and to eat out these women’s savings. (Can I say it disturbs me that a number of these are immigrants from Islamic countries? Before you call me racist – and some glittery person will – remember that Islam is not a religion. It is, however, a culture, and by and large a misogynistic culture and one hostile to protecting women – yes, whatever they say. I’d rather be homeless on the streets of New York than a princess in a palace in Dubai.)

The “middle class” standards weren’t there because people were perfect, or because people wanted to look down on those who failed to keep them. At least in my experience we were not puritans, and no one got branded with a scarlet letter. Yes, the people in the village (particularly the old women) glared at anyone they thought was doing anything wrong, but give it enough time and a slip up would be forgiven, if you went ahead and kept the standards in everything else.

The standards were there, evolved over time, because they protected women and children. A man who left his wife for the new new thing was as looked down upon (and possibly smacked) as a woman who slept with married men and lured them away from their wives. That meant when you were older, and you gained a little weight (who am I kidding? Mediterranean. We explode outward and grow a mustache!) your husband was encouraged to stay with you anyway, and your kids had their parents together to look up to, and you had someone to look after you in your old age. That meant if a man did you “an injury” and it could at all be managed, he married you and supported the kid. And if (we weren’t Jane Austen either) it was clearly statutory rape or any other form of rape, very often someone else who hadn’t dared approach would step up to keep up appearances or the child would be found a family, and you took a visit to the country and came back, miraculously still a virgin. It meant that young men who loitered idly living off a woman’s income, be she mother, mistress or wife, got the glare and hints to shape up, and fell at least for a while out of the “decent folk” category.

Restrictive? Of course they were. The standards were supposed to be restrictive. They were a rail that kept you from losing track and living out in the wilderness, with no protection.

Most of the standards were to protect women, though I suppose the ones relating to honesty in your dealings also protected men – at least in business. And the ones about respecting your elders meant that one school mistress could hold 30 unruly teenagers under her spell.

But mostly it was there to protect women and children, to provide them with face-saving stories, with ways to go on living “decent middle class lives.” Even if those were a lie, the encouragement to look after yourself and your kids and stay solvent would – I’m guessing – keep many people from living as horribly as they’d otherwise have done.

Look, human beings aren’t saints. Whatever the romantics believed, man in state of nature isn’t an angel. Man in a state of nature is in fact a savage. Man who doesn’t need to work for a living is at best a wastrel, and at worst wasted. Some exceptions who work when they don’t have to to maintain more than a minimal level of living (Hi guys) are clearly the head cases. Evolutionarily, saving your strength is what pays off.

So if the community doesn’t set standards – of clean clothes, of decently looked-after kids, of being out of bed early morning, of not spending all your money on wine, of not sleeping with every guy who comes around – who does? And why keep them?

If there are no standards, who looks after the girls and the older women? Who looks after the children had in hope of luring some guy to marriage?

The state? Ah, that’s a laugh. Who will do that when (as there as it seems) the majority of people are living without standards, and not looking after themselves or theirs.  And besides bureaucracies mostly serve themselves.

Yes, part of it is enabled by greater wealth. If someone had let things slip like that back when we were all poor, they’d have died of starvation.

But does the wealth stay once the habits that brought wealth and decent living fall? Do the walls collapse and the roof stay miraculously up?

And what about all the foreign men of a machistic (totally a word) religion who are coming over and preying on women when the local men no longer have standards and no longer look after their women? Are they becoming women of the veil? (I’d bet you a few are.)

Are people, in fact, after losing their standards taking up the standards of a civilization that produces nothing, creates nothing, and which hates modernity and its wealth and blessings?  They will you know, because multi-culti and no one wants to be “racist” so they swallow ridiculous standards and tolerate child rape and elder women exploitation and cruelty to everything from women to animals to other men.

Again, I ask you – can the roof stay up when the walls fall? Will we turn in the “middle class” standards so many found so oppressive for medieval standards that bring poverty and misery? For places where women and children are only safe while a man is willing to defend them; where the bad men aren’t looked down on by other men?

Is this what we want?

And how is it possible we came so far so fast? How did we tumble to this?

I’m not saying the village was a bucolic land that time forgot. But it was that compared to most of the US. And how did it tumble further than most places in the US?

Socialism; statism; constant propaganda about liberation from standards and how freeing that was, and also the injustices of middle-class judging; just enough wealth to be stupid, and not minding what the kids are/were learning; vast waves of immigration (both intranational and international) with no time to acculturate and no encouragement to; multiculturalism; you’re all right, I’m all right.

I’d have been all right if we had evolved a different type of standards — if we’d evolved some legal way to make polygamy work; if we had some kind of arrangement to raise the kids to be decent people; if it were understood that you looked after yourselves and your own, even if it were quite different from what I grew up with.  What I grew up with wasn’t great and it wasn’t paradise.  It just… did the job.

Don’t get off my lawn. Stay right here and answer. Are we now all Rotherham? And is that what we wanted to be?

If it isn’t remember – it’s no longer fun to make fun of the “squares.” “Squares” might be our only hope of surviving this without devolving to medieval (or worse) life standards and having to claw our way back up again for a thousand years or so.

Rogue Magic, Free Novel, Chapter 57

*I will post Elf Blood over at MGC too, but it’ll be about two hours.  I’m helping older son with something.  Then I’ll make a post here this afternoon about something that’s troubling me in terms of the world and state thereof.  It might just be “get off my lawn” but I don’t think so*

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

Seraphim Ainsling, Duke of Darkwater, Prince Consort and Royal Witchfinder:

There was a sound. It wasn’t a sound I’d ever heard. It was like a vibration in the air, like the sound a thread twisting would make, if several times amplified.

Gabriel said softly, “Oh, damn” something that I was fairly sure the elf king was not supposed to say, since the words in fairyland could twist reality. He looked… more solid. He turned towards the curved glass. He sighed.

He turned again towards me, “Seraphim, do you know what they’re doing? Or why my fracturing was not an accident?” He made a face like he used to make when he was forced to take medicine he detested. “I enjoyed it, too, in a way, you know, because …. Because being the king of fairyland is being all the kings of fairyland, in a way. They all live at the back of your head, like ghosts, and frankly I have trouble enough being myself alone. But also, it was the only way I could think of to avoid seeing my kingdom devoured.”

“Devoured?” I said. I backed up to sit on a chair, which I’d swear wasn’t there until I glimpsed it out of the corner of my eye and collapsed into it. “If fairyland is devoured…”

“All the universes will be. Or at least the ones most closely connected to fairyland, but even over the other worlds, the old myths will reign in terror and rapacious theft, Seraphim. I think – though I can’t exactly explain it – that’s how it was at one time. They are the ur-world, now consumed and old, and they must feed off our thoughts and dreams to survive. Fairyland, first, since it’s the place where dreams and magic live.”

“But why now?” I asked. “Why—”

“We called their attention somehow,” he said. “Perhaps my fight with my uncle, or perhaps my divided nature. You see, I don’t hide. I know I have culpability in it. This is why I didn’t want this crown.” He removed the crown, which had appeared atop of his head, looking incongruous with his respectable black suit. He set it on the table. “I know what I am, Seraphim, neither human nor elf, neither nobleman nor commoner. I was afraid the cracks would show.” He turned again to look at the confusing landscapes outside the window. “Perhaps that was what attracted them, and perhaps it was our family and those who interact with us.

“One thing is certain Seraphim, as much as they wish to devour fairyland, as much as they’ve tried to, throughout the ages, they need a burst of a certain type of magical energy, the type that will allow them to tear asunder what shields there are here. Our shields are weakened. Already walking this land are people forbidden by curse, like our misguided would be brother in law, Akakios. And Marlon. Yes, I know of that. I sensed it now, when another portion of my divided consciousness joined me. And so is our sister here, and Michael, and probably our father, though him I can never be sure of. And this is bad, Seraphim, very bad.

Because the moment they get enough of the right kind of people – people who sit uncomfortably in their role, as it could be argued our whole family does, as do the two Blythes in this land, also caught in the net, then they can sacrifice you first, until they have enough energy to get to me. And when they get to me, there goes fairyland.”

As he was speaking a sound grew louder. It was a sound of confused words, a mumbling in a tone I knew all too well, “Helicoidally.”

“No, rather the other way. The spin–”

I knew both the voices. Gabriel sighed. “Michael being ensnared surprised me a little. He seemed so… Absent all interior struggle.”

I sighed in turn. “He’s in love with Albinia Blackley daughter of Marcelus Lion.”

“Lion? Wasn’t he proscribed for—“

“Exactly.”

“Oh.”

The discussion came closer. Words like “Counterpensant” and “Semblance magic” came closer too. From the sound of it, my younger brother had found the one person who could understand his magical theory.

They ambled into the hall of the king of fairyland, talking to each other, as though the conversation were the important thing and the location something casual.

“Marlon,” Gabriel said. He didn’t sound upset, so much as appalled and very tired. “You at least I’d expect to know better.”

Marlon looked at Gabriel with a sort of unfocused confusion. It was a look I knew well, having seen it on Michael a hundred times when you asked him something like, “But what is that formula supposed to do?” or even “When was the last time you slept.”

But the red-headed magician seemed to recognize my half-brother, because he smiled a little and said, “Surely, my dear, you didn’t expect me to let you be in trouble without coming to help you, did you? When I found the barriers were down–”

“You fool,” Gabriel said. “If you know the barriers are down, you know what they’re doing. Why would you offer yourself, a willing sacrifice to help destroy me?”

Marlon shook his head. He looked non-plused. “Gabriel. I wish you’d not dropped out of practical magics when you left the university ah… in a hurry.”

Since the hurry was related to their relationship becoming suddenly public, that was some gall, but Gabriel didn’t say it, he just frowned at Marlon.

“Have you ever heard of the poisoned pill? It’s the only thing that can save you from this kind of attack.”

“Wasn’t that what Merlin was trying when he became imprisoned between worlds?”

“Oh, him,” Marlon said, his hand waving again the greatest magician in history. “That is because he did it wrong.”