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Why We Must Fight. By Tom Knighton

*This is Sarah:  Sorry this is late.  My fail proof system to get posts up… failed, so I had to hack it this morning.  I’m also not doing anything about Paris until Tuesday at least, though my main thing is “if people say they want to kill you, believe them” which would seem really obvious but our enlightened leaders routinely fail to get.  I got the news in dollops two hours into my vacation, on texts from older son.  I’m still a little in shock.  More when I get back home.*

Why We Must Fight.

By Tom Knighton

Just how screwed up is the United States? Well, based on some of what I see out and about these days, pretty screwed up. You see, the things that make this country great, things like free speech? A lot of very loud people seem to be offended by the concept of freedom. It’s pretty pathetic.

By now, I suspect many of you have seen the video from Yale University where a student is shouting down someone who is essentially defending the First Amendment. The screeching student tries to make some argument about Yale being her “home”.

I watched the video as intently as I could. I couldn’t get too intent because my laptop wouldn’t survive being forced to do a Frisbee impression, but I did the best I could. While watching it, I developed a theory about why there was this bizarre effort to describe a college as “home”.

You see, I believe it’s about rationalization.

When you consider a particular space that you have no authority over as your “home”, then you can justify lashing out against anyone who dares to disagree with you. It allows one’s mind to justify anything you do, because you’re defending your own turf.

Defending turf is a timeless custom among humans. When Ogg and Ugg threw down over who the cave belonged to, they were battling over turf. Most wars throughout history, up until recently anyways, were about turf.

The idea of turf being sacred is almost encoded in our DNA.

So, when the screeching student prattles on about “home”, it’s about defining her turf. Oh, she shares it with others of her tribe, but that’s not an issue. Her tribe has her back on such things. It’s the defining characteristic of their tribe.

Unfortunately for them, they fail to notice that another characteristic of their tribe is to abuse the English language badly enough that it probably needs a shelter.

Yale University, or any other college for that matter, is not now nor will ever be “home” for students. It’s a school. Yes, they live there for their time at school, but it’s not home. The entire business model for colleges is based around students staying there for a few years and then kicking them down the road so they can play adult.

It’s not home. It’s a place to become educated.

That’s irrelevant to the tribe, however. They have decided it’s home, and any disagreement is an invasion into their home. Just as any of us would do with a home invader, they seek to stamp out the life of the intruder. For people like our screeching student, that invader is freedom of speech.

I believe that this is what has lead to the idea of “safe spaces” we have all come to know and mock. Rather than confront ideas with their own ideas, they seek to push away the unpleasantness. They don’t want to be challenged, so they hide away in their own caves and hope the evil “other” goes away.

Don’t believe me? Then please, tell me why there was a problem with the World Fantasy Awards having a bust of H.P. Lovecraft?

Was Lovecraft a racist? Looks like. Much like most other people from that day and age did. However, rather than just have the conversation about the backward thinking of his day, the effort has been to purge him. Couple that with at least one notable author arguing that aspiring writers don’t really need to read the classics, and you see an effort that would effectively remove H.P. Lovecraft from the collective memories of fans.

Now, realistically, this isn’t some grand conspiracy to remove Lovecraft. What it is are independent efforts that have a cumulative effect that amounts to the same thing.

It’s not just in our little corner of the world either.

Look at the University of Missouri. Yes, I understand there are some very real problems there. I’m sure that there might be some legitimate grievances in there somewhere. The problem is, we don’t care. Any ability to give a flying flip ended the moment a bunch of privileged white college kids started pushing an Asian student around for the crime of exercising his First Amendment rights as a member of the press (he was on a freelance assignment with ESPN).

Even more ridiculous was that one of the ringleaders was a staff member with a background in communications who held a courtesy appointment with the journalism school. Rather than recognize individual rights, she looked to defend the “safe space” at any and all costs. Tim Tai, the photographer that was assaulted—and yes, he was assaulted—was told to “respect the students”. Even his status as a student was irrelevant to the Snowflake Brigade. After all, it was home and his rights didn’t matter.

Recently, a buddy of mine on Facebook posted an opinion. Nothing unusual for social media, right? Well, a friend of his passed word that a third party wanted my buddy’s friend to un-friend him. Why? So this Special Snowflake wouldn’t have to see my friend’s opinion in her feed.

Sunshine, that’s what the “hide post” feature is for.   If it’s bad enough, then the “block” feature works well too.

For better or worse, there is a generation of people who think their feelings are all that should matter. They’re not open for discussion, they’re not open for debate, and they’re not open for much of anything other than complete and total agreement.

They’re the people who rules-lawyer the crap out of things and try and get people thrown in Facebook jail at the slightest provocation. You use their name? BLAM! Reported and a 12 hour ban. You said something to them on Twitter? BLAM! Now you get your account shut down.

Not everyone on the left falls into this category. Thankfully, there are some on the left who are just as disgusted by this behavior as we are. In part, they have enough sense to know that what is good for the goose is good for the gander.

Of course, it’s so good that many of us are starting to play by their rules too.

For a while, right-leaning authors tended to let any comment come through on their blogs with the exception of spam and trolls while many left-leaning authors moderated the snot out of their comments. However, more and more of us aren’t willing to allow the hate to flow toward our blogs while the other side fails to reciprocate.

Now, some of us simply allow comments we happen to like. I do it on my own blog, after all.

We’re setting up our own “safe spaces” of sort, thanks to secret groups on Facebook. However, those similarities are about where it ends.

You see, we don’t want liberal thought purged from our world. OK, that’s not really true, but the difference is how we want it gone.

Leftist ideologues tend to want everyone who disagrees with them silenced or, even better, forced to agree with them through indoctrination programs. Disagreeing is a sin, and you will not only will sin no more, you will think in such a way as to never think sinfully. Don’t believe me? What about the baker who refused to bake a cake for a same sex wedding? He not only has to make cakes for same sex weddings, but he was forced to undergo “sensitivity training”. He couldn’t be permitted to think something unapproved.

Ah, yes. Orwell would be proud.

Honestly, is it any surprise that many of us are withdrawing from the more general society? Of course some of us are.

Whether we should or not would be an interesting topic for debate, but I ask you to not judge those who have withdrawn from the field too harshly. The wars can be brutal, and some just can’t fight any longer. To be an effective warrior, it takes a lot of time. There’s a lot of reading, a lot of watching, and a lot of understanding required. Some people just don’t have it in them any longer.

However, those who can still fight need to do so. Otherwise, the “safe spaces” will grow and grow. Screeching students will multiply exponentially. Before we know it, they will silence us. By force.

Imagine a world where a tasteless choice in a Halloween costume is deemed criminal? Imagine if you could lose your job for your Native American costume, or whatever else you opt to wear. For Halloween.

There are people who actively dream of that power.

So, as a result, we must fight. Even if we have to get louder than the screeching students, we must fight. The future is worth it.

Sorry This Is So Late

We had a house closing this morning.  The new owners of our former home seem quite nice (and very young) and I hope they enjoy the house very much.  In a way they seem perfect for it as we never were.

And now you guys know why my head hasn’t been on, while we tried to do all the last things for closing under new Federal regulations which add… layers… of stuff.

Anyway.  It’s done and we’re out of here for a long writing weekend.  (And I don’t want to hear from Sabrina Chase what she actually thinks we’ll be doing.)  When I come back (there will be guest posts the other days) I’ll answer goldport email, deal with patron issues and donations, and generally be back on business.  I should also have Darkship Revenge done or near done, so you betas can get ready to beta.

Meanwhile, it’s my first vacation in 2 years.  (Yeah, JUST writing is a vacation around here.)  So wish me luck, and you guys try not to tear stuff down while I’m gone, okay?

My Brain Has Left For Warmer Climes

So I’m in the second night of sleeping very, very, badly — there are reasons for this, which don’t make a lot of sense, and which I won’t get into until a couple of weeks from now — and with one more on the horizon.

Then I woke up this morning to crazy infighting among my friends, one of those situations where you just want to sit down and cry.

And THEN I heard the news that one of the Huns, a young man, is terminal. There is this utter inability to do anything, couple with the wish to do everything.

It’s been a bad week anyway, since the 9th was the anniversary of our friend Alan’s death.  Yes, I know we are born to die, but lately this has been too much with us.  And when those taken are the best and brightest and still young, your mind breaks a little.

I’ve been sitting here, staring at the screen and wondering what to write about, and nothing is coming.

I think I”m going upstairs to iron clothes to the tune of MHI audiobook.  I hope you guys forgive me.

If it all goes well, this weekend I have some guest posts for you, and then will resume blogging on Tuesday, hopefully a little saner.

Being Human – a Blast from the Past from March 2012

*Sorry, sorry, sorry.  It’s still a little busy and insane out here, and today I woke up to snow on the ground, which wasn’t nearly as bad as waking up several times in the night to howling wind.*

Being Human – a Blast from the Past from March 2012

While I agree with Charlie that we don’t want the human wave to be a prescriptive movement, one that cuts at the edges and where people can keep adding more injunctions and shall nots till, as in the present, you’re only allowed to write one type of book that echoes every other kind of book out there, because there’s only one opinion and one story line.

OTOH, while we’re not going to kick you out of The Human Wave for eating crackers in bed – or for writing a book where everyone dies at the end.  Or… – if you’re throwing your lot in with us and advertising yourself as one of us, then you should know that people will expect a certain feel.  And that feel almost certainly won’t be the slough of despond.  It almost certainly won’t be a feeling of disgust for human frailty and human imperfection and a worship of a quasi-mechanical perfection that doesn’t exist in humanity till all humans are dead.  It almost certainly won’t be a feeling of “we’re all doomed and why bother?”

We’re not going to tell you can’t do that, because frankly it’s up to you.  If you think that’s what most people want to read and what’s been censored by the gatekeepers (you might consider upping your meds) and think it belongs with a ragtag group trying to return the fun to science fiction, by all means, have at it.  But don’t be surprised if people attracted to the rest of our stuff aren’t attracted to yours.

This is because while the “human wave” is hard to qualify – all of us coming from many traditions, from fantasy to science fiction and from romantic fantasy to literary – we know it when we see it.  More importantly, the readers know it when they see it.

I’ve been reading everyone’s posts on this over the week, trying to firm it up in my mind, and it seems to me the important part of the “human wave” is the “human.”  And that’s perhaps where our greatest contrast to the New Wave is.  The New Wave viewed human flaws, human defects and human frailty as things to be mocked and condemned.  No, they didn’t explicitly say so, but it came through in most of their stories.  They viewed humans as flawed and therefore to be destroyed.  This was, I think, a reaction to the previous generation’s view of humanity as infinitely perfectible.  (Which wasn’t much better, since it was at the heart of all the totalitarian theories of the twentieth century.)

But viewing humanity’s frailty and error as irredeemable, and humanity, therefore, as an evil to be eradicated is not better.  In its ultimate manifestation it gives us people who hate themselves for being human.  The prescription, state wise, is the same too – they want a strong state to make of them what they can’t make of themselves.  They forget of course that the state is composed of humans.

Forgive me for using an analogy that is not accurate, insofar as humanity probably isn’t one giant organism.  But if humanity were a giant organism, the early twentieth (and in parts the later nineteenth) century would be the part where it graduated from elementary school.  It now knows enough to understand most of the world around it, and it feels confident that it can conquer its bad habits and its defects and grow up to be perfect.
Then comes middle school.  I sometimes say that Europe is dying from the wounds of WWI.  To be honestly, the reaction that was WWII only complicated matters.  If humanity were indeed a sole organism, this is the time at which it sits in its room cutting itself.  And sooner or later, as time passes, it realizes it’s never going to be perfect.

Those of you who have raised kids know instinctively what comes next: the cynicism, the self hatred.  In a particularly neurotic teen, which I think we’ve proven humanity is, it leads to trying to commit suicide.  There will also be attempts to return to childhood, which is where I think we get the rejection of science and the wish by many to lose enough population to return to an agrarian land-bound economy.  In their minds this is always an idyllic time, just like childhood is idyllic in the mind of the teen.

Many of the establishment stories (not New Wave, but an outgrowth of it) frankly read like a long-sustained teenage scream-out.  Or worse, like lying in bed going “moaaaaan.  Everything is bad and I can’t fix it.”

The Human Wave is, I think and hope, where we grow up.  Individual humans can do it, I hope species can, and I’m sure that literary movements can.

This is where we come to terms with the fact that we’re flawed, yes, but we’re all we have to work with, and there is a basic sanity in loving yourself.  You try to improve, yes, but you expect neither perfection nor utter failure.  Being human is a project not a destination.  Being human is a daily effort, not something you’re born.

You’re born a tailless ape with impulses and needs like any other animal, and a brain big enough to aspire to more.  Human is what happens when you integrate those, when you don’t condemn the animal but you also don’t let it have its sway.  It’s a struggle you face every day, unafraid, and when you fall down you pick yourself up and try again.

If the human wave works out, it will neither have the (fun but often superficial) characters of the golden age, who often seemed to never sweat, nor the evil anti-humanity of what is now considered “deep.”

Yes, humanity has flaws.  Yes, it will always have flaws.  But those flaws contain some of our deepest qualities.

There is a Jewish story about Moses, which I told each of my children in turn when it became obvious they were falling in despair because they’d realized they’d never be perfect.

During those forty years in the desert, one of the chiefs of the tribes whom the Israelites were approaching was a great believer in the study of physiognomy.  This is the belief you can tell a person’s character by their facial traits.  Hearing of this great multitude advancing towards him, he sent his court artist to spy covertly and make a portrait of their leader, so he knew what to expect.

When the physiognomist looked at the portrait, he told the chief.  “We’d best meet him at the edge of our land and surrender.  This man is an adulterer, a murderer, a thief.  He will destroy us.”

So, quaking, the chief met the Israelites at the border of his lands.  On speaking to Moses and hearing they were just passing through and had no intention to pillage or kill on their way, he invited Moses to the banquet, where he found that Moses was not in fact a monster.  So he told Moses the story and said, “I’m going to have my physiognomist put to death because he’s useless.”

But Moses said, “No.  Stay your hand.  He is right.  I am naturally all those things.  I’ve just chosen not to use my natural traits that way.  It is knowing those flaws in myself that gives me the ability to help others behave better and to spot those who can’t.  And it is struggling to make myself better that gives me the strength to keep my people together on our journey.”

Whether you accept the historicity of Moses or not, you can probably see the truth of that.  Someone who was perfect, sweetness and light, and never had experienced a bad impulse in his life, would not be able to keep a fractious people together on a perilous and grueling journey.

I knew this truth about myself by fourth grade.  I knew I was naturally envious, so it was easier to study and be the best than to live with the envy of the person who had the best grades.  I knew I was naturally aggressive, but I didn’t like the results of just pounding people at random, so I channeled it into looking after the weak and the timid and worked it out by beating the occasional bully who’d pushed too far.

That balance between knowing yourself what you are and choosing to be better or to channel it in ways that don’t disgust you and don’t destroy those around you is being human.

It is the fact that we live in muck that makes us aspire to the stars.  It is our own internal weakness that makes us struggle to be strong for those we love.  It is knowing our own craven, irresolute nature that gives us the strength to say we’ll be better than that when it’s needed.

And that is, I hope, what the Human Wave will bring to science fiction and literature in general.

Not a pollyannaish utopia, not heroes that work like clockwork, not a shiny future where everything is splendid – mind you, we won’t tell you you’re not Human Wave if you do that, but you might find that stories with no conflict don’t sell well.  Not a despondent wallowing in the filthiest parts of our human condition – again, we won’t tell you that you’re not Human Wave if you do that, but our readers WILL know.

No, Human Wave aspires to write and read humans as they are: with the flaws and the warts that make our achievements – both scientific and moral – more astonishing.

Get out of your parents’ basement.  Stop contemplating suicide.  Stop raging at how everyone is stupid.  Yes, a large amount of people are, and you too are, but there is kindness and joy and love out there, why are you ignoring it?  It’s as real as the rest of it.

Go forth and read and write and be human.


Real virtue is hard.  I was thinking about this as I was thinking the other day that I’m quite possibly the worst-practitioner-of-my-professed-religion-ever.

You’d not think that from the outside because I try to fit in with the obvious observances, and do the right thing… most of the time.  Look, it’s not hypocrisy, it’s my way of keeping myself close to the straight and narrow.

But there’s a whole host of little things that slip by: times I’m unkind, times I don’t consider others and certainly times I’m lazy or fail to do what I should be doing right then.

Real virtue is hard because most of it is internal.  It’s refraining from doing the things that the natural creature wants to do. It’s doing things you really don’t want to do.  It’s staying up an hour later to finish that overdue project, it’s getting up in the night because your spouse/kid is throwing up in the bathroom, it’s doing dishes before bed so your spouse doesn’t need to worry about them, it’s making a cup of hot cocoa for your kid when it’s snowy out and you know he/she is going to come trudging through the door, wet and cold.

BUT that’s not the hardest part.  The hardest part is putting yourself out for strangers or even people you don’t like very much.  Going out to help your contentious neighbor dig his car out of snow, even though you work from home, and don’t need to. Lending money to a bad-at-planning friend even though you know you won’t be paid back, because they need it more than you, even though it leaves you tight.  Or stopping on a cold night to help some person pick up packages they just dropped.

There are other — little — things that are easier, though still work you don’t need to do, like taking back the carts some right berk left in parking spaces in the grocery store.

I do the later type of thing when I can, the one of being kind to the family most of the time.  (Not always because I’m human and sometimes the body won’t obey no matter how virtuous the mind wants to be.) The virtue in relation to friends, well, I try, but it’s difficult.  It’s difficult because we’re all human and sometimes we don’t know when good turns to enabling, so it’s a judgement call.  And sometimes the “enabling” thing is easy to use as a n excuse, even though it’s probably (we never know for sure) not true.

Being kind to strangers takes the problems of being kind to friends and acquaintances and amplifies them.  I mean, what do you do when there’s that lone little old lady by the side of the road with an obvious broken down car?  Do you stop?  What if her accomplices are in the ditch waiting to jump you?  You might be commanded to be kind to those around you and help those who can’t help themselves, but what do you do when it risks your life?  Are you required to risk your life?  So most of the time you call the police and trust they’ll help the little old lady.  (More on that later.)

And then there’s a whole host of “virtues” and “disciplines” that are internal.  I’m very bad at them, and I believe they matter, because they condition how you see the world, but you don’t see them from the outside.  You don’t see my laziness either, most of the time for reasons of “taking the easy, not the exacting” part, but it’s failing at virtue, nonetheless.

However this is not confession, and I’m not writing this to unburden.

I’m writing this because I was thinking on what it would take to REALLY live my faith and I realized that most of it would be very, very difficult and also nearly invisible to others.

Because we’re human, it’s really hard to do things like never having an uncharitable thought or doing things when you really don’t feel like doing them, or being just kind enough not to enable.

This is why most ancient religions had/have a code of conduct, but also a bunch of actions you can perform, ritually or otherwise to make you feel okay with the divine, without having to go to heroic lengths.

Give gods/saints their pound of butter in the lamp, pray in a certain way, and you feel that you’ve at least studied to the test.  You might not qualify for sainthood or ultimate bliss, but you did what you needed to do, that Himself up there are trying really hard, and it’s not your fault if you fall down sometimes (or often.)

This is also why the older and more mature religions have established ways of atoning and established days for doing so.  Because if you think you’ve “studied to the eternal test” but just in case you missed one of the important tests there is this remedial credit, this way to make yourself clean OR to silence your overactive conscience.

The problem is when you substitute these traditional religions by the pretense of no religion.  Why pretense?  Because most people who claim to have no religion, never the less follow a set of never-examined-or-questioned precepts.

If those precepts are in essence the same as in many traditional religions, you have a lot of my atheist or agnostic friends: be kind to others; help those in need, take care of your own and don’t be a burden on others.  They tend to be — coff.  I know some of you read this — a wee bit more neurotic, as they have no way to make atonement and the unswept dregs of human failure pile up in their back brain.

On the other hand some of us who are religious are also really bad at believing we made full atonement.

But then there are those people who are not religious and who took as their precepts the fuzzier, more insane forms of “virtue.”  Stuff like “Speak for the voiceless.”  I hate that one, because while it’s valid if you’re a religious person or one who watches yourself ALL THE TIME, it’s way to easy to imagine that the voiceless would say JUST what you want them to.  Hence all the nonsense of very very white and privileged people speaking for minorities and then rejecting real minorities who disagree with them.  Or “respect the Earth.”  People like my friend Dave Freer respect the Earth.  They live very close to it, which involves an immense amount of work, and they hunt and use every part of the animal they can, and they don’t pollute more than they can absolutely help.

But people like Al Gore, PREACH respect of the Earth, while living in a mansion larger than some small third world villages, and which certainly takes more energy to heat, and jetting around the world.  They do their “virtue” talk and think that compensates for how they live, I’d guess.

Yesterday, while I was making dinner my husband had some show on where some right prat who fancied himself a comedian was going on and on and on about prisoner rehabilitation.  (Is this the new THING?  I saw it here yesterday, and it’s been cropping up more and more.  I find this very interesting, because I’ve noticed a certain coordination in topics du jour from the over-culture.  Remember when Alaskan cruises were all the thing and every liberal and soft liberal and some non liberals were taking them?  And every magazine was full of stuff about the PRISTINE landscape of Alaska?  All leading up to the rejection of the Alaskan pipeline?  I’ve learned to catch these things in the wind as it were, and be prepared for what liberal cause they’re pushing.  And no, I don’t think they’re a big conspiracy. They’re the result of most people in the media and entertainment being of the same political color and running in the same circles.  In those circumstances it takes very few manipulators in their midst to start this sort of thing, which then runs on its own, until it stops suddenly when no longer useful.  Mind you, the people planting the seeds ARE usually conspirators.  Not so long ago — and probably not now, but who knows? — they took their marching orders from Moscow.)

Younger son finally asked my husband to turn the d*mn thing off, and I realized I was gritting my teeth.  My husband was going along with it for the “funny” and paying no attention to the politics.

I was paying attention, partly, because of the discussion here, and because it was prickling the back of my brain with “is this the new thing?”

But it was annoying the heck out of me, because I’ve heard all this before.  I heard it in Europe.  The poor prisoners, and the horrors they face on coming out, and and and.  At the end of this is a judicial system where a wrist slap is considered harsh.  I don’t have any clue what it is now, but when I came to the States, you could commit murder in Portugal and be out in seven years.  MULTIPLE murders.  And then several busybodies would busy themselves with virtue-signaling by giving you everything they could, things they wouldn’t bother giving/helping poor but honest people with.  And when you failed, as most prisoners do, even with all the help in the world, to integrate back in society, it was society’s fault and more sappy stories were told about you, till they gave you another chance.

This (and I’m not going into the reform/rehabilitation/death penalty matter right now, this one is just an instance) is virtue-signaling on the part of the do-gooders.  These people wouldn’t bestir themselves to help a family in need that has never done anything wrong, because everyone agrees those people need help, and why isn’t the state helping them.  But hey will put themselves out to help prisoners say because the very fact they’re “undeserving poor” makes the virtue of helping them greater.  Not just prisoners, mind, there’s also drug users, or abusers of others, or as we’ve seen in our own field, pedophiles.

Sometimes it’s as though the less deserving the object of concern, the greater the virtue signaling of this “compassion.”

Which brings us to the fact most of this “virtue” is not even real.  They’re not helping anyone.  I have a friend who is a pagan prison chaplain.  He puts his money where his mouth is. He puts his time, his attention, and his work in there too.  Weirdly he’s one of those who doesn’t agitate for leniency in general.  It’s also funny, given how different their traditions, how much he sounds like Peter Grant on the subject.

Sure there are people in there who deserve help in building a new life.  They’re ready to change and work for it, and even if they fail, they deserve help in trying to fix themselves/their lives. But they’re few and far between.  Most of them are psychopaths and sociopaths, who are REALLY GOOD at pretending to want to change.

The people who work closely with them and who know them as much as possible can tell the difference and are in the best position for changing their ways if they can be changed.  Right prats who go on about how we should be lenient to everyone do more harm than good and lead to a world where we’re kind to the cruel and thus cruel to the kind.

Which is what is wrong with all this virtue-signaling talk.  Oh, it makes you feel so good to stand up say for a confessed pedophile and tell everyone how nice they are, and send them pictures of your kids (!) but in the end all that you are doing is enabling someone’s dysfunction.

It makes you feel good to speak for the “voiceless” (because Marxist theory tells you that in a capitalist society the poor/minorities are voiceless, and you never considered Marxist theory is the product of college professors who wouldn’t know voiceless if it bit them in the fleshy portion of the back.)   But in the end you’re just joining your voice to a chorus of out-of-touch academics pushing the world in a very bad direction, where envy is a virtue, the individual isn’t respected and society is a horror out of 1984.

Real virtue is hard.  Virtue signaling is easy.  When you no longer have any real standards virtue signaling is all you have left.

And that, ladies and gentlemen, small dragons and octopi, is what we face.  They say and do these things, from twitter storms to rants about the rights of (insert supposed victim class here, the more repulsive the better) in the same way other religions light butter lamps or genuflect to show devotion.

This absolves them from all real effort to help others, particularly since most of them think it’s someone else’s job, and just call the police, or government, to do the charity work they won’t do.

Our society, from entertainment to news to civic teaching (such as there is, which is almost never formally taught) encourages this form of virtue-signaling over real virtue.

We have a lot of work to do to turn it around.  And most of this is small, private, modeling real virtue and calling out fools on virtue-signaling.  None of it is pleasant or easy.  All or it is needed.

Their system if corrupt, impossible and failing.  In the end they lose.  But we only win if we cultivate real virtue and aren’t afraid to call out false one.

Resist the easy feel-good of virtue signaling.  Do what you can to cultivate real virtue.  And teach your children well.

No one said this would be easy.

The Slippery Slope – Amanda Green

The Slippery Slope – Amanda Green

I know, I know, this post is late. Blame me, not Sarah. When she asked for a post last night, I had just stumbled home after being away for most of the day and was about to fall face down in bed. So, here I am this morning, trying to get enough coffee into my system to make sense – and to keep reminding myself it isn’t good to throw my laptop through the TV screen because of the idiocy of the media and the double-standard of so many people.

I want to start by saying I have no respect for any man who lifts a hand to a woman simply because he can’t control his temper during an argument or he thinks it is his right to do so because of his maleness. I’ve worked with too many victims of abuse, adults and children, to have any sympathy for the abuser. However, I also have no use for media witch hunts using photos that are alleged to have been “police photos” but that are leaked by TMZ-like organizations without any verification of their authenticity.

In this particular instance, I’m referring to what the media has been doing for the last few days regarding Dallas Cowboys player Greg Hardy. For those not familiar with Hardy, more than a year ago he was arrested, tried and convicted on charges of domestic abuse. He appealed the conviction and it was overturned. Charges were then dismissed when his girlfriend refused to testify against him a second time.

Now, this isn’t a unique case. One of the major hurdles prosecutors have faced for years when trying domestic abuse cases has been the victim deciding not to testify after initially pressing charges. There are a number of reasons why. They range from the victim taking on the blame for what happened to agreeing to a payment from the defendant and being bound by a non-disclosure clause. Then there is also the situation, rare but valid, that the victim really isn’t the victim but has used the accusation to get back at the accused for whatever reason. In these cases, there are either no injuries or injuries that have been self-inflicted.

In Hardy’s case, it is pretty clear that he did hit his girlfriend. How many times, I don’t know and, frankly, I don’t care. He was in the wrong and he should pay for it. He had his day in court. He was convicted and the justice system determined there was an error in his trial and he should be retried. The girlfriend, for whatever reason, said she wouldn’t testify again. So the prosecutors decided not to retry Hardy.

In most situations, that would have been the end of the story. If Hardy were an accountant or writer, we’d never have heard another word about it. But because he is a pro football player, you have media mavens wondering why he was punished no more harshly than Tom Brady was for Inflategate. You have women’s activists saying they will never again cheer for the Cowboys for hiring this horrible person. For more than a week, national news has had story after story about Hardy and how wrong it is for someone like him to be playing pro football.

In other words, they want to remove the man’s profession because he hit a woman, went through the justice system and, when his case was reversed on appeal, the prosecution chose not to proceed. What he did was horrible and, in my mind, unforgivable. However, he had his day in court and should be allowed to follow his profession and, because of the safeguards the NFL has put into place in recent years, get the counselling and oversight he more than likely needs to help him learn not to do something like that again.

Look, folks, the truth of the matter is, the prosecutors made the decision not to go forward with the case. I’m not familiar with the law in the jurisdiction where the alleged assault took place. But assuming it is similar to that here in Texas, the case could have gone forward even without the cooperation of the victim. It would have been more difficult but it has been done before. The prosecutor could have called the responding officers, the detectives who investigated the case, the medical professionals who examined the victim, the victim’s friends and family – as well as the defendant’s friends and family. The prosecutor could even call the victim, albeit that would be a calculated risk because she would be a hostile witness and you don’t want to beat up on the victim in front of the jury.

All of this is a long winded way of saying that I’m tired of the double-standard. As I said, if Hardy were Joe Blow accountant or Certain Famous Writer, no one would bat an eye. He is the latest whipping boy of the media not so much because of who he is and what he did but because of the organization he works for. Ray Rice knocking his girlfriend/wife out in an elevator and Jerry Sandusky abusing who knows how many of his student athletes helped set the stage for the sort of response we are now seeing.

My question for those calling for Hardy to be drummed out of the NFL is multi-fold. First, why aren’t they going after every other employer who knows an employee has been accused of domestic violence – and why not add sex crimes to that? Second, if you remove a person from his source of income, what do you think is going to happen? Isn’t it better to leave him in a situation where he will be monitored and given counselling and supervision than to cut him off from work and income stream, thereby building his frustration and anger?

Yes, this is a roundabout way of wondering why those same folks who are screaming about all the Greg Hardys in the world aren’t doing the same about folks who openly advocate things like sex with minors or who were known to be abusing kids and yet those around them turned a blind eye. We will get up in arms over an NFL player raising his hand to a woman or kids sexting but those dirty little secrets that are known but ignored by the right thinking sort of folks are even worse. How many lives have been ruined because those folks have been protected because they were the darlings of publishing or any other industry?

Let’s look at the other side of the coin. Dallas is considering joining more than 100 other cities across the country that have removed the question on employment applications asking if the applicant has been convicted of a felony. The rationale behind it is that knowing from the beginning of the application process that someone is a convicted felon makes it too easy to dismiss them as an applicant despite their other qualifications. They have served their time, paid their debt to society and should be on even footing with every other applicant from the beginning. Besides, as city officials say, the question will be asked later in the process and considered if germane to the job being applied for.

Sounds reasonable to me. But I guess that same thinking wouldn’t apply to Hardy because he hasn’t “paid” for his crime. Well guess what, the fact he hasn’t is a direct result of the prosecutor from retrying him. I hate what he allegedly did. Hate it more than you can guess and for reasons only a few of you know. But he deserves the same treatment every other person in that situation gets. As long as he lives up to the contract provisions he has with the Cowboys and the NFL, he should be able to keep his job. We don’t have to like the man or his actions but we are going down a slippery slope when we start demanding people be removed from their profession without a conviction on their record – and he doesn’t have one.

Stealing The Oyster’s Thunder

So, the oyster sent me the post but it’s a leetle one.  And you know what, I don’t feel like writing a new one, because … well… I’ll tell you next week.  If you noticed my absence as Instapundit’s late-night-DJ, we were out of the house from 9 am to 11 pm and most of it we were doing violent manual labor.  So.  I barely made it up the stairs before I passed out into a dreamless sleep.

However, I remembered that when I was recovering from surgery I desperately wanted to write stories, but couldn’t summon words, so I made little story-pictures.  I shared them on FB, but I figure I’ll share them with you now.

And then the Oyster promo.  And I promise to be semi-human tomorrow, truly.

Cinders, final

Being a creature of magic, he couldn’t follow her out of fairyland.  Years later, Cindy wondered if she’d dreamed it all.  She retraced her way, carefully, to that place with the still-sparkling lost shoe, and found that she’d never really left and happy-ever-after was hers.


Oblivious, little Ethel read from the eldritch manuscript she had found, without knowing she’d just changed the world forever.

And NOW der Ambulatory Molusc’s Promo post!

Alma Boykin

A Cat At Bay

A Cat Among Dragons Book 7

Sometimes, you should look behind you…

Rada Ni Drako’s new commanding officer on Earth wants to run things her way, including running the xenologist around in circles, until one of General Jones’ great ideas leaves Rada’s Gifts scrambled and untrustworthy. Growing suspicions of non-humans within the Global Defense Forces and a quiet retreat that turns into anything but leave Rada considering Drakon IV a haven of peace compared to Earth. But something stalks Rada’s back trail, drawing closer and closer…

All of Rada’s training and all of her allies may not be enough to save a Cat at Bay!

John Van Stry


Portals of Infinity

When William’s oldest enemy attacked his family, Will chased him across several realities, until he finally slew him. However, champions reincarnate.

Fortunately for William, his enemy was damaged years ago and it will be almost a year until he can come back. Unfortunately his enemy is becoming a demigod, and if not stopped soon he may one day become too powerful for William.

William now finds himself in a race against time, needing to track down and destroy his enemy’s hidden temples on Earth, before he reincarnates. And while William’s god is sympathetic to his plight, William must still put his god’s needs before his own desires for vengeance.

Whistling Past The Graveyard

*I accidentally put this post in Mad Genius Club last night.  That’s how exhausted I was.  We have a full day of work away from this house.  But then we should be more or less done.  I’m not removing the post at MGC because it has comments, but I’m putting it beneath Cedar’s.*

You know, it will never cease to amaze me how people — and by people, I mean most people, right, left or center — continue to swallow “surveys” and “statistics” that say what is plainly not the truth, and then entire business plans, governmental courses, elections, are decided on the basis of what amounts to the media following a pre-scripted narrative that makes them happy.

I’ve in the past accused various people of drinking their own ink.  On the subject of ebooks versus paper books, man oh man, I just hope that ink isn’t poisonous, because good heavens, they’re slurping it by the bucket-full.

Remember some weeks (months?  My life has been such a whirlwind that some things have gone a bit fuzzy around the edges) ago, when we heard that due to a report that ebook sales were down, the publishers were convinced that paper books were making a comeback and were building more warehouses to house all those books they’d need to distribute to–  Who the heck knows?

The report was obviously twaddle — I’m linking this and this, and yet this and this because I’m not covering again ground covered by my colleagues at Mad Genius Club — because it doesn’t measure ALL ebooks, only the ebooks put out by traditional publishing.  Which has seen its ebook sales fall more than its paper book sales.  And which is therefore basing its entire economic future on the certainty people really prefer buggy whips paper books, not those newfangled automobiles and planes ebooks. Because ebooks fell faster.

Of course ebooks from traditional publishers are a) unreasonably priced  (No, really. There is a book I’m dying to get.  It’s $17 for ebook.  It’s $32 for the hardcover.  You know, I have KULL subscription and the indie books aren’t as good as this particular book should be, but it takes a lot of not as good at 9.99 a month to compare to those prices.)  b) often stupidly formatted/edited c) even more often on themes/by authors I have no interest in.  (Other than Baen, I currently read two other authors.  Period.  Oh, and one in mystery.)

Or to put it another way, traditional publishers went to war with Amazon to be allowed to price their books astronomically high.  Amazon let them.  They priced books at same price as hardcover or a little under (a very little.)  E-book sales fell, compared to what they were when books were tops 9.99.  Um….

Let me see if I can explain this as I would a child: your little friends love and adore your cupcakes.  So you decide to set up shop and make a batch in your easy-bake oven, and sell them for ten cents a piece.  Since your friends’ on average have an allowance of a dollar a week, you sell out of the whole batch in hours.  So you think “Hey, I can make more.”  You set the price at a dollar per cupcake. No one buys them.  Your conclusion is “My friends no longer like cupcakes and prefer to eat vegetable sticks.”

Would anyone but a two year old buy that narrative?  Well, according to publishers this is a perfectly sane thing to say.  I mean, if people won’t buy your overpriced ebooks, it must mean they are going back to paper.  Happy days are here again.  Let’s build warehouses for all those books we’ll be shipping out to the no-longer existent big-chain bookstores!  We’ll be able to control what books make it by our push again!  We’re rich, rich, I tell you.

But it’s not just publishers.  A friend sent me this article, and I scratched my head and frowned at it and said, in my deep thinking way, “Wut?”  This is sort of like if you told your mom your friends’ refusal to buy your $1 a piece cupcakes was because they liked celery more and she said “Sounds legit.  For your birthday party we’ll have ONLY celery.”

Print is not dead: Amazon goes brick-and-mortar as e-books falter

You see that forehead-shaped dent on my desk?  That’s what happens when I read obviously crazy stuff.  Remember how we thought the publishers were spinning this story but even they weren’t stupid enough to believe it?  Oh, geez guys, I wish we would stop being wrong about how crazy-and-stupid people with supposed educations and world experience are.

First of all, there is that headline.  Ebooks falter?  Poppycock.  Publishers just can’t sell cupcakes at $1 a piece. Among those of us who are also indie it’s not a secret that the lower you price your book, the more you sell.  Yes, there is a trade off and below 99c people suspect it of being cr*p, but at around 2.99 you’ll sell a lot more than at 6.99.  (Yes, I will lower Witchfinder when Witch’s Daughter comes out, which it will when I finish this … well, I’ll explain later.)   And frankly, I’ll bite the bullet and spend 6.99 for a book by a known author I know I love.  BUT no power on Earth can convince me to spend $15 for an ebook, even if I like your work. H*ll, even if I LOVE your work. (Even with Pratchett, I’d usually buy the audiobook instead of the ebook, because I have a subscription and it’s more reasonable.)

Does this mean I’m going back to buying paper books?  Oh, h*ll no.  Not after this move, and with another move looming in a couple of months.  And not anyway.  We read too much for our floor joists.

So what happens to those overpriced books?  I find other authors I like to read.  I mean, I might make an exception for my favorite two or three, but for most books?  Bah.  Double bah. I just find something else to read.  There was this medieval mystery series that was pretty good.  Not amazing, but pretty good.  I bought the first two at $2.99.  And then got ready to buy the third, and hello $12.  No.  I found another — indie — mystery to read.  Now (I’m not being coy) I can remember neither book name nor author name.

So, ebooks falter my sore foot.  “Overpriced ebooks don’t sell, but that doesn’t help paper books” as far as I can tell is the accurate headline.

And then there’s the crazy part of “Amazon goes brick and mortar.”  Yep, ladies, gents, cats and small dragons.  Amazon opened ONE brick and mortar bookstore.  ONE.  This is hardly “going brick and mortar” and more “making an experiment with brick and mortar.”  I mean, if Amazon were opening ten such stores it still wouldn’t be going brick and mortar, it would just be diversifying.  And why shouldn’t it?  Borders is gone.  Barnes and Noble has become Barnes and Toys.  There would seem to be a niche there for a bookstore, that, you know, sells books, and offers a way for bookish people to gather.  Note, that the store is said to be, mostly, for “showcasing Amazon products.”  But I could see a model where they have what indie stores used to have: knowledgeable sales personnel who actually read and handsell books, and perhaps a discount for books downloaded when on the premises, all the while selling the various kindles, as loss-leaders to get you addicted to ebook crack.

Oh, sure, and paper books too.  I mean, yeah, sure, paper isn’t going totally away.  For instance, next week I’m buying three of those to give as a gift. And I do still buy used books, if they’re $1 or $2 and they are “disposable” “popcorn” books.  I buy them, then trade them in at two for one, until eventually I have zero.  But the rest of the time?  The rest of the time I buy ebooks.

Now Amazon won’t be selling used books (I don’t think.  They might.  They sell them on line.) but I can see them having a machine that will print any of the create space books in each store. That and knowledgeable staff might make all the difference.  I still think it won’t ever be the main part of Amazon business, much less “goes brick and mortar.”  (Though I’ll admit that because investors tend to believe these cooked reports and Amazon is savvy, this might just be a ploy to quiet investors’ fears. In which case we’ll see maybe ten Amazon stores, and no more throughout the country.)

Now is this true of most people?  I don’t know.  Anymore when I’m out in public, everyone is reading on their phone.  Even on planes, if you see someone reading a paperbook they’re almost always from abroad. My friends who also epublish haven’t seen any big drops in income.  (Not like the dead summer of two years ago.)  Bookshelves are now ridiculously cheap (this is actually a good indicator.  I knew dvds were going out, when we started seeing dvd storage cabinets being given away on craigslit or its equivalent.) And used bookstores are feeling the pinch.  I keep seeing campaigns to “save x or y” bookstore.  Oh, yeah, also most of us who sell our accumulated bookery (totally a word) on Amazon have given up because the movement there is ridiculously slow anymore.  It didn’t use to be like that.

And yet, the New York Post, not a progressive newspaper, has fallen for this story and run with it even though two minutes thought would show it to be insane.

I remember Heinlein once said that no event he’d lived through and seen reported in the Times had been reported with any degree of accuracy.  From those events I lived through, I can tell you I agree with him.  And yet, newspapermen who are notoriously bad at analyzing numbers, will run with these narratives pushed at them from above.  And the man on the street (and investor on the street) will buy it because it’s everywhere.

So… so we come back to, remember when you thought publishers were just saying they were building warehouses and that print was coming back?  That this was just spin to make themselves sound better?

It would appear you were wrong.  They really believe this.  They feed the story to the media, then read it back and think it’s validated.

Drinking your own ink wrecks the brain.

Just before Halloween my husband was talking about kids’ costumes (our favorite was when older boy was a dragon and younger boy a knight, with a plastic-sword-of-smiting brother.  Good thing I padded the dragon head) and asked what I’d worn as a little girl.  I pointed out we didn’t dress up for Halloween in Portugal and he asked what we did.  So I started, “On Halloween night, you go to the cemetery–” and he said “Stop it.  No story that starts like that ends well unless you’re Buffy.”

But scary as that beginning might be, it’s not nearly as scary as “Publishers raised their prices which made THEIR ebooks sell less, so they thought paper books were coming back and invested big in those.”

I guess they’re just whistling past the graveyard.

Death in the Surprise Position – A Blast From The past from Dec. 2012

*Bear with me.  By Monday I should have more time to spend on blogging and writing too.  And if anyone has been trying to reach me via Goldport Press, be patient another couple of weeks.  It’s been… interesting.*

Death in the Surprise Position – A Blast From The past from Dec. 2012

I have been reading in recent days and casual attacks on strangers (or even mass murder) don’t really seem to be getting more frequent.  But people feel as though they are.  People feel as though these are sitting RIGHT in our lap, so to speak.  People hug their kids a little tighter before sending them off to school.  People worry.

Part of this, of course is the media feeding frenzy.  In the same way Halloween was made a night of fear for many parents by what turned out to be totally made up stories of people putting blades in apples and what not – yes, there was a case of poisoned candy, in California, but it wasn’t random at all, it was a stepfather trying to get rid of his stepson.  In the same way, the Tylenol poisonings of the eighties turned out to be a husband’s attempt on his wife, disguised as a bunch of killings of strangers.  But the media reports these and people who hear the report often don’t hear the debunking, and next thing you know you are changing the way Tylenol packages its active agent (though other medicines, and vitamins too, happily use capsules) and hospitals are spending time on Halloween x-raying candy.

In the same way the perception that at any minute someone could come into the classroom and let loose with a gun on your kids makes people panic and demand – mostly very bad – legislation, ranging from disarming those who would never commit such a crime, to making sure all the kids behave “normally” to making the life of odd, but perfectly functional people sheer misery.

And part of the horror that allows the media to whip this up is… death.  Worse, death of children.  (The shooting in the theater in Aurora, CO, though bad, didn’t evoke the horror this does.)

I was thinking about this the last few days and I realized we – we modern people – have a very odd relationship with death.

Look, I’m in no way complaining about this, okay?  I want you to understand that upfront.  For my final exam in American culture, back in Portugal, I had to read this very stupid book who deduced all sorts of crazy stuff about Americans from the fact our dead are usually embalmed.  Frankly, I think the author should have his head examined.  (He also went on about our putting people in old age homes, forgetting that our elderly live MUCH longer than normal, which means at the end they need a lot more specialized care.  He also seemed not to get the sheer immensity of our territory which means family can be flung all over the continent.  Organizing a rostrum to visit grandma and make sure she takes her meds is a tad-bit more difficult than in a village or even a moderately sized town.)

However, I’m a fifty year old woman who has never had to sit with the dying, never had to help prepare a body for burial, and the whole idea of death seems a little unreal – a little odd.  Oh, I’ve lost people I loved: both my grandfathers, when I was 14 and 20, but I was going to school and (at the time) this was something to be guarded as it were and also mom thought I was too young, so I was protected from the nitty-gritty of death.  Then when my beloved grandmother died I was over here and … well, every time I go over I’m a little shocked that she’s not there, that I can’t go over and have tea with her.  I visit her grave, but it’s more like she’s moved to yet another country, one I can’t reach.  (Since I believe in life after death, this might be literally true, but not physically true, if that makes sense.)

But even if I had looked after my grandparents as they died, or helped with the burial, I would still have been highly unusual in light of the experiences of my ancestors – and your ancestors too, while we’re at it, only your ancestors would have been far more remote than mine.

My parents are the in-between generation between WWII and boomers.  They were both born during WWII.  While Portugal was neutral – and of necessity sending supplies to both sides to keep from getting womped.  No, I don’t want to hear it about Portugal being craven.  This would be far more believable if everyone didn’t go about sainting the Swedes for being neutral.  The Swedes didn’t even have Spain next door ready to march in if they went in with the allies.  The fact that Portugal didn’t join the axis or violate its treaty with Great Britain is the telling point – apparently more than once it was thought that it would be bombed.  They remember some sort of public officials coming around putting tape on the windows to minimize flying glass, and they remember blackout curtains.

Their histories are quite different, too.  Though the country was very, very poor – just recovering from bankruptcy – my father was solidly upper middle class, living in a relatively large house and from a family with enough land to grow most of the stuff they needed (though they weren’t farmers.)  Mom on the other hand lived in what can only be classed as a slum, in what had once been a prosperous craftsman’s cottage… sometime in Elizabeth’s day, I think.  My grandfather came from a wealthy family but had run through the money and sold the land and then run through more money.  (He was a brilliant, fascinating AND deeply flawed man.  I loved him and miss him still, but I was always aware there was … another side to him.)

However, both of them had – disproportionate numbers, mind – of their classmates die very young.  It was so common for mom, in fact, that the favorite game of her childhood was – I swear I’m not making this up – doll’s funerals.  Mom explained to me she was prized among her classmates because she made really good cloth dolls.  I was stomped.   I mean how many dolls could a kid need?  Then she explained that she made them, they played with them about a year, and then they had a wake and a funeral for the doll.  And then they made another.  This is how common death was for them – a normal part of “mothering”, like feeding, cleaning and dressing the kid.  Think about that for a moment.  Let it sink in.

As I said, I’m not complaining.  I like the fact that given my unspectacular fertility, I was able to raise both kids to adulthood and have a better than even chance they’ll outlive me.  Kings and Queens in the past lacked this probability.  It’s a good thing.

However it makes us weird about death.  And it distorts our view of everything.

Accidents most of all.  What, you think it’s a coincidence that the more remote the possibility of death, the more we pile on safety mechanisms in cars?  The more we make our kids wear helmets and eye protection for perfectly harmless activities?  (I think the end run of this is that we pad all the trees, like the royal family of Spain when their kids had hemophilia.)

And it goes further.  Any death has become unthinkable.  We react with shock to any death that doesn’t take place after protracted illness.  We start cowering back from eating meat because “the poor animals” and we shy back from any war and try to have it humane and with ROEs that make it impossible to do what war should do: inflict terror and pain on the enemy until they surrender.  (I think this goes hand in hand with no longer knowing how to END a war.  We don’t say “We’re going to end it by winning.”  Or “It ends when the other guy is rubble.”  No, we say “We need an exit strategy.”)

If you think of death as the dark tints of life, we’ve become washed out, and in many ways incomprehensible to cultures in which death is still very common.

I know, I know, culture this, culture that – but in the end I wonder how much of our decay and our seeming wish for suicide, from having too few kids to not being ruthless enough to those who hurt us, comes from the fact that death has come to seem unnatural and strange.

Again, I’m not complaining.  I’m no more fond of death than anyone else, and no more resolute in the face of it.  I know I might be called upon to die for what I believe in, and that’s fine – it’s much, much harder to accept dying because someone’s clutch slipped, or because I caught some weird virus no one could figure out.  And I can’t imagine dying even at 100 without feeling that I’m leaving a lot of stuff undone.  Still, I can come to terms with my own death – the death of those I love is something else.  I’ve already told Dan he must die after me or I’ll never talk to him again.  The thought of losing the kids is unimaginably horrific.  Heck, I’m all broken up about the idea of losing a cat within the year, and I’ve lost cats before.

BUT while I wouldn’t want a return to things quasi-ante, and while the solutions I could pose – as a science fiction author – range from the repugnant to the horrible and are all “I don’t want this” (Though some might make interesting stories.)  I do wonder what part of our decay, or the decay of our willingness to fight and win, is because death is alien and a surprise to us.

We have become like the elves who spawn rarely and live unnaturally long “blessed” lives.  Maybe there is some ancestral memory there.  Maybe there is a cycle where you become too comfortable, too little used to death, and then the ruthless cultures come in and destroy you, because they walk with death everyday.

All I know is that in the Elizabethan age, people had a lot of kids and expected to die much younger than we do.  (No, don’t want arguments.  Shakespeare died at 58 and it was considered a very great age.)  They got in brawls on the street over very little.  They killed and died with abandon.  Death was familiar.  This also allowed them to embark to strange lands in ships made of wood, with no real direction, knowing chances were they’d die in the adventure.

We have few kids, we live long, protected lives, and we won’t risk going to space, we won’t risk doing anything that might involve the loss of human lives.  And we want someone to protect us from the (very rare) madman with a gun.  We want to banish even the specter of that death we don’t really know.  We want to continue our happy, sheltered lives.

I wouldn’t trade our conditions for theirs – but neither do I want human civilization to regress because of the consequences of forgetting that the old bony gentleman is always with us, scythe at the ready.

I have no solutions – just a question – now that our children are not in the valley of the shadow of death, how do we teach them that it’s still needed at times to five up life to fight evil?

UPDATE: Post now up at Mad Genius Club.

Holding Women Back

So there’s been an awful lot of talk about people wanting to stop women from writing (does sinal salute with thumb and forefinger on either side of the nose, head inclined.)

Since we don’t live in Iran or another of the places that legitimately make it difficult for women to write or even to learn to write, this was a bit puzzling.  It was all the more so since the people accused of wanting to make “women stop writing” are people with almost no power in the traditional book marketplace.

I mean, seriously, on the Sad Puppy side you have Baen authors and indie authors.  That the other side manages to simultaneously characterize us as small fish who don’t matter AND gatekeepers who can keep “women, minorities and all these new voices” out of the field is a feat of mobius thinking that goes with their belief a highly regulated top-down economic and political system is “freedom” and that justice is collective.

However, possibly the funniest of their attempts at speaking power to truth is the accusation that we want to make women stop writing.

(Okay, yeah, you might have noticed that Kate, Amanda and I are women, but that’s okay because they have an answer for this too.  We’re tokens or mascots.  On their side, though, where the best selling authors (you name them in your head) that promote the party line are male and white?  Yeah, there the women are totally empowered.  (Can someone find my eyes.  I rolled them so hard they fell off.)  Isn’t it amazing that they don’t EVER think “How would my hypothesis that these are racist, sexist, homophobes be falsified?  And if it can’t be falsified perhaps it’s a religious tenet?”  Never mind.)

First, I’m less than impressed with the new attempt to claim that women were always held back from writing and that ZOMG they’re only now receiving their due.  Pfui.  Flummery.

Look here and here for refutation.  Women have been in the field almost since the beginning and the GOOD ONES got awards almost from the beginning.  Yeah, there weren’t a ton of women initially, but that might have to do more with society in general than with science fiction or science fiction holding them back.  Most nerds love women.  More on that later.  (And btw, even if women were scarce in sci fi they were hardly discouraged from WRITING.  Romance is dominated by women writers to the point men writers use women pen names — this also happens in UF and PNR now, I hear, not that I care. — and before you wrinkle your nose at the “romance” it is still the best selling genre in popular literature.)

The thing that annoys me about this claim that “we are the first and great strides for women/minority of choice” are only happening now is that it’s an inherently REGRESSIVE claim.  By claiming this, you are denying the true pioneers of the field and those people who embraced it when it was a small and looked down upon genre.

You are also diminishing current women writers, and, yes, discouraging them.

And this is without getting into the insult to the truly oppressed women and minorities around the world.  Go to a Muslim country to find women who are not allowed to read or write, or even drive or be out on their own.  And yeah, I know all this is excused because “little browns peoplez.”  Well, suck it up, buttercup, they’re not any more brown than I am and I’m here to tell you their “culture” is a horror and a disgrace, and Iran’s forced sex changes of gay men rank up there with denying another human being’s humanity and power of choice, and if you weren’t such unmitigated cowards you’d be screaming against it from the roof tops, or even better arranging an underground railroad to save those guys from a fate quite literally worse than death.

But you don’t have to go to the horrors of Islamic fundamentalism to find societies that treat women worse than America does.  In point of fact ALMOST every culture and society in the world treats women worse than America does.  (Exception might go to the Scandinavian cultures but that is changing for the worse with the importation of people with toxic misogynistic cultures.)

I was born in a country that is at least mostly western and at least mostly … well, probably second world, at least when I was born and perhaps again.  (I don’t know about the again.  I don’t LIVE there and reports can’t be trusted, as it depends from whom they come.)

This meant that legally, in point of fact, I had the same rights as a male born at the same time.  Legally.  What goes in between legally and culturally is… a lot.

In the Portugal I was born and raised in, a woman could not walk outside after about 8pm without a male escort.  This wasn’t written anywhere, but if you were outside at that time, alone, you were assumed to be a prostitute.

If you were between the ages of 9 and 80 you were ALWAYS catcalled and had bizarrely explicit suggestions shouted at you when out of doors.  Forget construction sites.  There was always what my husband calls “three Portuguese guys leaning on the wall” outside every store, who made sure they knew that if you could lick that popsicle you just bought, you could lick other things.  (I never understood the point of this, btw.  Do they really expect us to turn around and go “oh, yeah, I never thought of that before.  That’s what I want to do” or is it a macho thing for their buddies?)

These were minor annoyances, but they did restrict your life.  Like, I was careful not to wear short-shorts outside the home, unless I was going  by car to a friend’s house and no one else would see me.  And I had to give a pass to college electives that ended after 8 pm.  (Of course I broke that last rule.  Because I’m an idiot.  This led to some interesting incidents, mostly involving my using dictionaries as blunt instruments, until my dad decided the best part of value was to pick his crazy daughter up at college, and drive her home, when her classes ended after 8.)

The more serious, all-pervasive encumbrance was that people literally and clearly assumed women were dumber than men.  Blame Latin culture and Muslim influence, but professors would actually say things like “I was surprised the best grade in this test went to a woman.”  Sickly smile at the guys.  “You men need to work harder.”

And then there was the “nice professions for women” which might or might not have existed mostly in my mom’s head, and which I never got.  Stuff like “buying and reselling” was a nice a profession for a woman, but refinishing furniture wasn’t.  I got nothing.

Now, understand please that I’m not running Portugal down.  this was the sixties and seventies, and if you talk to people from around the world, you realize none of these assumptions are rare or even strange.  Yeah, some people in the US have them too, but few of them, and even those who have them wouldn’t dream of voicing them.

So did I protest the patriarchy?  Sometimes.  At home.  And I did stupid things like book night classes.  And I took unholy delight in doing better than men at things.  BUT — but — in public?  Did I spend my life writing about how the patriarchy was holding me down?

No.  What would the point be?  In a really patriarchal culture, where these things are so deep down and so ingrained they’re presumed and never really discussed, you don’t protest, and you don’t agitate and you don’t talk about microaggressions.  (for one, you have tons of macro ones, every day.)

You don’t do it, because in a true patriarchal culture people won’t beat you down.  They’ll just ignore you.  If you intrude on their consciousness, they roll their eyes and say “oh, please.  She must be nuts.  Everyone knows women aren’t that smart.”

What you do instead is what you CAN do.  You surprise them.  You work harder, you work smarter, you devote your energies to being better: you win academic honors, leaving men in your dust; you win writing contests; you never cry in public, and you never give up.

Fair?  Of course it’s not fair.  What is this, kindergarten?  You come into a world that has assumptions about who you are, whether you’re a woman or a man, and whatever your level of tan.  The only thing you can do is fight to do what you want to the best you can, and IF POSSIBLE to open up the way for others.

This doesn’t mean whining and complaining and moaning you’re oppressed — that only works in a culture in which you have some power — it means being the best you can possibly be.

I know this.  I’ve done this.  I’ve done it all along in the field, including mentoring beginning men and women by the dozen.

But the pampered children of privilege among American women (and some rich European women) who were born at a time when everyone told them how special they were and how they should be bowed down to don’t get any of that.  They don’t know how long the way has been.  They think women were held down, not by biology, pregnancy, early death (they also don’t get that in the middle ages everyone was held down by nature and lack of resources) and the other peculiar downsides of being the child-bearers, but because men were “afraid” of them.

In their minds (do they even know any men?) they think men are this cohesive and hostile group, perpetually seeking to hold them down or to push them down again.

And so they view anyone who says that women shouldn’t get prizes just for being women as “wanting to hold women down.”  (I’m not sure in what world that makes sense.  Are women so inherently superior that just possession of a vagina makes them smarter and better writers than men?)

Since in the past women didn’t get prizes just for being women, it was a time of darkness, they think, and only now are women coming into their own… or something.

What they miss is that this type of nonsense holds women back.  Just like the incident at that college, where a statue of a guy in his underwear was considered so scary it had to be removed, and which would give any impartial observer the idea women weren’t ready for prime time, holding up mediocre (or at best “competent”) writing (or games, or anything else) as extraordinary because it was created by a woman only gives impartial observers the idea that women can’t achieve like men can; can’t create like men can.

Making special prizes for good little girls because vagina and actually going so far as to argue that creations like games or books which are engaged in as ludic pursuits don’t need to be fun, but only relevant, and that you should enjoy them even if you don’t enjoy them because they’re created by women, does the reverse of what I (and a lot of others, I was not a paragon.  I’m using my experience because I lived it) did when I had the best grades and won contests DESPITE the inherent prejudice against me.  I and others like me proved women can be grown ups and can function in the adult world; these victimhood pony-riders are convincing people who by an large believe in female equality to reconsider and think that women are fragile, not so smart creatures who need easy steps and easier tests and accommodations to function.

And btw, the exclusion of all of us who don’t believe in making it easier for women to win prizes, or in giving women accolades just because their women from the argument by calling us “tokens” or “mascots” is in itself a slap with the back of the hand to women who are striving to write and express themselves.  This is particularly awful because it comes from the powerful publishing houses and the writers they support and promote.  It tells us that there is only one way to be a woman, and that this way is to act victimized and helpless.  If you don’t act that way, they erase your identity as a woman and do their best to silence you.

This, my friends, is what we call holding women back.  It is convincing them they can’t achieve anything unless these — mostly white males, btw, even if they rage against other white males — people in power give them a hand, and unless they behave exactly as these powerful people expect them to.

Does it compare to the oppression of Iranian women?  Oh, not even close.  But I’d say that the people on that side, accusing us of what they’re doing and acting as though WE (a ragtag collection of indies and Baen authors) were SOMEHOW gatekeepers, are at least as annoying and disgusting as the generic three Portuguese guys outside a shop telling you to lick their popsicle.

I didn’t let those stop me before, and I have no intention of letting the newer version stop me either.  At most I find them annoying.

Women who let themselves be suppressed and held back deserve to be suppressed and held back.  Women who need prizes for being good little girls might want to grow a spine and some self-pride.

As for me and mine, we’ll just continue working.  In the end, it’s the best revenge.