And Then A Miracle Occurred

Yesterday I was talking in the diner about writing a short story for an anthology. I wrote this short story in the midst of extended family turmoil (nothing unexpected. People get old, and I’m a long way from the family home) and it is a short story on a theme that’s slightly a reach for me – how will humans get to the stars.

Given a month or two, and time to read and research I could write it as hard sf (I’m not a polyvalent scholar but I’m a really good researcher.) In fact, I am for a YA series that will be like the Heinlein Juveniles, in which I’ll be collaborating with someone in the space industry (I’m not announcing it yet, because I want to finish the research and do the worldbuilding. Baen has already expressed strong interest, though. There will also be a YA fantasy with Wordfire Press, and a YA space opera collaboration with my son, which will probably be Baen, and also a non-YA collab with my older son by adoption… um… would you guys at some point like a list of everything that’s under way?)

Anyway, I didn’t have a month or two, and worse, all the concentration I can spare is going into writing the books that must be written for Baen. So, I stepped sideways and went with “by accident.” The story starts with:

It was the summer of thirty two and I was living in a dilapidated Victorian in the Colorado Springs suburb of Greater Denver, with two mad geniuses, both of whom were trying to court me.

As a group we were recipients of the Bezos grant for developing a system of instant package delivery.

We weren’t the only recipients of the grant, which was structured as both a stipend and a contest. Twenty teams had been given sufficient to live on and create a prototype for a year, and the team that created the winning system would get the prize of twenty million.

It goes on to involve pizza pans, coin tricks and intergalactic travel. It’s a decent story. At least Kate Paulk, one of my cheereaders tells me it’s good. But here’s the thing – it’s also unlikely and I know it’s unlikely.

Is it possible that a new discovery, a new process, a new concept of the universe will upend our beliefs and even make interstar travel possible? Something like folding space or wormholes, or whatever you want to call it? (My son has hopes of a new process but he’s still asleep having stayed up late writing, and I’m not calling the idea to mind.) Sure it is. It’s quite likely that in twenty years what we think the most likely way of space travel will be proven wrong and that the craziest ideas will prove right. That is part of what science fiction is, or used to be, the dreams of our species, which keep us flexible, so that if the greatest thing in spaceships turns out to be powered by sparrow tears, we won’t be surprised. I mean, remember for centuries oil was just a black substance that wasn’t really that good for lighting lamps.

The thing is, even though this is possible and even likely, and even though we might discover the process by accident, it’s not likely to be three graduate students fooling around with it. OR if it is, they’ll be the culmination of several decades of study by serious people.

Is my story impossible? Oh, heck, no. Not according to what we know right now. It’s just highly improbable. That’s part of what makes it a good story, because, again, SF/F is supposed to be stuff we dream upon, stuff we really want to be real and which is maybe, marginally possible/plausible. If we anchor all our dreams in the plausible… well… I actually like some hard sf, but not the kind that’s SO plausible it’s like I’m reading next week’s newspapers. There’s no magic there.

I like to introduce some miraculous/improbable turns into my novels too – powertrees, anyone? – first because I think the future, five hundred years on, will have some things that we would consider magic or just too bizarre to exist. And second because it makes my inner thirteen year old girl squee.

But – to get back to the beginning of this – I posted the beginning of the story in the diner on FB, because it amused it, both the nod to The Door Into Summer and the Bezos grant. It’s set in Colorado Springs because well, I know the region. (I tend to set things in CO Springs, Denver, or Goldport which combines both. If you read my stuff, you’ll find the old stories were set in Charlotte. Are there other areas I could use? Sure there are, but I don’t want to spend time just researching a location. If the kids ever leave (ah!) and Dan’s job is at al flexible, I’d like to take to spending a month a year elsewhere, just for new locations. [At this point it would be uncharitable to tell me, as Mrs. Heinlein is supposed to have told her husband “Honeychild, you don’t need a new location, you need a new plot.”])

I’d forgotten that Colorado Springs is associated with Nikolai Tesla. This was silly even though we’ve never visited the Tesla museum (It was closed before we discovered it was here) because once upon a time I THOUGHT I was going to write a mystery series centering around Nikolai Tesla. (Editors and agents shot it down.)

Anyway, so, one of the people in the Facebook diner said “Is this about Nikolai Tesla” and this devolved into a discussion of Tesla’s strange popularity.

It occurred to me that Tesla is popular because we’re all waiting for the miracle. So much of what he did might or might not eventually pay off, but was ahead of its time in the way that Leonardo Da Vinci’s machines were. The way he made them, they were somewhat useful, mostly as pageant fodder, but lacking the internal combustion engine, they were neither practical nor could they be widespread. In the same way, we’re probably missing some puzzle piece that would make it “go by itself.” But it’s great to dream on. “What if” his strange energy suddenly solved our energy issues?

Well, it’s not impossible. It could happen. It’s just highly implausible.

Which is why he’s popular. More people than ever want a miracle.

I remember the last time it felt like this, in the seventies. Even at eleven/twelve, I knew everyone was seeing UFOs and writing about the mystical age of the Aquarium to come, because the situation seemed impossible and everyone wanted a miracle.

Then as now, I expect miraculous solutions will lose their appeal once we’re on the way to recovery – however difficult getting there might be.

The thing about miraculous solutions is that they’re so great because we know we won’t be required to work towards them. They just happen. (They’re also much better for short stories, because shorts are compact. I could come up with a future history leading to the stars, but not in six thousand words. Because for that to be fun, the nuts and bolts would need to be hidden behind human interest, and that times time.)

Fortunately for us our Republic and its design is NOT a miraculous solution. Someone here, a few days ago, left a comment saying “But for our form of government to work, everyone must be involved—”

Never! For communism, or for pure stateless libertarianism, yeah, you need everyone to be involved. Note I created an almost working stateless system in Eden (in Darkship Thieves) but note also that it only could be made plausible by making everyone there the descendants of people who were almost massacred (that will work while the memory of danger lingers) and making it a small, isolated and insulated community. Once crisis occurs, bad elements who were already exploiting the system openly try to take over it.

Because here’s the thing – it’s not just that we’re human – it’s that we’re alive and life is a series of odd shocks. Or “life is what happens while you’re dealing with something else.” (Sometimes I think my life is more so than others.)

Regardless of how much “everyone” believes in a system or a theory, a system that requires continuous engagement of every citizen is a system that will fail quickly and ugly. Which communism does. Pure Libertarianism never has failed that spectacularly because the individualists have trouble organizing enough for it to be tried.

Our system? It requires that people concern themselves with their own business. It’s taken a series of allowed corruptions for it to be where it is: the centralization of power; the conversion of our elites – and notably our press – to a communitarian doctrine which allows them to lie to us and wish upon a star for their perfect system.

But the design itself? Nothing wrong with it. And no, it doesn’t require everyone’s attention to work. Thank heavens.

It’s a system of governance, not a miracle.

But having come as far away from it as we have, it’s also not going to be saved by a miracle. It’s no use, now, looking at where we got and saying “but it’s not perfect.” Nothing made by humans is perfect. Because we’re not. And anyone who has kids knows better than to believe in a system where “if we all think good thoughts ALL the time it will work.” Not even the North Koreans think about their (messed up) system all the time, and just the amount of attention Dear Leader requires makes the place h*ll on Earth.

So, Tesla ain’t gonna save us. Nor is any other shaman and miracle worker. Yeah, technology makes our fight easier, but it’s not going to give us victory overnight and by accident.

Those of us who are awake need to see what we can do to consciously restore the republic. And we need to be aware it might be incremental. It took us almost a century to get in this much trouble. Expecting to get out of it with a wave of a wand is like expecting to lose those sixty pounds you gained over the last ten years to vanish by wishing. (If you figure out how to do that, tell me.)

Meanwhile, we work. Our contributions might seem negligible, but one of them might be the grain of sand that brings down the sandpile of statism.

Here’s your little plastic shovel.  Go work.

 

Rogue Magic, Free Novel, Chapter 55

(Sorry to be so late and so short.  Was dealing with crisis with extended family.  Some of you know what. I am REALLY ready for the crisis to slow down.  Thank you.)

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

 

Treason on Treason

Miss Ginevra Mythborne

They wouldn’t actually sacrifice me, I thought, even as I realized my expression gave that thought away. But that wasn’t the point so much, only the horrid, cold feeling that, while trying to entrap me the Earl had stumbled on a truth he hadn’t meant to find.

I saw the realization hit him too. His face went from triumphant smile to something else. It wasn’t so much that it changed, but rather that it didn’t change. Instead it froze slowly into immobility, like flesh becoming waxy-rigid, as though all life drained from it.

I saw the understanding and the horror, together, fill in behind his eyes, as it came to him that he wasn’t merely lying or making a trap for me.

When I was at the home, when I was very young, we used to be sent out from the home for magical orphans to do small services for the neighbors. Sometimes that was watching the very young or the very old. I had sat up with the dying and watched death creep over them and not change anything, except for taking away the spark of life and mobility.

That was what Jonathan looked like. And I realized, with a little shock that I hadn’t thought of my days at the home for very long, and I wondered what it all meant, and why I hadn’t thought of it. It was like a part of my early life had been locked away, and now I had unlocked it and remembered it, like a long lost childhood toy one has forgotten but which becomes familiar once found.

I started to say, “It can’t be true,” and then realized my own face had frozen in seeming immobility. I thought that they had tampered with my mind, with my memory.

I thought of everything they’d had me do. They’d told me that I was suppose to lead Jonathan to fairyland, but it wasn’t Jonathan alone, I understood. All the traps I’d set had also led his sister in, and the king of fairyland himself, and his half-brother, the witchfinder, and Jonathan’s supervisor of manufactories, the peasant boy with the huge magical power and the magical wife.

I didn’t know for sure, in my person that all those had been led in, but I could feel they had. I felt them, with me, in this trap – a closing trap, like a net that had caught us all.

And I saw the plan. It would be to drive us towards the center of fairyland and there—

“Jon,” I said, and then realized I’d never called him by that time nor been given permission to do it. And remembered the rules of etiquette of my youth. “Milord. We must leave here now. Right away.”

Which is when the world exploded.

 

Alleged Book Promo — the Oyster says

*The Oyster blinks blearily at the camera* Wuzzat? Saturday? Right, Saturday. Books! Have some books. Good books! Cyn having a… whatchamacalit… birthday. Right, birthday. Giving away books to celebrate. Happy birthday to Cyn! *blows a party horn* Oh, and send me more books!.*falls over, snoring*

Jason Dyck, AKA The Free Range Oyster

Kal Spriggs

Renegades: Origins

Books 1-5 of The Renegades

In times of chaos, there are those who fight for money, for power, or just to survive. In feudal Japan, they were Ronin. In the post US Civil War, they were desperadoes or hired guns. In the chaotic times of the collapse of human civilization, they are men, women, and aliens without shelter or succor. When no one else will take a stand, they stand for themselves. They are deserters, murderers, pirates, and worse… they are the Renegades.

Renegades: Origins contains the novellas Deserter’s Redemption, The Gentle One, Declaration, Ghost Story, and A Murder of Crowes. It also contains six short stories: Research Notes, Runner, Fool’s Gold, System Failure, Dishonored, and Crossed Stars.

Cyn Bagley

She Called It, Wolf

EJ Hunter

EJ Hunter comes home from Afghanistan when her unit is slaughtered by a man in cammies with an M16. They were sitting ducks. In a rage, she changes into a wolf and rips his throat out. The Army decides to give EJ an honorable discharge and send her home.

At home in Felony Flats, Nevada, her uncle, a Vietnam War Vet, dies leaving her a small piece of land, a silver bullet trailer, and a gold mine. She meets Sheriff Adam, who is also the alpha of the were-wolf pack.

There is a government researcher who is researching were-wolf DNA in hopes of making super soldiers, kidnapped children, and a were-cat. Also, EJ discovers that she is different from the pack. She can shift into other forms besides the wolf.

Billy the Kid

EJ Hunter

Betsy was the werewolf pack’s legal representation. Her life was pretty boring and man-free until Billy trotted into her life. He was a shifter and he was ready to join the pack. There was only one problem: Billy was a goat.

Urban Werewolf

EJ Hunter

John, a mechanic, meets Tina when she arrives at the shop to fix the copier machine in the office. For the first time in years, John is fascinated with this woman. There is something different about her that appeals to his werewolf heart. But Tina has secrets and when her son is kidnapped, John calls on the pack to rescue her son.

Fear

 

It never fails, but I post something about the threats facing the nation and some asinine and sanctimonious know-nothing comes by and drops a line about “I’m sorry you’re so afraid. I hope you find peace.” The dumber of them talk about my being afraid of change, foreigners, immigrants or non-white people.

Uh. If I were afraid of change, I wouldn’t have moved across the ocean and then twice across this country. And I wouldn’t write future-embracing stories.

As for being afraid of foreigners, immigrants and non-white people – for these idiots definition of non white – I’d run screaming everytime I look in the mirror.

The problem is they’re locked in a narrative in their heads. I’ve mentioned this before. First of all they think history comes with directional arrows.

I’ve said before and will maintain that the whole thing about “Standing athwart history yelling stop” is a very bad thing, because it presumes the future is leftist.

Look, if the future is leftist, it is, like the “queer future’ very short. Leftist societies are not long on the endurance, survivability or long term prospects. They just inflict a lot of misery and eventually the society will default to its foundations. Thus Russia is returning to the brutal and retrograde nation it always was, Cuba is a plantation run by brutal overseers, and China is going for a blinkered dynasty like many in its past.

The future doesn’t automatically belong to the left.

But the left has to believe this, because nothing else belongs to them. Even the most cursory reading of history shows that it definitely hasn’t gone their way.

So, like the failing business that is always about to breakthrough tomorrow, the left has to believe it has the future.

And so it has to cast every opposition to its crazy theocratic rule as “fear.”

Oh, yeah, damn skippy I’m afraid of their rule. But that’s because I’m afraid of seeing the economy run by people who couldn’t run a lemonade stand (when I said before that everyone is afraid these days, mostly I mean afraid in the “where is the money going to come from” sense), I’m afraid of their attempts to legislate prosperity for all (because it has worked so well everywhere they tried it), and equality for all (best attempt at that one was Madame Guillotine. Once you separate head from body the remains are all remarkably alike.) I’m terrified of their attempts to control speech and expression and their demand we all think as they want to (the ministry of thoughts.) I despise their blinkered pseudo-internationalist views (in the future we’re all one country, and that country is the USSR) and I loathe their attempts to make races (and ethnicities. And language groups. And orientations)into separate interest groups while screaming everyone else is racist.

I am afraid of all of this because in the past, countries that have succumbed to the proclamations of their twisted secular religion have all gone through horrible turmoil and misery and ended up poorer than ever before.

They on the other hand are convinced that I’m afraid of their rule because I hate minorities, gays, prosperity, equality and all goodness, possibly including chocolate and macadamia.

This requires increasingly more bizarre leaps of logic and reasoning and doing things like declaring people like Larry and I (hello, first and second generation immigrants) non-Latino, so that they can accuse us of being afraid of Latinos, even though all our culture and genetics are Latino and my whole family is still in Portugal (except my sons.) It demands they call people like me, who want a minimal government “fascist.”

It’s difficult to hold on to their position, of course, so they shout louder and louder, while ignoring the cracks forming in their world view.

In the end, they shout because they’re afraid. When you’re entire worldview is a one-piece, unwieldy, self-contradictory set of precepts that have no relation to the real world, you live in fear. If that thin shell cracks there’s nothing remaining of the world view you espoused, and upon which you built your unearned assumptions of intelligence and caring. You’ll have to think yourself into a new self image. A terrifying prospect for adults who’ve never had an original thought in their lives.

Fear. They have it. And through the fear that surrounds them like a miasma they see everyone else as afraid.

I’m afraid for my country and my children, for the economy and the world. But not too much. Or rather, I’m afraid in the short term, but not the long one.  I’m afraid of the mess they’re going to put us through, but I’m not afraid they’ll win.  And I’m certainly not afraid the future will include different ethnicity, skin colors or orientations, because right now in my family and my friends I have all of those.  (Baby, we’re a rainbow.  A libertarian rainbow.)

I’m afraid they’ll cost innocent lives, but not that they’ll overwhelm us. Because, you know, in the end we are in line with how the world works, and they’re not.

I’m afraid of many things, but none of those is that they’re the future.

In the end, we win, they lose.

The Tragedy of the Commons and Society – Bill Reader

The Tragedy of the Commons and Society – Bill Reader

 

            I consider myself to be a patriotic libertarian. But in the circles I move in, I may as well bill myself as a red-hot snowman or an honest politician. There are many libertarians… really, mostly Libertarians… who feel that a belief in borders, let alone national pride or a national character, is antithetical to the entire philosophy. This post is addressed to them.

I would first like to lay out, for the sake of clarity, what I see to be the main drivers of this belief and most particularly the vehemence with which it is held. The first and most obvious contributor is the idea, central to all libertarian thought, of valuing the individual. Whenever people are treated as a homogenous group, it is thought that the individual loses some of their relative value… that some minority opinions will be trampled. I think all libertarians are especially sensitive to this point because we have, often, spent our entire lives being politically marginalized, and it will leave certain characteristic scars whether we choose to admit it or not.

I will address the point briefly. It is absolutely true that thinking of people as faceless mobs rather than individuals has caused, and continues to cause, untold harm. Too often, decisions by the collective are decisions by a few power brokers. Identity politics is this exactly. And from it we know further that reinforcement by in-grouping is as destructive as the more obvious problem of trampling the minority. The prior, more than the latter, is what makes Orwellian futures so grim. It is likewise true that the very act of establishing and maintaining a state requires some kind of collective action. Unless a sufficiently large number of people in an area are willing to assert, in common, that an area is a state, within whose bounds certain rules apply; unless they are willing to commonly put teeth in that claim when it is tested, a state does not exist.

You may think I’m going to say that the collective idea of the United States manages to avoid these problems. But the fundamental principle the United States is based on is destructive of some individual views. Yes, you read that correctly. Because the fundamental principle behind the United States is “mind your own business”. This is, we are graphically reminded every time Obama opens his mouth, very much at odds with those individuals who want to mind everybody’s business. Their opinion is absolutely squelched in a free society, and we made no bones about that fact when we kicked out the king. In theory, it could even be defended too zealously and make everyone’s life difficult with those same old shades of Orwell. But if you’re listening at your neighbor’s door for signs of insufficient freedom, I’m wondering if you might not be minding your own business. In any case, people who think a libertarian society looks like a never-ending stream of McCarthian witch-hunts (I’m looking at certain penny-ante philosophers in the game industry who believe they are much smarter than they are) seem to be confused about whether libertarians want a bigger or smaller central government.

And here we move on to my broader point. Many libertarians see the dissolution of borders as a necessity of carrying libertarian thought to its natural conclusion. By that I mean that, as a general rule of thumb, we believe less government is better. Obviously, then, absolutely no government would be best, right?      And this is where I bring up the tragedy of the commons.

The tragedy of the commons, in the very unlikely case that you have not heard, explains the problem of resource management, usually with the example of grazing animals and farmers. A grazing area where there are no property rights tends to turn into, say, the Sahara desert. The farmers have every incentive to graze as much as they can and no incentive to seed or maintain the land when it will just get trampled in the process. If the farmers parcel the field, and each own part of it, however, then the land stays in much better shape. Each farmer has reason to get more out of the land in the long run, rather than only getting whatever resources he can grab now. He has incentive to maintain rather than strip the property.

I think of that as the most basic case of the tragedy of the commons. But it applies to countries as well. And in a richer and more complex way, because a country is not merely a landmass and the set of resources it is on, but a unifying principle that the people on that land are bound by. Many countries use ethnicity (or more accurately, the culture associated with an ethnicity, since melanin and facial features are infertile ground for agreement), or religion (like most of Europe and some of the middle East). Some, where that would be impossible, use a common history (this is India’s excuse, as near as I can tell). And most every failed state on Earth can’t decide (giving you the rest of the middle East, most of Africa, much of South America… it’s a popular choice). All of these things except the last are shorthand for a set of ideas, encapsulated by the ideals of a certain culture, the teachings of the religion, or the lessons of the history. In the last, people agree to disagree, and they do it with Kalashnikovs. And then there is America, one of a select few founded explicitly on ideas, cherry picked and synthesized with intent. Certainly the only one I know of that hasn’t torn itself apart… yet.

To explain how the foundational principles of a country relate to the tragedy of the commons I’d like you to go back to the scenario of the parceled land. Let’s suppose these farmers live in a governmental vacuum. There is no place to register the claims. When a perfect stranger comes along, who is not privy to the pact, he’s as likely as not to accidentally graze the pasture, unaware there’s any reason not to. How do you stop him? You can put up fences, of course, and stand armed shifts around the land. This deals, at least, with unintentional vandalism.

But with the solution comes other problems. For the sake of argument we’ll say that this is mighty juicy farmland we’re sitting on here. Now that you’ve prevented casual intrusion, rustlers become the major problem. So the land doesn’t just need people constantly on guard, it needs a lot of them. But the farmer has other duties. There are two directions he can go.

One is to get together with his family and muster enough people to handle all the tasks. You can post the teen boys and young adults on guard duty, have the older people at home to raise the kids, and the younger people tend your cows. What you’ve formed now is a tribe: a group held together by family ties and designed to secure the property of that group while still allowing people to do the necessary work to help it grow and thrive.

The other is to get together with your neighbors and find some common ground on which to build partnerships to get this work done. You could base it on a common set of values, a common religion, or just on common enemies if things are bad enough. As long as the deals are struck, their actual basis is secondary. Now you pitch in for a somewhat larger, more imposing fence around the whole pasture, and build smaller fences on the inside, mostly to denote property lines since you know everyone who’s in there. Everyone’s got sons manning that wall, and you’ve become a very basic city-state. This is how cities like Rome started (Well, mostly. Most city-states start out semi-demi tribal. But in practice that just means tribes rather than individuals get together as described.).

Unlike a tribe, city-states are flexible. You don’t have to exert any effort just to add people to the group (though you might take a shot at it on your own time anyway). You don’t have to worry about inbreeding. All you have to do is find someone trustworthy, add to the wall to enclose some extra land, and voila. Of course, if you have any idea how human nature works, you figure out pretty quickly that you need to make some extra provisions. “Trustworthy” means something to you and something different to your friend. You need some clear accounting of the rules, because the grandchildren of friends of friends of friends are more than likely going to need a refresher. You start needing internal rules to moderate how rules are made. And in the same vein, you quickly need to start putting in provisions regarding who can come in.

Our city-state farmers and our tribal farmers alike have a bigger problem, too. Rustlers can make arrangements of their own, mirrored to their prey. That could be the barbarian horde or the Barbary States, for example. Such groups represent credible threats even to well-armed city states. Another problem is fellow ranchers, who look next door and see territory they’d like to get a piece of. How do we respond to these problems? Well, when we start getting up the level of armament needed to maintain a city-state, we’re talking about enough raw force to maintain control of a lot more than just a little walled compound. Not as effectively, to be sure. But land between city-states doesn’t take as much of a commitment to control, because there’s usually no one to say you can’t have it. You just need enough minimal force to patrol it. Then you concentrate forces anyplace a threat rises.

A lot of libertarians don’t like this bit of the story. Once land starts being taken over by people who don’t actually have any immediate use for it, it’s arguably not being used in the best way possible. It has a landlord, but the landlord is absentee. Superficially, it seems hard to dispute. The US seems to have entire states worth of land it’s not doing much with. That’s to say nothing of national parks, which we’re proud of not doing anything with. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

There are, in fact, a number of reasons why borders must be established at this point, and why land must be controlled even if it is not being used. The most basic reason, underlying the more tangible ones, is that nature abhors a vacuum. It may not seem as though that’s a justification, and it wouldn’t be, if it were possible to reason with a Julius Caesar or Genghis Kahn. But as brutish as it sounds to say “If we don’t do it, someone else will”, the world is full of people who (shock!) never bother to build an ethical case before they do things. If there are practical advantages to owning more land, therefore, and a city-state has the capacity to, it will do so. And as it happens, there are advantages, both in resources and in trade.

The need for resources is obvious. So obvious, in fact, that it is easy to overstate. Nevertheless, our resident ranchers have by now brought a great many people into the fold. They have gunsmiths for the boys on the wall, tanners and tailors to make things from dead cows, cooks and butchers to make food from dead cows. These people, in turn, want metal, wood, various chemicals, various machines, spices, of course the dead cows… and the list goes on and on. Some of these, the raw materials, can be found at home. Strategically, there’s a drive to get as much as you can at home, too, so that the potentially-unfriendly neighbors don’t have it.

But there are all sorts of limits on this. Where do the best craftsmen work? Where are the best places to get raw resources? Where are the best techniques used? The answer isn’t going to be “at home” for everything. Our cow farmers need trade. They’re fortunate. Their neighbors need trade too! At least, they need trade as long as they can’t just come in and take things. And that’s the rub. That’s the other reason you need territory… it establishes buffer zones. When you own the land around yourself, and can enforce that ownership, it’s a lot harder for other states to come knocking at the door to demand you hand things over. You may laugh at that idea, but having forewarning and space to prepare if an assault comes over the border is beyond strategically valuable. If you need an analogy, I have heard that some Japanese forts were built with open doors and a clear hall all the way to the head honcho. The assumption was that invaders would get in. The point was to control how they moved and fought in the long, long journey inwards. Similarly, an invader crossing into the territory of another nation must travel some distance to reach its capital, space in which the invaded country has opportunities to defend itself before it is truly desperate

This, more than the raw materials extracted from the land itself, is what makes owning the additional land valuable. The land could be the most barren, boiling, salted, oil-free desert on earth and still be more valuable than the richest temperate farmland, if it provides a nation the leverage it needs to defend itself and hence enables it to trade with its neighbors rather than be overrun by them. The state establishes ownership of a territory and in the very act of doing so derives value from it. It may not be exploiting it in the optimal industrial or agricultural manner, but so long as it is enabling the industry and agriculture in other places, what it is doing is valuable.

This gives us some idea of how modern states form. Now let us pull the camera back again and reflect on the lessons of this journey. Many Libertarians frame the world as a contrast of reason and force. They support the free market, and voluntary cooperation among individuals in general, because it derives from reason. Since the state is undeniably force… the ability to force compliance of others with borders and the ability to force compliance of its own with the ground rules on which the city-state is based… they oppose the state as a philosophical entity entirely.

They forget that while exchange is based on reason, it is only vouchsafed by the threat of force. Very few pay for what they can take without consequence… that is human nature. And there is no way to prevent people from grouping together in some way, because the first group to do so will be at a disproportionate advantage relative to those around them. You will find few advocates of individual human achievement stauncher than I, but I like to think I’m also rational. It is romantic to imagine there could be one individual so industrious and so smart that if a tribe sent a hundred people or a nation-state a thousand to claim the land he lives on, it would be rebuffed. In reality, the larger group will probably hardly notice him among the individuals it routes. People will organize because it’s effective and relatively easy.

Note that this does not mean the state is somehow owed all money merely because it enables all economic activity. A state is fundamentally derived from the consent and cooperation of the governed. This is true even in empires, though “the governed” may frequently represent more than double the number who consent and cooperate. Should the society be dominated sufficiently by people who do not consent and do not cooperate, the society will fall, as indeed empires do, most frequently by encapsulating too much dissent under too little force. To put it in another light, the state is a tool derived from the cooperation of individuals, but not an entity onto itself, any more than a club has independent agency from its owners. The requirements leaders of states levy on their constituents are therefore justifiable only when they are necessary to maintaining the state and its borders. And hence the definition of “necessary” is first expanded, and then finally ignored by the dishonest politicians of the left, who have sunk to using terms like “tax expenditures” for letting you keep your own money. Be wary of the man who thinks of the state as independent of you, and your master, rather than as existing at your pleasure (A brief side note to Halbig trolls. When you whine about the ruling meaning corporations are people, this explains why you’re inverting it entirely. You are, yourself, thinking that because people form a corporation they are superseded by it… that they are, essentially, subservient to their own institution, restrictions upon which dictate the restrictions upon them. And for the most part this explains your regrettable view of the role of government.).
The progression from the classical tragedy of the commons to the level of complexity expressed in the modern state hence explains the necessity of borders. Moreover, it makes the case for the ownership of land by governments, even land that is not being commercially exploited, as a good for those within the domain of said government.

From the foregoing, and in closing, it should be noted that the discussion also explains the fundamental problem with illegal immigration. States may be capable, if their people so wish, of performing humanitarian functions. But they are not, intrinsically, humanitarian organizations. The campus Democrats may meet to discuss how the terrible humanitarian situation in South America gives people from South America a right to come here. So why don’t they invite all of the city’s homeless to their weekly meetings, paying any damages or fees incurred in the process? I wonder, would they say it’d be disruptive and distracting from the club’s actual business?

Nation-states, as I said, have underlying their laws some kind of grander, simpler pact. There is something that brings people together to agree in the first place. The laws are the fine details. Britain, people are fond of pointing out, is a country founded on an ethnicity and its associated culture. They are hence paying a price… economic, and legal… for frantic multiculturalism and lenient immigration. And is it because the new immigrants are upset that their fellow Brits can’t tan as well? Or are they enraged because they came into the country with a different idea of what society should be based on, one that cannot ever be reconciled? A liberal decides it’s the prior. A conservative can see the patent problem, that people who believe vehemently that society should be based on the Qur’an (And it is the Qur’an. London’s Catholics, for example, are not beheading guards and demanding independent neighborhoods run according to cannonical law.), cannot be good citizens of Britain, a country whose whole motivation and justification is founded in British cultural traits. Instead of bringing in Brits with the misfortune of being born abroad, they’ve brought in any refugee who could get together the paperwork. No doubt, these people come from desperate circumstances, but that in itself does not qualify a person for immigration (An aside: I am being a little unfair to Brits. I don’t think they have a common idea of what being British is, anymore. Since the empire fell, the principles that used to be Britain… uneasy constitutional monarchy, jingoism, understatement, relative personal freedom checked instead by rigid and complex social rules… are thought of as silly or antiquated. And I wouldn’t argue they’re ideal, certainly. If I thought that, I’d apply for a visa. I will argue that without them, or some other common raft of ideals binding society together, Britain will suffer injury worse than would ever be caused by the flaws in its own history and nature.).
Illegal immigration goes one step beyond even that. At least Britain’s wounds are self inflicted. It is monstrous to suggest we, as a nation, should have no say in who becomes a citizen, when the basis of our society is entirely a philosophy. Children from South America haven’t the slightest idea what the underlying principles of America are, nor do they care. We have enough trouble getting American high-schools students to learn them, and many of them never manage, as the existence of the DNC proves. In that, illegals represent a basic societal threat, especially now. We are bringing into the country people used to living under a strong-man government, right as the Democrats choose to test the limits of the constitution to the breaking point. It doesn’t take any great leap of imagination to suppose they will do what other immigrants have done when allowed into a country whose society they fundamentally disagree with, and continue to hold and exercise their own beliefs. But a strong-man government happens to be antithetical to the basic principles of freedom the country is based on. I do not believe Democrats can be ignorant of this fact. I think they mean to drive the needle of consent among the governed towards centralization of power… their power… and in doing so destroy America’s heart and soul.

And the whole while, they will accuse us of being anti-humanitarian… as they work to destroy the basis for a country whose existence has done more for the well-being of mankind than all the refugee camps in history.

When You’re Squeezed For Information

 

Recently someone did a survey on the American public. The question was simple: could you absorb an unexpected expense of $400 without putting it on cards, selling something or asking for a loan?

The results… are dismal.

Apparently only 48% of the people can do that.

Now, consider this is me, a person who not so long ago budgeted the $8 for contact lens solution, the person who routinely tears out her hair when buying school books for younger kid. And then keep in mind the sum in question $400. Not $4000. We’re not talking replacing a car or having major repairs done on the house. $400 is a visit from the plumber when our sewer line gets clogged. (It’s a community sewer line problem. The clog is usually out of our property, but…) or it’s having to replace headlights on one of the cars. (Stupid design. You need to remove the front bumper to replace it.) or filling my gas tank five times. $400 is enough food, cleaners and consumables for a month. $400 is a vet visit if we take all the cats in for vaccination.

It’s not what it used to be, in other words. $400 thirty years ago was real money. Rent and electricity paying money. Now it’s moneyish, money to meet some expenses, money to get by, but not big money. But it makes or breaks almost half of us.

Yeah, 48% of us are that close. I wonder how close the other 50% are (2% I presume being very well off.) Are they “$1000 and it goes on cards?” Are they “$2000 and we don’t know where house payment comes from next month?” how close are they?

Reading this survey was one of those moments – like when I figured out that after April half the houses in my neighborhood went up for sale and I went “So, we didn’t hit the wall alone!”

And note that through all this we’re assured that the economy is booming. Guys, when people can’t muster $400 they’re not going to make their Christmas really special, ($400 is two laptops if you’re REALLY good at shopping) and you know the role Christmas plays in our economy. (Last Christmas the boys got socks and underwear. We don’t really need gifts for Christmas, and we don’t feel comfortable splurging on them. NOT right now. I like to get a book that I can spend the day reading, but what with all the kindle free stuff… it’s not needed.)

Of course the survey also says that Americans report they’re doing okay. They’re fine. They’re comfortable.

Of course note those words. No one says “I’m in wonderful shape.” “Things are Great!” “I’m growing by leaps and bounds.”

I suspect what is relative to is that all of us – every one of us – knows people who are worse off.

To quote Leonard Cohen:

When you’ve fallen on the highway
and you’re lying in the rain,
and they ask you how you’re doing
of course you’ll say you can’t complain –
If you’re squeezed for information,
that’s when you’ve got to play it dumb:
You just say you’re out there waiting
for the miracle, for the miracle to come.

No, it’s “Okay” and “comfortable” but no one knows relative to what. Yes, yes, William O’Blivion will come and tell us we have full stomachs and roofs over our head and functioning infrastructure.  And he’s right.

But part of the reason we have those is that we expect those.  Let me explain: in Portugal, growing up, we’d put up with the electricity being turned off every day in summer for up to six hours.  We just stocked candles.  Here it would be considered an outrage.  Ditto with the countries which are in really bad shape.  Take Argentina — they took the slow slide down with “I’m okay.  I’m surviving.”  What they put up with by now, would frost your hair, even though they were, in every sense a first world country when the slide started.  Oh, and Venezuela.  Shortages of toilet paper, milk, water…. everything, really.

The problem with that survey is the problem with all our sources of information these days, when you read it you feel guilty and alone. You feel guilty because people say they’re doing well – so why aren’t you doing well?

Look, we’re not starving (we could use some starving around here! Well, not really, because then I can’t write, but you get the point) and if I can just get off my duff and deliver books, we’ll be okay.

I feel guilty enough for that – survivor’s guilt – when I look around at my friends in immeasurably worse straits. We’re getting by. A $400 hit means some adjustments, and maybe we sell some stuff (there’s a reason we’re selling the books) but they’re just things, right, and anyway, we want to move so we’re cutting down on stuff. And we’re okay. We’re not losing our house, at least not if we can sell it. We wouldn’t put $400 on credit. I’d just call a few people and see if they needed a short story. And I have friends who’d pay for cover design if I cleared my throat in their direction. So – we’re really okay. We’re comfortable. And the savings are recovering from April (thanks to Indie) so that we can meet stuff like that from them. We’re even planning and prepared for the dreaded College Book Season. (Apparently they engrave engineering books in gold leaf. Doesn’t look like it, but really, have you seen the prices?)

Provided another year of illness doesn’t intervene, or another hail storm, we’re probably going to be okay.

Not wonderful, but okay.

But the other side is when the reports tell us it’s boom times, and everyone is doing great an rolling in dough. And we feel alone.  And well, we shut up and don’t make a fuss, and we allow the slide to continue.

Look at the numbers. $400 means a payday loan (and a horrible cycle to enter.) And $400 could be… a new set of tires. A minor fender bender. Nothing much. The sort of accident that happens to everyone sometime.

We’re all fallen on the highway and lying in the rain. We’re waiting for the miracle. We’re waiting for the miracle, because we think everyone else is doing great, so it must be our fault.  And we’re not that bad.  We can’t complain.

Maybe it will come. We know what they say about Himself’s affection for drunkard’s, fools and the United States of America.

In the mean time, I propose a simple plan: If you’re doing okay (we sort of are, provided Indie doesn’t totally collapse. It’s taken our fat out of the fire, and now if I can deliver for Baen, we’ll be fine) stop feeling guilty. Pay it forward. You might need it tomorrow. What goes around comes around.

If you’re not doing okay stop feeling like you’re a massive failure. (And if you’re indie publishing, yep, there’s been a big dip since April. From the fact sales move massive amounts of merchandise I’m going to guess people still want to read, they’re just broke. Consider sales. I hate going KDP exclusive, but the countdowns DO help.) You’re not a failure. It’s not your fault. There are tides in economies that drown people pretty much arbitrarily.

This doesn’t mean you should stop trying, and if you already know you can’t find anything in your field/specialty/knowledge, it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t come up with something new to try and maybe support yourself.

Work at working.  If you’re unemployed, find other ways to make at least some money.  Learn better ways around.  Get creative. fix stuff to sell.  Do whatever fits your abilities.

But it means you shouldn’t give yourself ulcers while doing it. You should be kind to yourself. If you’re surviving, no matter how barely, you’re doing okay. You’re doing as well as can be expected. Keep trying, keep aiming for more, refuse to embrace the decline, but don’t kick yourself in the process.

And if you’re doing okay, see what you can spare and help those who can’t. It seems every other week some friend is facing something really serious. Keep your eye on your tribe. Give them a hand.

And when money comes in – those unexpectedly good indie royalties, for instance – set it aside to meet the next smack by fate.

We’re all doing okay at best. The sea is choppy and stormy. Some people will get washed overboard. Stop feeling guilty that you can’t hold your personal boat steady and everyone in luxury. Reports of luxury might not be a lie, but they’re not typical.

Adjust and make your fun in smaller ways, find happiness in different things. Learn to make your own beautiful music. Learn to take help, learn to give help. LEARN.  Learn new ways to do things around the ones that no longer work.

The people at the top wish us gone or broke or used to the decline. But we’re Americans. We won’t give them the satisfaction.

We’ll build under, build around, build despite them.

And work towards getting our would-be Aristos defeated at the ballot box.  Yes, fraud is massive.  So your involvement needs to be bigger.

The country is struggling. The American people are okay. And we’ll be better.

We will make the miracle HAPPEN.

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

When The Lights Go Out….

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But Sarah, you say, wars have ends.

Yes, they do. But not like that.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

Before the Fall

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And I’m tired.

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

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

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

For the boot about to fall.

Rogue Magic, Free Novel, Chatper 54

Rogue Magic, the second Magical Empires book.

Rogue Magic, the second Magical Empires book.

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

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

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

 

The Last Magic

Jonathan Blythe, Earl of Savage,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But then…

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

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

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

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

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