An Apology and a Beginning without ending (yet.)

For those of you worrying, I’m sorry.  We had a family errand to run early morning, and I came home with a head-splitting headache.  Probably just tiredness, which means after this I’ll be taking a nap.

For those following my adventures at pjmedia, this week this was published:

And beneath is the prologue of a book that has been clammoring to be written for YEARS.  No, there isn’t any more, except a couple lines of the first chapter, in which Klim is a prisoner of his own people.

I have a backlog of about thirty books that must get written and soon.  The five years of illness, you know…  Anyway, I’ll do it as soon as I can, but of course, I have a certain amount to do on books under contract, first.

Anyway, those of you that DO read snippets are an excellent sounding board, so here goes:

Changeling

 

Prologue

 

The Accursed colony lay in ruins.  Commander Andryi Melor came in on a long landing path.

The air-to-space was neither military nor designed to take off and land without the proper platform.  But he had his duty, and he’d been called to look at the ruins for some hint of what the Accursed had been doing there, what part of their empire this represented.  There were strategies and planning hanging on that.

“I’m sorry, my dear, the landing will be rough” he told his wife.  She sat in the seat next to his, clutching their two year old child in her arms, beneath the safety harness.  More comfortable, and safer, too, for both of them if she let Havryi sit in his own chair, beside her own.  But Elna hadn’t been able to let go of him.  Not since she’d lost the other.  He’d thought their trip to the resort of Arafar would have cured her, the singing trees, the gentle waters.  But she remained as she’d been, gray and wan, even her once golden hair seeming lifeless, colorless.

She nodded at his words, and hugged Havryi tighter, as though this son too could be ripped from her arms by an enemy so stealthy and powerful no human could fight it.

They flew a protracted flat path over jagged edges of buildings, still smoking from heavy bombardment, which had been performed from the air, by stealth, before the colony knew of the presence of humans nearby.

The buildings looked too big, too… regimental for this to have been a residential colony, a sign of the Accursed simply looking for more space.

Not that it had ever been likely.  Their slow reproduction, the price of their abomination, made space an unlikely need.

He found what had likely been the terrace of a spacious building, the ruins near it jagged and blackened, and managed to bring it to a not too jarring stop.  He turned to his wife and smiled, “That was not too bad, was it my dear?”

But she looked attentive, like someone who is listening for something very far away.  “What is that?” she asked.  “Andryi, it’s a baby.”

He couldn’t hear anything, except from nearby the steps of a battalion, going door to door, likely making sure no enemy remained alive.

And the occasional call out when one was.

“I don’t hear anything.”  It would not be good if Elna joined hallucinations to the other effects of her grief.  But she seemed to be ignoring him, while she tensed, expectant, towards the sound only she heard.  Havryi was trying to open the seatbelt.  Andryi leaned over,” No, son.  You and momma stay here.  It will not be safe out.  I’ll be back soon, Elna.  Don’t let him out.”

She nodded slightly, almost imperceptibly without speaking.

He opened the door.  A detachment of men, six, in incongruous dress uniforms waited him.  The one in front saluted.  “Commander,  we think this was a scientific settlement, we don’t know for what purpose.  Planning asked we have you confirm.”

He confirmed.  Though the buildings, littered with human-looking, winged bodies, were ruins and rabble, there remained enough to recognize high power telescopes and various machines for measuring…  He wasn’t quite sure measuring what, but for measuring  something in such small quantities only scientists would be interested.

The place stank of smoke and death, and Andryi was relieved when he could say “yes, this was a scientific settlement, though why in a planet that seems wholly unremarkable and Earth-type I don’t know,” sign the necessary papers, and return to his air to space.

He came in briskly, shedding his military persona as he stepped in, and said, “I’m sorry my dear, I shouldn’t have had to do this.”

And then he stopped.  Havryi was in the chair next to his mother’s, properly strapped in with the modified child harness, but Elna sat in her seat clutching a baby; probably no more than six months old, with a round head, seraphic features and blond curls.

“Elna!” he said.  Before he exclaimed, he knew what the baby was.  There were lumps of wings beneath that blanket.  “Elna!”

“Shhh,” she said.  “You’ll wake Klim.”

The name of their dead son applied to this creature made the hair stand at the back of Commander Melor’s neck.  He thought the baby, its head lolling back, must be dead.  Had to be.  Where had Elna even found him?  Then she noticed the baby’s chest rising and falling, and looked up from the child to his wife’s face.  She was smiling.  She was smiling for the first time in three months.  “He was in the building,” she said.  “Everything was charred and burned, but he was beneath an overhang, and he was fine.  Dirty, and hungry, but fine.  There were diapers and bottles nearby.”

Very slowly, the commander went to his knees before his wife.  “Elna, this is not a human baby.  You have to give him to me.  We will… we will be humane.  But he is Accursed.  We can’t keep him.”

“Don’t be ridiculous,” his wife said.  “What harm can he do us?  He’s a child. “  Her hand caressed the blond curls.  “And we’ll raise him right.  As for not human, Andryi, that’s stupid.  They’re just humans with wings.”

He made a face.  “No, my dear.  When their ancestors were abandoned in a prison planet, they made use of abandoned alien technology and DNA to modify themselves.  They tainted themselves with alien DNA. They don’t know – we don’t know – what it did to them.  Nor what it might do.  That act made them accursed to all of humanity.  Their risk could kill our own race.  They gave themselves wings, which allow them to fly despite weighing as much as normal men.  Not all their power is rational or explainable.  We cannot allow them to reproduce with our kind; to take over our DNA.  It would be the end of humanity.”

Elna was firm.  There was something of the impetuous young woman he’d once known in her face.  “No. He’s a baby, not a menace.”

Andryi knew his duty.  He knew all the reasons the accursed were considered so.  He knew the risks they were taking.

But it is the infamy and glory of mankind that under certain circumstances men and particularly women are incapable of killing the young and helpless.  It might happen in the heat of battle, in the excitement of a hunt, but in cold blood, it becomes difficult, if not impossible.

The baby was just a baby.  They could conscribe him to some unimportant role.  Perhaps the wings could be removed?  Or maybe not.  Then there would be no danger some young woman would want to reproduce with him in the fullness of time.  And that was the only danger of the accursed, individually.  Andryi would make sure Klim was raised in honor and duty.  And would be no danger to them.

This trait of mankind had, in old planet Earth, well before machines or civilization, allowed the domestication of fowl and beast.  Animals raised with humans, obedient to humans.

It gave Commander Andryi Melor a younger son.  And foretold the collapse of human civilization.

We Free Men, A blast from the past -November 2nd 2014

We Free Men, A blast from the past -November 2nd 2014

“Secrecy is the keystone to all tyranny. Not force, but secrecy and censorship. When any government or church for that matter, undertakes to say to its subjects, “This you may not read, this you must not know,” the end result is tyranny and oppression, no matter how holy the motives. Mighty little force is needed to control a man who has been hoodwinked in this fashion; contrariwise, no amount of force can control a free man, whose mind is free. No, not the rack nor the atomic bomb, not anything. You can’t conquer a free man; the most you can do is kill him.”

― Robert A. Heinlein

When I was six, I found out that my parents could yell, they could threaten, but they couldn’t actually, physically, get in my brain and make my body do things.  This must have led to a fun and exciting time for my parents, in finishing raising me.

However, to this day, I remember that.  In the ultimate analysis I am free.  People can kill me, but they can’t MAKE me do stuff.  (absent neural programming, which Speaker assures me we don’t have yet.)

In the same way, in the course of almost as many years as Shakespeare’s total life, I’ve found Heinlein was right.

I don’t care how noble a side sounds, how profoundly urgent its benevolent message, if they say “this you cannot think.  This you cannot read.  This you cannot even consider” they are a tyranny in the making. If they get power over you and yours soon you’ll find that it’s “This air you cannot breathe.”

They are also unsure of their logical appeal and their ability to withstand the market place of ideas.  Otherwise, why ban certain thoughts and ideas and points of view?

This is why “political correctness” is a bad thing, because it takes away your tools to think of things properly.  If you can’t even express that men and women might be different, you surely can’t think about it.

It is also why progressivism with its ever growing list of “forbidden terms and words” because of racist sexist and imperialist bad thought (brown bag, really?) is a tyranny in the making.

I read an article this week, from Popehat about gamergate. I would like to say he made some good points, but he didn’t. Impossible to make good points when you mis-define the sides in the Gamergate and (by extension) the SFWA dispute and everywhere your favorite Social (in)Justice Whiners attack.  He seems to have bought into the definition of the sides brought by the SJWs and so views them as mostly urban, educated, often in tech professions, etc.  I.e. “Smart and cutting edge.”  He also seems to think they’re in search of true social justice.  (Le sigh.)  He says he is neither on “team blue” or “team red” (his terms) because while he’s fiscally conservative he’s for gay marriage and he prefers urban environments.  And he defines the opponents to SJWs as homophobes.  (I wonder if he defines them as racist and sexist too?  Including the women and the many gamergaters of interesting racial origin?)

Yeah, by that measurement, and actually including the “well educated” and “citizen of the world” measurements, I’d be in between too.

I’m not in between.  I’m staunchly in opposition to the SJWs.  Why?  Because the sides aren’t as pictured.

Are there some homophobes on the side of Gamergate?  I doubt it, particularly in the States.  Look, most of these people are younger than I, and gay relationships are just a thing that at worst we don’t care about one way or another.  Are there some homophobes on the right side of politics? Undoubtedly.  Probably not as many as there are on the left, though.  (No? Look to their favorite slurs and accusations to people they hate.)  More organized, maybe, though disapproval of homosexuality for religious reasons is not necessarily (or often) homophobia.  (Can be, but I’ve met very few.)

As for educated… pfui.  It’s possible that on the SJW side there are more graduates of “good universities” with impeccable credentials, but listen to them for ten minutes and you realize these credentials were acquired by regurgitating the indoctrination poured down their throats by their patchouli-infused professors.  In fact, if you try to discuss anything real with them, from the history of Western culture, to the real issues of some non-western civilizations, they gape at you like guppies in search of a crumb.  You’re talking of things they were told don’t exist and they can’t think about them, because thinking about them would make them automatically bad people.

So if your head hurts and you’re confused, this is because Popehat mis-defined the sides involved in this dispute.

The SJWs aren’t for equality or inclusion or any of that grand stuff.  They’re not even for upending the “scales of privilege” which at any rate haven’t been as described for at least fifty years.

They are for one thing only “Do as we say, and enshrine us as arbiters of all that’s right and just.”

Because their “system” of competing victimhoods is so confusing and irrational, they need someone to tell you when and how to discriminate, and whether a black handicapped straight woman has precedence over a Muslim, communist, gay guy.  These hierarchies change, too, depending on whim and whatever comes from the top.

So you need to constantly pay attention to the “voices from above” to know what to think and believe.  And even the wrong word you didn’t know was wrong — “lady” — can get you attacked by people who are keeping up with the SJW diktats.

Which means there must be SJWs in charge, and they must be listened to constantly.  IOW they get power to tell you what to do, what to think, what to read and what to believe.  Read or believe the wrong thing, and the pack descends on you like the red brigades on a deviationist.

In fact the whole thing smells of the power struggles in the Soviet Union.

This is not coincidental.

Both systems are tyrannical and aim at controlling your thought.

This you must not read, this you must not think, this you must not see even if it happens before your very eyes.

To be an SJW you must believe that, the long history of life on Earth notwithstanding, the attraction between male and female is arbitrary and part of “conditioning.”  That men and women are both exactly alike save for sex organs, and completely different in that women as historical victims have all the virtues of humanity, including compassion, peacefulness, healing, etc.  That if only we weren’t “oppressed” by a capitalist system, everyone would have enough of what they need/want and there would be no war or strife.  That saying that a 200lb man can carry a 90lb woman under one arm and laugh at her struggles is sexist.  That saying cultures are differently functional is somehow racist (even when the cultures belong to the exact same race, like say, Morocco and Italy.)

In other words, you have to be willing to believe things that just ain’t so and that simply won’t work in the real world.

In the article, Popehat makes reference to how they’re trying to get into gaming because it’s one of the sectors of the economy still doing well.  All the places that the SJWs have colonized before: books, news, industry, corporations are floundering.

It never occurs to him there is a cause and effect here.  As John C. Wright points out, everything they touch they destroy. EVERYTHING.  That is because what they want is power over the human mind, and because their set of beliefs is completely out of touch with reality.

You can’t, for instance, run a corporation as though men and women were exactly the same from the neck up.  As though they were both capable of leadership sure.  Identical, though?  Never.  Women have a completely different style in social relations.  To deny that is the true sexism.

The difference between the two sides is not red and blue, a scheme that changed in my lifetime anyway (Really, since when isn’t red communist?  Were they afraid of the linkage?)

The difference is between the bound and the free, the mentally enslaved and those who can read and think anything.

To compare us to the “party of the past” and the “party of the future” and to ascribe to the SJWs the future is to forget that America is not Europe.  Our past is not the staid past of aristocrats and serfs.  It is the past of revolution and freedom.  And none of us is advocating stasis.

We know technology changes, and its changes affect society.  It is the SJWs, the party of the past of Marx and Lenin and Stalin and Mao and other blood stained, dead, and for the most part white males, who are afraid of the change. They own the imagined future of the past and they can’t face the real future with interpersonal communications they don’t control, news they don’t control, entertainment they don’t control.

It is they who want to shut down internet discourse, or at least control it.  It is they who hate the free and chaotic environment online.

It is they who run around telling everyone “this you must not do” and “this you must not think” and “this person you must not associate with” on pain of being ‘worse than Hitler’.

We?

Heck, I gave my sons The Communist Manifesto when they were 12.  I figured it was better they taste the poison from the source, and not from the various repackagers who made it more palatable.  Looked at, in its naked horror, the ideology can’t fail to repel.

I also let them read their fill of various of the diluted sources afterwards, because if you’re armed with logic, the dankiest corners of the SJW universe hold no terrors.  Mostly, they hold boredom, because without the ability to be challenged there can be no independent, individual or new thought.

The two sides are as follows:

They’re the would be slave masters; we’re the free men, holding two middle fingers aloft in their faces.

Yours is the choice.

Your Way

Sorry this post is so late. This is my third attempt at posting. The saga started last night, when an attempt to write a post was cleverly foiled by wordpress by letting me type in a title but never actually giving me a window in which to type the post.  I.e. the window in which the post could be theoretically typed was less than a line, and therefore you couldn’t type in it.

This morning I woke up afraid to face the same at Mad Genius Club, but in fact it let me post with no problems.  When I went back to ATH however, I got the same thing.  Another attempt on another computer wielded the same result, to the point I’m astonished it is letting me type here.  Let’s hope it continues.

Weirdly, this ties in with the rest of the post, and what I meant to write about.

Sometime ago, Dorothy Grant reminded me of Russian Caravan Tea.  I used to get it when there was still a tea shop in downtown Colorado Springs and enjoyed it immensely.  (Yes, I do like tea you can chew.  Heck, I like tea you have to subdue with a machete before chewing it.)  I found it on subscription on Amazon, (Amazon being the main reason that I allowed my husband to drag me to the suburbs after 30 years of attempting to do so.)  This acquisition posed another problem: I now needed a tea infuser.  I promptly acquired a tea ball, which promptly fell apart.  I then bought another one, which is slightly better, but still allows some leaves to escape, which then lead to #1 son, the persnickety one, complaining about “Chunky Tea.”

The percolator I use for my coffee in the morning (I told you I’m a low brow sort of person) died on account of the plastic handle breaking.  Since this happened after three years of use, and the percolator cost us around $15 I wasn’t too heartbroken, but I did go browsing on Amazon which is a very dangerous thing to do.  I ordered a new form of the percolator, now $4 cheaper.  This is similar to the trajectory taken by the teakettle from the same company, which I first bought in 2010 because I was tired of having teakettles rust.  I have since bought three more, one for each kid and a replacement for one broken in moving, each one cheaper than the last.

So while I was on the amazon site, being me, I thought I would try to find a teapot with infuser for under $50 (when you want a 12 cup one this is difficult) and I found this one for $25 (the infusers themselves tend to run in the mid tens) which had the added bonus of double walled glass cups.

It came with an effusive message from its makers, apparently a family business in England, which I’m going to save for posterity, because its mix of capitals and exclamation points reminds me it’s not just newby indie writers who come across like over-eager puppies.

The teapot and the cups are just as described, perhaps more so.  I can’t yet say anything as to durability, since I’ve used it exactly one morning.  However, the thing is so PRETTY that my husband commented on it as I unpacked it last night, and my son this morning.  It’s one of those things that are beautiful in their simplicity.  (I’m a weird creature and I can appreciate Victorian ornamentation, but mostly what I like is things that are QUALITY.  I.e. well made, functional, and needing no ornamentation to make them shine.  Oh, I also like glass and sparkly objects.  I figure this is on account of being a magpie.  So glass teapot makes me very happy.)

Son asked me how expensive it is, because he would love to buy one for himself, his also being a tea consumer and having his own apartment downstairs (even if he visits upstairs a lot.)

When I told him he was surprised at the price.

This started a sort of percolating in my back brain.  It’s not the post I meant to write yesterday, but it is the result of the recent events, plus something someone posted in a private FB group about how young “expensively educated” youths think capitalism should be abolished, and the government should just make the things we need as efficiently as possible (I’m ignoring the idiot who thought each person should make the things he/she needs.  Because eff you Jean Jacques Rosseau.  That’s why.) and distribute them, which would be better for the environment and free many resources from the economy for SCIENCE!

There must be a glitch in the human software that makes otherwise intelligent people think this is an amazing idea.  It never seems to occur to them that in that type of economy someone has to decide what you need, and there is no room for what you want.  (There is always room for the deciders’ wants, of course.)

If I recall clearly from arguments had in my teen years, and from the pages I read yesterday, this would be met with the counter argument that it’s fairly well documented what humans need, and if you want stuff beyond that you’re a greedy capitalist and an environmental despoiler.

My instinctive response to that is to hold both middle fingers aloft and invite the speaker to gaze upon them.

I was not born to one of the poorest places on Earth, nor raised in extreme privation.  That would require being born in Africa.  I wasn’t even born or raised to the type of poverty my mom knew: five children plus a niece in a one bedroom cottage with no stove or running water.  Four girls sleeping in a double bed, two facing each way.  An outhouse in the garden, and food cooked on coal scrounged from along the train line.

I was born in dad’s mom’s house, a two floor place that would be familiar to anyone who’s seen a Tuscan farmhouse (the new owners even added a veranda to the upstairs back.)  We raised our own chicken, rabbits, grapes, and grew a substantial portion of our food in what was probably around 3/4 of an acre.  (It took me years to realize most of the world doesn’t produce like that.  We considered the soil poor in the north, but it’s possible to feed a family from half an acre to an acre of land, provided you can scrounge grass for the rabbits and buy fodder for the chickens.  (you don’t grow cereal in that space.))  It took my sons exclaiming at the amazing fertility of people’s backyards for the dime to drop.  I GUESS that’s why Portugal was invaded so much when most of the world depended on agriculture.

We had running water of sorts, only because it was hard with the tech of the time to pierce the very thick stone walls, we only had water in the kitchen and in the bathroom built right outside the kitchen door.  (It was a full bathroom, with appliances and a shower, not an outhouse.  Maternal grandparents outhouse scared me, and I gave my infant self UTIs from refusing to go in it.)

Now, we weren’t precisely rich, and the backyard required a great deal of work (my first job, at 5 was weeding the onions.  And the grape harvest was an all-hands-on-deck type of work that excused students from school and men from paid work.) but we were relatively well off.  Mom married up.  (And when I was six, she and dad built a house that is in all senses “modern” except for wimpy electrical service, and that’s governmental and now EU (Goreball warming prevention, donchaknow) crazy.) Our neighbors next door were a shoemaker’s family that lived in the conditions mom grew up in.

What I’m trying to drive at, though, is this, even mom’s growing up conditions were MORE than is strictly needed.  They were — thanks to my erratic but beloved grandfather’s occasional efforts at handiwork, cultivation and building — considerably better off than THEIR neighbors.  In fact, they lost none of their 5 children to childhood diseases or to things like typhus, which made them a rarity amid their neighbors.

Somehow, when you get “the enlightened” in charge, deciding what other people “need” to live, the common people always end up reduced to conditions far worse than mom’s childhood.  I mean, what do you really need to survive?  If you don’t want to live to a ripe old age, you can make do with some flour some oil, some water.

Better for the environment?

These are my middle fingers.

Even when we were very very broke and I thought I’d never climb out of it, I took joy from the idea that other people, elsewhere, were living better — that there existed in the world some joy, some beauty.  In fact, at the time in our lives when we were the most profoundly broke, we used to make sandwiches (or buy from burger king on deep special, if we had a coupon) and park in a beautiful neighborhood by a lake to eat them.  I wonder what those people made of it, or if they thought we were casing the joint.  The truth is it gave us great joy to look at the well tended lawns, the kids playing, the windows with lovely curtains, and the pristine lake beyond.

Because this existed, our very spare existence was more bearable.

But when you put the “best people in charge” of deciding the minimum everyone needs, what you get is hand to mouth existence, and btw, destruction of the environment too.  Because the peasants have no say in how they live, who cares if their mountains are strip mined, or their forests clean cut.  After all, it’s done in the most efficient way possible, so it must be better for everyone, right?  And because the “best people” are still human and have wants, if they can let their cronies despoil some little mountain and get enough money for a trip some place where luxury exists (Switzerland comes to mind, but America is also a destination for such people) it’s no more than they deserve.  After all, all this planning is so stressful, right?  They need special perks.

And what about science?  Well, most of the science that gets funded by the best people is science that reinforces the idea we need the best people in charge.  I refer you to all the scientific breakthroughs form North Korea.  Or, if you prefer, ask a friend in the sciences what they think of Chinese breakthroughs and “scientific papers.”  Then step back and wait till they finish laughing.  Might take a while.

Oh, and new things never get created.  Because what’s the point of coming up with a beautiful little glass teapot — and four cups — if you can only distribute them to yourself and your friends? after all, it’s not NEEDED.

All of this reminds me of O’Rourke’s description of traveling in the transiberian express.  not only were the facilities for bodily functions inadequate, but no one had thought that in the way of humans, some men would piss in between carriages.  So, there was a lip that wouldn’t allow the piss to flow out, so it pervaded all the floor of every carriage.  And of course it was never cleaned, because people didn’t have a choice of traveling in any other way.  So clean, pleasant carriages were wasted effort.

We see the same type of thing here, as a service (often helped/subsidized by the government) becomes the only way to go.  I refer you to the airlines.

WordPress itself seems to be going a little silly even for paying customers (which I am) as it becomes dominant in the market.

That’s okay.  The freemarket has a remedy for that.  Become annoying enough, and a competitor will succeed.

Which is a great advantage we have over the best people planning our whole lives.

Is a planned economy more efficient?  What is efficient?  What do humans really need?

From each according to his ability, to each according to his need might be doable.  If you let each person determine what they can do and what they need (it goes way beyond ability, btw.  I’m very good at somethings — translation comes to mind — I just don’t LIKE doing it.  Force me to do it every day of my life, and I’ll start finding ways not to do or not to do it well.  Not even on purpose, just through being human. Because we, curious monkeys, don’t do well with boredom or forced labor.  And sometimes what you need goes well beyond bread and water.  As a wise rabbi once said, man doesn’t live of bread alone.  At our lowest point both economically and emotionally (remember, we thought we’d never escape an existence that was just the bare minimum) we needed those picnics in the richer neighborhood.  Also I needed a book of art with reproductions of DaVinci paintings.  They kept me motivated enough to get up out of bed and look after my toddler.

You want from each according to his ability and to each according to his need?

Great.  The only way to do it is free market capitalism, and a free exchange of goods and services across the entire world.  The closer we get to that, the closer we’ll get to that ideal.

Marx’s promises were never well served by his control-freak social architecture, and anyone trying to implement that here will have to do it over my dead body.

I not only want my lovely, strictly unnecessary glass teapot — with four complementary teacups! — I want my kids and grandkids and great grandkids to be available to find their own amazing discoveries at a price they are willing to pay, world without end.

It is free market capitalism, to the extent governments allow it to exist, that has lifted most of humanity out of poverty.

Planned economies just give us the Trans-Siberian express.  And its pervading smell of pee and misery.

 

Making a Living by the Pen

I’m very late with everything, though this is quite a new ability of mine, being late while producing furiously.

I just want to say this once, that this is not what I imagined when I was a kid and wanted to be a writer.  There would be a more… stable situation.  I often read in books, including Frederic Brown’s Martians Go Home (you should read it if you haven’t, at least if you like funny and somewhat silly books.  It has caused one of my friends, who self identifies as a racoon, to send me peremptory messages saying “Write faster, toots.”) about agents calling the author, urging the author to write (the raccoon is not my agent) even making them small loans, suggesting books, encouraging.

I never had a relationship like that with any of my four agents.  I don’t believe most writers do.  Or at least, perhaps some top bestsellers do.  Or perhaps — of course — it is my amazing quality of doing everything sideways and backwards, since I’ve heard of beginning writers,making far less than I, who had long conversations with my last agent, and got suggestions for novels and such.

Honestly, I didn’t want long conversations with any of my agents.  The writing thing — which is not exactly under my control — will take suggestion, but not the suggestions anyone wants it to.  The type of suggestion it will take is more while driving back from dinner at Pete’s a couple of weeks ago, leaning back in the seat and saying to my husband “Someone should write something as fast as the chronicles of Amber but tighter.”  Husband looked over and said “Science fiction, perhaps?  Is that why you’ve been reading of possible ancient civilizations?”

And in the next minute I had seven, maybe ten, books in my head, because my muse is a female canine that wishes me to die.

Yes, you’ll see that in the fullness of time, but not right now, because, you know, right now I’m late with everything, from collaborations (yes, Guardian proceeds apace) to indie books (yes, Dyce four hit a minor snag, but it’s getting done) to my own continuing series (G-d willing and the creek don’t rise, I would like to do Hacking the Storm (third book of the Earth Revolution) and Darkship Defiance for Baen before the end of the year, so that fans of the series’ are just sitting by, waiting for years, something that has blighted the growth of the series.  Then there is the part-written Bowl of Red.

And I haven’t even come close to achieving my goal of 3 articles a week for PJmedia, being stuck at more like 8 a month.  Okay, this will have to change.  I have a list of articles to write, but the body is also not entirely under my control.

I have now lost a few days to late-hitting con-crud in the form of stomach flu.  This one was sneaky, since my son caught it (he swears he wasn’t hanging out with Mike Williamson!) and had it for a week and a half or so before passing it on to me.  (The one infallible method of getting rid of it.)  Then I had it for a day and thought I was okay, but it came back last night “Return of the con crud, this time it’s serious.)

It’s mostly annoying, honestly, but it leaves me feeling as though I have no energy, and it’s really hard to write action when you feel like taking a nap. It’s even hard to write articles.

And so, what has this to do with you, other than displaying I’m obviously also having trouble writing posts.

I was musing the other day, having talked to both sons on the matter, that one’s training never prepares one for one’s profession, or not really.

Well, my profession has never had any formal training (other than what I took at the Oregon writers’ Professional Workshop, but you know what I mean.)  And yes, if you’re a beginner, no, creative writing classes won’t prepare you for life as a commercial novelist.  They might in fact hinder you.  My literature classes did hinder me.  It’s only useful if you are writing “literary” which is a small and unproductive genre.  In that, acquaintances made, if you take the course at an ivy league institution at least, will get you in with the top brass of NY publishing, who then might push your book to the limit of their abilities.  (Which right now aren’t great.)  But in other genres, they’re more likely to look at that part of your resume with a critical eye and ask if your well-rounded characters can be punctured with a sword.

But going beyond strict training, to the idea of what people actually do for work, most of us are totally unprepared for the realities of the working world, which turn out to be… not at all what we expected.

For instance, one of the attractions of being a novelist for me is that politics and office politics wouldn’t intrude.  Okay, I’ll wait till you stop laughing to continue.

There’s more than that, now, of course.  The job that wasn’t exactly as I expected has mutated, and I’m glad it has, as it is now less office-politicky. What I mean is, should someone (eh, most of publishing, apparently) conceive a strong dislike for me, I would just step sideways into full indie, which pays me more, and resume producing.

But the old forms, and what we thought our profession WOULD be — even though it never was — holds sway in our minds.  People who grew up watching movies in which every novelist was rich or at least making a middle class life, are shocked when the advance on their first book is 5k (or these days 3k) paid in three installments.  I’ve had to calm newby writers panicking because their first short story has attracted neither an award nor a movie deal.  I have to deal with friends who can’t understand why they’re not rich 10 books out the gate.  They think they’re no good because of this, and I know it has nothing to do with it.  The field was never like that.  Heavy promotion, the attendant money-making, at most houses was always the result of fast and concerted “push.”  I.e. demand that bookstores stock THIS much.  It also needed a certain type of book (noticed I didn’t say good.  In fact very few novelists are good enough to capture “easy to read” and “deep” — though some are, and many of them are my friends) at a certain time.

Even if my first book had been the best thing since sliced bread with honey (It wasn’t.  I mean, it’s a very decent book, but I had no clue of commercialism and therefore allowed myself to roll in words like a pig in muck, and indulge in affections that lock most readers out.)  But let’s say my first book had been MHI.  (Ah, I wish.)  Even then, with it coming out in hard cover (a decision I had no part in) a month after nine eleven (with all the conspiracy theories flying around, I must say I had no part in that either) and the orders being crossed so most stores said the paperwork said it was supposed to have a dump of its own (its own standing cardboardy thing in the isle) but only two were ordered per bookstore, and there was no dump, the book would have sunk.  It would have sunk if it were the best thing in G-d’s green earth.  Which it isn’t.

I’ve learned (failure is very instructive) to set my goals at writing and delivering, which I can at least control and avoids my going too crazy.  Except, of course, when I’m late at everything.

I also appreciate indie, and frankly ebooks for traditional, because they give you a chance of being discovered years after your book came out, and while no bookstores carry it.  I have a strong feeling, from the inflow of fan letters, and the stuff I’m asked about at cons and on social media, that the Shifters series is enjoying somewhat of a revival.  14 years in, it’s finding audience.

Traditional publishing is not prepared to cope with this.  Their investment in the book must be paid earlier than that.  (Fear not, if Baen will not take Bowl of Red, it goes indie.)  Otherwise they won’t stay afloat.

But there’s always indie.  Which is remarkably freeing.

It also pays better.  Did I mention it pays better?  One of the reasons I’m forever surprised at watching my friends who are indie only waltz over (or rather crawl on their knees over to traditional.)  I don’t get it.  I suspect it is part of the image in their heads.  They want to be “real” as they expected it to be when they were little.

I suspect we’re going to see a lot of this in a lot of professions, where the profession is changing so fast, even if the training and the image were accurate at one point it wouldn’t be now.

Don’t be afraid.  Stay flexible.  In most professions, as in writing, the change is towards your having more control of your destiny.  The water might get choppy but if you hold on to the sides of the boat, it will get easier.

Yeah, I know, this is a time of great technological change, and we come after a cycle optimized to work in the old way (which doesn’t mean it was either better nor more lucrative.  Remember that thing about taking over institutions, gutting them, wearing their skin demanding respect.  That was the old cycle, and everyone was kow towing to the dead husks.)

Be not afraid.  The future is what we build.

Get out there and build it.

(Lest the wallaby accuse me of secret writings, here are my PJM articles for the month:

What Happens When the Artist Chides His Audience?

When I Think Back on All the Cr*p I Learned in High School

Teach Your Children Well Part 2

Teach Your Children Well: The Subversive Way to Homeschool

 

 

 

Lighting A Candle on the Road to Damascus

Science fiction and fantasy icon Ursula K Le Guin  has a rather tiresome essay saying that she was once “a man.”  Because, she says, once upon a time the only role models available for women were male, and therefore she viewed herself as a man.  Yes, I’m rolling eyes as I type this, just as I rolled them while reading the nonsense the first time.

I’ve often expounded my theory that people who need someone who is exactly like them in external characteristics to enjoy a book or a movie, have never left the early toddler stage, where having your name in a book really helps you enjoy it.

I never had that problem, and reading stories with men or boys never made me less of a woman.  Perhaps, of course, because I knew a lot of women in normal, every day life.

Books about humans interest me more than books about aliens, now, but books about aliens are usually so badly written and I keep visualizing humans in rubber suits.

Of course, perhaps I’m doing  Le Guin a disservice.  Perhaps, she, rationally wrote the article for mercenary reasons knowing that the way to advance and be considered an icon in the field is to be as leftist as possible.  Or even more.  And that the most prized form of leftism is “feminism” as we wind our way to a full misandrist society.

(It is not wrong nor bad to seek one’s own advancement.  In fact that I can’t do it and still look at myself in the mirror in the morning vexes me greatly.  I blame dad and his notions of honor.  They have crippled him all his life, so of course he shared them with me.  Honorable as an idealized Roman patrician, proud as the devil himself, and yep, inevitably, poor as church mouse.  Okay, he managed to defeat the last due to sheer insane work and self-denial, but it’s not a patch on the life he could have had. What does it say about me that I’m proud of him for it?)

Which brings us to the topic of this post.

I was never leftist in the sense that the most leftist people would consider me such.  I was always more or less a reflexive anti-communist, which exempts me from being considered in the same category as, say, Barrack Obama or Hillary Clinton. It also shields me from ever being considered “cool” by most editors in my field, who, by the time I broke in, had convinced themselves that communism was where it was at, and that belief in that scourge of human life demonstrated their massive intellect.

However, if you’ve graduated from a Western university in the last forty years, you can say that you were once a leftist.  And that goes double if you graduated from a university in Europe.

Unless you went in fortified and determined to resist brain-washing, (and I was in Europe, where the options, from the US pov are international socialism or national socialism.  there no non-left option) they got under your skin in one way or another.

One way they got under my skin was via my hobby of reading science fiction and fantasy, most of whose practitioners were, at the very least, soft left and many of whom were communist or very very socialist, back when I was young.

Oh, sure, I could resist the outright communists and groan at things like saying capitalism had died because it wasn’t viable, in their so-much-better communist future.  Look, I read Heinlein too.

I even fell for “feminism” (remember I grew up in a Latin country) until I came to the US where the first thing to make me give them the hairy eyeball (besides the fact that honestly, to an outsider the US read as a matriarchy) was their tendency for rape the language (Herstory, pfui. Every time I saw that written anywhere, I knew the leading lights of the movement were exquisitely indoctrinated morons.)  No sane movement does that, inventing meanings for words that the words never had, just so they can change language.  I’m a linguist.  A decent respect for language and etymology is needed for me to consider you a sane intellectual option.

But where they got under my skin were the things that even Heinlein bought into: ecological destruction that needed government intervention, the sense that we were living in the last viable generation on Earth, the idea of massive, destructive population explosion, the idea there simply weren’t enough resources to go around and some extensive  form of government control of private life was inevitable.

Mind you, I still wanted children (I’d also read The Marching Morons) but apparently there was gloom in my heart for what the future held for my descendants.

I worried about crazy things that the left pushed in the news.  The industrialization of China, and its relative opening up to the free market meant more pollution.  The US’s rejection of mass transportation meant – doom and gloom – we’d all run out of oil and have to bicycle everywhere in the not so distant future. Computers were destroying person-to-person communication. Increased pollution was giving us all cancer.  Everything that made human life more comfortable had to be curtailed, removed, destroyed so we could scratch a living from the surface of the Earth a couple more generations.  And then if no miracle occurred, we’d die or return the the stone age. All the good life was gone, and only the husks remained to my generation and succeeding ones.

Looking at that list, it’s no surprise that science fiction publishing and reading retreated howling to fantasy.  After all, what future was there to look forward to?  By the nineties most science fiction was just scolding humans for their sins. (Okay not all, and later I found out my reading habits followed Jim Baen around.  As he moved houses, so did my buying even though at the time I had no idea who he was, and never looked at the editorial house name.)

I was 29 and my son was 1 when I got a gift magazine subscription from an anonymous donor.

The magazine was Reason – then under the redoubtable Virginia Postrel – and I still have no clue who sent it to me.  If you ask me, EVERYONE I knew at the time in the US was at least soft left and some of my friends were considerably hard left.

But someone did send me the magazine.  I don’t remember what the issue was, precisely, but I remember it took on a series of ecological issues, and it had a lot of facts about why these weren’t precisely so.  For the first time in my life people were telling me the future was NOT all doom and gloom.  There was hope for life, liberty and yes, even the pursuit of happiness.

I have stopped subscribing to Reason – sometime after 2001, when liberaltarian became a thing – but I can’t describe the effect those first few issues had on me.

It was like opening a window in a dark, moldy room, and letting the sunshine in when I didn’t know sunshine EXISTED.

All of a sudden, I could integrate what I’d seen with my lying eyes – that people were generally living better, that the world as a whole was safer and cleaner – with facts and theories.  I could understand and integrate the fact that poverty was always greater under socialism and less under a free market, and consider that maybe we were not running out of resources, we were being stamped out of our liberty, and oppression took all our wealth.

I stopped fearing runaway global warming – and how I managed to do that, frankly, when I still remembered the global cooling panic is a testimony to the power of biased media – and world war three, and running out of gasoline, and nuclear energy, and wearing non-organic-material clothing, and pollutants in my beauty products, and guns in the hand of the common folk, and—

I don’t mean that the magazine converted me overnight.  It didn’t. It took at least five years and a lot of thinking for me to become anti-statist and to fully digest the enormity of the lies I’d been told by people in positions of trust.

BUT that subscription to reason was the beginning.  It made me see the contradictions that had been bothering me, but which I thought must mean I was missing something, since everyone who was someone seemed to agree the world was a dark, evil place and becoming more so.

Of course, part of this was the result of the false “uniformity of opinion” created by the mass distribution and control of news, which is fast becoming a thing of the past, as the new media rises in power.  Back then, if your lying eyes showed you something the media — all of the media — said was false, you wondered about your sanity, and the tendency was to fall back in line with the central narrative, unless you really, really couldn’t justify it.

I still don’t know who sent me that subscription, much less why they thought there was hope for me, considering the things I believed and the way I talked at the time.

But without that person, there would have been no Darkship Thieves, no According to Hoyt blog, and none of the PJM  posts, either.  I’d remain anti-communist, but also convinced that the free market and liberty weren’t the answer, and futilely seek a “third way.”  I’d believe socialism was close to the answer, if we could just hold in that state, without falling into full communism.

I hope whoever it was is happy with the results.  I am.  And in the spirit of paying it forward, I’ve sent many a person copies of P. J. O’Rourke’s Eat the Rich or All the Trouble in the World, both of which have the same message as those first Reasons I read. There are other books of course, but those are the ones I normally send.

I’ve also sought to break the chains of leftist-induced depression in blogs and posts, many, many times.  I’ve tried to open the windows for others, so they see there is hope – lots of it – if only they’re willing to work towards it.

The world isn’t coming to an end.  Only the statist world.  And that leaves the future wide open for humanity and liberty.

Be not afraid.  Light a candle and let the hope of a bright future into your life and maybe even into someone else’s.

 

A Little Bit Of Promo by Free Range Oyster and Vignettes by Luke, Mary Catelli and ‘Nother Mike

A Little Bit Of Promo by Free Range Oyster

Alma Boykin

Golden Summer

Colplatschki Chronicles Book 10

If the spring is blighted, what does summer bring? Pjtor Adamson Svendborg, now undisputed ruler of NovRodi, will remake his land, Godown willing. But dragging his land out of the Harriers’ shadow is not easy, not when heresy and ambition combine to tear the church from within and Frankonian ambitions threaten from without.

Pjtor came young to mastery, perhaps too young, warped by his sister’s treachery. Can he learn to wait and watch, or will impatience tear down what Pjtor labored so hard to build?

On sale this weekend!

Vignettes by Luke, Mary Catelli and ‘Nother Mike

So what’s a vignette? You might know them as flash fiction, or even just sketches. We will provide a prompt each Sunday that you can use directly (including it in your work) or just as an inspiration. You, in turn, will write about 50 words (yes, we are going for short shorts! Not even a Drabble 100 words, just half that!). Then post it! For an additional challenge, you can aim to make it exactly 50 words, if you like.

We recommend that if you have an original vignette, you post that as a new reply. If you are commenting on someone’s vignette, then post that as a reply to the vignette. Comments — this is writing practice, so comments should be aimed at helping someone be a better writer, not at crushing them. And since these are likely to be drafts, don’t jump up and down too hard on typos and grammar.

If you have questions, feel free to ask.

Your writing prompt this week is: girls

Look How Far We’ve Come

One of the weird habits of writers is that every few years we go and get our trunk stories and read them and go “Wow, I really am better now.”

We’ve done this recently as a family (hey the family that picks scabs together stays together) and laughed heartily at some of our early stuff.  (BTW if you’re a working writer — meaning you didn’t take some long hiatus in between and you read stuff from ten years ago and say “wow, I was good” this is a bad sign.)

So it occurred to me this little cell of dissidence — or as a friend calls it, “Hoyt’s home for the tragically gifted” — needed to do the equivalent.

I “came out” of the political closet roughly five years ago.  This was done in stages, so it’s hard to pinpoint a specific date.  To be fair, I don’t think it was possible before in the sense that not only would I have been black llisted with the main stream publishing left, but also with the right, who would have viewed me as extreme and “crazy.”

In fact, when we first started out, after I’d come out of the political closet, with people saying stuff like “I couldn’t come out in mainstream publishing, or people would have never published me again.”  Or “I can’t come out because I work in Academia” we got commenters in here — not all leftist — accusing us of being paranoid and crazy.

No one can honestly say that, after the battle for Berkley, the Sad Puppies insanity in which one of the major publishing houses in the business called in favors in mass media to tar a movement with artistic and aesthetic differences as “racist, sexist, homophobic” and “trying to keep minorities and women from writing science fiction.”  Also, at various points during the kerfuffle those of us who were involved got told we’d never work/be invited to cons in this town again.  (BTW being invited to cons might seem to beginners to be part of the pomp and circumstance of being successful as a writer, but those of us to the right of Lenin — meaning we weren’t talking politics to begin with — have gotten used to surviving without big con presence, and frankly, from observing my indie sales, I’m not sure cons were ever useful for sales, unless you were front and center on the demographic that attends cons.  Since I’m aiming for younger readers that don’t have a lot of time for non-paying activities… meh.)

What if I’d decided to say that the left would weaponize the IRS and other governmental departments?  Well, in 2011 we might still be called crazy.  After Lois Lerner not so much.

What about when we said things like the Clintons being corrupt?  Well, back in 2010/11 a lot of people were still talking about what great Americans the Clintons were, and how the only reason the Republicans didn’t like Billy Jeff was his peccadilloes.  But the election in 2016 — despite all the vari-colored hairs sporting Hillary t-shirts — proved that most people don’t buy their innocent act.  Despite all the mass-media burnishing of their image and their “achievements” enough tarnishing information has come out, that no one buys it anymore.

How about that global warming, eh?  Yeah, I know.  In 2010 at a company dinner for a friend’s job, we spoke in hushed tones about how it had some flaws.  Now most people roll their eyes at the media when they push this crap, and the more alert have started to say “so, it’s climate change now?  Why do you keep changing names like a bad Chinese restaurant?”

What about some of my “kookier” ideas like that world population is not as big as I think it is, and that there is no possible way to tell how big it actually is, since even in the US — which has, arguably one of the most reliable censuses in the world, we “estimate” people and “count uncountable population” and other political ways to inflate population.  (Much less in the countries which receive international aid per-capita.)  Well, when I first mentioned it in passing, here, my comments were full of “no, no, we know exactly how many people there are, and the world population is climbing terrifyingly.”  Now I can say that we don’t know how big the world population is but that it doesn’t seem to be as big as we’ve been told, ON PJMEDIA and the comments don’t yell at me for being paranoid.

What about having a general doubt of things reported in one of the Mass Media outlets?  Sure in our councils, as it were, we’ve made fun of MSM all along, but people used to assume if the NYT said it there was some fire beneath the smoke.

Yeah, after Russian pee pee gate and the determined attempts to NOT report on Hillary’s multiple liabilities  That is gone, baby, gone.  In fact, it was people at large attaching “fake news” to the MSM that caused MSM to try to walk back this cute meme they’d started.  (too late.)

Then there was their attempt to Mau Mau (Mao Mao) the rest of the US with the idea that every white person was racist, the police was hunting for black men, and BLM were going to burn our cities until we admitted our guilt.  Then there was their screaming about global warming, while jetting around the world.  Oh, and let’s not forget Occupy Wall Street, which, in each of our cities translated to “crazy half dozen and clearly dangerous homeless people standing on the corner being crazy” while the MSM treated it as a respectable movement.

Oh, and let us not forget “Summer of Recovery.”  Which the unemployed read amid shuttered store fronts and thought “that’s funny.”

There are a ton more examples.  It’s Saturday morning, and I’m not awake enough to list them all.  So, I’ll let you hunt them down.

How did we get here from where we were 5 or even 6 years ago, where the left commanded the heights of culture, moved the overton window at their pleasure, and were considered “sane” and “mainstream”?  Well, it was a bit of this and a bit of that.

First of all it was the fact that when Obama got reelected despite a — charitably — lack luster and uncharitably bizarrely disastrous (in economy, in world prestige, in pretty much everything) first term, the left thought it would never lose again.  So they leaned way out the Overton Window and REACHED for what they thought was within their easy grasp.

Second there was the New Media and the fact that everyone has a camera on their phone.  You do realize that in the 70s we all — not just the crazy and biased left — would believe “hands up, don’t shoot” right?  And that Antifa were pure-halo-knights of the resistance, right?  But alas the man on the street can now record masked thugs bashing women’s faces in, and the halo is tarnished forever, no matter how much the MSM tries to burnish it.

Third, there is the development of what I’d call “right wing talk backers.” and a right wing culture.  Indie publishing has allowed a bunch of leans-libertarian (and right) authors to self-publish.  Yeah, a lot of them are awful, but not all.  And you can’t hide the ones who aren’t.  And that means those of us who used to swallow the left politics with our entertainment because it was the only game in town no longer have to.  Which means that the mass-industrial-entertainment complex is losing money.  (And just you wait till our people take the movies!)

The leftist and dysfunctional view of the world can only persist while it’s unopposed.  Now, it’s not.  Now it has a million dissident, not particularly organized voices talking back to it.

Recently, an episode of Right Angle at https://www.billwhittle.com/ talked about how 1984 might be impossible with the level of communications and internet we have NOW.  I think they’re right, because to make the world of DST (first written in 1998) fly, I had to add in a disabling of the internet and peer-to-group communications.

And that’s my scattered Saturday morning thoughts.

The election of 2016, with a not terribly appealing anti-left (we can’t call him right) candidate wouldn’t have gone the way it did if tuning out the leftist entertainment/news/intellectual complex hadn’t become the norm.

The left wouldn’t be running for safe rooms and complaining of trigger words if they were still in control.

More importantly they wouldn’t have tried some of the crazy gambits they’ve tried, in terms of telling us to believe their words over our lying eyes (really, Don Junior violating his “oath of citizenship”? REALLY?) if they weren’t in a panic.

Ride right through them, boys.  They’re demoralized as hell.

In the end we win, they lose.  And we’ve come a lot further towards it than I bet you realized.

 

 

 

 

On Net Neutrality – Jeb Kinnison

On Net Neutrality – Jeb Kinnison

You have probably seen some net neutrality scare tactics recently. The issues are complex and proposals to “guarantee” net neutrality usually promise to protect Internet users from a variety of evil ISP behaviors by authorizing the FCC to treat the Internet as a common carrier / utility, with powers to regulate and tariff (that is, price control) services. As is usually the case when powerful business and political interests are involved, the spin obscures more than clarifies.

First, let’s look at a reasonably neutral outline of the issues, from Open Secrets:

Net neutrality is the principle that all data on the Internet should be treated equally, not discriminated against based on platform, content, user or any other characteristic; ISPs may not create pay-to-play “fast lanes” that only some content providers could afford. Sounds simple enough, but the application of this axiom is technically and legally complex given the immense, intertwined — and sometimes competing — interests of ISPs, governments, and consumers in Internet industries and infrastructures

Debate over net neutrality in the U.S. has picked up in recent years, but it’s been an issue of worldwide contention since the early 2000’s. The US government has attempted to implement various strategies for regulation over this timeframe with little success. Net neutrality supporters believe that the government hasn’t gone far enough to protect individual freedom and security on the Internet; opponents fear that government intervention will hamper innovation and investment while increasing the costs of getting online.

Much of the recent debate has centered on the concept of paid prioritization. ISPs, such as Comcast, want content providers to pay them to deliver data faster. The ISPs claim that allowing these fast lanes is the only way they’ll be able to manage data efficiently and generate revenue to expand and improve Internet infrastructure. Opponents of paid prioritization, including content providers like Netflix and Amazon, assert that this kind of data discrimination will stifle the growth of fledgling companies that cannot pay to compete with developed corporations in the fast lanes. Advocates on both sides of the issue believe that additional costs will be absorbed by customers if their adversaries prevail. Paid prioritization is only a part of the Net Neutrality issue, but it has become the most prominent aspect of the public discussion.

By voting in February to regulate broadband communications like a utility under Title II of the Communications Act, the FCC effectively prohibited paid prioritization. The Title II statute prohibits “common carriers,” which ISPs are now considered, from creating “any unjust or unreasonable discrimination in charges, practices, classifications, regulations, facilities, or services.” Similar common carrier laws have been used to regulate monopolistic markets like the telephone and railroad industries. Additionally, Title II imbues the FCC with the authority to investigate any consumer complaints in the Internet market and requires privacy and fair use assurances from ISPs. Net neutrality supporters rejoiced at this decision, but opponents are not settling for defeat: Congressional attempts to reign in the FCC’s authority over broadband have commenced as the first wave of telecom litigation arrives

Furthermore, some proponents of net neutrality like Google worry that the broad Title II classification may promote unintended consequences that raise costs. This is because Title II, an expansive set of regulations, permits the FCC to impose tariffs and other forms of rate regulation that are looked upon unfavorably by the private sector. FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler has vowed to selectively enforce Title II authority in an attempt to minimize costs and negative externalities, but such assurances have not assuaged the concerns of those embroiled in the debate.

Proponents of net neutrality regulation emphasize fear that ISPs will abuse their customers by using their power over what is delivered to discriminate against content — in its simplest form, the fear that the sites *you* want to see and paid to access will be slowed in favor of others. ISPs are widely resented in much of the US where local municipalities — authorized by Federal law to allow only one cable TV company to operate in their territory — restrict entry of wired Internet competitors, leaving the average US citizen dependent on 1.5 broadband Internet providers, usually the incumbent cable TV operator along with a few less competitive alternatives like DSL from remaining telephone carriers. You are stuck with one company, and as a result the company is unresponsive, the standard model for a regulated monopoly utility, and gets a better return on money spent lobbying its regulators and buying political influence than it does from spending to satisfy customers.

No one is suffering from differential slowdowns at the moment — though many suffer from lower speeds and higher monthly bills due to lack of consumer choice. Because most have no alternative, cable companies can milk their customers and make high profits while failing to invest in new equipment and network capacity. Until recently these companies were generating so much cash on cable TV that they were able to reinvest in content providers by buying up TV networks, cable channels, publishing houses, and newspapers. So today we have Time Warner, soon to be swallowed by Verizon (which originated as a rollup of old Bell System companies), Comcast (which now owns NBC-Universal and its cable channels (including MSNBC, CNBC, USA Network, NBCSN, E!, and The Weather Channel), Charter-Spectrum-Brighthouse, Cox, and so on.

The giant and most hated of these is Comcast, with its reputation for unresponsive, DMV-like service, constantly rising prices, and occasional abuses of power to favor their own content over competitors’. Comcast is maneuvering to get net neutrality regulation tailored to its interests — this would prevent other ISPs from charging for access to its content, while allowing it to provide better service and access for its own services within its dominant network.

On the other side are major content providers who want a net neutrality that bars ISPs for charging them extra to guarantee quality of service (QoS) for their customers. Netflix, for example, is paid by customers by the month, and those customers suck huge amounts of streaming data through the system to their homes; if that data bogs down the network, ISPs either have to spend money on new capacity and charge non-Netflix users for it, or control use by capping data use or speed. While metering data and charging both originators and receivers for it at a very low rate might be the closest to economic fairness, asking big data sellers like Netflix, Amazon, and Google to pay something for their use is at least approximately fair. Of course these companies don’t want to pay unless all of their competitors (especially the in-house content generators of the ISPs) are required to.

So the big campaign to scare you into supporting the latest generation of net neutrality regulation is really a fight between big media and ISP companies to keep their own margins high and competitors weak. Notice the real underlying problem for consumers — limited choice of ISPs and local monopolies — isn’t addressed at all. Nearly every legislator at federal, state, and local levels gets some campaign funding from the media and ISP giants (as well as flattering news coverage that is a major advantage for incumbents), and by finding problems only where the big donors want them to look, they keep voters from understanding where the real problem is. This is much like the current battle to “repeal and replace” the ACA, which carefully neglects to address the biggest underlying problem, the cost and limited availability of medical services and treatments due to overregulation and cartelization of supply.

In the long run, beyond 5 years, technology will eliminate the local cable monopolies — wireless 5G and beyond will provide broadband data service in most locations at a reasonable cost. Google fiber rollouts have stopped and most companies with fiber optic ambitions have decided to scrap new installations as the high costs would have to be written off in a short time, which is why Verizon FIOS, a winning product where it was allowed to compete with coax-based cable TV, was never fully installed where authorized and has been sold off to other companies.

The giants are competing for advantage in a future marketplace by promoting regulation that benefits them or reduces competition. But in their focus on their interests, they are opening the door for broader FCC regulation of the Internet, which in the long run could be applied to wireless and as well and result in constant political warfare and control of what you see and hear. The excuse for FCC regulation in the New Deal era was to prevent a kind of Tragedy of the Commons in radio and television — since there was limited spectrum for signals and laissez-faire broadcasting would ruin it for everyone, Congress declared the spectrum a public resource, then promptly turned it into a property right by handing it out for free to TV and radio stations connected to the powerful (see, for example, how Lady Bird Johnson made LBJ a multimillionaire by using his political pull to get TV licenses.) FCC control came with regulations of content and suppression of minority political viewpoints, something many party politicians would like to see return. Already the incumbent social media giants like Facebook and Twitter are suppressing “dangerous” views, and countries like China are suppressing Internet speech to continue their control of public discourse. Even a small step in that direction like the current net neutrality proposals is dangerous.

Free people don’t need protection; they need freedom to change providers. Start by opening up competition in ISP services so any abuse can be dealt with by going with someone else. Don’t give unelected government regulators control of your feed.

Jeb Kinnison wrote the Substrate Wars science fiction series and most recently Death by HR, how HR departments became the arm of government reaching inside companies to enforce politicized hiring policies at the expense of merit. See: SubstrateWars.com and JebKinnison.com.

Earth Needs Women a blast from the past of November 2010

Earth Needs Women a blast from the past of November 2010

 

No, this is not the obligatory ecological post. Today, in the car on the way from dinner (not cooking at Thanksgiving is logical when you have only four people – five with our friend/honorary uncle to the kids) I was talking to the kids about a book I read when I was maybe 12/13.

This book – whose name I (unfortunately) can’t remember – came amid a trio of “fairytale books.” At twelve or so, I decided that I hadn’t read enough fairytales and was trying to round out my education. This one looked like a nineteenth century book with woodcuts, was written by some unknown Portuguese author and the title was something like “the foundling.”

It started with a baby girl found abandoned in a forest. She’s taken in by an older woman who gathers wood and who makes a good – if unloving – foster mother.

Half-bored, I felt I knew where this was going, but continued reading, expecting the more or less obligatory hidden princess story.

I was wrong. Though I no longer remember the details of the book – yes, I read it a good hundred times, as it became one of my favorites, but it was a long time ago and memory gets blunted – I know that the parentage of the girl is never revealed. The old woman dies, the girl is turned out of the house, she ends up working as a maid and some other menial jobs. Her work ethic and (what my friend Dave Freer calls) battler spirit get her through. She helps an old lady who is dying and whom no one looks after and, in return, is given an old book of recipes.

She starts her own little business selling cakes and pastries at fairs and meets a young man of very good family who – however – does not marry her because of course, she’s a foundling of unknown parentage. Eventually her little business becomes a successful pastry shop and later she meets another young man, a pastry chef, and this time it all works out and they marry and have a happy family and a successful business.

If you’d asked me at twelve, I’d have told you I had no idea why the story charmed me as it did. I only knew I liked re-reading it and it became one of my favorite books. It felt good and somehow “right” in a way that fairytales and romances didn’t.

Today, when I telling the kids about it, I realized why. It was because the character was a strong woman. Born with the ultimate disadvantage, the ultimate lack of support, she doesn’t – like fairytale princesses – either get rescued by a strong knight nor even by fate that reveals her to be a hidden princess. Also, she never complains; she never repines – she takes the situation she finds herself in and makes the best out of it, all the while looking out for those who are weaker or in more need than her. This last characteristic nets her the all-important recipe book (supposedly created by a medieval convent, which rings true for Portugal, and lost for centuries.) When her romance doesn’t work because her very conventional suitor wants a girl of suitable family, she doesn’t go into a decline, she just goes on with life.

She is, in fact, what editors so often say they want “a strong woman heroine, self sufficient, a good role model for growing girls.” Only, from my observation and reading, by this they usually mean mouthy, aggressive, foolhardy and complains a lot about men till one wonders if said character has an issue with being born female. There are exceptions, of course, but complaining about fate and men and being bitter seems to be obligatory.

And yet, it is true that this type of character is not only a great role model for young women, she is the type of role model we do need. Earth needs women (yes, and men, but we’re talking women here) who take care of the weak and helpless. Earth needs women who don’t whine. Earth needs women who cheerfully shoulder the burden of what needs to be done.

Earth does not need women who complain about men all the while neurotically obsessing on clothes and jewelry to attract said men and pursuing the highest-status males they can possibly get. There is nothing wrong with these activities, in moderation, but when they become the focus of existence they create a generation of infantile harpies. Now, I don’t think any women in real life are as bad as that, but almost all women characters in books and movies are just like that.

Young women who read/watch these characters end up feeling they must APPEAR like them or they’ll be thought weak. And this is wrong. Strength in women – and men – can be defined not as throwing weight around but in doing what must be done for oneself and those who depend on one.

Earth needs grown up women.

I very much hate to tell people what to do, much less what to be, but I wish we could set about writing – and living – role models for the women Earth needs.

We Don’t Need No Thought Control

It never fails.  Someone gets in a discussion (yes, on Facebook. Where else? It’s where the fossilized stupidity of ages past has come to die and decay, forming a substratum not unlike oil, but far less useful.  Well, unless you’re a blogger in need of post ideas.) about some of the latest misdeeds of the press, like say CNN’s bizarre pivot from all Russia all the Time to threatening posters for funny memes (Yes, of course I can barely resist the GIF posts when I see that.  Unfortunately they take more time than writing.) and someone comes on and laments the days when the media was “objective.”

This is when I’d dent my desk with my head, except I have one of those standing desks that’s made of plastic which pops right back up.  Good thing too.

I too would love the mythical times when kings were just, ordained by G-d and pulled the sword from the stone.  They are as real as the days of “honest” media.

Look, take it from someone who went through journalistic training.  EVERY good journalist (a minority as in all other professions) TRIES to be unbiased.  This is relatively (but only relatively) easy when writing about the incident on first and main where a dog bit a man.  It is far less convenient/easy when writing about a politician who embezzled something.  And since politics touches everything these days, the result of the media’s obsession with makign the personal political, it’s becoming impossible to report ANYTHING objectively, including the dog/man incident.  I mean, do you want to get mobbed by PETA? What about people who love leash laws/  What about the lobby to eliminate pit bulls?

Having training in journalism, and friends in the profession, I can tell you those “great” long ago times when all newspapers spoke with a unified voice, the narrative made sense and “everyone agreed” on what was sane and sensible, were anything but bipartisan, or impartial.

What they were was UNIFIED and totalitarian, in the sense that your entire media experience came from a very small number of people, who mutually vetted each other, and who had all been educated in the same colleges and believed the same things.

Two of the things most of them believed was that the purpose of journalism was to improve the world (not just to report news) by leading people in the direction of justice and peace, and all that good stuff that progressivism promised (but never delivers.)

In the days where to reach an audience you needed a newspaper gig, to step out of that line got you labelled a bad person or a right wing extremist with the same fervor that a gonzo group of women, men, all colors and shapes, and very definitely libertarian, if anything got labeled nazis, white supremacists and sexist and homophobic by the national press, when they dared question the holy science fiction zeitgeist.

So no one did.

I will not go into the several media misdeeds from that time of “unified” opinion.  Ask any veteran about the Tet Offensive and the Vietnam betrayal by the media.

I’m simply going to say, like Heinlein did, at about my age, that I’ve never seen any event I was witness to reported with ANY degree of accuracy.  In fact, often they are completely and insanely wrong.  But the report fits the left wing “narrative” in which they are good and moral so there’s that.

Prior to the industrial era, and the unification of newspapers and the distribution of some of those throughout the nation, shaping the opinion of all the smaller wanna bes, media was gloriously, loudly, obviously biased.

Stands to reason. Being humans we can’t hope for “no bias.”  No, listen to me, it’s impossible.  My husband and I are as close as two human beings can be, and have been married for over 30 years.  Yet if we both witness something and describe it, our different backgrounds and natures come to the fore.

So pre-mass-communications, each newspaper had its slant.  And readers could choose to read in their comfort zone or out of it.

In the end, though, they knew what slant the paper had, which is the next best thing to the impossible “unbiased.”  You can then discount the slant if you wish.

The new media is taking us there again, and it’s a beautiful thing.  It means that dissident voices can be heard again, and those in positions of power have to be afraid of public opinion, even if they are anointed “progressives.”  It’s the only thing that keeps the progressives in check.

Stop lamenting the days of “objective” news reporting.  There was never any such thing.  There was “unified” news reporting, which is almost for sure a give away that someone is playing with it.  There is no such thing as an unbiased human being.  There never was, there never will be.

Revel in the multitude of voices and perspectives.  It means you’re more likely to be able to find out the truth.