How Do You Solve A Problem Like Inequality?

Yesterday in a thread discussing the crazy idiocy of “taking a knee” to protest the US in general and our lack of perfection in particular, I  made a comment about how they’re protesting in name of perfection that doesn’t exist (though idiots might have convinced them it does.  I mean, people who haven’t lived in Sweden like to claim it is perfect) and running down the most just country on Earth.

It never fails.  If you make a comment of that kind, you’ll get someone trotting out the “inequality indexes” according to which the US is no good, very bad, horribly unequal.  It’s sort of like the pavlovian reflext of threatening libertarians or non-socialists, really, with “no roads for you.”

But in this case, it’s even more puzzling.  Okay, so roads are at least self-obviously necessary, even if they don’t flow from the bounty of the ever-loving heart of Marx.  But why is “equality” self-obviously a good.  I.e. why should any sane, thinking human being care about statistics saying we’re unequal or give a good goddamn that we aren’t?

The equality promised in the declaration of independence is predicated on two things: equal standing before G-d and, aspirationally, “equal standing before the law” (this is always aspirational because no, a perfect state doesn’t exist in anything involving humans.)

It is not, has never been, will never be “equality of results” or “equality of possessions” or even “equality of social standing.”  It can’t be.  It’s impossible to guarantee or even attempt that, so long as human beings aren’t widgets.

Do you think that any Portuguese immigrant who came here at 22 and married an American would be writing this article thirty years later?  No?  Then why would you expect equality of results in anything else?

Take the class of first graders I started in, back in village school, in 1968.  We were all girls.  Though we all thought we came from extremely different backgrounds, in retrospect, looking back, we all looked alike, we all dressed alike, and we were all more or less at the same social level.

I knew how to read, mostly because I was so much younger than my only sibling and my cousins, that I was bored out of my gourd but honestly, by the end of the year we all knew how to read and cipher decently enough.

So… are we all equal now?  Are you kidding me?  Those I know about range from France (my long-lost best friend) to the US, to faculty in a Portuguese high school, to village housewives, to… well… dead (at least three, alas.)  The rest I have no idea how they turned out, because our lives diverged shortly after fourth grade and never converged again.

Does this mean that there is something broken with the system that produced us?  Sure.  Plenty.  But none of it is responsible for how differently we turned out and how unequal our circumstances.  Only each of us is responsible for how she turned out.

In the same way, throughout our married life, Dan and I have had friends who made more or less the same we did, and lived more or less on the same salary.  None of them had the same lifestyle.  Some were better off, some worse.  Few people — like me — decided to compensate for their profession/staying home with kids not paying by refinishing furniture, making clothes, and generally spending time instead of treasure.  And at least one couple in our social-economic level at 22 are probably millionaires now, because they devoted all their time and attention to making money: investing, financing, that sort of thing.

It’s not what you start with; it’s what you make of it.  People end up very rich who had none of the advantages, not even a degree that paid any money.  And people have ended up very poor who were born with a gold spoon in their mouths.

The only way you can guarantee equality of results is to have the government dictate exactly how much money you can make and how far you can go.  When the government interferes in the economy to the point no one can ever be poor and no one can ever be rich, then yeah, you have greater equality.

But here’s the thing, I’d bet you dollars to doughnuts that every one of those countries with greater equality, their rich live about at the level of our upper middle class.  If that.  Sometime ago I read in an article that for each social level in the US you have to subtract two levels to get the equivalent in Europe.  In my experience this is exactly true.  Their upper middle class lives more or less like our lower middle class.  Their lower middle class live like our poor, etc.

Understand this is not “disposable income” or “how flashy can they get” — Europe can get very flashy indeed.  It’s more comfort, health, food, day to day ease of living.

Take air conditioning, for instance, even if you can afford it in Europe, you can’t afford to turn it on unless the heat is truly unbearable, because the governments, in the name of saving the Earth or worshipping Gaia or whatever, make electricity and fuel so expensive.  Here?  Most people have a temperature controlled environment, and most people use it year around.  In fact, the one year we spent without in a climate that needed it we were truly “poor.”

I’ve also visited supermarkets in Europe.  I remain amazed that Europeans can afford to eat.  Yes, food here is cheaper, and the variety more abundant.  The same applies to every consumer good.

Frankly, even though I enjoy Europe, it’s always at least slightly uncomfortable, which always makes me happy to be home.  Even our service people are more uniformly nice to every customer.  Our public accommodations are more responsive to complaints.  Our hotels are more comfortable (seriously.  One of the best hotels in Portugal was somewhere below Embassy Suites in Denver.) Our cars are more comfortable, too, since most have air conditioning and heating (it takes effort not to have heating in the car, but my dad’s car when I was growing up didn’t have it.)

So, is America more unequal?  Oh, sure.  I think we live middle-middle class, and even one level above us means vacationing abroad, better clothes, going out to eat more and not just because it’s someone’s birthday, or you’re sick and can’t even, or you’re away from home.  And we’re miles above where we were thirty years ago, where if I bought a $5 book, we had to eat pancakes for dinner for a week.

But regardless of the clusters we got ourselves in (we’re both creative) when newly wed (we were paying off the birth of the son, on COBRA, a three day delivery with emergency Caesarean and three surgeons) I know even there we lived better than my friend who married a Frenchman at about the same time.  We had some close shaves but we never actually went hungry, and our son certainly didn’t go hungry.

What I’m trying to say is, I’m completely at a loss as to why the INEQUALITY should matter.

Did it matter to me during the worst year of our lives, when we were broker than broke, in Columbia SC and thought we’d never dig out from under?

Sure it did.  Up the hill from us was a development with very nice houses and a lake (it occurred to me some months ago our new neighborhood is much like that without the lake) and we loved to make sandwiches, go park there and eat, just to bask in the nice surroundings.  It was good to know that better things existed than the shitty place we were in at the time.

But didn’t it make us mad?  No.  Why should it?  Just because we were tight as hell and worried about surviving, didn’t mean we wanted everyone in the same place.  Why would we?

And this is where we get to “inequality” and indexing it is the sanctifying of envy.  It is giving envy the veto over civil society.  People who care about or protest over it are a bunch of whiny kindergartners screaming “but I wanna.”

Yeah, sure, there are countries where the inequality means something.  North Korea, say.  Or Cuba.  If you’re a party member, you live well, while everyone else drowns in the gutter.  But that inequality matters not because it’s great, but because the baseline is so low.  I think we can admit that like “perfect equality” if it existed, “everyone drowns in the gutter, but a few people have mansions” is the sign of despotism.

And before our European readers get confused, no, THAT IS NOT THE US.  Despite all the whining about the 1% a) the 1% vary year per year, and there’s great mobility in general and b) our poor aren’t dying in the gutter.  When you hear the sob stories your TV showcases of poverty in America, remember what you’re not being told: almost every case is self inflicted and involves drugs, alcohol or other forms of impairment.

In fact not so long ago, a liberal activist tried to go and “live like the poor” and found that to remain poor he had to continuously turn down private offers of help.  People wanted to give him clothes and furniture.  People wanted to feed him.

The few genuine, undeserved cases of true hardship in the US are usually as ours was when young and stupid, a case of simply not knowing where to go or how to ask for help.  Years later, in a less pinched but uncomfortable situation, we never hurt nearly as much because we knew things like the club you could join that bought food from restaurant supply stores and sold it to you at cost.  You could feed a family of four on $30 a week about fifteen years ago, and not eat badly at all.  I suspect the same existed when we were young and stupid, but we didn’t know it.

However, the base level, the safety, cleanliness, food and comfort of the poor in America is higher than the poor in just about everywhere else.  Sure, of course, our rich are also extravagantly, bizarrely rich, roaming around Europe and offering to buy whole countries and turn them into parking lots, but so what?

The theory that revolutions happened because of inequality is bushwa.  Sure, socialist/communist revolutions might happen, but they happened whether there was inequality or not, because the Marxist hasn’t been born who can’t instigate envy over the smallest differences.  Envy is, after all, THE Cardinal virtue in their system, the one through which they hope to bring about paradise.

But once communism is installed and inequality greater than ever no revolution ensues.  (After all, the bureaucrats need to be rewarded for working tirelessly for the people, comrade!)

So we can establish that inequality causes neither discontent, discomfort, anger nor revolution.  Marxism does.

I suggest instead of keeping inequality indexes, we keep Marxism indexes.  They’re more expressive of discontent, malice and real danger.

Remember children, the less Marxism, the better off your country will be.  Stay vigilant and keep in mind envy is a sin, not a virtue.

Then do the best you can.






Sunday Vignettes by Luke, Mary Catelli and ‘Nother Mike & Long Waited Promo by Free Range Oyster

*I’m afraid the Oyster’s promo being late is the result of my computer.  I had it last Sunday but my email wouldn’t pull.  So, it’s my fault – SAH*

Sunday 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:dependent


Long Waited Promo by Free Range Oyster

J.M. Ney-Grimm

Winter Glory

In the cold, forested North-lands—redolent with the aroma of pine, shrouded in snow, and prowled by ice tigers and trolls—Ivvar seeks only to meet his newborn great-granddaughter.

Someone else has the same plan.

Traversing the wilderness toward the infant’s home camp, Ivvar must face the woman he once cherished and an ancient scourge of the chilly woodlands in a complicated dance of love and death.

Ivvar’s second chance at happiness—and his life—hang in the balance.

Alma Boykin


Shikari Book One

Adventure! Exploration! Martinus the m-dog! Lost cities and conspiracies! Strange creatures! And homework.

Shikhari, the most-distant human colony world, home to the Staré and Auriga “Rigi” Bernardi. While on school holiday, Rigi and her cousin Tomás Prananda discover a ruined city hidden in the forest. Their find strikes a spark that threatens to upend everything humans think they know about Shikhari’s past, and about the native Staré.

Meanwhile, back in school, Rigi’s determination to do well collides with the nastiest bully on the planet, Benin Shang Petrason. His father has the faculty and administrators under his thumb, allowing Benin to run rampant. If that wasn’t enough, Rigi’s big sister has discovered boys. If it weren’t for Martinus, Rigi’s new m-dog, Tomás, and their eccentric Uncle Ebenezer, Rigi wouldn’t know what to do.

But someone believes that Rigi and Tomás’s find is too dangerous to report. And that someone threatens the children, their families, and their uncle. That someone has just met their match.

Mary Catelli

Through A Mirror, Darkly

What lies behind a reflection?

Powers have filled the world with both heroes and villains. Helen, despite her own powers, had acquired the name Sanddollar but stayed out of the fights.

When the enigmatic chess masters create a mirrored world reflecting her own home and the world about it, it’s not so easy to escape. All the more in that the people of that world are a dark reflection of all those she knows.

Karl K. Gallagher

Torchship Captain

Torchship Trilogy, Book 3

Michigan Long blackmailed her enemies into joining the war against the AIs. Now the secret she used is leaking out and the Fusion is shattering. Caught in the middle of a civil war, she will have to use any weapon that comes to hand—her wits, her ship, her mate.


The Writer as She’s Spoken

I should be giving you the next installment in either Rogue Magic or Dark Fate (Grant in Portugal.)  I should…

There is about a million things I should be doing, instead of telling you I should.  Here’s the thing: whatever writing (or other business) is accomplished these days is accomplished in mad working dashes between spots of feeling not so good and being unable to muster the energy to do anything.

Normally this would be a bad sign, but the dashes are growing and the spots shrinking, so we’re on an upward trend.  Which is good, because still on the up slope of 50 it shouldn’t be this bad.

The thyroid is being treated (I think we’re nearing right dosage) and the eczema is not erupting as frequently (which is good because pred made me gain weight and lose my hair, which is NOT the look I was going for.)  I’m getting back into regular walking and the asthma strikes less — yesterday I managed not to use the rescue inhaler even once.

Guardian is progressing, though interrupted by a bunch of crazy body-crap.  When it’s done, I’ll finish the fourth Dyce (An inlaid Death) and get it up, then do two Darkships as fast as I can, so you guys don’t die waiting.  I have a Black Tide novel to write, also, but frankly I want to do something in my worlds for a change.  Then there’s the Dragons, something called Mirrorplay (taking the name of an old fantasy novel which will probably be called Horse and Bull or Igniting the Stars or something when it comes out.) and then… well, there’s the second of vampire musketeers, the sixth of musketeer mysteries (though the sales on that don’t encourage me to write a ton more.  We’ll see) and eventually more Tudor queens.

All I want for next year is a body that doesn’t crash every two weeks like clockwork, and we’ll be fine.

On the home front, we think it will be two more years with the boys (at least partially) on the paycheck.  When they fly solo, it should stop our sudden money crunches and depletion of savings and THAT will be less stress, which in turn might help the health.

For the foreseeable future I’ll continue working for PJM (links to the two articles this week here and here.)  Unless they kick me out, of course.  If you have anything you want me to write about, please send me a note.  I might or might not cover it, but particularly if it’s related to something recent I very well might.  I’m not as plugged in to daily news as I should be, because… well, look at my work schedule.

On Rogue Magic, I’m rewriting it third person because it’s cleaner, and also cleaning up the plot.  I’ll put up the revised “to now” version, then finish it here on Saturdays.  The same with Dark Fate, which I’ll do after I finish Guardian (only you know, not changing it to third person.  I don’t know what day I’ll do it.  It might end up crammed on Sundays, who knows.)

So, that’s where things are.  Other than being seriously frustrated with my body, I’m okay.  Yes, I’m sure when medical son moves out I’ll get fewer viruses.  Though he’s doing his clinical year, so we only see him minutes a day, I’m sure he brings home stuff to share.  OTOH if I can exercise and get healthier, I’ll withstand the onslaught better.

Anyway, I’ll leave you to have fun (I know you guys can) and go work.



When the Mask Slips

I think part of the problem our “friends” on the left are having is that when the mask slips once you can hide it.  When it keeps slipping it becomes …. obvious.

I come from a far distant time, called the seventies.  Perhaps because everyone was doing mescaline-like-substances, the seventies were crazier than those of you who weren’t adults then can even imagine.

One of the strangest things was how everyone assumed communists and socialists were the GOOD GUYS.

Sure, there are some people who still vehemently believe that.  They are either children who were treated like mushrooms all through school and who haven’t yet popped out of their indoctrination, or people who have some reason to hold on to this nonsense.

But in the seventies — and I’ll admit part of it was probably because the newsmedia proclaimed it and there was only one newsmedia — these ideas were mainstream.  They were considered sane.

Being a conservative — or, like me, simply an anti-communist — in the seventies was fighting a rear-guard action, with the certainty we were going to lose.  It was like being one of the warriors at Ragnarok.  You fought as hard as you could and you knew you’d lose.

The assumption was that communism was more efficient.  Central, top-down planing just eliminated waste more, which is why we needed it when we were all heading for the world of “make room, make room.”  Most anti-communists opposed communism because they thought life under it would be worse for the individual, but agreed that due to its incredible efficiency it would win out.

This wasn’t me, btw.  Perhaps because I lived in Europe.  Perhaps because by the age of 14 I’d never been present at any newsworthy event that the press reported right.  (And I’d been present at a few newsworthy events by then.  BTW, the track record continues.)  Also, I’m not by nature a very trusting person.  I looked at the glossy pictures of Soviet Life and I could smell a rat.  I knew that it was impossible that a regime which de-emphasized THE VALUE OF THE INDIVIDUAL HUMAN could be good.  Finding and reading the Gulag archipelago was actually a relief, because it confirmed for me that I wasn’t, actually, completely batshit crazy.

BUT most people are more trusting than I.  And they want to believe that the people who smile to their faces have good intentions.

Those of you who are young and who get furious with the Republican establishment: I FEEL YOUR PAIN.  But remember people like McCain came of age before I did.  Opposing communism was this doomed gallant fight you had no hope of winning and weren’t supposed to.

BTW, despite the defenders of “socialism with an human face” socialism is getting more and more amalgamated to communism, as it should be.  Everyone always knew it was a phase “on the way to communism” and in fact the communist countries always called themselves socialist (while the European “democracies” call themselves social democrat and are on the same greased chute to hell.)

The thing is they are the same thing.  They both take away from the individual that most fundamental of rights “the pursuit of happiness.”  Life, liberty and property usually follow.

Beyond all the tragic misunderstandings about human nature, socialism, communism and all societies in which the state arrogates for itself the right to control the daily life of individuals “for the good of all” (as opposed to “for common defense” or “to keep peace” at a distance, mind, and not in minutia) it fails because the good of all can be defined anyway you want.  The “all” like the “none” has no specific voice.  Leaving aside who counts the votes (and in the US that’s almost impossible, given the serial corruption of voting rolls) there are polls and interpretations and the massaging of public opinion to say what the “people” should say.

When they had full control of the press, this got really weird.  And in countries where blogs aren’t as prevalent they still do.

But here, we’re ah… talking truth to power.  Which seriously disturbs the left narrative of the happy people of Brutopia being incredibly happy with its wise planners.

And they don’t know what to do.  And the mask keeps slipping.  They say things like they want to restrict the first amendment.  Or they burn their own college to prevent a talk by a single, mostly harmless fabulous faggot.  OR they armor it in case the little Jewish man and his talk will physically attack him.  They see Nazis everywhere.  They start banning people on the net.  They defend the NHS.  Yeah, that same NHS that forced a baby to die when his parents had the money to try a last ditch treatment for him.  Because the “right to die with dignity” is in their constitution, and the pursuit of happiness isn’t.  You see, they love death more than we love life.  (Where have I heard that before?)

Now Hillary says she wants to contest the elections NOW.

A lot of people are discouraged by this, and by the soft acceptance of the antifa property destroyers and head breakers.


If the left were secure they would be keeping their mask of “reasonable people” in place.  A friend of mine, in the run up to 04 said they become louder as they start losing.

We haven’t reached peak loud yet.

Get yourself a beer or a soda and a bunch of popcorn.  Things are about to get interesting.

Prepare yourself in case your area is one of those where things get violent.  And other than that, just smile.

The pictures from Soviet Life lie burning in the ruins of the dream of a planned economy.  The defenders of socialism now try to claim spiritual virtues for it, just like the defenders of the free economy used to object to planning on almost aesthetic terms.

A man — or a form of governance — may smile and smile and be a villain, but sooner or later the mask slips and shatters, and boy, howdy, has it.

Now we can look on the monstrous form we knew was there all along, and possess ourselves in patience as our less politically aware brethren catch on.

In the end, we win, they lose.  Never doubt it.  This is no time to go wobbly.



Socialism and Sociability

Ever since Obama made his speech about how “you didn’t build that” because even if you build a business from nothing, you have roads, we have a curious madness on the left.  Every time you say anything about socialism or mention that government is too big, you get someone yelling at you that if you want freedom you don’t need roads.

There was a meme a friend of mine put on a facebook group some months ago (and which I didn’t steal because I’m stupid) which perfectly showed this.  There was this pissed off guy rolling up what was clearly a bad layer of asphalt on a road and the caption was “Libertarianism?  Well, you won’t be needed this.”

Yesterday I came across this when I shared on Facebook my PJMedia post about the corrupting nature of socialist governments (most of Europe) and a guy commented that hey, a little socialism was good, it was a lot that was bad, and then used the quote about government being a good servant but a bad master, but applied it to SOCIALISM.  He actually gave as an example of things that the government allowed us to have ROADS.

Seriously, I’m starting to think this is some form of psychosis, like Obama spoke and replaced the contents of these people’s heads with an obsession about ROADS being a thing of socialism.

Of course there were roads long before socialism.  There were roads under every possible form of government, because humans have to get around.  Roman roads, under both the republic and the empire were a thing we still envy, built for the ages.  And they were certainly not socialist.  (Not that any of us would want to live under their system of government, either, but that’ doesn’t matter because every system of government had roads.)

The road thing is particularly puzzling since I know that colonists in the Americas put up roads and that my parents, under the (then) National Socialist regime paid to have their road paved.  (They and their neighbors, of course.)

He also refered to the government monopoly over roads, which made me scratch my head, because as far as I know there is no such thing.  As a proof, there are tons of private roads.  More importantly, in condo-like developments, with the entire neighborhood being managed, the roads are often owned by the association/people who manage the condos, not by any government.

A saner example of things “we need government for” would be schools and even then he would be crazy.  Though the government has arrogated for itself (by means of accreditation authority) the right to tell you what your kids must learn and how it must be documented, there are enough homeschoolers doing fine despite that.  And there are private schools.  And my husband’s ancestors, in the 1600s in CT took up money to build a school house and hire a school master.  (Not a light undertaking for fishermen and farmers living hand to mouth.)

Beyond the obsession with roads, it seems like everyone under thirty thinks that any form of government is socialism.  This is so staggeringly stupid it makes my head hurt.

The genius above, then came back to enlighten us that to him “I think” socialism was power to the government and crony capitalism was power to the corporations.  Those were the only forms of government and we needed a bigger state to keep the corporations in check.


Crony capitalism often affects socialist governments, because the government controls so much it can give exemptions and benefits to large corporations.  It is a creature of large government as much as socialism.

Corporations use government to destroy up-and-coming competitors, and governments use corporations because it’s easier to control the assets without owning them.

And there is a cure.  The antidote is a government that is small, relatively powerless, and kept in check by its citizens.

Something, say, like our founders intended when they wrote the constitution.

Perhaps our young should learn about it, and why it was needed, instead of you know, getting their ideas about government from their profound and painful ignorance of history (“I think”) and the speeches of a fourth generation red diaper baby.

Nah, I know, that’s just crazy talk.


The Great American Eclipse from the centerline By Stephanie Osborn

[For those of us too broke or cheap — or yes — to have gone to totality to see the eclipse, Stephanie Osborn provides a lovely recap.]

The Great American Eclipse from the centerline

By Stephanie Osborn

(All images in this article courtesy Dr. Robert R. Murphy, M.D. and Patricia Murphy, R.N.)


On the afternoon of 21 August 2017, the Moon entered its “new” phase at the exact same time that the Sun, Moon and Earth experienced a syzygy.

It’s called a solar eclipse.

This would be my second total eclipse, but my first TRUE total eclipse: when I was in graduate school studying astronomy, a total annular eclipse (an eclipse which occurs with the Moon at apogee, the farthest distance from Earth, means it doesn’t completely cover the solar disk, and leaves a ring, or annulus, of visible disk) tracked across Atlanta GA one summer in July (if memory serves). So one of my fellow astronomy graduate students and I had picked up and made a road trip from Vanderbilt University in Nashville to Atlanta, with full blessing of our professors, as well as loaned portable telescopes equipped with objective solar filters. That in itself was an adventure, but today I want to talk about the most recent experience.

Having planned ahead, we spent the night at my parents’ house in the country a little south of Nashville TN. On eclipse day, I found myself, ISO-certified eclipse glasses in hand, with several family members and any number of new friends at the small Smithville TN Municipal Airport, FAA Identifier 0A3, elevation 1084.3ft, latitude 35º 59’ 07.6” N, longitude 085º 48’ 32.8” W. Normally this small regional airport would be closed on Mondays, but it was open especially for the astronomical event we were all there to witness. We were a stone’s throw from the center line, and per my Solar Eclipse Timer app (ain’t technology great?), would experience fully 2 minutes and 35 seconds of totality around 1:30pm local time (Central time zone).

By the way, for those who don’t know, the Moon’s shadow during a solar eclipse travels in the near vicinity of 1000-1200mph on average, though depending on the geometry and the curvature of the Earth under the eclipse path, it can go as slow as some 7-800mph and as fast as 8000mph or more. For this eclipse, maximum velocity occurred as the shadow was crossing the west coast in Oregon, at around 2,200mph; minimum velocity — thus longest duration — occurred in Kentucky and Tennessee, where it slowed to just over 1,300mph. It was already speeding up again by the time it crossed the East Coast in South Carolina, at nearly 1,500mph.

The maximum totality duration possible was 2 minutes, 40 seconds, which occurred very near Hopkinsville, KY, which area is the stomping grounds of my youth… but which was over an hour of additional driving, with nowhere to stay overnight, as my family has moved away from the area. Our duration of 2:35 was therefore not shabby at all.

We arrived at the airport around 10:00amCDT and set up chairs, a small awning, and a table with plenty of food and drink (sandwiches, chips, a veggie tray, several kinds of dip, cookies, brownies, iced tea, lemonade, water — all well chilled; yes, we know how to tailgate!), which we gladly shared with the airport staff and volunteers, as well as several emergency responders stationed at the airport. The airport expected up to 75 planes that day, all there for a special eclipse “fly-in.” I’m not sure we had THAT many aircraft, but I’d say we had easily in the near vicinity of 50, and the planes averaged 2 persons per, some more, some less. A few larger planes carried entire contingents of a dozen or more. Observers ranged from as near as Knoxville TN, to western Texas and beyond. I’m pretty sure I heard someone mention they flew in from Ontario, Canada.

The morning dawned bright and clear, with no rain forecast, but there was some cloud cover, mostly light high cirrus haze and some pop-up-type cumulus. As the day progressed and the heat increased, the percentage of cumulus cloud cover increased substantially.

Eclipse timings are defined by four principal points: first contact, second, third, and fourth contacts. These are geometrically defined; first contact is when the leading edge of the Moon first “contacts” the near side of the solar disk; this is the beginning of the eclipse event. Second contact is when the leading edge of the Moon first “contacts” the FAR side of the solar disk, and this marks the beginning of totality. Third contact is when the TRAILING edge of the Moon first “contacts” the near side of the solar disk, and this marks the end of totality. Fourth contact is when the trailing edge of the Moon “contacts” the FAR side of the solar disk; this marks the end of the eclipse event.

First contact was scheduled for 12:00:44pm CDT.

The temperature at the time of first contact, according to my weather app, was 94ºF. Cloud cover was substantial, and partly obscured observations of first contact, but not enough to prevent the observations being made. First contact occurred at roughly two o’clock on the solar disk (meaning, if the Sun were a clock face, the Moon touched it at the numeral 2).

first contact

First contact. Note slight dip at two o’clock on the solar disk. Close inspection reveals two spot groups; spot group 2671 is just above the center of the disk, while spot group 2672 is near the bottom left. Both spot groups are still visible as of this writing, though 2671 has decayed substantially and is about to rotate to the far side. They are the only spot groups visible on the solar disk for the last week. Filter used. Image courtesy Dr. Robert R. Murphy, M.D.and


The eclipse proceeded steadily after that. Little was noticeable at first, though the “bite” taken out of the Sun grew larger and larger. At about the halfway point, the ambient light got “funny” — the sky grew marginally darker, and there was a sensation as if the illumination was dimmer. My impression is also that it tends to be slightly skewed to blue shades, but that may be only my eyesight, and is subjective.


Progression of the eclipse. Filter used. Image courtesy Dr. Robert R. Murphy, M.D.


As totality approached, we began to realize that the cloud cover was diminishing steadily, most likely as a result of decreased heating/evaporation from the ground providing for less and less water vapor for cloud formation. However, there was cloud cover around the horizon except in the direction of the approaching lunar shadow (roughly NW), where a distinct gap, surrounded by two cloud banks, made itself apparent. The temperature was also dropping noticeably; with 45 minutes still left to totality, my weather app indicated we were already at 90ºF, and it was continuing to drop. At 30 minutes to totality, it had dropped to 88ºF.

solar crescent

The solar crescent as totality approached and we near second contact. Filter used. Image courtesy Dr. Robert R. Murphy, M.D.

As the sky darkened, the entire horizon took on the colors of sunset. I made a pinhole camera by punching a hole in a paper plate, to show some of the children that had gathered to watch with their families; it showed the progressing solar crescent quite nicely. At only 15 minutes to totality, we spread out a white quilted tarp for observing the diffraction-pattern “snakes.” There was nothing left of the cumulus clouds overhead, only a faint, high cirrus haze, which did not obscure viewing to speak of.

Second contact, and onset of totality, was scheduled for 13:29:20 (1:29:20pm) CDT. I called out a countdown to totality for the lay observers. Just before full totality was reached, my father spotted the diffraction pattern on the tarp, reporting that it lasted for a scant five seconds. Some observers with large camera optics reported Baily’s beads — the last glimpses of the Sun through mountain valleys on the rim of the Moon. My aunt captured the “diamond ring,” an illusion produced by the last rim of the solar disk still visible at the moment that the corona begins to become visible. (This also occurs at the end of totality; she captured both.)


“Diamond ring” at onset of totality. Mrs. Murphy was a few miles distant on a hilltop, where there was evidently still some small cloud cover. No filter used. Image courtesy Patricia Murphy, R.N.


Totality. No filter used. Image courtesy Dr. Robert R. Murphy, M.D.



The corona at totality. Note the striations due to the solar magnetic field. No filter used. Image courtesy Dr. Robert R. Murphy, M.D.



Solar prominences visible at totality. No filter used. Image courtesy Dr. Robert R. Murphy, M.D.


At the beginning of totality, some wags at the eastern end of the airport’s E/W runway began setting off a fireworks display in celebration; it appeared to be electronically controlled and quite the nice display, what little I saw of it. I suppose, had I been sitting behind it so I could see it against the backdrop of the eclipse, I might have enjoyed it more. But I had no problem with the already-jubilant atmosphere to which it added a bit of ambiance.

The sky at the airport was clear and cloudless, though there was still a broken ring of clouds around the horizon. The minimum temperature I observed on my weather app was 81ºF; it was quite comfortable and a slight breeze appeared to spring up. (Temperatures can drop during totality by up to 25ºF; the general consensus of the observers was that the weather app was lagging badly and may not have displayed the actual low temperature. We felt it was likely in the mid-to-upper 70s during totality.) At this point, unaided viewing was safe and possible, no protective devices needed.

The sky overhead was dark — enough so that the runway lights automatically switched on, as did the light illuminating the wind sock, and all street lights visible in the vicinity — and Venus was easily visible to the WNW of the eclipse; I also caught averted-vision glimpses of Mars (currently on the far side of the Sun from Earth in its orbit), and of Mercury (my first ever view of Mercury; I have never been in a location with unobstructed horizons whenever Mercury was at maximum elongation and therefore visible at sunrise or sunset). The entire horizon, the full 360º, took on a post-sunset look, with the deep orange right at the horizon rapidly fading through yellow and green into deep blues; a brief chat with an amateur astronomer confirmed my impression that the sky appeared to be some 45 minutes after sunset.

Given our position in the middle of the tarmac, there was little in the way of animal activity to observe; however, the ubiquitous cicadas ceased chirping, as did the birds, and save for the fireworks on the far edge of the airport, and a few human murmurs of delight and awe — and my occasional call-out of information — the experience was almost eerily quiet.

Third contact and the end of totality occurred at 13:31:55 (1:31:55pm) CDT. Again, I called out a countdown for lay observers, to ensure eye safety; at only a couple of seconds to end of totality, I called out, “GLASSES ON!” and just as I donned my own, I saw the outgoing “diamond ring.”


The diamond ring at third contact, totality’s end. Note lack of cloud cover. No filter used. Image courtesy Patricia Murphy, R.N.




Scant seconds after third contact. Filter used. Image courtesy Dr. Robert R. Murphy, M.D.


The sky began to lighten as rapidly as it had darkened. Temperatures, however, remained depressed according to my weather app, though it soon began to feel quite hot once more. I suspect that there may have been a lag in the app, though I cannot verify it. At any rate, according to the app, an hour past third contact, the temperature was still only 84ºF. The sky did remain amazingly clear except for that same high cirrus haze. Only in the last half-hour before fourth contact did the cumulus clouds begin to re-form. Ten minutes prior to fourth contact, the weather app showed the temperature had risen to 88ºF.

half an hour

Approximately half an hour past third contact. Filter used. Image courtesy Dr. Robert R. Murphy, M.D.


By this point, all was almost back to normal with the sky and the world, at least in our part of it. The casual observers had begun departing at the end of totality, and the airport became relatively quiet, except for a few hardcore observers like myself, determined to stick it out until fourth contact, and the airport staff. Every thirty seconds or so for the first hour after third contact, an aircraft took off. My family, not quite as hardcore as their professional astronomer, began to break down our “tailgate” and load up, leaving the chairs and the awning for last, to provide rest and shade as the temperatures ramped back up.

fifteen minutes

Only about 15 minutes left before fourth contact and eclipse end. Filter used. Image courtesy Dr. Robert R. Murphy, M.D.


Fourth contact, the end of the eclipse, was at 14:55:52 (2:55:52pm) CDT. The weather app still showed only 88ºF, but it felt considerably hotter, so I suspect it was still lagged. Cumulus cloud development was still underperforming, though it was gradually starting to rebound.


Fourth contact, the end of the eclipse event. Note the very slight sliver of shadow at about ten o’clock on the solar disk, and the reemergence of the sunspot groups. Filter used. Image courtesy Dr. Robert R. Murphy, M.D.


My estimation of the temperature as fourth contact passed would set it being at least the equivalent of the temperature at first contact: 94ºF. It did get marginally higher than that as the afternoon waned, though not by much. My estimates indicate it may have reached as high as 96ºF at Smithville TN.

Once fourth contact passed, we packed up the chairs and the awning and headed out, thanking our hosts along the way and donating to the airport’s upkeep. (It’s always courteous to help out the hosts.) We had an hour to drive to reach my parents’ house, where we took advantage of the facilities, as well as the air conditioning and ceiling fans. By the time we reached their house, the cumulus cloud cover had already reached and marginally surpassed its previous, pre-eclipse extent.

We allowed about 15-20 minutes to cool off in the excellent air conditioning, then headed home to Huntsville AL. So swollen by eclipse chasers was the traffic, however, that the nominal 1:45 drive took fully 2:40 to travel; the first leg of the drive, normally taking 20 minutes, took a full hour. Needless to say, we were glad to be home.

But I don’t regret the traffic, the long hours, the heat — any of it. Already scientific discoveries are starting to flow back from the data obtained during the eclipse, and much is being learned about such matters as the solar corona, how it behaves, and why it stays so hot (the corona has a temperature of several million degrees Celsius, whereas the photosphere, or visible “surface”, is only about 6000ºC).

The memories? Well, those are priceless.




Stephanie Osborn, award-winning author, is a 20+-year space program veteran with multiple STEM degrees. She has authored, co-authored, or contributed to 35+ fiction and popular science books, including The Weather Out There Is Frightful: Solar/Space Weather and You; Burnout: The mystery of Space Shuttle STS-281, the Displaced Detective series, and the new Division One series.

Blame and Acceptance

So recently, for no reason at all (coff) I’ve been thinking that if there were a way to create the worst possible fictional villain it would be to create someone who always exonerates himself of all blame: if he lost a tennis match, the sun was in his eyes, even if it was at night.

This has never been one of my problems.  Even when the game is rigged, I tend to assume I should just have played better.  Yeah, I say that politics played into my career puttering in place for years, but only because compared to some of the extreme-left “luminaries” my production quality and amount are astounding, not because I was/am entirely blameless.

No matter what is arrayed against you, you can always work harder.  And I did not work nearly as hard as I might have in an ideal world, because my priorities were different.  Sure, I want to work, and I want my writing to do well, but I could never convince myself that my career or progress in it was more important than the raising of my kids or the happiness of my marriage.

I don’t regret those choices, but from the point of view of career they are unfortunate.  (And if truth be told probably the reason that, to the extent this happens — and it’s not as much as the usual suspects maintain — women tend not to reach the very top in many fields.  Because the very top demands a single-minded devotion that frankly isn’t good for you or your relationships, and which men– for whom the social script is to do well in career — are more likely to abuse themselves with.)  If I had a dime for every time a male colleague told me “You should just lock the door, stock the freezer with pizza, write like the wind and let the guys take care of themselves.”  And from the point of view of career they were right. From the point of view of me, they weren’t.  So, now that I have a little more space, and the guys can at least cook for themselves, I’ll do what I can.  And if I don’t reach as far as I could have, my fans will have to forgive me.

Forgiving myself is a little harder, because the broken part at the back of my brain doesn’t understand I’m human, I have limits and there’s only so many hours in the day.  Though I’ve achieved a healthy (not) splitting and mostly I’m mad at my body for breaking down all the time.

This is possibly not the sanest thing in the world, but at least it doesn’t make me hate everyone else, and lock myself in a castle of paranoia.

When you do that; when everything that happened to you was the fault of someone else, you lose your ability to self correct and to figure out how to procede.

So, say, if you descend to the point of blaming four men you left to die for sabotaging your political career, you should seek help, and by that I don’t mean “financing for a future political run.”

Look, the feedback in this world isn’t perfect.  As we’ve been told, sometimes the wicked flourish like the green bay tree.  But I suspect that flourishing is illusory.  I suspect if you truly give in to your inner egotism and assume you’re perfect and anything you fail at must be someone else’s fault, it slowly eats you inside.

There’s only one way to raise someone to be unable to admit ANY fault in their own downfall, except for humble brags.  You have to raise them in the absolute certainty of their own perfection and invincibility.  I know a lot of people like that.  Personally and closely I know one other such person, who fortunately didn’t turn her ambitions to politics, but who, instead, has a string of broken marriages and infidelities between those marriages whose only admission of fault is that she thinks she might be “too giving.”  Having seen the way she screws exes to the wall, and not in a good way, the only thing I can ask is “giving of what, heartburn?”

In that case, I happen to know the person was raised to believe herself utterly perfect.  If something went wrong, someone was found to blame for her failure.  If she didn’t perform as expected it was always something else.

What she became is only logical. When you think you’re perfect, then everything that goes wrong must be someone else’s fault, and everyone MUST be to blame for your failures.

Kind of like communism, on a society level.  When you’re almost a religion and believe your form of government is absolutely perfect, then when it fails it must be that people failed the government.  This is what fills graves.

On a personal level it rarely gets that far, unless one of these critters manages to get  a post of responsibility and power, like, say, Secretary of State.

Most of them don’t rise that far.  At worst they are incompetent, self-righteous bureaucrats, many of whom make our bureaucracy a living nightmare, because there’s at least one of them per department of anything you need, I swear.

The thing is, knowing how you create these people, and knowing how prevalent “self esteem” education has been in our system the last thirty years, we’re going to see a lot more of this.

Only the left could decided that instead of teaching people to be good at things, we should just teach them to have supreme confidence in themselves, as though actually learning skills were an incidental, painless thing, requiring no work.

As usual, they were precisely wrong.  And though the creature that inspired this post was ahead of her time, there’s a lot of her kin on the way.  Some of whom will get power, sooner or later.

The only way we survive this is for a lot of us who know we aren’t perfect to study and work, and find ways around, over and under the institutions they’ll cause to collapse.

Oh, and teach your children well.  If you can, teach them to see the factors that go into their failures, and to forgive themselves when they fail.

But if you can’t do that, at least teach them they aren’t perfect.

As someone who tends to shoulder all the blame and try to lift all the worlds on my shoulders, it’s not a healthy way to be.  BUT with all that, it’s infinitely more healthy than blaming everyone else, and being eaten inside with hatred and paranoia.

Teach your children well.  Don’t trust the schools to do it for you.  And remember self-esteem is the result of pride in what you’ve done or achieved.  If it’s not that, it’s just insanity.

Race …. In Space

So the other day I was sitting around the kitchen table with my family, and we talked about the plight of the Saxons after the Norman invasion.  Not, mind you, that we want to forget the special oppression of the Carthaginians and — worse — their Celtic allies when the Romans won the Punic wars and salted Carthage.

Now, the sad part is that my family MIGHT actually sit around and talk about these things.  I know that, you know that, and unfortunately the universe at large probably knows that.  One of the biggest and nastiest fights I had with my then ten year old was about whether the monopolies of Augustus were justified or good or ultimately bad.  I didn’t disown him for defending it, but some days I still feel iffy about this decision.  State-granted monopolies: not even once!  (I also remember my husband’s face when he came down to see what all the shouting was about at 8 am on a Saturday.  “Right, then.  I’m going back to bed.”)

BUT even my family doesn’t obsess about such past injustices, or worry that somehow we haven’t redressed the treatment of these people.  And certainly, unless writing an historical novel, none of us worries about reflecting the Saxon experience in the proper manner.

This makes us odd thinkers — not to mention, of course, racist (and possibly sexist, homophobic and insensitive to those suffering the heartbreak of psoriasis) — in the eyes of establishment SF.

Christopher Nuttall, one of the amazing indie writers I know whose income is the envy of traditional writers, wrote a great editorial for Mad Genius Club.

This came to the attention of the mouth-breathers I won’t link because otherwise we’ll greatly increase their links.

They insist that races in the future must be represented exactly the same way they exist today.  No, more than that, they insist any black people in the future must be written to reflect the “plight” of black people today.

By this, btw, they mean the AFRICAN-AMERICAN experience.  Because they are provincials who think that the stereotypes of their tribe and culture are laws of nature.  In other words, barbarians.  And for all that, they think they are sophisticates, who must lecture everyone on everything, and without whom no one ever would understand the complexity of the world.

These are the same idiots, who in fits of racist idiocy assume that every black person is descended no more than a handful of generations ago from slaves; that any slave is dark skinned; that anyone who tans is discriminated against/and/or needs benevolent protectors.

They don’t realize there are endless countries in which the majority can tan, countries where no one is being oppressed by “white people” because there simply aren’t enough white people.  Oh, sure, their rulers might have learned to mouth the platitudes of being oppressed by the west and of “colonialism” which translates to free trade in which you didn’t get everything you wanted, because such platitudes open the pockets of various UN sub-entities. But in the end, at the bottom of it, these people if they are oppressed are oppressed by people of their race, not because of their race but for other reasons.

They also don’t realize that what are considered races or even ethnicity in this present day and age won’t be the ones who obsess people in the future.

Get humans off the Earth and have travel between planets even mildly expensive, and in a hundred years you’ll have the Alpha Centaurians looking down on the Martians. Another 500 years and people from systems we don’t have a name for will brag of their direct Earth ancestry.

Will there be physical, recognizable differences we can think of as “races”?  Given adaptation to different environments and all, probably.

Will they obsess on racial differences and histories on Earth?  WHY would they?

But Sarah, you’ll say, you’re missing the whole point of science fiction, which is to reflect our current problems and help people question current situations, and think their way out of them.


I refuse to say that’s THE point of science fiction.  It can be A point, but it’s certainly not the one that convinced me to sign on to read much less write it.

I signed on to read and write SF/F because it’s fun to imagine what the future might be like.  But that’s beside the point.

If what you really wanted to do was reflect the current disputes at people in order to change their minds, what is the point of reflecting current disputes in exactly the way they are now?

For that, you could be doing present day literary fiction.  Or, you know, editorials.  I mean, if what you want to do is write about current day problems in exactly the way they are.

Or you could…. you know… get under people’s guards by creating a future generation that has some elements of the current problems, but not all of them.  i.e. You could create a situation that has just enough to make you think of things in a different way.  Say, you can write a world in which reproduction and sex are entirely divorced as a way to address the problems of sexual minorities in our current world, and get people to think about it sideways and outside the box, without bringing up the same instinctive and immediate responses.  Or it could be that you have the story of a racial minority that has been discriminated against or used as a political pawn and therefore has had its culture destroyed, and their struggle to free themselves of other people’s expectations… but make them purple.  Or have tentacles.  Or something.

This is much more likely to get around people’s baked-in prejudices and make them think of things in a new way than just pounding them over and over again with your vision of things as they are now, or as you think they are now, or even as you think they should be.

That really is eliminating the one advantage of science fiction.

So, when people are writing an oppressed minority, should they research?  If it’s science fiction? Should it be exactly like the experience of some race in our time?

Well, yes and no.  Of course you should research, and of course there are far worse things that happened to races and people of various kinds, throughout history.   And if you’re going to torture one of your characters, or a group of them, you want to do the worst possible thing to them, right?

But it shouldn’t be exactly like the experience of a race or minority of our time.  Because if you do, you might as well just shout at your readers and tell them to repent.  It’s a great way to signal your virtue, yeah, but other than that I’m at a loss for what you think you’re accomplishing.

And if you think that your only way to be oppressed, the only history of race oppression, the only way things can be awful is the way they are now?

Well, (shrug), the only funny thing about that is having the ignorant and blinkered lecturing everyone else and virtue signaling their specialness.

Fortunately such people tend to be ignored in the long run.  And the rest of us have books to write.




Sunday Vignettes by Luke, Mary Catelli and ‘Nother Mike

Sunday 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: Caring.

Storied Out

No, this doesn’t mean I’m giving up writing, or even taking a real break, because honestly, I’m honing in on the fine detail of destroying the old town of Cologne in Guardian (it’s Carnival (Fasching).  Julie ends up driving a float.  With intent and malice. Long story and besides none of this is approved and Larry could change it all.  But it’s fun.) and I want to do more of it.  But I woke up this morning and my body went “Why are we vertical?”  And even the prospect of going out with Dan for breakfast is not enticing me, so maybe I’ll rest a little before writing.

But the story thing…

We live in the most story-soaked society in history, ever.  This is like saying we live in the best fed society in history, of course.  Humans like food and stories, and to be healthy, and we live in the best society, so far, for all of these.  So, it’s not like I’m complaining.

It’s just that there is a small problem with it.  You see, a story world is not a real world.  It can’t be.  Stories are little compacted chunks of meaning and emotion.  Really life is long stretches of boredom interspersed with moments of either elation or terror.  The boredom is part of why we like story — in book, movie, tv, or game, narration, doesn’t matter — so much.  That and because stories make sense.

But the problem is that we have near to no ability to distinguish lived experiences from “vividly experienced events” which can be fictional.  Psychologists and psychiatrists have actually done tests that demonstrate that a lot of our remembered experiences are things we read or watched.  They won’t be the IMPORTANT experiences, but for instance almost everyone remembers being separated from their parents and lost in a mall, even though it never happened TO THEM.  (I on the other hand remember being separated from my parents and lost in a cemetery during all saints night.  But since my parents remember it too and were a bit freaked out by my almost walking out hand in hand with a woman who’d recently lost her daughter, this is probably true.  Oh, a chick who looked freakishly like mom, too.)

So what is the problem with this?

The problem is that we’re all surrounded by stories, saturated with them, dripping with them.

And that until very recently the publishing/entertainment in general establishment was firmly in leftist hands.  This means a deliberate narrative was being pushed.  Still is, but don’t worry about that.  They’ve gone so fargin incompetent and crawled so far up their behinds that their influence is a vanishing thing.  Now they’re just annoying the public.

But in the early 20th century, they weren’t that far.  How much of the de-Christianization of Europe was accomplished by having heroic atheists being persecuted?  How much by making religious people the villain in mysteries and thrillers?  People absorb that and after a while religious equals nutter, never mind the history of Europe.

I was thinking of this because, since I’m not feeling particularly well, I’ve fallen back on my default “popcorn reading” which is mysteries, from thrillers to cozies.  I’m one of those people for whom KUL is a deal because over the last two weeks I’ve read something like 25 books, not counting the ones I started and discarded.  (But fear not, that is ADDITIONAL money I’m paying for reading.  Without the Kindle Unlimited Lending I wouldn’t be reading those books, I’d just re-read books I bought.  I spent years doing that because, you know, I can’t afford my own reading habit.  Now KULL throws additional money at some authors I’d otherwise not try.  And if they impress me madly (had happened, though not often, because I’m looking for popcorn books, after all, I either write about them OR buy them anyway.)

In the last twenty five books, the criminals have been: professors, police officers, priests, archeologists, millionaires and, the latest one, a MONK.

Look, it’s not that all those people can’t be criminals.  Holy hell, anyone can be a murderer.  I think of murdering people at least once a day (it passes.  I boil in very little water, but it cools fast.)  Usually stupid drivers or annoying bureaucrats.

But ask any police officer.  The average criminal is not a person in a position of power or authority.  The likely suspects are the junkies, the homeless, the career gangster.

Of course you know that.  We all know that RATIONALLY, i.e. if we pause to think about it.

And of course, with very few exceptions, there is no fun in writing about the expected suspects, or reading about it.

But sometimes it seems to me we go too far the other way.  Partly, of course, because our idea of story for the last 100 years has been formed by the left, who, of course, have a nostalgie de la boue to end all nostalgies de la boue.  Or if you prefer, they’re like to dogs who really love to roll in something rotten and bring it all home to share with us.

After all, big governments exist to protect victims and the despised and who is more of a despised victim than the criminal who deserves to be despised.  Show your enlightenment today by glorifying him!

Which is part of the issue.  I don’t even have a problem, so much, with unlikely criminals, as I do with the other elements in the book.  They’re all UNEXPECTED.  The ex-cons are saintly, the ex-junkies are the only ones who “get it”, the crazy environmentalists are the unsung heroes.  And anyone in a position of respectable responsibility and work is a SUSPECT and a white washed sepulchre… which doesn’t accord with the real world in any way because, well, because the very virtues necessary to hold down a job or keep things from collapsing around you are the same that keep you from being a petty, self-obsessed villain most of the time.  Of course there are exceptions.  Look at most of Hillary’s staffers.  But even they are probably too with-it to be committing crazy crimes like the ones that a street-person would commit.  Most of the time.

The problem is that stories — well told stories — get under our skin and change the way we act.  And in this case change it in dangerous ways.

Most of us would prefer our kids were friends with the A student than with the (allegedly-)ex-junky who is barely making it in school, right?  But we’ve read enough books and feel guilty enough for that idea that we’re probably not going to tell the kid anything.  Which could lead to real, immediate, personal fall out.

In other ways, it implants an immense distrust of all authority figures.  I’m a libertarian, okay?  My answer to authority figures is “Am I being detained?” and “Did you bring your army?”

But this goes beyond that.  This is the crazy assumption that if you look and act clean, if you work like crazy, if you have a decent family, you MUST be dirty.  You must be.

You hear this in the wild-eyed accusations the left bandies at anyone who opposes them.  If the person looks clean and “normal” they must be racist, sexist, homophobic, tools of the patriarchy and who knows what else.  Because that’s what story has told these misguided children from birth, and they’ve never stopped and examined it.

This is also part of the reason the left is SO dirty when it gets in power.  They KNOW everyone is doing it, and there’s no such thing as “clean”.  This is also why old fashioned virtues like thrift, hard work and chastity are LAUGHED at.  Because people have seen those facades torn down over and over again, and KNOW those are just fronts, and don’t exist.

So what do I suggest?  Do I suggest we only write to enforce reality?  To enforce society?
Hell no.  Part of why I write is to make you question things (the other is because I have to) so no.

But ask yourself, is this surprise ending even a surprise?  Does the minor character need to play to the counter stereotype that has become a stereotype itself?  Am I writing a book in which no one is clean and humans have no redeeming qualities?  What am I putting out in the world?

There are books that don’t do that, of course.  Take MHI’s Holly.  We know she’s an unlikely/not typical ex-stripper, but we also get a strong feeling there’s something really dark lurking there.  Larry certainly didn’t make her a hidden saint.

So, if you have to play to the counter stereotype, make sure you still nod to the stereotype.  This can be as simple as saying “Most homeless were drug-addled or mentally ill, but–” and then give a reason your guy is different.  Which is known, btw, as good writing.

Of course this requires examining the stereotypes in our own heads.

The thing is, just like an excess of food, we’re not evolutionary designed to survive an excess of story telling, much less an excess of story telling that undermines and destroys what makes our culture work.

I’m not one of those people who tells you what you should write, and what you shouldn’t.  I’m just going to enjoin you not to be lazy and not to rely on the (mostly left) stereotypes created in story telling over the last 100 years.

Your moment of thought will prevent me walling the book when it becomes clear “no one is clean” but more than that, it might help people get a clearer idea of what the world is.

And prevent their destroying the Western society that can help them survive.