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.



Politics, Creativity, Loudness

I’m sorry this is late.  My body seems to have decided this is a particularly good time to come down with something involving throat pain and low grade fever.  Given the timing (I don’t question it) I sort of presume it’s a plane-acquired bug.

The downside of this is that it’s delaying my work on Guardian, but fear not, first draft will be to Larry by end of next week or bust.  (Not that type of bust.  You’re a bad person.)

I find myself wondering just how minority the vocal minority is, recently and more or less assuming “very minority.”

The vocal minority I’m talking about here are my colleagues who, uniformly and en mass, give the impression that every creative person exists in a spectrum between Lenin and Stalin.

Anyone, including myself back when I was just a reader or a beginning writer with not many contacts, would be excused for thinking that somehow being lefter than left and thinking that communism was a cute and unexplored idea correlated highly with wanting to write fiction, particularly science fiction and mystery.  Part of my decision to stay quiet early on was because I was sure this was so and that I was a very odd duck who had somehow made it through with the contradictory characteristics of not being a lefty and wanting to write.

More or less daily I heard people, some of them the few non-left who’d slipped in talk about how the left was related to creativity, mostly because the left required original, contercultural thought, which in turn of course was creative and related to creativity.

I’ll be honest, since I am by nature a trouble maker and — as my mom said, only half complaining — prone to scratching up every newly painted wall to say what’s underneath, that’s when alarm bells started ringing in my head.

Yeah, I know, it is part of the mythos of the left that they’re countercultural, boldly opposing centuries or millennia of oppressive politics, etc.  It’s a cute self concept, and it allows largely conventional, privileged, often rich people to think of themselves as the oppressed hordes or at least the defenders of those.

But let’s be blunt, because honestly, I’m in no mood to cater to their delusions, this hasn’t been a fact since I was born, and probably long before.

If you’re a reader of early twentieth century fiction, say Agatha Christie, you’ll find that even back then the communists were treated as rather cute pets, or something like “those who hunger and thirst for righteousness.”  Further, they were often from the rich and privileged classes.

In fact, growing up in Europe, I can tell you that contrary to just about every movie and tv series and book NOW published, communists were not the struggling under class (they were sometimes their over-educated young, though) but more often were the sons and daughters of the nobility or the upper class.

Dave Freer might have a point when he says the “aristos” instinctively sensed a system (top down planning) that, in the name of the downtrodden, would undo the revolutions that stripped their kind of power over the last centuries.  He might be right, particularly because that top-down alliance, i.e. the king or upper nobility doing things in the name of the poorest people to keep down the bourgeoisie was routinely played in Europe from about the 12th century onward.  Heck, you could say the French revolution was the result of Louis XVI trying to play the game, being singularly inept at it and getting burned.  (Beheaded.  Same difference.)

Anyway, for as long as I’ve been alive, in all Western countries, the way to be respected or promoted or advanced in any artistic, news or otherwise intellectual field was to convincingly mouth the platitudes of leftism in its Marxist incarnation.  If you could add a genuine touch of Stalinist psychopathy, then you’d be considered genuinely righteous and advanced faster.

So that was my first alarm on the idea of “but leftists are more naturally creative because they have to challenge the existing system.”  How did that work, when they were the existing system?

Then came experiences, like speaking out, getting publicly told I was crazy (at the time speaking out more or less in private, in private lists and about minor issues, like telling one of the luminaries of the field that no, George W. Bush (!) didn’t raise the postage rate to bankrupt her PERSONALLY as it made her efforts to sell her used books harder.)  The thing was that everyone would pile on in public, and then the avalanche of “I don’t dare speak because I want to work/have children/etc” “but I agree with you” started, a lot of it from people my age or younger than I, i.e. in my sclerotic field, what passes for “youth.”

And I started wondering “How small is the vocal minority?”

I’ve since come to the conclusion they are very small and very scared.  To put things bluntly, again, a triumphant, confident cultural movement feels no need to shut down those who dissent.  They might argue with them, but they don’t shut them down.  They know they are most in accord with reality, most people agree with them, and eventually will come to their side.

Confident cultural movements don’t try to shut down dissenters and don’t deploy antifa to tar anyone who doesn’t agree with them with the brush of extreme right wing.

It’s only movements who are afraid the opposition has a point and has more adherents than they do that feel the need to be that violent.

Meanwhile in the creative fields of today (and even in the news fields and intellectual professions), the order of the day is the screaming down, shutting down, soft banning of all dissent.  We are treated to people acting as though soft-right speakers were an armed invasion of our universities.  Friends who aren’t even right wing enough to be considered non-left are enduring soft black listing from their publishers.

The result?

Well, you see, the left isn’t the creative side of this equation.  This is not because leftists are inherently less creative.  That would be stupid, and only stupid people would maintain that creativity somehow relates to a political side.

It’s more because leftism is the establishment right now.  Which means they attract a whole lot of good boys and girls who want to be in the artistic/intellectual professions but who have never had an original thought in their lives.  If they’d lived in the late nineteenth, early twentieth century, they’d spout blood-and-soil and genetic superiority nonsense because that was what would get them advanced.

There are still creative leftists (for the definition of left being socialism and communism) but they are usually pariahs along with me and everyone else to the right of Lenin.  That’s because then tend to defend their beliefs in non-standard ways and to find the good boys and girls of the establishment as awful as I find them.

Now, I think these people are wrong, and I often think they are morally bankrupt, but a lot of them are also extraordinary artists.

The good boys and girls of the establishment… aren’t.  They really can’t be.

Those of us who arrived at our political beliefs in defiance and iconoclasm, and who had to — back then — filter every item of news to find the truth beyond the narrative are creative by default.  You see, we had to reject so much of the entertainment fed to us, that we had to grind out own out of what was available.

So, as the establishment — LEFT establishment — clamps down ever harder on any dissenting thought, what they’re actually doing is destroying those few elements among them still capable of original creation.

This more than anything explains the slump in Hollywood earnings this year.  For how many years have they been milking the re-runs and remakes.

The publishing houses who demand a unified political narrative, put limits on imagination with cries of “cultural appropriation” and hire not by ability but by DNA are experiencing the same issues.  They might think it’s indie eating their lunch, and it is, but it’s only because they no longer have teeth to chew that lunch.  They abandoned their reading public DECADES before indie found it.  And they’re willing to go down with the ship rather than relinquish their political death grip on the product (again, not the sign of a confident cultural movement.)

As for academia… Good Lord.  Why do you think that liberal arts requirements keep getting added to STEM degrees?  What parent or even student would willingly pay for a field where Western history is banned because it’s “oppressive.”

The left, left to their own devices, would entirely dismantle Western civilization.  It’s always been their intent, partly because the USSR always considered itself “Eastern” and in communist propaganda, the perfect state was always an appendage of Russia.

But there are very few of them, and they’re stunningly non-creative.

The problem is that they have a grip on every accrediting authority, almost every publishing house, every museum, every cultural institution.  They acquired this by the long march and then refusing to hire/contract anyone not their comrades.

You must have a heart of stone not laugh like an hyena at the thought of a hundred years of long and slow march, and then indie, and blogs, and…

Are we at the tipping point, yet?  Not quite.  And make no mistake, we need as many hands as possible to the cultural war.  If you can you must write, or create art, or whatever.  It won’t bring you the same rewards, even now, as if you were a darling of the establishment, but the thing is…

The worm is turning.  The times they are achanging. We’ll have some losses (how not) but in the end, the cultural tide is with us.  The more the establishment clamps down, the more scared it looks, the more adherents it loses.

And their product is just bad.  In books, it’s becoming well nigh unreadable.  There’s only so long you can wear the skin of a gutted institution while demanding respect, before the putrefaction is clear and people turn away in disgust.

In the end we win, they lose.  Be not afraid.



Rock and Roll: The New Madrid Fault System Part VII: Comparisons By Stephanie Osborn

Rock and Roll: The New Madrid Fault System Part VII: Comparisons By Stephanie Osborn

Excerpted from Rock and Roll: The New Madrid Fault System, ©2017

By Stephanie Osborn

Images in this article are public domain, unless otherwise specified.

This whole collection of writings started off with an email exchange, months ago. Our illustrious hostess was part of the discussion, and expressed interest in my converting the info to one or more blog articles. Then, when the LibertyCon programmers heard about it, they asked me to give a presentation on same, which I did.

The presentation was a full house, and at the end, there was a request for me to convert it to blogs and/or an ebook. I asked how many would like to see an ebook of the material; virtually every hand in the lecture hall went up.

A little over a month later, with additional research under my belt and factored into the manuscript, the book has gone live. And as promised, I am providing Sarah a series of blog articles on the subject. This series of blog articles is only a small fraction of the material contained in the ebook; it may be considered in the nature of a series of informative abstracts of the information contained therein. For additional information, may I recommend that you check out Rock and Roll: The New Madrid Fault System.

Part VII: Comparisons — New Madrid versus San Andreas

san andreas

[An aerial view of a portion of the San Andreas main fault.]


[An aerial view of part of the central Mississippi River region,

depicting no sign of a fault.]

The two fault systems produce quakes reasonably comparable in magnitude. The biggest quakes on both systems can range from ~7.0 on the Richter scale up to around 9.0. The frequency of occurrence of “big ones” on the San Andreas is shorter, however; a few decades on the San Andreas vs a few centuries on the New Madrid, on average.

The length of the San Andreas main fault is greater; the San Andreas is ~800mi long, while the New Madrid main fault/graben is ~150mi long.


[California map, left, courtesy USGS, public domain.
New Madrid map, right, courtesy]

BUT the New Madrid affects a vastly larger area, some 10x larger than the Great San Francisco quake, and even 2-3x as large as the 1964 Alaska quake!

alaska quake

[A comparison of affected areas from comparable-sized quakes

on the San Andreas and the New Madrid faults]

Why the difference? The underlying geology is very different, and that proves to tell the tale.

The San Andreas lies in an area of consolidated rock. This rock is shallow, broken, and hot. (There has been—and in many areas continues to be—active volcanism in the region.)

Therefore the rock strata of the region have high energy attenuation—the quake energy dissipates rapidly with increasing distance from the epicenter.

The New Madrid lies under literal miles of unconsolidated (loose, uncompacted; not stone), waterlogged sediment. Unconsolidated sediment tends to amplify wave motion. And then there are the rocks in which the actual fault(s) is/are found.

The rocks here are deep, relatively hard, solid and intact, and cold. (What volcanism occurred in the region occurred in the ancient geologic past, and all volcanos in the area are long since extinct, most worn down to nothing recognizable as a volcano.)

Therefore the underlying geology around the New Madrid system not only tends NOT to damp out the quake waves, but the unconsolidated sediment overlay AMPLIFIES them.

When is the next “Big One” in the New Madrid Seismic Zone?

Geologists look for signs of earthquakes in older strata to determine the frequency of major quakes. By dating the strata using found human artifacts, fossils of animals and plants, carbon-14, etc., it is possible to roughly date the objects/structures contained within a given stratum. A quick averaging of the dates yields a reasonable frequency of occurrence.


According to CERI, the Center for Earthquake Research and Information at the University of Memphis (working in conjunction with the USGS), the periodicity of major quakes/swarms on the New Madrid system is roughly one swarm every ~500 years.

500 years


Note the lack of anything resembling a fault.]

So…when is the next Big One due?


  • There is a 7-10% of a mag7+ quake in the next 50 yrs.;
  • There is a 25-40% of a mag 6+ quake in the next 50 yrs.

What To Do?

Prepare as you would for any natural disaster—a tornado, a hurricane, etc.

Assume that the infrastructure may be down for a considerable time (several weeks) and plan for it. Do not assume you will have access to electricity or other power sources, or cable, internet, and phone lines. Even cell phone towers may be down.

Keep plenty of bottled water on hand, and/or a means of filtering/purifying water from local sources. Store nonperishable foodstuffs sufficient for a couple of weeks (up to a month) per person, in an area easily accessible after a quake. (Basements are not a good idea for this.) If you need medications, ensure you keep at least one month’s supply available.

Ensure you have a means of heating and cooking in the winter, and fuel.


Check your city or county building codes to determine if your home was built to withstand a major temblor. If it doesn’t, look into the possibility of retrofitting your home.

If you are preparing to purchase or build a house, take these things into account: of normal foundation types, a slab foundation withstands quake movement best, because it tends to “surf” the waves. Wood-frame houses fare better than masonry structures, as does welded steel frame. Incorporate earthquake dampeners into your foundation, especially if you live near the central Mississippi River.

Unlike many natural disaster events, faults don’t change locations. If you live in the eastern USA and Canada, you need to be aware of this threat. There is every indication that this fault system has an ongoing lineage of major, destructive quakes, and when it finally releases another “big one,” you WILL know it.

Be ready.

To obtain a copy of Rock and Roll: The New Madrid Fault System by Stephanie Osborn, go to:

Wednesday Morning Promo by Freerange Oyster

*I told the ambulatory mollusc I’d get this in, even if late.  After this we should be able to resume normal blog procedure.  Sorry.  It’s difficult to step away for two weeks without a bunch of things spinning out of control, and I’m still dealing with those, and trying to finish Guardian.  Post on Thursday and I’ll be posting on MGC later, continuing my series about genre structure.  It will be an hour or so, though, as today I go to work at a remote location, to try to concentrate on Guardian and not on … stuff.- SAH*

Zoey Ivers


Doors into the Dimensions Book 3

Fifteen-year-old Alice Brown is not an obedient child.

Six months ago, she was locked in a cubbie and found a very different way to escape. Across a dimensional threshold—into a war between the Artificial Intelligences—advance computers that evinced in the other dimensions as animals.

Alice and her friends befriended one AI, and helped it win the battle for Milwaukee.

But the completion of the WisGrid is going to open the bandwidth enough to expand the war to other cities and re-energize the war.

Peter Grant

King’s Champion

After decades of peace, war is threatening the Kingdom of Avranche. Its old foes are stirring in a new alliance with darker powers, and death and sorcery are borne on the wind. Owain, the former King’s Champion, stumbles into a deadly raid while visiting the grave of his swordbrother, and uncovers coded orders and fouler plans. Worse, he can’t sit this one out when he’s one of the targets!

The kingdom’s enemies know Owain is now their greatest danger. He must race against time to find and deal with them… before they deal with him!

Stephanie Osborn

Division One: Tour de Force

Alpha One is participating in Omega’s very first First Contact diplomatic operation. Unfortunately, it’s going to split up the team—the Cortians, a race from the Sagittarius Dwarf Galaxy, have stringent requirements, and that narrows down the list of “candidate exchange students” to…Echo. ONLY Echo. PGLEIA’s top Division One Agent, the man being groomed to be the next Director… and Omega’s partner. A plum assignment, for the pick of the crop.

But Omega doesn’t see it that way, though she can’t—or won’t—explain why. She is determined to stop the mission from going forward. At any cost.

Why is Omega trying to scuttle a diplomatic mission? What is she seeing that more experienced Agents aren’t? Why won’t the others listen? Is something bigger, more menacing, happening to her—to them? Will—CAN—Alpha One survive?

C Chancy

Seeds of Blood

Welcome to Intrepid. Where Halloween brings tourists, turning leaves – and demons.

Over two decades of bloody murder, Steven Savonarola carved a sorcerous Demongate into the heart of his own hometown. With less than two weeks to disarm it before Halloween, Detective Church and the IPD are running out of time.

If they’re going to make it to All Saint’s Day, they’re going to need hot lead, cold mead, and a weapon that’s out of this world. And a little praying wouldn’t hurt…

Welcome to Intrepid. It’s a hell of a Halloween.


Rock and Roll: The New Madrid Fault System Part VI: The Effects and Aftermath By Stephanie Osborn

Rock and Roll: The New Madrid Fault System Part VI: The Effects and Aftermath By Stephanie Osborn

Excerpted from Rock and Roll: The New Madrid Fault System, ©2017

By Stephanie Osborn

Images in this article are public domain, unless otherwise specified.


This whole collection of writings started off with an email exchange, months ago. Our illustrious hostess was part of the discussion, and expressed interest in my converting the info to one or more blog articles. Then, when the LibertyCon programmers heard about it, they asked me to give a presentation on same, which I did.

The presentation was a full house, and at the end, there was a request for me to convert it to blogs and/or an ebook. I asked how many would like to see an ebook of the material; virtually every hand in the lecture hall went up.

A little over a month later, with additional research under my belt and factored into the manuscript, the book has gone live. And as promised, I am providing Sarah a series of blog articles on the subject. This series of blog articles is only a small fraction of the material contained in the ebook; it may be considered in the nature of a series of informative abstracts of the information contained therein. For additional information, may I recommend that you check out Rock and Roll: The New Madrid Fault System.


Part VI: The Effects and Aftermath As Told By Eyewitnesses

Eyewitness accounts—John Bradbury

“After supper, we went to sleep as usual: about ten o’clock, and in the night I was awakened by the most tremendous noise, accompanied by an agitation of the boat so violent, that it appeared in danger of upsetting…I could distinctly see the river as if agitated by a storm; and although the noise was inconceivably loud and terrific, I could distinctly hear the crash of falling trees, and the screaming of the wild fowl on the river, but found that the boat was still safe at her moorings.

“By the time we could get to our fire, which was on a large flag in the stern of the boat, the shock had ceased; but immediately the perpendicular banks, both above and below us, began to fall into the river in such vast masses, as nearly to sink our boat by the swell they occasioned…At day-light we had counted twenty-seven shocks.”

~John Bradbury, Travels in the Interior of America in the Years 1809, 1810 and 1811, (pub. 1817)


[A woodcut of the disaster wreaked on the river.

From the West Tennessee Seismic Safety Commission website: ]


Eyewitness Accounts—Eliza Bryan

“On the 16th of December, 1811, about two o’clock, a.m., we were visited by a violent shock of an earthquake, accompanied by a very awful noise resembling loud but distant thunder, but more hoarse and vibrating, which was followed in a few minutes by the complete saturation of the atmosphere, with sulphurious [sic] vapor, causing total darkness. The screams of the affrighted inhabitants running to and fro, not knowing where to go, or what to do—the cries of the fowls and beasts of every species—the cracking of trees falling, and the roaring of the Mississippi— the current of which was retrograde for a few minutes, owing as is supposed, to an irruption in its bed— formed a scene truly horrible.”

~Eliza Bryan, New Madrid, Territory of Missouri


[Forest debris left by the quake series]


[The terminuses of landslides caused by the quakes.

Photos taken 1904; the damage was long-lasting.]


Immediate and Short-Term Effects

Immediate area:

  • A seismic seiche (“SAYtch,” a standing wave, a variant on a tsunami) propagated upriver.
  • Temporary waterfalls were created on the Mississippi River.
  • Many houses were severely damaged and their chimneys were toppled in St. Louis, MO.
  • New Madrid, MO was destroyed by shaking.
  • Little Prairie, MO was destroyed by liquefaction.


[Liquifaction from a modern quake damages a railroad track]

[A 7.2 quake in California generates a seiche in a swimming pool]


Lesser effects included:

  • Earthquake Lights
  • Warm Water
  • Sand Boils or Blows
  • Seismic Tar Balls
  • Earthquake Smog
  • Loud Thunder
  • Animal Warnings
  • Ground fissures

[Photograph capturing earthquake lights — USA Today; ]

sand blow

[Cross-section of a sand blow]


[A field filled with New Madrid sand blows — the light patches are the sand ejected by the blows]



[Ground fissures under a road in Baja California after a 7.2 quake. ]


[Clouds of dust raised by the 7.2 quake in Baja California.

This phenomenon, mixed with humid air, can form quake smog.



The Mississippi Ran Backwards

[The following quotation was taken from the historical pages of the New Madrid, MO website.]

“After the February 7 earthquake, boatmen reported that the Mississippi actually ran backwards for several hours. The force of the land upheaval 15 miles south of New Madrid:

  • created Reelfoot Lake,
  • drowned the inhabitants of an Indian village;
  • turned the river against itself to flow backwards;
  • devastated thousands of acres of virgin forest; and
  • created two temporary waterfalls in the Mississippi.

[Some] Boatmen on flatboats actually survived this experience and lived to tell the tale.”

This is provided they did not tie up under the river bluffs at night to rest. Many of the bluffs collapsed, and landslides were common. Some boats are known to have gone missing, and many people that set out in rafts of timber intended for sale in New Orleans were simply never heard from again. It is because of situations like these that the actual death toll is not known…and likely will never be truly known, or even accurately estimated.


Long-Term Effects

The Reelfoot Fault, a reverse fault that crosses the Mississippi River in three places, up-thrust its hanging wall, resulting in a temporary dam across the river. It backed up into and around the extant Reelfoot River, which had a marshy area near its mouth anyway. The area flooded, then the land shifted again as the upthrust block subsided, and the Mississippi River flowed on, but the land in between the Mississippi and the flooded area rose, which kept the water from flowing back out again. The result was a permanent, extensive but shallow lake with considerable surrounding marshland. Today it is known as Reelfoot Lake, purportedly after a Native American legend.

[Reelfoot Lake, modern day]


The Mississippi River and immediate-area tributaries rerouted: Oxbow meanders were cut off, becoming lakes and ponds; peninsulas were cut off from the mainland to form islands; numerous existing islands sank into the river; and new islands formed from the uplifts and cut-offs.

Little Prairie, MO was wiped off the map, and never rebuilt. Reportedly several Indian villages were also wiped out, including Tuckhabatchee in Alabama.


Subsequent Quakes

  • 31 October 1895, Charleston, MO, magnitude 6.6, New Madrid Seismic Zone (NMSZ).
  • 9 November 1968, Dale, IL, magnitude 5.4, NMSZ.
  • 18 June 2002, Evansville, IN, magnitude 4.6, Wabash Valley Seismic Zone (WVSZ).
  • 18 April 2008, Evansville, IN, magnitude 5.4, WVSZ—This one had two moderate aftershocks within 3 days, 4.6 and 4.0.

Per Wikipedia: “Instruments were installed in and around the area in 1974 to closely monitor seismic activity. Since then, more than 4,000 earthquakes have been recorded, most of which were too small to be felt. On average, one earthquake per year is large enough to be felt in the area.”


To obtain a copy of Rock and Roll: The New Madrid Fault System by Stephanie Osborn, go to: