Dear Evil Space Princess

Don’t even ask, but some of you have decided to send me questions.  I find them amusing, so I will answer them.

Dear Evil Space Princess, {or Lackeys(or minions)} I would like to conquer my patch of the galaxy but I am not sure what to wear to a conquest? Any suggestions? Sincerely, Evil in Training.

Dear in Training:

If you are asking what you should personally wear, the normal attire for going on a war of conquest is black.  Black makes you look intimidating, is slimming, and, as a useful side effect it can hide blood splatter.  You know how hard it is to carry clean clothing along when your vanguard outstrips your supply lines.  And while that whole “I wash my clothes in the blood of my enemies” is very impressive, it does tend to make it look slovenly and like you’re strapped for clothes (and soap) by the end of it.

Now, if you wish to dress your minions, we encourage you to spare on clothes for the cannon fodder.  For the brutes who are just supposed to be killed, try either a loincloth or some simple whole body thing, depending on the level of technology.  Look, the stuff is just going to get shredded.  Don’t over think it.

For the troops after the cannon fodder, the actual trained marksmen in whatever level of weaponry, you should get the best protective clothing you can.  It might be just quilted wool, or it might be some super-high-tech material, but it should be the best you can afford.  Trained warriors are expensive.  Try to spare them.

The same applies to your inner guards, who should be as well protected and armed as possible.

On the other hand, your inner, largely ornamental guard, should be dressed to impress.  Depending on your preference, we recommend leather loin cloths and oiled bodies for the males, and oiled bodies and leather bikinis for females.

No one really should wear chainmail bikinis, as they heat too fast in the sun, and pinch delicate areas, but if you really feel a need to use chainmail bikinis for your minions, remember to have them lined in some quilted material.

It’s all very well to torture your minions for a purpose, but to make them wear chainmail bikinis for no reason is just evil.

Dear Evil Space Princess.
My fat black Manx cat SugarBelly insists on sitting in the place which makes it most difficult for me to write. For example, right now, she is sitting slightly off to the right of the keypad, and keeps reaching out her paws to move my hands away so she can sit on QWERTY and friends. She also likes to sit on the mouse, or sometimes on my left wrist.
If I moved to PagoPago, do you think she would find me?
Sincerely,
She’s Not My Type of Cat

Dear Not My Type of Cat

She’s a cat.  She might follow you to PagoPago, or she might start pretending to ignore you tomorrow and never acknowledge your existence again.

The purview of the Beautiful but Evil Space Princess extends to many worlds and planets, but never to cats.

It is not for us to understand superior aliens like cats.

Dear Beautiful but Evil Space Princess:

Is it better to kill off your brothers and sisters or leave them alive to take the blame later? – A Fellow Evil Lord of Evil

Dear Fellow,

I am unorthodox in this.  I believe you should kill them all.  As useful as it is to have someone to blame, it seems they are always destined to take the throne, and then they upend your entire legend.

Forget keeping them in the evil and insurmountable fortress.  Some cute maiden or willing knight will get them out.  Just kill them.

Richard the Third, the original evil overlord of evil had the right idea.  Kill and bury brothers and sisters, nephews and nieces and anyone who can contest your power.  In the end, when you’re long dead, they’ll find their bones, but even then some soft head will insist you weren’t the one who killed them.

Dear BBESP, Every time I capture the hero, I get this overwhelming urge to spill the entire plan, including the way out. How can I stop myself from giving it all away? Sincerely, Evil Underlord who can’t quite make the big leagues

Dear Under,

Oh, Sweetie.  This is a compulsion written into you by the author.  You must use aversion therapy.  Have one of your underlings dress up as the hero, and when you start spilling things, force yourself to do something really distasteful.  I don’t know, pet a puppy or give sweets to children or something, until you break the compulsion.

It’s all right.  If you manage to cure yourself, you can blend the puppies into a nice smoothie afterwards and it will make you feel much better.

I have not yet begun to conquer the world, let alone the solar system, but the planning stages are going well, at least. However, I do have one question: At what point in the process should I start assembling my harem? “At the end” might mean I’m decrepit and old and in no shape to enjoy it, but too early might make it a distraction. What other factors should be considered?

Asking for a friend.

Dear Friend,

This is a difficult question.

One would recommend you assemble your harem as soon as possible, because after all, one of the best perks of being an evil overlord is getting to play.  Isn’t it written “All evil and no play makes the overlord really annoyed?”

On the other hand one of the side effects of harems are descendants, and people tend to feel a certain reluctance to kill their own children.  The problem is that, inevitably, the more sons you have the higher the chance one of them will be a blessed hero destined to bring down your evil reign.  And truly, once they get the Author on their side there is nothing you can do.

So unless you are willing to ruthlessly kill your own spawn, we recommend you staff your harem with non-fertile aliens or forego this idea of a harem altogether and get your jollies out of torturing your enemies like a normal evil overlord.

Dear Beautiful But Evil Space Princess:

At what rate should one kill henchmen for incompetence to achieve the maximum of discourager pour les autres for the minimum of wasted salary and training budget?

Sincerely,

Keeps Running Out Of Henchmen Around Rigel

Dear Rigel,

You don’t kill your actual henchmen.  Yes, I know it’s satisfying and lets out all that pent up aggression, but I recommend investing in holographic virtual reality minions that you can kill with maximum show and gore, without wasting the actual talent.

Dear Beautiful But Evil Space Princess:

What booby traps do you prefer, and do they need any modifications to work in zero gravity? – Confused in Space

Dear Confused,

I prefer my boobie traps in lace.  Black lace, of course. For zero gravity it is advisable to have the more enveloping and less elastic type of boobie traps, otherwise the boobies will be all out of shape by the time you return to Earth.

I am very much against underwires, for the same reason I am against chainmail bikinis.  Hard metallic objects don’t belong near your boobies.

 

And that is all I have time for this week.  Tune in next week for more “Ask the Beautiful but Evil Space Princess.”  It is the duty of successful evil to train incipient evil, after all.

Together, we can terrorize the galaxy for many years to come.

Narratives

You know that whole “not of bread alone.”  It is true.  Man is not a creature of food and water, of enough oxygen and taking another breath.

Sure you can get humans to that state.  It usuallya takes something like a prison camp, or the vast prison camp that are places like the former soviet union or present day North Korea.  You can get humans to where they wake up every morning and their only goal is to live another day.  They’ll betray anyone, break any law or taboo, eat anything, do anything to survive one more day.  But even in that situation it is not as simple as it sounds.

Man is a creature of story.

We are not, alas, just animals living in the moment (actually we’re not sure animals just live in the moment.  Neurological studies, at least, seem to indicate cats and dogs have memories, ideations and hopes.  And we know elephants do.) We’re creatures of thought as much as of body and our thought needs to have a shape and a direction, too.

Even in prisoner camps — one of the things I read, like I read stories of revolution both successful and failed, and biographies of tyrants, is biographies of people who were reduced to the most extreme conditions and how they survived.  No, I don’t know why.  Shut up — people do have narratives.  What type of narrative they have often determines if they survive.  And it’s not a matter of “positive narratives survive.”  Humans aren’t that simple.  It’s more if you think you’re serving some purpose with your life, you will survive everything.  Some of the successful narratives are “in the end the communists/nazis/this person who kidnapped me and held me in a box under his bed fro seven years” win, “but I can spite them/him by living another hour, another day, and by d*mn and h*ll, I’m going to do it.”

More down to Earth and in normal everyday circumstances, humans live by story.  You might think you don’t have a story in your head, but you do.  It can be as simple as “I’m a really good dad” to “I’m one of the righteous, headed for salvation.”  The narrative in your head will inform how you make big and small choices from “do I give up seeing the movie to play with my kid?” to “Do I buy the big house, or save the money and give it to the poor?” to just about everything.

The story is not just about who you are.  It’s also about what kind of place the world is, and what other people are like.

If you’re the sort of person who thinks that most people, however annoying, are basically decent, just trying to live their lives, it will inform your choices, and your own narrative in a far different way, than if you think every human being who ever lived is a sh*tweasel, and that a not inconsiderable number of them are out to get you personally.  Or that they will be dishonest if given the slightest chance.

It informs your politics.  If you think most average, normal humans are basically despicable, you will crave a big government that will keep “them sonsofdogs” under control, so they can’t hurt/steal from the “good people” like you.  This view requires you to have in your head a natural aristocracy, the “good people” who are like you and don’t have ill intents and can, therefore, be trusted with power.

People who think people are basically decent, though they can respond to incentives not to be, and so we try to keep people free to be as decent as they can be, and not to short-circuit them into being evil.

A lot of our views of the world are informed, not just by news and stories of the real world, but by our entertainment, the religion and legends of our culture, the protocols of our society.

If you expect everyone to be decent, your public holidays and the way you keep your property will be different.  In Portugal where private property isn’t as secure (partly through an history of invasions that got ingrained in the deep consciousness) tall walls surround properties and you don’t leave outside anything you don’t want to walk away.  In the states, in most places, we leave whatever outside in our un-walled properties, secure in the belief it will stay there.

Lately — no, I mean that, more so than in the past — our public narrative has disturbed me.  It is clear from even sitcoms that the writers for television don’t expect anyone to be decent or honest.  They behave as if the average human being is just waiting to become monsters if not watched/if you aren’t vigilant/if laws don’t hold them in check, etc.  Even “heroes” will commit adultery and behave like weasels away from their area of heroism.

These are not just bad narratives, they are objectively wrong narratives.  Even in places like NK or Cuba, good and decency flourish, sometimes as a single grace note, sometimes against all odds.

The thing is that people model themselves on the narrative.  If the societal narrative is “nobody’s clean” you’re going to get more evil.

Also people model what they expect.  If you haven’t discovered The Room by Tommy Wasseau (arguably the worst movie ever made) google something like “what is wrong with The Room” but the narrative of The Room (trust me, I’m not spoiling anything) is a respected, hardworking man who is betrayed by everyone and kills himself. It was written, directed and acted in by an immigrant and in the book about it by one of his co-stars (groan) it is mentioned that the co-star got the odd idea that the guy making the movie thought the main character was “living the dream” even with everyone betraying him, and it ending up in death.

I’ve seen this.  I lived/grew up abroad.  People think that the US is corrupt, horrible, but they still want to live here.  That is because subconsciously, since most of their narrative is imported from the US, they have internalized that “story” as “the way things should be.”

Long ago I came to the conclusion that people raised in the dystopian/rusty future SF of the sixties and seventies thought that the future was supposed to be that way, and got annoyed/upset when it deviated.  A lot of the community’s hatred of Reagan was that he wasn’t heading that way and they got dissonance.  They had to identify him as crazy and also come up with ways that his future would be worse.  Had to.  Because the narrative in their heads demanded it.

A great part of the left meltdown after the election is the narrative being broken.  They thought from now on, it would only be their side in control.  We were the rump of the resistance, old people who “just need to die.”  That in SF/F this was said by a woman who is all of ten years my Junior tells you how much this is a crazy narrative in their heads.  They thought that history had an arrow, and they were “on the right” (left) “side.”

They will now be concocting stories to fit the narrative, to explain how they’re still on the right side, even if they lose.

How successful that rebuild will be depends on how much respite they get.

But for us the important part is this: the world our kids inherit is more dependent on story than on facts on the ground.  Story shapes the future.  It can’t completely shape it, against the facts, but it can shape it more than you’d think from the outside.

We need stories in which humans are decent and in which the future can be exciting/interesting and prosperous WITHOUT being either poliannish or boring.

Some of these got through even when the gatekeepers were trying to enforce their bleak vision, but now we are largely free of them.  (Okay, not totally, they still have the big megaphone, but given their cluelessness, it’s a matter of time.)

You know what to do. Go create a narrative for a society of freedom and human happiness.  You can do it.  If you don’t write, you can always read and review, can’t you?  And you can reward good shows and avoid those that aren’t.  And you can discuss worldviews in shows with other people?

Go forth and work.  Be not afraid, and create a future in which fear is less and less warranted.

The Light And The Darkness — reprise

It occurred to me yesterday that my issues with accepting care and being taken care of are sort of a microcosmos of a societal thing.

I came out of the hospital to full Holiday swing around me (I’m not doing much swinging, since Robert brought me home halfway through an attempted grocery shopping trip and told me not to go out of sight of his father.  Not sure yet what is wrong, but I definitely flagged halfway through the trip.  Possibly because it was so cold and for whatever reason my blood pressure remains too low) and to the usual scolds.

What usual scolds?  Oh, you know.  “It’s the commercialism” and “Why are we wasting energy on lights?” and….

This is a subset of the normal scolds.  You know the ones I mean.  The people who tell you that you should use a square of toilet paper only, or (like the particularly disgusting actress) that you should wash and reuse toilet paper.  (EW).  The people who go on about how much electricity we use, and how much water, and how we’re awful for using all this stuff.

Beyond the fact the people who bitch about this never follow through with it, and live lives of unimaginable luxury (by and large) compared to the rest of us, this bizarre call to repent of our wasteful ways seems misguided in more ways than one.  Particularly when the same people then complain about hungry children or whatever.

So, a few thoughts on this:

The world is not zero sum.  If someone is having snickers bars for breakfast, it doesn’t mean someone else needs to go hungry.  In fact, thanks to the magic of the free market, the opposite is likely to be true.  If you’re having snickers bars (or lobster) for breakfast, your demand for these things will make them cheaper for everyone else, and make it less like that someone else starves.

A belief in zero sum economics and distributing finite wealth has created real famines and filled real graves.  The free market only fills the sort of theoretical grave where we’re told that “opportunities are lost” or we should mind “our privilege” or that we shouldn’t be happy because we don’t live in an utopia.  I’m quite willing to dance on the grave of the redistributionists hopes.  It is real graves, with real people that I dislike.

Using human ingenuity to its outmost to make a buck has led to the most comfortable and well fed citizenry in the world.  Yes, I know, it would be better if we only ate things in colors that appear in nature, and if the stuff we ate were recognizable to our great grandmothers.  However, if our biggest problem is that our poor don’t always make the wisest food choices, our ancestors would laugh at our whining.  As they should. Humans seem to like weird colored food in bizarre shapes and textures.  But hey, we’re living longer than ever, and maybe it’s time to relax and accept it.

Speaking of which: Unfettered humans are often crass and tastless, and yes, something should be done about those horrible sweaters your mother in law sends you.

And yet, Christmas is by and large a vast outpouring of love of others.  Look, I never even know what I want, though this year I asked for two specific art ad ons, coming to about $50, but I love spending time and money finding the stuff my guys want/need.  It’s an altruistic holiday, in which we delight in making others happy, and it supports commerce and the economy?  That by itself might be the American triffecta.  Look, sure, I could make gifts out of pine cones and spit, and they’d be deeply meaningful and stuff.  Maybe.  But in the end it would be  still pinecones and spit, and more importantly, the economy would tank, since the market for pinecones is kind of depressed.

My household should probably moderate how many lights we leave on all the time.  Rumors I’m afraid of the dark are… perfectly correct.  However, let me tell you that there is no virtue in darkness.  It just makes you crave light more.

And overall light is what distinguishes us from willing savages like North Korea.  Wherever light glows, there human spirit thrives.

Those who wish to preach mortification of the flesh, be it in food and drink, in clothing, in gift giving or in light usage: do it yourself.

Self-discipline and control can be beneficial when exerted by oneself on one’s own behalf, or in the service of a greater religious vision.

But we will not turn off the lights and freeze in the dark in the service of sanctimonious scolds.

We will shine the light and shame the darkness.  And we will not be ashamed.

 

 

Weirdness and Care

Yes, there will be vignettes later.

First, though, now that I’ve slept 12 hours or so, and I’m feeling more like myself, I’d like to present from my perspective the view of the last few days’ insanity.

First of all, it kept running through my mind “D*mn tedious waste of two days” in the voice of the A & E Pride and Prejudice mini-series character who refers to the Merryton Assembly as “D*mn tedious waste of an evening.”

You see, if I’d been alone when I collapsed in the shower (and according to Dan appeared to be dead) I wouldn’t have gone to ER.  In fact, experientially, from my POV, I fell asleep and had an hour long dream.  (Never mind that Dan says it was about a minute, because dreams like fairyland have no contact with the real world.) I was not in my dream but that is not precisely unusual for me, either.

I would have woken up, been surprised the water was still warm, got out of the shower, perhaps lain down on the floor a few minutes if my vision kept blacking when I stood up (this would not be the first time this exact sequence of events happened) then crawled back to bed for an hour, and then got up and resumed normal life.  The blog would have been a little late. By the time the guys got home from work, I’d have forgotten about it.  (Again, this is not the first time.)

This is why Dan dragged me to ER kicking and screaming.  Or it would have been kicking and screaming if I had had the energy to kick and scream.  No one was more shocked than I when the EKG showed abnormal “muddy” and out of kilter rhythms.  (Which is what they think happened.  They think it went out of sequence and got caught in a minor electrical loop which, fortunately, reset itself.  BUT it was set off and combined with a bunch of other stuff, which mostly amounts to “not enough blood getting to brain.”)

The thing is I have a strong feeling if I indulge my body and give consequence to its fits of weirdness, I’ll live in ER.  So instead I ignore what I can and stop what I can by sheer will power, and I don’t end up losing two days to writing, don’t worry anyone and things keep going.

Which brings me to my issues with being in ER and then in the hospital beyond the fact that I feel apologetic at increasingly more bizarre test results and like I’m somehow perpetrating a prank on the doctors and should beg pardon.

I don’t do well being taken care of, or receiving well-wishes.  Don’t misunderstand me, I’m deeply grateful for the outpouring of love and affection, and in a way it helped but it also made me feel self conscious and bad that I was worrying everyone and causing everyone to make a fuss, because I should not have let my body give way, and I should not be weak.

Perhaps we can sum it up with what dad used to tell me when I hurt my knee, when I was little, “Legionaries” (in the sense of Rome) “Don’t cry.”

I feel that the very fact I need care is a deep personal failure, and everyone I “put out” is someone I’m inconveniencing, and I shouldn’t be.

I realize, from an external point of view this is deeply screwed up, but I can’t stop feeling it just because I realize that.  And if I try to explain it to someone, I feel like I’m giving a wrong impression.  Like, for instance, I get the feeling that they think I shouldn’t be cared for because I don’t value myself as a woman and feel no fuss should be made, and no resources wasted on me.

Instead, the truth is I shouldn’t have to be cared for because I’m the Mama, and the mama (which in my head is still my grandma) holds the sky and the Earth together.  You can’t give way in those circumstances.  It’s unforgivable weakness. It’s deserting a post of honor.

Anyway, my medical emergency proceed as such things proceed for me: Increasingly stranger findings that lead to at least three different diagnosis, which means this was either “perfect storm” or “Wait, what?” and I should have kept the d*mn thing under control and not have bothered anyone.

Though, mind you there are a couple of things, one of them urgent, that were incidental findings to this.  Meaning, they didn’t cause the emergency, but one of them I should get seen really quick because it could lead to ah… serious issues.  Like death.  PROBABLY not, but possibly, over time. Yes, I’ll keep you appraised, since if it’s an issue, it will require surgery.

But over all this is a case of “Sarah allowed her body out of control and permitted her heart to have issues.”  For that I’m sorry, and I’m sorry for worrying everyone and giving so much trouble and fuss.  And I’m sorry for spending time not wring.

And yes, I’m aware this IS stupid, and that I really should learn to accept care.  But it feels like a breech in protocol when I do.  I’m supposed to be the one who cares for others.

ANYWAY…. several things to try to prevent this happening again:

I’m going to continue with the blog, but I’d like some more guest posts, please and thank you.  I’d like to write no more than 3 original posts a week.  I’ll be honest, part of this is because it’s eating my fiction writing.  BUT the eating of my fiction writing increases stress, and I need to bring that down.

I’m going to try to limit facebook to an hour in the morning and an hour in the evening, and reduce the instances of hopping all over facebook getting in fights.  It’s addictive, yes, but the stress thing, again, and seriously, it’s not my job.

I’m going to re-center on my writing, because it’s fun and it reduces stress too.

These should help keep my stress to a minimum which will keep the autoimmune feedback to a minimum too.

I’m going to try to drink more water and sports drinks too, because I have a frightening tendency to get clinically dehydrated.

I’m implementing a series of supplements for my tendency to shed minerals.

I’m going to start scheduling a day a week to “do fun cr*p” preferably with Dan, but if he’s not available, it might amount to sitting around and reading.  There haven’t been any of those days in decades, and perhaps this is needed.

I’m following through on the medical weirdness, including the incidental medical findings.

And now please return to your scheduled insanity.  I’m going to nip over to FB for a few minutes, and then clean this place and write.  Because this has been a d*mn tedious waste of two days.

 

 

 

Home Now

Keeping this mostly  blank, but wanted you guys to know I’m home, and I’m okay for now.

Still Not Dead

So, for the record, I’m still not dead.

While I did have some sort of a heart event, with continuing irregularities after, it is not in any way a “conventional heart attack.”  Those are the good news.

The contributing factors to this debacle seem to be in no particular order: auto-immune paroxysm of some sort which made my breathing very ineffective, mineral imbalances (I seem to SHED potassium and sodium, aka why I can’t wear contact lenses)  persistently low blood pressure and low heart rate.  Apparently it’s a bad idea to put less oxygen on your low-pressurized blood.  Who knew?

The bad news is that no one knows how it got so far so fast, and “keep your d*mn autoimmune under control” seems to be at the top of the list.  This does mean diet, exercise, regular breaks for fun things with family, and less facebook, I suppose.

They haven’t ruled out all possible causes, and I’ll have to come back for an MRI, since the autoimmune does things to your brain too (Yeah, you knew that. And no, not that way.)

BUT we’re inching ever so slowly to their letting me the heck out of here.  The hospitalist said one more evaluation and I could go, so expect a couple of hours or three.  Hospital time is different.  From “we’re going to discharge you” to walking out has taken anywhere up to five hours..  Then I can go home, take a nap and finish this novel.

Okay, I might shower first.  I’m gross and haven’t even rinsed conditioner off my head for two days.  (I collapsed in the shower.)

As of right now, not only is my demise not expected, but I’m being given the oddest orders you ever saw from a cardiologist.  OTOH raising blood pressure through stress is counterindicated as that sets off the autoimmune.

So, stop that incursion into the infernal regions right now.  Go bribe someone to get me checked out, instead.  You know what would lower my stress?  Getting home, getting some writing done, and maybe getting a party of you reprobates to go off with us to see the lights at the Denver zoo sometime next week.  That would be amazing.

I Am Alive

Apparently my life was getting boring so this morning, in the shower, it seemed a good idea to have a cardiac episode.

Now, I sort of assumed this was my body being my body and giving it attention would just encourage it, but my husband doesn’t have the jaundiced view I have and insisted on driving me to emergency.

There seems to be something wrong with the electrical part of my heart and typing this is really frustrating because I have a sensor on my middle left finger.  Anyway there’s something about  a circus rhythm.  (I hate clowns.)

I had planned to work today, d*mn it.

I feel stupid and guilty for letting my body get out of line and encouraging it in its nonsense.  But they’re keeping me under observation till tomorrow, and I can’t even type with this thing on my finger.  And I’m worrying my family.

So.  That’s where I am.  More when I  can type.

The Green Man of Socialism

I’ve set myself an amusement for the holiday season.  You see, I have a bad habit.  If I’m not at the computer, writing, I have to be reading something.  If I’m not, I get the shakes, and things get blurry, and next thing you know, I’m flopping around on the sofa yelling “The book, Watson, the book.”

The problem is that looking for something to read often takes more time than reading whatever the heck it is.  And that I’m looking for a specific type of book, preferably short and not so absorbing it’s going to keep me from finishing way overdue books.

Which is why I tend to get on binges — usually mystery — of finding an author who is innocuous and reading everything he or she has.  Only I’m trying to keep it cheap.

Also, I’ll be honest, since my brother sent me the list of SF/F books we owned or read at some point, I’ve been riled at how few of them I remember.  I used to have a near-eidetic memory but concussion and other health issues have dented that.  I can now start reading a book and only realize in the middle that I read it before.  Saves on books, sure, but it’s very annoying, particularly when I realize it’s a book that dented the wall.

My memory is better now, part of the whole thyroid adjustment thing, and I thought “What if I find these books and re-read them?”

Now, this has some issues, as some of the books aren’t available at any price, some are available at crazy prices (I am not going to pay 4.50 for a badly formatted fifty year old A. E. Van Vogt to which the agent didn’t even bother to find a generic cover, but has a picture of Van Vogt on the cover.  That foretells of horrors I don’t want to deal with inside.) Some are available from Gutenberg, and I’ll have to transfer (soon.) And some are available but… well, let’s say I’m returning Three Go Back, because someone missed the “just scan the pages and put it up.”  They seem to have decided they should put up the PICTURE of the scan instead of running it through ACR.  My eyes are NOT that good, and also what the heck?

Anyway, the first one that sort of fell in the category “I can read this and it doesn’t make my eyes twist” was The Green Man of Graypeck by Festus Pragnell (which I hope to Bob is a pen name).

Wow.  Holy unadulterated pulp, Batman.

However, if we must — I come to praise pulp, not to bury it.

There is one very good thing about the unadulterated pulp.  It has a punchy and immediate beginning, and it keeps the action rolling along on a steam roller.  That’s something most of us practitioners of a slightly (ah!) more nuanced art could learn.

Now the world building is … not bad, but rather a collection of stereotypes, and I finally found that one “the women are decorative, and treated as baggage” sf.  I haven’t looked at when this was published, but mind you there is more to it than that, since the world has several more or less primitive civilizations, in which the women are “inferior” beings, by lack of body strength, as most women were in uncivilized societies.

OTOH the collection of stereotypes is no worse than the ones we get in most novels now, just a different KIND, and at least to me they were refreshingly novel.

The fun part of this though is seeing that people still felt a need to justify writing novels about a future that never existed, by bringing in some “relevant” “lesson.”

The story is that a man is catapulted into another universe, a very small universe in atoms of our world (go with it.) Given this you expect the almost Tarzan feel of a completely different world (though why some of the people would be humanoid at all… never mind.)

BUT this makes no sense at all when he explains that the collapse of civilization came about because they didn’t listen to Aige Geewells (spelled something like that) about scientific governance.  And unless I’m missremembering  there’s also a bit about eugenics, which at any rate is implied in the “Status” of the “races” in that world, because eugenics is an old (and crazy) obsession of the left.

Anyway, this is stuck in, where it makes absolutely no sense, and is only about three paragraphs.  I remember, when I was a little older (if I read this before, I’d have been very young and not seen the incongruity) just skipping such paragraphs.

I don’t remember when that became impossible, but I think I figured out why.

Look, this books worldbuilding is offensive to my principles at several levels, from the worldbuilding with Superior and Inferior races, assumptions about how women will act, etc.  OTOH it is not offensive, because it’s such a different world, the society is so different, and it’s very clearly “Tarzan of the Apes” in Space.  (With perhaps a dash of the Odyssey.)

Also, I don’t know how to put this, but it comes across as almost innocent.  The writer clearly believed in this load of bull.   There is sort of an internal consistency to how the world is organized that tells you he didn’t even think about it, so he either believed it, or thought his audience would without thought.  And that makes it more bearable, as does the rip roaring non-stop plot.  Why?  Because it keeps you reading.  You can ignore any truckload of carp, provided the story isn’t boring.

Now am I going to say this is the quality of science fiction I’d like to see?  Oh, heck no.  For one, I suspect the idea for the story was disproven before it started. Though it was a fun way to get someone to a completely different world.

On the other hand, I also realized why I read these back to back as a kid, even the ones that made me roll my eyes and go “oh, this is so stupid” or “Bud, your politics reek.”  They caught you.  They did their job first and preached at you second.  (And sometimes incoherently, improbably, and in a few paragraphs.) Which I’m cool with.

So, should you read it?  If you wish.  It’s on Amazon.  It’s readable.  Do I recommend you pattern your writing on it?  Uh… no.

But you might want to look at how he sets up a beginning with a man accused of his brother’s murder, then drags you through a plot that doesn’t stop.  Take that and do a bit of better worldbuilding and fewer crazy assumptions (though for his time these might very well have been state of the art assumptions) and you might have a winner.

After all, cringingly strange world building and all, these pulp novels sold and publishing was a money-making business. Mostly because the books were fun to read, and people read them for fun and not out of a sense of obligation.

Perhaps that’s something we should contemplate more often.

Reading a ludic enterprise, not a moral one.  One shouldn’t be ashamed of reading (or writing) in a fun way.

The Light and The Darkness- A Blast From The past Post from Dec. 2014

The Light and The Darkness- A Blast From The past Post from Dec. 2014

As you know I’m working really hard to finish Through Fire, interrupted by some health stuff which is getting me down. So the world’s most awesome husband took me away from the keyboard yesterday night and on a date to the Denver zoo, to see the Christmas lights.

It was just starting to snow, as we approached and we were afraid we’d get frozen but it was surprisingly mild the entire time we were there, and the lights were awesome.

We’d gone once with the kids, when they were little, and the lights were mostly stationary, but now there are a number of moving light shows, and also stuff like oriental lanterns in the elephant area.

Because we went relatively late (had an appointment that let out at six thirty, so no choice there) and because it was starting to get nippy, we weren’t as mobbed with kids as you’d expect. At the end, we might have turned around and gone again, except there was a light drizzle of snow falling. So we adjourned to Pete’s kitchen, where we sat at the window, watching the snow paint patterns in the window and the wind shake the lights outside, while we sat inside all snuggly and warm.

Did I have a point to this, other than bragging about my husband?

When I was a very little girl, I thought the holidays were magical. You see, they used to outline the little medieval church tower in white lights. In a village where streetlights were few and far between and most of the houses not only had only one lightbulb per room (usually naked, in the middle of the room and like 40 watts, no matter how large the room,) but everyone also kept an oil lamp or candles, because the light was off as much as it was on, the lights outlining the tower in the dark (glimpsed from my window late at night) was a miracle.

Fireworks were miracles too, particularly the more complex ones that made pictures.

And of course, festas in summer were a thing of beauty, because of all the light and sound. In retrospect, these were rather pokey ambulatory festivals, mostly booths selling crafts (only these weren’t cool crafts, just most of the stuff around there and then was hand made.) And there were maybe three rides, one of them the obligatory tethered airplanes and the other probably bumper cars, leaving the third to either a roller coaster or a carousel.

Why am I going on about this, just now?

Because in the middle of that amazing light show it occurred to me “as bad as things are…” As in, back then, my little self would have thought that lighted zoo a wonderland out of dreams.

My kids, of course, take it for granted.

But there is a difference between taking it for granted and imagining that, somehow, strangely, the past, with its privations, the past without any of these marvels, was a wonderland.

I’m not going to say my childhood was awful. In many ways, it was a magical place. But it was a magical place despite the privations and the lack of entertainment.

I was blessed with a father who would walk with me through the local fields and woods and not only show me the local fauna and flora (and tell me stories about it) but also read the inscriptions in Roman ruins we stumbled upon. I had a father who in the summer would walk me to the nearest pond to see the fireflies over it, and who taught me to make a pan flute out of reeds. (And who would also take me on an expedition to feed and observe the ants in a massive anthill down by the fields. And always, always, be ready with history or legend, or poem to illustrate something. And I was blessed with a grandmother (dad’s mom) who made up stories for me involving an alternate of the village populated with shape shifters and magical beings.

Add to that a brother and a cousin who were willing to let me tag along with them on their expeditions and who tolerated my thievery of their books, and it was a very good childhood.

What it was lacking was more on the material front: non-scratchy clothes, heated rooms (and bathrooms!) in winter, medicine that wouldn’t be available for decades and – well… entertainment.

Look, I’m a very boring sort of person. Even now, my favorite entertainment is reading. Surrounded by games and movies, I choose books.

But back then even the books were limited. Not only couldn’t we afford them that often, but fewer were printed than here, so the choice was far more limited.

Of course we read everything – I read history and mystery and romance (and when my brother found it SF) because I read everything everyone in the family bought.

Even the newspapers’ serializations of old books ended up clipped out and kept to re-read later.

I don’t think any kid born here and now understands that re-reading wasn’t a choice. You re-read because you simply couldn’t find enough to read.

That today I can research anything – I was just looking up hot buttered rum (shut up) – by typing a sentence on the net, would be enough to make me think this was paradise when I was a kid.

And this is why all the programs of the progressives have been outstripped. They had plans and ideas to bring about equality in 1930s terms. One stack-a-prole apartment, one ration of chicken a week, two suits of clothing a year: EQUALITY.

Instead, we have people living wildly divergent lives in the way they want to live them, and all these people can do is bleat about class and equality.

How do you determine class when, even if I were twice as rich, my life wouldn’t be much different day to day? I’d still live in a house that’s warmed in winter and cooled in summer; I’d still have light and music for the asking (I remember my brother’s transistor radio being a seven day wonder in the village.) I’d still have a computer and be able to read a vast amount of things for free. (And write with minimal effort.)

How do you determine equality when how happy and contented people are has a lot to do with what they choose to do with this immense common patrimony of science and abundance we have?

How can you even insist on equality?

In the end all their bleating is revealed for what it is: a plea for power. They want to control who gets the light, and who is shunted off into the dark.

Well, they’re going to have to think again.

We won’t go quietly into that good night. We’ll stay here and bask in moving pictures made of light.

They like the past so well, they can start their own self-restricted communities. We can always use more Amish at least for the cheese.

As for me, and my house, we’re going to go see Interstellar again tomorrow. We might even go do it in Imax. Because we can.

Fighting With Words

Yesterday one of my sons came to me about an argument (religious) two friends had got into.  He was furious at both of them, because both were “arguing” in the terms and from within their rather deep belief systems, and getting increasingly mad at how “stupid” the other was, when there was no intelligence involved on either side.  Or rather, whatever reasoning there was was coming out in terms that the other side either could not decode or would interpret as fighting words. (My son mostly just wanted to vent so he did that, and then he was fine.)

I have banned a total of about 8 people (if you count ten or so of them as being one very notorious troll) from this blog.  A couple I banned were for religious nonsense, and one was of my religion.  But when you come in quoting the Bible as though it “proves” something about a current political situation, you’re not arguing in terms people can discuss.  You’re shutting down the discussion with something you think is irrefutable, because it goes beyond logic.  This might be very convincing in a group of like believers (not always.  Doesn’t convince me.)  BUT in an open group, where people of all religions and none gather, this is just annoying and the equivalent of shouting insults, or reciting meaningless mantras.  UNDERSTAND this is not saying “oh, the situation reminds me of this” as we’ve all quoted the Bible, Kipling, or even songs or movies in that manner.  I mean giving a quote from the Bible and saying “And this ends the discussion” because if everyone believed in the quote and interpreted it as the quoter it would, only people of course don’t.  So such a tactic just drives other people insane and ends meaningful discussion.

What brings this up is not religion, per se, except in the sense that some political movements seem to have acquired religious overtones.

I have long ago realized that when the left says “check your privilege” they are doing exactly the same as people quoting the Bible in a discussion-ending way.  They are saying something that from within the deep halls of their religious belief is meaningful and discussion-ending.  But to the rest of us, it’s mumbo-jumbo and annoyingashell.

Look, I have a liberal arts degree, and I learned in a country that was at the time (probably still is) nuts for Marx.  I understand what they were taught about institutional racism, privilege and all that.  I just happen to think they’re wrong, because individuals are individuals and should be treated as such, not as broad classes.  I refuse to believe Obama’s daughters have fewer opportunities than my sons because they’re female and a little darker.

So to me when a Marxist screams “check your privilege” what I really hear is “I’m a brain washed idiot.”

This is worse if it comes in the middle of a comment or rant that makes sense otherwise, say something about the culture of recent immigrants can hold their kids back.  I’ll be reading along going “Okay, I see you’re coming from the left, but there’s common groun–” and then we hit the “magic words” and my brain goes into instant “these are my middle fingers.”

Recently we’ve started getting the same from the soi-disant right.  It’s an “European right” that treats races and classes as groups, not as aggregations of individuals with wild variation.  Look, they’re mostly young, and mostly rather stupid.  I’m not saying some of them aren’t individually smart, because some of the ways they’re stupid are ways in which only smart people can be that dumb.  Like believing the melanin content of the skin correlates with IQ, or that culture is hereditary.

Mostly they’re kids who realize that they’ve been lied to all their lives, and think that by turning the lies completely around they’ll find the truth.  The world is never that simple.

The problem though, is that their lingo has acquired the same properties as the left.  It has spread to older people who should know better, and who use it because they can and because they think it’s a thumb in the eye of political correctness.  But what it actually does is argue from “deep cult” and shut down discussion for anyone not already along for the ride.

I was reminded of this, recently, while reading a comment to one of my posts at Instapundit.  I don’t often do it, because lately there’s been a lot of crazy.  But the comments were interesting, and this particular one was very good (and no, I can’t remember about what) and made perfect sense/explained things beyond where my post was.  All except the last line who referred to the Halfrican Queen.

It took me a moment to realize from context it was talking about Valerie Jarret.  But beyond making the comment more opaque and signaling a brain-shutting cultish type of thinking, it did more than that.

It introduced completely irrelevant emotional distractions.  Halfrican, and all the other stupid epithets of that ilk is not an argument.  If it were an argument, you’d have to explain why the fact that Valerie Jarret is half African (is she even?  I thought she was mostly Arab) has anything to do with the fact that she works for the Muslim brotherhood or is a red diaper baby.  I mean, sure, there’s some covalence there, but that’s cultural, and part of her being indoctrinated to believe she was hard-done-by due to her skin color.  But there are many people who fill the same role without the genetic heritage.  Obama’s lily-white mother was a red diaper baby and so are half of the lily white, upper class darlings of science fiction.

The term, besides not sounding nearly as clever as it does inside the cult IS anti-pc, but it is anti-pc in a way that not only brings irrelevant arguments to the discussion but that like “check your privilege” proclaims “I come from so deep within an echo chamber that I consider this a clinching argument.”

I’ve gotten to the point that my middle fingers come up automatically when I hear one of these words.  Cuck, for instance, means “I don’t understand parliamentary procedure or governmental structure in the US and I want to impress it with how angry I am.”  Halfrican means “I have no clue how human intelligence/DNA/culture works, but I want to be superior to someone.”  The rest of the vile lot means a bunch of other things such as “I believe in an international Zionist conspiracy, just like Marxists and Palestinians, because I think those two are beacons of sanity.”  Or “I believe in magic dirt, because if you’re born on the land for x generations you’ll have the right culture/beliefs, even if the schools and society are no longer teaching them.  And I’ll ridicule others for believing in “magic dirt” when people do their best to BECOME part of the nation.”

In fact, all of these terms aren’t cute, aren’t funny.  They’re creepy eructations that mean “I joined a cult.”

They have the added “benefit” of making people who don’t fully agree with you and don’t come from the deep cult shut down on you.  And of making people on the other side FURTHER believe they were justified, are victims and should hold on hammer and tongues to their victimhood instead of actually listening to what they’ve been doing wrong.

In fact, these thought-stopping and substitute for thought words do the very opposite of shattering the PC bubble and making people think.

We have to fight with words, or surely we’ll fight with actions. But fighting with words that stop thought and discussion will only make things worse.

And yes, I know, because I’ve seen this in posts by Stephen Green or other of my friends, some *sshole will come along and say because I don’t like these cutesy words that mean nothing I’m a “closet democrat” or a “communist.”  Being called a communist is one of my new and favorite pastimes, considering I’ve broken more communist heads than anyone not a veteran of the armed forces and that even before I had a political philosophy I knew I was anti-communist.

But before you do that, explain to me how using stupid made up words makes your point that communism is bad, or that the democrats are Marxists.  Make it cogent.  Show your work.

Because all I’m seeing are people coming from deep-cult and thinking that the short cuts around thought that they’ve gotten used to will work on everyone.

And that’s tragically wrong.