Running Blind – A Blast from the past January 23, 2013

*Sorry, I’m trying to fix BOR, and under the gun time wise. AND a bunch of you — glares — hijacked me into a talk of publishing, which took hours. (You only get away with it, because y’all are cute.) So, blast from the past. -SAH*

Running Blind- A Blast from the past

We all have blind spots.  And some blind spots are universal, particularly in these days of fast change.

I realized this as I was thinking of one of the back-list short stories I brought out under Goldport Press.  It was written… eighteen? Years ago, published ten years ago (I think in Absolute Magnitude, but I’d have to check and I’m lazy.)

Ten years ago – heck, fifteen years ago – I was using Internet searches to find information and reading most of my news online.  And yet, this story assumes the character, being out of the country has no access to information.  Her family members don’t send her email.

Yes, it is a period piece, having been written eighteen years ago, but all the same, I read it over, edited it and brought it – ALL without, EVER hearing alarm bells at the back of my head or thinking “people finding this first won’t know it was written eighteen years ago” and making the necessary adjustments (it would be a little more work.)  I just didn’t NOTICE.

Blind spots.

Politically I think the left has more blind spots than the right simply because the left is accommodated by entertainment and mass media and has been for decades.  It’s easy to dismiss the new media and to proudly proclaim that you are mainstream.

And you might very well be mainstream, but you’ll have blindspots the size of the Taj Mahal.  There is nothing quite so cute as American socialists being totally unaware of socialism’s many failures (no, truly, Sweden is not getting trotted out again.  Sweden is tiny and has a peculiar culture – and even there it’s failing under impact of hordes of foreign takers.  Also, no one would mistake it for a dynamic land of innovation, even though it was just that before the present regime. Deal.)   Or the fact that they don’t know that all over the world “socialism” is the euphemism for “communism that isn’t ready to shoot people.”

But it’s not their fault.  Our mass media never reported how rotten the stinking corpse of communism was by the time the USSR fell.  It also never reported the millions used to subvert American institutions.  (And anyone, anyone claiming that “capitalism has failed too” will have to point me out to ONE example of unbridled capitalism in the modern world.  Doesn’t exist.  It’s all hemmed in with “regulations” – er… sealed for our protection, I guess.  The closest we come to it is the sort of crony capitalism of Asian countries and that’s closest to fascism than anything else.  If you think that America is “unbridled capitalism, you REALLY do have a blind spot.)

The right has some blind spots too, usually in “moral” areas.  People who are otherwise smart enough not to believe Cuba has “world class” health care actually believe that Cuba has eliminated AIDS by quarantining those infected.  The fact that I travel semi-regularly to a country where tourism to Cuba is not unusual and HAVE read advisories about er… frequenting ladies (and presumably gentlemen) of uneasy virtue over there BECAUSE HIV is rampant, would say otherwise.

It is sort of like believing there are no homosexuals in Muslim countries because their leaders tell us so.

Or believing that China is a raging economic success (which I grant seems to affect leftist economists too.)  Or believing that Brazil is (Bother!  If someone had pumped as much money in here as we have in Brazil we too would be an “economic success.”  It won’t last, the timber is bad, even if the house is pretty.)  Or believing the population figures out of Arab countries where – come on guys – an army of ten thousand is reported as an army of a million.  (And there are never any Americans at the airport.)  Apply the same divider to population figures.  It is what it is.

But right or left, we ALL have blind spots when it comes to where we’re going.  Right and left, we have to work at focusing.  We have to work at seeing where the changes are – and where we’re going.

Yeah, I’d challenge those on the left harder and demand they look closer, because they believe in central planning — which means they have to work harder to come up with a coherent plan in the face of a tech that’s moving so fast it has the possibility of taking us – and rapidly too – out of all known parameters of human civilization so far.  (And please don’t come up with the plan where you create superior humans to lead us.  I wrote those books.  It doesn’t end well.)

Ori talked in the comments yesterday about perhaps the Constitution having to be rewritten to accommodate the new tech.  I don’t think he’s right.  Amended in the particulars perhaps, but not in the fundamentals.

The particulars, however, are a doozy.  Let’s start with representation.  All the representation in the Constitution has to do with the area in which you live.

How will this apply when we’re entering an era where someone might live in an area they have absolutely no ties with?  No?

Come on.  To a great extent, we are already there.  I work for out of state companies, have colleagues I talk to all over the country (and a few all over the world.)  I buy stuff from all over the world, via Amazon.  My economic interests and my associations are impacted by a multitude of out-of-state events and decisions.

Yes, what my state does can affect me too (for instance I can’t get money with an Amazon Associate’s Account, I have to pay local tax and my city is saving money by turning off lights on the cross streets. [I wish I were joking on that last one.])

And please, please please don’t say we just need “A stronger federal government” because the wind that’s a-coming respects no federal governments better than it respects state ones.  This is where the left is caught with its pants down and the Russian winter howling up their backside.  Their whole model is based on the idea that a country’s government can redistribute and “make things less competitive and more fair.”

The cracks (pardon for using the word with the image in the last paragraph) in this are already obvious when it comes to outsourcing and customer service and other jobs that are easily exported leaking out of the country at speed.

But that trickle is about to become an hemorrhage, and you can’t stop it with regulation.  It won’t work.  Once the tech is there that anyone can work from anywhere at all (and we’re very, very close) countries and governments that try to hold their populace in an outmoded form of territorial subjugation are going to find themselves holding nothing.

Yeah, we can all go North Korea, and sometimes I think that’s the end game of most “progressive” tactics “turn back, turn back” to the early twentieth century when this stuff could work.  It won’t work.  Not world-wide.  North Korea, like Sweden, is a peculiar instance of place and people and culture.  It won’t apply universally.

It doesn’t matter how much governments want everyone to travel in trains, people are not going to forget the private automobile.  And no matter how much you want us to read the approved papers, we have the Internet.  And no matter how much you want us to live in certain areas, if we can work from others and it’s cheaper – we will.

I’ve read some truly scary stuff from the seventies about representation by groups you claimed membership in.  Mind you, this was from the left side, so it was bizarre nonsense.  Congress would have to accommodate representation for several unions, plus “collectives.”  For instance, I’d be a member of a Writer’s collective, an artist’s collective, a mother’s collective, a woman’s collective.

Just the name alone is enough to make me gag and fall in a fit of Tourette’s.  But let’s forget that for a moment.

Some book – Diamond Age? – had people swearing allegiance to various groups and those groups represented them.  I’m closer to liking that, of course, except that it feels like an incomplete solution because it’s unenforceable.

Look, you can enforce authority locally and territorially, because you can march troops in and physically make the subject comply.  You try that in a group – say neo-techno libertarians – that’s spread all over the world.  In the end government and its authority ALWAYS comes down to “you and whose army?”  The idea that it’s anything else is a fairytale for grownups.  (In the US it’s our army, but it is still someone’s army.)

The best I can imagine is that you pay an amount to belong to a certain group which will then fight for your interests, (which, yes, might involve physical force.  Read the account of the revolution/terrorism in Friday for how.)

But if things are going to go that crazy, you’ll also have to pay some sort of local fee to belong to your local polity.  Why?  Because it don’t matter if your entire neighborhood is sitting on its front porch, reading its Bible.  If the central government for your area loses control (or goes completely bonkers, which looks likely at least for me) then some bad dudes can still come along an beat y’all up.  Unless you hire defenders.

“But Sarah” you say “You’re talking about a sort of poll tax.  A place where people pay to have a say in the common governance of the groups they belong to, including their neighborhood.”

And?  I’m not saying that this is moral or right or just or any of that stuff – in the end that stuff is always secondary to survival – I’m just saying it MIGHT work.  I don’t see how our present form does, though.  Not long term.

No?  See, this … dislocated residence versus work, versus shopping is going to hit EVERYTHING – not just politics.  EVERYTHING.

Yeah, they can put patches on it for a moment, like making Amazon pay tax.  But catalogs haven’t traditionally, and if Amazon has to, it just means smaller companies spring up to do what Amazon does and they won’t…  In the end it all spins out of local control.  And fast, too.

Right now, your livelihood depends to a great extent on where you live, how much your house is worth, the cost of living for your area, its relative safety, etc etc etc.

Spin all those out in different directions.  Suppose I CAN work in NYC and live in Iowa.  Yeah, many of us (okay, I like big cities.  Deal) would still want to live in the big city for a variety of reasons, but we don’t have to, and my guess is the majority of people wouldn’t want to.  (I realized the other day that at least one of the reasons I used to like living in big cities — access to entertainment, lectures and books — is irrelevant because Amazon.) So… what does that do to … property values?  Cost of living? Availability of stuff that has to be shipped in?  (The enormous costs of feeding a place like NYC are offset by the sheer size of the population being fed, so it’s worth to have a lot of things available that would, in other places, not be worth the price of shipping.  I.e. there is more variety because there are more people there.  Even losing half the population will affect that.)

Real estate prices are going to go insane.  EVERYWHERE.

Now take in account all the people who will be caught five years from retirement, and their house is suddenly worth nothing.  It’s much much worse than 2008.  In fact, 2008 might have been the first foreshock of what’s to come.  As for real estate, just having people start to telecommute preferentially (no, it’s not science fiction.  Like ebooks it’s something we’ve been talking about for decades, but I suspect when it hits it will be with stunning rapidity.  I also expect it not to be more than ten years out.) will cause a huge upheaval.  No?  Commercial buildings.  Yeah, sure they can be converted to residential, but at the same time people will be moving out to Podunk where they can have forty acres…

And yet stuff like the infrastructure for the Internet will still have to be maintained, as will highways and…  Yes, there are solutions for it, other than what we’ve been using.  But it will take removing the blinders and looking – REALLY LOOKING – at what’s coming down the pike.

Neither the left as it exists now, nor the right, as it exists now, have the solution to what is happening because we’re all prisoners of the time we were born in, and the tech we learned as kids.  No matter how much we think, really think we’re up to date, we’ll forget that the Internet exists, or that people can google-search someone.  Or at least we will when reading an old story.  And then we’ll fail to see all the ways the “new way of doing things” affects us and everyone we know.

The tech we have – the future we’re speeding towards – is one of greater individual freedom and choice and less ability to enforce conformity.  This is good and bad, as anyone has found out who has homeschooled a kid in the age of Internet courses, and also as anyone has found out who has had to warn their kids off  the more bizarre Internet sites.  (And not just porn.)

It is good because in the battle between those who want to control others and those who just want to be left the f*ck alone, those who want to be left alone are about to have the upper hand.

But human nature doesn’t change overnight, and there will be bullies, local, national, international, trying to create their own little North Koreas in their lifetime.

Which means the rest of us need to be very aware of where the blind spots are, and where we can escape them and how.

In other words – the future is great, but there will be very, very rough patches before we get to a place where we’ve figured out what works.

Until then, kindly tighten your seatbelts. Also, to quote Heinlein, keep your clothes and weapons where you can find them in the dark.  And take off your blinders.

I Come to Praise Work

I’ll start by admitting that I’m broken. I’m one of those people who has to work. Mostly because when I don’t, I get bored.

I remember the lovely Summer vacations that were three months and sometimes six during revolutionary times when teachers went on strike or the school flooded and there was no money to fix it. (A couple of years I was still on vacation during my birthday, in November.)

The first two or three weeks — I scheduled — were for re-reading old favorites and reading all the new books I could cajole out of friends or their parents. (Borrow. No one gave them to me. Sigh.) And then tedium would set in. I quite literally wouldn’t know what to do with myself.

I usually consumed a week or two making my room really clean, and moving stuff around. (The number of times I shifted furniture!)

And then… I had to give myself work. Either real work for which someone paid me. (Rare. I more often found work during the school year, since mostly I tutored.) Or work I imposed on myself. “This summer I’m going to write x poems a week.” Or “I’m going to study Romantic Poetry.” Or “I’m going to study Roman history within the limits of books I can borrow plus the public library.” (Harder, because it wasn’t a lending library.)

Or I’d research for a novel I was more or less sure I’d never write, but it gave me work. Or invented a whole universe (I have those littering my brain still.)

Because I’m broken.

I realized how broken when I was once fantasizing about winning the lottery, and realized the sum total of my lifestyle change would be “I’ll get someone to do the housework, so I can do more writing work.”

Broken.

If tomorrow I became unable to write or at least to sell (could happen. The market is a tight funnel.) I would probably start a craft business, for the money, and continue writing on the side, to get the stories out of my head.

All of which amounts to, work gives shape to life. At least my life.

And I believe there’s immense dignity in paying your own way. In fact, I’ve often said the sum total of my ambition for my boys has always been “Grown up, pays own way.”

When I first heard of the anti-work movement, my mind blew up. What the heck does that even mean? Who do they think will do the necessary for society to work, and for them to eat and have a roof over their heads.

I’m not sympathizing with those people.

Except… Except I can see where they’re responding to just as crazy an extreme.

My generation by and large (there are always exceptions) went to work out of high-school or college, and got told there were any number of others to take our job. If we didn’t want it.

We wanted it. Or at least we wanted to survive. So we worked crazy hours. We worked crazy hours with no overtime, and always being told we fell short. (Yes, even as a free lance writer.)

Now by and large this wasn’t work digging ditches. But I almost want to say it was worse, because we had to be intellectually alert and push and push and push, when the mind and the body rebelled, and you just wanted to sit there and do nothing, for a day or two.

It’s easier to push just the body. The mind has a way of throwing a heck of a rebellion, trust me on this

And we were always short on time and short on money.

Now there are other alternatives, and we can work from home, but we’re exhausted, and we have no energy.

And working from home, as was mentioned here yesterday means you’re always on. I swear my husband works far more than he bills, because he doesn’t count the time he’s eating while trying to figure out some problem, or when he gets home in the middle of the night to “fix one thing.”

Meanwhile work places haven’t got more reasonable. Now I could point out that part of this is a lot of illegal workers cutting the bottom out of starter jobs, and the crazy inflation we’re caught in, but all the same: I know people in retail. I know administrative assistants… I know people.

Since Obamacare made hiring people more expensive, companies are reluctant to add to pay roll. It’s more effective to work the people you have half to death.

The other side of this is not giving people more hours than for part time, so you don’t have to pay health care.

I know it’s fashionable to pile on millenials, but all those I know work hard, and often in indivious positions.

And part of all this is that the attitude of the companies is “Do exactly as we say, or else.” Yes, even now with the so called labor shortage. And even when what they want is patently impossible.

And so…. So we see silent quitting. We see a lot of people, mostly women, (particularly those with kids) choosing to stay home, which is probably a wash even on medium paying jobs. We see people who are so tired and burned out they can barely function.

And none of this, none of it, amounts to the best productivity.

The truth is the culture has gone poisonous. Squeezed by the government, businesses squeeze employees. Convince that millenials are slackers, we demand the impossible of them.

And then we’re shocked the “no work” movement appears. As stupid as it is, so is what they’re reacting against.

And we wonder why millenials aren’t marrying and having kids. Most of them don’t have the time for a social life, and the married ones often lack energy for their spouses.

Let’s give the kids the benefit of the doubt.

I’m not one for collective action, and I’m not going to suggest a general strike. That’s what we’ll get if we don’t do something about it.

First, let’s stopped the macho culture of “I work all hours of the day, and barely see my family” is a good thing. (And women are often more macho than men.) Work is work and necessary, but there is life outside work.

Second, let’s agitate to get government’s foot off business’s neck. Because yeah, businesses can be asses, but government mandates don’t help anything.

Third, let’s figure out alternatives, and create alternative work pathways. Indie. Job sharing. Whatever.

Let’s dispense with the idea that a company making unreasonable demands is better than a government making unreasonable demands.

Can your boss demand you work the occasional weekend? Sure. It happens. Should your boss demand you work seven days a week and hem and haw at giving you Christmas off? Oh, heck no. (My husband ran into this when we were thirty.)

All the movies, everything picturing a “career” as the most important thing in your life are wrong.

Most jobs aren’t a career. They’re just work. (Like if I made crafts. Just work.)

Work is dignified, and it’s important. It gives shape to life. And paying your own way makes you an adult.

But life isn’t work. There is more to life than that. And until we start seeing that people should have a life beyond and beside work, we’ll see the reaction of trying to say all work is bad, or of “silent quitting.”

Yes, in the days ahead a lot of work might be required of us in order to survive. But there is a difference between that and make-work pushed at us because someone in charge can do it. And most people do know the difference.

Don’t lie flat. Build your own escape route and fight back.

Build under, build over, build around, and get ready to take the weight.

Because what can’t go on, won’t go on.

No Man’s Land

Attention please. May I have the attention of the room?

Yes, what I have to say is pretty darn important. Mostly because if y’all keep doing this loop, it’s a waste of time, effort and lives. Secondarily because it pisses me off. (And nobody wants that.)

This morning a young friend did the “We can’t abandon education. It’s this bad because we abandoned it, and the left loves a vacuum.” I hadn’t had coffee yet, and I about put my head through my desk. (This is very bad.)

No, he’s not stupid, and yes, I can understand him. I was exactly like him 30 years ago. All of us were, on the blogs back then. “We shouldn’t have abandoned all these artsy and social fields. That’s why the left took over.”

Well, I’m here to tell you that theory of how the left took over the arts, education, news reporting and the soft sciences is poppycock. As we should have realized, because it makes no sense whatsoever. And as long as you’re running on that theory, you’ll sacrifice your life and make the left’s grip on power stronger.

It was Dave Freer who first opened my eyes to how this was poppycock with a question on Mad Genius Club, to the people who said the right wasn’t “creative:” Given a normal distribution of talents, and even a 50/50 distribution in the population, there should be a lot more fiction writers on the right. Where are they?

It was that normal distribution. The left deploys a lot of psych bs to explain how we’re not creative because we’re rules follower and part of institutionalized power. The left tokes like fiends. Because they are the ones in power. But the bs is good for covering what actually happened.

So, this is actually difficult to explain, so I’ll describe what I’ve watched over the years:

Young bright, right leaning person goes “Everything in education/writing/music/art/journalism/news, henceforth known as “field taken over by the left” is effed up, because the right abandoned it. I must get in there and fix it/reconquer it for our people. Study, excel, strive. Go in. Spend 10/15/20 years grinding against “circumstances”. Eventually get ejected with the feeling he/she/squirrel isn’t good enough and failed in some horrible way.

Thing is, people, Dave Freer is right. As far as I can tell, and despite the Marxist idea that we’re conformists and therefore not creative, in sixty years on this earth, talents and interests are evenly distributed through the population. Just as many people on the right want to be artists/teachers/writers/journalists, etc. etc.

And it beggars the mind, and requires Marxist special pleading of their being “so smart” which goes back to the idea that Marxism is “scientific governance for smart people.”

So, why are some fields entirely left? If the right didn’t abandon it?

Because the right is meritocratic. And mostly we enter a field to “do the thing” and we try to be best at “the thing”.

The left while they might be attracted to the field because of their inclinations and talents (some of them are very talented) enter the field to “promote the revolution” by which they mean Marxism.

They will not promote/support, they will outright sabottage/destroy anyone who doesn’t explicitly support them.

Over a period, and it’s not very long, any field thus run will be EXCLUSIVELY leftist. Run it as a thought experiment, if you don’t believe me. And once it’s explicitly left, the only way to get in is to sell your soul by pretending to “support the thing” and even then they will destroy you on a hint of a doubt.

The “cancelling” everyone complains about has been going on for at least fifty years. Now it’s explicitly political. Before they would tell you it’s because you’re not good enough.

And the thing is that they’re right. Because they’ve changed the parameters so that “good enough” means “Marxist.”

Take me. The only way to avoid being explicitly Marxist was to sound bubbleheaded. Just another middle class girl, with nothing to say and taking no risks. Midlister. Get rid of her.

Same with people in Academia, where the standards have been changed to “conforms to and preaches CRT”.

So, please stop saying we abandoned fields and that the left has taken over in a vacuum. The left took over by destroying and chewing up lives devoted to whatever the field is. And they will continue doing it.

At this point, the only way to fix this is to make parallel structures and start anew.

I’d say “the only way to fix this is to burn the institutions and salt the earth, then start anew” but the difference is that we don’t need to burn the structures. Or at least I don’t think so.

Although the left has as many gifted, talented and passionate people as the right, their talents get perverted for “the ideology” instead of whatever it is they are in. Also, because they promote for intensity of ideological purity, they promote a lot of dross to the leadership.

Perhaps it’s inevitable that any human institution eventually falls to bureaucrats, but that works twice as fast and twice as hard when it’s corrupted by Marxism. As we saw with East Germany, it is impossible for Marxists to create functional institutions, even in a society that is devoted to “functioning.”

The same thing that allows their take over prevents their functioning in whatever the institution does. And as institutions become too corrupt to function, alternate forms appear.

We’re not half over the bumps of indie publishing, but it EXISTS and is more successful than it has any right to be, simply because what it replaces is so f*cked.

I see schools, and film, and … well, everything headed that way.

But it will go smoother and faster and consume fewer very bright and talented souls if we avoid the “two step” of “Oh, this is inexplicably abandoned by the right. I should go and make a brave effort.” “It chewed me up and spit me out. I must be bad.”

You’re not bad. It was never abandoned. It was Rechtsrein because those of our kind had been purged. And the very standards have been changed to purge YOU.

Go and build elsewhere. That field is self-salting.

And there is a never end of opportunity for parallel structures to emerge. Be on the lookout for chances, PARTICULARLY if you already are in one of those fields and have cred.

Build under, build over, build around.

Stop assuming those who went before you were stupid.

And be no afraid!

Sympathy for the devil

There are consequences to living in a time that’s soaked in story, and one of them is the sympathy for the devil effect.

What do I mean?

Well, it goes like this: in stories, redemption is key to catharsis and even when no redemption is possible, the story is more interesting if there are reasons the villain went to the bad (particularly if the reasons can either be traced back to the protagonist or his family.) It’s just good plotting, since “he was just born evil” is not very satisfying in a story.

The problem is that we live in an era unusually soaked in story. If you think about it, our ancestors had far fewer (and shorter, and often less satisfying stories.) They were useful, but rarer.

Note that this is difficult to ascertain, and that studies on it might be iffy, but linguistic studies have traced mankind’s oldest stories, and they range from just so “don’t mistreat the stranger, lest you be punished” stories to family/adventure sagas.

Most of them had to be memorized to be re-transmitted. Let’s be generous and say each person had about 100 stories they could call to mind, had heard/reheard, and which became part of how they viewed the world.

While these stories, like ours, “became a part of them” they would still learnt he most from their surroundings — you know, the cautionary tales of “gorg ate bad fruit and died.” — than from the story.

Even in my childhood, when story was served up by newspaper, book, radio and elderly neighbors, it wasn’t unlimited and mostly free as it is now.

Now story assails us from “news” (most more story than news, particularly from big sites), books, radio, tv, internet… songs. Interviews. It’s almost impossible to go three steps without getting a fully-formed story thrown at us in some form.

I think we get 100 stories in a day, and most of them follow the formula of “more sinned against than sinner.”

Heck, nowadays there is a disturbing tendency for it not to be necessary to give a protagonist any redeeming characteristics: just have him be mistreated a bunch and even if he is objectively a horrible person, he’s instantly “good” by virtue of being a victim. In fact, for the young ones, this might be the only virtue recognized. And everything is excused of those who are “victims” while the designated villains get absolutely no hearing and aren’t allowed redemption. (One of the worst mysteries I watched on TV, this woman who was practically a saint was found out to have been part of a white supremacist group in youth, and despite there being nothing to indicate she still had such beliefs or had done anything much wrong, all the “good” characters turn on her and destroy it, in some strange “justice” that has no contact with real justice.)

The problem with this is that it’s really very easy for villains to pretend to be victims. In fact it’s part of their stock in trade, and it takes very little effort.

And since you have internalized the idea that those who have suffered are good (or at least that their bad is justified) you’ll be victimized again and again and again.

We see this in policy, in the large cities which have turned themselves into open sewers in pursuit of “justice” for the largely feral and addicted homeless.

And yes, I do realize this is big business for the cities themselves, but by and large the people in the cities allow it to continue because the homeless are judged as “victims” of an unjust society and therefore deserving. This is bolstered by story after story saying something like “Sure they’re shiftless and addicted, but you’d be the same if you’d had their luck.”

All of this is exemplified in the “bee sting” theory of poverty that people fall into poverty because they’re overwhelmed with needs until they can’t function.

While I’m sure this is true in some cases, it’s not what’s causing the “homelessness crisis” or the reason there is poverty. That is simply that most people will make no more effort than they need to to survive, and if you make them comfortable in poverty and addition, they’ll stay there.

And incidentally, while no person is born evil, no person is born good either. Yeah, sure, as biologists and animal breeders will tell you, there are character tendencies inherent in everyone, but without strong encouragement to be “good” or “Moral” most humans will follow the path of least resistance.

And if allowed to satisfy all their worst impulses without consequence, they’ll destroy themselves, and ultimately, all those around them.

The twentieth century turn against “Victorian morality” ultimately did no good to anyone: not society, not even the afflicted themselves.

You see, sympathy for the devil is ultimately callousness and lack of care to those who legitimately need help, who fell on hard times through no fault of their own, or even through a small misstep.

All this permissiveness and encouragement for the evil and shiftless to do as they will, will ultimately generate a backlash that will make people harsher and less caring of those who could otherwise be rescued.

Yes, some villains have tragic backstories. But in the end, whatever happens to you, you’re not a robot. You make choices on how to respond. And it is best for society — and perhaps even for you — if you are judged on those choices, even as we hold out the possibility of redemption, and (because we’re not the evil left) of forgiving evil if on balance you’re trying to and have done mostly good.

Not to judge people on their actions is the ultimate evil because It assumes people are robots who cannot choose.

Prayer Request

I don’t think I’ve ever done this, but I would like to request that those of you who pray pray for the healing of CACS, RES’s beloved spouse.

Due to the lockdowns of covidiocy and other such issues, the return of her cancer went undetected, and is now quite dangerous.

As you know — probably, as I’ve talked about it — they’ve gone from being blog commenters and acquaintances to very dear friends over the years. Even though, for various reasons, they now don’t comment much on the blog, I continue to keep in touch with them.

I have reason to believe that prayer has wrought at least one miraculous recovery for myself, as well as a turn around in various problems I’ve faced — my prayer, sure, but mostly the prayer of friends, relatives and acquaintances — and that without it I’d have died at 33.

I’m praying as hard as I can, and this is my request to you to storm the gates of heaven in prayer.

I’ve lost too many friends over the years, and I don’t want to lose another.

Book Promo And Vignettes by Luke, Mary Catelli and ‘Nother Mike

Book promo

*Sarah Update: Sorry if I worried you being so late. I am okay, only following a program of trying to bore the sickness away. So I slept very late. Definitely getting test tomorrow, since not fully cleared up. I suspect I need to change our sheets and towels, except that — of course — our washer is not working in any sense of the word. So we need to go and buy another one, which means a lot of time, and me being out of the house and around people. So, we were trying to put it off. Sigh.
ALSO, and this is said affectionately, please, please, please, stop being nutters about me dying of this. It’s possible of course, but given my health and the fun surprises it throws, I could also die of anything, including being perfectly well. I am probably not going to die right now, and I’m being very, very careful, because I know my body’s eternal quest to kill me. It’s been at this for nearly sixty years. Take heart. I’m not going quietly when I go. – SAH*

If you wish to send us books for next week’s promo, please email to bookpimping at outlook dot com. If you feel a need to re-promo the same book do so no more than once every six months (unless you’re me or my relative. Deal.) One book per author per week. Amazon links only. Oh, yeah, by clicking through and buying (anything, actually) through one of the links below, you will at no cost to you be giving a portion of your purchase to support ATH through our associates number. A COMMISSION IS EARNED FROM EACH PURCHASE.
*Note that I haven’t read most of these books (my reading is eclectic and “craving led”,) and apply the usual cautions to buying. – SAH*

FROM SARAH A. Hoyt: Darkship Renegades

A crisis can stress the best of systems. Eden, a secret colony created by a people who accept no ruler and now laws, finds its energy supply blocked by Earth. Which allows a would-be savior
to rise to power. In this science fiction adventure, between two worlds,can Athena Hera Sinistra, Earth expatriate, and her husband Kit find the long-lost tech that will allow Eden to be free once more?
And can they do so while fighting one of the ancient rulers of Earth who threatens to kill Kit by high-tech biological means?
As they battle hostile forces with the help of unreliable allies, only one thing is certain: Kit and Thena will fight every power, risk every danger and counter any attack in order to return to Eden and freedom.

Okay, so it’s way better than I thought when I was coming down with whatever this is. It’s still two novels brought together at speed, but partly, I think it needed to be to accomplish its task in the series. I did somewhat (not markedly) revise the beginning and the end, for clarity and voice.

FROM PAM UPHOFF: Destiny

Everyone has high expectations for the daughter of Dr. Quail Quicksilver. Destiny wishes they would just leave her alone.
When her own Mother can’t stop agonizing over her delayed magical abilities . . . Destiny’s had all she can take and runs off to get thoroughly lost in her Uncle Xen’s interdimensional spy web. Unfortunately, by the time she stops to check where she’s gotten to . . . she’s deep into enemy territory and there’s a Cyborg Policeman reaching for her . . .
University student Roly was just heading home for the weekend when an oddly dressed girl came careening around the corner . . . and how can any red-blooded Intel Agent on an educational leave-of-absence resists such an obvious Damsel-in-distress?
A novella length tale of two people who ought to be enemies, but opt for friendship.

FROM LAURA MONTGOMERY: His Terrible Stall: A Science Fiction Lost Colony Adventure

On a lost and stranded colony world, with his brother’s family at risk, Peter Dawe will do what he must to protect them
A lost starship’s settlers turn one valley on an alien planet into a terraformed replica of Earth. The rest of the planet offers only hardship and madness. Despite the oasis First Landing provides, the ship’s crew fled decades earlier with their fabricators, spacecraft, and knowledge when those controlling the valley threatened their freedoms.
The ship’s crew founded a separate colony on the southern plains. From there they spied on their former passengers, always fearful that the richer valley would come to take what they had. Even after a generation, the loathing persists.

FROM KAREN MYERS: Second Sight: A Science Fiction Short Story


BORROWING SOMEONE ELSE’S PERCEPTIONS FOR A POPULAR DEVICE CAN ONLY MEAN COMMERCIAL SUCCESS. RIGHT?

Samar Dix, the inventor of the popular DixOcular replacement eyes with their numerous enhancements, has run out of ideas and needs another hit. Engaging a visionary painter to create the first in a series of Artist models promises to yield an entirely new way of looking at his world.

But looking through another’s eyes isn’t quite as simple as he thinks, and no amount of tweaking will yield entirely predictable, or safe, results.

FROM CEDAR SANDERSON: Fantasy Treehouse Art & Architecture

What would you do, if a sketchbook from another world showed up on your doorstep? The pages of this book are filled with wonder, curious houses, and ideas for design that are truly unreal!

Contains more than 50 sketches of treehouses, with highly detailed renderings of their architecture. Marginalia gives hints of the world surrounding the houses, from inhabitants to the peculiar flora, fauna, and fungus. Meant to inspire creativity and influence designers.

FROM J.M.NEY-GRIMM: Faerie Tithe

Enthralled by her beauty, he loves his lady beyond all else…
Erceldoune lives with no memory of his past and no awareness of his lack. He lives in bliss because he lives in Faerie.
But one morning he awakens uneasy and chooses not to break his fast, leaving the peach nectar and almond cakes untouched. As his disquiet grows, he suppresses his discomfort and beats down his mistrust of his lady. Her goodness rivals her loveliness—she deserves all his faith.
But does she?
Unless Erceldoune embraces his doubts, he’ll never reclaim his stolen memory, history, or self—losing his very soul.
Faerie Tithe pits Faerie’s deathly perfection against mortality’s lifegiving flaws. If you enjoy stories that draw you in, heroes you long to see prevail, and worlds so vivid you feel like you’re there, you’ll love J.M. Ney-Grimm’s twist on Thomas the Rhymer.

FROM D. A. BROCK: The Lone Star, the Tricolor, and the Swastika: Republic of Texas Navy Book 2

Autumn, 1939…
The war that the Western nations have long dreaded has erupted in Europe. After the conquest of western Poland by Germany, the war on land settles into the so-called ‘Phony War’.
But the war at sea is anything but phony. Especially when the French Government accuses the Republic of Texas of providing aid to Germany. The tension escalates, and Hitler fans the flames for his own nefarious purposes.
After a devastating sneak attack, Commodore Karl von Stahlberg is thrust into command of the Texas battle fleet. Can he defend Texas against the enemy’s onslaught, or will Texas be defeated?

FROM KENNETH BENNIGHT: The Truth Shall Make You Dead: A Nacho Perez Detective Story

Nacho Perez, a retired Marine Gunnery Sergeant turned private eye, confronts a corrupt political machine in a rural Texas county. They kill his primary witness. He continues, so they kill others who cooperate. Nacho is undeterred, so they try to kill him. When he survives, they try for his daughter. Then they come to understand the admonition: no better friend, no worse enemy.

FROM 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.
Lucky for them, they have an edge: Myrrh, a hell-raider with over a thousand years’ experience shattering dark magic, and Aidan, a half-demon fire mage with a very personal grudge against evil.
The plan is simple: Find the tainted sites. Purify them. Try not to die.
They’ll need all the help they can get. Steven may be gone, but shadows in the mountains are determined to see the Demongate open – even if they have to slaughter half the city to do it. And when it comes to killing shadows, even hell-raiders don’t know everything.
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.

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: AFRAID.

Harvesting

To begin with, I’m feeling more or less well today, though there might be nappage later on. (Yes, nappage is totally a word. I’m a writer and I tell you it is. Why would you doubt me?) I’m just taking it easy (aka being lazy) so I don’t get myself sick again. Ox did message me to be slow.

Anyway, we’re getting on to harvest time, mornings are cool and crisp, and I was thinking of sowing and harvest.

We’re in the part of the country that is now right down nippy mornings and evenings. But nice. Very nice. And there’s a lot of harvesting going on.

I’m not actually friends with local farmers. (Yet. I have a way of extending weird network contacts as I live in an area) but I am friends with a bunch of people keeping backyard gardens, and I’m comforted that it’s not just me: garden harvests were almost uniformely sucky, unless you had your well rigged to water a lot. (I need to get that done next year. Our well is fine, but our watering system is iffy right now.)

And I was thinking it’s just all we need, isn’t it? A bad harvest.

Then I realized even with the best harvest in the world, this is going to be a very hard winter. Because we have morons at the controls who don’t understand where money comes from and when fuel spikes as a result of their restricting supply blame gas stations and gas companies. They — I bet you — also don’t realize how gas and gas by products go into everything we make and eat. So they will be surprised, yet again, when everything spikes in price. I guess they think it’s bad luck, or a conspiracy or something.

So…. they’ll reap what they’ve sown. Unfortunately, so will we.

I suspect it will be considerably worse in the rest of the world, but I expect it to be “tight” here, and perhaps uncomfortable.

Again, I say onto thee: prepare, prepare, prepare.

The best that can happen is that you won’t need the supplies you laid in, but you’ll have it for those up and down of normal life, including being laid off, or going through a bad storm.

The worst is that you’ll need the supplies. But then you won’t starve.

…. If worse comes to worst, my family is going to eat a lot of very weird meals. We have a lot of almond meal, and olive oil. We won’t starve, but man, we might wish to.

Make sure you have an alternate means of cooking, even if it’s “just” an hibachi.

Make sure you have pet food.

If you’re on a cpap or bipap and use water in it, lay in a supply of distilled water. It’s been considerably weird, and disappears from stores for weeks at a time.

And get ready to rebuild. I expect two to five years of heck (Not h*ll. H*ll will be other countries) and chaos and then we’ll have to rebuild. And rebuild is going to suck.

Meanwhile remember that everything you are, everything you learned and everything you can do are also seeds, and there’s an harvest for those too.

Look, as I should know, when your job/way of doing business/customary means of making a living gets suddenly destroyed, you feel like you were suddenly run over by a truck, and like you don’t know how to go on.

It’s not real. It’s just how humans react to sudden shock. And it is actually a physical in many ways. This is why buying a new house you really wanted causes the same issues as losing your spouse. Your body doesn’t like disrupted routine. Remember that. It’s happening, but it’s not what it seems to be.

There’s a whole of disruption ahead: remember that. Play the scenarios through in your mind, so when it happens you don’t waste time feeling depressed or like you’re a failure, or whatever. Just pivot on to plan B. Plan C. Plan D. etc.

All of us have seeded deeply and will have a decent harvest.

If you’re one of the few who haven’t, seed now, while you have time.

Build over, build under, build around. Get ready to take the weight when everything falls on our shoulders.

Atlas would like to shrug. But since there is no Galt’s Gulch and we’re stuck here with the idiots? Get ready to take the weight, until the structure can relieve us. Minimize the damage and the death. It’s what we do. It’s who we are.

Go.

Strange

First of all, judging by some panicked messages I got, you all got ENTIRELY the wrong idea. I’m not “seriously ill” and nowhere near the point I would consider ER. (Or Dan would consider ER, even.) I’m actually — still — not even sure it’s a “bug” at all and not “merely” auto-immune. Right now, what I have is EXTREME tiredness, some cough (but mostly sneezing) and probably (though I can’t find the thermometer) very mild fever. All of these, alas, are in the repertoire of my auto-immune. Much worse is in the repertoire of my auto-immune, in fact. I have reason to believe one of my doctors, for about ten years, diagnosed me with pneumonia when they were in fact severe auto-immune attacks. (When he retired, the next health care practitioner (actually a male NP) looked at me and said “Oh, it’s auto-immune” and gave me prednisone, which cleared it all right up like magic.)

This is not severe, though, except for my feeling like I’d like to sleep a lot, and like everything is a great deal of effort and also (the almost for sure mild fever) my tendency to get “lost” in the middle of doing something, and the truly weird dreams. (Also the too-hot too cold which alternated all night.)

Also, for those suspecting Wuflu, not only haven’t I lost my sense of smell and taste, but they seem HIDEOUSLY magnified. I put a few grains of pepper on dinner, and suddenly it’s too hot. A no-sugar lemonade mix I normally love suddenly tastes too “artificial” to endure. There is a weird smell in the hallway, undetected by everyone else, which is driving me BONKERS. Etc.

Also, the tests for Wuflu are PRC tests and massively unreliable. I’ll still have one, if I still have symptoms on Monday, simply because it’s courtesy not to join a meeting (on Friday) when I might be contagious.

Right now, I’m trying to get rid of whatever this is by boring it. By which I mean sleeping a lot, or at least lying down in the dark, with my eyes closed. Normally it works.

However I feel slightly cheated, since when I’m in this state my dreams tend to be wonderful fodder for stories. In fact I have an entire space opera earmarked to write from one of those dreams a few months ago.

Last night, otoh, I had a dream entirely in German. This worries me, because I no longer understand German well enough to translate it accurately. (No, I don’t know how I can dream in a language I can’t remember, but indeed I did.) As far as I can tell, one of those dreams kept telling me to “look in the kitchen.” And “It’s important to make cookies.” All of which achieved a magnified, horrific meaning in my dreams. I really don’t feel like making or eating cookies, except maybe meringue, and that’s the fault of one of you (you know very well who you are.)

Oh, yeah, I also had this amazingly detailed dream in which I scripted AND DREW a comic called “Lawdog Takes On The Sharks.” Some of you also probably know why.

It was rather charming. Lawdog was an old-West sheriff in a town populated by shifters who, most of the time, didn’t bother to get out of their animal forms. (Of note here, Lawdog’s Lady was a very cute white kitten, with black markings that gave the effect of a 20s short and sexy haircut, and she wore a dress with little hearts on it, and was the town’s school marm. So, my brain is weird.) The town is invaded by a gang of shifter-sharks, who can in fact breathe air and walk on their fins. (Yes, landsharks.) The cover, which I spent about half the night drawing and painting, was full color of a fox in a vest and gun belt squaring off against a shark standing on his tailfins.

Okay, fine, so I did dream stories, just probably not one I can use. I will confess I’m now wondering if I still have enough art skill left to in fact draw the comic.

Anyway, the reason this might be an autoimmune attack, is that I was trying to get Darkship Renegades out in time, and y’all remember what Amazon put me through last time, right?

It took me longer, because I realized that the front end still read as bizarrely stilted to me as I was afraid it was. So, that got re-written at least some. It still should have been two novels — if I were writing it now — but you know what? Having read it through and sent it out for a last minute typo hunt, it’s not bad at all. It’s not as good as I could make it now, but then again, what is?

However, it was a bunch of contretemps right up to the wire, including having to upload the manuscript for print version four times, before I realized there was no way, with Atticus, to have a page called acknowledgements without it being too long. (I couldn’t change the type for just one page.) So I have a page childishly called “thank you.”

And then, to crown it all, after I uploaded the book, I had absolute and total radio silence from Amazon. Being paranoid by nature, I sat here going “Are they not even going to reject it? Just ignore it.” And then, without even asking for proof of reversal (To be fair, the reversal letter I uploaded before had all the books in it) it just approved them. I’m now wondering if changing the first ten and enlarging the last ten pages did it. Perhaps their bot only checks those?

Anyway, I already feel better, which means I might have been making myself ill with worry about whether it would go through before the end of the month (I’m trying to have at least one book out — re-release or new — a month. Note that I will probably start having two, because I’m writing short novels for the months with re-releases. We’ll see. I’m coming up to speed s-l-o-w-ly, but still better than I was. And yes, it’s absolutely mental to get myself so nervous over Amazon approving the release that I make myself ill. Do you think I do it on purpose? I very much try to stay calm, but I think all I’ve achieved in almost sixty years is to tell myself I’m perfectly calm, while the freakout makes me ill.

At any rate, the whole thing seems to have gone through very easily, so I feel even dumber. I’m baffled, but relieved. It’s here, if you guys feel a need to get it. I’ll put it on the book promo, with my associate link later.

Now I need to finish revising bowl of red to send to betas. But not just now. There’s a nap calling my name. Also I’ve been desperately craving creamy soup and crusty bread. The soup is easy (I’ve bought cauliflower for thickening) but the crusty bread takes some effort, as I have to make it from einkorn, or it will mess up the autoimmune even more. I don’t know if I feel up to it/will feel up to it for a while. We’ll see after the nap.

Sorry for the long, surreal post. More coherent tomorrow for sure. At any rate, don’t worry. I’m fine, just really tired, and only wanting to eat things with barely any taste.

Did Anyone Get That Truck’s License Number?

’cause I’m fairly sure I was run over.

I have some kind of cold “thing.” Yes, if it persists will get checked. Yes, I’m aware that if it is the Chinese plague, although it’s now mostly inoffensive it can — rarely and weirdly — take a fatal turn in some individuals. As someone who almost died of “just a cold” at 33, I suspect this happens with other respiratory illnesses, too.

So, it being I’m almost 60, I’m not taking it cavalierly. IF I’m not well by Monday, I’ll have to get a wuflu test and, if positive, even if massively unreliable, cancel thing in KC next weekend. I’m very much hoping I don’t have to do that.

The main symptom, other than very mild congestion and fever is that I am EXHAUSTED. While I can force myself to sort of function — I just uploaded all versions of Darkship Renegades* and am now in the “When does Amazon send back fighting words?” phase — it’s a lot of effort. To the point that it took me like 3 hours to brave myself to take a shower. It seemed like a really STEEP mountain to climb.

So while waiting for Amazon to get ugly, I’m going to take a nap. There will PROBABLY be a real post later, but I don’t know how much later. Could very well be this evening, because SO TIRED.

Depends on how annoying Amazon gets.

Also, no didn’t forget to send out electronic rewards. I will be (slowly) working on it starting probably tomorrow. I THINK if I send them out in small batches I can not trigger the “We’re going to brick your email, you evil spammer.” We’ll see. If it fails, we’ll have to get WAY more creative.

Now I go zzzz for an hour or so. If you catch the truck, get me the plate number.

In Praise of Broken — A blast from the Past from June 2012

I woke up with all symptoms of a bad cold. I still have to put DSR up for pre-order. BUT there will be a nap before it. (I’m not sure if it’s a cold or allergy, but I suspect a cold because I feel exhausted and allergy doesn’t do that.) So I thought I’d do a blast from the past. I hope that’s okay.

In Praise of Broken — A blast from the Past from June 2012

If I had a dime for every time I’ve read that “every baby should be planned” and that “every puppy should be wanted” and that “everyone should have a fulfilling occupation” I’d have too many dimes to be contained in the universe.  But the question is: would every dime be shiny?

What are you getting at Sarah?

What I am getting at is that many people seem to have completely lost track of the distinction between ideal and actual.  Let me spell it out for you: ideal exists only as a perfect thing in your mind.  Like the battle plan not surviving contact with the enemy, it will never survive contact with reality.

That perfectly planned child will suddenly become unplanned when it turns out to be a girl, rather than a boy, or a boy rather than a girl.  Or when he/she turns out to have a personality completely different from what his parents’ expected.  While IQ might be broadly inheritable, at least in components (mostly from the mother, interestingly enough) the way it’s expressed isn’t necessarily.  So you’ll have the bookish parents with the mechanically gifted child, or vice-versa.  Planned?  Who told you you could plan a chaotic system?  It’s sort of like planning your day tomorrow – you’d best have three layers of plans in case it rains, in case a wildfire comes through, in case it’s fine and beautiful.  And even then, it will find a way to surprise you.

And the puppy who was so wanted?  The family that adopted him will get sick and have to give him away.  They’ll unexpectedly lose their jobs.  The puppy will turn out to have a condition that’s not fatal but is a life-long drain and expense.  Or something else will happen you can’t predict.

But, Sarah, you say, shouldn’t we PLAN for the ideal?  Then we just adapt to less than ideal.

It depends on the plan.  There is a type of positive planning, in which you leave the route open to the wonder of the broken (yes, I’ll explain) and the negative planning, where you won’t take anything less than absolute perfection.  The negative planning is usually what you get when government bureucrats or do-gooding busybodies get involved.

It concentrates on NOT LETTING the less than ideal happen.  These are the people who think you should be licensed to have children, after you pass classes that say you’re an ideal parent in THEIR WAY.  The people who think every unplanned baby should be aborted or killed up to three months after birth (you only think I’m joking.)  These are the people who post on craigslist screaming at people giving away puppies and kittens that they are terrible people and should have had their animal spayed.

Let’s leave aside for a moment the fact that I think overpopulation is lies, damn lies and statistics and that in fact the current worldwide crisis is caused by population ALREADY falling.  (I confess the evidence is circumstantial and thin, but there is some and – more importantly – the evidence on the other side is dubious and suffers from wrong-process.)  That’s the subject for a whole post and one I don’t have the energy to write right now.  Let’s leave aside the fact that I think our obsession with spaying and neutering in fact can act (is acting?) as a sort of reverse selective breeding, pushing cats and dogs back to non-domesticated (no?  We keep the cutest/friendliest from reproducing.)  And also that in some areas of the country – here – you either buy a breed dog, adopt a dog who turned out less than ideal for someone else, or … adopt a puppy imported from elsewhere.  In Colorado puppies seem to come from Texas.  But in some places they come from abroad.  Cats are more abundant because… they’re cats and harder to catch and confine.

Let’s instead look at the other side of the coin, and why negative planning for the ideal and temper tantrums at people who don’t follow your version of ideal, are stupid: because broken plans and broken ideals often come as a blessing.

Sorry to use the religious term, but I don’t know how else to express it.  Sometimes the crisis-unplanned turns out to be the best thing you ever got.

Right after our cat Pete died, we found ourselves adopting Euclid because otherwise he was going to be euthanized because he had an uti and our humane society euthanizes those, so it doesn’t spread throughout the pens.  We had about twenty minutes in which to decide.  We had – G-d knows – enough cats.  But he would have died otherwise.  We adopted him.

Yes, Euclid is broken in interesting ways.  My son calls him a feline Woody Allen.  Only Woody Allen isn’t into extreme body modification, while Euclid chews off his leg hair and gives himself a poodle cut.  Also, some right b*stard trained Euclid to fabric before we got him, which is why we can’t have rugs on our floors, not till Euclid departs this vale of tears. (On the good side, Euclid doesn’t show any propensity to love on adopted daughters.  Of course, he doesn’t have any.  Um…)

But in the days after 9/11, when it seemed I could not stop crying, he was the cat who came and loved on me.  He’s the one who sits on you when you’re sick or worried, and purrs and reassures you all is well in the world.  And sometimes that purr is your only connection to happiness.

Or let’s look at how many not only unplanned but disastrously unplanned children go on and make the world a better place.  Right now it’s early morning and only Leonardo DaVinci – unplanned, illegitimate, broken in interesting ways – comes to mind, but I know there are scores of others.  (Yes, there’s also people like Hitler – but there is no indication that it was the fact they were unplanned that sent them spinning towards evil.)

A friend who had a terrible childhood once told me that she supported abortion unconditionally, because it would have been much better to be aborted than to be abused.  What she was missing was that her parents would never have aborted her.  She WAS planned and needed in the family: as a scape goat.  The kids that get aborted in that type of calculus are the ones whose parents are afraid they can’t give them the very best – just like the animals who get spayed are those whose owners fear that they can’t find good enough homes for the litters – not those that are born to be mistreated.

Part of this, I think, is that our life has become so good compared to that of our ancestors that we think we can push it just a little further and make it ideal.

Every baby will be wanted!  Every pet will be loved!  And there shall be no more tears and suffering!

Never works.  Ever.  There will always be people who need a kid as a scape goat.  And even if you certified parents there will be parents who are fine young, and then get some illness or some other problem and – there you have it.  Less than ideal.  And before you say “but then the kids can be taken away” think of strangers evaluating and deciding family life from the outside.

I was a disastrously unplanned child, born premature with all the problems that implies.  I had the world’s sickliest childhood.  Mom has health problems that make her less than an ideal parent.  (She knows this.  She never wanted children.  She ended up with two of us by accident.)  Were there rough patches?  Oh, sure.  Aren’t there in everyone’s life?  But my family has a shared sense of humor, which helped.  And I got to live and write, and marry and have kids of my own.  Would it be better if I never existed because I wasn’t wanted?  Or even because I would, of necessity, always be at least partly broken?

Some of the best pets I’ve had have been mutts or even feral babies whom I tamed.  Right now we have Havey-cat whom we found on a mini-golf course, starved and covered in grease, and with a broken tail.  He now presents and behaves as a Turkish van.  Is he?  At least partially, probably.  But he’s not less loved because he came to us when we were maxed out on cats and definitely not in the market for one who is a fuzz machine (we’re all mildly allergic to cats.)  And he is, again, one of those animals who can lift your mood, because he’s a born clown and still kitten-like after three years.

Oh, yeah, and through no fault of anyone, I never fit in Portugal.  But my askew childhood and youth – difficult as they were in living them – resulted in my falling in love with a stranger from a strange land, and finding home that way.

Will some percentage of children you give up for adoption be abused?  Inevitable.  A controlling system can’t prevent that.  No system can.  What it can do is keep children trapped in foster care or convince people to abort rather than put the kids up for adoption.  Will some percentage of kittens given away end up as snake food?  Inevitable.  No system can prevent that.  I doubt it’s as many as we’ve been led to believe, though.  Most cats throughout history have been pets and not snake food.  Most humans are predisposed to at least not mistreat pets.  Call it co-evolution.

Look at your lives: really look.  Could you have planned everything that happened?  Would your ideal life have been REALLY better?

Take my career: did I intend to have my first trilogy tank, trapping me in ten years of midlist hell?  Well, no.  But let’s imagine it had succeeded.  I’d now be stuck in the “literary fantasy” niche, which btw pays lousily and where they expect only one book every two years.  Worse, I found by my third book that while I can do it and even enjoy it to an extent, if I do nothing but that I become horribly depressed.

But the trilogy failed, and I was broke, and we were paying on two houses and I was fixing the “old” house for sale, and I couldn’t find a day job.  Then Jim Baen offered me money.  Then Berkley paid me to write Plain Jane.  My heart was broken, I didn’t want to write anymore.  The dream was gone.

But I needed money, and so I wrote, and even through the hell of six-books-a-year the dream came back.  And now I’m facing the chance for a better career than I hoped for AND I have the skills of incredible amounts of practice under pressure.

Would I have chosen this route?  No.  Was it rough as heck at times?  Yep.  Would I wish it undone?  No.  I wouldn’t wish any of the books unwritten.  I wouldn’t wish what I learned unlearned.

There is no perfect upbringing – for man or beast.  There is no ideal situation that can’t be reversed.  There isn’t any reason to believe that wanted – animals or humans – are better.  There isn’t any reason to believe the most peaceful places or eras are better.  Yes, the fourteenth century was a terrible time, but it gave us the renaissance and, eventually, the enlightenment.

Taking the broken and doing the best we can with it is all we can do.

And sometimes it’s much better than the ideal could have been.