We’re The Pinnacle of Civilization — Just Like Everyone Else

The past is another country…  And they’d laugh their a**es off at us if we went there.

It struck me for the first time a few years ago on that Tor symposium on Heinlein that humans – perhaps all humans – have a necessity to view history as a ladder and themselves – or their generation, their kind, their club, their kin – at its pinnacle.

To a certain extent, for a long time, this view was encouraged by the sheer material success and each generation being a little better off than the last – and to an extent a little more knowledgeable, a little more in control of their environment.

But what happens when something is in decline?  When a civilization hits one of those potholes that it does hit?  (Note that like the Heinlein quote above I believe the future is always better than the past – but there are areas where the golden age turns to silver, or bronze, or saw dust.  And there are places and times where the clock of control/comfort/civilization runs backward.  Inevitable.  Humans are humans and civilizations are composed of humans, so they can’t just march straight forward like machines.

What I’ve seen is that when material civilization and objective markers of achievement have marched backwards, we tend to compensate with moral preening.

Hence, the middle ages (yes, I know, there wasn’t a total collapse.  The collapse was greatly exaggerated, etc.  BUT in many of the places the hey day of Pax Romana was followed by the strife and squirmish of the barbarians, invasions, warring petty lords.  And yes, a lot of the daily comforts were lost, because a lot of the trading was lost.)

Of course, even the most dirt poor peasant in the Middle Ages could and did preen himself on being a Christian, not like those pagans.  Now, I’m not going to knock down the moral merits of Christianity versus paganism, nor is this a place for it.  (I think part of the exceptional qualities of the Western civilizations are because of first Rome and then Christianity.  But that’s not the point here.  The point is that–) Often these Christians weren’t particularly Christian.  Improperly digested catechizes and a lifetime of tilling the ground for subsistence gave a veneer of Christianity to a lot of pagan superstition.  (No, you can’t argue that.  That still described probably ¼ the Christians I grew up with.  Things get passed on…)  And some of the pagans were neo-platonic and probably fairly close to the Christian ideal.

This didn’t stop the preening or the sense of attainment.

I wonder how the culture warriors today would react to being compared to those fairly ignorant peasant Christians who nonetheless preened on the certainty they were better than their forebears because they were more “moral?”

No, wait, I know exactly how they’d react.  Yes, I’m smiling right now.

But in point of fact, that’s exactly what they’re like.  No, our material civilization hasn’t collapsed.  And if we’re very lucky (brother, it hurts to type with my fingers all crossed) it won’t.  But to an extent – knowledge, ability, craftsmanship and what the French call savoir faire – it has been on a downward trend for a while.

If you want to know why, look at the demographic bulge of the boomers and the idea of the time (visible in a lot of Heinlein books) that the next generation would be bigger than the last.  A lot of this is not the BOOMERS’ fault as such, but the fault of those who gave on teaching on controlling “that many kids” – and of course on the few rotten apples who took over colleges and demanded easier curriculums.

There was a belief that whatever the young wanted was “right.”  This combined with a lot of fast changes after World War II and…

Sometimes I feel like my generation (no, not boomers, again, simply on experience.  Our class sizes were shrinking, by then) has spent most of its life learning stuff no one taught us.  From religious doctrine to how to cook from scratch, I had to go out and learn on my own, because the people who were supposed to teach me were either boomers who’d never learned, or the generation before them who had “given up on that old stuf.”

There are certain arts of living, like how to iron a shirt properly, or a lot of home maintenance, which I had to discover like… an archeologist digging through the past.

And in my field, specifically, a novel from the bad old pulp years could outsell a modern novel (you know, full of significance and meaning, but often nothing else) by a factor of a hundred.

Yes, I’ve heard the excuses “movies, television, games.”  To which I say Mierda de Toro.  And possibly caballo too.

These entertainment forms don’t supersede each other.  And besides, there are still a lot of us who read by preference, for entertainment.  And we often have trouble finding anything to read… and often end up re-reading those old pulps.

I wonder if there’s authors out there who don’t know this?  Perhaps at this point the reflex to attack the pulps and the writers of the past is just that, a reflex, and not for a reason the authors know.

Or perhaps they know it.  Perhaps they know they’re in a diminished age, and their craft, their ability to engage the reader and drag him through the story is not what those other writers’ was.  Perhaps deep inside they suspect it, at the very least.

Because lor’ there is enough moral preening to sink a boat.

Someone posted in my conference a link to an author interview, where the interviewer and the writer were agreeing she was not “like the rest of science fiction.”

I speak fluent Female Prog Bragging, so this was like waving a red (eh) flag in front of a bull. I said some unkind things, and my husband (!) sprang to the defense.  My friend Dorothy calls her husband “calmer half” – well mine is “reasonable half.”  And you see, he didn’t grow up in a Marxist country, so he is not as attuned to signs of trouble.  He gives people the benefit of the doubt.

He said she really might be different and new and good, even if she sounded a little literary.  And then he went and downloaded five chapters of one of her novels.

And he was disappointed.  He said it wasn’t so much because it wasn’t that… interesting, but because it was so “generic” – like every other SF out there, written by a woman of a certain generation and appealing to a certain demographic.  And he asked me “How can she think it’s unique?”

And then I had to explain that – like the people who object to “male dominated science fiction” – these people are not in fact comparing themselves to any science fiction that exists… or existed.

Even in the fifties there were women writing science fiction and women tended to play a greater role in SF than in many parts of real life.  Certainly than in any literature but Romance.

They have never read Heinlein (they might have skimmed till they found something to be offended at, but that’s not the same.)  They certainly have never read Simak, or Schmitz, or even Asimov (though strangely, given his politics, one often got the impression HIS women were mere props.  Never mind.)  And I don’t have time/inclination/spoons left to go over my bookshelf and quote other names from the fifties, sixties, seventies… not to mention today.  And let’s do keep in mind that the seventies were FIFTY years ago, and that we had plenty of women writing both SF and Fantasy.  (I am writing a thing about that for PJmedia.)

And yet, today, women can without a trace of irony make the following statements, (I’ve heard them, in panels) – my novel is totally different.  It has a strong female main character.  (No, really?  Astound us.  Is there a strong male character that’s not legacy still being published?  In recent years?)  and “I’m not like all those old pulp science fiction novels.  I care about ideas and what they mean to people.”  (You mean, like whether an ant-like civilization would be preferable to human; or what happens when a supercomputer runs the world; or what happens when a cloud becomes intelligent; or the complexities of rebuilding a civilization built on the Catholic church after a nuclear holocaust; or whether our dreams exist in another dimension; or–  Those pulp non-ideas?)  Or – in fact, over the recent kerfuffle – how they’re writing stories about people of different genders, you know, away from the stifling conquering male of the past… or… how YA (interview above) had no cache for years and years (really?  It wasn’t a preferential genre, but it was as well regarded as the rest of sf/f.  Maybe better regarded.  At least since the mid century.)

Do they really believe this?  Are they so devoid of knowledge of the field that they believe that all that lies behind there is cartoon-like sci fi, not even rising to the level of Star Trek?

Surely not.  These writers, so surely they read.  And the evidence of the past is very much with us.

On the other hand, reading past giants is like to make present day pigmies aware of their lack of reach.  Much easier to preen and pretend to moral superiority.  Even if that can only be maintained by never reading those people you deride.  Much easier to keep claiming “but we’re better” by pretending the past was this comic-bookish simple place where simple souls lived; simple souls steeped in the sins of sexism, racism, homophobia, classism and whatever the latest “privilege” of the day is.

This disturbs me, because I hate to see history raped.  BUT it is easier.

Much, much easier.  Because we know we don’t have the sales numbers.  But if we can say we are more moral, more evolved, we’re still better.  They were discriminatory meanies, and we’re not!

And that all that sense of superiority and $3 will get them a cup of coffee.

Will studying the masters fix the problem.  Probably not.  Attracting readers back will take time.  And studying the masters will take also knowing their time and what appealed to their time that won’t work in ours.  (Jane Austen, for instance, wrote markedly less visual books than we do.  No TV among her audience, so techniques were different.)  It involves reading old and new or and what is different, and what to keep and ditch of both.  And it involves actually trying to be original and think for yourself.

Or you can continue fighting a phantom and claiming you won.  It’s not like any of those guys from pulp years are going to complain after all.

But what will the future think of us?  And how hard will they laugh at our pretensions?

386 responses to “We’re The Pinnacle of Civilization — Just Like Everyone Else

  1. Wish I could find the link right now, but I recently read an obituary for a feminist writer in which it was claimed that she had invented the trope of a single-sex society. Back in the 1970’s…

    Rly?

    • LOL!!!

      Poul Anderon, Virgin Planet (1959). Or to go back a bit further, Charlotte Perkins Gilman, Herland (1915). Actually, the idea goes back all the way to the Amazons of Greek mythology.

      • A few days ago I mentioned Judith Merrill’s “Survival Ship.” 1950 or so.

        • Female society on a generation ship, with a few male studs viewed with condescension.

          • If you’re going to include a few males, then there’s the Lyranians in Doc Smiths’ Lensmen series.

            “One male for approximately 100 females, for about a year, then they calmly blasted his mind and disposed of his corpse.” Or something similar to that.

    • Christopher M. Chupik

      The Ancient Greeks? The Amazons? Sheeeeesh.

    • There’s also Mizora by Mary E. Bradley Lane, published in 1880. She thought of a primitive version of Facetime/face-to-face instantaneous communication. And a few other interesting things. It’s very cold and barren though.

  2. “Are they so devoid of knowledge of the field…”

    Yes.

    Yes, they certainly are.

    As you mentioned, they don’t know of James Schmitz. They’ve never encountered most of the great SF authors from before 1980 or so, aside from film adaptations of a few novels (Dune, for example), and most of them don’t know anything about the actual texts.

    One short story by A. E. van Vogt is probably the most influential piece of horror writing of the last hundred years – “The Black Destroyer” – but I haven’t met a writer under 30 who’s read it, or even heard of it. But everyone’s seen “Alien,” or one of its countless ripoffs.

    Fredric Brown?

    Robert Sheckley? Ha. Read his “Watchbird” from 1953.

    Eric Frank Russell? Who?

    Cordwainer Smith? Their heads would explode before they finished the first page…

    The good news? A lot of these authors are becoming available again – cheaply – for people with Kindles and other e-readers. The “Megapack” series of 99 cent Kindle books are great for catching up.

  3. The flip side of all this is that, among a certain segment, decline is in fasion and has been for quite some time.

    Back in the day on an old online service (the Internet existed, but it had not yet really begun to take off) GEnie, there was a Science Fiction Roundtable. As a member of SFWA (I was once under the belief that membership might help my career. What can I say; we’re all young and stupid once.) I had a “freeflag” to this group.

    So, in one discussion I pointed out that one of the things I didn’t care about in Tolkien was this idea that that the world was in perpetual decline. Yes, I’m aware of the mythic underpinnings of such a structure–classic myth with it’s Gold, Silver, and Iron ages, each progressively worse than the one before. Still, it didn’t fit my world view and that was a source of frustration with the world of Middle Earth and since the world is very much a character, in some ways the main character, well…

    I got jumped on by a Special Snowflake who insisted that of course the world is in decline. We’re all worse off than our ancestors were.

    Wait. What?

    I pointed out that all Caesar’s wealth could not have bought him a single Tylenol(r) for his headache to be met with a response that the Romans had access to Opium.

    So, the answer to a proxy for modern medicine even at the low end was that they had opium?

    But the kicker was when someone else told me that she (yes, it was a she) would have to get used to having slaves do all the stuff we do with machines today, but it would really be no worse than living today.

    Wait. What?

    First off, having machines rather than slaves to do menial chores is not in and of itself a major improvement on past society? Did she really mean that?

    But the real question is, what unbridled hubris led her to think she would be the slave owner instead of the slave?

    • And, in fact, this looks like good topic for a blog post. So thanks, Sarah, for giving me something to blog about. 😉

    • Because she is “real” and the slaves aren’t. THAT is the real truth. The cry of the narcissist.
      And no, she wouldn’t have been okay in Rome. She would have died screaming…

      • Would she have been okay in any other time ours?

        • Here’s a dinnertime conversation-killer: Go around the table and figure out who, absent modern medicine, would still be alive?

          • My older brother and I have terrible eyesight (can’t see the big “E”), so thank goodness for glasses and contacts. He used to joke that both of us would have been eaten by sabertooth cats, back in the day, failing both the sufficient eyesight and sufficient speed requirements for survival.

            On the other hand, there’s some evidence that a lot of bad eyesight (and crowded jaws) may be related to crossing population characteristics (more modern mixing) (and we were ourselves a product of Odessa x Antwerp), so maybe our phenotype might not have been so badly off.

            • I wonder if we have some of the same ancestors (bad eyesight and crowded jaws — small mouth as well). I have had laser surgery in the mid 1990s. But the gain was the ability to think pretty clearly until I had to take chemo–

              • Yep, laser surgery in the 90’s here to, and although I know many who would vehemently contest the fact, according to my orthodontist when I was a kid I had a small mouth also.

                • Yea– recently I was having some real dental problems caused by meds I have to take (leaches out the calcium and other important stuff). Anyway my mouth is the size of an older child — Adult mold for a dental impression was way too big. My jaw cracks after they work on my teeth–

                  • They put a miniature jack in the roof of my mouth as a kid and every morning I would have to put a key in it and jack my upper jaw another notch apart. And yeah it felt about like it sounds, as it got close to the final dimensions they wanted my vision would start to kind of grey out around the edges when my jaw was jacked apart.

                    • Gawd I feel for you– It sounds like torture and not helpful at all.

                    • My husband had eight teeth pulled at eighteen — same reason.

                    • The advantage of jacking my jaw open was that the only teeth I ended up having pulled were my wisdom teeth. Not sure if it was worth it or not, though.

                    • Of course– all of my wisdom teeth were impacted (it was horrible getting that taken care of) and I had a couple of teeth pulled so I would have room in my mouth.

                    • I had nasty impactions — fortunately only the wisdom teeth — but my mother arrived to pick me up and the receptionist asked her to wait, because it was taking longer than expected, and boy was it going to be sore.

                      it was three nights before I slept through the night; the industrial strength painkiller wore off at two the first night and three the second — three in the morning being when I took it on schedule.

                      At that, I was the healthiest person in the household. Everyone else was down with the flu. I managed to put that off until Monday, which helped.

                • Boy, I didn’t (and don’t) have a small mouth. But my teeth were even bigger, in proportion, so I still didn’t have enough room for them all, and had to have some removed to make room.

                  Which makes me wonder if, when I get my DNA results back in a few weeks, if they are going to tell me I have horse DNA mixed in there somehow. 🙂

            • It’s surprisingly easy to function without decent eyesight if you’re not required to do things like drive— when my glasses broke and it took a few weeks to get a new pair, my eyes adapted so that I could make out signs, and I couldn’t see past my hand at that point. I sure wouldn’t have been anybody’s pick for “person to shoot at prey,” but I could do gathering well enough.

              • A guy I know online suffered cataracts and he was posting once about what he could do (and not do) while legally blind. For instance, if you’re calling for a square dance, you need to see well enough to tell when a square did something wrong and needs a moment to recover — and he could do it.

                • I knew a guy who was legally blind and drove his whole life, he just drove slow because he couldn’t see where he was going. Finally in his eighties he got laser surgery, and then with his glasses he could see good enough to get a daytime drivers license.

          • young people. I didn’t get all my medical conditions until after I hit menopause. Young–as in 15–35– would make it. Young healthy people.

            • I didn’t get my medical condition until I hit 41– so yea. I was in excellent health the rest of the time including rarely getting a cold or virus.

            • Birthday girl

              Yeah, there’s a reason the “retirement age” was set at 65. Because the majority of people were dead before that age.

          • Bah. Not me. Born twenty years earlier or so, per-penicilin, and I’d be a gonner.

            • We forget, even the healthiest among us, about little things like stepping on a nail, pnemonia, strep . . . There aren’t many people who’ve never had an antibiotic, or needed that tetanus shot.

              • One of the saddest and most revealing experiences for me in coming to grips with how perilous life was before antibiotics and vaccinations was a trip to a frontier cemetery in Fredericksburg, Texas. It was one which had only been in use for about fifteen ears – http://www.celiahayes.com/archives/334
                It was full of children’s graves. Of the fifty or so in it, forty were of children; babies who only lived for a few hours or days, older children taken by an epidemic or accident of something now taken care of by a vaccination, a course of antibiotics, or a spell in neo-natal intensive care.

                As for the discussion of which of us would not have survived without modern medicine? Grim stuff – but my mother had extremely difficult forceps deliveries; altogether possible that she would have died in childbirth with me. And I was plagued with earaches and tonsillitis – which likely would have carried me off before the age of ten or so.

            • Without medicine allowing surgery, the brother who came right after me wouldn’t be alive today. (I should try to remind myself of that next time he’s annoying me.)

          • And going the other way, as someone pointed out to me — if you could time-travel to the Middle Ages, and weren’t killed by a bug that hadn’t mutated yet, you’d still soon be dead: 1) as soon as you opened your mouth and they saw your teeth (in ‘way too good a shape for your age), you’d likely be put on trial as a witch; 2) your unfamiliarity with local culture would get you marked as a foreigner, thus not particularly trusted in many, many places; 3) “an armed society is a polite society” – most of us don’t have reliable speech habits that would keep us in, or alive in, an upper class – nor skills to earn our way in the middle class (you’re a writer? So – how do you go about getting a noble sponsor? How’s your calligraphy with a quill pen? etc.)

            • Not so much on the burned for a witch thing, unless you ended up in a very pagan area (wrong kind of witch) or the tail end of the middle ages, and my grandfather had perfect teeth without having ever been to a dentist– in spite of growing up poor and during the heyday of massive sugar use. Unusual, yeah, but your fillings would probably be a bigger problem.

              • The only problem with fillings is that everybody would want to know how your Byzantine physician did it, and they’d wonder why you were so incurious as not to be able to describe the whole process.

                • So we’re down to the “get robbed and killed doing something obviously stupid because we have no idea it’s stupid” area, aren’t we?

                • Use a burr and drill out the carrie, then knead together the silver and mercury, tamp into the cavity, and let harden. Then undo the restraining straps. Easy as pie.
                  When I was a kid they mixed the amalgam by hand, and I am told they would have some spillage of mercury that they would have to clean up.

          • Arwen Riddle

            Did that with my siblings once. I think we figured about three out the seven would have made it to adulthood.

          • Both of my parents would have died before I was born.

            If they hadn’t, one or more of my childhood infections would have killed me.

        • not even as a lady in the regency… We’re breeding some truly special flowers.

      • “And no, she wouldn’t have been okay in Rome. She would have died screaming…”
        If she was very lucky. But more likely as an abused field slave herself, of old age, at 40.
        Or to quote my favorite Jeff Dunham puppet character Walter, Dumba$$!

    • Dear oh dear oh dear … and I recollect from reading so many late Victorian housekeeping manuals and treatises of what a problem it was to find and keep reliable help, and how all those nifty labor-saving devices for doing cooking, cleaning and laundry (especially the electrified ones) were such a boon to woman-kind. Mechanical housekeeping aids did the jobs without being nagged, didn’t spy on their employers and gossip about them, didn’t thieve, and over time were cheaper and more reliable.
      Middle-class housewives welcomed mechanization enthusiastically. Likely the servant class was not quite so enthusiastic – but then mechanization of various enterprises also offered better pay than being a live-in servant. I don’t think your Special Snowflake really thought it through at all.

    • “But the real question is, what unbridled hubris led her to think she would be the slave owner instead of the slave?”

      Being a girl, she would have been very likely died shortly after birth or been raised in a brothel. (Impossible to tell which, since they didn’t keep statistics.)

    • William O. B'Livion

      What can I say; we’re all young and stupid once.

      I’ve only been young once. I’ve been stupid lots.

    • Octavia E. Butler was a black female science fiction author who graduated from my high school. So the school invited her to talk to the students (and she graciously accepted). It was a pretty good talk where she spoke about some of the ideas that she’d come up with. And she talked about one of her novels in which a modern day young black woman gets sent back in time and is a slave in the South. She said that the reason that she made the protagonist a young black woman as opposed to a young black man is because a typical modern day young black man would have been too arrogant to survive the experience.

      Just something that came to mind when I saw a reference to someone thinking that replacing slaves with machines wasn’t such a big deal.

      • Susan Shepherd

        Yeah, I get the feeling a lot of modern-born folk would be in trouble there.

        How many of us hear an interesting conversation and just jump in? How many of us assume that when several people argue about something, the one who knows the most relevant info is worth hearing out, even if they’re “merely” a plumber and not a doctor or professor or priest? How many of us would automatically object to being shoved, or told to get off the platform and step in the mud so that some delicate gentleman or lady could pass by in their finery?

        I’d make an effort to adapt to the new situation, but I’d have to survive (without being jailed or beaten or killed) for a while first, which is tricky.

        • In some of those things, being Americans would work particularly badly against us. Our Beloved Hostess often puts it that we are the annoying Aspie kid on the world stage, who takes words seriously and actually expects legal equality and meritocracy. As the story goes:
          “Where is your master, man?”
          “The bastard was never born.”

        • In his novel Sackett’s Land L’Amour’s protagonist is forced to flee England because he defended himself when a noble tried to beat him. Modern fools tend to forget that until recent times an individual had few rights that a higher-ranked individual was required to respect.

          De Camp’s novel Lest Darkness Fall ably explores the problems of inventing the inventions needed to invent what you are trying to create. The BBC series Connections is an entertaining exploration of the societal prerequisites upon which our civilization rests. Too easily do folks take for granted such devices as steam engines without contemplating the metallurgical requirements for a kettle that won’t explode, fuel that will burn hot enough and mechanical devices strong enough (and sufficiently well milled) to convert that into mechanical energy.

          Like the fabled economists, they assume their ladder.

    • To give him credit, I think that Dr. Asimov made pretty much the same argument – a woman at a cocktail party who made the same sort of argument about the “decline” since Edwardian times – so much harder to get servants today, after all. And wished that modern society had the same easy access to domestic help.

      His response, as I recall it: “Madame, it would be awful! We would most likely be the servants.”

      Those who romanticize the past are usually those who have the least knowledge of what it was really like. And little imagination.

      I had the realities pretty well ground into my nose when I got interested in genealogy: my mother’s family goes a *long* way back in the US (really – direct ancestors on the Mayflower, another branch in early Virginia, etc. There were even a couple of fairly (in)famous direct or collateral relatives (I’m a 1st cousin about 10 times removed of Cotton Mather, I think). But the vast majority of people, in all the generations I could trace, were just people getting by. Farmers, small tradesmen, and the like. Adding up all the generations, I was able to trace several hundred direct ancestors. And – at most – a handful were more than “modestly comfortable” for their time and place.

      Then there was my paternal line. Who I can’t trace beyond the grandparents who arrived in the US in the early 1920’s. But they were Jews from Poland, and operated a small produce market after they arrived here. What do you think the chances are that *their* families were rich and powerful back in Europe? There was a *reason* that people were willing to come to the US and live in tenements – it was still better than the conditions Back Home or the Good Old Days.

      And as you pointed out, even the wealthiest back then might have “grandeur”, but none of the modern comforts and conveniences, or – important! – modern medicine. As late as the early 1900s (my paternal great-grandparents’s family) it was “normal” to lose one or two children of each generation in infancy. And going through the records I often saw that a Nth grandmother’s year of death was the same as the year of birth for her last child – who, as often as not, died that same year.

      • We’ve got a twofer– Momma decided that the whole family would be moving to America when the youngest boy was going to have to go to the coal mines.

        As she ordered, so her adult sons did. (From her granddaughter, I get the idea that none of the Mommas made a habit of flexing their power, but heaven help you if you opposed them when they did.)

        That, and both of my grandmothers having gone to college, really didn’t endear me to the Boomer/man hater feminist that was in charge of high school social studies!

        • On my maternal grandmother’s side of the family, it was my widowed ancestress who decided that she and her sons would move to America.

      • There was a *reason* that people were willing to come to the US and live in tenements – it was still better than the conditions Back Home or the Good Old Days.

        In the case of one of my direct ancestors, no roving conscription units for another of the (Austro-Hungarian) Emperor’s wars. Or as one of my friends family lore has an ancestor saying, “Sure it was hard in the tenements, but there were no more Cossacks, and no more Pogroms, and so it was not so bad after all.”

        • And when Progressives so humanely raised their living standards — and rent — by having tenements declared unfit for human habitation, some of them tried to resist violently, which did not move the Progressives at all. Better that they be unable to raise funds to relocate relatives still in Europe than the Progressives be troubled.

          • & that’s why we hate Vile Progs! Their actions make them feel better and mostly hurt the recipients of their actions.

      • Paternal Grandma was big on geneaology. Both sides of my family were dirt farmers from about 1660 up until 1900, when the first skilled tradesmen and small businessmen showed up. Exactly one lineal ancestor (my father) ever became a professional.

    • That conversation sounds really familiar. I think I’ve been on the receiving end of that wacked thinking, too. One gets the sense they they thought slave owning would be *better* than robots. *shiver*

  4. Pinnacle? The belief that we are the decline from the Golden Age is much more common.

    A moral decline. Technological progress has been slow enough throughout history that the contrast has been chiefly moral, and what progress they could be aware of was often cast as demoralizing luxury.

    • Yes, for the religious of a traditional bend that is the belief. For the converts to the new religion (PC) they think we’re the pinnacle.

      • For just about everyone, everywhere. Yes, the Victorians and onward who believed in Progress existed, but they were the anomalies.

      • Actually no, but they think the pinnacle is within their reach if only they can throw those vile conservative knuckle draggers off the cliff, or into camps where they could be controlled, leaving them free to soar to the ultimate heights. Of course every time they do get an advantage they crash and burn, but that was before. I’m sure they’ll get it right this time. After all, they must succeed for their cause is just, and a bit of collateral damage is simply a necessary evil.
        A bit redundant but I’ll add a (/sarc) for the visiting prog trolls.

        • “. . . they think the pinnacle is within their reach if only they can throw those vile conservative knuckle draggers off the cliff, or into camps where they could be controlled . . .”

          Not just the conservatives. The Left-on-Left “Die, Techie Scum” brouhaha makes it pretty clear that some leftists will have to go to the camps. Given that vileprogs can only define themselves by attacking something, I suspect a LOT of leftists will someday find they weren’t left enough.

          • Well, duh. You have to purge the left to get control. There’s good reason to believe that the Moscow show trials and the Cultural Revolution were respectively triggered by the way the Holomodor and the Great Leap Forward were dragged to a halt by the in-party elements who could actually see what was happening was a horror story.

        • CombatMissionary

          “…they think the pinnacle is within their reach if only they can throw those vile conservative knuckle draggers off the cliff, or into camps where they could be controlled, leaving them free to soar to the ultimate heights.”

          I just love this. It’s always some academic who’s busy telling us knuckle-draggers to die off because we’re just not “enlightened” enough to embrace their ways, we’re “not acquainted with the real world.”

          THEN comes a power outage, a plumbing issue, or a broken car, or HEAVEN FORBID there’s a member of the unwashed ignorant masses inside their gated community, and who do they come running to for help? It’s sure not their gender studies professor. Who should be looking down their nose at WHOM? But they’ll tell you all day long what a racist, sexist, homophobic piece of trash you are and how they can make the world a better place if you would only give them the keys to the kingdom.
          My Drill Sergeant used to have a saying: “If you can’t even fold a T-shirt into a six-inch square, why the h*** should the US Government let you work on a thirty million dollar aircraft?”

      • I’m not sure it’s just the religious. The Noble Savage seems to be a similar sort of idea – i.e. that the supposed morals of the past (said supposed morals almost always including open sexual relationships and a lack of jealousy by sexual partners) are superior to the ones that we have today.

        • Noble Savage is a rationalization supporting the “things were better before” trope given that modern history proves things were not better before now – they simply move the bar back far enough that it’s undisprovable (totally a word) that way WAY back things were wonderful, people were kind, nature was harmonious, etc.

          • “I didn’t have white hair in those days,” said Granny [Weatherwax].
            “Everything was a different color in those days.”
            “That’s true.”
            “It didn’t rain so much in the summer time.”
            “The sunsets were redder.”
            “There were more old people. The world was full of them,” said the wizard.
            “Yes, I know. And now it’s full of young people. Funny, really. I mean, you’d expect it to be the other way round.”

          • In fairness, Noble Savages had no need for psychotherapy and very few repressed desires. So, there is that in support of their moral superiority.

          • Here’s the thing though. Folks who believe in the “noble savage” fabrication repaint the said ‘savages’ in their own image. Suddenly the actual facts on the ground are simply repainted into whatever moral lassitude they want to see in their own lives, and present this as the ideal. Never mind that it might change in five minutes…

          • CombatMissionary

            You should see the faces on the Leftist “educators” at college when I tell them that “noble savages” who lived at peace with nature and those around them were always the first tribes killed off by the likes of the Aztecs, Blackfeet, Apaches, etc. Most of the tribes in the Americas were about as kind and loving as the Spaniards. They had to be if they wanted to keep their lands from the other tribes that were here.
            It hurts when facts don’t jive with the preconceived notions and fabricated history of the Left.
            One of my favorite bumper stickers says, ‘Vegetarian: Indian word meaning ‘lousy hunter.”

      • Patrick Chester

        Or they think they’re the pinnacle.

        “Rudimentary creatures of blood and flesh. You touch my mind, fumbling in ignorance, incapable of understanding. There is a realm of existence so far beyond your own you cannot even imagine it. I am beyond your comprehension. I am Sovereign. Organic life is nothing but a genetic mutation, an accident. Your lives are measured in years and decades. You wither, and die. We are eternal. The pinnacle of evolution and existence. Before us, you are nothing. Your extinction is inevitable. We are the end of everything.”

        Oh wait, that’s the Reapers from Mass Effect. Oops.

  5. “This combined with a lot of fast changes after World War II and…” I know its slightly off-topic; but this is something I see everywhere. WWII gets taught and thought about as a break from history, with a world before and a world after that were different from one another. But really, there’s continuity; in international affairs, in cultural/moral decline, in technological progress.

    • No. I just meant technology, suddenly was hitting the “normal” people where they lived. A lot of it started between the wars, but things like dishwashers and vacuums hit most people AFTER WWII. And if you don’t think that changes the way people live, you have never lived without them.
      No, I don’t think it was a break with history. part of this, sorry, is being used to my readers. the wars of the twentieth century are often called “the long war” in this blog commentary.

      • I think that two reasons that all that household technology hit right after WWII is that, one, people had jobs again and could afford the vacuums , ovens and clothes washers and two, there were a LOT of new households, out in the suburbs, being built right after the war and being filled with all those great new toys like TV sets. The great Depression has an enormous suppression effect on the economy, which bounced back once FDR and his brain trusters were gone.

        • An additional factor in that regard was the establishment of the REA (Rural Electrification Authority) in 1935. Prior to that less than 4% of farms and rural homes were on the grid. It wasn’t until 1949 that the REA added telephone service to their mandate. REA did not hit their goal of 98% electrification until the early 70s.
          And of course a popular if niche part of the green movement is for those with the wherewithall to do so are leaving the grid by means of solar, wind, hydro, or other alternative power sources. Only doable with a fairly large investment in infrastructure, a very fortunate location, or major compromise in lifestyle, at least at this time. But one of the few areas where I can at least appreciate the econuts’ position.

          • Yes, but those wind farms kill eagles and falcons by the thousands. A hunter who accidentally killed one would pay a fortune in fine and probably spend a year in prison.

          • The vacuum cleaner salesman arrives at a small rural home and introduces himself to the lady of the house. “This device will make your life a breeze!” he announces. “Please let me demonstrate.” The salesman upends a large bag of leaves all over the parlor carpet. The lady of the house looks at the mess. “Never fear!” says the salesman. “I’ll have this cleaned up in a jiffy.” He unboxes the vacuum cleaner and unwinds the cord. “Just point me to the electric outlet.”

            The farm wife, still silent… hands him a broom.

        • Most Americans weren’t able to spend most of their cash during war rationing. After the war, US rationing ended and savings could be spent on houses and other upgrades.

  6. Just another great blog. Don’t know how you do it every day. Sorry, but I still love the old timers, because they were entertaining. Just have to take them in the context of their time, when most of the people around them believed the same thing. Robert E Howard and Edgar Rice Burroughs are two of my all time favorites, because they knew how to entertain. The above mentioned Van Vogt, Heinlien, in fantasy Karl Edward Wagner. They all knew how to entertain. Many of those writers of the forties and fifties were read when I was a preteen. I tend to remember the ideas and the story lines more than the names of the people who wrote them. That’s OK. The ideas are more important, at least to this reader/writer. A friend posted on my blog that he believed one of the reasons some people think the views of a writer in a story is actually who they are, is because those folks don’t have the ability to empathize, to look at the world from the viewpoints of others. I think the same may be true about the views many modern people have about the politics and beliefs of those old masters. They were products of their time.

    • Your reading tastes are much like mine.

      • How well do you think someone like H. Rider Haggard, Rafael Sabatini, or Russell Thorndike would do today in publishing?

        I’m amazed that Stephen Brust is still able to sell books, even if he is an avowed Trotskyist.

        • Susan Shepherd

          Out of curiosity, why wouldn’t Brust be able to sell books? The Khaavren Romances and the Vlad Taltos novels don’t strike me as likely to offend people. (Well, any more than having main characters who are guardsmen, criminals, diplomats or assassins would offend people.)

          • Swashbucklers, more male than female protagonists (yes, know he has some kick-ass females, too), and – especially – writing fond homages to Dumas, Sabatini, et al. who are *decidedly* not in tune with today’s favored causes.

            Heroes do heroic deeds rather than languishing in angst or having a cynically ironic ending that crushes all they’ve tried to accomplish. Individual effort *does* matter, and sometimes the suffering underclass are shown to be as (or more) petty than their oppressors.

            And despite his own avowed preferences he doesn’t show a magically working Socialist society that abolishes human (or “human”) nature. (Come to that – I’d argue that about the only time you *would* see a long lasting, smoothly working, and fair Socialist society is in Fantasy. Since there’s never been one in the real world yet, despite claims to the contrary.)

        • I like Haggard, I almost mentioned him as an entry level author yesterday, but his writing is dated enough to cause problems with a new reader.

          • I enjoyed him greatly as a kid. Haven’t tried recently.

            • I like him. But my grandparents had a copy of “King Solomon’s Mines” sitting on the bookshelf next to several volumes of Kipling

              Then I found that my high school and college libraries had pretty complete collections of both. And Sabatini, Harold Lamb, Talbot Mundy . . . My grades suffered. But it was worth it.

              • I loved reading Sterling’s _The Peshawer Lancers_, in part because of all the Easter Eggs for people who know Haggard, Kipling, Mundy and company. 🙂

        • CombatMissionary

          I only recently discovered Haggard after years of meaning to check him out after watching LXG (don’t judge me!). I found his work to be absolutely captivating. I would read it daily on the commute to and from an Army language course (I rode the train). It struck me how much like old dime novel Westerns targeted at American boys Haggard’s books seemed, as though Africa, for turn-of-the-century England was the land of adventure, expansion, and endless possibilities where men were men. It seemed to me as though Haggard wanted to use that as a vehicle to teach his own son the characteristics of manhood, and some of the flaws and traps young men should avoid. Those were some great books.

          • He is one of the best pure story tellers and adventure writers EVER.

          • Oh, dear lord, I fear that the establishment publishing would run, run from them all as if they had cooties. Them and Rudyard Kipling as well. I still believe there is hope for us who write westerns and western-ish novels, and that there is a great longing for boys to read about manly heroes and wonderful adventures in a wide-open world – a world of promise and wonder, with the occasional tragedy and mystery.
            (OK, subtle plug for my current writing project here – http://www.celiahayes.com/lone-star-sons
            It’s a re-visioning of a certain classic Western serial featuring a masked hero, and his good-buddy Indian friend. Take a look at what there is so far of it on my book website. I’ll have another adventure or two to write, before I put together the first book.)

    • I think another reason readers think the views of a writer are reflected in his story is that, because the story is interesting, we want to know the writer better… and the story is our only source of information, at least at first.

      • It’s possible that people have also are able to play the odds, and you’ve got a very good chance of being correct if you pay attention to their story telling choices.

        My mom’s fond of pointing out that your art is going to have something of yourself in it.

        The thing with empathy is that you identify aspects where you are similar; that makes some folks quite uncomfortable when the thing recognized is a bad thing, even if it’s been overcome on your end.

  7. I have to say I find this sort of thing strange in sf writers. One of the lessons I learned from sf, long ago, was that the future would be different, and would look back at us in horror and disbelief—not just at the things we ourselves are ashamed of, but at the things we’re proudest of.

  8. I remember a sci-fi story of an astronaut only in a suit reaching the outer layer of the atmosphere and burning up like a meteor– There was no action, but the story was all in the head. That particular story came to mind when the daredevil jumped from a capsule high in the earth’s atmosphere. A lot of the stories I read as a preteen and teen from the 50s pulp writers supplied me with ideas that I was not getting from home, school, or church. I was dying for those ideas– for something that made me think.

  9. “Sometimes I feel like my generation (no, not boomers, again, simply on experience. Our class sizes were shrinking, by then) has spent most of its life learning stuff no one taught us. From religious doctrine to how to cook from scratch, I had to go out and learn on my own, because the people who were supposed to teach me were either boomers who’d never learned, or the generation before them who had “given up on that old stuff.””

    Oh, dear God, how true this is.

    Everywhere I’ve gone through my life, this has been a Truth (TM). I have no idea what the hell happened, or why, but it’s been an unavoidable fact everywhere I’ve been, in civilian life or the military.

    Going to school? There were entire swathes of the textbooks we used that weren’t covered in class, especially in the older ones. You looked at the ones we used that were new, and there were huge chunks missing from them that were in the older versions by the same publisher. The curriculum? Don’t get me started.

    Military? Same thing. Machine-gunnery was once taught as a science and art. Nine-tenths of what you can do with a machine gun isn’t even taught, these days, in the US Army. Marines have retained a bit more, but the raw fact is that there’s so much that’s left out that it would boggle your mind.

    Saw it happen in my own little specialized world, too: Where once the art of performing an Engineer Reconnaissance was a key and integral part of the trade, where you spread out across an area and undertook an appraisal of available resources like gravel stockpiles, construction materials, fresh-water supplies, none of the necessary skills are even taught or assessed today, deemed unnecessary. It was the same with route clearance operations, until the Balkans adventures forced a re-think. Even then, that sort of work was deemed unique low-intensity peacekeeping operations,and it wasn’t until the experience of dealing with the same sort of crap in Iraq got shoved in our faces circa 2003-04 that anyone running the “system” accepted that this was a very real part of modern war. Despite extensive, long-forgotten experience dating back through Vietnam, clear to the Eastern Front in WWII.

    This is an issue, and I’ll guarantee you that a lot of this is precisely what led to the fall of the Roman Empire, down at the nitty-gritty level: People just quit passing on the hard-won knowledge of their predecessors who taught them, whether it was how to diagram sentences, or how to maintain the local roads. It’s the same mentality, thinking that modern conditions have somehow changed, and that the old ways no longer apply. We think meth is a huge issue, and forget what cheap distilled liquor like gin once did, and what steps had to be taken by society to cope with these things.

    I could tell you a thousand places where this sort of thing has gone on, and what little things we’ve “left out”. And, what stuns me is to realize, looking back, that I’ve taken part in a little bit of this sort of thing, not really understanding that I was, at the time. See, those recon skills? The ones I was carefully taught, oh-so-long-ago? They didn’t just die out, they were deliberately forgotten, as we focused on teaching what we thought was important, with the limited resources we had available in the Clinton years. We performed a triage, and the sad fact is, we were wrong about a lot of what we thought was important. Unfortunately, a lot of the legacy skills we learned the hard way are now locked away in books nobody reads, and will inevitably fall out of publication, and then into obscurity. Until some young man or woman looks around, does the research, and asks “Why don’t we do this, anymore…?”.

    Asimov wrote a short story about this sort of thing, with regards to math skills. Some kid rediscovered how to do math with pencil and paper, and everyone thought it was amazing, doing math without a machine. The first time I read that story, I remember thinking “This is interesting, but it’s bloody ridiculous…”. Now? I’m not so sure. I am sure, however, that this is how civilizations fall. One little lost skill, one abandoned technique at a time.

    • I learned how to use differential engine power when landing in a strong cross wind. I learned from guys who flew DC-3s and other tailwheel twins and multi-engine planes (B-17). I have yet to meet anyone else under age 60 who knows of the technique, let alone who was taught how to use it. And it saved my tailfeathers at least twice back when I was flying full time. We’re losing a lot of aviation’s oral traditions and information because, well, the GPS will do it. [Thing] will never break. And then [thing] breaks, or the wind is a lot higher than forecast.

      • Now I’m a bit boggled/nervous… I’m not a pilot, but have some familiarity (dad trained as a private pilot, and other sources) but I assumed this would be standard training in any multi-engine training program… It’s not?!?

        • Not anymore, judging by the pilots I’ve talked to. No one flies taildraggers anymore, and of course no nose-wheel airplane ever weather-vanes that badly in a 45 kt cross wind. Because you always have a better runway to go to. *eye roll* Except when you don’t. I’ve used split throttles in a turbo prop because the wind was that strong and no, they couldn’t move the patient to an airport more aligned with the runway. (I’ve got a bunch of flying stories written. I’m just waiting for a statute-of-limitations to expire and to figure out how much more detail I need to change to stay HIPPA, HIIPA, HIPAA or whatever it is, compliant.

          • I… hm. I’ve always just assumed differential throttle input to maintain axis orientation relative to the runway given crosswinds/off-axis gusts was basic multi-engine training (left-right multis, fore-n-afts are their own beast). I kinda want you to be talking about something more obscure so it’s less — disturbing.

            I remember discussions of the need to be gentle (but definitive) on the throttle to avoid the greatly shortened landing technique of flat-spin-bounce-roll.

            Please — tell me I’ve misunderstood…

            • I recall airline pilots telling me they use it, especially on planes with four engines, as doing so on the furthest ones out on the wings get you a lot more moment arm. If I recall they got the technique from the senior sim instructors when they do their recurrent training, so that’s another ancient lore pathway, from past masters to current masters.

              The basic big jet technique for an approach in xwinds, however, is a level crab into the wind with a rudder kick at the last moment to get the tires somewhat straight relative to the runway. I’ve seen some really amazing youtube videos of big iron (747s and such) doing this.

              And given the really basic flying skills problems turned up in some of the recent accident investigations, I’m not sure there’s any reason to think any but the most dedicated and self motivated seek out all the great old techniques and skills anymore – When professional airline crews choose totally inappropriate ‘yank back on the yoke/sidestick/whatever as hard as you can until impact’ as their emergency procedure, they certainly were not thinking basic airmanship, let alone the advanced ancient lore that takes effort to find and apply.

              • “The basic big jet technique for an approach in xwinds, however, is a level crab into the wind with a rudder kick at the last moment to get the tires somewhat straight relative to the runway. I’ve seen some really amazing youtube videos of big iron (747s and such) doing this.”

                I’ve been on the runway (the side, I really attempt to avoid standing in the middle when planes are taking on or off) when smaller passenger jets have used this technique. I’ve never been out on an airstrip big enough for the big jets, but yeah on the small jets it looks more like some kid doing a stunt on a snowmachine or jetski than an approved method to handle passenger aircraft.

                I was also working on the taxiway when a two-wheel prop-job from the 19-teens’s came in to land one day, and busted a wheel off on touchdown. Wasn’t really paying a lot of attention until the plane coming down on the runway jerked sideways (towards me) and the pilot pulled back on the throttle. Having a plane come sideways from the runway over and across the taxiway approximately 10-15 feet over your head can bring you out of a daydream VERY fast. Luckily that pilot was very experienced and after circling while they got everybody WAY out of the way and the fire trucks ready he managed to bring the plane down on one wheel and get it almost to a stop before the strut on the other side caught. He was going slow enough he didn’t flip but did dig the prop into the asphalt, bending the shaft. No injuries but the passenger was loaded in the ambulance and hauled to the hospital with a mild heart attack 😉

                • You use the crab/kick-out technique for a couple of reasons. One is because you lose lift in slips, so crabbing is preferable under certain conditions. In the big iron, slipping to a landing (upwind wing low, opposite rudder) is very uncomfortable for the passengers. There’s also the risk of dragging a wing-tip or engine if you don’t get the wing up fast enough. So a flatter descent in a crab looks terrible from the ground, but feels better for the passengers.

                  You do have to hunt out experience, especially now that more and more commercial and airline pilots go from college aviation programs straight through to the airlines and corporate departments without being around older or more rural pilots. I came close to trying to beat sense into a U of ND graduate with my knee-board one evening because he kept justifying a potentially dangerous habit with “Well, that’s what my instructors at UND tell us to do.” Arrrrrgh. The old cargo pilots, crop-sprayers, and charter guys I trained with would have strangled him with his own headset cord if he tried that with them.

          • I learned to fly in a Taylorcraft BC12-D (IIRC) You learn a lot about landing and controlling your aircraft all the way to a stop with a taildragger. Unfortunately you end up being crap on the radio since the thing has no electrical system.

          • Back when I finally had to quit due to Lack of Paying Work, I was in the process of getting my tailwheel endorsement. Still would like to get something like a Cub or Luscombe, etc. for my own use. As for the differential power gambit, I’ve only got a very little time in twins, and all of that in a nosedragger (Navajo), but it did seem to make ground maneuvering at low speed much easier.

            But then, I just turned 64 a few weeks ago, so maybe don’t count. Man, do I ever miss flying…

        • Nope, not in the current curriculum, and you will only get any of the hard won lore if your instructor is one of the lucky ones who got it direct from a big-round-engine pilot.

          One of the things that is interesting about how aviation works is that many (most) of the Certified Flight Instructors who teach pilots are not lifelong flying teachers, but instead recently minted CFIs building time so they can get an airline gig. Back when I first started flying my instructor was older than I, but most of my instructors over the years (and especially nowadays for flight reviews and such) have been a lot younger.

    • Colorado Alex

      I teach basic intelligence analysis and see this a lot. Basic tools like maps and acetate overlays are never used anymore, and the assumption is that communications will never be a problem. As a result, no one knows how to talk to higher/adjacent units or how to respond when the network goes down during an operation. SneakerNet? What’s that? Calculating distances by hand? How the hell do you do that?

    • One of the biggest reasons we won WWII, I think, is that the Axis sent all their best pilots to fight till they died, the US made our best fighter pilots come home after 100 sorties to teach a new generation of pilots. The great FW190 planes the Germans sent up at the end of the war were flown by poorly trained kids.

      • That’s not completely true. The best were taken off flight line an set to do things like train in ME163’s and other such death-zippos. Later, yes they took them off that and threw them against waves of bombers but they did loose a lot of the best and twistiest to fuel leaks, flight errors and design failures.

        • To my knowledge the ME 163 is not credited with a single air to air victory. The Germans, for whatever reasons, wasted a lot of engineering investment on far reaching projects that barely worked and then deployed them rather than trying to improve manufacturing and getting the average stuff on the field. The Panther tank was a better tank than all it’s major opponents, on paper. In reality, manufacturing and design issues made the tank a loser. The Germans couldn’t make enough of them and they were so weak mechanically that they failed at less than the distance that Detroit arsenal ran Shermans to break them in on the test track. The superior automotive qualities are what gave the Sherman the winning edge when it counted. You could drive an armored division of Shermans from one front another and expect almost all of them to get there. In the build up to the Ardennes, 25% of the Panthers were technical casualties before the battle even started after they had been moved to the front by rail.

        • Most Axis flyers just stayed in the line until they were either killed or injured so badly they were invalided home for the duration. There simply was no good system in place to properly train new pilots. And it didn’t help that there wasn’t enough fuel to train them to near the level of most of the Allied nations.

          A few of the ones who lasted, though, became very, very good at their job. Which did little to help the new guys being fed into the grinder.

    • Yep, people’s absolute and utter dependence on ‘the new’ drives me nuts. There are an amazing number of people who have not a clue how to use a map and compass, why should they, they have a GPS? You ask them what happens when they run out of batteries or the satellites get sick, and they just give you a blank look.

      The ones who insist on being helpless because they have a cell phone are the ones that really drive me nuts. No need for them to know how to change a flat tire, or make sure they have the basics in their vehicle, like a blanket, water (either to drink or for the radiator, I’ve used coffee in the radiator before because it is what I had), etc., after all they Have A Cell Phone. Apparently they have never been where their phone didn’t have service, the towers were down, or their battery was dead (an amazing amount of such knuckleheads also don’t carry a cigarette lighter charger)?

      • Apparently they have never been where their phone didn’t have service, the towers were down, or their battery was dead

        Cityslickers. And I say that knowing full well that I am only half a step above a city slicker myself. At least I know (some of) what I don’t know, and the limitations of my lifelines, and I can put shoulder to the wheel when necessary.

    • How many today know how to use a slide rule?

      I was the tail end of the cohort that used them in school (some classes I and the instructor were the only ones), but in the days of calculators with short battery life they saved my grade a couple of times.

      Even so, it’s been so long since I used one I’d need to check the instructions myself to do more than basic multiply/divide/root/log/trig functions.

      • I use a round one. E6-B flight computer, mechanical version. Yeah, it won’t take me to three digits past the decimal, but there are no batteries to fail.

        • I don’t use them, really, but I own several – circular, cylindrical (not as many scales, but by wrapping them you get an effective ~1 meter length), and “normal”. Pride of place is a nice metal K & E that is similar to Kip Russell’s “K&E Log/Log Duplex Decitrig” from _Have Spacesuit, Will Travel_.

        • I use a round one. E6-B flight computer…

          And this pretty much last general use of the slide rule concept is also now passing by the wayside, first due to dedicated flight calculators and now to the overwhelming adoption of the iPad in the cockpit. But as TXRed notes, when on board electricity and batteries fail, there’s no alternative to the practical mechanical solution, which is why I too carry an actual E6-B ‘whiz wheel’ in my flight bag.

        • Being just a lowly ground instructor, I make sure my students are familiar with and competent to use an E6B. They’re usually a little annoyed, but a few have come to find the gadget useful later on. (I’m still trying to get my head around the Navy equivalent to the E6B; it may actually be easier in some aspects, but maybe I’m too set in my ways.)

      • Birthday girl

        OK, you all just convinced me to print this out and put it in the drawer with my old slide rule (which I used through college but no longer remember how):
        http://www.sliderulemuseum.com/SR_Class/OS-ISRM_SlideRuleSeminar.pdf

    • God, don’t get me started on the math thing. My youngest here in the UK is preparing for her GCSEs (secondary school exams, age 15 / 16) next year. One thing we found out for math is that she will only get one mark for the right answer – the rest of the marks come from showing the working out. Fair enough – however – the marks are only given if shown using the single method covered in the curriculum – if she uses any other method or varies from it – no marks.

      It made my blood boil when she managed to solve a problem on her own during some mock papers by reasoning through it ( they hadnt been taught that part of the subject yet), but got no credit as marks are only awarded for the approved way of doing it.

      Im no math whizz, and in truth my youngest isnt either – but that really annoyed me. And the worst thing is that the teacher’s hands are tied because its the National Curriculum. (our version of Common Core, urgh)

      And after revisiting Fahrenheit 451 recently, the parallels with social media, disregard for “old” knowledge and rampant narcissism today are really startling.

      • In Eisenhower’s autobiography (“At Ease: Stories I tell to friends”), he mentions being called in front of his West Point math class to solve a problem on the board. The instructor started to berate him for not doing it correctly, but was interrupted by, IIRC, the department head, who noted that not only was the answer correct, but it was a better method of solution than the prescribed one.

    • One of my coworkers sent me this a little while ago:

      http://wrttn.in/04af1a

      It seems appropriate to this comment.

      • Very appropriate indeed. There’s an idea for a main character too, a corporate Indiana Jones unearthing the treasures of long lost companies, pre merger!

      • I’m wondering now about finding print-on-demand options that will do archival quality. There are quite a few books and documents that I would like to preserve/have preserved in an analog format. I remember someone, I believe it was Marko Kloos, writing some time back about how paper can last longer than digital because of changes in formats and standards. That’s aside from the matter of wanting access to that text when the Schumer hits the fan and I’ve got no power.

        • Apparently, digital pretty much sucks for longevity – see this article in the current IEEE Spectrum magazine for how the movies are attempting to deal with this. Spoiler: The current archival technique of choice for studios is to print them out onto three black and white negatives, one each for the red, green, and blue channels of the digital version, and then store that away in the vaults next to Gone With The Wind and the old Mr. Ed negatives.

        • One of the things I did when I was laid up with a broken shoulder was to teach myself how to bind books. I couldn’t find a copy of some of H. Beam Piper’s book and I desperately wanted a hard copy.
          It is a fun hobby, I even learned how to make paste by boiling flour. Never figured out how to fake gilding though.

          • Did you consider melting down gold crayons? Today they make glitter color glue. I know that they make metallic thread.

            • I never got that far. It is not like I am actually good at it, but I do enjoy it.

            • One of the styles in the 1880-1900s for smaller, cheaper books was to use a printed paper applique on the cloth covered front cover. The more complex styles would have a printed applique shape that would be a rounded triangle or a more complex shape that would be overprinted with colored inks that overlapped the applique with the cloth-covered covers to visually connect the paper pasted to the front to the front cover and spine. Otherwise it could look kind of stark.
              I was looking to get into that but I wound up with my shoulder healing, and then there was the garden, and then frame-knitting….

          • If nothing else, maybe you could color the edges with a metallic marker?

            • There’s rub-on gilding. Look at hobby Lobby.
              And of course you can do that to any books from Gutenberg (which H. Beam Piper is) provided you print them yourself.
              Not for me, first because the craft doesn’t call to me and second because… time… but I’m guessing someone could make a living making hand made books of some SF classics (even shorts like Flat land) and selling them online/at cons.

        • I experimented using hot-glue guns to do perfect binding (perfect binding is what National Geographic developed for their magazine) to do covers made out of card-stock or cut-up manila folders. It works tolerably well, but I think I ruined my clothes iron doing finishing touches, and the stick glue I used did not penetrate well so I had to do a lot of touching up.
          There are companies that sell equipment, this one has stuff that looks to be about the size of a seal-a-meal. Much smaller than when I first was looking up information quite a while ago.
          I know they have high volume machines also that you just feed paper in one end, data in the other and cover stock cut to the right size and it spits finished books out the other. Truly we live in an age of marvels.

          • What’s the durability on perfect binding versus stitched? My thought was to make things that would last a century or more; I’ve seen an awful lot of glued books that didn’t last twenty years of fairly gentle use.

            • I’ve found that stitching is a lot more durable, at least with the hot-glues and pastes that I tried. My stitched stuff I could use as a pocket-note book with pretty hard usage and the stitching outlasted to covers, but the perfect bound ones fell apart pretty quickly. On the other hand Harper/Collins’ recent Pratchett hardbounds appear to be glued instead of stitched and they do seem to hold up fairly well, but they are set up in signatures* as if they were stitched conventionally. I haven’t had the brass to rip into one to figure out how exactly they were put together. Then of course on the third hand, from my experience, the old Analogs were both glued and stapled as if they were perfect bound, and the binding holds up better than the paper itself.
              (*signatures are the basic folded assemblies of paper that you see in hardbounds, if anyone is wondering. They are multiple pages folded together and each one is pierced at the fold and stitched in with the others. I think they are called signatures because you initialed each packet when assembling so you wouldn’t get confused to sequence – Sorry to over explain but I dislike throwing out jargon without explanation)

              • That’s *very* helpful, thank you! Our Beloved Hostess’s idea about quality versions of public domain books has set both my artistic and mercenary instincts in motion. Would you ping me by email to discuss, if you’re interested? freerangeoyster at google’s free mail service.

    • CombatMissionary

      As an NCO, I’ve had more than a few conversations like this with Platoon Sergeant, PL, Company Commander, and a good friend who’s now a Warrant Officer. We’re working on making headway, but we’re just one company. Sad to see the breakdown of skills that should be honed like a razor because some idiot thinks that technology will save the day.

      Heck, I went off one time to a PL in Afghanistan how we should have been mounted on horseback using Mosin Nagants in the Hindu Kush rather than using M4’s (too limited a range; enemies were always out beyond 350 meters) and HMMWV’s (far too limited in mobility in the mountains). M14’s would have been much better than Mosins, but my point was that Big 5 was selling a battle rifle better suited to our environment than the M4 was for just $89.
      I also told him we were making many of the same mistakes we made in the Indian wars (failing to distinguish insurgents from locals; engaging locals rather than building alliances), and that we could learn a lot from the way the British had run things in the days of the Empire before WWII.
      Lieutenants’ brains seem like they vapor lock as soon as you start talking about stuff like that.

    • My grandmother taught me the little tricks that made it POSSIBLE for me to do arithmetic at all. I have to wonder how many precious flowers who can’t do math suffer because it’s that stupid NEW math, which flips things around in ways that make it require more steps. And that’s just one tiny example.

  10. I, for one, am a bit surprised that the perpetual decline of civilization myth has lasted. Wait, stop laughing. I’m serious. I’ll tell you why, too.

    The Decline of Civilization (eventually leading to TEOTWAWKI) has traditionally been based on religion. Seriously. First (so the story goes) there was the perfect state. We were all created by G-d, gods, whatever and were perfect little copies. Then something went wrong. We got kicked out of Eden (or wherever.) and have been in decline ever since. The further we get from G-d the worse off we are. We can never attain perfection again on our own. One day we’ll hit rock bottom and there will be Armageddon or Ragnarok or something and we will once again rise (but not through our own agency) back to our formerly held glory…

    But now religion is a bad word. There is even a Freedom From Religion Foundation (ffrf.org). You would think that some that some butthurt whiny leftist would have pointed this out and decided that it was not only offensive because RELIGION but decidedly anti-revolutionary. How in the world are we supposed to move forward into the socialist utopia if we’re sliding backward for Marx’s-sake?

    • Because the Fall was co-opted into the environmentalist mythos. So now you start with the pristine, human-free (or capitalist-free in some versions) Nature that has been lost because of the machinations (and machines) of modern industrial Western society. Only a return to a pre-modern, “low impact” egalitarian society with far fewer people might possibly lead to the rejuvenation of Nature. So you get both – Marx (and his “second nature” in a really incorrect [if you read what Marx meant] form) and the Fall.

      • Oh, some of them want earlier than that. Rambunctious Garden has some of the adventures. There are greens who want the mustangs and feral burros in the Southwest because there were, after all, similar equines in Pleistocene before the first wave of human arrivals wiped them out. And would like to introduce the cheetah and give the pronghorn a reason to need its speed. Or camels.

    • They object to religion so far as it tells them what to do, not to the point of objecting if they can re-purpose parts of it to tell others to do what they want them to do.

      Sort of like how parts of our culture that are there because of our Christian heritage get re-labeled “human nature,” and folks then get gobsmacked when non-Christian cultures don’t share them.

      • Many neopagans are clearly a branch of really liberal Christians. Note the complete absence of any oracles to determine which god you’ve offended, propitiatory rites to attempt to alleviate the offense, and required rites because you can’t offend the gods by omitting proper worship.

    • “The Decline of Civilization (eventually leading to TEOTWAWKI) has traditionally been based on religion. ”

      The Decline of Civilization predates all known records, the oldest of which lament it and take it for granted. How, therefore, can we know what it’s based on?

      The human imagination seems to have a need to take its ideal society and plop it somewhere concrete. Occasionally, it’s off somewhere utopian, but overwhelmingly, it’s in the past. It’s at least less dangerous there than in the future — although believing it’s in the future doesn’t keep people from thinking it’s in the past, too. Marx declared that the first stage of human society was primitive communism. Many feminists hold that pre-history was a Golden Age of peaceful matriarchies. Etc.

      • The Decline of Civilization predates all known records, the oldest of which lament it and take it for granted.

        i think the oldest tablet fragment yet discovered translates as “…what is it with kids these days? they don’t know the Luxury they have now compared to when we were young. Wait a sec, I need to go yell at them to get off my lawn…”

        • I’m also convinced that that is a translation of the first words ever spoken.

        • Probably. The Tale of Genji, considered the first novel, starts with a description of Genji, and notes that people were surprised that such a paragon could be produced “in these latter and degenerate days.”

  11. Recently, a poster (Former teacher) on my FaceBook page (now blocked) provided a post that said “We must indoctrinate our youth today so that they will be free thinkers of the future” I think there was something about ‘in Liberal thinking’ too but, I deleted it too quickly to remember much except how revolting it was. When you linked to the writer and she said that she was writing to make young people think for themselves, that posting came to mind. John C. Wright had an article on his blog about ‘Autumn people’ who fit Sarah’s article. He brought up the point that the old writers did one thing and did it well- Heroes. Sarah and the Hun always have ‘Heroes’ They maybe- a little tarnished, but, they are heroes none the less. Group think doesn’t. That’s why most looking back is the same- no heroes- ‘We were much more moral then. (bulk) we have always been earthy, that’s how we survive. Good post for a Friday.

  12. Christopher M. Chupik

    They think their generation invented everything, like how the Baby Boomers invented sex and music. 😉

    • We did. Reproduction was by pathenogenisis prior to our coming of age. And have you heard what they _called_ music before we fixed it? DG&R

  13. Had one of those cultural/generational moments recently. Was talking with my youngest, he turns 40 this year, and happened to use the phrase, “drop a dime.” He looked puzzled for a moment, then got the reference. His two, 11 and 12, on the other hand had no clue. So we took a teachable moment to introduce them to the utterly foreign concept of both the former existence of public pay phones, and the truly bizarre idea that once upon a time you could make a local call for ten cents.
    Until their daddy confirmed the story I am fairly certain they thought their silly old grampa was shining them on. Come to think of it I think we had to have their mother back us up to prove daddy and I weren’t both just messing with them.

    • Younger son — 19 — refuses to believe there WAS a time you couldn’t record TV programs. He’s sure it’s an hoax we’re perpetrating on him. Okay, not quite true. He believes us, but he still can’t “see” it.

      • Ask anyone of the younger generation to dial a phone.

        • Yes, but that’s outdated tech. Transient, possibly. Stuff like sweeping the floor isn’t really. It’s what you default to in emergencies.

          • True– but we might see a return to some of that outdated technology … Miniaturization has changed our technology a lot– but, there are times that I think it is also why we are losing the ability to troubleshoot and repair– When our techs become plug and play only, then we will have lost a lot of our technical knowledge.

            • As of ’02 the Navy was still teaching intermediate aviation techs about vacuum tubes.

            • We were talking about that the other day, at work. One of the problems with modern electronics is that repair is mostly no longer possible. The components are so small that you can’t solder anything but some of the larger connections, unless you have highly specialized equipment.

              And then, the hourly rate for someone to do said repair would wind up costing more than the device.

              • Yes– we talk about that too. If we lose the supply side (or industrial side) we will have to go back to hand solder and/or tubes– Hopefully we will have people who remember something about it.

            • Though other things – even fairly obvious things – only really became practical with miniaturization. In junior high school (~1970 or so) I had a teacher who got me interested in ham radio and building a receiver.

              That was also the year I first read a Heinlein’s _Between Planets_, and one of the incidental scenes was harder to swallow than interplanetary travel, a human-livable Venus, intelligent Venusian dragons, etc. But in the first chapter of the book, the protagonist is out riding a horse, miles from his school, and takes a phone call. On the portable phone built into his saddle. I was just beginning to understand basic radio (and had a worm’s eye understanding of basic economics) and though I could see how such a bulky radio phone was possible (I wouldn’t have had a problem with a 2-way radio connected to the school), but I couldn’t see how a *phone service* like that was practical – how would you carry it, how would you power it, and how could it be cost-effective?

              But technology is a funny beast – no matter how it advances, many aspects of our daily lives function in ways that an ancient Roman would find familiar, or at least easy to understand. Many others could be explained in terms they could accept. The disconnect is in the areas where we’ve either created totally new capabilities or totally replaced prior methods with technological means.

              There’s a large class of people today that *use* technology, but don’t understand it – how many people *really* know how an internal combustion engine functions, or a computer, or a cell phone, or a TV (actually, the last three are pretty much specialized forms of the same thing these days)? How many people know how to plow with a mule, drive a wagon, or use a scythe?

              There are hobbyists who know all those things, but aside from religious groups like the Amish almost nobody actually lives that way in the developed nations. The religious types and hobbyists are a miniscule percentage of the whole (miniaturization again?) compared to the larger group who only know how to use current methods. And I’d argue that because if this I-don’t-know-how-it-functions-but-I-know-how-to-use-it group that people today often have *less* understanding of the world than their great-grandparents, who generally understood *why* everything they used in their daily life did what it did.

              • yes to the last few sentences– you said it better than I did.

              • Who knows, Heinlein probably had heard of actress Heddy Lamar’s frequency-shifting plan that the military could do nothing with because the hardware would not exist for decades, and thought, you know, that might work for wireless telephones.

              • ” how many people *really* know how an internal combustion engine functions, or a computer, or a cell phone, or a TV (actually, the last three are pretty much specialized forms of the same thing these days)? How many people know how to plow with a mule, drive a wagon, or use a scythe?”

                OH OH!!! I do. Except for the mule… and the TV. The scythe is perfect for making enough hay for mulch and compost, but I wouldn’t want to have to put up a years worth of fodder with it.

                • I don’t know how to plow with a mule, either, except in theory. My grandparents did, but we used an old (1943 vintage – in the mid 70’s) John Deere tractor on their ranch when I was growing up.

                  But yes, digital TV is a specialized computer application, very similar to a cell phone or any other networked device. Digital transport streams look a *lot* like any other network protocol, conceptually. Video decode has considerable hardware assistance to make it faster/cheaper, but it could be entirely in software. I should know – I spent most of the last decade-and-a-half working on firmware for embedded TV. I gave the examples I did with malice aforethought. And I can give a long, long, lecture on the complexities if you’re really foolish enough to get me started.

                  • I was taught how to troubleshoot and repair monitors (tube type) mostly; however, I agree totally about the new digital models. And yes, we are at the point where software can simulate a lot of things that were the domain of hardware over a decade a go.

                  • I’m way out of date on the digital stuff, I did software back in the day but left off when I realized I was becoming a vampire and headed for the hills. I still do IC engines, as long as there is no computer attached.

              • Ooh! Ooh! Excuse for a picture!

                (we’ll see if this works)

                What’s this?

                A picture from a phone from someone who was riding on a horse over a hundred miles away….

          • Phones in my dads house were black rotary dial because they were cheaper. His Hebrew typewriter was manual and the keys were heavy! You had to pound on them. I remember white-out sheets and liquid with a brush.

        • Clorinda Madsen

          Found an old rotary phone in one of my old apartments. The upstairs neighbors lost power for some reason so I loaned them the phone. They could still call out because it didn’t require power. Even though the lady was a little older, (this was about 10 years ago so she would have bene in her 40s then) she seemed a little startled that phones didn’t always require electricity to work.

          • oh yea– the ring had electricity 😉 though–

          • Actually they do, but it’s a low voltage charge on the phone line itself so any simple corded phone will work unless the phone company power source, and they still to my knowledge have robust backup generators, goes belly up as well.
            During the infamous North Alabama tornado wall blackout several years ago we did lose POTS service for a bit in the middle of things. Cells were dead early on as the tower power was lost. Thankfully, it was spring so no one froze or cooked, though an awful lot of frozen food either got cooked on grills or thrown out later.

        • My parents hung onto their dial phone far longer than anyone else around. (I really am not all that old but that phone was ancient..working, but ancient.) When my brothers’ friends came over, and wanted to call home, they had no idea how to use the dial.

      • I’m old enough to remember those days. Heck, there’s so little on the tube that I consider worth watching twice, I don’t remember the last time I recorded anything, though I’m certain it was on VHS.

      • I’m rather glad I’m not a “Doctor Who” fan. Several years of that show no longer exist. Around 1970 or so, someone at the BBC went, “videotape is expensive, can’t we record over that children’s show garbage you’re storing over there?”

        • Many years ago I worked ground data support to several Space Lab missions. My team and others on 24×7 shift coverage gathered literally thousands of hours of downlink video. It was pointed out to me a while ago that useful shelf life of recorded video tape, even the special format 1 inch pneumatic stuff we used, is about 10 years under ideal conditions. Any of our stuff that hasn’t already been digitized was just stuck in closets at room temp and humidity, so it’s already lost forever.
          At least some of that was an active effort to kill off support for Space Lab missions in order to justify that most wondermus new program, Space Station. Of course last I heard grad students were still getting Ph.Ds from the data and samples we brought back. The real scientists hated when the program was shut down, but politics always rules in government and even more so cooperative private/academic/government programs.

          • I have been grumbling about the Space Station program and the data since it started– and I am not a scientist.

            • Even with many reservations and a great fondness for Space Lab I did work Station for a number of years supporting payload experiment development. Then moved on to Constellation, Aries I and Aries V. Station, both the original Freedom and the downsized ISS was always a politically driven cludge, especially when there was only the three man crew and it took 2.5 full time just to keep it running. Now with six on board I’ve been hoping to see some real science come out of the thing. Still waiting, but no longer have much any insight into the day to day workings.
              I really do expect that to all change before too long. Figure ISS will be declared a success, and the keys handed over to the Russians so we can divert the funds from Station upkeep to more immediate issues such as Muslim outreach or other critical social programs. Or given current international affairs, the Russians could very well simply say no more rides to orbit. The US would have no choice but to bring the Americans on board home and abandon the whole thing. After all, what would our fearless leader do? Issue a stern warning?

          • The LOIRP Project folks had that indifferent storage issue to deal with, plus even older media.

            Their travails as they first had to find and restore a vintage refrigerator-sized analog reel to reel tape reader, just so they could start to try to read off and digitize the 1960s era mag reel tapes containing analog downlink recordings from the pre-Apollo lunar orbiter satellites before the tapes all crumbled away make for amazing reading, and all of it done on a shoestring inside the abandoned McDonalds on the ex-Navy side of what used to be Moffett Field NAS.

        • Remember it’s a serial, so we have intact stories.

    • I’ve read that one of the biggest issues that younger (relatively speaking) readers have with William Gibson’s novel, “Neuromancer”, is the airport payphones that play an important role in one scene.

      • Thanks to Netflix I’ve been watching both “Magnum, P.I.” and “Burn Notice.” It’s amazing how the ability to immediately call for support has changed dramatic plot lines. Being followed by unknown agents through a rural area is no longer terribly thrilling.

    • Okay, quarter, not dime, but I’m a youngster and it took quarters to make a call when I was a kid.

      The local gas station still has a pay phone, but they are getting dang hard to find, they are even taking them out of places with no cell coverage, which makes no sense.

      Oh and Cyn, those dial phones (or at least corded ones) come in real handy to people with landlines when the power goes out. I know several people who either have a corded phone on the wall or in the closet to use when the power goes. Also have a friend who lives in an area that is off the electrical grid, but has phone service (no, I have no idea why, there are about a dozen houses out that road, and the phone company ran a line out there twenty years ago, but the electrical company won’t). Corded phones work without electricity.

      • The local gas station still has a pay phone, but they are getting dang hard to find, they are even taking them out of places with no cell coverage, which makes no sense.

        It takes a lot of calls to make up for the phone having the change drawer ripped out once a month.

      • Yeah, I’ve got a corded landline myself “just in case”. But it’s still not a proper dial phone. A proper dial phone has a rotary dial. And I don’t think those work these days, even if you plug them in, due to changes at the phone companies.

        • I’m pretty sure it depends on the phone company.

        • The friend I mentioned that lives off grid has a rotary phone that works, but yes now that you mention it I recall my grandma complaining a couple of years ago because the phone company told her that they were going to change stuff and her rotary phone would no longer work. Not sure if they did or not, I know she has a phone that works because I talk to her on it, but I haven’t been to her house in a few years so I’m not sure if it is still the old rotary one or not.

        • Yes– the switches (programming and hardware) have changed a lot in the last twenty years–

          • Amazing advances in the switching hardware and software, but from an end user’s perspective it’s a simple question of dial, pulse, or both.
            As a child we had a party line and a real live operator. In grade school the local phone company manager came to our class to teach us proper use of a dial phone. Folks had a tendency to dial each number then leave their finger in the dial as it returned. Since the switch read the clicks generated those fingers could retard the mechanism and cause a misdial.
            When the first push button phones came out they all had a dial/pulse selector switch, and for a period in my area you paid a premium for pulse service. Then that flipped and you paid extra to keep dial. Finally they terminated dial all together. A dial phone will still receive calls, but if the switch doesn’t recognize those clicks it generates you can’t call out.

            • We had a party line as a child too– although I am too young for the operator- Plus I worked on a telephone switch (computer, T1, etc) after my Navy service.

              • Mom was a telephone operator, both at the local Navy hospital during the war and for the local phone company. She had stories about having to learn who “gramma” was from various families who had precocious toddlers. She’d get calls from a child asking for Gramma, and the town was small enough that she would be able to figure it out or remember from last time.

            • Nit – I believe you meant, “tone, pulse, or both”, as the dial produced pulses, while the touch phones produced tones.

              When I was little (till about age 13, or so), we had a party line, with a couple of old harpies who would really get nasty if you picked up the receiver and started dialing when they were on jabbering with each other, or if you checked the line too often to see if they were gone.

    • I no longer (quite) have to consciously suppress the urge to answer phones “It’s your nickle.”

  14. Occurs to me that the moving time event horizon streaming forward at one second each second, adjusted for relativity, has by no means a unified face, but is a fractured plane, each section moving at a unified rate as regards time, but fairly disassociated with each other regarding that quality we call progress. Some parts advance at a truly scary rate, some remain fairly static, while others would appear to be taking a retrograde path.
    One could spend quite a bit of time with a list of technologies and concepts they care about, marking each as to your opinion on which direction they’re headed at the moment.
    For ex:
    Computing capabilities – up but not as fast as in past years, at least to the casual observer.
    Communications – up.
    Privacy – Oh hell no.
    International cooperation – Duh. Occasional positive blips in a general death spiral.
    Race to space – Puts me in mind of a graphic cartoon quite popular in Huntsville, ratty house trailer with a Shuttle sitting in front on cinder blocks.
    And so on.

  15. Fittingly, today’s outrage is that a group that nominates kid’s books on how much they sold is under attack because they didn’t remove Rush Limbaugh’s kids’ book.

    If you can’t win fair, you need to change the rules so you’re the only game in town.

  16. (takes patented Wasp Nest Poking stick out of the rack)
    Eh, both sides are right in their own ways. If you only have x number of hours to learn/practice something, and 99% of the time you are going to be utilizing $_modernthing, time spent learning and practicing $_oldthing is in fact wasted IF it then means you did not learn $_modernthing very well. And how far back do you go? “Ah, you relied on your astrolabe! But it broke, dinnit? Now, if you knew the position of Betelgeuse in the northern hemisphere….” and so on.

    There are always tradeoffs, and only so many hours in the day. I certainly sympathize with those who think the old ways of doing things should not die out. However, the way for them to not die out is perhaps NOT to make *everyone* learn the old ways, but a group who then function as they now suspect the appendix does, keeping a reserve of intestinal flora just in case the Creeping Crudcrums wipes out the GI tract. (and if you are piloting a multi-engine plane, certainly learning about differential engine power as part of certification for that airframe).

    There, did I annoy everyone? 😀

    • ‘Nother example: Used to be, navigators (including on bombers) had to be able to use a sextant as a backup to all the electronics. Now we have a smaller crew, more automation, and it’s not taught (AFAIK).
      We could now, more or less, make every old book that was ever published and still exists in scannable form, available for reference – keeping “obsolete” skillsets, and jungle lore that was never written, is a little harder even by setting people aside to keep it alive. (How many “reservation Indians” still know how to make a bow or tan a hide?)

      • keeping “obsolete” skillsets, and jungle lore that was never written, is a little harder even by setting people aside to keep it alive.

        On the flip side (again). Somebody figured these skills and lore out once. They didn’t spring full grown from the head of Zeus. (Which would appear to be my favorite metaphor. 😉 ) We can do it again if really necessary.

        The trick is surviving long enough to do so.

      • One of the big issues I’ve had with trying to learn some these old skills (or even many new skills lately) is time. I can make a start, get so far, and then there’s a family emergency, or a something at work, or SOMETHING, and suddenly it’s been three months since I looked at the book or whatever and I have to start all over again. And the cycle begins anew.

        • oh yea– many of those skills came from apprenticeships–

          • There’s also the issue of motivation. If your life – or your ability to stop being an apprentice and start being treated like a human being – depends on acquiring a certain skill set you’re going to pick it up faster than someone who’s studying it as a lark.

            • Very true. When it was a matter of “get that MCSE or starve,” I was focused like a laser. Of course, I didn’t have a house or job at the time; getting that cert WAS my job — 8 hours a day, 5 days a week, 6 hours on Saturday, not including the night classes.

      • sabrinachase

        Speaking of preserving knowledge, I saw an excellent video once (I think produced by the Canadian government) that followed one of the last guys who knew how to make a traditional birchbark canoe. How he picked the tree (and how he brought his wife along to give her considered opinion/approval), how to find the right long, strong pine roots for sewing it up (tip: pick trees on the edge of natural clearings), storing the birchbark in a stream to keep it flexible until he was ready to start working on it…the whole thing, soup to nuts. Maybe I couldn’t make one on the first try with that information, but it would sure give me a head start…

        • Mild OT. There’s a gent up in MN who makes birchbark canoes for one of the canoe stores in Duluth. The sales lady said that they were exact Native American canoes in every detail EXCEPT he used a pine-tar blend for waterproofing instead of bear grease.

        • There’s the book “Bark and Skin Boats of North America,” which does the same thing in print. Sorry, I don’t recall the author’s name.

          Ben Hartley

      • I would point you to the History Channel show “Mountain Men” for a look at several families and groups keeping many of those old time skills alive. One of them, Tom and his wife, earn most of their livelihood by trapping, processing the hides, and making moccasins and clothing from the leather. I’ve also seen Tom craft a perfectly functional bow and stone tipped fully fletched arrows.
        Then there’s the Kilcher family on Discovery living on an Alaskan homestead off the grid mostly self sufficiently, feeding their extended family by hunting, farming, and trading for essentials they cannot produce themselves.
        Then there’s the Mother Earth News, the Foxfire books, and lets not forget SCA for a very tightly focused revival of old time ways.
        And I myself am a proud graduate of the National Ornamental Metal Museum’s short course in blacksmithing. It did help that I had spent years as a welder and machinist, as well as a hobby silversmith. It’s all metal after all. All that matters is how hot to make it and how hard to hit it.

      • Giggle. Yea on a couple of decades ago, I hitched a ride from Misawa AB Japan to Moffit Field NAS on an Orion P-3 returning to the west coast after a six-month rotation in the Pacific. It was a pretty fun flight, and I have been spoiled for long-distance flights ever since – but one of the highlights was observing while the Navy commander and his exec did some observations with the sextant out of some specialized hatch just aft of the flight deck … and bitched to each other about how computers had taken all the fun out of trans-oceanic navigation. But it was something to see the coast approaching on radar, and then to have the guys call me up to the flight deck to see the mountains of California outlined in the sunrise fog and cloud cover… (I wrote a lovely post about it ages ago for the original website. Can’t find it in the archive, but I

        Fun flight, actually – they passed me off to Japanese customs as aircrew, but the looks that I got at the other end, from the wives waiting in the big hanger at Moffit.

      • One of the many reasons I’m sad that Linsay Books is closed.

    • I was pondering this as I worked through the comments (bad doctor, beat me to it!), the further we progress in technology, the less likely we are to be able to learn all of the foundations of our various specialties. Remembering the immediate precursors back x steps, sure, but further?

      I read something somewhere sometime (I believe in citations) that commented on the impossibility of the true renaissance man in modern times. There’s too much information. (I think this creates a number of problems, as few people realize the true complexity of modern existence, but that’s another post somewhere.)

      One of the things I note in several of my areas of expertise/familiarity, though, is to take this to the extreme. “I can’t know everything so I won’t bother with even the first order precursors…” That way lies planes tumbling down the runway.

      Didn’t annoy me, care to try again? O:-)

      • sabrinachase

        (pokes Eamon with Wasp Stick)
        Please select from the following menu. Listen carefully as our options have changed. Wenn man etwas Deutsch hören möchten, bitte schlagen die Nummer Drei.
        1) “Are we there yet?”
        B) “your mother forgets to use proper boundary conditions in her complex contour integral calculations!”
        iii) I told Author Solutions you were interested in their “Full Freight” author package.

        THAT ought to do it!

      • Again, I wasn’t talking about that. Sure, I can write by hand, but thank G-d I don’t have to.
        More stuff like cooking food because bought is not as good unless you go five start restaurant. And how to take care of your clothes… that sort of thing.

      • Your first paragraph puts me in mind of the story “Forgetfulness.” Written, I believe, by John Campbell under the name Don A. Stuart.

  17. Awww, you melted my snowflake.

  18. The special snowflakes, or as Vox Day calls them, Pink Sci-Fi, are alternately amusing and annoying. They remind me of the path jazz took as it declined and rock and roll began to emerge. At some point jazz musicians stopped playing for people, stopped trying to entertain and audience, and began playing for each other.

    “See how cleaver I was there” their playing seemed to say. “See how unique I am, how original and at once referential to an obscure classical work?”

    In essence, jazz turned its back on the idea that it should gain the largest audience it could by entertaining the people and began the long journey of crawling up its own ass. I see the same thing happening here.

    • “and began the long journey of crawling up its own ass. I see the same thing happening here.”

      There’s a picture!

    • This is part of a theory I have (Theory because I don’t like hypthoses, they’re so often a disappointment. Oh, and I have no plans to test.) regarding the development of any art:

      There comes a point when an artist is so steeped in esoteric knowledge they begin to explore their art as technical evolutions rather than aesthetic movements. Deeper and deeper into the hole they go. This would be fine, and great art might come out the other side, but for the intellectual groupies who so want to belong. Now the technical evolutions are being encouraged, oftentimes by those lacking the expertise to understand them, and the artist (and the art) is lost to an increasing spiral of aesthetic irrelevance.

      Or, you know, crawling up their own ass.
      😀

      • Good thing I’m not an artist. I just want to tell stories.

        • One of the things I like about Swain’s Techniques of the selling writer is that it’s not a formula. It’s a recipe.

          Allow me to explain. When I’m in the lab, using a formula, I follow it exactly to produce a known result. In the kitchen, the recipe is just the starting point. Recipe calls for one clove of garlic? Add two tblsp of minced garlic. (What can I say? I like garlic.) Add more or less thickener to the sauce/gravy depending on how thick you like it. Use cut up chunks of round roast rather than crumbled ground beef, or sausage rather than hamburger. Add a quarter cup port wine to the marinara sauce. Whatever. The recipe is just a framework from which to hang your own creativity.

          But without that recipe you’re more likely to make a mess than a meal. And nobody’s going to want to eat it.

          Let this be a parable unto you.

          • ^^
            This.
            I hated all the “formulas for bestsellers books” BUT recipes I can deal with. Only two tblsp? Piker.

            • Only two tblsp? Piker.

              Other people often have to eat what I cook.

              The sacrifices we make for familial harmony.

              • That’s why my wife has two settings for most of her favorite recipes: “Normal”, and “Company”. “Normal” amps up the hot peppers, garlic, fresh ginger, etc to the point that we don’t dare feed it to the unsuspecting.

                She’s a much better cook than I, because for her they *are* recipes rather than formulas. Unless I’ve made something a dozen times before I don’t quite dare tinker with the recipe, while she gets good results varying on the fly the first time she tries it. I think being a good cook is rather like being a good jazz musician – you need to be able to improvise on the fly.

            • I expect you’re already familiar with it, but for anyone who isn’t scare up the transcript of a speech R.A.H. gave at the Naval Academy entitled “Channel Markers.” He lays out step by step the process for getting published and most importantly how to keep selling. Now much of that great advice has aged not due to him, but due to drastic changes in publishing itself, but it’s still a damn fine read.
              Somehow I do believe that were the first Grand Master still with us he would be very involved with indie, though prior to his passing the houses that on the one hand badmouthed his works were still clamoring for the chance to sell his next book, the greedy bastiches.

        • ‘Tis precisely why I walked away from art school.

    • An office mate of mine some years ago tells of having friends at Stanford in the music department who invited her to a composition class’s recital. Which turned out to be variously entertaining/boring/mildly disquieting.

      After it had ended, she asked one of the participants whose composition had been particularly out there (my office mate was far too polite to describe it as unlistenable) if anyone actually liked to listen to his music.

      The reaction was mild horror mixed with sneering distaste: “I don’t write this for people to *listen* to!” And, truly, it seemed to be working.

  19. I also never really liked Tolkien’s idea of magic, other races, and all the other fantastic stuff fading away. Been playing around for a while now with the idea for a story where elves, dwarves, magic, and all that come back while humans and technology are inevitably fading away, all as part of some cycle of deep time. First it’s our turn, then theirs, then ours again … over and over.

    The maudlin sense of “Oh, we’re losing all these wonderful things” would be replaced by a frantic search to preserve what we have and stop it from falling apart. No one has time to be sentimental when the lights go out.

    Just haven’t quite nailed down some characters yet. Still, an elf kingdom in a newly wild wine country, dwarves with bowling alleys, and Mad Max like running battles on techno-magical dune buggy’s as they race across crumbling Nevada highways seem to be ideas permanently stuck in my head. God willing and the creek don’t rise we’ll get another computer soon, then I can kick the girls off this one and get back to writing.

    • My kind of story. Let us know.

    • He had to face facts. Namely, if the elves and magic were once around, they were no longer so. Therefore, they had to fade. Indeed, folklore of the British Isles is full of stories about the — ehem — Good Folk vanishing. (side by side with tales of them being active.)

      It’s like urban fantasy where you have to hide the people in order to pretend it’s our world. And it’s generally very badly justified in-universe. L. Jagi Lamplighter did it well in her Prospero’s Daughter trilogy, but other ones are weak.

    • Read Zelazny’s “Unicorn Variations,” if you haven’t. It starts from the premise that, as normal species go extinct, magical ones return.

  20. Christopher M. Chupik

    I gotta admit, the past few years there’s been some times when I feel a bit like Dominic Flandry. Minus the blaster and hot chicks.

  21. So, I went and read the interview… ok, ok, I read some of it and my eyes sort of glazed over the middle part. It seemed really unexceptionable. Undoubtedly I’m not attuned so much to the Marxist red either, but I could definitely see tinges of the usual political leanings and biases (though I sort of wonder if the “professional person” who disillusioned her was Obama).

    But most of it was exactly what I’ve said a million times about the utility of a science fictional frame on a story. And I suppose that the whole purpose of an interviewer is to communicate “this is really really really interesting, eleventy” but it was very ordinary and far too long.

    There was the part where the interviewer said “life is so different for kids these days” followed by the author saying, “oh, you’re so right, and that’s why adults read YA because they all know exactly what it’s like and they remember that.” Which almost caught my interest enough for a chuckle because “the terrible uniqueness of teenagerness that has never been seen before in the course of history” is one of my *things*.

    So I couldn’t decide if either side of that conversation really thought itself unique, or if they were both just pretending.

  22. William Newman

    It is a baroquely unique word, but in the 19th century the lost art of humane editing was still being reinvented, and the gruesome fate of “Jabberwocky and Jabbertocky” prevented “squirmish” from entering the lexicon.

  23. Utterly off-topic:

    I am about to sit down and prepare my tax return.

    I think the deadline should be moved from April 15 to November 1. Six and a half months makes it too easy to forget by Election Day.

    • October 31 would probably be better thematically (and is still close to election day).

      And think how good a costume an IRS taxman would be!

      On Fri, Mar 21, 2014 at 2:52 PM, According To Hoyt wrote:

      > Kent G. Budge commented: “Utterly off-topic: I am about to sit down > and prepare my tax return. I think the deadline should be moved from April > 15 to November 1. Six and a half months makes it too easy to forget by > Election Day.” >

      • Eh, after the first couple hundred trick-or-treaters got shot you might not think a Revenuer was such a good costume.

        • I should have tracked how much time I wasted today trying to find a clip of that kid in Oh Brother Where Art Thou saying… “Thought you wuz a revenuer.” after he shot at his uncle and the other prison escapees.

    • I say move Tax Day to May 1 and Election Day to Memorial Day. Puts them closer together, means better weather for most of the country, and gives people a ready retort when some superannuated child starts complaining about having to stand in line.

  24. CombatMissionary

    The pinnacle of civilization depends on point of view. Most Abrahamic religions think of it as the Garden of Eden, with decay ever since due to the rising hedonism and casting off of traditional mores.
    Most leftists think it’s now because of the rising individualism (hedonism, cough, cough) and casting off of traditional mores.
    Religious/conservative techies have it the worst. The decline of tradition and/or dedication to religion/traditional minimalist representative government while we have the rise of technology that revolutionizes life.
    Reading the tea leaves, I think the First World Hedonist Leftists are aborting themselves out of existence, and things may just get better. Every dark cloud has a silver lining.

  25. Medievals couldn’t console themselves much on their piety, because of course the early Christians were also seen as being more pious than them. Walking around the countryside, you could see Greek and Roman ruins and roads. Your basic schooling consisted of a revelation that the ancient Jews wrote better stuff and hung out with God a lot, and the pagan ancient Romans were smart and had cooler stuff. Things like “we have stuff they didn’t have, like awesome water mills and stirrups and clocks and developed waterpower” don’t usually get credit from the medieval mind.

    Guys living through the decline of Rome had all sorts of reactions.

    1. “Well of course, Virgil is epic, I’ve memorized Virgil, but really, isn’t modern poetry so much more clever?” (A lot of annoying people)

    2. “I’m writing panegyrics for Goths. Admittedly, they’re clever panegyrics, and it is helping me help my fellow Romans and parishioners, but still, Goths.” “Yeah, I know what you say about Goths. I think I will write a book about how Philosophy leads you to God and helps you deal with reversals of Fortune, when the Goths inevitably turn on me.” (That poet in France who got made a bishop, and Boethius.Hey, they got to be saints.)

    3. “Okay, the bad news is that we’re in deep doo-doo. The good news is that God is still in control, and will make this work out for us. It’s exercise for a better spiritual life for us, and the long game for Him. Don’t be a whiner; get up and do something good.” (St Augustine in The City of God.)

    4. “I told you this would happen, but did anybody listen? Nooooo!” (A lot of people.)

    5. “I’m retiring, moving to a rural farm with my wife, doing good works, and writing letters all over Europe to my students and friends.” (St. Paulinus of Nola.)

    6. “I was planning on being a rural hermit, but now that you mention it, I guess I’ll build an order that builds civilizing settlements all over Europe and beyond, and keeps a military watch and work schedule.” (St. Benedict)

    6. “If God gives you Goths and Muslim raiders and all the rest, make Gothicade. Chop, chop, chop!” (Lots of people.)

    7. “I realize you guys are in the process of having your civilization destroyed by waves of steppe barbarian invaders and desert barbarian invaders and seaborne barbarian invaders and plagues and whatnot, but we think it sounds cool. We’d like to stop being barbarian raiders ourselves, buy your books and copy them out for all our friends, and then come visit you and help you rebuild! Whee!” (Ireland)

    • 8. “This is all the Christians’ fault for annoying the gods!” (Lots of guys, plus Gibbon and Graves.)

      9. “This is all everybody’s fault for annoying God!” (Lots of guys.)

      10. “This is all a temporary reverse, and we can probably still fix it. Worst case, I’m sure New Rome can still stand till 1500 AD or so.” (Lots of guys.)

      • 11. “Look, I could moan about the decline of civilization and I’ve got plenty of hair-raising stories about Goths and Lombards getting drunk and violent, but I’m busy running Rome in the absence of a government, sending out missionaries, and writing a few books on the side, because people wouldn’t let me alone to just be a hermit! Find someone with time to whine.” (Pope St. Gregory the Great)

        • LOL. Okay — I was going on my feeling from personal diaries and stuff from people living through it in Portugal where, until the Muslims hit the fan in the South and the Germanic tribes (mostly Swabians) hit the fan int he North, it was a relatively gentle decline.

          • It was happening all over, so I’m pretty sure people were all over the map on this one. (Literally.) I tend to think of history as more stories and characters than a science, and I remember the bits I like or have read in good memorable books. I’m pretty sure my picture of most eras is not anything like solid or unbiased!

            And with all the Arian Goths and Muslim raiders and so forth, I’m pretty sure that people in Portugal had to feel positive about whatever they could. Certainly Portugal managed better than Spain on not getting invaded as permanently. Maybe they had a right to feel smug about being more pious than the pagans? or maybe they had more spicy mosaics around?

            (And I got the impression that large chunks of Portugal were basically production facilities for the Templars et al, so that they’d have food and horses and wool and stuff to carry on the fight? Don’t know much about Portugal before Henry the Navigator, and darned little afterward except the Lusiad, the Lisbon earthquake, and Fatima. Oh, and the nifty architecture style named after the queen. I took a class on Spanish history once, but I’ve never done Portuguese history.)

        • The one I always liked:

          12. “Yes, I know Rome (all right, Ravenna) stopped answering the mail, and we haven’t seen anyone make it through the Franks or the Visigoths or the rest of the Germanic tribes from the Eastern Emperor or even anyone at all from Italy for quite a while, but we’re just going to keep going like my Father Aegidus decided and basically pretend we’re still just a Roman province here in northern Gaul for as long as we can.”(Dux Syagrus of Soissons)

    • Love 6 and 7!

  26. brianniemeier

    “(I think part of the exceptional qualities of the Western civilizations are because of first Rome and then Christianity. But that’s not the point here. The point is that–) Often these Christians weren’t particularly Christian.”

    Medieval (and that’s a big, fuzzy span of time) Christians organized their lives around and were highly involved in the local church. They were undoubtedly illiterate, but deep participation in the liturgy catechizes people pretty effectively (compare religious education levels among weekly churchgoers compared to Christmas/Easter only attendees).

    Everything we inherited from Rome came through the Church, which added several improvements like notions of popular sovereignty, the truth that “all men are created equal”, and de-normalization of slavery.

    And appropriately for this site, Medieval Christendom gave us the novel.

    • In re: catechization through Mass, somebody did a study showing a close correspondence between a medieval French religion’s homily help book for parish priests and Joan of Arc’s answers at her trial. So somebody was paying attention….

  27. Le pinnacle, c’est moi!

    Because such [Expletive Deleted]s operate entirely from a self-oriented frame of reference, their process begins by defining “the pinnacle” of civilization as holding the same enlightened attitudes, values and opinions as they themselves hold. The fact that their concepts of property, of propriety, of principles would cause the average Roman senator to blow olives out through his nose (Women, Equal??? Slavery offensive? Human Rights inherent? NONSENSE!) is, to such provincial intellects, evidence of their pinnaclyness.

    Because they don’t understand the legacy they’ve inherited, the foundations on which it has been erected, the underlying philosophy or even how it flipping works — all they have is unjustifiably high self-regard for having successfully learned the fashions of their era. That those fashions are not permanent are not based on eternal values or universal principles is as utterly beyond their comprehension as the principle that George Soros funding political campaigns is functionally no different from the brothers Koch so doing.

    These are the people who succeeded by giving the demanded response when teacher asked a question, who did no independent work and thought no original thoughts. They are the swots, the Hermione Grangers without the moderating experience of Harry, Ron and Lord Whassname. Had they lived in the Mad Men era they would have clad themselves in grey flannel and joined the Elks, Shriners and Moose. They cannot conceive that their modern uniform of jeans and t-shirt is as conformist as anything Brooks Brothers ever sold.

  28. BTW – while technology has improved since then, civilization reached its pinnacle with Marcus Aurelius and has yet to surpass his meditations.

    • I quite like The Guide for the Perplexed myself.(by Maimonides)

    • I have been known to say (and write) that most sagacious characters in fiction would benefit from a little less of the depths of the author’s shallowness (as he tries to make them profound on their own) and a little more ripping off of historical wise people. Like, for instance, Marcus Aurelius.

      I once observed this over a lunch, and a friend of a friend, who had watched Gladiator was startled. You mean he was a real person? sigh

      OTOH, I have heard of Mediations being marketed as a Gladiator tie in.

      • I have long loved the idea underlying Steve Allen’s marvelous Meeting of Minds TV program, while wishing it had been done just a little bit better.

        Imagine Marcus Aurelius, Moses Maimonides and Miyamoto Musashi walk into a bar …

        Or perhaps we could have Adam Smith, Alexander Hamilton and Karl Marx splitting a bar tab …

        Dare we dream of a McLaughlin Group comprised of Cardinal Richlieu, Charles Maurice de Talleyrand-Périgord and Charles Martel discussing world affairs?

        Credit all authors who have the wisdom to base characters and circumstances on historical events (thank-you, David “Daniel Leary” Drake, and I know what you’re doing with Into the Fire, Sarah.)

        • Imagine Marcus Aurelius, Moses Maimonides and Miyamoto Musashi walk into a bar …

          *sigh*

          The pathetic thing is, when I search for those last two names, I go “oh– I DO remember those guys!”

          The names just get all jumbled.

          Really makes for pathetic no-internet conversations. (It’s not because of the internet– always been horrible for remembering names.)

          I wonder if such a show, well carried off, might make it so people could remember names better?

          Now have a fake-Roman voice going “MIS-ter Me-yah-moe-toe—” in my head.

  29. So today the barrista at Steep (little coffee and tea place behind our new Trader Joes…) had a tattoo on the inside of her arm.

    Ink, not Herve Villechaize

    Read: Veni vidi vici

  30. I haven’t read the interview with Miss Castellucci yet (Wait! I know!) but bear with me: she is ignorant of science fiction because she is new to the field. (I’ve met the woman, she’s been a guest in my home, and she’s a lovely person. She knows she’s coming to the field from a different direction: comics and anime and T.V.). Her limitations are the limitations of the current SFnal watchdogs-and-guardians (Scalzi and his ilk) and what she imagines she knows is every bit as useful as you’d expect it to be from that source.

    She knows not that she knows not, poor kid, but as of a few months ago, she was committed to exploring more. And she’s a darn fine writer: her teen novels are excellent (Beige is my favorite) and I’m looking forward to reading her next book: the graphic novel about depression-era train-hopping hobo culture. I know she’s done the research.

    Meanwhile, Tin Star, (I’ll bet you money that’s what the interview is about) is a Andre Norton juvenile ala Night of Masks with an utterly unnecessary (and probably out of character) sex scene that was (with the one jarring exception) loads of fun to read. I miss Andre Norton novels, and I’m glad someone is reinventing them (even if she doesn’t know she’s doing it). She really is breaking out of a rut in the Young Adult SFnal field. Don’t believe me? Check out the Andre Norton award nominees for the past 5 years.

    I’ll also tell you this: Despite being imbedded in the heart of progressive L.A. Miss Castellucci seemed far more open-minded than the usual run of hopeless lefties. And since she’s open to learning, it would behoove those of us who know better to give her a hand up, rather than reflexively tearing her down.

    That said: First time comment Ms. Hoyt. While your novels don’t appeal to me (de gustibus, etc.), my husband and I love your blog. Should you ever publish a book of your essays, I’ll happily plunk down the money for it.

    • But “reflexively tearing down” is what she and her kind do to everyone who came before. It’s easy to crow superiority when you invent a strawman past for the field you’re in and then tear that straw man down. But it also makes you… small.
      Pardon me, ignorance is curable, arrogance isn’t. If you come into the field saying you’re new and amazing, you shouldn’t be “generic” — and having read her free chapters, I agree with my husband. Yes, tastes vary, but her book is “bland generic.” This coupled with a claim of being new and amazing doesn’t indicate she’s willing to learn. As for “young” — she’s six years younger than I, and that also is not a claim to being a quick learner.
      Look, what I say not once but forever is if you’re going to play in a playground, you should know the territory. And if you don’t know the territory, the least you could do is refrain from drawing a map of it full of “here be pulp dragons.”

    • Miss Castellucci seemed far more open-minded than the usual run of hopeless lefties.

      That is, perhaps, less of an endorsement than you seem to think. Given this is an SF forum, you might as well have said she is less dense than a neutron star, or hasn’t quite the gravitational attraction of a black hole. I might opt for a popular religious metaphor and declare her less Catholic than the Pope, but pontiffs in the recent century have rendered that turn of phrase less meaningful than once it was.

  31. I suppose that’s fair enough, assuming she’s really a part of “their kind” and not just, erm, falling into the trap of believing what appear to be the old hands and experts tell her. As I keep telling my yard ape, it’s not what you don’t know that bites you in the arse, it’s what you don’t know that you don’t know–or worse, what you “know” (especially because you believe it’s on good authority) that just isn’t so.

    But maybe she isn’t? Aside from the one interview, (still haven’t read it, sorry: I’ll get to it!) it’s hard to tell, isn’t it? I think she’s got potential to come down on the side of truth, justice, & the American way (said only half in jest) and don’t want to lose her to the unreasoning hordes.

    IFF you liked Andre Norton’s books, I think you’d enjoy Tin Star if you gave it a chance. And yes, it’s nothing new, if you know enough to recognize where the “new” came from – Castellucci is reinventing the wheel. But wheels are good things, and the veneration of novelty is mug’s game. I cannot recommend Diana Wynne Jone’s essay “Why I would rather write for kids, thank you very much” enough.

    And you all look like kids to me, but then I’m an old coot 🙂

    • Perhaps, before you come back to yet again try to discuss something you don’t have all the information on, you ought to go read the interview. How can you address the issues raised in the post without reading it? It isn’t that long. You could have read it in less than the time it took you to compose one, much less two, comments that were, in some ways, insulting to Sarah. Maybe after you’ve read it, you’ll be ready to come and actually discuss what the post is about.

      • Easy there, good lady. I don’t think Carbonel is trying to attack anyone. I don’t even smell concern troll here. Just someone disagreeing. Politely even, which we don’t see often enough on these here intertubes. From what I can find of hers elsewhere, in addition to her own statements here, our visitor seems to be on the side of the angels. I think she just differs in taste. As much fun as you are to watch argue sometimes, I’d hate to see blue on blue here.

        • And I repeat that my concern is that she has yet to read the blog post cited — by her own admission — and yet comes here to defend without knowing the full story. And yes, she did insult, when she said she didn’t like what Sarah wrote except here on the blog. Whether she meant to or not is another thing. Yeah, I’m grumpy. It’s been a long couple of weeks. But when someone basically says they’re too busy to read a cite and yet can come in and comment twice, I have to call bull. Sorry if you don’t agree.

          • I’m sorry to hear you’ve been having a rough time. I hope things get better for you soon! If there’s anything that little ol’ me can do to help, please let me know. Gotta take care of one’s mates, or we’ll never get to the looting and pillaging! 😀

            I promise, Amanda, I wasn’t trying to chide you or (terrifying thought) start an argument with you. I don’t even disagree with the substance of your comment. I’ve just gotten frustrated in the last few months with watching what I see as needless arguments between some of the Huns, and so I decided to try to gently intervene for once and mellow things out, instead of another round of stewing about my online “friends and neighbors” (and apparently friendly bystanders) sniping at each other again. I may have chosen poorly. I hope I didn’t give offense in trying to prevent offense. If I did, I apologize. Irony sucks from the receiving end.

            Again, best wishes for you!

        • No, I too have to raise an eyebrow when someone rushes in to defend something they know nothing about. It speaks of questionable judgement at the least. I know you are a peacekeeper, friend oyster, but the commentor needs to be aware that she is backhanding the hostess and is being willfully ignorant by her own admission. To Carbonelle: We understand and respect friendship – it is good! – but for goodness sakes, tie your shoelaces before you trip on them again. It just makes you look less intelligent than you really are.

          • No, I too have to raise an eyebrow when someone rushes in to defend something they know nothing about.

            At least, in terms other than possible multiple interpretations. Massive difference between going “well, what else might’ve been going on?” and saying someone’s the second coming of whatever…..

  32. Pingback: Linking, blinking, and nod | Blog of the Nightfly

  33. To Foxfier, Cedar, and Amanda (and to Ms Hoyt & her readers: my apologies: you are correct, and I am wrong. I should have read the interview. I knew it posting, and still know it now (and have corrected the error, though not, as you will not doubt dislike reading, my opinion) May I be pardoned for defending the honor of someone I like, and did not want to have unfairly misjudged? The which I still think, by the by, is the case. Nonetheless, we all make errors in judgment, myself as often (sometimes moreso) than others. So I will leave this topic here: I would be very sad to discover that I am in error as to Ms Castellucci’s character, and Ms Hoyt is correct. I shall close by reiterating: I admire Ms. Hoyt’s writing very much, and if she ever publishes the kind of story I enjoy reading, I shall purchase it forthwith.

    • I think few among us have not charged out in defense of a friend without first stopping to determine the merits of the friend’s case — and I would not give tuppence for anyone who had never done so.

      But we all learn, eventually, that even our friends can be sometimes fatuous and even wrong, and our defense of them misguided. We also learn that some of our friends are not really “our” friends and that sometimes even decent, nice and intelligent people fall prey to the impulse to play to an interviewer, portraying themselves as not exactly what they actually are. (For example, Sarah Hoyt has written long and multiple times about her efforts to fit in with the publisher culture and the price it cost her for succeeding as well as failing — it is a primary element in her biography and impetus of her support for Indy publishing.)

      When the Daughtorial Unit was small I was dismayed to realize that the problem with saying “it is just a phase that they all go through” was true only to an extent; the phases grow longer and I knew too many people who seemed stuck in some one of the later “phases.” The desire to be what your audience [publisher/agent/friends/family/children/other] wants you to be can be overwhelming of good sense and requires a strength of character not often encouraged. (Some of us have no difficulty and thus no claim of character; we are so incapable of adapting to the expectations that no effort is required to resist the siren’s song.)

      Perhaps your friend fell prey to that, perhaps she was revealing of herself a side which had hitherto been obscure, perhaps some other factor explains. Your defense requires apology, your support no defense, your opinions no justification. You like what and who you will, as do we all, and if any opinions expressed here were overly harsh I daresay it was due to the satiation with the pose more than with the poser.

      I hope we can all agree that judging a person’s character on a single (or even limited) experience of it is fraught with danger (literary reference: The Red Badge of Courage) and that to truly* appreciate a person’s lack of character you must get to know them very very well.

      *Exceptions made for politicians, whose trade requires they adopt and maintain a public character designed for easy reading: See Dick run. Run, Dick, run.

    • Well, you get major points for the follow up.

      Incidentally, WordPress is having fits again– your post never made it to my inbox, nor did anything below it except for RES’ response. No idea why.

      So, if you’re light on responses– there’s that.

  34. I really enjoyed this article, but one paragraph in particular grabbed me:

    > Jane Austen, for instance, wrote markedly less visual books than we do. No TV among her audience, so techniques were different.

    THIS. I have been noticing this for years, and not just with Austen, but with Chesterton, Buchan, and others.

    You’re the first person I’ve ever come across to mention it.

    • I realized it because people from our writer’s group way back when were trying to write like Poe or Austen or whatever, and I realized it felt “wrong” — then figured out why.
      I’m glad someone else saw it.