The Redheaded Step Genre

When I was eight years old, I read Heinlein’s Have Spacesuit Will Travel. At the time I had no idea it was science fiction, because as far as I was concerned, trips to the moon was just what went on in America.

Hey, America in 1970 might very well have had contests with spacesuits as prizes. And contact with aliens, for all I knew.

So it went unremarked.  That was the same Summer I read Tom Sawyer and The Prince and the Pauper, so you might as well consider it my induction in the evil league of evil, since I was reading a dead white male and all.

Then when I was eleven, and my brother was studying engineering in college, he fell in with a dangerous crowd.  By which I mean he made friends with a guy who had every science fiction book ever translated to Portuguese.

My brother borrowed them and told me I was not to touch them on penalty of pain.  I later found out he was afraid I’d come across a sex scene or something and be shocked.

He didn’t realize the best way to get me to read something was to tell me I couldn’t do it.

So I read Out of Their Minds, by Clifford Simak, because that’s how daring I was.

It was, mind you, more fantasy than science fiction, but it contained Robin Hood and various cartoon characters and I thought “This is cool.”

So the next book I picked up and read, from my brother’s bedside table, standing poised and ready to drop the book and run to my room at the sound of a foot on the stairs was A Canticle for Leibowitz.

And I was like:

Futurism, metaphysics, and the kind of depressing view of human history that any teen would find deep! What’s not to like.

At which point, I went a little crazy.

The Door Into Summer; Ubik, City, They Walked Like Men, a whole lot of Keith Laumer and Poul Anderson and the obligatory, despondent anti-capitalist stuff of the mid seventies, whose titles I can’t even remember.

I wanted it all, and I wanted it now.  By the time I was thirteen, my brother and I would pool our resources and go halvsies on books.  He’s so lucky that I got married abroad and never claimed my halves.  The judgement of Solomon would have left us with half a book and half a memory.

Mind you, at the same time I was reading all the stuff that young ladies were supposed to be reading, too.

And everything I WASN’T supposed to read, including my older cousin’s Portuguese Romance Novels, which always seemed to center on a bullfighter and which always ended with him dying and her mourning him forever. (So, HEA for the culture!)

The only stuff that left any impression other than the sf/f were Dumas and Shakespeare.  (I’d come at Jane Austen much later. I had to know more about the time period.  While she liked her little bits of ivory, I liked my stories big.)

I lay in my bed at night and dreamed huge dreams and went to sleep too late, and then slept through classes. Stranger in a Strange Land, Foundation and Empire, and Ray Bradbury and wow.

And then I started writing (bad) tales of science fiction in class, and my classmates loved them.  And then I submitted one as an assignment in Portuguese class.

And I got mugged by snobbery!

Apparently this genre with all the wow and the metaphysics and the deep pondering of how things were put together and whether they could be put together another way was not only bad, oh no. It was wrong.

It was wrong, wrong, wrong. It was going to corrupt my morals and make me into a bad girl. I should read morally improving tales, like The Jungle, and Lord of The Flies and Tess D’Ubervilles

So I read all of that, and also all of Camus and a lot of other stuff that everyone said was REALLY IMPORTANT STUFF I should read.

Though I never finished War and Peace because I:

Better than sleeping tablets. Kept it on my bedside for years.

So I liked some of that stuff.  Like Jorge Luis Borges.  Though, you know, he kind of reminded me of Bradbury.

And then they assigned me 1984 and Brave New World.  I believe assigning both of those in the same year is the language teachers’ attempt at population reduction.

I believe after reading those two, most teens consider blowing out their brains. Particularly when 1984 was still in the future.

The effect on me was more like “Science fiction.  OMG, they’re letting me read science fiction.”

I’m so happy. I’m not a sad freak. Some Science Fiction is okay. Look, they even assign it in school!

So, I mentioned this to my teachers. And they told me I was wrong.

These novels were not science fiction. They were deeply significant. And they reflected stuff about the human existence. No, no, no, not like what might happen after death, or whether freezing yourself for the future would be a good idea, or even if time travel was possible — no, it reflected stuff like … like how bad society might get.

At which point I realized two things.

First for something that talked about the future to be “good literature” it had to be depressing. Because that’s how you know it’s serious.

To be worthwhile, Science Fiction has to relate to the deep, troubling, horrible darkness that pervades all of reality. Because if we are not ALL going to die screaming, we’re not SERIOUS enough.

Or, to be considered serious, science fiction has to somehow mirror our present reality.

Because our time, our concerns, our preoccupations are the most important thing ever, and the future is just like the present and just as self absorbed forever. World without end.


And I thought “if the future is like this forever, I’m not going.”


And then I thought, no, scr*w that. My teachers clearly have no clue what they’re talking about. If art were all about reflecting reality and showing dangers and pitfalls and injustice and stuff, no one would ever read for fun.  And fun stuff — all of Shakespeare — would never touch you deeply and make you realize something about humanity you couldn’t verbalize before.

And then I had an epiphany.

By that time I had read more books than any of my teachers and you know what else? The only ones who cared about their opinions were they themselves.

Perhaps they wanted/needed everyone else to live lives of quiet desperation, so they could feel better.

They could have their mirror-dancing forever. I was going to read about the future that might be. I was going to enjoy myself. And you know what else, I didn’t care if non-depressing books were not “deeply significant.” I’d do what I needed to to get a good grade, but for fun? For fun I’d read whatever the heck I liked. And I liked science fiction and fantasy.
I have some dragons to ride in Pern, ‘kay? Call me when “literature” is half as interesting.

So, imagine my surprise, when I broke in science fiction to find that somehow we’ve got invaded by English Teachers.

I got told over and over again that what I needed to write was “deeply significant” literature, by which they didn’t mean stuff like exploring the past and the future and the implications of what science might do. Or at least they didn’t mean that, if it didn’t make you want to do this:

Because the only way something can be deeply significant is if it makes you want to toss your cookies or blow your brains out.

The other option, as time went on, was for something to be really… how to put this?

All about the latest, most fashionable causes and the latest, most fashionable positions to take.

Because of course our current problems and concerns are the most important thing ever, and no one in all of the history of human kind will ever get over them. And you’d never want to read anything else, ever:

What’s this perspective you hope to gain? What does that matter? We’re the most fascinating ever, in this eternal now.

Still, some good stuff sneaked through now and then. Until a few years ago, when we found out that we wouldn’t be allowed to have fun anywhere near science fiction, because science fiction, really science fiction is deeply significant and reflects reality and…

And I thought…

Wait a minute…

You said that’s what literature was, and I said, fine, whatevs, you can have literature, but I get science fiction and fantasy.

and then it was like

Who the heck are you guys, and what are you doing in my field? Aren’t you my college professors?

But apparently, no. They’d already done their worst to Mystery and were starting to tackle Romance. In their great quest to destroy all the fun that might remain in printed pages, it was our turn.

They’re like locusts. They move from genre to genre, trying to make it acceptable to “literature”, making the fans flee in droves, and it was our turn.

Only then a miracle occurred:

Indie gave us a chance to bypass all the people who were just like our “language arts” teachers and who’d taken over gatekeeping for our field.

Now, of course they don’t like it one bit, so they’re like:

Shut up, you losers! You totally don’t count! You’re not real writers. Science fiction is not even a genre! And it’s all about space lizards and stuff.

Or at least that’s what they think they’re doing. But we’re like:

Because now that we can publish without them, their opinions should matter to us why?

Like my teachers back in High School, they’ve never read anything just for fun.  And they think that literature is all about looking at themselves in the mirror, forever.

Because, you know, they’re so endlessly fascinating.

To themselves…

So while they massage their deep insecurities

lower, baby, lower, my insecurities are SOOOOO deep.


And tell themselves they’re every bit as worthy as all the stuff they were forced to read in school, the rest of us whose dinosaur rampage fantasies are more fun.

The Robot Godzilla symbolizes the mechanistic quality of literature in the age of political correctness and big gigantic *ssholes.

The rest of us will continue to write mindless stuff about princesses robots giant lizards The nature of evil; the role of government; the importance of colonization of new lands to human civilization; the implications of time travel.

And, oh yeah. We’ll continue to have fun too.

And also? Stick it up your jumper.

You do your thing and we do ours. You keep treating science fiction like the redheaded step child of literature. And we keep enjoying the big horizons and imagination of the genre. Because that’s how much your opinion matters to us, you guardians of culture and class who haven’t read anything published before 2000 and think past and present and all is all about you forever.

yes. That’s all there is. You. Forever.

We don’t mind. Ya’ll have fun with that mirror now, you hear?

We have spaceships (and dragons) to fly, and monsters to kill and magical cities to guard, and planets to invade and stuff.

Ya’ll take care.

Nothing but love!

682 thoughts on “The Redheaded Step Genre

        1. I have it on good authority that their equivalent cash value is now roughly equal to a pitcher of warm spit.

            1. I touched a Hugo once. It was one of Bujold’s little collection. That was a real Hugo, and it was shiny and nifty and cool as space.

              So yeah, let’s not go too far. Any insufficiently loved Hugo Awards can come sit on my mantelpiece any time.

                1. Apropos of nothing at all, I’m sure: I finished ConSensual by the wicked Kate Paulk the other day.

                  Not that I’m thinking of Natalia or anything. No-no. Not me. 😐

                  1. The wicked Kate Paulk? As opposed to the good Kate Paulk, the baaaaad Kate Paulk, the fishmonger Kate Paulk? How many are there to merit adjectival identification … and how very wicked must one of them be to be the wicked Kate Paulk?

                    N.B., this is not intended as a comprehensive listing of all Kate Paulk’s of the omniverse.

                    1. The wicked Kate Paulk is the confluence of all the wicked of all the Kate Paulk’s in the omniverse.

                      Problem is, you can never be sure which Kate Paulk is hosting the confluence at any given moment. Best to tread with care.

                    2. Then there’s the miniaturized Kate Paulk who attacks your face with a toothpick, also known as a Paulk in the eye with a sharp stick. Anything’s better than that.

  1. YES! Fun, we shall has it, and also, LOLs at GIFs.
    And now, I shall be a good little girl and go put my writer hat on, because the best response to this is to write some rip-roaring SF and bury our critics in the largesse of our imaginings.

      1. Sumerian beach novels were a genre dangerous to relationship harmony, unless you popped for the more expensive hard-baked clay tablets.

        Drop the soft clay tablets into the ocean just once and, well, then you never find out what Marduk did next. Or worse, you never hear the end of the complaints that they can’t find out, now that you ruined the entire vacation!

        1. Oh, I know – and don’t even mentioning trying to pack the things in a carry-on! The airlines take one look and go “Nope – extra-heavy baggage fee, we don’t care if you CAN lift it without giving yourself a hernia…”

        1. But aren’t there elephants standing on top of the turtles????

          Are you trying to kill the elephants by digging through their backs???

  2. Angsty? I don’t do angst. Life is too darn short for angst. I have no desire to torture myself writing it, or inflict it on any readers. If they’re truly masochistic enough that angst is all they desire, they can find plenty of it.

    I want FUN in SF. I want heroes and villains and spectacle galore. I want to sail among the clouds of Jupiter, I want to watch as a planet is terraformed, I want joy and laughter and humanity spread across the cosmos. I want puzzles, and oddities, and people smart enough to figure out a problem.

    THAT is why I’m writing. I’m not writing to please people who think humanity should collectively jump into the wood chipper. Who think that pain is so important that they reject the idea that problems can actually be dealt with, instead of a protagonist weeping and moaning about how damned unfair it all is.

    Screw the gatekeepers – the wall’s got massive gaps. I’m gonna go play.

      1. And those unimaginative control freaks can go do things to themselves which are biologically impossible without surgical modification, (or a 55 gallon drum of industrial strength lubricant and a massive hydraulic press) as far as I’m concerned.

        At ER:
        Doc: “Um, how DID you get that laptop up… there?”
        Patient: “Writing literature-quality science fiction! I’m going for a Hugo this year!”


          There ya go!

      2. They can want it otherwise all they want. I have 70s years where they didn’t get their way from my Doc Savage reprints to Alan Steele’s Coyote universe books.

        Sarah, Larry, Cedar, Kate, and David Freer can have my money but I have more than enough to read that I can ignore the angsty new authors (and I say that as someone who did so much goth radio that they’ll never take away my goth card…I know angst better than the lot of them, but at least my people use it to dress up and go dancing).

        1. Goth and Emo are not the same, but I suspect you already know that. I don’t mind Goth at all. A streak of it a mile wide runs through our home. Its the Emos that get me to roll my eyes and quote my friend from puritan New England: ‘Get over it.

          1. Yep. The Goths could laugh at themselves, and better yet, laugh at the angst, while looking pretty. Besides, they have the perky Goth, which is not as contradictory as one might think.

            Emo is like, “don’t poke me or I’ll squeal!”

            1. EMOs squeal whether or not they are poked … and moan … and sigh … and whine …. and generally throw a wet blanket over everything if it doesn’t suit them, and it never suits them. And they get really bad if they have nothing to complain about.

              Yeah, Goths can usually laugh at themselves. Me, I kinda like the sub-set called elegant Goth. Byron meets french grays and midnight navy.

                  1. I Thought dieselpunk meant you could leave the welds functional and didn’t have to knurl or crown with a jewel everything that sticks out.
                    Polished brass and heat-blued steel are pretty as babies’ eyes, but the world needs better understanding of the beauty of Parkerization.

                1. A Goth tried to explain what the black clothing meant to me once.

                  I responded:”I get it. Like Johnny Cash.”

                  We laughed at the Goth’s expression for weeks.

                  1. Must have been an odd Goth, many of the Goths I know would answer “Yes, the original man in black…”

            1. Teenagers have to find their own way.

              Otherwise we’d have been shooting Jazz and listening to heroin.

          2. ” A streak of it a mile wide runs through our home”

            I really don’t think you should be talking about RES that way.

              1. Really?

                RES may present as a wallaby, but anyone who knows him knows he is a cat.

                But your comment brings to mind poor Penelope and her most avid wooer:

    1. The Three-Decker

      “The three-volume novel is extinct.”

      Full thirty foot she towered from waterline to rail.
      It took a watch to steer her, and a week to shorten sail;
      But, spite all modern notions, I’ve found her first and best –
      The only certain packet for the Islands of the Blest.

      Fair held the breeze behind us – ‘twas warm with lover’s prayers,
      We’d stolen wills for ballast and a crew of missing heirs.
      They shipped as Able Bastards till the Wicked Nurse confessed,
      And they worked the old three-decker to the Islands of the Blest.

      By ways no gaze could follow, a course unspoiled of Cook,
      Per Fancy, fleetest in man, our titled berths we took
      With maids of matchless beauty and parentage unguessed,
      And a Church of England parson for the Islands of the Blest.

      We asked no social questions – we pumped no hidden shame –
      We never talked obstetrics when the Little Stranger came:
      We left the Lord in Heaven, we left the fiends in Hell.
      We weren’t exactly Yussufs, but – Zuleika didn’t tell.

      No moral doubts assailed us, so when the port we neared,
      The villain had his flogging at the gangway, and we cheered.
      ‘Twas fiddle in the foc’s’le – ‘twas garlands on the mast,
      For every one was married, and I went at shore at last.

      I left ‘em all in couples a-kissing on the decks.
      I left the lovers loving and parents signing cheques.
      In endless English comfort, by county-folk caressed,
      I left the old three-decker at the Islands of the Blest! . . .

      That route is barred to steamers: you’ll never lift again
      Our purple-painted headlands or the lordly keeps of Spain.
      They’re just beyond your skyline, howe’er so far you cruise,
      In a ram-you-damn-you liner with a brace of bucking screws.

      Swing round your aching searchlight – ‘twill show no haven’s peace.
      Ay, blow your shrieking sirens at the deaf, grey-bearded seas!
      Boom our the dripping oil-bags to skin the deep’s unrest –
      And you aren’t one knot the nearer to the Islands of the Blest.

      But when you’re threshing, crippled, with broken bridge and rail,
      At a drogue of dead convictions to hold you head to gale,
      Calm as the Flying Dutchman, from truck to taffrail dressed,
      You’ll see the old three-decker for the Islands of the Blest.

      You’ll see her tiering canvas in sheeted silver spread;
      You’ll hear the long-drawn thunder ‘neath her leaping figure-head;
      While far, so far above you, her tall poop-lanterns shine
      Unvexed by wind or weather like the candles round a shrine!

      Hull down – hull down and under – she dwindles to a speck,
      With noise of pleasant music and dancing on her deck.
      All’s well – all’s well aboard her – she’s left you far behind,
      With a scent of old-world roses through the fog that ties you blind.

      Her crews are babes or madmen? Her port is all to make?
      You’re manned by Truth and Science, and you steam for steaming’s sake?
      Well, tinker up your engines – you know your business best –
      She’s taking tired people to the Islands of the Blest!

      Rudyard Kipling

        1. Well, there’s the “Mary Gloster”. Rather appropriate lines in it, too.

          Poor guy had a son who was a SJW…

          “I thought – it doesn’t matter – you seemed to favour your ma,
          But you’re nearer forty than thirty, and I know the kind you are.
          Harrer an’ Trinity College! I ought to ha’ sent you to sea –
          But I stood you an education, an’ what have you done for me?
          The things I knew was proper you wouldn’t thank me to give,
          And the things I knew was rotten you said was the way to live.
          For you muddled with books and pictures, an’ china an’ etchin’s an’ fans.
          And your rooms at college was beastly – more like a whore’s than a man’s;
          Till you married that thin-flanked woman, as white and as stale as a bone,
          An’ she gave you your social nonsense; but where’s that kid o’ your own?”

          He sure had a flay with words, didn’t he?

        2. I’ve found that a wee dram of the usquebaugh settles the twitchies quite nicely. By itself or in coffee or tea, all work equally well.

        3. I really need to get back to doing poetry readings – “life” came up and I let them lay fallow and without updates, and Kipling was always a favorite of mine.

    2. ” I want to sail among the clouds of Jupiter, I want to watch as a planet is terraformed,…”
      Reminded me of this:
      “I’ve… seen things you people wouldn’t believe. Attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion. I watched C-beams glitter in the dark near the Tannhäuser Gate. All those… moments will be lost… in time… like… tears… in rain.”

      And I could not agree more…

      1. Which is why I write. Two stories of mine, ‘Wind’ and ‘D.I.Y’. I think they might actually have sold to Analog in the ’60s-70s. Son thinks I ought to submit them now, but I really don’t think that they’d even be considered. Insufficient angst and fail… 😦

        1. Analog might be a bit more open than most magazines these days. They publish Brad Torgersen, after all.

          Of course, a good chunk of the reason I’m indie is because I couldn’t find a magazine that published the kind of stories I liked to write, so I said “screw it” after prodding here and did it.

          Really, I’m pretty glad I did. 🙂

          1. Let’s just see here.
            99 cents times 30% time bunchaton equals …
            Nah, why would anyone ever want to do that?

          2. Seems like nearly everyone here pines for the Analog that used to be. Couldn’t someone who knows indie pub do an equivalent sort of thing? Wouldn’t have to be monthly, the old Destinies was grab it when you find it, and it was nearly always worth the trouble. My $0.02

              1. Even if there is a need for a new SF/Fantasy magazine (e-version or otherwise), I think it’d require a permanent staff to keep it running (artists, layouters, etc). Jim Baen’s Universe attempted to do it but had to shut down.

                  1. Translate it into arabic and russian and print it with vegetable inks on REALLY soft, pre-perforated paper?

                    1. No, seriously.

                      The point is to get *read*, right? To inject your memetic RNA into as many minds as you can.

                      And get paid.


                  2. Well, you are after our beer money, don’t you want it to be simple to find good stories? The advanced search on Amazon helps, but something better would help increase the audience.

                    1. Simpler for us but putting together a magazine (even an e-magazine) is not simple to do for those doing it.

              2. From the author side, I see and concur. What about readers who are looking for a way to find indie authors they like? I’ve found lots of people to read hanging out here, but I can’t help but feel I’m missing bunches of good stuff.

        2. I can’t do angst and fail. It’s not in my nature. Yet Analog has bought three from me, including two under Trevor. (Well, OK, one of those has a doomed romance, but no angst.) Give them a shot. They want good stories, angst or not.

              1. I liked DIY I didn’t read Wind. I’m it’s good. It just wasn’t to my taste. I loved the blurbs though!

                1. Oh, I’m gonna sleep happily tonight! Thank you! 🙂

                  I think D.I.Y. is my favorite in the collection. It’s just the idea of looking on a ruined planet and going… “Okay, well, we can’t make it any worse!” And then planning how to fix it.

                  You know, I think I might just go ahead and send it to Analog. What’s the worse that could happen?

                    1. Well, there you go. The worst has already happened. 😉

                      Although Son DID want to see more stories set in the D.I.Y. universe. Maybe when I get stuck on the next book and need something to clear my mind I’ll do more of those.

                      But I’m going to need another starter, like your ‘mist of squirrels’… 😉

                    2. Hmmm … what happens when you’ve “improved” an area? Homesteaders usually get crowded out by late arrivals. In urban areas neighborhoods that undergo gentrification there is often trouble from the residents who resent hipster/yuppie scum moving in and driving up real estate costs.

                      Of course, when a government does “urban renewal” there tends to be a whole set of problems. Or you could explore the Kelo type developments …

                    3. I’d like to see more in the D.I. Y. universe. What’s the name of the guy who taught the squirrels to read in Squirrels of D-Day?

                    4. RES – In the ‘Consortium’ universe, the drive is for the human race to colonize the galaxy. No FTL, so you end up with huge slowboat colony ships that are one-shot one-way transit. The Consortium thinks in the very long term – where taking thousands of years to terraform a system isn’t even blinked at.

                      Planets are graded on a classification scale from 1 to 11, with 11 being right about ‘oxygen-deficient open sewer infested with rabid skunks’ level of desirability/habitability. And for colonists ‘Adapt or Die’ isn’t a theoretical concept. Send a note back saying you’ve run into problems, and you’ll get a reply in a couple of thousand years on the order of “Duly noted. Sorry to hear that. Hope you can figure out a way to make it work, and we’ll mark you off the ‘habitable planet’ list until we hear from you again.”

                      Colony ships aren’t sent to anything less than a 2.

                      In DIY they get stuck with an 11. High-G, very low oxygen, heavily volcanic, no water to speak of, very high surface temperature, no life to speak of and a 34 hour rotation. On the good side, there’s loads of gold. On the bad, not much carbon and no atmospheric CO2.

                      It was a lot of fun to write… 😉

                    5. Eamon:

                      Oh, god. Wild pizzas… okay. Yeah, take that idea and a flying fried egg from an early Star Trek episode… I can see the three guys from DIY creating a ‘Class 11 Salvage’ sort of function. Well, after the book’s up, I’ll look at that.

                      Emily – thank Eamon – I believe I’ve got a concept for the next Consortium tale. Might be a couple of months, though.

                      And the name was ‘Blake Henry’. Modeled (and named) after a guy I worked with. Cool, pretty much unflappable, really decent guy.

      2. “The next real literary “rebels” in this country might well emerge as some weird bunch of anti-rebels, born oglers who dare somehow to back away from ironic watching, who have the childish gall actually to endorse and instantiate single-entendre principles. Who treat of plain old untrendy human troubles and emotions in U.S. life with reverence and conviction. Who eschew self-consciousness and hip fatigue. These anti-rebels would be outdated, of course, before they even started. Dead on the page. Too sincere. Clearly repressed. Backward, quaint, naive, anachronistic. Maybe that’ll be the point. Maybe that’s why they’ll be the next real rebels. Real rebels, as far as I can see, risk disapproval. The old postmodern insurgents risked the gasp and squeal: shock, disgust, outrage, censorship, accusations of socialism, anarchism, nihilism. Today’s risks are different. The new rebels might be artists willing to risk the yawn, the rolled eyes, the cool smile, the nudged ribs, the parody of gifted ironists, the “Oh how banal.” To risk accusations of sentimentality, melodrama. Of overcredulity. Of softness. Of willingness to be suckered by a world of lurkers and starers who fear gaze and ridicule above imprisonment without law. Who knows. ”

        ― David Foster Wallace,

        1. I’ve been saying that for a while now. WE are the rebels now. The old rebels are the Establishment they once railed against.

          In other words: Let’s be bad guys. 🙂

          1. “When I was overseas, we were the good guys. We maintained order.
            Now we’re the bad guys. We create CHAOS.”
            -Jed Eckert, Red Dawn (2012 remake)

                1. Sounds like me in SWTOR’s Galactic Starfighter game.

                  “I’m a leaf on the wind, watch how I-” *blasted by railgun shot*

                1. Don’t let it blind you.

                  Remember that the set up for that requires that the crowning height of “smart” is DINKs who can’t figure out basic biology or math.

                  Works for humor, not so much for any kind of model… although, ironically, I have had accusations that I must be an idiot based on being a housewife, with the movie used as evidence*. Even when they find out I was somewhere in the 90s (it’s been over a decade, no I don’t remember! 93?) on my ASVAP– don’t you know only idiots voluntarily join the military?
                  John Kerry and Stephen King agree, it must be true!

                  * No, they don’t seem to get the irony of mindlessly repeating what happens in fiction that has people mindlessly repeating advertising as facts…..

                  1. That is a failing of the movie. DINKS are no where near as smart as they think they are.

                    Any dumbing down this country has received has been maliciously premeditated.

                    The future is home-schooled kids.

                    But “Ow my Balls” still puts me in tears.

                    1. Much like the campfire scene with the beans in Blazing Saddles. Juvenile? Yes. Vulgar? Yup. Funny? THERE AREN’T WORDS.

                    1. From what I remember at the time, he is– but he was also making a funny movie, not trying to predict the future with point by point accuracy!

                      Humor is great for making points about uncomfortable things, like “Hey, if I’m so smart, maybe I should be having kids and making sure that they are smart, too?”

                      And he made it in such a way that it gets under the radar of “all children are interchangeable” folks!

                  2. Gotta love that. In my high school, they came in one day to my AP History class and presented me with three certificates; one each for scoring in the top ten percent nationwide on the ASVAB, ACT and PSAT. “How did you prepare for these tests?”
                    “Uh… they announced over the PA that they were giving the tests, and I knew it would get me out of class.”
                    “So… got a college picked out?”
                    “Nope… oh, I better go. I’m going to be late for auto shop.”
                    [RECORD SCRATCHING]
                    “OK, then… be sure and talk to your guidance counselor about these tests…”
                    “OK, thanks!”

                    Yep.. only dummies join the military… or become housewives. 😉

                    1. You know, I have a new argument to deploy on folks!

                      Home schooling is my Christian Duty; I cannot in good conscience inflict kids who have a high probability of being intelligent, creative and willful on our poor, poor public servants. :angel:

                    2. Sometimes being smart means learning about new “opportunities” and having Admiral Ackbar yelling in your ear, “IT’S A TRAP!” 🙂

                      I figured out early on that taking the Traditional Path to Success (TM) leads to mountains of student debt and a nation of people working at that factory from Joe Versus the Volcano. Letting other people define what “success” means for you is a SERIOUS mistake. If success means making less money, but actually having relationships with your spouse and kids and having time on weekends to indulge in your hobbies (gradually building up your tinfoil hat collection and building your survivalist bunker), then you’ll probably be a lot happier and have a lot less debt. Yet another way to be socially subversive. [EVIL GRIN]

                    3. Thought of a way that they might be right, from their lights anyways.

                      Your mention of auto shop triggered it– a lot of my high score was on the physical stuff. Turn this gear, it does that.

                      Stuff that is just true, that you have to figure out and you can’t BS.

                      Contrast that with the thing like stories that are depressing on the face of it and aren’t “really” about what they actually say, and the most complex BS wins.

                      Something like “how gears turn” might BE “dummy” stuff from that view. It’s real.

                    4. Yeah, it’s almost like, if you have your kids learn by doing instead of marinating them in libprog theory throughout their formative years, they might actually learn to do something useful, learn to think and problem-solve, etc! HERESY! 😉

          2. What was the avante garde has become the rear guard.

            It is sad when the revolutionaries become reactionary

      3. Raymond Chandler
        “In everything that can be called art there is a quality of redemption. It may be pure tragedy, if it is high tragedy, and it may be pity and irony, and it may be the raucous laughter of the strong man. But down these mean streets a man must go who is not himself mean, who is neither tarnished nor afraid.

        The detective in this kind of story must be such a man. He is the hero; he is everything. He must be a complete man and a common man and yet an unusual man. He must be, to use a rather weathered phrase, a man of honor — by instinct, by inevitability, without thought of it, and certainly without saying it. He must be the best man in his world and a good enough man for any world. I do not care much about his private life; he is neither a eunuch nor a satyr; I think he might seduce a duchess and I am quite sure he would not spoil a virgin; if he is a man of honor in one thing, he is that in all things.

        He is a relatively poor man, or he would not be a detective at all. He is a common man or he could not go among common people. He has a sense of character, or he would not know his job. He will take no man’s money dishonestly and no man’s insolence without due and dispassionate revenge. He is a lonely man and his pride is that you will treat him as a proud man or be very sorry you ever saw him. He talks as the man of his age talks — that is, with rude wit, a lively sense of the grotesque, a disgust for sham, and a contempt for pettiness.

        The story is the man’s adventure in search of a hidden truth, and it would be no adventure if it did not happen to a man fit for adventure. He has a range of awareness that startles you, but it belongs to him by right, because it belongs to the world he lives in. If there were enough like him, the world would be a very safe place to live in, without becoming too dull to be worth living in. ”

        ― Raymond Chandler,

      4. “What did I want?
        I wanted a Roc’s egg. I wanted a harem loaded with lovely odalisques less than the dust beneath my chariot wheels, the rust that never stained my sword,. I wanted raw red gold in nuggets the size of your fist and feed that lousy claim jumper to the huskies! I wanted to get u feeling brisk and go out and break some lances, then pick a like wench for my droit du seigneur–I wanted to stand up to the Baron and dare him to touch my wench! I wanted to hear the purple water chuckling against the skin of the Nancy Lee in the cool of the morning watch and not another sound, nor any movement save the slow tilting of the wings of the albatross that had been pacing us the last thousand miles.
        I wanted the hurtling moons of Barsoom. I wanted Storisende and Poictesme, and Holmes shaking me awake to tell me, “The game’s afoot!” I wanted to float down the Mississippi on a raft and elude a mob in company with the Duke of Bilgewater and the Lost Dauphin.
        I wanted Prestor John, and Excalibur held by a moon-white arm out of a silent lake. I wanted to sail with Ulysses and with Tros of Samothrace and eat the lotus in a land that seemed always afternoon. I wanted the feeling of romance and the sense of wonder I had known as a kid. I wanted the world to be what they had promised me it was going to be–instead of the tawdry, lousy, fouled-up mess it is.”

        ― Robert A. Heinlein,

        1. If I ever get a tattoo, it’s going to be THAT. I just put it up on my wall, and anybody who tries to gripe about the wench- and harem-references will get a pissed-off NCO in their face.

          1. THAT would be like a full backplate, if it was written big enough to read at even realitively close range.

            1. Very true, but it’s so much more ME than something so predictable as “Death Before Dishonor” or “Death From Above” or “Death Before No Air Conditioning” (I was Air Force before I was Army). 😉
              Maybe if I got a tattoo that said something like “Afghan Combat Tested, Trek Cosplayer Babe Approved…?” 😉

              1. If I ever got words tattooed on me it would be the full psalm 23 1-6. it’s kind of long…
                But I won’t, because there’s an instinctive recoil from doing stuff like that. I’m sort of kind of reconciled to the pierced ears, but judging by how often I let them close, it’s a fight between ooh shiny and “but it’s a hole artificially poked in my body.”

                1. I never really did get the whole earring thing with women, except that in my old age, I realize, women don’t dress to impress men, they dress to impress other women. 😀

                  I get the earring thing even less in men. Why would you want to install a grab handle for an opponent to use in a fight?

                  1. Earrings actually do a lot of stuff to appearance that you don’t consciously notice, but is definitely there– my aunt has some that are rather big and flashy, she does a hint of eye makeup that accentuates her eyes, and WOW does it make a big difference.

                    It’s like the “sparkly” of the earring gets transferred to the eyes.

                    A bit less subtle is necklaces, which some guys still won’t realize….

                    1. Oh, we know necklaces are intended to give men even MORE reason to look at your cleavage, and make us more worried that you’ll be pissed.

                      🙂 Kidding, of course. That’s more something that happens now with the GHH/SJW crowd.

      5. “The Cool Stuff Theory of Literature is as follows: All literature consists of whatever the writer thinks is cool. The reader will like the book to the degree that he agrees with the writer about what’s cool. And that works all the way from the external trappings to the level of metaphor, subtext, and the way one uses words. In other words, I happen not to think that full-plate armor and great big honking greatswords are cool. I don’t like ’em. I like cloaks and rapiers. So I write stories with a lot of cloaks and rapiers in ’em, ’cause that’s cool. Guys who like military hardware, who think advanced military hardware is cool, are not gonna jump all over my books, because they have other ideas about what’s cool.

        The novel should be understood as a structure built to accommodate the greatest possible amount of cool stuff.”

        ― Steven Brust

      6. “As I stated earlier, I do not believe there is anything inherently wrong with even the most overused elements of epic fantasy. Magic swords, dragons, destined heroes — even dark lords and ultimate evils can legitimately be used in literature of serious intent, not just mocked in satirical meta-fiction. To claim that they cannot would be much the same as claiming that nothing good can ever again be done with fiction involving detectives, or young lovers, or unhappy families. The value of a fictive element is not an inherent quality, but a contextual one, determined by its relationship to the other elements of the story it is embedded in.

        In other words, whether a scene in which a dragon is introduced is affecting, amusing, or agonizingly dull depends primarily on the choices made by the scene’s author. I say “primarily” because dragons have appeared in thousands of stories over the centuries, and almost any reader may be presumed to have been exposed to at least one such. The reader’s reaction will naturally be influenced by how they feel this new dragon compares to the dragons which they have been introduced to in the past. (Favorably, one would hope. A dragon must learn to make a good first impression if it is to do well in this life.) Such variables are out of the author’s control, as are any unreasoning prejudices against dragons on the part of the reader. All that can be done is to make the dragon as vivid and well-suited for its purpose as is possible. If all the elements of fantasy and fiction in a work are fitted to their purposes and combine to create a moving story set in a convincing world, that work will presumably be a masterpiece.”

        ― Alec Austin

      7. Where is that quote from? I keep running into it but the chime it sounds is far off and faint. A flickering candle a league off would be brighter. It’s driving me crazy.

          1. Oh thank you so much. I can relax now. I haven’t seen that movie in five years or more. Never read the original, multiple Dick recommendations came from people that I wouldn’t trust to tie their own shoes.

      8. The shoulder of Orion exists as seen from our particular speck, but it’s not an “off of” kind of place. Made me twitch, the first time and every time since.

        1. But it’s a great pick up line. Tells her everything she needs to know about you, and the expression on her face tells you what you need to know about her.

          1. If you say “I was hanging out at the Betelgeuse system,” everybody starts doing the cut-rate Hastur thing. And if you say, “I was hanging out at the Bellatrix system,” everybody starts making Harry Potter jokes. So cut the guy some soliloquy slack, and just be glad the writers were not jossed by later pop culture and later movies.

            Also, considering a lot of Arabic and Greek star names are just the names of body parts of constellations and asterisms, I reject your nomenclature and substitute the one we’ve already got. Betelgeuse means “hand/arm of the Hunter.” Mintaka means “belt of the Giant.” Alnitak means “girdle.” Rigel means “foot of the Hunter.”

    3. I have the thing that, if properly managed, becomes “angst.” I was taught that was a shameful thing to do– a bad thing– and that if one DOES indulge in angst it should be very quietly, and don’t let people know about it!

  3. I used to love SF, then stopped for a while. Then Glen linked the Baen Free Library on Instapundit for Fallen Angels. Boredom gone!
    Then read Sarah Hoyt on Instapundit. This is FUN!

  4. “What will I find in there?”
    “Only what you bring with you.”
    If the only books you consider worth reading are soul-sucking, miserable books, it’s because you’re probably a miserable old biddy/bachelor whose soul has shriveled up from disuse.

      1. I betcha CM didn’t mean the personal “you” but the universal one.

        I’ve done that and inadvertently offended people. I’ve been trying to get in the habit of using “one” instead when I’m referring to people in general rather than someone specific.

          1. Need a YOU rejoinder summat like the WE one: Is that the royal we, the editorial we, or the we the people with tapeworms.

      2. I think that that fits them perfectly. They work SO HARD to be unhappy. I mean it’s amazing. Just watch them at one of those protests they always do. They’re always miserable even in a nice sunny day.

        1. “Oh, you’re giving me a pony?” Sigh. “Bet there’s a pile of manure around here somewhere too. I’ll just go find that and wallow in it, if you don’t mind.”

  5. Why is it that whenever I see Sarah broke out the gifs, I get giddy like a little school girl? 🙂

    I tried to read their stuff. Most of it was impossible for me to get into. I’m dyslexic and ADHD. If a book doesn’t grab me quickly, it won’t. I’m better about finishing books now, even if they’re not outstanding (just finished one the other day that annoyed the hell out of me). The stuff that I was supposed to appreciate? Never. Gonna. Happen.

    It’s funny. So many people lament how few people read anymore, but never think about how trying to ram Steinbeck down high school kids’ throats just might be the reason? You can’t force kids to read stuff they don’t like over and over again and then be shocked that they suddenly equate all reading with that.

    There’s a reason I started being an avid reader later than most of you guys. I just couldn’t do it. However, when I was home on leave after boot camp, I went into the base exchange here and there was a display with a copy of Starship Troopers on it. I snagged a copy, read it cover to cover in no time flat, and desperately wanted more. I was already an SF geek, but not of the written word. I liked live action.

    I was converted, but it wasn’t because of “literature”. It was in spite of it.

      1. Entirely possible, as that seems to be the only way schools are succeeding.

        My son used to absolutely love learning. He’s still a good student, but he doesn’t have that love anymore. The only reason he plans on going to college is because he needs it for the careers he seems best equipped to deal with (math and science brainiac).

        It should never be that way. Ever.

          1. half the time, I would go “Why aren’t my kids learning this?” and in every subject I’m an expert in — like languages — it was because the course was designed NOT TO TEACH. Like French, by cutting pictures out of French newspapers and magazines and making collages? What? LEARNING DOESN’T HAPPEN BY OSMOSIS. And no, learning to parrot half a dozen sentences doesn’t do it either.
            I took one summer, gave Robert vocabulary lists to memorize, then taught him verbs. Then had him read and translate The Three Musketeers. (to get cadences.) Other than the fact his swearing was a little archaic, he went from barely passing to outperforming all his classmates in the fourth year of French. Of course, his teacher got a little round eyed when he said “Ventre Saint Gris” but that’s life.

            1. Now, now, haven’t you heard: “Don’t forget, your children are gifted, and their parents are involved and motivated. They will get it anyway. What we have to worry about are the children who aren’t so lucky…they need our resources.” I know I heard things like this all the time.

              1. Facepalm. I had people tell me that, when I expressed concern over how bad the local elementary was. I was even urged to volunteer there to help make things better.

                (Yep, years ago. I’m male, so now I’d be automatically suspect as a child molester.)

                My reaction was “Uh, NO. That’s what I pay TAXES for.”

                So we found a private school instead. Cost a good chunk and we put a lot on hold for a long time, but it was worth it.

                1. The elementary program The Daughter was in was a model program for the profoundly gifted. (No private school locally had anything of its scope or quality.) So, of course, our state stepped in, announced that all the systems should have such a system and their mandates ultimately brought about its elimination — but that is another story.

                  When, with sixth grade, The Daughter moved to the Middle School program things changed. We pulled her to home educate in the middle of that year.

              2. ALL THE TIME. And the gifted kids, poor things, as out of place in this world as a fish out of water, emerge all twisted and bent. And then they tell us “well, gifted children are like that.”
                A pox on the educational establishment.

                1. Was bad back in the ’50s and ’60s. Today it’s obviously only gotten worse. My own personal curse was always being the smartest kid in any class I attended. Naturally, the schools never told me or my parents that, but all the teachers knew. Putting a kid who was by nature an introvert through that is what caused me to run screaming from education after high school. Went back years later and earned multiple degrees, but I have never regained the least amount of respect for our educational system.

                  1. These stories make me very glad for the school my dad teaches at. They take the gifted kids and plunk them in college level classes and teach them to study, teach them they need to study (none of them, to date, can coast the classes and the school’s been around almost 30 years). They teach them to THINK, too, which may be why the state keeps cutting their budget. My dad’s seminar class (geophysics) one year was to have them create an energy plan… taking into consideration all the pros AND cons. The fun he has when they start realizing that you can’t just plunk solar panels down every where and have it work, and when they start getting into the environmental impacts of wind (on birds as well as some materiel issues) and solar energy (Key elements are only acquired by strip mining as a start) and having to juggle resources and costs. Legal issues with things like nuclear, disposal issues. He’s done a few others over the years but the seminar class is designed to get them really THINKING about the things that get bandied about on the news and apply real world data. Unfortunately this seems to be even more rare than I thought it was. 😦

                2. Conjecture: what the gifted kids/geniuses need first is a rational education in how to get along in the world – a substantial portion never seem to get that inductively, and the lack screws up their relationships with teachers & classmates.

                    1. This is far more important than most people realize. While I don’t qualify as “gifted”, I get along pretty well in most intellectual pursuits. Finding out how many people out there are simply more dense than concrete floored me when I got my first few jobs out in the real world.

                    2. I watch my kids do it. IQs around 180 and they level set to “I’m normal” So Robert talks about “Very smart people” as if he’s not one. AND if I had a dime for every time I had to tell him “They did that because they’re stupid. REALLY stupid, son.” “No one can be that stupid.” “Uh… every time I think that I find dumber.”

                    3. I hung out, during the mornings in the summers, mostly with older men and my dad, who owned businesses or farms or such. Mostly, they were bright enough, as well as having enough common sense, to keep a young boy from thinking they were stupid, and I didn’t play well with others in school, so those men were my default setting. Then I went to college and mostly talked to other guys in my STEM field. When I got the job at the hardware store, the illusion began to crack. The programming job for the cosmetology college did it more, then I got a job at Wendy’s. O…M…G…!!! At that point, I gave up on most of humanity.

                    4. All Robert needs to do is run a register at a gas station on the weekend at night for a few months. A little exposure to the most petty and banal of telestial souls and he’ll understand that there are _no_ depths of stupidity to which people will not sink.

                    5. For “no one can be that stupid”, pull out that “so far the universe is winning’ quote. Humor makes the pill easier to swallow.

                  1. Oft repeated in converstion:

                    The Daughter, ‘Don’t they understand?’

                    Me, ‘No, they don’t.’

                    The Daughter, ‘But it is so obvious.”

                    Me, ‘Not to them.’

                    The Daughter, ‘It is so simple.’

                    Me, ‘No, it isn’t.’

                    I believe that there is nothing quite so hard as comprehending that what comes so naturally to you may not come to others at all.

                    1. It doesn’t even have to be anything that obviously needs intelligence. One of reasons my hair isn’t as thick as it used to be is because I’ve pulled half of it out over people who are incapable of reading maps. And then they ask a question like, “but I don’t understand this, can you show me how to read it?”

                      “It’s a stinkin’ picture, how can you not comprehend a picture! No I can’t teach you how to read it, there is nothing to teach! You just look at the stinkin’ picture!”

                      I KNOW there are people (an amazing number, to include my father) who can’t read a map, I KNOW it as a fact, I just can’t intellectually comprehend how this is possible.

                    2. It’s not a picture, though. It’s symbology. Some folks can’t make the leap to intuitively understanding the symbols.

                      I don’t quite grasp the problem, either, but there it is.

                    3. My issue with maps is that I never got used to US symbology. I used to use maps to get around Porto and any other city, no problem. Came here and it was like reading Chinese. Also, I never have any clue what direction I’m going in. Which is sad.

                    4. Direction is easy! If you hold the map so that the big “N” is facing up, then you’re heading North:-).

                    5. Also, I never have any clue what direction I’m going in. Which is sad.

                      Is sad. What with the Portuguese being famed navigators and all.

                    6. The issue for most people is the ability to visualize reality from abstracts. The lines on the map do not look like the buildings and streets in question. Sometimes even people who should know better, don’t. Like the infantry boy at field camp who insisted we’d gone off the edge of the topo because the terrain didn’t look like he thought it should for the ridge line we were supposed to be (and were) on.

                    7. Yep.

                      To be (somewhat) fair to your infantryman topos are a different beast, relative to a simple highway map.

                    8. True, but, in theory, he should have had more experience with navigating them via compass than the MI geek. The point was more that even people who should (and theoretically have demonstrated they do) ‘get it’ have times when they just don’t get it.

                    9. No, I agree. Land nav is a basic infantry skill, he should have known. It’s just a hard skill, often, so I wasn’t terribly surprised.

                      But — those MI people are supposed to be smart! Masters of information! Of course they know where they are, they don’t even need the map!


                    10. *jealously guards her maps* Maps! They’re almost as good as rocks. (Though speaking of MI vs. Infantry… MI Marines… Poor confused little creatures.)

                    11. *ponders: if I move the rocks, could I sneak the maps out while she’s rearranging… or might she choose a hardy rock and pitch it at my head…*

                      (Don’t worry about ’em, somebody from the Navy will be around to take their hand and lead ’em home in a bit.)

                    12. That is why forcing the bright students to act as teachers’ aides is so dumb (on top of being evil, being slave labor and child labor) — it’s self-evident to them, how can they explain it to others?

              3. Or rather, they will waste your resources to no end, but you’ll get moral egoboo.

                Sane people spend their resources where they do the most good.

            2. Sarah, can I pick your brain? I just gave my kids their first Spanish lesson this weekend. I’m trying to tell my wife that it would be better for her to teach them French at the same time, and that it will be harder in the short term, but pay off in the long run. She thinks trying to teach them two foreign languages at once is just going to confuse them (they’re all 10 or under). Do you have any insight? My wife would probably listen to you over me (assuming you agree with me, that is. Feel free to disagree, I’m used to the ladies telling me what a knucklehead I am. 😉 ).

              1. I’d start with one, then the other a year later. Reason being they’re both Latin languages, so having the rudiments of one will help with the second. Don’t kill me, but I recommend you also teach them Latin probably with the Spanish. You can learn while teaching. It’s what I did.

                1. Now THAT sounds like a plan! Thanks for the advice.
                  Oh, any advice on subversive adventure fiction for young girls? I WILL, of course, go through the above for some hints. 😀

                  1. Start them with Door into Summer, a favorite of little girls everywhere.
                    If you don’t mind that a lot of Christian virtue is dressed up as Witchcraft, try the Tiffany Aching Trilogy Pratchett’s. Less… problematic, try the Johnny Maxwell series.

                  2. The list is, of course, all sorts of kids’ books. I particularly recommend the Zita the Spacegirl books.

                  3. I liked the Enchanted Forest Chronicles– but that led to falling in love with Drizzt, so it may not be normal.

                    If they’re old enough to moon a bit, Marelon the Magician and its sequel is good, as is her Frontier Magic series.

                  4. A Wrinkle in Time. The main character is female, the Christian themes are somewhat veiled (which means that while the book is pushing good character, it’s not going to scare people off), and one of the worlds that they visit is shown to be a blatantly evil conformist Utopia – albeit from an unexpected direction.

                  5. These are the ones I’ve been reading with/throwing at my 8-year-old for the past two years: I loved Diane Duane’s Young Wizards books, especially the first three. (Though the third’s just slightly dated at this point…) Robin McKinley’s “Hero and the Crown” and “The Blue Sword” are excellent, also “The Outlaws of Sherwood” for something a little closer to home. (“Deerskin” is NOT for young anybodys.) They’re both very girl-friendly without being boy-bashing, which is an important consideration for me. Ursula Vernon’s “Dragonbreath” books have a male main character, but are funny as all getout and certainly girl-friendly.

                    1. Thanks for all the suggestions, guys. It’s hard to be a dad who’s training daughters to be properly independent and suspicious of authority. Time to hit the used book section on Amazon!

                    2. This is not a recommendation, as the book came out too late to be referenced in raising of the Daughtorial Unit, so I haven’t read it — but check out Raising Righteous and Rowdy Girls by Doug Giles.

                      You likely recall the performance of his daughter, Hannah, as the prostitute (opposite James O’Keefe) who brought ACORN down.

                    3. *grin* I have two copies of So You Want to Be A Wizard and the newer one updates a scene at the end from “You don’t even have color TV” to “You don’t even have a plasma TV.”

                      Hmmm, I wonder if there’s a book after A Wizard of Mars. I have to get a new copy of that – I think I left my copy back in PH. Thanks for reminding me!

            3. Don’t you know that rote memorization doesn’t actually teach anything?


              Ventre Saint Gris – I can’t find a translation. “By God and the Saints”, maybe?

              1. My mother complained, before she retired, that she would assign the classes a list of ions to memorize and they had no clue how to do it.

              2. The belly of St. Gris? It occurs to me that if correct, the direct translation is somewhat less than useful

                1. I think Saint was aggregate to it because some weird heresies in the middle ages (at peasant level) appended that to the devil. I THINK it’s “in the devil’s belly.” But that’s gut feeling, no proof.

                    1. French Wiktionary thinks it’s a cleaned up version of swearing “Vendredi-Saint!” (Good Friday!) or “ventre du Saint-Esprit!” (Belly of the Holy Spirit!)

                      “Saint Gris” might also be a polite or humorous kenning for “wolf,” and “belly” might mean stomach or be a polite reference to someplace lower. But I don’t know enough about French culture to be able to tell. I know they really did like to swear blasphemy swears in the old days, like the Quebec people still do.

              3. Good heavens– and there’s a curse that would, it seems, also horrify them. And I thought the Basques were bad. (Dad once explained that the Spanish ones in our area had no curse words; it didn’t slow them down, and I still use the equivalent of “fathead” and “bastard”– to translate into informal, fairly polite 90s talk.)

                A quick search suggested it would be best translated as “body of Christ” to get the idea.

                These are the guys who use an ALLUSION to the Virgin Mary as a general low level thing. (Sacred Blue!)

          2. I’m hoping my son can get into AP classes when he starts high school next year and that the challenge will help him embrace learning again.

            Not holding my breath though.

            1. GIVE HIM A FUN BOOK — audio, if you must. Seriously. AP classes are such bad leftist spin that it’s not worth it except for the “points.”
              Also, if you can, get him in a first robotics club. Marsh rediscovered joy in learning and doing things there.And they give scholarships, which doesn’t hurt.

              1. Oh, he won’t be doing AP English most likely. He’s an avid reader (Rick Riordan’s probably his favorite non-me author), but he doesn’t do particularly well with English classes. I want good grades, but I don’t see any reason to subjugate him to the tender mercies of horrid literature any sooner than absolutely necessary.

                I meant AP classes like math and science and such.

                1. T.L., you would be amazed at the spin the lefties can put on STEM courses. Sarah was not referring to just English.
                  At the very least go over your son’s text books and make the time to review the contents with him. You will need to teach him to not automatically respect authority without good reason, but that really is not a bad thing.
                  At present there is a serious kerfuffle over AP history courses for this very reason.

                  1. With this school system? I wouldn’t trust them if they said the sky was blue.

                    And, since he’s my kid, he’s already learned not to respect someone just because they’re in a position of “authority”.

                  2. T.L., you would be amazed at the spin the lefties can put on STEM courses

                    I took AP Calculus and Physics in high school. Of course, I’m kind of old now, but I’m pretty sure that there was nothing resembling spin put into those subjects. Also AP English, but my teacher there was a pretty radical lefty. Really good teacher in spite of her leanings though.

                    1. OMG. Younger son just brought me thermodynamics textbook yesterday. Apropos nothing, the first thirty pages are “the future” according to crazy envirowhacks, including everything running by solar energy. He’s an engineer embryo and he wanted to rant about how stupid some of those were. “Bonus, you can live off the birds cooked by the solar panels!”

                    2. I also seem to have heard of thermodynamics texts giving problems like calculating the rate of Global Warming. Which I can easily imagine being followed by a problem like, “How long before the polar bears lose their habitats?”, or “Given an average slope of 5 deg from the shore, calculate how many square miles of shoreline will be lost in Florida if 100 meters of ice melt in Antarctica”.

                    3. I think that the people who are presently rewriting the AP courses are hoping that those who took them in the past will not notice what is being done.

                    4. Laughed at the Scalzi one, only because his name was at the end and I didn’t notice it at the beginning, seemed funnier if it were someone else bagging on him.

                      I bet if you did one of those things with pieces of paper with the authors’ names on the wall, and string between the thumbtacks to show the connections, you’d end up with a nice dreamcatcher.

                2. I took AP Computer Science umpteen years ago. Within the past few years the College Board announced they were discontinuing the AP Computer Science AB exam (the one worth a full year’s college credit) because most of the students taking it were white and Asian males.

                  1. Well, we can’t have that, now can we? Slant-eyes and White devils achieving! Human sacrifice! Dogs and cats living together… mass hysteria!

                    1. I didn’t know GHHs and SJWs read the Bible. I thought they just had excerpts to use out of context and claim that YHWH was racist, sexist, against the wave of history, and above all, fictional. 😀

              2. Although, I will say that it depends on the teacher as to just how much leftist spin you get. For instance, one of the supplementary materials my APUSH teacher provided us with was from a book detailing how government intervention made the Great Depression longer than it otherwise would have been.

          3. Found Larry Gonick’s Cartoon Guide To Calculus and Cartoon Guide To Physics on the book table at Sam’s Club this last Sunday, for about $9.95 each. These books are a useful reviews on the topics and a reminder that these subjects are fun!

        1. Great rule of school: never do a book report on a book you actually like, because you won’t like it after.

          Assigned reading was worst. There are books I liked before assignments, and (long) after, but not during, and not in its immediate wake. (Except Shakespeare. They couldn’t kill Shakespeare.)

          1. Assigned reading was what about killed it for me. They couldn’t kill an enjoyable book for me on book reports, but they had damn sure killed enough of them that books I enjoyed were the exception.

            I’m really glad I got over it.

            1. And then there’s the books that they assign that you don’t really care for.

              I got assigned The Great Gatsby again. And again. And again… I think I had it assigned four or five times before I graduated from college. And I was well and truly sick of it.

              And I never did understand what all the fuss was. The book was alright the first time I read it. But that was it.

              1. For us, it was Steinbeck. Year after year, more and more Steinbeck.

                And people wonder why I blast Steinbeck with the burning intensity of a thousand suns.

                1. Oh, cry me a river. There was the Portuguese author whose name I’ve mercifully forgotten whose main and most prominent chapters in the book were the character musing on his hardon for communism while pooping olive stones.
                  I wish I were joking.

                  1. Yeah, but even if there were English language versions of said writer’s “works”, that was a line that wouldn’t have been crossed at my school.

                    Private school, and many of us had guns in the car we used for hunting before school most mornings.

                2. Ah, “Travels with Charley” isn’t too bad. I just resumed reading it after gorging myself on the Musketeer Mysteries and journal articles over the weekend.

                3. Ah, yes. iirc, I had to read about Lennie and his rabbits at least three times. So I have some empathy for what you went through. I wasn’t assigned anything else he wrote, however.

                  I also read his translation (Updating?) of Le Morte de Arthur. So I can’t say that my encounters with him have been entirely bad.

                    1. More infuriating, growing up in central California, it didn’t take much historical research to discover how fraudulent nonsense Steinbeck put in it.

            2. Our school district has a “no homework” policy, and it is forbidden to assign anything over a holiday. At least that is the elementary level policy. Be a few years until I see the higher grade policies.

              So I’m guessing no reading lists. I’LL HAVE SOME THOUGH.

              I’m gearing up for the Sarah Hoyt method–use them for free babysitting, sneak in the homeschooling after.


                1. That was my method throughout school, all the other kids had homework, I always did mine in school. If they specifically assigned something that couldn’t be done at school, I didn’t do it. This was very rare, while they might assign ‘homework’ it was simply paperwork they expected you to do at home. There was always plenty of time while the teacher was droning on to actually do it (says the guy who wrote lots of essays in the five minute passing period between classes).

                  My theory was that they had me for 6+(?) hours a day, and they wasted most of it, I certainly wasn’t wasting any of my own time doing their work; I had better things to do with it.

                  1. If you get the gist of the lesson before the teacher’s done with the introduction to the chapter, why bother listening to the rest of the lecture when you could get the homework done while he drones ON and ON and ON? 🙂

                  2. That’s kind of his philosophy as well. It annoys me, but mostly because he’s able to get it done at school every single day. Clearly, they’re wasting time (like you said), and it pisses me off.

                    My biggest concern is that when the time to study comes around, he won’t have a clue how to do it. :/

                    1. More like non-existent study skills, but yeah. That’s the real nightmare.

                      Especially since he wants to be an engineering major. He’s got long nights ahead of him as it is. I’d rather they not be any longer than absolutely necessary.

                    2. See if there is a school in your area that caters to pushing the bright kids. If you’re in Oklahoma I can give you the name of one, but it’s for 11th and 12th grade only. They do exist, I just don’t know how hard they are to find. Lack of study skills killed me my first time around in college, so if you can find a school that pushes hard enough to make him study… they DO exist, I just don’t know where to look outside of my state.

                    3. They might exist elsewhere, but not here. I know the school system inside and out unfortunately. There’s nothing like that here.

                      There are special programs for gifted kids, but those stop at 8th grade and my son has that one class that keeps pulling his GPA down too low for them to talk about that for him.

                    4. The only school that would have worked for the second monster (tragically gifted) given high (really high) IQ and sensory issues was a school in CT. Boarding. Even if we could have afforded the 40k a year, we thought he was better off with us. Might we be wrong? Sure. But you play the cards you got.

                    5. A mom who’s an “educator” in California found out her son was having “discipline problems” at school… and that the local community college didn’t have any rule against 11 year olds taking classes there.

                      She was on the news yesterday as having “hacked the system” to get her son into college at 15 using these three easy steps! (Take him out of school, use Cali law to establish herself as a private school, take kid to community college in the one course of study he enjoyed, geology.)

                      How freaking pathetic is it when a kid who even his MOTHER says is at best an average student has to go to a college to get lessons for a pre-teen?!?

                    6. I’ve told my wife repeatedly, if the high school pisses me off, I’ll just have my kids take the GED test and then enroll them in junior college instead. Why waste time on high school if they’re pulling shenanigans when a Good Enough Degree can get you right in to higher (and less stupid) ed?

                    7. Check your state and county laws. There were, at one point, so many students dropping out of the local schools, taking their GEDs and going to the local tech college that it became a matter of concern. So, rather than improve the local high schools they barred anyone who had dropped out from being able to take the GED and entering the tech until they turned 18.

                      (This may have since been repealed.)

                    8. Trying to get him to learn it a smidge earlier, but so long as he pulls it off, I’ll be good.

                      I think he already knows where he wants to go for college, and it’s not easy to get into by any means, so here’s hoping.

                    9. Well it means he dropped to b- average for a semester (and is retaking some courses to bring it up again) which FINALLY scared him.
                      Though I also think it’s a bit of SADS — he seems to have inherited it from me.

                    10. Unfortunately, mine had a drop in GPA last year that did nothing. Of course, that was teacher related.

                      Luckily, that teacher got fired and when she appealed, me and some other parents testified about our experiences. Her appeal went nowhere.

                      It’s always nice to see it work out for the best.

                    11. Study, what’s that? OH, isn’t that the room where men used to go for brandy and cigars after dinner?!

                  3. That’s what I would do, do homework between classes – so I could do other things. Not so easy through college though. Most of my schoolmates thought I was out of my mind when I explained why I was doing homework already (and I’d end up leaving most of the school stuff locked in my locker. The ones who had the lightbulb switch on over their head would periodically do the same thing – because hey, right after school you can diddlybop around the mall instead.

                  1. My son hasn’t really had homework since fourth grade apparently. :/

                    A serious difference in school systems, obviously. However, I’m not sure what’s worse. What your boys dealt with, or my son.

                  2. We’re now starting to supplement my son’s schooling with lessons of our own. Because they don’t have textbooks they bring home to study, expecting that second graders remember everything they’re getting in class and regurgitate it as homework. This is especially bad for their History lessons. I’m frankly appalled at what they’re doing, because it’s ‘tick the checkbox’ type ‘education’ and it’s seriously killing his desire to learn anything. I’m starting to honestly regret entering him into school.

          2. I was reading your comment and about to type “They couldn’t kill Shakespeare.” Good old Will, writing for the apprentices and those who threw their cloaks in the air… HE is untarnishable gold.

            1. Had an English teacher in late middle school. She had done her master’s thesis on the notion that “too too solid flesh” meant that Hamlet was fat.
              We spent an entire freaking semester doing that idea to death.
              Turned my off on Shakespeare for years after.

              1. That’s insane. Had Hamlet been fat he would have said something along the lines of “too too ample flesh.”

                It should be clear that “too too solid flesh” indicates Hamlet was heavily into pumping iron and had bulked up so excessively he had become muscle bound. That Hamlet rhymes with Gym Rat is not coincidence.

                1. When the prime means of proactive statecraft is a nine pound sharpened crowbar, you tend to be on the muscley side during your active years.

                2. Well of course, but you have to be at least bent to even consider a graduate level English major. A journalist would have stopped at BA. MA and PhD are only valuable if you intend to enter the education field. Note I did not say teach, as teaching and education have only the slightest of passing acquaintance IMHO.
                  Then too, the field has been so thoroughly mined for subject matter that aspiring students are desperate for a new slant on a familiar subject . The instructor in question was not the sharpest pencil in the box, was teaching middle school English not because she loved the subject and the kids, but because it was the best she could do. Her thesis was the best thing she’d ever done, so naturally it was the focus of her existence.
                  We students were just collateral damage.

          3. I actually enjoyed quite a lot of what I was assigned to read in high school (with a few exceptions, like The Good Earth and Heart of Darkness. Bleck. I think kids should have to read some of the classics but what frustrated me was the tests, because they clearly weren’t for people who read the books and the higher themes or anything like that. They were ridiculously specific stuff like ‘what color was so and so wearing in this scene’ or ‘what was on the table in chapter 8’. These stupid questions were clearly meant to screen out people who hadn’t read, but they ended up benefiting people who watched the movie (especially the visual questions) or read cliffs notes instead somehow.

            That’s for high schoolers though. I think elementary school kids should mostly be encouraged to read anything.

            1. Apropos nothing, I recall really liking Pearl Buck Foundation house on Delancey Street in Philadelphia.

          4. My rule was, “Pick something nobody else is doing, that will interest you and the teacher, and then you will get an A just for sparing them boredom.” But I had good teachers, and brightening their day was pretty easy and fun. I pity today’s kids.

            1. Once, a course required you to use the college’s writing program for 20 pts on your paper. So I trudged in with mine, and the aide’s first response was that it was NOT about another oscilloscope.

          5. *evil smile* For English class once I did an essay on Titus Andronicus. I knew the teacher and it was done because I knew she’d appreciate it. The rest of the class – except for the readers – were horrified to discover it was Shakespeare. It was right after that Leonardo DiCaprio rendition of Romeo and Juliet, and everyone had been irritating me by reciting lines in the hallway (particularly ‘Wherefore art thou, Romeo!”) as if they’d discovered something omg new and awesome.

            You know the face that Charles Dance does that says “I am surrounded by idiots”? Yeah I wore that expression pretty darned often.

            After the class my teacher hugged me. XD

            1. It still pains me every time I hear a reference to the balcony scene and they act like “Wherefore” means “Where” and they answer “Over here!”

              Like they’ve never heard the expression “Whys and Wherefores”. But that’s one of those words that only gets used in that particular sentence, Like “Hoist” in “Hoist by one’s own Petard” which is NOT the same verb that means pulling something up by a rope, but an archaic word meaning “to be hurt”. (Which is why I Really cringe when I see “Hoisted by one’s own petard.”). Actually, Petard is another word that ONLY comes out when people use that phrase. Most people use the expression without knowing what the words in it mean. In modern language it’s “Hurt by your own bomb” or, in modern vernacular, “It blew up in his face.”

      2. A situational friend came here with her parents when she was eight. Her parents kept painfully aware of international trends and politics. They felt that they had no choice for, having been hidden children during WWII, they learned that ignorance could be fatal.

        Her father had taught her that in the Soviet Union they wanted to teach everyone to read well enough to do their necessary studies, to follow the directives, but not to like enough to actually want to think or read for fun. The problem, in his mind, was that the SU wanted too large a percentage of their population to study higher math and science not to become a risk to the government.

        Hopeful fiction, science or otherwise — exploring new ideas, solving problems, overcoming evil — presents a threat to totalitarians.

        1. You can tell I’m a subversive tinfoil-hat-wearer. I’m teaching my children martial arts, firearms, foreign language, auto mechanics and home repair; the wife is teaching them gardening, cooking, canning, and sewing, tatting, crocheting and foreign language. They’re also getting lots of religious instruction and encouragement to do missionary work and learn to live within their means from both mom AND dad. We’re the leftists’ worst nightmare: INVOLVED PARENTS. BWA HA HA HA HA HAAAAAAAA!

      3. My school wasn’t but that’s 40+ years ago. I had English course like Reading for Fun and various other courses. I could read any SF/F book I wan’t and turn in book reports for good grades!! They even had a course for improving your speed and comprehension. Since I wasn’t doing AP English I was having fun.

      4. They are. It’s hard to teach kids to hate the things you hate, without inadvertently teaching them to hate everything else and the process, too. And… the downside of the universal education experiment is that there aren’t – never were – enough adults with both interest & talent for teaching to competently teach all the kids. So some significant proportion of kids are going to be poorly, confusedly, mistaught stuff the school had no business trying to teach. No wonder kids learn to hate learning!

        1. My oldest son was having problems reading at first. My wife told me he had lots of problems with focusing on his reading (“It’s like he inherited his father’s ADD or something!” 🙂 ). The school had “deep concerns” and all that. I spent five minutes on Google and found some Star Wars phonetic books. Within a few weeks he was well ahead of his class. If they had a book called “Calculus and the Force,” he’d be a physicist by this weekend, I swear.

          1. Give kids something they WANT to read, and they’ll read. (I still remember being punished in first grade for reading ahead on those damned ‘Dick and Jane’ readers. That I was reading ‘First Lensman’ at home didn’t help matters either.)

            1. Dr. Seuss was reportedly told, when he complained about how boring the Dick and Jane books were, that it wasn’t possible to write a book under the required criteria that was also interesting. So he got the criteria. The Cat in the Hat was his rebuttal.

                1. I’ve heard Cat In the Hat too. And Green Eggs and Ham does have a certain obvious ulterior motive . . . .

        2. It’s incomprehensible to EVERY parent, and my husband has a degree in math and number theory.
          We just taught them to solve things and ignored the school method.

          1. I feel better. The techniques they’re trying to teach my daughter made me pull my hair out, and this is the child who was doing three-column subtraction with borrowing during kindergarten!

    1. They don’t want us to read. I’m in Atlanta yet this year, as every year previously since I came here, I didn’t bother with Dragoncon. Why? It seems like the least important part of SF/F there is the written kind. Why put up with 60,000+ idiots to talk about TV and movies and not be allowed to look at all the cosplayers.

        1. This year on the first day I saw an acquaintance complaining on Facebook about the unwanted attention she got riding MARTA in costume.

          She was utterly oblivious to the fact of riding public transit in a cosplay costume was effectively begging for attention. I have no desire to be in a room full of people that dumb.

          1. If you’re cosplaying, at least on some level you want attention. I seem to recall cosplaying friends kind of keeping score of how many times people stopped them for pictures. I hate to break it to them, that’s attention.

            The fact that you’re on MARTA (I’m assuming the train, not the bus) and dressed bizarrely compared to most in Atlanta…well…you’re going to get some attention. I don’t care what your plumbing is.

            1. Ah, but you assume they can’t also want to get scornful about getting attention. That way they can get it both ways.

                1. Why not? After all, if you think they are idiots, they can then scorn you for whatever ism they deem applicable.

                  1. They’re going to scorn me for whatever ism the deem applicable anyways, regardless of what I think. As such, I’ve apparently lost the ability to really give a damn about whatever ism they want to label me with.

                    Hell, I had a writer from Mother Jones try to label me a bigot because I made a joke the other day…after he had started with the name calling. I’m no longer able to muster any ability to be upset by their opinions of me.

                    Really, it’s a matter of mind over matter. I no longer mind, because they no longer matter.

              1. Well, it could be that they only want worship not any other sort of attention. [Sad Smile]

                1. Most costumers are great folks, and most of today’s cosplayers are nice kids, too, albeit a little less subtle in their costuming than they used to be. (And yeah, sf/f costuming and subtlety of sex appeal don’t usually go together until you’re a little older and wiser, so no big surprise.)

                  It’s the exceptions that are ruining it for everybody.

                  1. … The women constantly whining about the attention they get cosplaying in the US would turn absolutely GREEN WITH ENVY if they ever saw the stuff that the Comiket Cosplayers wear and the photos taken of them.

                    Sankaku Complex (google, obligatory warning: definitely not safe for work) has plenty of examples of the photos that the girls in costume allow themselves to be taken in. Not all the girls allow it but a fair amount very clearly do – as in, they’ll helpfully …er… pose. Or lift skirt while smiling as happily for every photo. In some cases it’s not even necessary to lift any skirts – there’s a few costumes that seem to be nothing more than pretty, frilly lingerie.

                    Here’s one that’s fairly tame, considering that the gals seem to be in a contest on how much skin they can get away with exposing.×702.jpg

                    I’m quite impressed with the Morrigan-like cosplayer because those wings are staying on despite the fact there’s very little costume to stay on to. (No, not linking. She looks like she stepped off the set of a vampire bondage pr0n set.)

                    Of course you get the crossplayers (one gallery has a Western looking guy crossplaying) and the male cosplayers, and those folks cosplaying mecha… but then you also get lots of rather disturbing photos (like one cosplaying girl very helpfully posing so plenty of men can take crotch shots.)

                    My favorite out of the lot? The guy who cosplays Jigen from the Lupin III series.

                    1. Ok, I gotta wonder how the anti-aircraft cannon …things… are staying on this cosplayer’s outfit. (Don’t worry, she’s modestly dressed; just showing a lot of leg.) (She’s cosplaying one of the anthropomorphized battleships that seem to be a popular thing to ‘cute’ up.)

                      There’s plenty of other pics though that are SERIOUSLY disturbing – and I’m rather difficult to squick. Excuse me, I feel the need to take a very hot shower, with lots and lots of soap.

                    2. Oooo, pretty! *adds to faves*

                      TBH I’m more likely to enjoy cosplay that took skill in making the costume, making the effort in makeup and wigs and such, as well as picking a suitable model to wear it, than I am a crap costume that has had no effort put into it and the cosplayer just slaps on a wig. Several cosplayers who really make the effort also make the effort of becoming the character for the ‘play’ part of the cosplay. It’s a serious, expensive, and time-consuming hobby, and some of the best cosplayers out there often will find work in the props and costume industry and modeling (I believe Yaya Han is one of these.)

                      (delays in replies due to me not looking at this screen but at the Cintiq)

                    3. I got hooked on her after seeing her Cheshire Cat.

                      Looking through my oldest Sent Notes on DA though. I sent Yaya one in 2009 that hasn’t been read yet.


                    5. It seems that in this country, for all they talk about empowerment and all, women are sexually repressed, even more than they were when “The Patriarchy” was in full swing. Because of this (I think), they are conflicted about receiving attention. While they appreciate the attention of men who they would like to attract, they are uncomfortable with attention from others, probably because they have been taught to be afraid of unwanted attention.

                    6. And they have no idea how to freeze. I think it’s educating kids in batch lots, by strangers. A stranger can’t take you aside and teach you what my grandma taught me, about discouraging unwanted advances.

                    7. @ Wayne
                      It strikes me more as being gender supremacist. In the past, any man could compliment a woman on her appearance (“You look nice today.”) and it would be graciously accepted. But women have been taught by the leftists for decades now that males are subhuman animals that should be kept in their place. The hard part is that the feminazis haven’t succeeded in making all their followers into lesbians yet, and putting men into breeding camps. So the best they can do is try to make all their followers act as if any interaction with men is a necessary evil to perpetuate the species, and that all men should be treated with disgust and suspicion. So, if you’re neither a gorgeous hunk of man-meat, or a feminized hipster that worships at the altar of the Goddess, what you get is, “How dare you even THINK about me without my consent!”

                      Case in point: Tom Brady’s gag SNL sexual harassment video. “You too can have sex in the workplace without a sexual harassment lawsuit. Just follow these three simple rules:
                      Be attractive
                      Be good looking
                      Don’t be unattractive”

                      God help us if they ever create an artificial womb with which to asexually fabricate kids. Men will have to move to third world countries to even be allowed to breathe and have a penis at the same time.

                    8. Would last one generation. Women LIKE men. Even the barrage of hate 24/7 can’t stop them liking men. They just feel guilty about it.
                      Also, most perfectly adjusted women hate every other woman on principle. Just saying.

                    9. The really evil thing about feminism isn’t the stupid stuff it tells women it’s the stuff it tells males i.e. females don’t need you.

                      There comes a point in which many guys — maybe even most — will wind up saying that’s kind of cool, pressure’s off, party time.

                      This is especially insidious when the males are not yet men.

                      And then so much for civilization.

                    10. Submitted for your consideration:

                      BIGOTED FEMINISM’S FANTASIES OF GENDER APARTHEID: What If Men Weren’t Allowed on Facebook?

                      Women in the 21st Century seem to be so delicate that they should be kept at home and only allowed to meet with the opposite sex under careful chaperonage. Also, doesn’t a women-only site constitute illegal sex discrimination?

                      Posted at 12:33 pm by Glenn Reynolds

          2. Freaking the mundanes, as I heard it during the brief time I was in the SCA. You might as well put up a sign saying Look at me!

            1. (I’m still in the SCA) – but sometimes it’s just because you need to buy offsite (resupply, restaurant), or dress at a motel because the event site is too awkward. In such cases the attention is, depending on how you deal with it, either a mild embarrassment to deal with or a chance to evangelize your fun. There’s even an SCA song called “Are you in a play?” dealing with all the things you may be tempted to say, the 20th time a mundane asks you that!

    2. I think I was lucky and spoiled when it came to sci fi and and fantasy. I had reached a point where my father no longer monitored what I was reading, and had become an avid Donald Hamilton and Louis L’Amour fan. Different genres but the thing in common was the action. And fun.

      Then I stumbled on Earthlight by Arthur C. Clarke. Not a lot of action, but a certain amount of “wow” factor. Then I found Doc Smith. That didn’t quite set the hook, but there was more “fun” and more action.

      Next visit at the bookstore, I had a new Louis L’Amour novel in hand, and still had a couple of greenbacks, so I snuck down to the SF&F aisle. A Robert E. Howard “Conan” collection stared at me, so I picked it up.

      I was hooked. That was the true gateway drug.

      Next I discovered the magazines, Galaxy, If, Analog, and Fantasy and Science Fiction. Authors like Zelazny, Poul Anderson, Anvil, Robin Scott, Mack Reynolds, etc.

      The difference between that era and today is stark. Thank God for indie.

      1. Galaxy is gone. If is gone. Analog… might as well be, as far as you can tell from the local B&Ns. F&SF… I can only assume they never have to send back any unsold copies – there’s usually one that’s 6-8 months old on the shelf.

        Son’s currently going through Ringo’s ‘Graveyard Sky’ series. He likes action, and he’s finding it in indies. It’s actually hard to get him to pick up a real book to read for fun…

        1. I’m getting rid of my copies of various volumes in Ringo’s Posleen series. Send me a snail addy to emdorsai AT verizon DOT net I’ll send ’em free to a good home(yours!)

          The name of the series including Graveyard Sky is Black Tide Rising.

          1. Unfortunately, by the third one (Islands of Hope and Rage) there is a lot less action and a LOT more “let me build my military.” I’m half way thru my 3rd re-read of the series, so I’m not TOO put off, but my wife had to slog to finish it. There are still a lot of call outs, fan references, and ‘inside baseball’ stuff to bring a smile or even a laugh, but reading about someone’s second counseling session with “higher” gets OLD.

            Looking forward to the next one despite that!


          2. I’ve been wondering if he’s going to do any more in that universe. Seems like he could – but there’s also the theory of ‘leave the audience wanting more’. I’m almost thinking he extended the Looking Glass series too far. I’d kinda like to see more of that, but… (Shrug.)

            Some ideas can only stretch so far before the holes start to show.

            1. Strands of Sorrow is the last in the Black Tide Rising series. He’s said that more could written between the published books.

              1. Actually, the ending of Islands would have worked as a series finale. They had a plan, they could work the plan, and with the plan the bad guys (IE Zombies) were reduced to a point where they were more of a nuisance than a threat.

                But you do feel there’s more, don’t you? Where did it come from? What happened to those who engineered it?

                I’m looking forward to the eARC when Ringo and Baen put it up.

                1. Yep, the whole brother story, and the virus origin needs to be wrapped up. Big gap from the end of Islands to the quotes from the University of the South as chapter heads. You are right though that it could end the series. He kinda ran out of steam with the Special Circumstances series, and I would like to have one more book there… don’t want to see that happen here.


                  FWIW, I’d hate to see Faith or Sophie have the same 40 year jump that Cally did in the Posleen series- here we are 40 years later and you are the same only your life is sh!ttier.

                  1. Yeah, I’d REALLY hate to see something like that happen.

                    But on the other hand, there’s not an essentially infinite supply of zombies, either. At some point the cultural emphasis is going to shift from making fertilizer out of zombies to rebuilding. And though Faith is having fun right now (for certain values of ‘fun’ that include going through the woods at night emulating Little Red Riding Hood with a twisted ankle calling for help from the Wolf…) I can’t help but think she’s going to get tired of it in a few years.

    3. Till the day she died, my mother cursed the day that my father, who is not a Reader™, came home from a business trip with two books for me. One was the only book he ever read for himself a little novel called “Have Spacesuit Will Travel” and the other was “Space Cadet” by the same author. Ever after, whenever things got to be too much I would disappear into these far worlds. So deep I would go that shouting could not reach me.

      1. There were times when I would not only not respond to words, I would not respond to waving a hand between me and the page. You had to interpose the hand long enough for me to be unable to edit it out.

  6. I’ve never tackled War and Peace myself. I think I read 1984 and Brave New World when I was substitute teaching a decade and a half ago. The kids had to read thirty minutes in class so I read thirty minutes.

    1. War and Peace and most everything by both Tolstoy and Dostoyevski are really hard to get through in English and are just as hard in Russian unless your Russian is good enough to get all the humor, puns, double meanings, and subtle jabs they work in. Mine has never been good enough to handle them in more than small passages.

        1. Alas, some things just don’t translate well. Subtlety being foremost. The only reason I had my ‘wow’ moment with those two authors was due to a college professor if mine. I was the only one in the class that day so he spent most of it taking me through the Russian Constructions in two samples (composition class) and suddenly I started getting the jokes. He was also firmly of the opinion that pushing anyone into reading them (especially under the age of 30) did both book and reader a disservice. He waxed quite passionate about it.

          1. Didn’t Ginny Heinlein learn Russian because she believed that the problem with War And Peace had to be poor translation?
            After going through all that trouble and reading the native book she discovered that, no, it really was that bad.
            I took one class in conversational Russian. Never finished and never ever want to attempt that again.

            1. No, translation is only part of the problem. Culture is another part. As I said, I didn’t enjoy it until I sat down with a short passage and Dr. Dimitriev. I’m not sure my Russian will ever be good enough to enjoy it without that kind of help. Though I think I want to find the translation Mr. Wright read, it seems to have been far better than the one I got my hands on. It’s not an easy read in any language.

            2. Yes but she might NOT have the acquaintance with language to make to worth while. People who don’t know the HISTORY of the time do that to Austen, (they think it’s “just a romance.’) and people who don’t know the language do that to Shakespeare.
              I reserve judgement. I enjoyed Thomas Mann’s Joseph and his Brothers (even though Thomas Mann is morally objectionable, himself) but I couldn’t enjoy War and Peace. My dad liked it. We had a big, leather bound edition.

              1. Debra Doyle, IIRC, was very excited about a review that compared her to Dumas and her circle had to calm her down enough to accept that no, that was not intended as a compliment.

                I’d have still used it as a pull quote. 0:)

      1. I’m a weirdo because I loved Dostoyevski in high school (english, can’t read in Russian). I read Anna Karenina as well, but liked it less. War and Peace I only got 100 pages in. I’ll probably pick it up at some point and finish now that I don’t have to lug a real book around.

        1. Dostoyevski, I liked for some reason. And there was a sly wit in his work that trickled in, somehow. Memory’s fuzzy, can’t quite recall if it was the heavy, wry wit of the teacher or the battered old copy itself I pored through, though.

      2. *looks hopeful* You mean that they DO have a point– and humor, even?

        That’s actually really reassuring, especially since they became a big deal when the folks reading them could be expected to be able to “get” it– and it explains why reading and “getting” them would be such a status symbol, since it’s really hard to get another language on that level.

        1. War and Peace, like Moby Dick, is a fun book with all sorts of everything in it. Until about ten years ago, all English translations were abridged by about 500 pages. Just like the junior high version of The Count of Monte Cristo that cuts out most of Mercedes and Haidee (not to mention the eloping lesbian comedy/revenge subplot, and most of the entertaining banter, and tons and tons else), War and Peace doesn’t make sense if you get rid of half of it.

          However, the unabridged translations are basically not going to let you read through them in one sitting. It’s like The Tale of Genji – you just have to reconcile yourself to it. The small print is a problem, too. So you have to ration it out and not get into pageturner mode (which you will) because your head and eyes will hurt like nothing else.

          Tolstoy was one of the many young Russian writers trying to convince educated Russians that Russian was a perfectly good literary language also, so he is anxious to demonstrate every possible thing you can do with Russian. (While heavily influenced by reading a lot of French literature.)

          War and Peace basically portrays Regency society in Russia, and the fight against Napoleon.. All the nobles and gentry speak French. Much like Vanity Fair and other post-Waterloo novels in other countries, Tolstoy wants to show the whole picture, peacetime and wartime, soldiers and civilians. There’s a big romance between an adorable young lady and a winning young man, and of course he has to go off to war. There are funny old ladies and old men, eccentric princes, troika sleigh rides, family sagas, all this stuff.

          Tolstoy later on decided that War and Peace had been too fun and the characters were too realistic, because people were too fannish about the book and not about its message. He went more serious and tragic with Anna Karenina, but people still liked it too much for itself. So for the rest of his life, he tried to write less realistically and grippingly so that people would pay more attention to his Deep Meaningful Message. Only in Russia….

  7. Though in defense of English Proffessors, I was shocked to find out Chuck Gannon is one.

        1. Call Mutual of Omaha we got ourselves a rogue professor. Bring it down before it can show students where the entertaining books are!

  8. Just wanted to mention I like the new header too. And the mention of two of my favorites, that I introduced to STephanie and she now loves (Have Spacesuit an Canticle for Leibowitz) made me feel warm.

    1. The Daughter laughed heartily at and leave you ruthlessly alone

      Only problem, I happen to like Ruth very much. She is a good hugger. She knits. She writes. She Kipples. Her family would miss her greatly. May we please keep her?

        1. What with gender being a social construct and all, maybe you could just go ahead and call him Ruth. He’d adjust fine after a while.

  9. Great post, and love the GIFs. I’m considered a pretty smart guy, but I still love watching those hokey Godzilla (or as Jim Neighbors called them, Godziller) movies. I cut my teeth on Howard, Heinlein and Moorcock (two out of three dead white guys), because their stories were imaginative and fun to read, and, if you weren’t careful, you just might learn something. I’m still coming to terms that I’m an indie success story, but it all comes down to writing stuff that people find entertaining. At Dragon Con some jerk told me I wasn’t a real writer because I hadn’t been published by a real publisher, while he had sold an amazing three short stories to approved outlets. When I told him how much I had sold, and how much I had made, he shut up and went away, probably telling himself over and over again that he was the real writer and I was just a hack. I would rather be a well paid, well read hack, than someone who had all the right people telling me how literary I am, and no one else giving a damn. Now, some publishers are different, and you can find some good stuff even from those who aren’t on occasion. Baen for one. I have yet to pick up a Baen book that wasn’t interesting and fun. Not all of them are masterpieces of scifi, but all are entertaining. I love Robert J Sawyer, who is not Baen author, but who still produces fiction that I like. I was talking to him at Dragon Con about what’s going on in indie land. He wasn’t resentful of it, and loved the idea that other authors were doing it in other ways. Hugh Howie was really excited to hear my story. And the only reason we are successful is there are readers clambering for entertainment that they’re not getting from the big boys and girls.

    1. I find it funny that Sawyer wasn’t resentful, but the guy who barely qualified for SFWA is. Of course, when you need the “prestige” of acknowledgement from others to determine your self worth, you will lash out at those who have accomplished more despite that prestige you hold so dear.

      1. I think the point is that Sawyer doesn’t need any acknowledgement, as his sales say it all. He doesn’t feel threatened by indie authors, he’s good enough that he’s going to get his sales. That and he’s a genuinely nice guy, the first big time author to ever answer, quickly, an email I sent him asking for advice. The other guy, not so much. I was told by someone at Dragon Con that the average SFWA member makes about $3,000 a year, and Kevin J Anderson told me later on a Facebook post that it was probably much less than that. Yet, people who sell three stories for 5-7 cents a word are lifetime members, as long as they want to pay dues. Kevin J Anderson, Chuck Gannon, Les Johnson and several others all seemed genuinely please by my success as an indie. Chuck even said he was surprised I was working on something to submit to Baen, when I already seemed to have everything in my own grasp. But traditional publishing offers more exposure and more readers, which is important. And, being a successful indie, I can pick and choose my contract terms from a take it or leave it stance. There is no desperation there. If your terms aren’t to my liking, I’ll just self publish the book and make all the money from it. Same with agents. I am not seeking one. If one wants me, they can come to me, and if I don’t see the need for them, I won’t sign. What a wonderful position self-publishing has put some of us in. It’s still an uphill climb, and not everyone will be successful, but it’s another opportunity in a world that used to just basically have one. get past the gatekeepers or nothing.

        1. One thought on being published by Baen. IMO being published by Baen a status marker in ways that being published by other publishers isn’t. [Smile]

          IE Baen publishes Good Reads so if they publish an indies work, it’s obvious Bean thinks the indies work is also a Good Read. [Very Big Grin]

        2. That was kind of my point. Sawyer, like Anderson and Gannon, don’t need any prestige. They’re the kinds of people who understand that your success doesn’t impact theirs in any negative way (if anything, it’s good for everyone).

          The SFWA guy? Everything for him, at least right now, is bundled in the prestige of being SFWA. You, and all indies, diminish that in his mind because we skipped the gatekeepers.

          Sawyer, Anderson, and Gannon realize that the ultimate gatekeepers are the readers, and success as an indie means you have all the acknowledgement you should need.

    2. If I were a writer and not The Reader™, I would rather ponder my status as a hack from atop Mt. Cash than have nothing but my status as a “Real Writer” to keep me warm.

      1. My next cover shall be a scantily clad maiden defended from slimy aliens by an armored gentleman with sword and blaster in hand.
        Even though the book will be a collection of children’s verses.

            1. Are you KIDDING me? If he makes one, I’ll buy it! Especially if it’s in print format, not just ebook. My son loves listening to me read poetry out loud. I need to get him out of this ‘reading -ick!’ thing.

              He’s advanced for his class as a reader, but he doesn’t enjoy it. And I just flicked through a little book where the new kid in school is given a key that grants him the ability to mind read so he can be reassured that the other kids aren’t laughing at him. (The new kid is Mexican, and doesn’t speak English all that well. The setting does not look like an Australian school.) I’m horrified, in the way that The Rainbow Fish horrified me.

              1. Had that problem with both of my boys.
                The solution, obvious once you think of it, is to find a subject they are interested in. There are always books and magazines on that topic. Once they realize that reading is the mechanism for discovering things they want to know, there’s no stopping them.
                With both of mine it was cars. They were mad for the automobile. We became awash in car magazines and darned if they didn’t discover that there were whole books about racing and working on the beasts.

                1. If you can find it (ought not be difficult) various poems by Robert W. Service should be pleasing. Look for the Cremation of Sam McGee and work from there.

                  I presume any recommendation of Kipling is already taken into account.

    1. When my family moved from being up in the hills to being WAY up in the hills (we were snowed in our first winter, got over four feet of snow in one day), I ended up on homestudy for two years. One time I went to my weekly meeting with the teacher.
      “Where’s your homework?”
      “I didn’t get it done.”
      “Why not?”
      “I was busy reading The Iliad and The Odyssey. But I’ll do the homework this week. I finished them both.” (I was in seventh grade at the time)

      At that point, he turned to my mom and told her, “How can I get mad at him if THAT’S what he was doing instead of his homework?”

      He was one of my favorite teachers. 😀

      1. Seventh grade, home schooled for a year, younger son taught himself Greek so he could translate the Iliad. Which he did on our trip to NYC. On planes, in hotel lobbies, he’d sit with the Iliad and a notebook, and periodically read us things aloud. He was 12. We got the ODDEST looks.

        1. BRILLIANT.
          I’m sure my own dad must have, on more than one occasion, noticed that I like cars, guns and girls (although I was painfully shy) and breathed a sigh of relief. 😀

          1. The Iliad and the Aeneid ain’t too awful neither, in Latin. Heck, some Roman orators were quite the wordsmiths of their time. Entertaining reading, but that first step up is steep, dead language and all…

            1. I’m finally starting to get there with Latin, albeit for some sick twisted reason I got there mostly through medieval Latin instead of the classical Latin I learned in high school.

              In English, though, pretty much all epic poetry goes better as an audiobook. George Guidall is pretty much the voice of Homer, for my money. (And I have read a lot of epic poetry in the normal way, with my eyes, but the adventure aspect goes better when you listen to it and get the oral tradition factor.)

              1. Yeah, reading them out loud yourself is good, as well. Gets those lovely rolling cadences in there. *grin* Cheap, too!

        2. We translated the Aeneid for my third-year Latin class, but only got halfway through. I somehow conned my Latin teacher into giving me an extra class credit for finishing the damn thing on my own time, and had an awesome time doing it. 🙂

      2. That clear’s up one question I had started to have. I attended a missionary school in northern Thailand for three years in my youth. If you were reading those books, you aren’t the kid I was thinking of. 🙂

        1. Nope. I learned my Spanish as a missionary in Latin America. After my childhood in the high-up hills, living in places that had running water and electricity PART of the time seemed downright luxurious.

          People who talk to me about how horrible it is in third world countries usually get a VERY quizzical stare from me. It’s not the economic status that determines happy; it’s usually a personal choice. But over-intrusive political regimes can sure screw things up. 😀

          1. This guy went back, and he’s, ah, politically active in a very obscure sort of way. A friend sent me an article about a nameless dude, and we were sure it was him. Enough googling confirmed it. Your nom de commenter made me wonder. And the hills.

    1. Let me just add:

      Ύπαγε οπισω μου Σατανά

      Of course I am only half literate in the language so I might have gotten something wrong. I invite correction.

    2. “If you were a Mechagodzilla, my love, I would ride you through the swamps of the GHHs, searing away all the muck that has been plastered upon my once fair genre. We would stomp those who would dare to tell us nay into tiny, little bits, sowing entertainment and beautiful stories in our wake…”

      Ok, Even though that was kind of fun, it still hurt my head. I’ll just go eat my lunch, now.

      1. Would that qualify as dino porn? If it does, I *might* have to reconsider my stance on at least some dino porn… 🙂

        1. Princess informs me that those are not dinosaurs, and demanded to know what the dragon people monster thing was.

          When informed they were “Godzillas,” she looked thoughtful then nodded.

          “G’dzillas. I see.”

  10. I think that one of the worst things the GHH crowd has done is to try to make reading as not fun as possible. They don’t read for fun. Their entertainment is the philosophical equivalent of pulling wings out of flies. A little awful and not very significant in the greater scheme of things. They read SERIOUS books, or a at least say they do to prove their superiority over you, the unwashed peasant. The reason I don’t think that they read even the books they say they do is that all they do is spout the same memes over and over, like David Brin and his TWODA. The problem is that when somebody normal tries to read their dreck it’s essentially unreadable. “The Catcher In The Rye” anybody, that book inflicted on eighth graders to make them understand that reading involves pain or it’s not SERIOUS. Give me a break.

    1. ” . . . reading involves pain or it’s not SERIOUS.”

      So that is why I had to read “A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man” in school. Thank you very much for clearing that up!!

  11. I think I have the advantage that I never cared whether what I was reading was “lit-ra-choor” or not. But then again, I’m an uncivilized barbarian, so they would just wash their hands of me, anyway.

    1. Literature teachers probably hear your kids discussing the merits of any book and go, “Sweet Mother Gaia, another future Baen barfly [DEEP SIGH].”

    2. Guess I’m just enough of a pragmatist that my answer to unpleasant “literature” is “what good is it? what problems will it help me solve?” Classic & Human Wave SF/F, now – that flexes, strengthens, and grows the imagination (plus some analytic skills), so it benefits the creative part of being a design engineer. That’s my story & I’m stickin’ to it!

  12. The perfect reply to the Guardian’s Village Idiot and his ilk.

    Also, that babe with the glasses three gifs down: I’d totally invite her over to . . . read. We could read all night long.

            1. Madeira. That’s what you want.

              It comes highly recommended.

              Excellent alternate version:

      1. You can have her, I want the cutie above “I’m so happy. I’m not a sad freak. Some Science Fiction is okay. Look, they even assign it in school!” The first is clearly acting, the one lower down is genuine in her joy.

              1. … and that’s why we don’t even need to call you a bad woman. It’s redundant. (RUNS)

              1. What about the folk who aren’t gingers and have freckles anyway? (Freckles are cute. Lookit Elsa and Anna. They have freckles.)

                *mournfully* Mom and Dad said I was born with auburn hair as a child. It became a dark brown with reddish highlights till I was a teen, and then it became all black over the years. Upset, I tried to dye it but that didn’t give me the color I remembered.

                But I’m hopeful! That I shall have a head of long, flowing silver hair!

                1. Nah. It will be like mine: butt ugly silver gray.
                  Almost the same except my hair became black over pregnancy with younger child. And it WAS auburn (very dark auburn) till then.
                  I never managed freckles. I wanted freckles.

                2. Have you tried “lightening” things like lemon juice in the hair before sunbathing?

                  And yes, that sounds awful sticky to me, too, but my mom did it when she was a teen.

                  1. I’d read that a rinse of lemon juice and water could work that way; but I use an apple cider vinegar rinse to help my scalp cope with the dryness of the air here (which doesn’t help the pH balance for me, resulting in very itchy scalp), which darkens hair.

                    We’re heading into summer so I’m having to be diligent about keeping a balance of moisturized skin, and keeping it from becoming too oily or dry. Geh.

          1. *facepalm*

            That’ll teach me to type an insult when my wife is trying to talk to me about inane stuff. She said something about a leaflet while I was thinking “flier”.

            And now the moment is gone.

            *facepalm yet again because I completely deserve it*

            1. Bring ze fish! I welcome ze fish!!

              My — uh — that’s a pretty big fish you have. Scaly even. Have you tried a cream?

              1. Keep on laughing. But when I finish genetically engineering my giant carnivorous megacarp, we’ll see who’s still laughing! BWAHAHAHAHAHA!

                  1. T this way to the mad doctors lobby. Here is your complimentary copy of”Hate Weekly” the magazine of the in SJWs

                    1. Hate Weekly table of contents:

                      “They Called Me Mad: How to Turn Humiliation into Motivation”

                      “Destroyed By Your Own Creation: How To Avoid Unpleasant Irony”

                      “Soon I Shall Have my Revenge! How Soon is Too Soon for Vengeance?”

    1. Definitely a safer choice than the “And I got mugged by snobbery!” girls. They’re downright scary (and may be too young).

  13. WAR AND PEACE is my favorite book of all time. I read it when I was in college. Now, I had a particularly good translation, and my edition came with a fold out chart of all the characters and their family relations, so I did not get lost in the Russian names of who was who. Anyone reading a clunky translation might be put off by it; also there is the question of taste. But it is not a gloomy book like THE BROTHERS KARAMAZOV or other Russian novels.

    That said, I am also a big fan of Larry Niven and all the other authors Sarah Hoyt mentions.

        1. Maybe you’re the fella to ask. How did “white women” in Klingon come to be “bee chez”?

    1. I liked The Brothers Karmazov. My favorite Russian book, though, is Solzhenitsyn’s One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich, which despite the subject matter I thought uplifting.

        1. That is actually one I’ve never read. Why would they suspend you for having the Gulag Archipelago? At my high school, the teachers would have been impressed.

          1. 1978. Portugal. The USSR was our model. We were a socialist republic on the way to communism, according to Portuguese constitution. Gulag Archipelago was capitalist/American propaganda and a tissue of lies.

            1. So how was a book written by a Russian, AMERICAN propaganda? Or were the Socialists in Portugal projecting active measures just a bit much? That’s the sort of thing the KGB used to do.

                1. Obviously those people never got any contact with people from the Soviet block. I’m amazed how many we have in engineering around here. I’ve had the privilege of meeting a bunch of people who escaped one way or another. The stories I’ve heard. And if “gulag” scared the Commies in Portugal I wonder what they would have made of “First Circle.” That’s the one with the imprisoned engineers all working on radar from classified American radio magazines.

              1. Remember the Soviets are the same people who banned an Academy Award winning movie based on a book by a Russian author (Dr. Zhivago).

    2. I read it during exams one year in high school, partly because by sheer mass it defied my usual tendency to barely put a book down, physically or mentally, before finishing it in one breathless gulp. Which I really needed to do in order to, you know, write the exams.

      I did not, I confess, find it extremely interesting at the time. But between your recommendation and my math teacher’s, I think I probably need to try it again, with greater attention if not necessarily fewer distractions. Perhaps I can find something like the version you were using.

    3. I read The Idiot because a friend–who turned into a Lawyer when I wasn’t looking–said I NEEDED to read that sort of thing.


      1. Dostoevsky is… um… not the sum of Russian fun literature. You know who is awesome? Pushkin. Read his poetry and he is a fannish guy. His short stories are a mixed bag, but still pretty entertaining if they leave the jokes in.

        The sad thing is that Russian sf/f is pretty fun stuff, but very little of the fun stuff gets over here. And when they translate it, they cut out all the fannish jokes. Unfortunately their Baen equivalents are a bit polluted with books about Russia taking over the world because Third Rome.

        The Tanya Grotter books are awesome (and Pushkin-ref heavy, and as anti-Communist as possible), but of course they got blocked in the West by Rowling’s lawyers. They cut out all the rock and roll songs and computer-guy jokes and beer recommendations from the Night Watch books and movies. Sigh.

  14. How can one ever expect to be taken seriously as an Artiste if one writes something that any hick off the street will be able to understand and (heaven forbid!) appreciate?

      1. Hard choice ain’t it?

        Even ‘arder when you properly present the alternatives:
        Starving artiste, respected by your peers (or, at least, those who aren’t jealously trying to stab you in the back.)
        Wallowing in filthy lucre, adored by multitudes of fans.

  15. Back in the 1960’s a little comedy group called BEYOND THE FRINGE did a sketch that had a Lord recently appointed to the British Board of Censors say “When I go to the Theatre, I want to be taken out of myself. I don’t want to see Lust and Rape and Incest, and Sodomy….I can get all that at home!”

    I don’t want to read angst, and despair, and so forth; that’s what the godsdamned Media pour over me every day. I want to read about heroes and engineers, humor and just deserts. Handwringing about how awful the world is isn’t clever, or original, or even very smart.

    There is Literature that hits the gloom that is genuinely great, just as there is discordant music that is genuinely great, but it’s freaking rare.

    People sometimes ask me how I can buy all the cheapass Kung Fu movies that come out on DVD, and not more serious “films”. The answer is that a mediocre Kung Fu movie can be a lot of fun, but a mediocre “serious film” is almost certainly unwatchable. Furthermore the stylistic flaws that mar a mediocre Kung Fu movie will make it even more fun to watch when time has passed and that style is now funny. But nothing gets stale faster than issue advocacy in a narrative form.

    There are serious authors who are worth reading, although frequently their better or more interesting works are NOT the ones praised by the (il)literati.
    Shaw could be ponderous and pedantic but MAJOR BARBARA is hysterically funny, as is CAESAR AND CLEOPATRA (there are good films of each). Steinbeck’s work is well worth reading, provided you stay the hell away from GRAPES. Not that GRAPES is bad, taken by itself, but the Western Intellectual Twits have weighed it down with far too much baggage.

    As a rule, though, nothing “literate” praised by the NYT should be touched with a barge-pole until it has been profitably in print for a quarter of a century.

    1. Your first paragraph reminded me of a theory of mine: that English majors want to read Serious Literature because they don’t read enough history. If they actually bothered to read history, they would get their fill of human incompetence and evil, and stop trying to inflict it on our fiction.

  16. I love a happy ass-kicking. This is the cutest, happy ass-kicking I’ve seen in a long time.

    Gives me warm fuzzies, it does.


  17. I have to say, I really lucked out when it came to English teachers — they had the attitude that they didn’t care what you read as long as you were reading. Side note: I knew my 9th grade English teacher was cool when, in his classroom for study hall, he was kicked back at his desk reading “The Hunt for Red October”

    1. A good English teacher is everything. I was fortunate to have a really, really good one in my junior year of high school. He let me read Ludlum and Forsyth–and agreed that Forsyth was definitely better with setting and dialogue, and Ludlum was an amazing plotter, able to throw thirty balls into the air, juggle them for 300+ pages, drop ’em randomly onto a pool table, and then sink the eight-ball with a three-cushion bank shot.

      He shared the classes’ disdain for “literature.” (“Of course you people hate The Great Gatsby and Catcher in the Rye–everyone in this room is far too well-adjusted to actually ENJOY stories about unlikable people gazing at their navels for hundreds of pages!”)

      He taught us that reading should be enjoyable; but that a really good novel could (and should) ask really, really uncomfortable questions of us–even as we enjoyed the story.

      He passed away about a decade ago. I do wish there were many, many more English teachers like him.

      1. I suspect many English teachers don’t particularly like reading, much less love it. There must be some process in the pedagogical instruction that kills that particular pleasure.

        For many of them reading seems a process of establishing oneself as a pretentious bore serious intellectual.

        1. It starts with the stuff English majors have to read and how they have to analyze it. By the time they get their PhD. Books aren’t fun anymore.

  18. Don’t know about the 1970s. but in the 1960s Revell (a model company) had a contest where first prize was a Gemini capsule. Don’t know how many end-panels from Revell models I sent in trying to win the sucker.

    Didn’t win the Gemini capsule (I think it was really a full-size mock-up used for either training or as a proposal item), but did get a crate full of Revell models. (Still have one on my mantle — HMS Beagle, which wasn’t the Beagle, but rather a redo of their HMS Bounty model.)

  19. Based on a mention a short time ago by our most gracious hostess I tracked down a copy of Poul Anderson’s Operation Chaos. Somehow missed that one first time through, but it is simply delightful, reminiscent of Heinlein’s Magic Incorporated, and in much the same style.
    Only half way through as I’m savoring the ride.
    Thank thee kindly Sarah.

    1. For some reason my memory has commingled the recollection of Operation Chaos with that of Anthony Boucher’s The Compleat Werewolf.

      Now I have two fondly remembered stories to re-read.

      Courtesy of an Amazon review of The Compleat Boucher: The Complete Short Science Fiction and Fantasy of Anthony Boucher:

      I am the very model of a modern sf editor.
      My publisher is happy, as is each and every creditor.
      I know the market trends and how to please the newsstand purchaser;
      With agents and name authors my relations can’t be courteouser.
      In short, in manners monetary, social, and promotional,
      I am the very model of a pro s f devotional.

      (copyright 1953, 1999 W.A.P. White estate)

      And, surprise, Amazon (of Blessed Memory) advises that I already own this book, bought some dozen years ago! Sigh, if only Amazon could tell me where I have put it.

        1. Are they trying to inspire despair? To create a cyberpunk like dystopia? I read today that the army is planning for megacities. It’s almost if the want a Judge Dredd/Warhammer 40,000 kind of environment. I can’t imagine anything more soul crushing.
          We truly need private expansion into space. “Elbow room! Cried Daniel Bone.” An independent spirit cannot be maintained in a megacity. Without hope we will wither and die.

    1. Natalie Luhrs is complaining that there’s not enough women on the list, of course.

      1. When is Natalie Luhrs not complaining about something?

        Since I suspect she monitors things here, she should note that it’s much easier to take complaints seriously when you sometimes do more than just freaking complain because things aren’t skewed your way for once.

            1. I am The Man™ it’s my job to keep women, minorities and the brothas down. It did become a lot easier once I convinced the brothas to keep themselves down.

          1. I suppose it is easier to browbeat people into reading what you write than it is to write what people want to read.

            Count me amongst the people who don’t care if Conan was written by Robert Howard or Roberta Howard and who never gave a ding-dong how Leigh Brackett, Cordwainer Smith and Andre Norton went about voiding their bladders.

      1. Leading cause of deliberate death in those under 25 and over 9, by the CDC’s “top ten causes of death” chart.

        To compare to other causes, table ten of this chart on death:

        Click to access nvsr63_03.pdf

        Has 5k in the year the study they based it on was done; couple of hundred more than the homicides for the same group.

        For the entire plopulation: just shy of 40k a year kill themselves, in contrast to about 16.25k assault type deaths, fewer than 500 legal involvement deaths, or 4.7k “we have no idea what the intent was” deaths. (Those could be suicide, homicide or accident.)

    1. Well, there are people who want to remove everything that’s not hard science. That’s not me. Heinlein was harder science than I am, but I try to make things plausible.
      But big ideas? Oh, hell yeah.

      1. What’s funny is that the 50s and 60s saw some great reads on navel and genitalia contemplation — like Philip Jose Farmer, Joanna Russ, etc. But the kids are blissfully unaware of how subversive science fiction has always been, and now they want to outlaw subversion of *their* dominant paradigm. Hard science fiction, like high tech, appeals to boys, so out it goes.

        1. I don’t have issues with hard science fiction — but I like the… well… I like to go beyond what we can see, if that makes sense.
          BUT I also find navel/genitalia contemplation unspeakably boring PARTICULARLY when it has to be kept under the “sacred” bounds of PC. They all say the same thing. Heard it already. You want to do that, go write mainstream. Okay, or not, I don’t want to dictate what people write. But I know what I won’t read.

          1. There is all sorts of interesting things in perfectly serious hard-science that suggest some rather ontologically vertiginous possibilities.

            Try messing around with a QM textbook sometime, ignore all the desperate prose trying to explain away how the wavefunction is just a calculation device with no reality, and ask yourself: in what way can this mathematical object (this or equivalent representations of the only classes we know of that can explain our experiments) where its future evolution depends not just on which path a system presumably took (selected ex post facto), but on all the possible paths that a system *can* take, be interpreted merely as a statistical distribution representing our ignorance of the state of a system? (Our “uncertainty” somehow steering the evolution of the system) In statistical mechanics, the time evolution of one microstate is quite independent of the statistical weight placed on it or any other microstate.

            Also, in QM, if you add more paths to a given outcome, the added amplitude can *subtract* from the probability of an event occuring, assuming you interpret it that way. Clearly, we’re not in Kolmogorov’s territory anymore!

            If, however, like Schrodinger, you take the wavefunction seriously as a physical wave [“Are there quantum jumps”, E. Schroginger, 1952] – something actually vibrating, with all the same interference behavior that you would expect, that also means that you have to start taking a particular sort of multiverse seriously. Once you’ve taken that leap, it can even help resolve some other paradoxes. [“Relative State Formulation of Quantum Mechanics”, “Many Worlds Theory of Quantum Mechanics”, Hugh Everett III, 1957]

              1. If you wibble with a long enough wavelength, you would have a non-zero chance of passing through barriers without touching them*.

                * I know, I know, it doesn’t work on the macro scale. It was a joke. 😛

        2. And girls…. well, it should appeal to girls because, you know, girls are supposed to become engineers even if they don’t want to.

          1. Yeah. All the engineering scholarships are for girls. Who mostly wash out, because they’ve been PUSHED into it. Can they let kids be kids?
            I wanted to be a mechanical engineer. My parents didn’t want me to based on fact few girls lots of boy in engineering. I ended up in languages. Eh. I’m okay, now I’m writing. But I swear if i had more time I’d steal younger kids’ college books, like I used to do with my brother’s. Would it be too ridiculous, when the kids leave the house for me to go study engineering?

      2. The problem with harder-than-hyperdiamond science fiction is that the only people who can write it all work for CERN, Fermilab, and similar places, and they’re mostly too busy doing real sciency stuff. (Day jobs are a female canine.)

        I don’t know if the idea I’m playing with now as the core tech for a space opera is “plausible.” But I’m going to make it internally consistent and work out the technical, tactical, and political implications from there. From there…figure out what people do within the demands and opportunities of that technology, and go from there.

      3. In my personal experience, the really far out stuff isn’t very “hard.” The further you get from the knowns the more wild everything gets. But there is a big difference in writing some stuff that’s more than a little fuzzy as a story element and just slapping spaceships and rayguns on your anti corporate lesbian message fic dreck and calling it science fiction because the SJW types gave it a meaningless award.

        1. Yes. I totally agree with you. I used HIGHLY speculative stuff in darkships and the other series (What other series? well, it was written 25 years ago, so I’m scrapping everything but the idea) is even more so because … well… it is.
          BUT I try to keep the history and the human interactions HONEST.

          1. The SJW types don’t DO history, or all sorts of that ugly dirty stuff. It gets in the way of the message. Maybe that’s why all those “great books” in that link I posted were all so derivative. If you don’t know anything about the human condition, how can you write about it realistically?

            1. I know who flatly refused to believe that anything the Catholic Church did was good for women no matter how many examples I gave, even though he made no effort to deny them. He explicitly said that it was refusal.

              1. The Catholic Church is probably the best thing to have happened for women. I wonder if they can comprehend how women were treated before it.

                What amazes me is all the Catholic-hating feminists who accept objectification, abuse and humiliation.

          2. IDK, I liked Darkships. Never once did I start calculating the necessary tensile strength to density ratio of a powertree trunk. I just thought it was an interesting piece of scenery.

            I can understand why someone doesn’t want to be interrupted in the creative process of telling a story by a dozen quibblers who want you to reconsider your choice of hypothetical transparent material for the cockpit screen. Harder than thou seems to be a contest to see how many of someone elses ideas you can shoot down based on a cartoon version of physics learned in undergrad.

            “There’s no such thing as stealth in space” – I could argue the other way, having worked with the actual limitations of sensors.
            “Relativity says you can’t go faster than light” – not quite. Relativity says that objects with net positive mass energy can’t smoothly accelerate to faster than light using reaction engines, and it also says things going faster than light have to have a few weird properties. These same people probably believe black-holes exist precisely as Chandrasekar models them, which involves matter beyond the event horizon … travelling faster than light.

            Random critic: “Obviously, anyone taking this ‘submarine’ sufficiently below water that a stack couldn’t rise to the surface would be poisoned by the exhaust from their own generators.”
            Jules verne: “But I stated it was an *electric* submarine”
            Random critic: “Bahahaha … and where exactly is this electricity going to come from? This is obviously sheerest fantasy, sir.”

            1. Actually, what relativity actually says is that the laws of physics (particularly maxwell’s equations) should be invariant relative to how fast you are moving, which implies transforming between moving reference frames requires a particular kind of transform. Not that motion faster than light is “impossible”.

              And so on. I like hard sci-fi ideas, as long as harder-than-thou isn’t used as a straightjacket to tie people into a world more finite and constrained by far than the world I can read about in an engineering textbook.

              1. Nod. There have been stories that I’ve read that hit my “oh come on now” button regarding the science (none of Sarah’s) but I dislike the “hard SF nuts” who dislike anything that requires “advances in science”.

              2. Actually, it does say that motion faster than light is impossible, because the transformations involved mean that your mass, as you approach light speed, increases, and so therefore does your energy to accelerate.

                Without bound.

                That which requires infinite energy to do is impossible.

                1. Yes it does. However, the equation for drag on a subsonic body looks very similar to the Lorentz transform. Funny, but drag doesn’t go to infinity when a body hits the speed of sound.

                    1. Of course. I was trying imply that perhaps we don’t know quite as much about physics in this velocity region as we think we do. After all, the only things that have been observed at these velocities are subatomic particles. If I am wrong, it certainly won’t be the first time.

              3. Yeah, I’ve always considered the possibility that the complex numbers in Relativity at FTL velocities was a limitation in the math, more than a limitation in the Universe.

            2. “There’s no such thing as stealth in space”

              ??? Who said that? We already have radar-absorbent coatings, and 99+% black paint. What more do you need in space for stealth?

              Granted, one could make an argument that in space, it would be far easier to pick up the EM radiations from the electronics in a vessel, but that could be damped, too. And you certainly aren’t going to hear it.

              Stealth drive engines could be a challenge, but I can imagine a few ways to do that.

              1. I believe that the main objection is that a spaceship will always be radiating heat, since humans need it to be quite a bit warmer than the background.

                1. John Hemry has some interesting stuff in his Paul Sinclair series about what might done to minimize that.

                2. Shouldn’t be too hard to insulate sufficiently to prevent that from being a significant problem.

                  1. The heat *has* to be radiated away or you cook the crew. Vacuum is an excellent insulator. You could probably pull hijinks with cooling fluids and radiation fins on one side of your ship, so most of the heat radiates away on that side, but that just makes you more visible from that side in IR.

                    1. Is there some thermodynamic reason you couldn’t interpose a highly reflective small-cone-angle shroud between your vessel (running with low heat generation and radiating preferentially in directions other than the target), and the region you’re trying to hide from?

                      It seems to me that it shouldn’t be hard to make yourself colder (and radar/active scan scattering) (in one specific direction, not in general) than most of the asteroids/rocks/clutter, much less the stellar background.

                    2. Dammit Jim, I’m a Librarian, not a Physicist!:-P.

                      In other words: I dunno. I don’t believe you could make a perfectly reflective shield, so even if you radiate most of your waste heat away, some will still heat up the shield itself.

                      I don’t doubt that there are tricks that can be played to reduce visibility in a spacecraft. Such will depend on the sensitivity of the sensors being used to find it, and the tech available to hide from those sensors…and the tricks used to get around that camouflage…and the further misdirection used to hide from the anti-camo sensors…etc.

                      Arms races are fun!:-)

                    3. Also, just because we could in principle detect something, doesn’t mean we have a detector with sufficient aperture, pointed in the right direction to resolve it. The only reason we could find the Gallileo probe again (broadcasting omnidirectionally!) with the entire Deep Space network, was because we knew exactly where it was supposed to be. At that range (Jupiter), with an unknown object of a similar size nothing we have could pick it out.

                    4. OK, I forgot the heat buildup due to power usage (Spreading the heat output of the crew across the entire hull would not be enough to easily find). We can minimize the detection by putting radiative fins down a tube, so it’s VERY directional.

                  2. Then you have the problem of the inside of the spaceship getting too hot for the crew.

                    1. You send the heat to another dimension. There’s a thing that dissipates it and no one knows how it works. See Heinlein for FTL travel.
                      The truth is it’s likely to be solved when we need it. It’s likely to be solved in a way we don’t GET. Until then there’s handwavium.

                    2. Doug Dandridge uses captive wormholes to dissipate heat on stealthed scout ships in the Empires at War series. The other end of the wormhole is tethered in the home system.

                      I found it interesting.

  20. Reblogged this on The Worlds of Tarien Cole and commented:
    I remember when I brought Tolkien to class. Oh, my teachers who were so proud of me reading history thought I’d lost my mind. Oh well. They didn’t get it, I read history because I enjoyed it. I thought it was fun. And so was Tolkien and at least the original Dune.

    But God forbid literature be ‘fun.’ It has to be turgid, and ‘challenging.’ Sorry. But I can read non-fiction for those.

    1. I prefer my challenges to be accompanied by a gauntlet flung down, a searing shot across the bow, or a good-old-fashioned punch in the face (hard to mistake the intent of that last one). Nigh everything goes better with a good story.

      Physics some of my class started learning by reading about siege weapons in history books. If you can do that and get a child (or an adult) interested in mass, vector, velocity and demistifying the arcane formulae, it goes out of the realm of in-one-ear-and-out-the-other learning for the test next week and into “awesome! Siege weapons!” territory.

      Of course, this sort of subversive tactic is bound to be banned from the formal institutions of the state. Quite despite the fact that the awesomeness that is flinging giant rocks around is quite gender- and color neutral, it doesn’t have the proper social message (which ain’t what they say it is), so out it goes. Defenestration via ostracization.

      Strange how Progressive agendas suck the fun out of everything, but yet remain popular. Marx has got them by the short curlies, and their hearts and minds follow. *shakes head, goes back to boomerific reading*

      1. Too true. If I would’ve been taught physics via the beauty of the trebuchet, I might have become a scientist and atheist. Instead I’m comfortably Christian and a writer.

        Their loss.

    2. Terry Pratchett went to the library and asked for more books like Lord of the Rings. Ancient days — they pointed him to the Mythology shelf. Not what he wanted, but over on the next shelf, there was a cover showing a man wearing a helmet! Maybe there would be runes! He devoured those books.

      It was the shelf marked “History.”

      1. I knew I loved Prachett for a reason. I’ve always loved reading mythology too. Goes hand-in-hand with history, of course. Myths teach about the societal norms and values. Even Lewis & Tolkien believed the only difference in Christian myths was they were true. It was still subject to the same rules of classic myth storytelling.

  21. Tolkien (read in 7th grade) rocked my world hard. I have never recovered. I had to read the stuff that inspired Papa Tolkien, the wild Germanic works that he knew and taught.
    I find that in the modern world works like LoTR are actually MORE subversive than the faux-subversive mainstream works. A plague on their hollow, corpse-ridden academic houses that believe Nabokov’s Lolita is a masterpiece.

    1. DC is attempting to turn comics into grey goo. I guess the memo is: Life is pain and suffering and then you die.

      Most people outgrow emo porn after awhile.

        1. I know. I’m on a bit of a Green Lantern kick right now, and the stuff that’s written these days. Some of the writers are proud of shoehorning in SJW stuff. Oh well, there is some good (for values of good) fanfic out there.

          1. Does any comic book fanfic include art, or is it all text? Text-only superhero stories can work, but I still like me some pichers:-P.

            1. The stories are text only but there have been illustrations on Tumblr and deviant art. My favorite author us fabularasa.

            1. The most recent X-Men movie, Days of Future Past, is pretty good, imo.

              The prior last X-Men film that I saw was the second movie (waaaaaay back when), so I can’t comment on how it compares to any of the more recent ones.

              The weird thing about Marvel right now is that the movies are locking the old characters into the minds of lots and lots of people who weren’t previously familiar with the heroes in question. So how does Marvel respond?

              They completely upset all of it in the comic books. Thor is getting replaced by a woman, Cap is turning the suit and shield over to Falcon, etc…

              They no doubt want people to watch the movies and then start reading the comic books. But they’re making the comic book characters completely different – as in literally entirely different people – from the movie characters (at least for a couple of years until they revert everything again).

              1. My husband saw it. When I asked how it was, he said: “It was a great movie. About ‘eh’ on being about the X-men, but I loved the movie!”


                They no doubt want people to watch the movies and then start reading the comic books.

                I don’t share your assurance. The characters as they’re doing them– when they do them really well– are from roughly how they were when the books were solid– twenty or thirty some years ago, with all the “hip” stuff from then softened by how the stuff in the comics from the 60s was.

                The movies are pointing at the idealized icons of the characters, which have little to do with the mash they’re making of the comics and have been since at least ’02!

                If anything, the movies give them more seed corn to eat and more stuff to be “revolutionary” about.

                1. Yeah, the movie seems to be more about transitioning from cast of First Class (which I didn’t see) to the regular team (at least some of whom will presumably be appearing in the upcoming Apocalypse movie). And possibly about rehabilitating one particular character. So most of the X-Men that you know and love have small parts at most.

            2. What do you think of Green Lantern the animated series and the animated Green Lantern movies? I’m not fond of the Live action Green Lantern movie.

              1. I’m not a Green Lantern fan, so I haven’t seen them. Thought it was a pretty sucky power that seldom had any creativity applied.
                (double for the “yellow is our weakness” sometimes-lore; I’d have a massively powerful blue flashlight, blue dust-bombs and blue paint if needed)

  22. Oh my gosh I think we were separated at birth–and then I read your writing, and I see we are not. Sigh. But I have felt this way for YEARS, and I am incredibly thrilled to see you state exactly my position!

  23. The scary thing about War and Peace?

    I consider it to be the most upbeat piece of Russian literature I’ve ever come across. And it has a character who quite literally dies because life is being too good to him.

    1. Russian literature is kind of a race between the protagonist and Murphy’s Law. Whichever one is ahead at the end of the story wins.

      Honestly, though, there are some pretty cheery Russian books out there. Anything that’s more on the folktale/children’s book/sf/f range tends to have a lot lower doom and gloom ratio.

      Also, the emotional atmosphere at the beginning of a section is nearly always revealed by the weather report, and how the author chooses to describe it. Russians are very good at describing weather. (I think they got this from French literature, but I think most literatures have stopped doing it. Living where they do, I can understand why the Russians haven’t exhausted the possibilities, though.)

  24. Every so often I check to see if A Canticle for Leibowitz is available on Kindle. Still not. I’ve been rereading my copy for over 30 years.

  25. Jeez, I come home from work and there’s a 500 comment post to read through…

    But while I was at work I had an insight about the SJW authors. You see, they write because they believe their words will change the world into what they want it to be. That’s the thing about Liberals in general, they believe in the power of works, PC is about changing the words, Newspeak like, to change people’s minds and ultimately reshape reality.

    So they write this stuff where the Hoo-has are glittery and the men are kept on breeding farms and only let out for manual labor because that’s how they want it to be. They don’t speculate about how their ideas will affect society, which is what SF is FOR.

    And thus, like all unimaginative leftists, they project their mindset on everyone else. They think Heinlein wrote Starship Troopers because he WANTED a “fascist” government run by veterans (unless they read Stranger first, and then it’s all about hippies and free love). You can’t try ideas on for size and think about how they might work. There is no Speculative in their Speculative Fiction. you have to write about the new reality you want to bring into being. It’s Serious Business, and they want to be treated like their ides are Important and a Blueprint for the Future(TM).

    Which is why you definitely don’t want those assholes in charge of the future.

    1. Dunno. I am inclined towards thinking that SJWs are less dangerous to the future of literature than literature professors. There are plenty of great, reasonably optimistic, left leaning stories (see banks, brust, et cetera). The thing I find sad is perfectly competent authors who see to write stories for literature professors (Stross).


  26. Weird question – I was looking at stories I wrote and I… didn’t really remember writing it. Anyone else get that from time to time? You look at something you wrote, go ‘Wow’… and ‘Did I really write that’?

      I have a finished medieval romance I don’t remember writing. It’s mine. The names are names I use a lot and the phrasing is mine.
      My only guess is I wrote it while recovering from concussion.
      Short stories? The exceptions are the ones I REMEMBER.

  27. Very, VERY late to the party.

    Yeah, Canticle has a moderately depressing view of human history – certainly a cyclical one – but I still find much of the story itself uplifting, and the beliefs and religion, and their role in rebuilding society, not worthless.

    That said, Wolfe, in both his New Sun and Long Sun series, paints a far more poetic picture.

    Since I just finished (again) Neal Stephenson’s “Anathem” (yes – again) – I can see some of the parallels – the “Maths” and consents acting as a crucible and storehouse for critical knowledge and ideas. Add in – despite a strong agnostic/atheistic streak, far more respect for religion than much written in the last decade or two, a praise of beauty and aesthetics, and a story firmly rooted in the concepts that absolutes exist independent of the material world.

    It’s actually the only audio book other than Monster Hunter: Alpha I’ve bothered to re-listen to.

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