The Lines In Our Heads

Recently I’ve come to the conclusion that humans are golems. Note these are the golems of Terry Pratchett and not the golems of Jewish myth. They are clay robots, with lines in their head – the chem – that both animate them and give them purpose.

When I was a very young writer, knee high to a short story, I was told – and experienced – that you should never, ever, ever make a character do something that broke it. By this, it was explained, they meant taking some line you’d clearly drawn with the character “the character will never do this” and then make him do it.

A lot of writers interpret this way the injunction to find out what your character is afraid of, then make him do it. So they take clear lines in their character’s head and violate them. And then the book and character are broken, though sometimes neither writer nor publisher realize it.

I don’t know how to explain this, except you’ll know it when you do it. I did this by having a character have sex (in a book, duh) with someone she wasn’t more than casually interested in. Even though this was okay for the culture (early, unpublished work) it wasn’t okay for the character, and the character broke, and that book got abandoned. The character broke because one of the bright lines in HER head was that she didn’t do that, so when I forced it, the character became someone else I wasn’t interested in writing.

Recently I’ve realized it’s the same thing with humans, though since we’re human and twisty, our chem, our lines in the head are multiple, overlaid, and sometimes (though not often, I think) contradictory. (Contradictory directives I can think of are “I will never hurt anyone else” and “I will do anything to defend my children.”)

I became aware of mine recently, when an “opportunity to my advantage” appeared and I had to turn it down, because I couldn’t write something that I now only don’t believe in, but which I violently disagree with, and which I think would be one more “pull” towards what I consider despair and giving up on the human race. I realized then that one of the directives of my work is “Snatching brands from the fire” not “piling on coals of destruction.” Even when I write dark stuff, my characters are (usually) still fighting.

There are other lines in my head, and you guys know some of them. Like for instance, I choose to believe in the individual rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. This stops me short, often, when I’m about to say things like “there ought to be a law” but it also gives me moral qualms at most inconvenient times. Such as when the kids were little I didn’t give them an allowance (I believe in TANSTAAFL) but I also didn’t make them clean. The cleaning thing was a value for me, not for them, so I figure instead of yelling at them to do stuff, I’d post a blackboard (ran across it recently, with the prices still on. At some point cleaning became THEIR value too, so at least they take care of their stuff. And they got their own work/pay, so the scheme went by the way side.) with tasks and their pay. This meant that 5 year old Robert accumulated a tidy bank balance, and that was fine by me. Yes, I do know it’s a weird way to raise kids, but I had to do it without violating the words in my head which both said I shouldn’t pay for nothing and that I shouldn’t require my kids to do conscript work the benefit of which they couldn’t see. It was nuts, but it worked, I think.

There are other lines and when I violate them – unintentionally – I carry around a boat load of guilt. One of the lines is “I will hurt no innocents” and innocents is a flexible term in this case. As in “I will hurt no one that isn’t trying to hurt me.”

So, Sarah, why are you telling us of this little problem?

Because from observation, I’ve gathered other people have lines in the head they can’t cross either. I don’t know how they get in there, but I can guarantee it’s not all early childhood and inculcated before perception. Some of the lines we chose to have in there, ourselves.

This is why after the fall of the wall the communists in Europe were like ghosts of their former selves, unable to integrate the lines in their head with the events they’d witnessed. It’s also why, ultimately, the events got re-written and instead of the decades they’d spent holding up various ditactorships as an example of freedom, they rewrote the events to “real communism has never been tried.” Though they still hold existing communist – or fascist, see China – dictatorships like Venezuela as paragons, and take their side reflexively.

This is because humans in the end will choose not to break themselves. If to keep the lines in the head intact, reality must be deconstructed, then reality gets deconstructed. If your lines in head say you’re a communist because you care about injustice and the little people, evidence must be ignored that those regimes result in massive injustice, mass graves and ultimately a neo-feudal order with party apparatchiks on top (and often not very neo. In Europe most such are descended from the “good, old” families.)

It also explains why so many women in science fiction today refer back to the mythical era where women had no clout in the sf/f writing field (even though women, yeah, under their own names were present in the field since the forties at least, and were usually made much of, because geeks like women) and where men in a conspiracy (sometimes I wonder if these people ever met any men) deliberately held women down. The chem in their heads, probably implanted by mothers or grandmothers who went to work during or right after WWII, tells them they’re not just equal to men, they’re supposed to be the conquering wave that shows this. If others did it before you, you’re not the conquering wave, and you’re going to look more than a little silly. So, history must be rewritten in the familiar mold of deserving people held down by all powerful evil oppressors. Because that fits their chem.

So why does this matter?

It matters because you should be aware of your chem. There will be a sense of bridling, a sense of rearing up – as it were – of needing to protect something, when you’re about to violate it, or believe something that contradicts it.

Can you violate your chem, if it needs to be violated? I don’t know. I think it takes something supernatural or near supernatural to do so. A – pardon me for evoking a religious story here, but it’s appropriate – road to Damascus experience. Something so big, so glaring; something you live through, something that traumatizes you to such an extent that you cannot continue preserving the chem and you rewrite it.

If you can find figures who have completely changed – political orientation, religion, etc – you usually find that level of traumatic event at the root or around the time of the change. It has to be very traumatic and hit them personally, in a way that can’t be rewritten.

So, what is all this in the name of?

Your chem is your ultimate blind spot. Whether you wrote it or someone wrote it, it’s the one thing that threatens to unravel you if it’s challenged.

Find it and figure out what assumptions were made in building it.

Because sometimes events and circumstances (like those mentioned above) require you to change your chem. Sometimes you have to amend it and rewrite it.

The alternative is to rewrite and amend reality so that your chem has you doing the opposite of what you think it does.

And that makes you a dumb golem indeed.

357 thoughts on “The Lines In Our Heads

    1. The girl described was smart and mentally-flexible enough to see a lot of the flaws of liberalism, yet thinks because “their hearts are in the right place” everything is just peachy and we should keep trying out their crazy ideas. That takes a certain degree of cognitive dissonance or, at minimum, willful blindness.

      1. I like to call it militant stupidity. Its where people deliberately go to war against Reality, knowing that they being are idiots and doing it anyway.

        1. Being an ex-liberal myself, I rate my eventual break with the left as one of the most heart-wrenching experiences of my life. Especially somebody who is passionate about their beliefs has trouble facing the fact that their entire worldview is based on a lie — or ‘a fatal conceit’ — and may prefer to live in denial or self-delusion. It is one of the few times in my life I really saw what Churchill used to call ‘the Black Dog’. But in the end, I believe the experience of having to ‘reset the compass’ was a salutary one.

          “Turn to the light — don’t be frightened by the shadows it creates.” (Dream Theater, “The great debate”)

          1. That’s the essential problem with the people who become liberals: They have beliefs in the first place.

            Wait… What did I just say? Idealism is bad? Foolish? Feckless, even?

            Most people that I identify as being of like mind with myself do not have “beliefs”, i.e., pre-conceived delusions about the way people and the world work. We make observations, do a little verification/testing, and then we act accordingly. If it works, then we have a technique that works. If not, back up, and try again.

            Only those of “liberal” bent come up with the fantasy-island idealistic concepts and then try to make the world conform to them. It’s a mental illness, and acute maladaptional disorder. World doesn’t work the way you want it to? Oh, dear, dearie me… Let’s start a movement! We’ll change that nasty ol’ world, we will!!

            The majority of these people who self-describe themselves as liberals are immature children, dangerously delusional and “idealistic” ones. And, there’s a “trigger” for me–You tell me you’re an idealist, and I’m going to start checking to make sure I’ve got a round chambered, just in case you go all helpful on me…

  1. “…because geeks like women”
    Especially ones in skimpy leather bikinis wielding swords and/or blasters. 🙂

    1. You obviously haven’t seen many of those old pulp covers. The preferred dress was the ‘brass brassiere’ or tattered cloth …

      1. In one of his Alternate View columns, Dr. Pournelle explained the skintight spacesuits by telling us about the Space Activities Suit. In closing , he said something about “Now if I could just explain those brass brassieres”. AFAIK, to date he hasn’t had any luck.

        1. I started a story that explained those — a novel, called Big Bright Shiny Machines. the brass brassieres and bikini bottoms were (not really brass, just looked like it) supposed to protect women’s reproductive organs from alien rays. All the other hokey stuff was similarly “explained.” Only it was such a total send-up I realized no one would ever buy it (not the least because the traditional publishers would think I was serious.) Maybe someday…

          1. I will bet you a steak dinner, payable at Libertycon, that if you pitched that to Toni at Baen, the contract would appear in nanoseconds.

          2. Big Bright Shiny Machines? Properly written it would sell gangbusters, something which I will lay odd that most here assume you can and would do… Good grief woman, WRITE IT.

            1. If she’s the one to do it they’ll run their quill pens through it; she’s obnoxious and disliked, or so I’ve heard.

              Probably have to do it Indy and not be able to share the vast pile of earnings with any publisher.

          3. I put together something along similar lines in a post-apoc sword and sorcery. I didn’t have a good enough bead on plot and characters. I was just trying for upbeat and positive dying polar bears.

          4. Then there was ye olde story in (Galaxy???) wherein the female spacesuit was created by a high ranking female officer who hated male/female interactions.

    2. Dude. Swords AND blasters. Because while the blaster IS the ultimate hand weapon, swords never jam and they never run low on juice.

      Totally with you on the skimpy leather bikini though. ~:D

      1. The blaster is not the ultimate hand weapon* — for close order combat it is merely an ill-designed club. A sword or a dirk is the better choice when it gets down to the last line.

        *The ultimate hand weapon, for those willing to spend the time and effort to become expert with it, is the human hand (with optional attachments.)

        1. Reminds me of the old Traveller RPG, where Imperial Marines (high tech interstellar empire) automatically got training in the cutlass.

        2. Technically isn’t a sword or blaster just an optional attachment for a human hand?

          1. 🙂

            So are a roll of dimes, a sock full of sand, a knuckle-duster, a stage-screw or a bat’leth.

        3. I thought that was the De Lameter blaster backed up by the Valerian space axe…

        4. Mr. Trim can comment best here, but it’s my understanding that early on in the first chunk of recent Iraqi unpleasantness the guys who were interacting kinetically with the locals at what was termed bad breath distance were placing rush orders with swordmakers back here in the states for sharp pointy things, from bigger stronger knives to modernized tomahawks (sharp-stabby-ones, not launch-from-an-SSN ones) to updated gladiuses (gladii?), for when the tools that go bang jammed at inconvenient points in their intercultural interactions.

          1. Truth to tell, I never had it confirmed that one of the sharp pokie things I assembled made it in country. Either Afghanistan or Iraq.

            I had several soldiers contact me in the early oughts, and designed both tactical swords and knives that would work, and with the right sheath could be attached to web gear.

            One fellow contacted me that his unit commander wouldn’t allow him to take it, he had to leave it behind.

            The gentleman that wraps my sword handles had a next door neighbor stationed at Ft Lewis {before it became a joint base} who was about to be deployed to Iraq. Eric showed him a short falchion I’d made. He took it on base, and told Eric his platoon wanted to order several. I actually got a few started. They deployed two months early.

            I had no trouble selling the tac swords when finished though.

            Tinker, a swordmaker in Seattle, insists that a few of the tac swords he made wound up used in the caves of Afghanistan. I can’t confirm that.

            There were several knife makers that made similar claims a decade ago. Whether its true or not, I can’t say.

            It is true that tomahawks became popular, and I do recall reading an article with photos of tomahawks being in a unit in Afghanistan. But I don’t recall where I read it.

            1. Tom Kratman mentioned it somewhere… *dives into Google memory*

              Ah. Here.

              “Figuring, therefore, that one of these days there was a fair chance I’d end up leading a trench raid, I asked myself, “Self, what’s better for fighting in very close quarters than a bayonet, rifle butt, knife, e-tool, axe, or bicycle chain?” The answer I got was, “Sword, not too long, preferable good for both thrusting and chopping.”

              So I ended up, in 1979 and 1980, spending a massive amount of time learning to use various sharp pointy things, European and Asian, both. One of these was essentially a katana, with the instructor being a highly talented and skilled Korean, Master Kim, from whom I took about six hours of private lessons a week. Hey, this is my life we’re talking about here.

              Apart from that, I might make mention that a bloody lot of the vets I know are somewhat geekish. Back in the late ’90’s/early oughts, D&D, FF7, Warhammer, and suchlike were common.

              I can see swords being a thing. Useful, worth the weight? Tough call. Your average grunt carries a damn lot of weight already.

              1. Its not so much the issue of weight, as how are you going to carry it? I made a sword that wound up being called the Tac Short sword, that had a wide blade, a wide tip with a twenty three inch blade. The weight isn’t an issue, because even with sheath its less than two pounds. The problem was, most of the space on the web gear was taken up. and even a short blade like twenty three inches can get caught on things.

                So, I got talked into making one with a seventeen inch blade. That solved getting caught on things, but now you’ve lost a quarter of your blade length, and some of the blade’s potential cutting ability.

                My thought is you’re better off with a pistol as a back up weapon than a sword. I feel that way, and I’ve studied a Chinese art with a staight sword {the jian}, rapier, longsword, and some sidesword. I’ve made swords, cut with swords, sparred uneven weapons, and I’ll still tell you that in my opinion a firearm is a better option.

                Just my $.02

                1. Yeah, the “where the heck do I put THIS?” is an issue. *chuckle* Marius’ Mules had it easy by comparison, even sans load-bearing harness. A bayonet doesn’t get in the way as much (and there’s established drills for that), and if we’re completely out of things that go bang for an extended period, we might be back to spears and scutum in open fields, first.

                  Happens I agree with you that firearms are in the vast majority of cases the better option. I’ve not done much other than “whacking the other guy with sticks” swordplay and even to my far lesser experience, I’d prefer a handgun, shotgun, rifle, or whatever type of bangstick is closest.

                  1. I have to admit to an emotional preference for swords. In fact I have yet to write a fiction piece without some swordplay, even the modern urban fantasy.

                    But we’re talking fiction here.

                    1. A sword has the advantage of self-contained ammo; it never clicks empty, never needs a fresh magazine. It can also deliver effective blows with tip, edge and hilt. On the negative side, it has limited range and your arm will eventually tire. As weapon of last resort, the short sword has a long history.

                    2. Hi RES

                      I think it was ’05, but the stroke I had in ’07 interferes with a clear memory of this time. But, Eric, the guy that did most of the photos of the website at the time, and a lot of the marketing posted a photo and logo to market the Tac Shortsword.

                      The photo was of the sword laying on a pistol belt, with two empty AR15 mags and several spent cartridges. The logo was “For when the bullets run out.”

                      The sword had a black oxide finish, and black acetate slab handle. In those days, black spelled “tactical”.

                      I’m being a little facetious.

                2. I’ve spent time in the Marines, Missouri National Guard, Air Force Reserves, went to Iraq as a civie. I train regularly in Japanese MA, which includes Sword and sundry other weapons, and will be taking at least an introductory class in European Historical sword fighting. I have also earned a brown belt in Dos Pares Escrima.

                  If I were heading into some ‘stan, then yes, I would want a pistol as a backup to my rifle. And I would want a knife as a backup to the backup.

                  Now, depending on *exactly* what my job there was that knife would be something like either then ESEE 3 or the 5. And I’d have some sort of cheap folding knife like a spiderco delica handy. Those would both be for day to day stuff, but when the rifle’s down and the slide on the pistol’s locked back on the last round and they’re still coming then it’s time. And yes, a tomahawk could be a better choice, or a Gladius, but if all I have is a couple of knives, then let’s just see if it’ll blend, shall we?

      2. I thought the whole point of the swords was that projectile weapons with vacuum on the other side of the wall were a Very Bad Idea.

        Or am I too practical?

        1. I have a hazy memory of swords being common in, oh, Traveller pen-and-paper rpg, several other sci-fi universes, for pretty much that reason- and the fact that they never run out of ammo, etc, as others here have mentioned. *grin*

          1. Not to mention the fact that monomolecular edges give them a new lease on life and usefulness.

            1. A fair point. *grin* Hopefully by that point, we won’t be poking holes in the pressure hull with monomolecular edges, though. That always made me wonder…

            2. Which brings up a pet peeve of mine. I deal with actual, real world monomolecular (actually monatomic given the materials involved) edges and points. They do not behave as shown in SF. One trait common to such points and edges is their extreme fragility. Touch the edge of a diamond ultramicrotome knife with your fingers and, yes, you will cut yourself. You’ll also ruin the blade.

              Also, the way blades work, there’s a point of diminishing returns on making the edge sharper. The actual extreme edge is only part of what resists when cutting/stabbing. The “wedge” behind it which has to spread whatever you’re cutting that takes force. Then there’s the simple “drag” of the blade sliding against the sides of what you’re cutting.

              I’m usually able to “block out” that and apply WSOD, but the instant I let myself think about it….

              Another pet peeve is “Oh, nos! Projectile weapons in a space colony!” Two problems with that (I touched on this a bit in my zombies in space story “Plague Station”):

              1) the hull of any sizeable space colony station has to be strong to withstand the pressure in the first place. A colony the size of Babylon 5 (say) will have walls the equivalent of meter thick steel. That’s in the ballpark of modern main battle tanks in terms of armor protection. Small arms aren’t going to make an impression on it. And that’s just looking at the minimum necessary strength to retain pressure (at a 50% margin which you’ll want for fatigue resistance if nothing else). Once you add the extra thickness for radiation shielding, you reach the point of it taking a continuous barrage of some fairly heavy anti-armor weaponry to penetrate it.

              2) If you do puncture it, you’ve got a leak. It takes a _long_ time to depressurize a sizeable station or colony through even a fairly good sized hole. We’re talking in the days to weeks to months range here.

              And most frustrating about that is people who should know better keep making that mistake. Or maybe they do know better and keep doing it because it’s what the readers expect.

              1. While I agree with your main point about the thickness of space station hulls (that they will have to be considerably thicker than can be pierced by small arms fire), I’ll have to disagree on the specifics: Unless there is some reason for having a really large, completely open room in the outer ring, support members will partition the station and reinforce the outer hull, significantly reducing the thickness necessary for keeping things together. Still, it would probably be equivalent to six or more inches of steel, unless it is partitioned to an unrealistically beehive-like level.

                1. The forces in the outer hull are determined by two things: pressure and curvature. Compartmentalization within the hull doesn’t change that. Consider a cylinder (a simple case to model) and only look at the tension in the circumference (lengthwise is a different calculation, although similar in form with the same general conclusions). The tension in the hull material caused by pressure (per unit length along the axial direction of the hull) is given by PR where P is the pressure within the hull and R is the radius of the cylinder. Now put another cylinder within it sized so that there’s only a 1 mm gap between the outer surface of the inner cylinder and the inner surface of the outer cylinder. The inner cylinder is sealed and holds pressure itself. How does it affect the forces on the outer cylinder from air pressure? Answer: it doesn’t. So long as the pressure on the air in contact with the outer cylinder is the same, the total forces on it are exactly the same. It needs to be just as thick with that inner cylinder as it does with the outer cylinder.

                  Nothing changes if you put walls crosswise and lengthwise rather than nested cylinders. The math becomes more complicated involving integrating over the curve rather than the very simple model you can use with the full cylinder, but the end result is the same (as expected since “full cylinder” is just the limiting case).

                  I have actually done the math on this.

                  And that leaves aside that you’re going to want a couple of meters of steel (different thicknesses for materials of different densities) to provide radiation shielding at least as good as Earth’s atmosphere (which you would want). That can be inside your pressure hull (which your pressure hull then has to be thicker to support the weight of the added material), outside the pressure hull (several different complications there) or part of the pressure hull itself.

                  1. I don’t think that any rational being is ever going to build a space habitat like those, in the first place. For one thing, by the time we can, the people we have building these things are going to get the heebie-jeebies just thinking about all that uncompartmentalized space, and find themselves psychologically unable to live in an environment like that. What massive mono-spaced habitats get built are more likely to be ego projects, built by someone who likely grew up in a planetary environment.

                    The space-born are going to be conditioned and acculturated to prefer compartmented spaces that have multiple redundancies. You’re not going to see them building massive structures that are really single points of failure for environment containment and protection; they’ll likely prefer their volumes carefully broken up into multiple redundant warrens of small spaces, and they’re likely to be very uncomfortable at the idea of sleeping anywhere that there’s only a single door or two between them and the void.

                    We who are planet-born, and who grew up in an environment of vast open friendly environmental spaces maintained by mother nature are the only fools who would look at the situation in a space habitat and say “Gee, I’d like some nice, wide-open space, here…”. The space-born are going to look at that idea with a mixture of horror, disdain, and outright hilarity. They’ll be building the warren environments with triply-redundant life support in every cell of the place. A huge open space like I see in so many SF stories will only happen if they have no other choice, and then they’ll do it oh-so-very-reluctantly. If they want wide-open vistas, they’ll put on a suit and go out onto the surface.

                    1. In many SF stories, having huge open spaces in a ship is a demonstration of their ability to technologically conquer the necessity for the small, contained spaces. (as well as their ability to compartmentalize spaces invisibly)

                    2. Not to mention that for massive machinery / large shuttle bays / manufacturing facilities you’ve got to have room for the machinery while allowing materials / maintenance access.

                    3. You spend a couple of generations in space, and I think the inherent risks of that sort of life are going to break you of any real desire to swap safety for self-aggrandizing monument construction.

                      Space is going to require a level of pragmatism and caution being built into the culture to such a depth that they’d fundamentally freak out at the very idea of a large, uncompartmentalized space. They are going to be simultaneously agoraphobic in regards to life support environments, and agoraphilic in terms of the spaces outside those environments.

                      People spend enough time in space environments, and I’d just about guarantee that they’ll start to classify the desire for a large open space in a life-support area as being a mental disorder.

                    4. For one thing, by the time we can, the people we have building these things are going to get the heebie-jeebies just thinking about all that uncompartmentalized space, and find themselves psychologically unable to live in an environment like that.

                      So the only people who will live in space colonies will be people already living in smaller space stations? People from planetary surfaces need not apply?

                      That’s a rather depressing view of the future. And I thought I was dark.

                    5. O’Neill was eaten up with the idea of “farmland in spaaace!”, and establishing a self-sustaining dirt-farming ecosystem inside a space habitat.

                      That sort of thing would be a ridiculously expensive waste of space.

                    6. Farming in space is coming. Leaving aside issues of independence, the alternative is hauling your food out of a gravity well.

                    7. Yes, but it won’t be acres and acres of dirt 18 inches deep with more acres and acres of transparent windows to let sunlight in. It will be acres of hydroponics with artificial lighting, needing a tiny fraction of the mass and total structural space to provide the same quantities of food.

                    8. needing a tiny fraction of the mass and total structural space to provide the same quantities of food.

                      With a lifetime supply of “cabin fever” as an added bonus at no extra charge.

                    9. Yep. [Evil Grin]

                      Of course, it could be a “plot element”.

                      “Why are all Spacers nutty?”

                      “The founders of their Societies considered open areas unnecessary and dangerous so never included open areas. So all Spacers have extreme cases of cabin fever. Worse of all, they’ve been brain-washed to hate/fear open areas”.

                      Very Very Very Big Evil Grin

                    10. Never said there wouldn’t be (relatively) open spaces with greenery about, but dirt-style farming requires really LARGE amounts of space. A Botanical Garden that is plenty large to supply a thousand people with all the green space they needed would only need to take up about one percent of the space needed to grow food for that same thousand people.

                  2. Let me see if I understand this correctly:

                    If my cylinder has a series of ribs, where each rib runs around a cross-section of the cylinder, fastened to the hull, those ribs won’t reinforce the hull and reduce the thickness of outer hull required between the ribs to keep the pressure in?

                    Note that for simplicity’s sake, I’m ignoring the radiation shielding aspect for now

                    1. If my cylinder has a series of ribs, where each rib runs around a cross-section of the cylinder, fastened to the hull, those ribs won’t reinforce the hull and reduce the thickness of outer hull required between the ribs to keep the pressure in?

                      All you do is change the direction of the forces, converting tension to “bending moments”.

                      The one way around that is to allow the outer skin to “bulge” between ribs (think a balloon pressed against a chickenwire fence). That reduces the effective radius locally at the expense of putting still more stress on the support structure. The result is to quite dramatically increase the total amount of material needed. It’s simply more efficient to build the pressure hull as a contiguous unit.

                      And, again, the flip side of this is that a puncture in the hull of a large space colony is not the disaster people think it is. The rate at which air can go out a modest hole is pretty limited. The “worst case” is to treat it as isentropic flow through a nozzle–basically a rocket where the inside of the habitat is the “chamber” and the hole is the “throat” of the nozzle.

                      One of the possible ending scenarios that I considered for my story “Plague Station” was having the survivors depressurize the habitat to kill off the zombies (infection/rage zombies rather than actual “walking dead”). I simply could not find a practical way to do that. One of the things I did as part of that is calculate how long it would take a meter wide hole to depressurize the colony to dangerous levels. I didn’t believe my answer so I did it three times.

                  3. You’re also going to want that thickness because of things like micro and not so micrometeorites on the outside of the hull, Including the new space bug the captain’s 16 year old son is learning to pilot…..

          1. IIRC that was a “formal” duel with another Klingon. Every other time, he used a phaser.

              1. To the best of my knowledge, he always used a phaser against Borgs.

                As for a formal duel against a Borg (Klingon or otherwise), I doubt it as “Borgs have no honor”. [Evil Grin]

                1. As I note below, he uses a sword in First Contact. Specifically, it’s during the scene in which they stop the Borg from sending a message to the Delta Quadrant.

          2. Actually, now that I think about it, it was a sword. Specifically, Worf used one in First Contact.

    3. She wore a mite more than a bikini, but I did like Leela with her knife and Janus thorns …

    1. And Baen will be publishing it. I can hear the special snowflakes howling already.

        1. Hurray! I wonder how she’ll explain the mind-numbing amounts of power exercised by Kay Tarrant? (She was the first reader, as well as the Bad Cop or Vice-principal of Astounding under Mr. Campbell.)

          1. …and Alice Dalgleish, the bane of Heinlein’s early years. She laid a firm jackboot on many of his juveniles.

            1. Never existed. Women had no presence in SF/F past, therefore any women presented in rebuttal of that assertion were not actual women or are women whose importance is being exaggerated for polemical point … unlike such women as Abigail Adams, Betsy Ross, Molly Pitcher and Dolly Madison in American History whose contributions were down-played by the patriarchy.

              When the facts don’t fit the narrative, adjust the facts.

                1. Of course Mormons secretly control the SF/F industry. How else do you think hateful bigots like Orson Scott Card and Larry Correia were able to get manuscripts accepted?


                  1. Bribery? Threats to do all those things that Mormons are supposed to do but that no one ever actually explains or has proof of? Called in their Opus Dei brothers and visited the editors’ offices late at night? Used Freemasonry? Threatened to audit the publishers’ books? (Oh, right, forget that one, this is Baen we’re talking about, not the Big 5.)

                    1. Which didn’t stop the IRS from auditing Jim Baen after he published that Gingrinch and Forschten novel, 1945.

                    2. @Sean, what book is that? He was audited for it? Sounds interesting … tell me more … quick Amaz search turns up nothing that seems to be what you’re talking about … ??

                    3. Oops! That’s quick A-M-az search! I read that as A-RN-az search and heard, “Internet, you got some ‘splaining to do…”

                    4. And I think I remember mention on Baen’s Bar that the last copies in the Baen warehouse were pulped a couple years back.

              1. Or Andre Norton, or Lois Bujold, or…. When you can walk into a room literally walled in books and start pulling out titles written by women, and before you get through one wall, your guest is shaking her head in disbelief. Then you tell her, “this is just the stuff I want to read more than once. I have hardly any of the feminist SF” you can visibly see the mental nails going into the coffin. “I had *no* idea… ”

                Best of luck to Ms Rusch : it’s a sorely needed project.

      1. My slip into schadenfreude aside, I’m looking forward to this. Not because the writers all have innies, but because Ms. Rusch is right. We are losing our history in the genre. And, if it weren’t for listening in to the various conversations here and picking up a title or two (dozen), I wouldn’t have known what I was missing. (Master Li and Number Ten Ox and Little Fuzzy are the standouts.)

        A belated but well deserved thank you to Sarah and the Huns and Hoydens for those suggestions from times past.

        1. No no, “Little Fuzzy” pales in comparison to “Fuzzy Nation” by that shameless hack John Scalzi, who ‘contributes’ to SF by writing derivative novels with ‘social justice’ added. Joseph Goebbels was an amateur in comparison.

          1. Makes me wonder what the Three Million Dollar Man has planned next.

            Fundament: The generation-spanning story of a galactic empire in decline.

            I, Cyborg: An exploration of the Three Laws of Cybernetics.

            2101: A Space Journey: The discovery of an alien trapezoid on Mars leads to an expedition to Uranus.

            1. I think you’re looking in the wrong direction.

              Have Spacesuit, Can Travel
              Subject of the Galaxy
              The Moon Is A Harsh Mother
              Alien in an Alien Land
              Starship Jackboots

          2. If you want a continuation of the Fuzzy story, I would recommend Wolfgang Diehr’s books. They actually respect the source material.

  2. “It also explains why so many women in science fiction today refer back to the mythical era where women had no clout in the sf/f writing field (even though women, yeah, under their own names were present in the field since the forties at least, and were usually made much of, because geeks like women) and where men in a conspiracy (sometimes I wonder if these people ever met any men) deliberately held women down.”

    Yeh. For how many decades did a story not appear in Astounding/Analog unless Kay Tarrant gave it her approval?

      1. You must remember that the punk kids often don’t realize that Andre is a boy’s name until they are in their mid teens or later, so they could have not noticed.

        1. Heck, even back in the heyday of Ace Doubles few people realized Andre Norton (or C. L. Moore, for that matter) had an innie, not an outie. Few cared, either, because the stories were rollicking good fun.

          Healthy folk don’t care if the author is a petite little granny or a huge hairy troll so long as the story is good, the characters true and the adventure grand. It ain’t as if the author’s plumbing makes a bad tale good or a good tale bad.

          1. Actually, when C.L. Moore got married to Kuttner, it was a Big Deal in sf circles. You too can grow up to marry a Super Cool Girl and have a happy marriage!

            As for Andre, all the school/library hardbacks said she was a librarian from Cleveland.

            1. C.L. Moore got a standing ovation at Worldcon in 1973 or so, twenty years after she’d written her last story and 40 years after she’d written her first. The ovation came before she’d even been named, she was still so well-known. She had more staying power and popularity than the modern ‘There were no women!’ crowd will even have.

              1. OTOH, Worldcon was, is and will likely remain a rather small subset of fandom, enjoying insider knowledge in which most SF/F fans are wholly uninterested.

                Certainly those intent on making a point about SF/F being a Boys’ Club will ignore such events as trivial and the exception(s) proving the rule. What matters most to them is not the world that was but the world which they are trying to establish. Sneer as they might at Parson Weems, they remain his heirs.

          2. Dad didn’t realize that Andre was a ‘she’ until I told him she’d passed and used the feminine pronoun, Dad having cut his teeth on science fiction in the 40s. I’m not sure if that makes him a ‘punk kid’ or oblivious to anything beyond ‘gimme reads’ but I suspect the latter.

            1. Well, yes, that’s because he’s not one of us pipsqueaks. . . .

              It’s the kids in the 70s who figured it out later.

      2. Since wossname, the social fiction warriors assoc. created and named one of their awards after her, plausible deniability is going to be hard to come by. That “grandmaster of sf” award won’t help either. The harpies shrieking about women not being included in SF have the choice of “dumb as a sack of rocks” clueless or “malicious liar”. I look forward to the publication and promotion of Rusch’s book. And yes, by that I mean reviewing and trumpeting it as “an important work” of “women’s literature”.

        1. they’ll call ’em female impersonators.


          One of the many reasons why I will never be a feminist is their sexism and misogyny.

  3. Actually I believe that cleaning and other chores have value for children. Something about learning that you do things for family and loved ones. and something about work being a necessity of life

    1. This was the tack we took … “you live in this household, so you need to contribute to its maintenance” kind of thing. It worked well for one child … less well for the other, but maturity may improve results.

          1. Exactly. Peeing on the hot wire in the cow pasture seemed to get my older brother’s attention…and that was only 6 or 9 volts.

    2. Ditto– there’s also the lessons about doing things you don’t understand the point of because of licit authority, whic

    3. Ditto– there’s also the lessons about doing things you don’t understand the point of because of licit authority, which leads into identifying illicit authority, as well as contributing to the intended/unintended/unrecognized consequences thing. (Such as when my daughters leave their MagiClip dolly dresses on the floor, and they get smashed flat because mommy can’t see in the dark. And they do NOT get a new one.)

      Course, part of the problem with parenting is that you can’t just cut-and-paste stuff from one to the other, it’s got to mesh. Just like how the words-in-our-head have to not conflict.

      …and now I have a mental image of that huge Irish story format of “dead because of two conflicting requirements” as a metaphor for this.

      1. I really really wish my kids would get the point of “if you destroy it, it’s gone.” They seem intelligent enough, but they still occasionally go into full-destruct mode. (Some examples: the spring pad on the trampoline, a hardback book that was a Christmas present*, a vinyl wall map…)

        *That was the incident which inspired the “Nobody give my kids anything. I mean it.” Unfortunately, Grandma keeps on BUYING the &*@#$% Dollar Tree crap for them, on the theory that “that isn’t really anything,” when that’s EXACTLY the sort of thing I meant!

        1. Ach. I feel your pain. Can’t control what other folks get for the rampaging kidivores, swamp’s getting full (so can’t put too many more bodies in it… yet).

          1. My parents managed a lifetime achievement: For my oldest nephew’s 7 year old Christmas, they gave him a karaoke machine with an amp. My understanding is that it didn’t remain within reach until New Year’s…. 😉

            1. Electronic drum set. Gift for my godson from his “grandparents,” my folks. Anything he hit with the sticks made a noise, so he went around smacking everything… and the demon device faithfully reproduced his noises at maximum volume at all times, once he broke the volume control knob.

              I’ve yet to plan suitable revenge for this insult, but rest assured, That Day Will Come.

                1. Chemistry sets make lovely educational gifts. Not these new-age denatured effing useless kits; if you must buy one of those gut it immediately and restock with useful elements and compounds.

                  A gas mask (so kid doesn’t accidentally inhale noxious fumes) is a very good addition.

                2. A 10 ohm resistor across the speaker of one of those toys works wonders.

            2. You know, we actually didn’t mind *real* instruments that much. At least they’re in tune. It’s the plastic ones that drive me bonkers.

  4. Can you violate your chem, if it needs to be violated? I don’t know. I think it takes something supernatural or near supernatural to do so. A – pardon me for evoking a religious story here, but it’s appropriate – road to Damascus experience. Something so big, so glaring; something you live through, something that traumatizes you to such an extent that you cannot continue preserving the chem and you rewrite it.

    And this truth, Sarah, is why There Will Be War.

    1. These little clay skulls have come through 12-16 years of explicit chem writing, designed to make them march behind Progressive sorcerers. In addition, they’ve had that reinforced by the government, the media, and all too often by their parents.

    2. They’ve been provided with all the material support they need to insulate them from the harsh realities, and to blame people with our beliefs if any of those realities penetrate the cocoon.

    And when the whole house of cards collapses, as it in the process of doing, that bridling you write about is going to guarantee they will refuse to believe anything except that it’s our fault, and they are justified in coming for us.

    I just don’t see any way to avoid it; I only hope we can muster enough people to fight well enough and long enough for them to break.

    1. That chem writing was also designed by progressives to make most of them good little factory workers….

      for factories that closed in the eighties…

      Or admin jobs that ceased to exist in the nineties.

    2. My one hope is that having been coddled so long it won’t take much to break the first few waves. If that happens when the harder to break waves of true desperation start to form they may think twice and decide to negotiate first.

      I just don’t have faith that people so fragile they need trigger warnings about Ovid will do that well when facing trigger warnings in the form of 5.56 rounds.

    3. And after it is all over, and the participants are long in the ground… what will the future academics who write the history books say about it (or worse, the herstory books)?

      Will it be written as the sort of “he was such a quiet guy, who knows what caused him to go amok like that!” writ large?

      Will it be written that the reactionary, counter-revolutionary conservatives got together and massacred all the special, beautiful, caring, free-thinking people and artists in a frenzy of envy or ‘phobia’? Sort of like if the Rev. Moore from Footloose organized a group of night-riders to go murder all the dancing kids? And we must FOREVER keep our eyes on those fascist Christians and Patriotic USians for who knows when they’ll try it again? And who knows what Golden Age we’d be in now if the Summer of Recovery had not been interrupted by the Terrible Spasm?

      My bet? They’ll say either that the 2nd Civil War was fought over either to keep women barefoot and pregnant in the homes, enslaved by their biology… or to prevent the murder of millions of babies annually. Any of us who awoke from cryosleep would respond with “WTF?!”, but most other issues, taxes, regulation, surveillance, media bias and Hollywood distortion, etc. are amorphous or complex or ‘base’. Historians will pick a simple story like “they fought to make men free” over explaining regional effects of Tariffs and pork spending. And our distant posterity will wonder why we were so mean to those nice people (who history will forget if we are not careful wanted to force us to mouth their pieties instead of our own and give our things away to make them feel better and use any means necessary to defeat us because we are their religion’s devil and you don’t worry about civil society or the rule of law when fighting The Devil.)

      Unless we are careful to make sure who it is that writes the history…

        1. It isn’t just that it will be deliberate. Look around at what they might pick for ‘primary sources’: TV shows, movies, newscasts, newspapers, etc. The same things that lead Low Information Millennial to believe that 1 in 4 Americans are gay (well, at least 1 in 4 protagonists are, surely that’s not unrepresentative, right!). Most of these things don’t even UNDERSTAND conservatives and ‘flyover country’ much less depict them accurately. So how can they accurately portray either’s motives?

          That’s why, btw, that I will read great ‘geeks’ autobiographies, but not biographies. Many of Henry Ford’s colleagues in manufacturing couldn’t even understand the implications of his work, so how is some modern Arts and Crafts PhD going to understand it.

          1. If the internet survives, they’ll have the blogs– and even if it doesn’t, there’s the thing Mary keeps pointing out that noise doesn’t get made unless it’s attacking something, and thus there must be a counter-argument being made and fought.

            A friend recently pointed out that there’s more kids of this generation who will have been home schooled (minimum 3%, and that’s likely to be understated for the same reason that gun ownership is “officially” lower than the number of new CCLs would require) than who will self identify as homosexual or bisexual.

            Contrast how the two show up in pop culture.

            Yeah, only a really stupid researcher would take that at face value.

            1. If the internet survives, they’ll have the blogs– and even if it doesn’t, there’s the thing Mary keeps pointing out that noise doesn’t get made unless it’s attacking something, and thus there must be a counter-argument being made and fought.

              Counter-example –

              A few years ago (can’t remember exactly which year it was) someone in China took out an ad in a local newspaper recognizing the “Heroes of the 4th of June”. The local official who functioned as the censor wasn’t aware of anything significant about June 4th, so he apparently assumed that it was the anniversary of some local disaster. However, after the paper had gone to print, someone further up the government chain noticed it, and realized the significance of the date.

              June 4th was the date that the Tian’en’men Square protests were crushed in 1989.

              The Chinese government has done such an excellent job of sending the protests down the memory hole that even the people who are supposed to be watching out for mention of them don’t know about them. They can’t completely hide them because people there are still plenty of people who were alive at the time, and we’ve yet to figure out a way to reliably erase memories (short of a lobotomy, of course). But for the younger generations in mainland China, the protests effectively never occurred. Even the younger government functionaries – including the ones that are supposed to be keeping an eye out for references to them – don’t know that they occurred.

              1. But for the younger generations in mainland China, the protests effectively never occurred. Even the younger government functionaries – including the ones that are supposed to be keeping an eye out for references to them – don’t know that they occurred.

                Other way around– the younger generation that know about the protests aren’t becoming gov’t functionaries.

                Anybody crazy-brave enough to take out an ad in the paper is telling everybody around him about it, too, if they wouldn’t kill him on the spot.

        1. Unless the Stalinists win, even today, historians will point out what is known or not known about the reliability of the primary sources in terms of what fads and phobias were current among the class of people who write stuff down. Most people with even the most cursory knowledge of history (which I realize let’s out anyone in a “studies” {auto-correct tried to turn that into “stupidities.” Heh.} program) understand that (for example) The Enlightenment was a self-nomer. Despite their success in re-writing popular culture to magnify make-believe, for every Zinn, there is a Johnson, and an honest historian beavering away at his specialty.

          When you hear, “history is written by the victors” put your hand on your wallet. Your interlocutor is revealing his own standards of intellectual integrity.

          1. I had to read Zinn’s POS for a Western Civ (i.e. history) class in college. I was supposed to write a paper on a particular segment of it. My paper instead was on how a particular segment of it was demonstrably wrong. I retained the book to be used at a future date downrange.

  5. “the character will never do this”

    There is, of course, a difference between what the character thinks he would never do and what he actually would do if pushed to the limit.

    That’s part of what ended up happening in Plague Station. There were things my main character thought she would never do that she ends up doing. And, yes, she ends up broken but it’s an “in story” broken.

    Sometimes you might, for reasons that seem good and sufficient at the time, cross those lines. They might even be good and sufficient with perspective and a larger picture. But nevertheless, crossing them comes at a cost, always.

    In the TV show “Once Upon a Time” there was an episode where Snow basically tricked one of the bad guys to kill another of the bad guys (that should be a generic enough statement not to be spoilerish). From where I sat there was absolutely nothing wrong with what she did. Good tactics. Saved lives. But it went against Snow’s conception of herself . For quite some time, while she was angtsing about it, I wanted to reach into the monitor, grab her by the collar and scream “you did the right thing! There’s nothing to be upset about” but her reaction was correct for the character.

    Not sure what this has to do with anything, but there it is. 😉

    1. “In the TV show “Once Upon a Time” there was an episode where Snow basically tricked one of the bad guys to kill another of the bad guys…”

      It was clear to me that the writers and producers of that show all have some kind of deep and abiding SJW-ish hate on for classic characters, its really quite distressing what they do to them. To the point where I was rooting for the Evil Queen over Snow White because the Evil Queen is less of a harpy.

      At that point I ceased watching. Sharks jumping over 1024 shades of grey, boring.

      1. It’s amazing how many writers think that spiteful versions of heroes make their point.

    2. I read a How-To-Write book that actually recommended figuring out what your characters would never, ever do, and then making them do it.

      The thing I noticed was that his examples of “never ever” invariably were things that the character would actually think about doing. A magic-wielding vampire hunter who would never ever give a vampire blood voluntarily — not who would never foreswear her magic and other practices and become a nun in penance.

      1. “A magic-wielding vampire hunter who would never … foreswear her magic and other practices and become a nun in penance.”

        Hmm. That has possibilities. Xena McStakesalot decides that her life has gone in the wrong direction and enters a convent, where she piously minds her own and the Lord’s business. Until one day …

        1. Wasn’t that sort of the opening to one of the Rambo films? And Hot Shots Part Deux used it as well.

          1. It’s a common theme. IE the warrior/soldier/cop/wizard has retired until something happens to make him end his retirement.

            1. Brother Cadfael.


              Very common supporting character, too; “I know how this works because I use to do it. I really don’t want to do it again, but…for (much loved character), I will.”

              1. Well Brother Cadfael mostly acted as an “expert witness” and “detective”.

                He bent his oaths a lot but never picked up a sword in order to use it to fight.

                  1. Perhaps, but he still never considered joining into the fights. [Smile]

  6. I think that some lines have more punch than others, more priority. And I think PTSD is caused by conflicts between strong lines.

    Just a couple of thoughts.

    1. That is an interesting thought on PTSD, and, I suspect, largely correct, especially with respect to veterans.

      1. I recently heard it suggested that susceptibility to PTSD may have an identifiable genetic basis, enabling us to assess its risk before deploying to combat.

        The question unaddressed in that statement is whether it might not be that such propensity accompanies other traits that are highly desirable in combat situations.

        And, of course, we should not ignore the possibility that the problem is not the combat but the programming that combat is undesirable, when the proper programming might better put it as unrighteous combat is undesirable. After all is said and done about the merits of pacifism we remain faced with the Quaker Conundrum: Who will defend your right to be a non-combatant?

        1. The people who taught me how to shoot believed it was programming that generally caused PTSD. To overcome it, they taught us to reprogram ourselves. I haven’t had to personally test this (for which I am very grateful), but several of their (many) students have had to shoot someone, and none of them was traumatized by it.

          1. Do ISIS Jihadi ever suffer from PTSD? Seems if you have little kids holding up the severed heads of their ‘enemies’ the action would be so internalized by their adult age that they would have no regrets.

            1. Isn’t “shellshock” an old name for PTSD? Reading the Lord Peter Whimsy books, I’d have a heck of a time telling the difference.

              It’s an extreme break in expectations vs reality– it breaks something, don’t know what– where you’re going in both ways, and you must do both, but you can’t. And so you do one, and if you can’t deal with it….

              I think we may induce it in people, besides the already mentioned bad training, by teaching people it’s a normal reaction and that if you don’t, there’s something wrong with you.

              1. Shellshock might be a form of PTSD. But it’s from something different than what we usually consider PTSD these days. Shellshock, from what I understand, is the mental equivalent of going fetal in response to extreme stress and/or sensory overload. It’s something that occurs during the moment, whereas modern PTSD is more of an after the fact response.

                From what I understand, going catatonic during an artillery barrage would be shellshock. Having trouble adjusting to an environment where no one was trying to shell you would be PTSD.

                1. *shakes head* No, because people came back shell-shocked– it was a reason for discharge, and even a trope about either faking it or people assuming you were faking.

                  1. ?

                    Not sure I get what you’re saying. Someone’s in a barrage, cracks due to the noise and commotion, and goes fetal. Barrage ends, he doesn’t come out of it, and gets labeled “shellshocked” and sent home.

                    I’m not sure what that has to do with people faking the condition.

                    1. She’s saying that your description of shellshocked is not the complete description. People came back who were disabled in very similar fashion to PTSD, and I think that the main reason the symptoms aren’t exactly the same is because now we give them enough psychological help to pass most of the time.

                      Oh, also, PTSD is now used to describe a far wider range of symptoms, which probably weren’t even considered back then, but became common enough for society to notice after Viet Nam. Which I think was largely exacerbated by the large-scale conscription of people who weren’t suited for such activities.

                    2. Between Shellshock and PTSD there was Combat Fatigue. As might be expected, the definition grew over the years, especially as psychiatrists found related billing codes symptoms.

                  2. Which was part of the genesis of the “Patton Slapping Incident”: Patton had apparently run into a few instances of faking it, and wasn’t long on empathy anyway.

                    1. Too bad we don’t have Patton around to slap a few of the special snowflakes who claim PTSD for something like having been forced to see Fox News on the TV in a waiting room.

                2. Given the number of crusaders who sought monestastic orders after coming back from the crusades, I don’t think PTSD is new.

                  And while I don’t think ISIS suffers from PTSD as we know it (They suffer from a vile fanaticism that feedback loops itself and revels in itself.) many of the normal people around them DO. Which creates another feedback loop where they turn to Islam but the outspoken supporters of Islam are the ones abusing them so they must be bad people and turn deeper to Islam and become more fanatical themselves but the…. you get the idea.

          2. That would explain one thing that has bugged me. We don’t start to see evidence of PTSD until the modern era. I realize the expansion of literacy has a lot to do with it. However, to just pick one example, think about all we know of the brutality of life in the Roman legions. Yet, to the best of my knowledge we have no evidence, not a wit, of PTDS type symptoms.

            Growing up in a world where that level of brutality compared to the modern Western world, however, would explain why we get it and they didn’t.

            1. That may be a sign of one advance of medicine, the habit of carefully writing down symptoms. The oldest term for PTSD we know is “soldier’s heart” from the American Civil War, which we know because someone described the symptoms.

              OTOH, the problem was not uniformly spread over the war. Most cases occurred in the grueling endless battles of the last campaigns. Perhaps the triggering conditions have grown more common.

              1. I’ve also seen some theories that it got worse the shorter the travel time gets, two days on a plane allowing for much less compression / decompression time than two weeks on a transport ship, for example.

        2. There’s an official in the US Army who is some form of psychologist, and he has published writings that indicate that PTSD, in his opinion, is the result of teaching the hands to shoot without making sure that the brain is okay with it. It’s a tactic that goes back at least to the Civil War, because there usually isn’t time to do the psychological re-write, but his aim is to add in classes with training to help soldiers come to terms with the violence before they go to create it—and other classes, upon discharge, to help soldiers re-adjust to civilian life.

          It’s good stuff, because he’s basically trying to make the military less dangerous to its members from a psychological POV. At this point in time, we have the leisure to take that extra step, and it’s worth it right now. (This is not massive mobilization time, after all.)

          1. I have a story from a First Gulf War vet that he was significantly more bothered by the Iraqis that tried to surrender to him that he had to tell to come back tomorrow, that they had no place to put them and no food to give them, than he was about the ones in the bunkers he drove his M577 onto to collapse the bunker down on them. The ones in the bunkers were at least shooting at them – even though AKs just bounced off the tracked vehicles, they were fighting. The ones that he couldn’t accept their surrender…he knew turning them away was a death sentence for most of them.

          2. Could you do me a favor, and try to remember a source for this? I’d love to talk to this guy, because he’d be the only example I can think of for someone who actually understands the problem, and is trying to do something effective about it…

            Personally, I think that there are several varieties of PTSD, deriving from several sources. Good friend of mine had a very bad case of it, and I think it stemmed from two sources–Survivor’s guilt, and the misapprehension that he was responsible for everyone’s lives that died under his leadership. Having to pull still-living charcoal husks out of a burned-out Stryker didn’t help, either. Killing the enemy? No problem for him, whatsoever. Doing something about that culturally imprinted “reluctance to kill” would have been a waste of time, for him. What he needed was more along the lines of an absolution for his unconscious god-like sense of responsibility for what happened over there. And, a means of coping with that.

            One of the hardest things to grasp as a leader is that there’s a huge aspect of being a Judas Goat, leading your flock into an abattoir. Nobody ever talks about this stuff, and the mind shies away from it, but in order to be able to do the things you do as a leader in the military, you have to either cultivate a massively distorted ego, a la George Patton, or you have to maintain a certain distance while still being the guy people will follow to their deaths in the shitstorm you’re all walking into. The fact that you’re usually unaware of what you’re doing when you do it? That leads to massive mental trauma later on.

            As you’re coming up as a leader, in a good unit, you’re taught to do all sorts of little things to bond with your troops. You don’t realize it, but you’re conditioning them to like you, be loyal to you, and, in the final analysis, take your orders that will lead to their deaths. There are a thousand and one ways this is done–One example is the tradition that many units have of making the NCOs and officers feed the troops when you’re broken down into small elements being fed remotely. The NCOs run the chow line, divvying up the food, and putting it into the hands of the troops; there are a lot of practical reasons for this, but one of the effects is that feeding the hungry is a very powerful way to establish yourself as a leader, even if nine-tenths of what is going on is happening at the level of unconscious instinct. It’s the same reason a wolf pack won’t eat until the Alphas do it.

            As a leader, you’re taught to always put yourself first for any number of bad things–PFC Smith loses his sleeping bag, in mid-winter? Guess who’s going without, in a good unit? Now, why? Because, when the crunch comes, PFC Smith is going to remember that the guy ordering him to stand up and run at that machinegun position is also the guy he watched spend a week shivering in the cold because he gave Smith his sleeping bag after Smith failed to properly secure it to the vehicle. That’s a powerful thing, that is.

            You’re taught and trained to do a thousand and one things for your troops, like make sure they’re taken care of and that their personal problems are dealt with. You don’t do it to be a nice guy, or because you’re Mr. Happy, you’re doing it so that they bond with you and see you as the provider of all good things–So, that when the time comes, and you issue the order, they’ll go forth into the fire, and likely die doing it.

            When the realization of this catches up with you in later life, you’re pretty much going to wind up having issues, to the point where a lot of surviving leaders wind up suck-starting the barrel of a gun. Personally, I think that a conscious innoculation of “Hey, this is why we do this, dummy…” would be a damn good idea. It may remove a lot of good feelings about the whole thing, but it will help maintaining the mental health of the leadership in later life.

            One of the things which struck me throughout my military career was just how much of military custom and “doing things the way we do them” boils down to “psychological reasons”, and it’s truly bizarre how many of those things are just done unconsciously. The whole time I went through Basic and AIT, I was certain there was some kind of scripted plan in place, where the Drills did certain specific things at certain points in the training, in order to get the effects they needed. Honest to God, I spent the entire 13 or so weeks mentally checking off the blocks for the things they were doing, and going “OK, they’ve done “A”, now keep an eye out for “B”…”. Nine times out of ten, I was right. B followed A as sure as dawn followed night, and on the few times it didn’t, something else equally logical did.

            I think you can imagine my surprise when I got a chance to talk to one of my former Drill Sergeants after I pinned on stripes myself, and found out that not only was there no such carefully managed plan in place, he couldn’t conceive of there being one. Everything he’d done, along with the other drills, just “came naturally…”. It was the way they’d always done it, and nobody really thought of the process in any real analytical abstract way. There’s a lot of that, in the Army, and I think that this lack of abstract analysis of the human factors involved is what leads to a lot of the PTSD issues we’re having. We don’t effectively prepare people to actually, y’know, kill other people in combat, and we don’t effectively prepare leaders to have to deal with losing some of their troops in the accomplishment of the mission, or how to deal with that fact afterwards. Both deficiencies need to be addressed, in my opinion.

            1. “One of the hardest things to grasp as a leader is that there’s a huge aspect of being a Judas Goat, leading your flock into an abattoir. Nobody ever talks about this stuff, and the mind shies away from it, but in order to be able to do the things you do as a leader in the military, you have to either cultivate a massively distorted ego, a la George Patton, or you have to maintain a certain distance while still being the guy people will follow to their deaths in the shitstorm you’re all walking into. The fact that you’re usually unaware of what you’re doing when you do it? That leads to massive mental trauma later on.”

              It’s called “survivor’s guilt”, it isn’t by any means unique to the military (although they have WAY more opportunity to pile it up), and both David Weber and John Ringo have it affect all their military characters, with different ways of dealing with it.

              1. This was actually shown as being one of the biggest problems Lord Peter Wimsey had; and his PTSD attacks were triggered by moments when a big decision or responsibility affecting other people is weighing on his mind. No problem with doing dangerous stuff himself, or driving like a maniac, or a bunch of other things.

              2. Ummmm… No. I’m not talking about survivor’s guilt, as it has been described to me. This is a close relation, but very distinct.

                I’m going to file off the serial numbers so that the guy I’m talking about isn’t identifiable, because he deserves his privacy. He’s someone I’ve known and admired for a very long time in my career, and when he took a leadership position as a senior NCO, he was following in the trail of a very toxic predecessor. The unit was ramping up for deployment to Iraq, and he made a huge personal difference in things, fixing a lot of issues that had been present. He wasn’t a hugely charismatic guy, but he was supremely competent, and did the right thing as he understood it in all things. That alone made a huge difference. In the course of preparation for deployment, one particular individual who’d been a focus for the preceding jackass in his position grew to appreciate my friend and came to attach a feral loyalty to him, personally. This young man had mostly completed his commitment to the Army, and when the unit hit lock-down for deployment stop-loss, he could have walked away and gotten out on schedule. Out of loyalty, he chose not to, even though my friend urged him to. They young man told him something to the effect of “You’re the only leader who ever treated me right, and lived the ideals the rest of these assholes only pay lip service to… I’m going with you, just to make sure you come back…”.

                If I were writing a particularly maudlin story about men in wartime, what happened during their deployment would be rejected as being too much of a cliche, but that’s how you tell real life from fiction–Cliches happen, and tropes play themselves out like poorly scripted TV dramas. Roughly a third the way through, my friend was on his way to do something routine with his guys, including this young man. He got distracted, and went off to look at another element’s work efforts on the FOB, and while he was doing that, there was an incident I’m not going to specify that led to a bunch of people dying, including our young man who chose to go to war with him.

                The PTSD didn’t really set in until about a year later, well after re-deployment. The “survivor’s guilt” aspect of having lived when they died was pretty easy to process for him, and he worked that out on his own. It wasn’t his fault that someone came up to him and asked him to go inspect something; that’s just the vagaries of fate and circumstance. What he had the biggest problem with coping with was why that young man was there in the first place, which was out of a sense of personal loyalty to him. That, and the fact that the young man’s family made a point of personally finding him and bitterly blaming him for the decision that their son and brother had made, had a hell of a lot to do with all the mental issues that he developed after coming home. It was one of those things that you just don’t think of coming back to bite you in the ass, but which did.

                As I told his wife during the worst of it, the problem was that my friend was a fundamentally decent man–Too decent. And, he wasn’t self-aware enough to realize that the ties of loyalty he wove would tear both ways, which is something I’ve been abundantly aware of since I first pinned on Corporal stripes. I had the good fortune of being a listener, and being around a bunch of crotchety old bastards who were cynical veterans of Vietnam, and they all warned me against this kind of thing–“Get close to the troops, because that’s the only way they’ll do what needs to be done, for you, when the crunch is on… But, don’t get too close, because it will kill you along with them when they get killed doing it…”.

                Biggest problem I see in the Army is that nobody either thinks or talks about this crap beforehand. It’s all picking up the pieces afterwards, and then trying to glue them back together, instead of trying to strengthen the pot before the fall in order to prevent serious breakage in the first place.

                It’s odd, but the two worst genuine cases I can think of where I personally knew the victim, both were leaders, and while there were aspects of survivor’s guilt, both of them had most of their issues stemming from a self-perceived failure to fulfill responsibilities and because they felt like they’d “pulled” their dead into dangerous situations. It is difficult to describe why, but there is a huge difference between what I’m talking about and what is commonly known as survivor’s guilt. Call it Judas Goat Guilt, I suppose.

                When I was young and pretty dumb, someone once said to me that most successful leaders had an aspect of sociopathy about them. It took years for me to understand why that is sadly true, and to also recognize that I’ve got aspects of that sort of sociopathy more-or-less built in to my psyche. I do wonder, though, if it’s inherent, or if it was inculcated in me by training and cultural conditioning. And, to be honest, I’m not really sure I want to know which it was.

            2. The guy was quoted extensively in a documentary play based on the book Achilles in Vietnam, which is about combat trauma and its effects and causes. Here’s the Wikipedia entry on the author, so maybe that’s a starting point. (I do not know how much was taken directly from the book and how much was extra research, and the play was basically a one-off, so the script is unavailable.)

              1. Ah… So this is quite old, then?

                Sadly, a lot of good thinking that came out of the Vietnam era was ignored or discarded as unnecessary during the interregnum between conflict periods. We only seem to get the importance of this stuff while the shooting is going on, and forget it during peacetime.

                1. The theory stuff is pretty new, actually. Vietnam was just the iconic war; AFAIK, there’s a lot of stuff up to the current conflict as well.

            3. This looks like the sort of thing you are seeking, courtesy of Andrew Klavan today:

              We Need A “Warrior Culture.”
              Posted By Andrew Klavan On May 27, 2015
              An interview headlined “On The Battlefield of the Psyche” in Psychology Today provides an interesting coda to Memorial Day. The person being interviewed is my wife’s psychologist colleague, Larry Decker, who specializes in treating the mental disorders of veterans and has recently published a book on the subject called The Alchemy of Combat.

              I especially liked these remarks:

              There is no true warrior culture in America—no preparation or training for soldiers. There’s none of that… Millions of dollars are spent… on programs that train soldiers to become psychologically resilient, so that they don’t have emotional responses to killing. Basically, this just removes their conscience, as well as a sense of empathy for the enemy. Instead, soldiers are taught that in order to kill they have to dehumanize their enemy. Thus in Vietnam, they were called “gooks,” and in Iraq they became “Hajis” or “sand niggers.” By contrast, the Greeks and other ancient warrior cultures understood the concept of the “honorable enemy,” or “honorable foes…”

              As has been well known in the field of psychology, and as I’ve seen in my own clinical experience, the effects of dehumanizing the enemy can lead to serious problems when soldiers return from war; their PTSD symptoms can become very, very severe. Essentially, when veterans attempt to re-enter the civilian world they eventually have to come to grips with the fact that their enemies, whether Vietnamese or Japanese, are human beings—not just “nips” or “gooks.” This realization creates enormous grief over the killing, torture, and mutilation the soldier may have been involved in. He was able to do those things in the war because he had convinced himself that the enemy was not really human. Now how can he forgive himself?

              In other words, if I’m reading this right, the truth would set our soldiers free — the truth, I mean, that war will come and men must fight it, on our side as well as the other. Warrior is an honorable profession and should be treated as such.
              Rudyard Kipling gave us a taste of this attitude in his tribute to the “Fuzzy-Wuzzy,” the Sudanese warriors who broke the British square while fighting for the Mahdi, a self-proclaimed Islamic messiah:

              “We’ve fought with many men acrost the seas,
              An’ some of ‘em was brave an’ some was not:
              The Paythan an’ the Zulu an’ Burmese;
              But the Fuzzy was the finest o’ the lot…

              So ‘ere’s to you, Fuzzy-Wuzzy, at your ‘ome in the Soudan;
              You’re a pore benighted ‘eathen but a first-class fightin’ man…”

              This sort of straightforward attitude to an enemy fighter sends the left running to their safe rooms, but in reality it’s far more respectful to the warriors on both sides than some ginned-up undergraduate sociology that masks the hard truth of the situation.

              Such bluff, honest respect for the enemy — and by extension for our own warriors — would not be a cure for PTSD but at least it would serve to create an honest place in our society for the men and women who fight to keep us free.

              1. Klavan has grasped the ghost, not the reality, I’m afraid.

                The denigration and dehumanization of the enemy is a marker for an immature soldier. You see that in people who are not fully on what I would term the Soldier’s Path, who have not been properly acculturated into what the Muslims term the Dar al Harb, the House of War. People who do these things, and there are many of them, some quite far up the hierarchy, are like gibbering monkey poseurs, psyching themselves up like punk gang-bangers getting ready to go do a drive-by in some urban hellhole.

                Whatever people like that get up to, the lack of maturity is the real problem. When and if they ever attain that maturity, they’re likely to be stressed by the realization of what they did while in that mode of life, but it won’t be the quite the same thing we’re talking about, here. Examples of this sort of individual can be found in creatures like Ron Kovics, he of “Born on the Fourth of July” infamy. He’s someone who was perfectly fine with walking into the game and inflicting harm on others, and only after he was injured himself did it ever connect with him what he was taking part in. Once that happened, he suddenly connected with reality, and decided that the childish game of war he’d been playing wasn’t for him. Kovics was never truly on the Soldier’s Path, because he was like a blind man blundering through an obstacle course, wreaking havoc without a clear realization of what he was doing.

                The root of most PTSD issues stems quite simply from the fact that we do not train or properly acculturate the young men and women we send to war to fully grasp what the hell it is they are being asked to do. We don’t even like facing it ourselves, so it is no wonder we don’t properly prepare them. The raw fact is that we make war to enforce our will on others, and you have to do that to the point where those others are no longer willing to oppose your will. This is called victory, and the main reason we haven’t won a damn war since 1945 is that we simply refuse to face that fact. Had we inflicted a similar level of horror on Iraq that we inflicted on either Germany or Japan, I strongly doubt that there would be an issue with something like ISIS right now. For one thing, the men that formed that organization would not have survived the war to start another one.

                Ever wonder why Hitler’s Werewolf program never really took off? Yeah, that’s right–Most of the more likely participants died on the fronts. In Iraq, we “mercifully” let them live. I’ll leave it to history to render a judgment on that one.

                You simply do not win victories bloodlessly, or in a humane manner. You have to inflict unadulterated horror on the enemy, such that they know, in their blood and bones, that they were defeated. You allow them the space to think that they were cheated, or betrayed into defeat, and you get a Weimar Germany that will easily transubstantiate into a Nazi Germany. Sad fact of life, but there you have it.

                Because we don’t face this fact, we train and “soldierize” as though it wasn’t a reality. Which, when our inadequately trained and acculturated young men and women encounter the reality of war, leads to severe mental dislocations. We don’t equip them to process the reality of war, or to understand that the things they will have to do there, in order to survive, will be against all the prior work society has done to civilize them in the first place. And, that upon return, they will have to flip back to this pre-war state on a dime, in order to fit back into society. Because we have no mechanisms built into the system for supporting this rather massive shift in mindset, a lot of people wind up broken trying to reconcile the dichotomy inherent to the whole thing.

                Were we to actually sit down and do some real thinking on the matter, we’d have a whole host of institutional mechanisms in place to acknowledge that these transitions exist, and to make them easier. We sure as hell shouldn’t be so stupid as to have the drone operators driving home every night to the wife and kids after an 8-hour shift of remotely killing people. That’s rough, doing it once or twice over a one-year tour. I can’t comprehend trying to do that every single ‘effing day…

                I think we’re going to see a bunch of mental issues from the drone community in the future that will prove this point emphatically. I’ll bet a damn paycheck on it.

                Walking the Soldier’s Path into the Dar al Harb is not an easy thing. You have to prepare to take life, and to sacrifice your own as a routine fact of daily existence. You have to know that the call may come at any moment, under any situation. You have to be prepared to rise from your morning trip to the Porta-Jon, and bring death to someone–Or, to fling yourself into the furnace in order to save a comrade. The mindset to enable this, especially in the context of your duties to institution, comrades, and mission, is difficult to achieve. Distractions don’t help a damn bit, and the reality is that duty truly is heavier than a stone, while life weighs but a feather, especially when you’re one of the leaders. The mental strain that so many of our so-called “quality of life” measures generates are incredible–I do not understand how the hell someone can get off the phone with an immature wife who lays all the problems of home on them and then transition effectively into a war-mode, and still be able to properly function in combat. The mental dislocation between those two life-modes has got to be one of the biggest reasons people have problems with this stuff.

                I would prefer to treat a combat deployment more like a damn monastic retreat, with only limited communications back home. Along with that, I’d like to see some realistic instruction and indoctrination for the families back in the rear, to make them understand just how deadly the distractions they’re providing are. It’s hard enough keeping your damn head in the game when you’re dog-tired and mentally exhausted from what you’re doing, and then to add the stress of little Susie acting out at school, and Timmy not doing his homework? Good God, no wonder so many of our guys have problems. You can’t live in the House of War, and still have most of your head living in the House of Peace. That’s a sure-fire way to get yourself and your subordinates killed.

                1. Kirk, you sound like you’ve never read the Koran. “Dar al Harb” has nothing to do with being a warrior; it simply means you are a non-Muslim and therefore the believers, the “House of Peace” (so called), are supposed to be fighting you, and you, yours, and your property are legitimate spoils.

                  1. Hey, turnabout is fair play; Islam adopts wholesale swathes of my mother faiths and files off the serial numbers, I’ve got the right to do that to them.

                    The English language lacks good terms to talk about these issues; I’ve more-or-less come up with my own, which ought to be clear from context. The House of War is that place we go to during conflict, where taking life is not only permissible, but virtually demanded. It is a different reality that requires the adoption of a totally different mindset and mentality. We fail to demark these borders in language and in concrete reality, which is a fairly large component of the PTSD problem.

                    Bad language leads to poor thinking, because without proper terms, we become prone to imprecise and unclear concepts to communicate with each other. In my usage of these terms, I’m continuing that fine English-language tradition of following other languages down darkened alleyways and knocking them over the head to allow me to rifle their pockets for useful vocabulary…

                    And, I have read the Koran and hadiths. Interesting book, and a large part of the reason I feel no shame in ripping them off for helpful terminology.

  7. I don’t know how to explain this, except you’ll know it when you do it. I did this by having a character have sex (in a book, duh) with someone she wasn’t more than casually interested in.

    In a house or in a car,
    In some place others overlook,
    I can see that near or far,
    but in a book?!?

    I would not,
    could not,
    In a book.

      1. But, but, but… In our household books are viewed as nigh on sacred. You do not lightly do anything that might hurt one. To merit harm the book has to be more than just awful. To do otherwise would be breaking our character.

            1. My problem with that infamous hot beach sequence in From Here to Eternity … sand … salt water …

        1. I didn’t get Lutheran jokes until I spent a few years living near the Lutfisk Line. And I discovered that half of them are understatements.

          1. Those are the Scandinavian Lutherans. You have a whole ‘mother set of (overlapping, granted) jokes if you get to close to the sauerkraut line.

    1. Who let that bloke Seuss in? And someone let CACS know they’ve pirated his screen name again.

        1. I abase myself. Were I not an old white dude I would naturally have recognized the obviously feminine screen icon as an indicator of gender.
          But you say microaggressor as though that were a bad thing. Next you’ll be telling me that snark is no longer permitted. If you tell me that puns are right out I’ll be taking my carp and going home.
          The boys were right, mom really is a bully.
          Props on the SJW impersonation. Did I not know better might almost have believed you.

          1. Being a microaggressor IS a bad thing. Anything worth doing is worth doing right, so stop halfstepping with this “micro” stuff.

    2. But would you do it in a Nook?
      You would not do it on a spindle
      But might you do it in a Kindle?

      1. Comic fanzene covering the Legion of Super Heroes. A cartoon:

        Cosmic Boy: “Hey, Tasmia, how many Talokians does it take to screw in a light bulb?
        Shadow Lass (Tasmia, from Talok, holding up a light bulb with two little tiny figures inside): Don’t be silly, Rokk, only Imskians can screw in a light bulb.” (People from the planet Imsk have the power of shrinking to tiny size.)

        Some 30 plus years and that comic is still stuck in my head to the point that I can see it–bad art and all.

        1. As we now know, by the 31st Century there will be no light bulbs and whatever serves that purpose will probably not screw.

          Unless they move to self-replicating nanobot LEDs, so small and numerous as to provide diffuse ambient illumination in exactly such areas as don’t need it.

                1. Each human needs outside help in order to replicate. A male needs a female and vice versa. When the term “self-replicating” is applied to machines, it implies that a single machine can reproduce without any assistance from other machines.

                  It may make more sense to build a series of variant models, each needing the information and/or tools that are present in one or more other machines, but generally it’s not thought of that way.

            1. Sure – what woman doesn’t want something to make her thighs show up better?

              I can hardly wait for the first woman who asks her husband, “Honey – does this Kelvin range make my butt look big?”

            2. The US government needs to set aside funding to develop illuminated kilts for men lest the Creepiness Gap with Japan not be mitigated.

              1. You obviously haven’t spent any time in Japan. That is SO not creepy for Japan.

  8. Getting people to recognize those headlines was one of Heinlein’s favorite games — which might be why he is so despised by the Socialist Justice Whingers.

  9. I certainly have my chem. There are lines I can only be forced across unwillingly. i will struggle and fight to avoid crossing them.

    Some I have found only since my children left home. As life changes, new challenges present.

    On a wildly skew subject, we had a slight variation of your allowance policy due to a different analysis of purpose. Our children had a very small allowance from the time they were old enough to voice requests for purchases. The statement was that this was their share of the family income, something they got without doing anything, and which was not reduced as punishment ever. It was theirs by right, just like clothing, housing and food. It was also very small. I think it began at a quarter,

    The point was, it was theirs to spend or save or whatever. We offered no advice unless asked. It is impossible to squander a quarter. Then, when they asked for something else not on the automatic list, another candy or toy or whatever, we could just ask “Can you afford it? Do you have the money?” The value of the quarter, or dollar or whatever was quickly learned.

    Of course, there was a list of fees for chores and such which could earn more. There was also a list of chores which were NOT paid for. Bed making, Cat feeding, etc. Those were duties due to the family, same as the money was part of being the family.

    The next element, once they reached an age they could understand it, was the offer to pay half of the cost of anything, even if we thought it silly. Want the $100 shoes “all the other kids” are getting? Do you have half? The number of times that we were caught up short with the wallet coming out and the money being laid on the counter was — is still — startling.

    The final element happened some time around high school. They got a monthly budget sufficient for lunches, clothes, class expenses, music lessons, etc at the beginning of the month automatic transfered into their account. Need a white shirt for the concert? Not my problem. Choose to buy books instead of lunch? Not my problem.

    Needless to say, by college, they had no cash management issues.

      1. ROFL, it was just today that I heard someone use the expression ‘yard ape’. I knew exactly what she was talking about all the same. Unfortunately it was our admin assistant talking and she was also letting us know she was having to quit because she was having to take care of her sisters yard apes because her mom was very sick (like, final sickness), her dad a divorcing her mom, and sister (said yard apes bio mom) had given up all responsibility to them years ago.

  10. Sarah, hypothetical moral question for you.
    Say a fan shared a fondness with you for an author who passed on over 30 years ago. That fan has several hundred computer files of said author’s books, short stories, speeches, and articles. Possibly a few obscure things even you might not have run into. Fan thinks giving you a copy of those files would be a something you would appreciate, but realizes it would be technically a violation of IP against the author’s estate, and certainly would not dream of offending you.
    So, do you as a fan yourself gratefully accept the gift, eager to see if there is possibly something you’ve never read before, or as an author, decline because of the intellectual property question?
    Hypothetically speaking of course.

    1. Copies for personal use generally run under “fair use” and “it’s okay to photocopy stuff from the library” exceptions. (“Research” I think is the formal way to put it.)

      As long as you’re not making personal copies for 1000 people, you’re usually okay to pass this kind of stuff along. Passing it to just one guy is perfectly normal in research circles; it’s just like copying notes for class.

      1. The lost stories are not a good thing.

        I’d take the, keep anything that was not in print, delete any files that were readily available for purchase, and print out and save anything that was truly rare with the mental promise (you know better than I if you can trust yourself to keep it) to purchase or destroy it if it becomes available.

        Welcome to the ethics of fan-subs :-). The guiding principle is “do not cheat the creator(s). A buried work that no one ever reads and that gets lost to the reading public may adhere to the letter of the law, but it’s not terribly beneficial to anyone.

        1. That’s also the ethics of Abandonware – i.e. software (usually old video games) that’s long since out of print.

      2. Probably depends on if his/her descendants are militant enough to say, incorporate into Edgar Rice Burroughs, Inc. and then get the MPAA lawyers to scream ‘copyright’ if you so much as try to yodel like Tarzan.

        1. They have, sort of.

          I don’t know the full details. But the family does retain the rights to some of Burroughs’s works (the rest have lapsed). And they’ve been willing to summon the lawyers when needed. I don’t know exactly how aggressive they are in enforcing their rights. But if you create something that’s too similar to Tarzan, you will get a cease and desist.

          1. IIRC They requested that Bo Derek’s Tarzan movie be edited to remove much of the sex.

    2. I recently got a couple gigs of Gygax’s work in electronic format. None of it can be bought today and about 98% of it I had bought at least once (if not 2-3x). If no one is selling it and the creator has past on, as far as I am concerned it should go to the public domain. I can see copyright going a bit after death to support said creators family but if there is no effort to sell it then fuck’it, the obviously don’t need the cash. At the same time, if I can get the works in a way that gives more to their family I will, I’m not sure how the copyright ended up but I make sure to go through the site Linebarger’s daughter made to get new copies of his books.

      1. Got the opportunity about 10 years ago to pick up a bunch of Leslie Fish’s out of print music. Fortunately, I knew how to contact her and her publishers at Random Factors, so I asked how much they would have cost as cassettes / CDs and sent her the money.

    3. I’m not sure if I could give any advice, because my reaction is “this is why copyright is evil and should be done away with!” Having said that, I understand that the Law is what it is, and we’re stuck with it.

      But the idea popped into my head that if you want lawyerly advice, perhaps you could try to contact Stephen Kinsella. He’s a patent attorney who wrote “Against Intellectual Property” (which is a major reason I’m against copyright now, the other being “Against Intellectual Monopoly”). Even though he is now against IP of any form, he continues his work as a patent attorney, for two reasons: first, he became one *before* he reached his anti-IP position, and it’s difficult to turn such a career on a dime; and second, so long as IP is a part of our world, there is no reason he can’t help others to navigate the laws. (I like both his idealism and his practicality. :.)

      Having said that, since he’s a patent attorney, I’m not sure how much help he’d be in copyright law….

      1. Cool, write me a book on being against copyright law, I’ll print it, sell a million copies, and not give you a penny. Or next fiction story you write, I’ll write a story using the same characters, and sell it too.

        1. I will admit that copyright is now too long. My kids want money? They can write their own damn books. (And they CAN. I made sure of that.) BUT for my lifetime and my husband’s? Well, it’s MY work and it doesn’t pay that well up front. It was always our retirement plan. Otherwise honestly not worth doing.

          1. Oh, I agree it is too long. Disney has seen to that. However, I cannot oppose a person’s right to their intellectual property and to assign it as they see fit.

        2. It is likely you are not old enough of vintage to remember Abbie Hoffman’s Steal This Book and the attendant hoo-haw of publishers, distributors and sellers striving to bar readers from doing what the title so clearly implored.

          Proof that Capitalists would sell as much rope as needed.

  11. That’s an excellent way to put it. And being forced to act against or deny your chem can cause despair.

  12. There’s a difference between trying to break someone’s internal rules (their chem) and someone’s internal perception of the narrative (the story). Internal rules are very hard, but they’re brittle; when they break, they’re gone. The narrative is easier to get someone to acknowledge a fault in, but it tends to repair itself over time even if the resulting narrative is a bit different than the original.

    Unlike the Golem King, people’s heads don’t explode when their internal rules break, but the result is, potentially, even more devastating. When forced to acknowledge that their rules are contradictory, some rules will break, but it’s never possible to predict which ones. This is how someone that is convinced that they really want the best for everyone can end up breaking out the Guillotine.

    The problem with flaws in the narrative, as Lily Weatherwax learned, is that people tend to see the stories that have a happy ending for them, and never think that they may be a different character in someone else’s story.

    I once got into an argument on a political blog with a self-proclaimed ‘pro-choice libertarian sci-fi fan’ (their rules) that was convinced that all true libertarians had to be pro-choice (their perception of the narrative). My argument was that what constitutes a person deserving of rights was not explicitly defined in libertarian philosophy, and depending on that answer one could be either pro-choice or pro-life. I cited an example of an artificial intelligence which may or may not be sentient; if it’s sentient, a libertarian would think it had rights, but the question of whether or not it was truly sentient was independent of political philosophy. Their response was that nobody had rights unless explicitly granted by the government(!?); in order to hold on to their perception of the narrative, they had explicitly gone well outside any mainstream libertarian thinking (in effect, bending their rule on being a libertarian so far everyone else realized it was broken) and showing no evidence that they understood a very common sci-fi theme.

    1. I am a conservative with libertarian sympathies myself, and I don’t see a contradiction per se between being pro-life and being libertarian — as I see it, libertarianism encompasses both pro-life and pro-choice positions, depending on whether or not one ascribes personhood to a fetus.

      In fact, one can be a social conservative in the broader sense and still have libertarian sentiments — what if one sincerely believes in persuasion and being a living example as an alternative to state coercion?

      1. One can have distinctly libertarian sentiments as a conservative on the grounds that entrusting too much more to the corruptible men we are stuck with to govern us is imprudent even if a particular case would be sie.

        1. Now, that’s an interesting slip of the finger — skip the w and transpose the si.

          That’s “wise” not “sie”.

        2. I consider myself a conservative (mostly because the libertarians go too far).

          My belief is that humans can be “depended” on going too far even with a good idea.

          Of course, IMO one of the silliness’s of the Left is their refusal to see that giving the Government power to do what they want it to do will result in that power being used against them when somebody else takes control of the Government. [Sad Smile]

          1. Most conservatives recognize that morality can only be adopted, not imposed. Efforts to do the latter undercut the former. Thus government can acceptably act to protect the bystanders but should act with restraint, lest over-reach undermine governmental legitimacy and respect for law.

      2. The end problem with Socialist thinking is that everything becomes a political question. To a Socialist, if it’s good, it’s the governments business to mandate it, if it’s bad, it’s the governments business to prohibit it. If some people think its good and others bad… well, whichever one the Socialist thinks is correct and those they disagree with need ‘reeducation’.

        One can be a libertarian and hold social conservative views because the rules don’t necessarily conflict. Libertarian rules relate to interactions between people and include limits on the political scope. One can be a social conservative while only holding on to social conservative views regarding individual behavior without applying many of those rules to politics.

  13. I have to disagree; People’s chems are not write-once, read-always-until-broken. I think they get written and rewritten with every time they’re used. Observe how people change over time, by who they hang out with, and whose approval or camaraderie becomes important to them. We all know the stereotype of the teen radically changing themselves from week to week to try to fit in with the new group / chase a particular person, but we do it as adults, too.

    When a person puts a lot of themselves into a job, and defines themselves by their job, they have a crisis when that job parts ways with them. Same with relationships. But there’s rarely a ‘road to Damascus’ moment with most jobs or relationships; it’s often more the accumulation of many small things, until they can no longer deny at last that it’s not working / this is not what they wanted, and there’s no way to make the chem of “I’m so happy with my perfect partner / position” come back. Same with religions of all sorts, be it Catholic or Global Warming.

    Not to say that sudden conversions don’t happen, but much more often, an avalanche occurs because there’s been layer after layer of snow and evidence that they know, but can sort-of ignore built up on top, easily ignored, until the snowmachine backfires… or they watch “their own safe side” break the chem blatantly.

    How many people have joined worldcon not because they wholeheartedly support the puppies and believed them from the start, but because the screaming of the statists “in charge” have broken open the dam of ‘things aren’t as good as they used to be’, and brought people face to face with the roiling water of ugly reality?

    But road to damascus moments make for a better story, and we tell each other stories to make sense of the world.

    1. Same with religions of all sorts, be it Catholic or Global Warming.

      I’d suggest “Catholic or Climate Change” because it rolls off the tongue easier– and am totally stealing.

  14. It makes a lot of sense. I had to rewrite many of my chem lines when I was in my twenties. There is a distinct different to where my life was going (family and religion) to where I went. (Navy, and late-hubby)

    Reading this I had an epiphany… I am in the middle of a trauma that is another rewrite time. I am hitting many of my crack spots that I thought were healed. (Mainly family)– I can hear in my head “Release the Kraken.”

  15. This is because humans in the end will choose not to break themselves. If to keep the lines in the head intact, reality must be deconstructed, then reality gets deconstructed.

    A friend has argued that it is as if we have ‘voices of our past that play in our heads.’ The voice may virtually scream in the ear or is only heard on a subconscious level, but it is there.

    Accepting that what you knew, embraced and based your life on, that people who cared for you taught you, is wrong is difficult. With certain belief systems? … Breaking is a good word … but sometimes breaking is necessary.

    I get an image: breaking a bone that has been contorted with hopes that can reset it properly.

  16. The problem with the ‘Road to Damascus’ moment is that most folk only change what they must in their chem. The rest of it stays put. Paul/Saul only changed his orientation from anti-christian to christian. The rest stayed the same. He was just as much of a bigoted, fanatical pig against anyone or thing that failed to conform to his view of proper christian behavior as he was when condemning christians. I see this a lot in people that have been forced to change their viewpoint of something( eg. vegetarian forced to eat meat to survive). They change the one point and keep all the rest of the supporting baggage. Saw this a lot among people I met in Germany in the 70s. The previously fanatic Nazis were now just as fanatic Marxists. Only the dialectic changed.

    1. Yep, because Saint Paul saw Christianity differently than how you want to see Christianity, he was a narrow-minded bigot.

      Sorry Sir, you obviously haven’t read his letters.

        1. Often people like this, claim Paul “distorted” the Good Christianity expressed in the Gospels but also show that they haven’t read the Gospels (or to use your phrase, read them through world-tinted glasses).

          Of course, many of the attacks on Paul fall into the category of “We can’t attack the King, so we’ll attack the King’s servants”. [Frown]

          1. claim Paul “distorted” the Good Christianity

            Oh, yes, once online, I quoted to some SF writers, “Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.”

            One’s response was that were he a Christian, he would take Jesus’s words more seriously than Paul’s.

            I am relieved to report that actually someone else set him straight.

            1. It’s the inspired word of God (via St. Peter) that “….our most dear brother Paul, according to the wisdom given him, has written to you… speaking… of these things; in which are certain things hard to be understood….” (2 Peter 3:15-16)

              So if God says your letters are hard to understand, you gotta give some slack to the casual readers of Paul!

              Paul isn’t a bigot. But he’s just as opinionated and energetic about expressing his opinion as most of the smart Jewish people I’ve met in fandom are. (Almost like there’s some religious or cultural thing involved, where they’re encouraged to argue about religion and use strong expressions!)

              Paul also is very clever about drawing from the Gentiles’ ancient culture, using and subverting philosophers and poets. So it helps to know something about both Jewish and pagan literature in his time, instead of just going in cold and assuming you are getting everything.

              N.T. Wright’s books about Paul do a good job pointing out Stuff Of Interest. Audible even has ’em as audiobooks.

      1. A really good antidote to the grumpypants-Paul idea is “Paul Among the People,” by Sarah Ruden–a Quaker classicist who explains a lot about the cultural environment Paul and his audience lived in, and just what he was saying. It’s often very different than what we assume he was doing. I wish the book was a lot longer, but it’s excellent.

        1. But But… We must always judge a person writing in the past by the standards of today!!!!! [Sarcastic Grin]

          1. Perhaps someone can write a ‘trigger warning’ annotated Bible. Kind of like the ones where Jesus’ spoken words are in red. Instead, the ‘offensive’ verse could be one color with other color letters scrambled behind it and therefore require a special tinted glass to ‘decode’ the verse.

            1. Lars Walker’s _Wolf Time_ is set in a near-future US where the Left has all but won.

              One of the things mentioned was a “Liberal” Bible where the Left has actually rewritten scripture so that Christ says things that support their way of thinking. [Frown]

              1. Back when the first of the Narnia movies was released, I read something about a plan to release abridged versions of the Chronicles of Narnia, with all of the Christian references removed.

                I boggled.

                I don’t know if anything ever came of it, though. And I’m not really sure that’s even possible.

                1. Stories of vegetables, with all the biblical references removed. As one youngster’s reaction said – what’s the point?

                  1. Sounds like the morning and Saturday cartoons when I was a kid. Most of them were made in the 1940s and 1950s, and the censors of the 1960s had had at them long before I watched any. I was in my 30s before I found out how much had been cut, and that most of them actually made sense, as opposed to the semi-random scenes I’d seen on TV.

    2. Nazis believed in state control. Their switch to Marxism was a matter of degree. They were already wed to socialism, as Nationalist Socialists, rather than International.

        1. As Jonah Goldberg notes in ‘Liberal Fascism’, Mussolini only switched from Communism to Fascism when he realized that playing the international card wouldn’t work as well as playing the nationalism card.

          1. In the immortal words of Sancho Panza: Whether the pitcher hits the stone or the stone hits the pitcher, it is bound to be bad for the pitcher.

      1. It’s also a case where you can see the rules in place. Someone with the rules: “The Nazis were bad” and “Socialism is good” becomes fixated on the narrative “the Nazis weren’t real Socialists”. Someone with the rule “International Socialism is good” gets fixated on the narrative that Russian and Han Chinese (and Cuban and North Korean and…) socialism isn’t nationalist but internationalist. Someone fixated on the rule “the International Soviet Socialists are the real good guys” had to quickly change the narrative from “war is an imperialist tool” to “crush the fascists” in 1941.

        1. Simpler than that, I think. What distinguishes National Socialism from International Socialism most obviously is nationalism. Ergo, nationalism = fascism = bad.

          1. Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain or the virulently nationalistic propaganda of most Communist countries.

      2. They were the Samsung Galaxy to the commies’ iPhone and the Islamists’s Blackberry — competing brands of the same evil (totalitarian collectivism — one brand based on race, the other on class, the third on religious supremacism)

          1. A ploy of the Antichrist, except that if you don’t do a full system reboot and reinstall at 6 AM local time on June 6 every year, it crashes. Hourly.

    3. [Paul] was just as much of a bigoted, fanatical pig against anyone or thing that failed to conform to his view of proper christian behavior as he was when condemning christians.

      This is an allegation unsupported by evidence, expressed as fact when it is merely opinion.

      1. In fairness to the original commenter, I read that a person’s character won’t change dramatically even if a critical chem breaks. A gentle and humble pacifist person, who is forced to abandon strict pacifism won’t turn into Mad Max or Sarah Connor overnight. A proud and argumentative man who converts to a religion that requires humility and meekness rather than pagan self-promotion and strength in conquest, will seem very odd to an outside observer, as the habits and basic personality are (possibly for the first time) bridled to a discipline the man originally believed was pointless and unrealistic.

        This provides some interesting opportunities for a storyteller (never mind the unfair characterization of Paul) and is worth noting

        1. Going along with your comment, there was a period of time between Paul’s conversion and his active ministry. We have little knowledge of what adjustments Paul had to make in his thinking before he started his mission work.

          1. My dad always liked the juxtaposition of Acts 9:30 and Acts 9:31:

            30 When the followers learned about this, they took Saul to Caesarea and from there sent him to Tarsus.

            31 The church everywhere in Judea, Galilee, and Samaria had a time of peace and became stronger.

      2. “This is an allegation unsupported by evidence, expressed as fact when it is merely opinion.”

        Doesn’t that description fit all the ‘facts’ in the SJW toolbox?

  17. I dunno. While there certainly are a lot of people with screwed up chem, I think the real problem is we expect to thrive peacefully without our meh. Meh is the Assyrian term for the fundamental, comprehensive powers and duties, norms and standards, rules and regulations relating to civilized life.

    These were literally the first civilized people, and saw the customs and norms of civilization as so important they were given by a god and stolen by another. Not fire, not iron — civilization.

    We’re — as a culture — raising our own barbarians, importing some more, and coddling every one of their barbaric customs. We’re treating our laws as a crime, our dearest customs as abominations, and our family as enemies. And yet the people pushing this expect the result to be a peaceful, civilized, sophisticated realm.

    1. [The Assyrians] were literally the first civilized people” … of whom we know, according to certain definitions of civilization. Other definitions of civilization may vary and no disparagement of competing claims is intended.


    2. Sumerian (3500 BC -2340 BC) anyone?

      I admit to some prejudice here. I spent much of my youth living in walking distance from the archaeological museum at the University of Pennsylvania with its excellent display of Sumerian artifacts.

      1. You might like Juanita Coulson’s historical paranormal romance with a Sumerian girl. Dark Priestess, 1977. Sumerian magic and stuff. The cover inexplicably shows Roman gladiators and a medieval chick.

        1. It is a bit excessive to pass as exaggeration.

          The oldest civilizations are pre-human, and the oldest of all was a sort of froggy squid that lived in Oklahoma. One of their major ritual sites is under Stillwater, buried beneath the accumulation of soil.

          The Oklahoma Geological Survey is currently conducting a fancy sort of geophysics survey and analysis to search for the cause of the increase in earthquake activity. I am certain the results will help identify more sites after they are published.

    3. Meh is the Assyrian term for the fundamental, comprehensive powers and duties, norms and standards, rules and regulations relating to civilized life.

      This just BEGS for someone to write a story and/or character based on saying “Meh!”

  18. On the matter of rewriting reality to conform to our perception of self, see: Cognitive Dissonance. See also: comparison of the numbers of actual members of La Resistance and the numbers claiming membership.

      1. As well as the likelihood that this provided a useful fiction to allow the French to move forward, addressing current and oncoming problems rather than recriminations about their conduct of the War and Occupation.

        We often see similar process in families subsequent to awkward weddings with attendant receptions. Quite often “I had too much to drink and don’t remember” is equivalent to “I had enough to drink that my better judgement was temporarily suspended and I would prefer not to recall.”

        Often, etiquette (in both private and public) is a matter of what you choose to not see. This was the underlying joke in all interactions between the Marx Brothers and any character played by Margaret Dumont.

  19. A quick way to see where your lines are is to see what gets you angry when you’re accused of it. For me it’s “liar.” I may be mistaken, playing a role (actor!), or incorrect, but you call me a liar and that’s fighting words.

    And yes, I do lie. But not about important things. I think the heading would be “integrity.”

      1. I think I would have replied with something along the lines of, “And getting angry at being called a dumbass is something that dumbasses tend to do. Dumbass.”

      2. It’s partly true, but only part of the truth– liars get mad when they’re accused of lying, because they want to be successful at lying and thus behave like someone who has integrity.

        What’s that old thing… a text, out of context, is a pretext?
        A fact, stripped of relevant context, is a falsehood.

        1. It’s like a great comment I saw recently about (that crock) BMI: “All obese people have a high BMI, but not all high BMIs are obese.” It follows rather than predicts. (That also tends to be the case with unhealthy weight, interestingly enough—the weight tends to follow the health issue (or psychological issue) rather than leading it. So telling someone to improve their health by losing weight is often a backwards strategy, which would explain why it’s so massively unsuccessful.)

          1. Yes, the painfully true and incredibly frustrating, “I’m not sick because I’m fat, I’m fat because I’m sick.”

            Unfortunately, once you hit the medication-related “side effects include weight gain”, the first thing nurses and doctors see is “fat”, and they stop looking for causes or treatments past “lose weight.”

            1. The machines are even worse.

              My OB/GYN sent me an automated message doing a survey about my weight gain… in the late third trimester.

            2. I remember one year, tuning through during the Jerry Lewis MDA Telethon and concluding Lewis was probably being given steroids because of the appearance of the weight gain.

        2. Oh, I was well aware that it had a certain amount of truth to it, as a bald-faced statement. However, what I wrote above is not an exact quote, because I can’t remember the exact quote, and in context it was clear he was accusing me of being a liar, and probably trying to get an even stronger anger reaction from me, to justify himself.

  20. In the matter of lines in heads, it would seem useful to distinguish between those heads with highly flexible lines and extraordinarily rigid lines (and both can exist in the same head, although this is normally not the case.)

    Naturally, it is widely acknowledged that either condition, taken to an extreme, is to be deplored. What is less widely acknowledged is that we all imagine ourselves to be at the midpoint between the two extremeswhen, as all ought be able clearly to see, only I occupy that sweet spot of firm yet flexible.

    1. I must heartily disagree, good sir. I am on the midpoint of no line of which I am aware. Or, as a former NRA board member once told me, “You’re somewhere to the right of Genghis Khan.” I probably couldn’t find ‘normal’ with a map and directions. Differently sane, but functional.

      1. I read that initially as “defiantly sane.”

        That could probably serve as the Hun battle cry…

  21. These lines in our heads are the puppeteer’s strings by which we are often manipulated, commercially, politically and ethically. See recent Jonah Goldberg essay on “gaslighting” for examples of this in operation.

  22. Thank you. This made a lot of things click for me that I’ve been trying to understand about human behavior.
    “The alternative is to rewrite and amend reality so that your chem has you doing the opposite of what you think it does.” This part especially hit home, because I’ve seen this in action. It is as maddening as trying to convince Lewis’s dwarf(?) of the feast that’s before him that he can’t see because he’s locked up in the lines in his head.

  23. When attempting to persuade a person it is important to understand the lines in their heads and couch your arguments appropriately. Thus, when a Christian argues in support of Christ’s divinity using evidence from the Gospels (or a Muslim argues for the Prophet using the Koran) to a Jew, Buddhist, Taoist or Hindu — the lines aren’t in the other person’s head and such arguments will be ineffective.

    Politically, when debating with an opponent who accepts the premise that vast impersonal forces (e.g., racism, e.g., sexism) control individual lives, no amount of examples of individuals who rose above their circumstances will carry the argument because those lines are not in those heads.

    It is necessary to grasp the lines in your counterparts’ heads to make your arguments persuasive. Absent that they have no traction and no weight and are easily dismissed.

    One additional important consideration: the lines for women’s heads are invariably longer and slower moving than those for men’s heads and efforts to persuade must be adjusted accordingly/

    1. Oh, yes. when arguing with a fundamentalist in a Catholic blogs’ comments section, we resort to the Bible and never invoke the rest.

      Oddly enough, many can be scared off by quoting scripture at them.

      1. One of the curious things about denominational/theological divisions is that one almost necessarily ends up getting interested in very different passages of Scripture, or that one takes the same Scripture in different ways.

        Many evangelical or Fundamental groups are very well trained on their group or pastor’s important parts of Scripture, but often other parts tend to be neglected. (In extreme bad cases, I’ve met folks whose ministers told them that the OT and the Gospel are unnecessary for Christians, and that Christians should stick to Paul and the other epistles.)

        Catholics don’t tend to have as much verse drill, but often have wider familiarity with the entire Bible when not feeling intimidated. (We tend to paraphrase.)

        The sad thing is how often people end up arguing instead of discussing; but I’ve been in Bible discussions run by Jewish folks and different denomination folks, and even the literal interpretations get surprisingly different from what I would think would be the literal reading. So you kinda might as well argue, rather than pretend everybody’s on the same page when they’re not.

        1. Oh, yes. I’ve seen a Protestant explicitly say that only the Pauline epistles are addressed to us, and if anything in another book conflicts with (his interpretation of) the Pauline epistles, it’s not addressed to us.

          Cue quoting Paul on all scripture.

            1. Just bookmark it now. 😎

              He that hath a Gospel
              To loose upon Mankind,
              Though he serve it utterly —
              Body, soul and mind —
              Though he go to Calvary
              Daily for its gain —
              It is His Disciple
              Shall make his labour vain.

        2. Reading different translations and hearing other theological points of view are always interesting. [Smile]

          Now one aspect of paying more attention to the Epistles than other parts of the NT, is that the Epistles often deal with practical issues of living the Christian Life as well as some issues of interactions between believers.

          Now, IMO it’s a mistake to ignore other parts of scripture but I can see why some groups focus more on the Epistles. [Smile]

          Oh, I have to chuckle about the idea that some Fundamental groups ignore completely the OT. [Smile]

          Didn’t you know? Those evil Fundies are more interesting in the Old Testament. All those rules & regulations & God’s wrath toward the non-believers/sinners. [Very Big Sarcastic Grin]

        3. “…whose ministers told them that the OT and the Gospel are unnecessary for Christians…”
          Wha…that’s just……..

          OW! I think that just broke my brain.

        4. (In extreme bad cases, I’ve met folks whose ministers told them that the OT and the Gospel are unnecessary for Christians, and that Christians should stick to Paul and the other epistles.)

          So, I have to wonder, what they make of these verse from Paul’s second letter to Timothy:

          All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.

          Actually I probably don’t want to know.

          1. Well, it’s totally okay for Jews and pagans to read the OT and the Gospels, but Christians shouldn’t have any interest. (Never mind that large chunks of the NT suppose that you know the OT pretty well, and that the epistles think you know Gospel stories from oral instruction.)

  24. My chem broke in the summer of ’04, in northern Iraq. An American convoy was ambushed on the highway just outside the base I was working from. We could hear the gunfire and explosions, see the dust and smoke. We heard the convoy radioing for help. And the quick reaction force didn’t roll. So I went into the base HQ, and asked if they knew a US convoy was being attacked just outside the base. The commander said yes, they were listening to it on the radio, and wasn’t it exciting? So I asked if they were going to send the QRF out to help. And he said no, it wasn’t their unit, so not their problem. So I asked permission fort team of 4 to leave the base, and he responded by ordering the gates locked. At that moment, I had to make a choice – either start executing officers, or stop caring. So I stopped caring. It felt like having a stroke – I went blind in one eye for a few minutes. Haven’t really bean able to give two s@$”s about much of anything since then. It was either that, or become the subject of a Sixty Minutes Special Report.

    I still have the chem that says ‘Protect’ on it. It’s in there, nagging at me. I just don’t care enough to do much anything about it any more.

    1. Was this under a 4ID unit, by any chance? This incident sounds really familiar, for some damn reason…

      1. 2nd Brigade, 2nd ID. They believed that all intel should simmer for a few weeks before being acted upon. Then complained that we were giving them bad information.

        1. Crap… I know those guys. That was the first Stryker BCT, no?

          Sad to say, your story does not surprise me one bit.

    2. Oh, man. I’m sorry.

      Going temporarily blind, whether psychologically or from high blood pressure, could actually mean you had a mini-stroke or some kind of stress-induced neurological event or physical damage. “Fits of apoplexy” aren’t something that only happens in old novels, and a change of personality or emotion is another possible symptom. Have you ever been checked out?

      I’m going to make another serious suggestion here. Have you ever read Keith Laumer’s Jame Retief stories? They have a sort of anti-BS thing going on, but the milieu is space diplomatic corps humor. You might like them.

      Maybe you can build in some flexibility between not-caring and the wish to protect, so that maybe you can work on the broken bits.

  25. I don’t know how they get in there, but I can guarantee it’s not all early childhood and inculcated before perception. Some of the lines we chose to have in there, ourselves.

    Three kinds– the ones that are inherent, the ones that we’re taught, and the ones we build.

    You need all three to be healthy, and a society needs them to not be in conflict to survive; for example, we’ve got a natural line of not needlessly harming “our people”; we can be taught to consider all humans as “our people”, and we can form ourselves (sometimes) to manage to gut a woman in labor so that both she and her child can survive. (And I’ve got the beautiful little girl to prove it.)

    The scary thing is, the first one can’t tell the whole truth, and the second two are pretty easy to warp. It’s better than nothing, but dang it’s scary.

    1. and we can form ourselves (sometimes) to manage to gut a woman in labor so that both she and her child can survive.

      …That was a very effectively startling description, thanks.

      1. My sister really wants to be a doctor… on the level of helping people, anyways.

        Unfortunately, she responds very poorly to people who are…physically torn up, and even more poorly to the idea of causing any pain or damage to heal.

    2. In _every_ adult’s (Parent, trusted adult) life there should be an instant when they realize something. “This child/group of children, is *basing what they will be like _as adults_, on what I say/do.”* It happened when I was with the oldest daughter of friends, at an amusement park. We saw a teenage girl being the “toy” of some teenage males. I said. “I don’t care how old you are, you won’t be too old to be spanked for that behavior.” I saw her file that away as. “I’ll never do that.” Since that day, I’ve lived with that standard.

        1. The single funniest scene in any of the Ghost books is the one where some group has kidnapped his extremely sub harem manager, ties her up, and then calls him:

          BadGuy: “We have your girl and we’ll torture her until you do what we want. Listen!”
          background: “Not that moan this!”
          Ghost: “Dude, she’s giving you instructions.”

          Oh, John Ringo, NO!

            1. There’s a medievalish fantasy trilogy with a Super Secret Agent whose magical half-angel ancestral power is not minding being raped and tortured because she’s a masochist. The Kushiel books by Jacqueline Carey. Feel free not to read ’em.

  26. A – pardon me for evoking a religious story here, but it’s appropriate – road to Damascus experience. Something so big, so glaring; something you live through, something that traumatizes you to such an extent that you cannot continue preserving the chem and you rewrite it.

    I was an adult before I ran into “road to Damascus” as an explicitly religious context. Other than that, it was always in the “extreme life change” category. The religious sources I might have heard it from are understandably skittish about who Saul was (and worked for) before he became Paul, and preferred to focus on the “what YOU should do” aspect. Defensible, since a conversion is a lot less impressive than rising from the dead, but does make for some interesting gaps.

    Just in case anybody wants to read the original, here:

    Honestly, it’s an awesome storyline that doesn’t get used nearly enough, possibly because it does involve a couple of acts of God to get the story going. 😀

    1. And note that the story is told again – in Paul’s own words – at the end of Acts, when he testifies in front of Herod Agrippa.

  27. I think you’ve just articulated why I detested Stephen R. Donaldson’s Chronicles of Thomas Covenant. Which I had been assured by an older friend I would really like.

    His characters kept crossing those lines for no really good reason.

    1. I absolutely agree. That may be the first book that I flung (flang? flinged?) across the room. Really abhorrent “heroes” in that book, nd I read no further and none of teh many sequelae.

      1. See your flung across the room and go you one better — I tossed it out of a window of a train somewhere between France and Germany (don’t know which country I littered) leaving me with nothing to read the rest of the journey (another day.) THAT’s how much I hated it.

    2. I kind of owe a debt to the Chronicles of Thomas Covenant. I was pretty young when I started to read it, back in high school, when it first came out. I was a pretty uncritical consumer of fantasy at that point: there was magic and adventures and battles and that was a fine initial attraction.

      But the series was the first one that I actually came to dislike, and to be able to articulate reasons for my dislike. I didn’t throw it across a room or out a train window. I actually made it through several of the books, but at some point I realized, “Hey, Thomas Covenant is an awful person. I don’t like him, I don’t want to be like him, I don’t approve of him, and I don’t want to keep reading about him.”

      Now, it’s been more than 30 years, so my memories are pretty dim, but as I remember, Donaldson’s writing is pretty good at the craft level, and he did a tremendous job of world-building, which is why the series is, I suppose, justifiably famous. But, I remember that the Thomas Covenant character was just so darn ungrateful and whiny, and maybe cowardly(?). I can’t remember exactly what lines the character may have crossed.

      Since then I’ve found myself in the middle of any number of series that have gone off the rails (anything by Piers Anthony, the Sword of Truth series, and, oh, god, Laurel Hamilton’s Anita Blake series, among others), but that was the first one that really gave me pause and, therefore, encouraged me to view other writing more critically.

      1. Piers Anthony: I read On a Pale Horse and was intrigued by the concept, but concluded that if he obviously didn’t take seriously the world he had created, why should I?

  28. Everyone who wants to call themselves a social justice warrior should be required to read the story of Savonarola and his followers, and give an oral presentation of how they turned out.

    They won’t get it, but they should be left without any excuse when they repeat it.

      1. They’re all mine. But that’s okay — I never listen to any of them. Why would I pay attention to a voice with nothing better to do than talk to me?

  29. “A – pardon me for evoking a religious story here, but it’s appropriate – road to Damascus experience.”

    Why would one need to be pardoned for evoking a religious story?

    1. Because I have readers of many beliefs and evoking a religious story might carry less force with them. I TRY to keep my writing secular so I can reach all.

      1. Because I have readers of many beliefs

        Stories have power, whether you believe they are literally true or not. It might come as a surprise to people*, but I don’t really believe much of what’s in the Bible as being literal truth. That doesn’t mean I won’t use the stories for the ideas and feelings they evoke, particularly when such stories are so deeply engrained in the culture around me.

        One would think that folk following a fiction writer’s blog would “grok” this. 😉

        *that’s a joke, I say, that’s a joke, son.[/foghorn leghorn voice]

      2. I still have a ways to go in reading Heinlein’s works (I haven’t even finished all his juveniles yet, partially because I’m having a hard time finding all of them in the local libraries), but there’s something I couldn’t help but notice:

        On the one hand, Heinlein was an atheist; and as far as I could tell, he *hates* religion. Indeed, at one point (in one of his essays in “Expanded Universe”), he even said that the difference between a cult and a regular religion is that it’s ok to grow up in a religion and pass it on to your children as something you do, but you cross the line into cult when you actively seek out converts. (Never mind that, if you are convinced something is true, you will want to tell others about it…and that some people are going to be convinced that certain religious ideas are true…)

        On the other hand, his works are full of religion. He heavily relies on Biblical allegory. In “Farnham’s Freehold”, he has a main character who is ambivalent towards religion hold services for the three other people in his camp (including his atheist son) so that those who would take comfort in such things, could.

        I have the impression that, even with his dislike of religion, he understood that it’s an important part of our legacy, and that individuals needed to be afforded respect for their choice to hold certain beliefs (even if he didn’t respect the beliefs himself).

        If Heinlein could do such things, it probably won’t hurt to do them yourself every once in a while…. ;.)

        1. I feel compelled to add that, although I’m religious myself (I’m a Latter-day Saint), in many ways, I hope I can write religion in fiction as well as I’ve seen Heinlein do so far…at least, when I get around to writing, I hope that I’ll be able to do so. He set a pretty high standard!

          I have this interesting idea in my head to write about a hard-core atheist computer engineer that designs an AI robot…that becomes deeply religious after seriously considering certain religious texts…(perhaps Born Again, or a Latter-day Saint, or something like that…).

          1. [A]n AI robot…that becomes deeply religious after seriously considering certain religious texts

            Hindu — each deity representing a different programmer …

  30. Reading through the comments again this morning I was reminded: Even worse than breaking a character is breaking the world.

    The Daughter is a voracious reader. Some years ago an author published the first of a trilogy. It was well received and won awards. She read it and enjoyed it. On the second book when the author began to contort his characters she was not happy but she read on. On the third book he had broke the world he had crafted to force the story to his socio-political world view. All joy was gone and she quit reading.

    She doesn’t care about what the man’s views are, she has read books that present all sorts of world views. Given a chance she will tell anyone that, no matter how popular the books are, they are badly written and therefore not worth anyone’s time.

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