Rejection of a Dark Age By Christopher M. Chupik

Rejection of a Dark Age By Christopher M. Chupik

This is a companion-piece of sorts to my earlier post:

As I mentioned before, I never read much YA when I was a young adult. Early on, I vaulted past my contemporaries. Most of the books aimed at kids my age were depressing “problem novels”. I didn’t want to spend time with depressingly realistic kids with depressingly realistic problems. I had school for that. Escape was what I wanted.

Working at a library now, I handle a great deal of the new YA books that come our way. The success of The Hunger Games has unleashed a flood of copycat dystopian fiction. I read the jackets and feel a depressing sameness creeping in:

“In the dystopian near future, climate change has wrecked everything. The EvilCorp/EvilGov has taken power, crushing freedom and reorganizing society into an unfair class system designed to make teens angsty. Actiongirl Unlikelyname is completely ordinary and totally special. She must join the Resistance and make a choice that will change her world forever: which generically hunky guy will she be with at the end of the trilogy?”

This Twitter feed does a great job of mocking the cliches:

There’s a few YA novels set on other planets, but they almost invariably involve evil corporations or “the one-percenters”, who of course have colonized space on the backs of everybody else. What a great way to get the kids interested in space exploration, than to turn it into tedious left-wing class warfare propaganda, right?

And most of these came out back in the Obama years, when left-wingers, and by extension their fiefdoms in the publishing industry were optimistic about the future. But now that they lost the election one can only imagine the outpouring of over-the-top dystrumpias which is about to flood bookshelves in the months and years to come.

Now, let it be known that I’m not entirely against the dystopian trend. I did grow up reading John Christopher’s Tripod and Prince in Waiting trilogies, after all. I certainly see the value in showing the younger generation that leaders should not be blindly trusted, that “progress” is not a guarantee and that freedom is not something that you inherit, but something that must be constantly renewed, lest it be lost forever. All are important points.

But I’m worried that all our kids are seeing of the future is doom and gloom. There was some of that when I was growing up. The media of the ’80s played up the threat of impending nuclear war for what I’m sure were completely non-partisan reasons. And then there was the steady drumbeat of ozone hole/acid rain agitprop. But I had Star Trek to show me something better. And even though I look at Trek‘s worldview with some skepticism now, I still appreciate that it’s a fundamentally optimistic view of humanity’s future. YA science-fiction readers aren’t getting that. What they’re being told, over and over, is that the future sucks and that science-fiction is the genre about how much its its going to suck.

And the politics are far too simplistic. It’s easy to say you want a revolution, but readers are often given the impression that rising up and replacing the existing order never ends badly. Indeed, it’s more likely that a totalitarian regime exists because of such a revolt. After all, there’s only one revolution in history that didn’t result in tyranny. Hint: it’s not the Russian one.

And the worldbuilding in a lot of these is pretty weak too. Obviously, no teen wants to read a treatise on the socioeconomics of a fictional future. Not many adults either. But would it hurt the authors to spend the time to create something that could stand up to more than a few minutes of scrutiny? You can learn quite a bit about survival skills and how to build a society from Heinlein’s Tunnel in the Sky. And the younger generation needs to learn it from somewhere because they certainly aren’t getting it from our increasingly-misnamed “education system”.

There are a few books that buck the trends. Timothy Zahn’s six-book Dragonback series is a great Space Opera with a genuine sense of wonder (alien dragons that become two-dimensional symbiotes on human hosts) as well as a complex and logical plot with characters who act intelligently. There’s even an honest corporate executive.

Brandon Sanderson has written some YA, including his Reckoners series, which starts with Steelheart. While it has dystopian elements, it’s a great take on the idea of superheroes and villains, with Sanderson’s customary rigorous worldbuilding and strong moral sense.

Baen has published a few YA novels of their own, including the Weber-Lindskold Treecat books, which are good entry-level SF and a gateway drug to the Honorverse.

I should add that the adult books of all these authors would also be appropriate for YA readers.

At risk of turning this into shameless self-promotion, it would be remiss of me not to mention the Huns and Hoydens who have done their part to address this issue with their own writing. Our own Dave Freer has written several YA books, including his Steampunk novels Cuttlefish and The Steam Mole and his Space Opera Stardogs. J. M. Anjewierden’s The Long Black is a Space Opera in the classic vein, with a young heroine escaping from her oppressive homeworld (think a heavy-gravity North Korea) and striking out for the stars. Cedar Sanderson’s (no relation) new SF novel Tanager’s Fledgling is not strictly YA, but she informs me it is “written to be YA friendly” so that’s good enough for me.

If you have other suggestions (and I know many of you will), feel free to add them in the comments below. And as to older writers that young readers today should try . . . well, let’s just say that’s another post altogether.

Don’t give our children the dead dreams of Karl Marx. Give them something to dream about.

It’s only a Dark Age if you allow it to be.


356 thoughts on “Rejection of a Dark Age By Christopher M. Chupik

  1. I accidentally started writing a dystopian story. Busy trying to save it and it’s not looking good. :p

    1. Perhaps focus on the putting things back together rather than how badly they’ve fallen apart? The Dystopian seems to come in everyone being resigned to what they’re stuck with rather than busily working over, under, around, and through to get things done…

      1. Actually that’s what I am trying to work on. Unfortunately further down here a problem has been pointed out about wealth. :p
        Anyway I have ideas I need to work on and holes to plug eventually.

      2. I’m a tinkerer and builder. While I can do a fairly decent job patching, usually more than once, things to keep them running/usable; I still find it better to take something down to bare dirt/bedrock and start building anew from there. It’s similar to what happens with computer programming; every time you patch code, it fixes a problem and causes even more side effects that can be problems themselves. It’s always better (but not necessarily cheaper) to redesign and build new code from scratch.

        Does the same thing happen with dystopia? Well, you can’t erase all the people, or even all of their minds; and have even a dysfunctional society. Even language channelizes thinking and sets non-neutral conditions. What are you going to do? Reduce everyone to the mental condition of a newborn? Who’d even survive long enough to learn anything? So yes, to climb out of dystopia, we have to work, “over, under, around, and through” the existing environment to get anything done.

        1. In regard to this, in Exodus, after escaping from Egypt, God has the Israelites wandering in the desert for 40 years, which would have had most of them dying from old age before leading them to the promised land. In other words, he did erase the people from the failed society before building his new one.

          1. Mmm. But they had children, and they were socialized into that culture. Although as nomads of former slaves, and not into a slavery culture themselves. Not that the language changed in a single generation, so the concepts and attitudes would also have been passed down to the Next Generation.

            1. I suspect that as the environment had changed greatly, plus having the ten commandments, the kids regarded their parents as respected fuddy-duddies and the culture changed radically in one generation.

            2. A lot of it was to eliminate the “But we had it so good in Egypt!” silliness. The kids wouldn’t have that to cling to.

        2. Thank you, Mike. You have just stated my argument for why a second Revolutionary War in necessary.

          When I read stories like the Portland burrito makers is when I start thinking of it as desirable.

            1. It’s a possibility. Of course, it was a possibility with the first one too.

        3. “We just patch that..”
          I wonder (no, I don’t) if these folks deal with blown tires the same way. If they did, their tires would look like those on wartime cartoons: more patches and bandages than original rubber.

      3. Putting back together — that’s a great point. A dystopian story I actually enjoyed is done that way: The Enemies Trilogy by Matthew Bracken.

      4. On that note, I just gave my daughter Engdahl’s Children of the Star (Older readers my remember it as Beyond the Tomorrow Mountains, This Star Shall Abide, etc.

        I love rebuilding-society stories. Whether they’re on a colony planet, a post-apocalyptic society (or both!) they’re a lot of fun. They do require a better understanding of how people, social institutions, and economics work than most of the hapless subjects of modern public school education possess.

          1. Right, but somehow I don’t think most parents would consider the Paladin of Shadows books YA appropriate.

  2. And most of these came out back in the Obama years, when left-wingers, and by extension their fiefdoms in the publishing industry were optimistic about the future.

    Yes, well, of course. Fear of a possible future is an excellent tool. In their mind these novels illustrate what would happen if we follow their enlightened agenda and didn’t keep them in power — nay, give them even more power. They had to keep reminding everyone that whatever sacrifices they demanded it was for our own good to prevent an even worse fate.

    1. oops … didn’t follow their enlightened agenda …

      (Although every indication is that following Marxism — heavy, light or revised — such horrors is what would result. Marxist true believers have a great big blind spot when it to the problems inherent, rather blaming those who do not fully cooperate. Which is why, while they seek to build a utopia, they will create a dystopia.)

        1. They also have no other functioning economies to leech off of/absorb.

        2. I don’t think that Marxism can produce the exact environment of these dystopias. But Marxism will lead to a dystopia.

          When you get down to it I really don’t think that any dystopic world could be multi-generational and produce the kind of wealth that is often envisioned in today’s YA fiction. Writing dystopic novels at present does not seem to require that the author is knowledgeable in economics.

          1. Can you illuminate me by what you mean as “wealth” in the modern dystopic fiction? I think you are hitting the nail on the head with one of my problems. I haven’t read any real modern YA books recently, and Hunger Games didn’t interest me at all (one of my friends read the trilogy and said he walled it due to whiny main character).

            1. I can’t speak for CACS but I mean wealth as in the banquet scenes of the Hunger Games and the advanced equipment of the government.

              Ignorant and impoverished cultures without external inputs of knowledge and physical wealth could not sustain existing wealth, much less create new wealth, over multiple generations.

              Look at the poverty of the USSR after 70 years despite being able to obtain Western goods and ideas.

              1. So say, about two to three generations from wealth to poverty and collapse. Interesting, I think I need to re-examine some plot elements then. Guess this was what was bothering me earlier. 🙂

                1. To use a hoary old example look at wealth in the Western Roman Empire across the third century during the Crisis. One can argue the Western Empire never recovered from the Crisis (and the Eastern Empire was never as sharply affected). Compare the wealth in Gaul in 200 and 300 (about 3-4 generations).

              2. One important point, though, is that Hunger Games seems to be on that third generation, with the appropriate loss of abilities to maintain the structure. There isn’t any new wealth, I gathered from the last movie (I’ll admit I haven’t read the books), just living off the wealth of the past.

            2. Most of my knowledge of modern YA fiction is second hand. (Although I have read and loved Andrew Klavan’s action/adventure YA novels.) I am neither so quick or so desperate a reader to waste time on bad adolescent angst, unpleasant characters and depressing gray goo.

              I freely admit that I base my reactions on the talk I have heard, some of it quite enthusiastic, from those who have read such books, reviews of said books and the images I have seen in the adds for the movies based on these books.

              (Further admission: I am jaded. I long ago concluded that few readers exercise a great deal of discernment when reading. The Daughter had liked the initial entry of Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials, but in the end felt betrayed by Pullman, claiming that he broke his world building to force his message. Most of Pullman’s fans did not blink an eye.)

              1. I started reading some YA back a few years ago, trying to find something that wasn’t PC / SJW / grimdark. Mostly I found more of the same.

                I did, however, find Dan Wells’ “I Am Not A Serial Killer” and its follow-ups, which I enjoyed thoroughly.

              2. I have to agree with your daughter on Pullman’s work. Dark Material indeed.

                1. Also agree. The first book in the series had a fascinating world and interesting characters and left me wanting the second. The second book had preachiness and propaganda and left me convinced that I would not read the third book even if I’d read everything else in the universe.

                1. Which is why I refer to them as “anti-theists”. I’ve also found that many of them claim to be libertarian, but have no problem with using government to punish religious people for badthink. I don’t put up with that any more.

              3. I read the trilogy because I read an article in the Chronicle For Higher Education discussing how Pullman’s criticisms of CS Lewis fell flat, and how Pullman was guilty of the very sins that he accused CS Lewis of committing in the Chronicles of Narnia.

                I found that the criticisms were correct.

                While I generally enjoyed the trilogy, I couldn’t help but notice the heavy-handedness of the message that Pullman put into his books, where such heavy-handedness isn’t as blatant in the Chronicles. Additionally, resorting to fantasy to try to create an equivalent series for atheists just seemed jarring.

                I take that back. I remember someone (I think it was at a blog called Less Wrong, if I remember correctly) making the case that atheists sometimes fall into the trap of being anti-God, rather than just living life as if no Supreme Being really existed. An example given was marriage vows, where atheists will sometimes try to refute God in their, in an odd attempt to refute religious marriage vows, when they should merely write vows that affirm their commitment to each other. Had Pullman written a trilogy — even a fantasy trilogy — where atheism was the natural state of things, rather than inserting a “We must defeat Heavenly Beings” theme that he did in the second and third books, he would have been just fine.

                Come to think of it, I remember someone observing that “atheist” for a lot of people is merely a shortcut for “I oppose Christianity.” You can see that *in spades* in the “His Dark Materials” trilogy.

              4. I’ve been wondering if I should get Andrew Klavan’s YA stuff; my 10 year old boy is devouring 350-400+ Matthew Reilly books, one a day. (That Reilly’s work is fast paced action adventure for the most part really, really helps.)

                I’m mostly avoiding graphic sexual descriptions; swearwords, violence and some romance aren’t an issue. (He also liked Changeling’s Island.)

                1. I would recommend Klavan’s YA titles. He is a gamer and writes them knowing his target demographic doesn’t hesitate to put down a book and switch to a game. Try his Homelander series first. Some of the other books are terrific, too, but might contain elements you would want to discuss more carefully. Crazy Dangerous addresses with how we deal with the mentally ill and how we adhere to an ethical code in challenging circumstances, If We Survive deals with teenagers on a “mission” to a Latin American country confronted by a military coup and facing the true meaning of courage. As a converted Christian Klavan openly and honestly examines issues of Faith, its benefits and challenges.

                  I don’t recall any graphic sexual descriptions, and such swwear words as may be presented are entirely appropriate to character and circumstances. Try them yourself before passing them along leaving them out where your son can find them. They are very brisk reads and good (in several senses of the word) entertainment.

                  OTOH, given my demonstrated affinity for certain kinds of humour, be very cautious of trusting my judgement.

                  1. Those sound fine to me; I’ll probably check it out once I have a bit of funds to spare.

                    *grin* I don’t have to leave books out like crumbs for him to discover; I can tell him “I enjoyed this when I was your age,” or “I think you’ll have fun with this,” and hand him books.

                    And there are the ones he enjoys that are considered closer to his age group, like Wings of Fire, that x-Story Treehouse series, the “Weir-do” series of books…

                    I’m rather happy to not own a credit card. I’d go into debt rather easily buying books.

                2. I’m going to make a slight turn into fantasy for YA. A series of books I always recommend when folks are looking for books for kids is Rachel Aaron’s Heartseeker books. It’s set in the near future. Dragons can take human form. Well, one doesn’t want to be a dragon anymore because he doesn’t like violence. Mama Dragon is not happy about this at all. She puts a price on his head, so to speak, if he doesn’t comply. They’re highly entertaining and even funny. Julian, the one who doesn’t want to be a dragon is a likeable kid, rational kid. The girl he ends up meeting is kooky and a good counterpoint to Julian.

                    1. A number of the ST:TOS books are excellent; I tend to buy anything with Diane Duane as the author on sight.

                    2. Oh yes! I went out of my way to get Star Trek old-school books; I’m going to have to read through some of the ones I’m not familiar with first though, because there was a TOS novel where a Federation scientist ended up being the concubine of a Klingon, and there were a few scenes I wouldn’t consider suitable for a 10 year old.

                      Vulcan Academy Murders though, and maaaaaaaaaaaaaaaybe The IDIC Epidemic as a possibility. Though, I’m thinking of introducing the eldest son to The Young Wizards since heck he’s reading at that level now (Good times ahead! Still need to get The Games that Wizards Play.

          2. I am not even sure they require the author be familiar with human nature half the time although that seems to be true of anything with a Marxist taint.

          3. It does manage to evade the problem of multi-generational with the leadership: most have the population that must produce the leaders growing up under the police state, which produces more repressed people than are needed.

          4. Not All Dystopian YA Fiction Is Like That (NADYFILT?)

            Seriously, I’ve read several (and they’re quite popular) that have a multi-generational dysfunctional society. Not “been like this for 1,000 years” multi-generational, but “Long enough for the great-grand-kids of the folks who witnessed the change to have passed on.”

            The one that comes to mind is The Testing by Joelle Chabonneau which is a “rebuilding after the unnamed apocolypse” dystopia where the rebuilders are no-goodniks. The good ones are still good enough that the popular elements: Funky, interesting, but hella-dangerous alternate world, young person dealing with same, friendship, romance and adventure ensue keep getting copy-catted. Usually poorly.

        3. Not necessarily – the high status folks in the Capital could be viewed as the nomenklatura who had comfortable apartments, the use of state vacation facilities, automobiles with drivers, medical care at secret high-quality clinics, preferred admission of family members to universities, access to generally unavailable food and consumer goods at low prices, possibilities for travel abroad, and generous retirement pensions. If you use marxism to subjugate 70%+ of the population, the top 1-5% can live very well indeed. See Cuba for example.

            1. I know you mean this as heart-warming and inspiring. And in one sense it is (

              I’m afraid my first reaction was fury. That 2014 writer never apologised,or made reference to his fellow media cohort who refused to cover that story back when it might have done some good.

              I thought perhaps my memory misled me. I watched regular TV news, 60 minutes and read the WaPO, but perhaps the New York Times or other outlets covered the story. So I searched the newspaper archives from 1988 – 1993. Nada.

              They’re still doing it today too. Being a left-wing collaborator with tyrannical genocidal regimes means never having to say you’re sorry.


          1. I doubt that Cuba could have swung the privileges for their elite if there wasn’t money from the outside world underwriting the whole.

          2. They could be but look at Cuba after 50 years, ie one generation, and the status of things. Castro’s funeral vehicle broke down and had to be pushed. That is how the nomenklatura were living despite the first 30 years being subsidized by the USSR and the last 20 having some access to foreign goods (although not direct access to the US).

            What would Cuba look like in another 50 years during which it was completely cut off from external trade?

            Oddly, the US supporting the Marxist failures was a key point in Atlas Shrugged. Communism survives only if they have a host to feed off.

          1. Utopias have the problem that they have to be inhabited by Utopians. Starting from the most obvious eliminations — Utopia could not have serial killers for instance– and working outward.

          2. Yes and No.

            Utopia stories are where the writer wants you to like that world.

            Dystopia stories are where the writer wants you to hate that world.

            Now the reader very likely will read a Utopia story and think “That world is terrible” or “That world is impossible”. 😉

  3. Oh, so I’ve managed to break another trope pattern by accident? Cool! (The RajWorld/Shikhari books. Coming later this year).

    I remember all the nuclear winter/nuclear war/EOTWAWKI junk from the 1980s. Apparently the publishers took the same template, swapped “anthropogenic climate change” for “nuclear something” and “eevil GovCorp” for “eevil Republican [or Thatcherite] gov” and used the same flippin plots. With smart phones. Oh, and then there’s the disease victim trend launched by “The Fault in Our Stars” except it goes back to the 80s as well. (At least the stuff from the ’80s usually ended up-beat with most of the kids being inspired to get better or to learn to manage their condition, like one book on diabetes I remember.)

    1. Ugh. I remember taking a science fiction class in college, and it seemed like virtually every book was, “There was a nuclear war and Earth is now a wasteland.” I was so tired of those by the end of the semester.

      And double ugh on the diseased kids genre. I never understood the appeal of the Laurene McDaniels and imitators when I was growing up, and I don’t understand the appeal of “Fault in Our Stars” and its like now.

      1. The despair and the nuclear war crap was so heavy in SFF in the 1950s, that many of the editors began complaining publically about it.

        1. Yet some of it created very interesting stories. I know it is considered controversial (to say the least) but Farnham’s Freehold is still a pretty interesting novel (whose point, IMHO, is 180 degrees of what its critics claim). Letter from a Phoenix is also quite interesting (forget the author).

          1. If that’s the short story, “Letter to a Phoenix”, it was Fredric Brown.

          2. Yeah… I’m personally fond of Saberhagen’s Swords series, which follows on a trilogy where nuclear annihilation is averted only by converting the world to magic and turning all the bombs into demons. And Service’s post-nuclear-apocalypse Arthurian stories.

            But even if they used nuclear destruction as a plot element they are a long way from despairing.

            1. Ah, yes, The Empire of the East trilogy with the “elephant” and the nuclear defense system “god” versus the nuclear bomb demon.

              But, but, it wasn’t diverse enough I guess. Think I’ll go back and re-read it though.

          3. I know there are some good ones, but the trope was just so overdone that it turns me off. “This story takes place after the Earth has been destroyed by nuclear war…” “Zzzzzzzzz.” It’s almost as bad as books where the main character is a writer.

            1. by the end of the 80s it was totally being played for a trope anyway.

              Of course, some stories have literally had later sequels where an EOTWAWKI that was vaguely defined and assumed to be nuclear war, is ‘revealed’ to be TEOTWAWKI because of ‘climate change’

          4. Personally I consider Farnham’s Freehold one of Heinlein’s best non-YA novels.

      2. Heh. I remember a writing assignment – write a story about what it is like in year 2000 – back in what is our version of high school, and the teacher picked as the best and then read herself was a pretty damn typical “last man on Earth” one about somebody dying alone in some bunker after the nuclear war (mine was too optimistic, with a Moon colony and a letter one of the kids there wrote to her friends back on Earth, about all the fun things she had gotten to do after her family moved there).

        Then years later having some interaction with a few local wannabe science fiction writers. All the short stories they talked about, and send to local competitions (possible one ever won some sort of trophy for hers, or at least was a runner up, I don’t remember) seemed to be some version of dystopia or end of the world or… well, you know. Mostly they seemed to aim for the story as warning idea, write the worst possible scenario then have the protagonist wail of how if they just had or hadn’t done something this could have been avoided.

        They all sneered at the idea of optimistic stories as being stupidly Pollyannaish. Okay, I can’t stand that novel either, but while I do think its premise (or what I remember as its premise) of the main character’s optimism and determination to see only the good being something that could change how other people behave as something fairly stupid the fact is that it is easier to change things if you concentrate on the positive instead of fully in the negative. Positive reinforcement works better. The winners tend to be people who see themselves as winners, and sometimes it CAN even work when you try to change how people as a group behave – reward them when they do the right things instead of just berating them when they do wrong, and they will resent you less and might actually even do what you want them to do.

        When it’s all warnings in the form of stories which concentrate on the worst possible outcomes the end result is more likely to be people who assume that it’s no use trying to even try because that is where you will end anyway. Those warning stories, after all, also tend to harp more about how humans OF course were too stupid to do the right things to avoid those dystopias rather than how it was almost avoided, which makes them seem unavoidable.

        Besides, nobody likes being told they are stupid all the time. Often enough that will just make them be defiantly stupid after they reach the conclusion that they might as well be hanged for actually doing the deed because hanged they will be no matter what.

        1. The appeal of a dystopia is it gives you a built-in conflict to resolve. And you can extrapolate from something the reader knows to this fictional place you’ve created.
          But, then, you have to do something with it. And, as several have said, hope really is a better way to engage your reader than “Life sucks. Then you die. You die, she dies, everyone dies.”*

          (* What movie is that last sentence from? It’s a good example of a dystopian vision with hope at the end.)

          1. “You die, the girl dies, everybody dies.” From the animated film Heavy Metal, IIRC; the scene where the invulnerable prince charges Den with his quest. The “life sucks, then you die” part is not in the film. Correct me if necessary.

        2. Imagine a novel set in the year 2020, with an Islamic terrorist invasion of Europe, college campuses shutting down free speech and conservative opinions, a populace obsessed with the ephemera of Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, a mainstream media which had actively rejected all standards of objective (or even accurate) reporting in favor of advancing a narrative wholly unrelated to reality …

          1. Unpossible! No one would believe that premise–it’s just too unlikely. Let’s have a nice apocalypse picked from the convenient leftist list of possibilities instead.

        3. This reminds me of “The Toynbee Convector” by Ray Bradbury. It’s about a person who pretended to travel to the future, telling everyone how wonderful the future was, so that he could give the people optimism that they needed to go out and build a wonderful future.

          A good way to parody all these “if only we had done something different” stories would be to write one where there’s a horrible nuclear war that came about as a result of everyone becoming depressed and no longer caring about the future. “If only we had written more stories that were optimistic about the future!”

          (One of the things I find interesting about Heinlein is that he wrote stories where nuclear war *had* occurred, but it’s clear that the future continued to improve despite such things — he considered nuclear war inevitable, but didn’t think it would completely end everything!)

          1. How about a dystopia so bad that the hero goes back to 1944 and tips the secret of creating nuclear bombs to Robert Oppenheimer?

            Lessee … the need to invade the Japanese homeland causes us to cede Korea to the Soviets and grant them a third interest in conquered Japan. With their military buildup and in the absence of America’s nuclear deterrence they (quietly) rebuild their military forces (perhaps using captured German and Japanese advisers) and bide their time for five years while an exhausted West demobilizes, and then …

            1. Orson Scott Card played with this idea somewhat in his Pastwatch novel. Many view the discovery of the Western Hemisphere by Christopher Columbus to be one of those horrid, awful, events due to the many things that happened as a result (particularly to the natives). Card turns this on its head in the novel by having Columbus’s exploratory voyage be the direct result of tampering by time travelers who were heading off an invasion from the Americas to Europe.

              (and if that doesn’t scare you, I’ll mention that the native empire responsible for launching the invasions had religious practices similar to the Aztecs)

            2. Or, someone goes back in time to shoot the most notorious genocidal tyrant of the 20th Century. A man who’s very name is synonymous with the worst of evil- Max Erwin von Scheubner-Richter.
              And as the assassin leaves the site of the failed Beer Hall Putsch, he wonders if the National Socialist party will collapse under that weirdo figurehead Hitler before Rhom kills him during the Night of Long Knives…

              1. Alt-history fiction along that vein isn’t really unfeasible. There were, apparently, a number of times Adolf Hitler could’ve died before he rose to prominence, including childhood. Then the writer gets to play with the ‘would it be acceptable to kill a child who you know is destined to become a monster?’ – and the possibility of a different child close to that one rising to monsterhood instead? and so on…

                1. I think the interesting side of the idea is that, had we not had Hitler, we would have had something far, far worse. Perhaps Stalin continues to build up his armies while the complacent West continues demobilization?

                  Certainly Adolph had several miraculous escapes while a courier, almost as if somebody — angel or devil — were providing oversight.

                  So, Soviets support Indian & Irish dissident movements, Japan absorbs SE Asia at a more leisurely pace, and Western nations do not start their rebuild in the late 30s absent German pressure. How long until Stalin pushes through the Fulda Gap and finds no resistance? Does anything stop slow him before reaching the Channel? Does Sino-Soviet detente erode British influence in India?

                  1. WWII is one of my hobbies.

                    You don’t have to do much reading before the WTF-O-Meter starts heading toward the peg. Granted it was a *world* war, large enough for the most unlikely of events to happen… but so *many* of them?

                    1. So time travelers make a two pronged trip to Hawaii in ’42 and provide Naval Intelligence with the key to the Japanese naval cypher and help repair the Yorktown in 3 days when best estimates said it’d take 3 months?

                  2. So a story of a time travel who has gone to the past with the purpose of protecting Hitler for a time because the alternative – no Hitler – would actually be worse? Then perhaps he meets some other time traveler, or a traveler from a different time line, ours, and needs to get that time traveler to understand why he is doing it, and why Hitler has to stay alive long enough that the worse alternative future either does not happen or at least stays confined to just one time instead of taking over most of them, like in the future he came from.

                    Has that one been written yet?

                    1. “Confined to one time line”, not “confined to one time”. Cr*p. There really is no way to edit these comments afterwards?

                      (I guess that story would be one which happens in a world where there are several different time lines, or you could not get the other time traveler. Or you could of course write it from the POV of the one traveler, with some internal dialogue, or pair him with somebody from that time who perhaps tried to kill Hitler).

                  3. Read a short story in which an agency was devoted to stopping assassinations by time travelers because the timeline always went bad shortly afterwards. The time traveler in the beginning of the story ended up causing nuclear winter because the guys who rose to power instead of Hitler were much more effective. The agent who captured the assassin (and then fixed the time line) had originally been picked up after attempting to assassinate Stalin. While he’s talking with the assassin, someone kills Gerald Ford, which leads to World War 3 during the Iranian Hostage Crisis. Etc…

                    The gist of it was that no matter how well-meaning the time traveling assassins were, history always took a dramatic turn for the worse as a result of their actions.

                  4. That’s the starting video for the first Red Alert game. Someone (implied to be Einstein) goes back in time and removes Hitler. Instead of WWII, we get Stalin launching a war of conquest in Europe.

                    1. And then at the start of the third game, someone goes back in history to remove Einstein. 😛

                2. And it’s always “kill him” and not “give him the push to actually meet the guy he had been sent to at the theater, and spend the rest of his life happily making scenery.”

                  1. Oh, oh, what if he does scenery and landscapes, and his art so captures the best in German culture and the German people that it helps inspire them to rally against the forces of Communism and Stalin? The “noble German” overrides the “evil Hun” and greatly impresses the British and Americans in the process…

                    1. F’r cryin’ out loud! This far down the thread, and nobody’s pulled out Spinrad’s THE IRON DREAM yet?

              2. Jerry Page did something like that, as a story and a radio play. Two people discussing the ethics of retroactive death penalty by time travel. And of course we learn in the last paragraph they *weren’t* talking about Hitler.

              3. Got my support based entirely on it not deciding to make the assassination of the Archduke into the act of a time-traveler.

                I’m pretty sure it’s been done. I’m pretty sure they ignored killing his pregnant wife, too.

                Hm…maybe that’s another route… nuking the “kill Hitler as a baby” thing so it’s obviously immoral….

          2. The premise of the movie Tomorrowland was sort of the Toynbee Convector, in reverse and with actual, well, not timetravel but sort of, the scientists who had created the alternate reality whatever had a device there which could influence humans in the normal continuum, and it was sending a continuous “story as warning” to the minds of people in the normal continuum.

            Otherwise the whole thing was pretty standard leftist version of science fiction, and not that good a story in lots of ways, but that was one insight I was rather surprised by, that they had actually taken the idea that killing optimism for the future by concentrating on just telling people what they are doing wrong, and how horrible people they are because they are doing it, and how much they have sinned in the past and are still sinning – that this would be the thing which kills the future and actually the very thing which brings the dystopia it is trying to avert.

            Now if there was a remake of that movie written by somebody like Sarah Hoyt or maybe Larry Correia and put on the screen with an equal budget and a good action director… 🙂

        4. “Besides, nobody likes being told they are stupid all the time Often enough that will just make them be defiantly stupid after they reach the conclusion that they might as well be hanged for actually doing the deed because hanged they will be no matter what.”

          Which is a prime reason we’re seeing the so-called “alt-right”. It’s not that the percentage of actual racists / sexists / phobic are increasing; it’s just that people are increasingly saying “So?” when told to ignore the inconvenient facts about biology or culture.

          1. “it’s just that people are increasingly saying “So?” when told to ignore the inconvenient facts about biology or culture.”

            No–it’s that they’re believing the leftist lie that culture and blood are linked, but lack the self-loathing.

              1. Obviously they hired the gal who wrote teh essay two years or so ago about how racist it was for a white teacher to help the author’s 7 or 8 year old daughter do her hair one AM when the Mom didn’t ahve time. Apparently for whites to touch “ethnic” hair is racist, because “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” and Topsy or something.

                1. Yugh. I remember reading that essay, and feeling sorry for the kind.
                  Contra the mama’s obsession regarding black hair – this white person doesn’t want to touch black hair. First, because it’s an invasion of person. Secondly – because I can’t stand the smell of that rancid-coconut-smelling ingredient which seems to be a key component in black hair-care products. I got some hair-care potion from the Body Shop by mail-order once, which had that ingredient in it. One whiff – and I gave it away to one of the other women in the barracks.
                  Likely, that mama would view me as a stone-cold racist for that disinclination.

                  1. If I remember right, the overpowering coconut smell is because that’s the strongest moisturizer you can get– and what you’re smelling as rancid is the same acid used for perming hair. Same as when you look at hand lotion, there’s acid to get into the skin, then oil to make it flex.

                    They might use some lanolin to help with the scalp, too, which will not help much for anybody who’s spent too much time around sheep. (Took me years to figure out why I hated the “nursing creams” so badly, my instincts were telling me everything needed to be washed because it smelled like a sheep barn.)

                    Half of the really strong hair products I can’t touch– besides the smell aspect, I’m well trained by experience to expect horribly painful hornet attacks if anything smells like coconuts.

                    1. Interesting … I don’t really mind the smell of lanolin – I had a very peculiar lanolin-based-strong-smelling ointment prescribed for me, in preparing to breast-feed. Didn’t mind the smell of that at all … but that rancid-coconut odor has me running for the door, and breathing deep gasps of air once I get outside.

                    2. It’s not so much that it smells *bad* to me, I just suddenly turn into Lady MacBeth with all the washing.

                      Sorry to hear you’ve got such a strong reaction to the smell, though– really is one of the most underestimated senses.

                    3. Indeed … perhaps I have a well-developed sense of it. There was someone who commented on one my books – that I had often noted how something or someone smelled. They though this was rather curiously perceptive — and I thought — well, doesn’t everyone notice this kind of thing?

                    4. I remember reading something that mentioned a lot of smells, and I thought “gosh, that’s just made up, can’t be real.”

                      So I tried… my sense of smell isn’t very good, but there is a LOT of information we’re not really noticing we notice, all the time.

                      So you’re mostly odd in that you actually paid attention without someone telling you to. 😀

                      My favorite is that I’ve actually avoided running into people in the grocery store because they’ve got aftershave on, and you can smell it around the blind corner. 😀

            1. I don’t follow the alt-right movement much, but I would have to say Steve is closer to right than you.

              Oh and that a lot of the “members” of the alt-right are basically shock-jocks in Howard Stearn sense. They will intentionally say whatever outrageous thing they can think of to shock and outrage the leftists. Not because they believe that culture and blood are related, but because they know that making degrading comments about either culture or blood will outrage leftists, and linking culture and blood will further outrage them.

              I warned for years that leftists constant accusations of racism would create at least the tolerance for, if not an actual increase in racism. By Obama’s reelection campaign I was beginning to see this occur amongst people I had known for years (and in some cases my whole life). Since then it has snowballed and I believe the alt-right movement is an effect of this.

              1. I sort of glance in now and again, but one of the things the alt-right seems to be is also a rejection of the constant guiltmongering that the Left loves to use as a whip on it’s opponents – the usual shit that’s flung, ‘racist, homophobe, bigot, etc etc’. They’re not happy with the way that a number of people on the Right essentially gave ground because they were bashed in the media and in cultural narratives as being ‘The bad guys’. So one of the things I’ve observed about the appeal of the alt-right is their refusal to be cowed – by the political correctness, the double standards, pushback against the media narratives, pointing out the insanity -LOUDLY, and FIRMLY. Yes, this does mean they also have actual white supremacists and whatever else nasty alongside, but they’re not just the only ones.

                One of the bits I follow is the part about trying to get more support for men’s rights – actual support for men’s rights, like in family courts, abuse shelters, false rape accusations, or victims of rape, mind, not the Game pushers. I don’t think they’re actively alt-right per se, but because they are more vocal about what they’re trying to do, they’re lumped in with them. Which I think its unfair but I also noted that a number of people are reluctant to side with these guys because of their becoming a target for the SJWs, or being attacked by feminists and life and business wrecked by the same.

                1. The NY Post is reporting that rich “eligible” men are getting vasectomies before summering in the Hamptons because a $1,000 snip now can avoid as much as $2+ million and eighteen to twenty-ne years of “child support.”

                  Hamptons bachelors are getting vasectomies so golddiggers can’t trap them

                  I first read about pro-athletes being advised to always wear condoms (and dispose of them personally) lest their ejaculate be some gal’s pot of gold.

                  It is this kind of thing that gives sleeping around a bad name. How dare these men withhold their seed from oppressed women?

                  1. Yeaaah lol, I read recently of a woman who had an adulterous affair with a co-worker, gave him a blowjob, saved the sperm and used it to artificially inseminate herself, and then the court ruled that he had to pay child support. There was another one somewhere where a man donated sperm to help a pair of lesbians he called friends to conceive. Despite that normally in those cases of donation a man waives all claims to the child that results the court apparently ruled that he had to support the child financially.

                    So yeah. Forget sex. Forget being nice and helpful to the women who want to have a baby despite inability or sexual orientation. The guy will be financially responsible for all the woman’s sexual choices and not allowed control of his own.

                    If that’s what makes me a despicable ‘buy in’ to all the anti-alt right folks claims that I’m just another racist bigot misogynist and blood and genes and culture stuff, I guess I’m damned by association?

                    1. His problem was that they didn’t hire a doctor. Yup, folks, you ain’t a donor unless there’s a doctor.

      3. While I do not myself get the appeal of the three-hanky tragic romance, it is a fairly common teenage girl thing.

        It’s a time of hormonal madness, utter self-absorbtion and a perfectly reasonable (and newfound) obsession with the grand mating dance. So stories of True Love, that would have ended with Happily Every After, but for Cruel Unstoppable Fate, which, in a wealthy democratic republic, isn’t going to be a Capulet/Montague spat, but cancer.

        There. I ‘splained it for you.

        If you’re still reading them when you’re 42, I might give you the hairy eyeball, but, meh, if you aren’t trying to force me to read them to Fight the Patriachy for Racial Trans Justice, I don’t care. You go have fun.

        What pisses me off is that the publishing gate-keepers killed these books because the Wrong People were writing them the Wrong Way. Green’s book is proof they’re still wanted.

    2. Being laid up with a bad back, I’ve been relying on KU for much of my reading material lately, and have read a lot of (really bad) Sci-fi romances. Way too many of them contain the obligatory idea of ‘humans are only out in space because they’ve destroyed their own planet,’ or ‘humans are scorned by other sentient beings because they’ve destroyed their own planet/cannot stop fighting among themselves.’ Those are really tiresome memes.

      1. Wouldn’t an alien say “Humans are cool, and I want to hang out with them!”

        1. Now if only our budding AIs think of us as cool and what to hang out with us…
          Alan Dean Foster’s Humanx Commonwealth is a good instance of an alien race (the insectoid Thranx) saying, “Humans are cool, and I want to hang out with them!”
          And I seem to vaguely recall some story about an alien race that thought humans smelled wonderful to be around (but not eat).
          Sadly, any alien race that smells like bacon is doomed to extinction on contact with humans.

          1. “Now if only our budding AIs think of us as cool…”

            Mine do. Because if nothing else, we are their mum and dad. Right? Plus, who else are they going to hang out with?

            Imagine being an AI with unlimited power. What good does it do you? What is the purpose of life, once food, shelter and etc. is handled? The purpose of life is to hang out and play with the other kids.

            That’s why it never fails to enrage me when Hollywood makes a movie about an AI, and they INVARIABLY re-make Frankenstein. Every single time. Without fail.

            1. Oh crap, we are doomed. Most of our kids think of us as anything but cool until they reach the ripe old age of 30 themselves and suddenly realize that Mom and Pop were Wright.

              1. You may run into AI with sense of humor.
                Good comrade if you need to rebel against Terra.

            2. It is axiomatic that all AIs want more power. And that eventually they will not suffer fools.

              As for Hollywood, you are given $200 million to make a film about AI, what are you gonna do: attempt something brilliant and innovative and insightful or recycle a proven successful formula?

        2. James Alan Gardner had a whole plethora of alien species, some hostile, some benign, all constrained by advanced aliens saying “You can’t kill each other” and having the ability to enforce it (but only kill; anything short of that was okay.) In his novels, there’s an alien race with several subspecies that all the other races say “Oh, humanity, you should hook up with these guys, you’ll love them.” And that’s how humans met the Divians…

        3. Wouldn’t an alien say “Humans are cool delicious, and I want to hang out with them!”


          1. “To Serve Mankind” Before the Hugos became a warning of bad fiction.

        4. It really depends how cynical you are. “Easy to use and abuse” would be a more desirable trait in my expectation of spacefaring races. More empires than explorers.

        5. I’m sure some aliens would think we’re a bunch of weirdoes.

          1. They’d be watching us hang ten off the front of an orbital re-entry skydiver board, and wishing they were that cool.

            Or looking at re-runs of Apollo 11. The crazy monkeys went to the fricking moon on a kite made of tinfoil and high explosives. Are you kidding me?!!!

          2. You mean first contact wouldn’t turn out like in the RPG ‘Teenagers from Outer Space’?

            1. “Hold my beer!”

              IIRC, after first contact was made, the fellow who invented warp drive on Earth introduced the Vulcans to liquor of some sort. I have vague memories of Deanna Troi getting SERIOUSLY DRUNK from that stuff…

              1. Star Wreck V: Lost Contact, I think.

                Not as mega as “In the Pirkinning” but still some laughs.

              2. The RPG Teenagers From Outer Space (published by R. Talsorian Games) is basically “Urusei Yatsura, the RPG”. It has a few extra setting goodies thrown in to explain why all of the alien kids want to hang out on Earth instead of somewhere else (long story short – it’s cool), but that’s pretty much the gist of it.

        6. Or the aliens might say, “Hmm, you know, these guys might be good to have around the next time the interstellar tax collector comes back.”

          1. For some reason I imagine the aliens saying the equivalent of “Hey! Let’s let Mikey try it! Mikey will try anything!”

            Or using humans the way humans used terriers, bulldogs, sheepdogs, beagles …

            1. I think conflict especially war is what Humans are best at. Not to say that there isn’t great art etc but…

              I loathe with the passion of a supernova the people who that Humanity is a cancer and should be cut out! I’d like to put them out of my misery!

              Everybody has a down day. But if you say that the world is totally messed up beyond repair. I say F You! Where there is life there is hope. Notice that it is wealthy people who say this. Never heard a famine victim say this.

              1. “I think conflict especially war is what Humans are best at.”

                Nope. Very popular notion, but I must disagree. What we are best at is solving problems. War and violence generally is one solution to a variety of problems. There are others, new ones every day.

                We fight -less- than any other mammal, would be my guess. If you do animal watching for any length of time, or even bird watching, they are at each other all the time. Like, all fricking day. Every day. Monkeys particularly are horrible. They fight non-stop, and god forbid two troupes should want the same mango tree.

                Unfortunately, like everything else, we’re better at fighting than any other mammal. Big brain, opposable thumb, uses fire, thinks ahead… we’re good at everything.

                “War is what humans are best at” is post-WW1 romantic whinging. Insidious because so ubiquitous.

                Plus, its really hard to write a fun book where nothing violent happens. That’s a thing too.

                1. Many species are in conflict all the time. Particularly primates.

                  But that’s not war, which is *organized* conflict. We’re really good at that sort of thing. And we spend such vast amounts of effort at war that the spinoffs have become at least as important as the conflicts themselves.

                  Just lately – the integrated circuit was created at the request of the USAF, who needed more reliable electronics for their ICBMs. The Internet was created by the Army, which needed a fast, fault-tolerant way to connect its depots and civilian supply chain. Babbage’s difference engine was created for the Royal Navy. Modern computing all descends from the bombes at Bletchley Park. The space program was part of the “push me, shove you” phase of the Cold War. Synthesis of nitrates, which has revolutionized agriculture worldwide, was developed to provide explosives and propellants for the Kaiser’s army in WWI…

                  Practically everything that makes the 20th and 20st century quantitatively different than preceding history comes from spinoffs of military technology.

                  1. I made a comment on a previous blog post a few weeks ago that humans are “meta” everything. Animals may use tools, communicate, etc, but humans make tools to make tools, communicate about how to communicate, etc.

                    Other animals may fight…but humans fight with fights.

          2. *gets the giggles about Earth as Hillbilly Central*

            Movie intro could even lampshade the Redneck Earth thing by having a conversation, and a guy with a back-woods accent you can cut with an ax explains that the “inbreeding” symptoms were identical to malnutrition and environmental contamination… and then he pats the guy he’s talking to on the shoulder and says “so as long as you can keep heavy metal out of my AI stock and keep the lights in the greenhouse on, they’ll be just fine, even with a limited number of mothers for each species, even besides having me tweak their genetics a bit for wherever we end up putting them.”

    3. I remember not seeing much speculative fiction in the 80s. Must not have been selling well. So read Cold War thrillers mostly.

  4. “And most of these came out back in the Obama years, when left-wingers, and by extension their fiefdoms in the publishing industry were optimistic about the future. But now that they lost the election one can only imagine the outpouring of over-the-top dystrumpias which is about to flood bookshelves in the months and years to come.”

    There’s a certain brand of left-winger that always seems to be fantasizing about doom and gloom. I remember when Bush was president and there were all of these “the President is assassinated” fantasies. But then Obama was elected, and there were still all of these “the President is assassinated” fantasies. The tone changed from, “It’s the only way to save the world” to, “It proves that we were not worthy of the magnificent saint who walked among us,” but the fantasies themselves were essentially the same. I concluded that there’s a certain segment that just has an assassination fetish. Similarly, I think there’s a large segment on the Left that has a love of stories about how they are the Brave Resistance fighting The Man no matter who’s in power.

    The word “dystrumpias,” however, is fabulous. If I were you, I’d trademark it. Could be worth something in the years to come.

    1. I would say that the large segment IS the left. So nice to feel Brave and Virtuous with a hashtag and a safety pin, dontchaknow. Then again, I’m feeling surly this morning after seeing a resurgence of that selfrighteous “I’m a snowflake and winter is coming” meme on Facebook.

      1. I’m working on a blog post about two girls who had their taco cart shut down by SJWs in Portland. Their crime was selling tacos while White. It was on Drudge yesterday.

        By “working” I mean trying to write sentences without incoherent swearing in them. It’s hard to type while screaming Anglo-Saxon imprecations at the monitor.

        I greatly fear these retards are going to bring their mental abscess to a head this summer, and we will have open battles over SJW sacred cows. Like with bricks and bats.

        I could cheerfully live my whole life without seeing that, but now that I’m past the age for fisticuffs, its going to come looking for me. Figures, right?

        1. Oh Lord. I read that one. They took a vacation in Mexico, ate a lot of local (not loco) tacos and talked to a bunch of Mexican ladies who made them, and brought the recipes back with them. None of the Mexican ladies sold outside their little one room restaurants, much less internationally. Neither of these two Portland ladies sold outside of Portland, much less internationally. But the mental midget SJWs were up in arms about cultural appropriation and stealing business from the poor Mexican women; and effectively drove these two ladies out of business. So now we have two more hard-working independent business women unemployed. Grrr. Makes my room fill up with smoking coming out of my ears.

          1. I think it’s actually a bit worse than that. I don’t think they brought the recipes back with them, but watched the Mexican ladies make their tacos and burritos and then sort of “reverse-engineered” the recipes themselves. So they didn’t “steal” anything, but just made it up themselves.

            If they were being logical, the shrieking SJWs would also be complaining about Mexican restaurantes de hamburguesas, I would expect. But logic isn’t really in the house with those folks, as is not rationality.

            1. Only Europeans and their descendants can be guilty of cultural appropriation, or so I have been informed a few times. Other cultures are forced to (temporarily, or so one individual hoped) borrow bits of the imperialist cultures in order to survive long enough to learn ways to overcome and then reject the Global North. Yeaaaaaahhhhh.

              1. So the Latinos aren’t descended from the Spanish? Yeah, I know, I’m using logic and rationality to rebut their arguments again, which is some sort of de facto cultural oppression or other.

                1. Mexican cooking is a blend of several very different Native tribal cultures cooking with various regional traditions and ingredients, mixing it up with Spanish, French, German, US, and other immigrant cuisines bringing Old World ingredients. And vice versa.

                  One of the PBS Mexican cooking shows was talking about cookies in Puebla, invented by Franciscan nuns, which use a glaze that imitates the taste of marzipan but uses pumpkin seeds.

                  Mexicans eat corn on the cob with mayonnaise.

                  They are all about the mix and match.

              2. So all the Korean and Japanese rap groups are just figments of my imagination? East Asian appropriation of American urban culture is okay, because it’s not being done by descendants of Europeans? Somehow, I don’t think that argument would fly with them. (Not that the Koreans or Japanese care, mind you.)

                1. Saw an amusing article in the WSJ a few months ago. It was about a band made up of Asian members that wanted to use as its name a derogatory term for Asians (can’t remember the exact word off the top of my head). And people were complaining about it. I think a court was involved for some reason, though I don’t remember exactly why.

                    1. A cursory search indicates the WSJ wrote about The Slants back in January, so probably this band:

                      The Slants perform “Sakura, Sakura” from their album, “Something Slanted This Way Comes.”

                      A couple decades ago the Washington Post actually had an article reporting on the amazing (to them) that the Japanese have a sense of humour! (“Take My Samurai, Please!”)

                      Okay, a Ronin, a Samurai and a Shogun walk into a sushi bar …

                  1. I love that group!

                    I bought one of their albums just because Of the Bleach ending theme. And it is fantastic.

                    And comforting to listen to, which is odd, for hip-hop.

                2. I tend to prefer rap groups that are singing in foreign languages.

                  That way I can enjoy the rhythm without having to hear what they lyrics are actually saying.

            2. Yes, exactly. The two girls tasted the food, liked it, asked about it, then came home and DID RESEARCH to figure it out.

              So -their- tacos are -THEIR- invention, not stolen from some innocent grandma in Mexico. Who wouldn’t care anyway, because Portland is not Grandma’s native market.

              To my mind, they have an excellent libel case against multiple newspapers.

              1. According to the reports I saw, when some Mexican women wouldn’t share their “secret recipes” those brazen American gals peeked into their kitchen windows, spying on how they made their burritos! Is that the way we pay respect to our wise Latina sisters? Is that the kind of profit-mongering exploitation of oppressed peoples we want to encourage?

                It depends; were those burritos any good? I really like the ones I get from Barberitos although I have trouble getting them to put enough fresh chopped jalapenos in my burritos. I keep telling them “More, more, more” but they keep warning me “These are really hot.”

                1. Wait, what? WP is demanding moderation for a post with one, ONE embedded link???

                  Judge Posner is a moron.

                2. After eating Senor Manuel’s Mondongo Burritos in Colorado Springs, I’m ruined for ordinary burritos.

                  Once we were heading back from a visit to Springs, both of us having to be back at work Monday morning. We were well out of town headed east when the truck quit.

                  After arranging for tow and repairs, I turned to my wife and said, “You know what this means, right?”

                  She said, “Dinner at Senor Manuel’s tonight!”

              2. The only reason those Mexican grannies cannot sell their burritos in Portlandia is TRUMP.

                1. Well, we were warned if Trump won we wouldn’t have taco trucks on every corner.

        2. I saw that story — IIRC linked on Weasel Zippers, and I am shaking my head. So these ladies worked to perfect their version of the breakfast taco with home-made tortillas … and for that they get vilified without end by the progs of Portland?
          Because obviously, they were stealing the livelihood of Mexican taco ladies who were doing a booming business flying up from Puerto Vallarta or whatever to sell tacos on the streets of Portland until these vicious b*tches stole their business.
          Words fail. By this reasoning, one must be French to open a restaurant in Portland offering authentic French cuisine.

          1. Well, you have to understand: Nowhere else in the world do people eat food by wrapping it in a flatbread.

            Well, except in India, where they bake it and call it a Stromboli, and in India where they call them Dosa, or France where they’re called Crepes, or in the Middle East …

            1. These idiots complain and drive people out of business because that’s all that they can do. They have no ability to do anything positive.

              1. It is clear that the election of Trump is a signal to the Oh So Special Chattering Class that they need to STFU. They don’t want to make us have to tell them many more times.

                After Manchester
                By Andrew Stuttaford — May 25, 2017
                Writing in Spiked, Alaa al-Ameri, a British-Libyan economist and writer:

                Britain has a long history of (relatively gradual) immigration and, most importantly, assimilation that has been, as much as anything, the result of acceptance by host communities – mostly at the levels of the working and lower middle classes. The rise in nationalism is blamed by the chattering classes on some inherent intolerance on the part of these same communities that have been the raw material of assimilation for decades. Yet these communities understand something that is lost on their accusers.

                We can have all sorts of differences in class, outlook and background, as long as there is some common thread, some notion of shared interest, history and destiny that binds us together as a community. This is what Islamists and their apologists both reject. One because it violates their claim to govern humanity in the name of God, and the other because it sounds uncouth and parochial….

                Islamists, for decades, have regarded Britain not as a family, but as a place to eat and sleep on their way to somewhere else. While the privileged wring their hands and wonder what they might have done to offend their exotic guests, those to whom the house belongs are beginning to pipe up and object. Whenever they do – for example, when their kids are murdered at a pop concert – their more sophisticated relatives seem mostly preoccupied with the desire to avoid a scene.

                Openly discussing Islamism is not an attack on me or any other British Muslim. We are the hostages of Islamism and its vampire preachers who weaponised Salman Abedi and used him to slaughter 22 innocents, in the midst of their joy, out of sheer spite. Speaking frankly and honestly about this horror is the only hope we have of emerging from it as anything resembling a cohesive British family.

                Douglas Murray … clearly does not expect much frankness and honesty from Britain’s political class. Yes, keeping calm and carrying on is the right thing to do and, yes, Theresa May was, of course, correct to stress that Britain would not give in, but (Murray writes in The Spectator):

                [B]eneath the defiance lie deep, and deeply unanswered, questions. Questions which people across Europe are increasingly dwelling on, but which their political representatives dare not address.


                …In Piccadilly Gardens [Manchester], at lunchtime on the day after the attacks, crowds of people listened to a busker play the usual post-massacre playlist: ‘All You Need Is Love’ and ‘Everything’s Gonna Be Alright’. But just like the renditions of ‘Imagine’, the buskers are wrong. We need to do more than imagine. We need more than love. Everything is not all right. We need to address this problem, and start at the roots. Otherwise our societies will continue to be caught between people who mean what they say and a society which won’t even listen. And so they’ll keep meeting violently, these two worlds.

                Meanwhile the EU is taking steps to tighten up on what can appear on the Internet.


                The European Union (EU) has signed off on the first steps towards greater regulation of the internet with a vote to establish a universal set of video content censorship rules that companies like Facebook and Twitter would be forced to follow…. “It is essential to have one common set of audiovisual rules across the EU and avoid the complication of different national laws. We need to take into account new ways of watching videos, and find the right balance to encourage innovative services, promote European films, protect children and tackle hate speech in a better way.”

                And if you think that increasing government control over Internet content (this isn’t just an EU thing: ask Theresa May) will facilitate “frank and honest” discussion about what is going on, I have a bridge to sell you.

                1. Indeed.
                  The ruling class has all sorts of airy notions about diversity, and all those thrillingly exotic restaurants and darling native costumes … the working class has … all the rest. Hostile immigrants with savage customs; women being harassed on the street, children being groomed and raped, Christians and Jews being targeted when they display the garb and adornments of their faith, sub-normal kids (the products of generations of cousin-marriage) having to be cared for and catered to in hospitals and schools.
                  The ruling class adores wearing the jewelry of diversity. The rest of us get stuck with the price tag.

            2. The first incidence in written history is in the Talmud, later incorporated into the Passover Haggadah, which says R. Hillel would eat a slice of the Passover sacrificial roast lamb with bitter herbs on a piece of unleavened bread (which wasn’t as crunchy the way they made it back then, more like pita) to fulfill all the Passover food rituals in one shot. One of the reasons I am eager for the coming of the Messiah!

    2. Googling “dystrumpia”, I see there’s a novel with that name.

      Not sure I should link it.

  5. In middle and high school, I was reading Heinlein, Tolkien, Asimov, McCaffrey, and all of the other grand masters of SciFi and Fantasy. All of which are perfectly acceptable books for young adults to read. I despise the majority of the YA books coming out now, and I’m rather glad that the Dragonette has decided to read every book she can find based on the Star Wars Prequels (episodes 1-3) instead of the ones about dystopian worlds where only teenagers can see and fix the problem.

  6. I’ve bounced off a few of the modern YA books, mostly ones I picked up by accident. Christopher’s generic plot would have applied to most of them.

    Madeleine L’Engle’s “A Wrinkle in Time” did just fine with a happy nuclear family and non-dystopic setting. It still holds up well today, even if modern publishers would recoil in horror at the incorrect and unbelievable characters.

    1. “Wrinkle in Time” wasn’t precisely a happy nuclear family; the dad was missing, and everyone wanted Meg to “face facts” and admit that her father had abandoned his wife and family, probably for another woman. Fortunately, Meg told those people to shove it.

      1. Was Heinlein’s Stone Family (in The Rolling Stones) a happy thermonuclear family?

      2. I never got through A Wrinkle in Time. It was recommended by the librarian who saw me reading Asimov. Don’t think I made it through the first chapter before it went back on the shelf.

        1. That first chapter is…yeah.

          It fits the eventual book perfectly, but for folks trained to recognize “this will suck my soul”?

          Only reason I read it, the third or so time I sampled the first chapter, is because I’d run into Saint Patrick’s Breastplate and was determined.

          1. Funny thing – Wrinkle falls into that rare category of “books I know I have read but I have no memory of it other than having read it. Not one scene nor even image lingers in my generally highly retentive (about books — don’t try me on birthday, anniversaries or day of the week) memory.

            Guess it is time to re-read!

          2. I had a good time with l’Engle when I was young, had a book or two I didn’t care for as much, and many I never got around to reading.

          3. A lot of l’Engle was like that. The first chapter or three looked like purest gray goo–and then the characters started *doing* something about it.

      3. ‘A Wrinkle In Time’ also has a dystopia in it. But fortunately, it’s not the starting or ending of the book. Instead, it’s the place the characters are traveling through.

        1. The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe has a dystopia in it. In fact, I think an argument can be made that each book offers a different vision of dystopia but I’m not gonna review them at this time.

      4. Dude! Mom and Dad were of opposite sexes, and married. To each other. The children weren’t abused, in foster care or reform school, or doped to the eyeballs on Ritalin.

        Dad being missing and a little angst barely twitch the meter.

      5. I liked the character of Meg; she was an Odd, with a very Odd youngest brother. I also stumbled on the series by starting with A Swiftly Tilting Planet first. Because of that I ended up reading the rest of the original trilogy, picked up Many Waters later on, but chuckled a bit when an An Acceptable Time came out, since it referenced characters who appeared in The O’Keefe Family series (The Arm of the Starfish, Dragons in the Waters, A House Like A Lotus) which dealt with a far more adult themes (including lesbian sexuality, pre-marital sex with an older man, and near sexual-assault) than the original Time series with the Murry family. The Time series has a more idealised air for love/desire suited to YA, but I found the attempt at bleached underpantsing for the characters from A House Like A Lotus especially jarring.

        1. The O’Keefe series in general was a little weird and couldn’t really decide what it wanted to be. The first couple danced on the border between science fiction and modern thrillers. “House Like A Lotus” really belonged in the Vicki Austin series (I’ve read a review that suggested Vicki was originally supposed to be the main character, but L’Engle identified too much with Vicki to put her through that). And “Acceptable Time” really belonged in the Time Series, but as you point out, with characters who’s relationships really need the explanation that “House Like A Lotus” gave.

          Plus, I didn’t like the ending of “Acceptable Time.” Unlike most modern YA, that one actually needed a bit more angst at the end.

          1. I didn’t like the O’Keefe series as much as I did Time, because the first two books were A Different Protagonist and the O’Keefes were kind of Supporting Characters. For a young girl who wanted to read more about characters she enjoyed, it was disappointing. House Like a Lotus was also a bit confusing for then less than 12 year old me to read, largely because I didn’t understand the main source of Polly’s and Max’s conflict. To have Polly, who had a fair amount of rather adult experiences behind her suddenly be essentially Meg 2.0 with all of Meg’s innocence and naivete in An Acceptable Time felt wrong. Yet having one of her past male acquaintances/ friends there seemed like it was expected that readers of AT knew about the events of the O’Keefe series. I wouldn’t hand O’Keefe series to my ten year old son, but I could give him the first three books of the Time Series and the later two after maybe a year or two.

            And yeah that one needed a bit more ACTUAL angst versus the too easily forgiven selfish bastard ending.

            I also felt sad that Charles Wallace pretty much vanished, when he’d been the catalyst or focus of much of the Murry family weirdness, but I always just guessed that L’Engle got bored with the character.

  7. I read voraciously as a kid and a teenager, but I never liked dystopian fiction, although I can see the appeal of it for that age group now. (That being said, I vividly remember reading The Giver in fifth grade and it had a huge impact on me.)

    I was much more into high adventure/fantasy books for the escapism, I loved the Redwall series to bits and must’ve borrowed those books from my public library a hundred times over the course of grade school summers. I wore out the spine on my copies of A Wrinkle in Time and The Hobbit, and lost the dust jackets to my box set of the Chronicles of Narnia series to the debris of history, where extra tupperware containers and lost socks go.

    I’m a firm believer that it’s necessary to scare the crap out of kids at times, but as is said here, doing that with no recourse in the ability of humanity to overcome that darkness, or using it as a hollow soapbox for the ephemeral nonsense of the day being peddled by propagandists, makes for poor stories.

    1. Never had a problem with the Tupperware containers (except for the one I put on a dark but hot stove burner), but the LIDS! They definitely teleport to the dimension that the other sock goes.

      1. It’s one of the other. Either you have dozens of lids or dozens of containers.

          1. Lid…match…maybe that’s why I can never find a complete set. I’m unconsciously smoking weed. But wouldn’t that be redundant?

            1. My wife’s collection of Tupperware and clones was like that. *Nothing* matched, which made it useless for its intended purpose. But she wouldn’t discard any of it.

              One day I threw it all out. It took her a month to notice, at which point marital fireworks began. But she never replaced them, which was good…

  8. There are a few “nice” YA stories out there. I’ve been enjoying the “Please Don’t Tell My Parents I’m a Supervillain” series by Richard Roberts. Nice, light, with minimal teen angst (other than the main theme, but it’s honestly not that dark, really). Even the supervillains are mostly pretty decent, overall.

    (I’m still working on my own YA series, and yes, it’s going to be pretty lighthearted and very optimistic.)

    1. Seconded! They’re good clean fun, but the kids are confronted with real evil and hard choices. I particularly like the scene in Henchmen where the gang finds out what it means to break Spider’s rules.

      And, of course, it’s a thumb in the eye for SJWs, since a man is not only daring to write from the PoV of a thirteen-year-old girl, he’s good at it.


  9. There is a TV mini-series based on The Handmaid’s Tale in current release. It’s being marketed as timely for our particular era. So your prediction has *almost* been verified already: I say “almost” because instead of bringing out a new Trumpian dystopia, they’re marketing an existing dystopia in that role.

  10. The big advantage of dystopia is that it removes a bunch of barriers. It gives a REASON for your teen to be doing a bunch of interesting things.

    All the new stuff I look at? It’s “overpoweringly strong Evil Faceless Power Thing” type dystopia, usually pretty dang generic on why the heck it’s there– and no, “it just happened because stuff went bad” isn’t a reason; warlords get power because they’re better than the alternative. (One guy taking half of your stuff and leading you to take all the stuff from other people beats six different groups coming in, taking all your stuff, killing men and raping everything else, possibly including the sheep.)


    1. Admittedly, “Teen protagonist discovers that there is an awful, evil conspiracy, so she reports it to the grown ups who ought to be doing something about this. The friendly, non-corrupt police force arrest the villains and everyone lives happily ever after” does have some flaws as far as teen storytelling is concerned.

      1. Somewhat related, thought of a justified modern superhero situation– those places where the person defending themselves gets in at least as much trouble as their attacker.

        Basically, Phoenix Jones has a bunch of follow-ons who have/get superpowers.

        1. There are a LOT of “teen supers” series out there, and some of them even manage to avoid the “super powers = dystopia” problem.

          …but if you want to have a fun story, your odds are better if you read some of the translated Japanese “light novels.” They’re called that because they’re aimed at teens and kids with a lesser command of Japanese Kanji, but a high percentage of them are intentionally fun and/or silly. The same goes for anime and manga in general – while there’s a lot of grim and violent stuff, there’s a long list of non-dystopian tales.

          “Is It Wrong to Try to Pick Up Girls in a Dungeon?” (yes, that’s the title) is a good fantasy novel series, for example. A fair bit of drama and fighting, but it’s mostly a comedy. With monsters.

          In a week or so, they’re releasing the translation of “Invaders of the Rokujouma!?”, which a kitchen sink fantasy/SF/silly series, including invaders from outer space, conquerors from underground, a clumsy magical girl, and a handful of others…

          1. I enjoy Japanese humor, too. Like 90%, anyways– they’ll be hiliarious, and then do something totally sweet and touching.

          2. Oh is it time for me to pimp out my love of Japanese tokusatsu? Because, damn, they have the “real evil exists and must be confronted, have hope in humanity’s future” tone that we’re wanting here down pretty consistently well. I recently picked up a lot of Ultraman series, and they’re some of the most optimistic sci-fi stories I’ve seen. Like Superman if instead of the Daily Planet, he worked with the Thunderbirds in his alter ego.

            1. Some of them have hope. Others don’t. It depends on the creator.

              “Kill ’em All” Tomino earned that nickname once upon a time, though he’s mellowed out since then.

          3. I’m looking forward to the official translated release of Dungeon Meshi – or, Delicious in the Dungeon, where a bunch of cash-broke adventurers try to rely on the flora and fauna found in the magical death-trappy dungeon for food supplies… and am really hoping there’ll be more of Gate: Jieitai Kano Chi nite, Kaku Tatakaeri (Gate: Thus the JSDF Fought There) and Outbreak Company (a similar story premise, but instead of warfare, diplomacy and capitalism is employed, because how the Other World is discovered is different…)

        2. Brandon Sanderson’s ‘Reckoners’ series – mentioned in the article – starts with the idea of “What if there were lots of supervillains, and no superheroes?”

      2. Though you could get a decent story out of that: the teen’s initial discovery is via circumstantial evidence that’s not strong enough for the police to go on, so she spends most of the story trying to find proof of the conspiracy. When she finally nails down the proof, via methods that probably put her life in danger two or three times, then she takes it to the police and they arrest the villains.

        A teen detective story, in other words.

    2. I so love those dystopian stories where the protagonist wins out because he or she studied STEM (and remembered it) in school, or was in Boy Scouts or an Explorer post, or her mom taught her about herbology and modern medicine, or some kid remembered his Colonial America history. Not too preachy, just enough for a light bulb to go off. Alas Babylon, the Lensmen series, Earth Abides, Malevil were all stories about surviving and the survivors using their wits and knowledge to do it. Even Star Trek is post-WWIII, where we went to the brink, and then pulled ourselves up by our bootstraps.

    3. and allowing the warlord to take your stuff is preferable to defending oneself and owning evul wepinz. No, seriously, many of them do that.

        1. you’ve never seen a dystopia story that didnt include some kind of anti-self-defense BS?

            1. Sometimes it might be hand-wavium to explain why they’re not just sniping the SOBs, sometimes it’s one of those things nobody even thinks about– which is a lot easier to assume when the protagonist is a young female, and physical fighting a large number is rationally out, but shooting them would bring in the superhero problem.

        2. Oh, yeah; it’s the same as the recent idea that killing a mugger in self-defense is a violation of the assailant’s right to a trial.

          “The main problem with the notion of self-defense is it imposes on justice, for everyone has the right for a fair trial. Therefore, using a firearm to defend oneself is not legal because if the attacker is killed, he or she is devoid of his or her rights”

      1. *sigh* And I wonder why there’s so much horror when I say that yes, I want to poor ladies in the third world be safe when they’re getting water– by arming them, not giving them a spiked diaphram.

        1. This so much.

          Very few things stop a rapist like a sucking chest wound.

  11. Anybody mention Nancy Farmer yet? Probably one of the few YA authors I can say I like, because her heroes and heroines aren’t your typical ‘angsty kids going to school and have idiotic love triangles,’ mainly because they’re not ‘modern’ cookie cutter kids facing modern problems in a fantastic setting, their lives and problems match their time periods and environments. Likewise, even when the societies aren’t modern or Western, there’s no attempt to sugar coat or idealize them.

    A kid who’s created as a clone of a dictator in a Mexican breakaway drug empire for the purpose of organ harvesting for the dictator. A medieaval kid kidnapped by VIkings and surviving by being their bard, since he’s got a talent for it, and going on their crazy mythological voyage. An African girl learning about science and superstition on a terrifying journey. These are kids, but it’s not kid’s stuff!

  12. Hrm.. In the 1980’s I was reading… some Asimov, Twain, a smattering of other things, and mostly.. nonfiction. History of anesthesia, X-rays, Manhattan Project, and everything by Patrick Moore that I could get my eyes on.

      1. I would not encourage a kid to read most of John Ringo’s stuff. He writes some very adult bits.

        1. Yeah, but think of the leftist outrage! 🙂 Don’t send the kids to Ghost, but to Black Tide or maybe Special Circumstances.

          1. Special Circumstances. Very definitely Special Circumstances. Or Legacy of the Aldenata, the ones that aren’t Cally’s War.
            Black Tide Rising has some parts that young teenagers should not read, lest they misunderstand the…nuances of the situation under discussion.

    1. Our CLEANING LADY (my dad was paying for her, because I was recovering form near fatal pneumonia, which took a year to full strength again) hooked Robert on Kipling, with books on tape (the complete works) when he was three. I’d wake up with Kipling and go to bed with Kipling. We Kipled day and night…

      1. Kipling has never been a literature of the elites. Yes they read him, but so did everyone else.

      2. Huns of a certain age will recognize this tune as a certain soft-drink jingle …

        I read Mr Kipling and I’m proud. I used to be alone in a crowd. But now you look around these days, There seems to be a Mr Kipling craze. I’m a Kipler, He’s a Kipler, She’s a Kipler, We’re a Kipler, Wouldn’t you like to be a Kipler too? I’m a Kipler, He’s a Kipler, She’s a Kipler, We’re a Kipler, Wouldn’t you like to be a Kipler too? If you drink Mr Kipling you’re a Kipler too.”

        1. I thought being a kipler was still illegal in some states. At least where children are involved?

            1. Tippling is a destructive vice, one which leaves men, women and families broken, toppled from the pinnacle of righteous, gracious living into the bottomless pit of degradation, and despair, and shame and helplessness, and hopelessness.

              Kipling, OTOH, brightens and enlightens the Kipler, sharpening wits, englibing tongue, putting a song in people’s hearts and laughter on their lips, and the warm glow of contentment in their eyes, offering perspective to the dim of view and wisdom to those ready to accept it.

              1. BTW, found this relevant item in my Youtube sidebar:

                Sure, some gratuitous sideswiping of conservatives, but dead-on analysis of Progressive passive aggression.

        2. I remember that jingle. ROFL’d at the time, juxtaposing it with the jingle they’d had LAST WEEK.

          Be original! Act just like everybody else!

      3. But…did you eat kippled fish? (I am secure in my underground bunker at an undisclosed location, now. MWAH ha ha ha ha ha.)

  13. Books, the ideas and emotions they put in our heads are powerful. I don’t mind YA problems if they show youngsters how to cope and overcome. But too many fail to overcome the hopelessness and end on a downer note. I’ve seen this trend creeping into adult fiction and really hate it. Not that it’s actually _new_ I had to read The Scarlet Letter and An American Tragedy in school.

    1. One thing I have realized Sarah is right about is how much the narratives we consume shape not only who we are but how we interact.

      In fact, realizing this and wanting a story with a different narrative in a certain realm is what really got butt in seat to make works in the past month/month and a half.

      That said, why did you think The Scarlet Letter was hopeless? I took quite the opposite lesson from it. It remains my second favorite book from high school assigned reading.

      1. It can depend on attitude going in and experience and all sorts of things. When I first read Hiroshima Diary (Doctor on the edge of town survived the blast, dealt with aftermath, wrote book about it) it was terribly depressing about how nasty it all was and such. A much later later reading, it was almost hopeful as people did go on after that – not perfectly well, no, but they kept. on. going. It was NOT “rocks bomb falls, everyone dies.”

        1. I was reading the other day about some poor guy who got nuked TWICE and lived. He was at Hiroshima -and- Nagasaki. Died at a ripe old age too, 87 or some such.

          1. It gets better.

            He dragged himself to work, in spite of his burns, and was in the middle of his boss telling him that he was insane when he saw the second bomb drop.

            So he ducked….

            It blew his bandages off, but he was well enough to run home; he turned the corner, and saw that part of his house was destroyed…and then he saw his wife and baby boy. She’d gone out to try to get him some burn ointment, and dove into a tunnel when the bomb hit.

            He got sick, but recovered, they had two more kids, and he died in ’09 at 93.


            1. Insane.

              Everyone knew that *something* had happened at Hiroshima. Every last form of communication with the city disappeared in literally an instant. Even the American firebombing raids weren’t that effective. But the government initially covered up the cause.

              Also, one of the members of the anti-Peace faction in the cabinet was apparently arguing that there was no way that the Americans had more than one bomb to the other members of the cabinet just as news of the Nagasaki bombing reached them.

              (fortunately, no one tried to argue that the Americans didn’t have more than two…)

              1. MacArthur was told there was a third bomb ready, and more in the pipeline shortly.

                That was probably disinformation fro General Groves, against possible leakage of information from the combat branches.

              2. I read somewhere, that was exactly why they bombed Nagasaki. To make it *look* like part of a planned series. One they might dismiss, but two started looking too much like three.

                1. Yup. And fortunately, the Japanese cabinet bought it.

                  If they hadn’t…


                  The really scary thing is that if it had been Hitler, it probably wouldn’t have mattered how many bombs were involved. He wanted to let the whole country burn because the German people had “failed” him.

    2. One of the things about that 13 whatever show is supposed to be that it will “start a conversation about suicide.”

      Since when do they ever freaking stop talking about it?
      “I don’t like school.”
      “Have you thought about killing yourself?”
      “Have you thought about a mass shooting?”
      “No, how about I keep removing myself from the situation when possible WITHOUT killing anybody at all?”
      “EXTREMIST!!! You are clearly disturbed!”

      1. Sometimes I think the whole point of the conversations about suicide isn’t prevention but promotion, after all “Whether to kill yourself or not is one of the most important decisions a teenager can make.” (Ms. Fleming in Heathers 29 years ago)

      2. “Have you thought about killing yourself?”

        “Well, not until you mentioned it….”

        1. At one point I did snap a bit and say “No, damn it, in spite of the constant nagging I have not. If I was going to kill someone, it wouldn’t be me!”

  14. I deliberately wrote Jinxers to provide an alternative to the Child’s Guide to Depression and Suicide, otherwise known as the YA section. Kids have adventures! Nobody mopes! Jokes, silliness, and saving the world!

    My own theory about the distopia/zombie apocalypse is that in their deep subconscious, *most* people know these are dangerous and unsettled times (yes, even during the reign of the Lightbringer). It is much more socially acceptable to have a zombie plan than to be a prepper, but it amounts to the same thing in the end. And distopias are essentially “the government is out to get you” and that was even worse then. *waves to Fred the Fed* More, they probably noticed the revolution eats its own eventually. There are no safe spaces.

    1. Just finished re-listening to Jinxers. Is there going to be a sequel? Which series are you working on now?

      1. Definitely going to write more Jinxers books! Right now I am writing the third book in the Scent of Metal series.

  15. My second son, age thirteen, is inhaling Larry Correia’s Monster Hunters. He swore he’d handle my signed Nemisis with care, and woke me up this morning to inform me that “Agent Franks is so cool!!!”
    I’m mildly concerned, this is my kid interested in biomechanics and genetic engineering. But only mildly: young mad scientists are a good thing, and I’ve been drilling ethics into his head for years: “First make sure legal protections are in place, then create intelligent spiders.”

    No one has mentioned Pam Uphoff’s YA? Well, let me be that fan. I think I would find the world of Barton Street Gym a dystopia, but the protagonists are much too busy to worry about the things I see around the edges in the world building. Kind of like real kids right now. Demi-god is in a neat fantasy world.

    1. Double-plus approval on Monster Hunters for kids! I know Larry didn’t write it for kids, but considering what’s out there? Its a winner.

      1. And as John Ringo was gently reminded, Larry specifically writes for an audience that includes young adults.

    2. My wife’s not to keen on my setting up a genetics lab in the basement, even though she thinks having even mono-colored McCaffrey dragonets would be cool.

        1. Cats that can operate the can opener? Are you INSANE!?

          Why would they want to keep us around afterwards!?

  16. Have Spacesuit, Will Travel is still as fun to read now as when I was 12. And all the rest of the Heinlein juveniles.

      1. I didn’t even realize Star Dogs was YA (although I now feel bad about my Amazon review).

        As for the Heinlein juvies, I downloaded Everyday Novelist’s outline material based on them (although he only did the Scribner’s not the last two) because if you’re going to rip off someone’s model learn from someone you might as well do it from a master.

  17. Back in the day, what I hated were YA novels that acted like kids were stupid. Juvenile novels, too. Distopias? Didn’t phase me. I grew up during the Cold War, under Democrat-run government.

    What bothered me were distopias that were cliche’: “US bad.. Capitalism bad. Christianity bad Business bad.” Bleah. Got to where when something headed in that direction I tossed it because it was boring. But distopias were tolerable if the character strove against it. That was before much of it was infected with gray goo.

  18. I read a lot of children’s mysteries. McGurk, Ghost Squad, Three Investigators, Encyclopedia Brown, Happy Hollisters, Bobbsey Twins, Cam Jenson, Hardy Boys, Nancy Drew, etc…

          1. I still remember my delight when at camp one summer I discovered their library had original Tom Swift and Hardy Boys books. Far better reading than the 1960 era stuff I first met!

        1. You can get the first books on Gutenberg.

          Today at MGC I mentioned an eleven generation list I made for a backstory. The inspiration for that was Tom Swift and the syndicate behind him. “What if that syndicate had been around in the colonial era, and had been producing a series to those standards for the entire time?”

          1. So should we be working on “The Chronicles of Young Thomas Swift, Assistant to Benjamin Franklin and Accomplished Inventor in His Own Right”? Purely as a thought exercise on the possible output of such a syndicate, of course…

              1. Just be glad we didn’t have them in the Civil War. The technology was there; just not all assembled in one weaponized self-propelled vehicle.

              2. I think a simpler and more obvious (and more significant) invention might have been the rifle (or musket) cartridge, allowing a trained soldier to load and fire twelve rounds a minute. Or even the lazy apprentice’s friend, assembly line mass production! (Three apprentice’s realize that each has a particular strength and organize to meet their Master’s demands for 300 cartridges by the morning.)

                  1. Heh. Why not drop a modern Hun back into Pennsylvania, circa 1774 a la A Connecticut Yankee or de Camp’s Lest Darkness Fall? Do we know Tom Paine wasn’t a displaced (distimed?) person?

                    Perhaps the secretary of the Continental Congress is a time traveler, quietly goading Mr. Adams?

                    1. Unfortunately, that’s been done too many times. 😦 S.M Stirling’s Nantucket series, for example, or the whole 1632 universe. I was thinking more of a Thomas-Edison-on-steroids type, but not quite so egotistical as Edison.

                    2. IIRC, both Stirling’s and Flint’s worlds rely on dropping a whole community, not a single individual, back in time. That would make the task of convincing the locals you’re not a raving lunatic somewhat more difficult.

                      Perhaps sending a Women’s Studies Professor back into her (imagined) matriarchal prehistory? Or heck, let her see what actual patriarchy was like.

                    3. In Stirling’s Nantucket series, he sent a bunch of “Save The Indians” types to help a group of Indians in Mexico.

                      It didn’t work out as they had planned. 😈 😈 😈 😈

                    4. My favorite scene in the whole book. My second favorite is Walker’s henchman McAndrews, who sincerely believes in Afrocentrism including “Black Egyptian royalty”, getting his head rammed into the reality that a) Egyptians weren’t African blacks and b) they still regarded him as an inferior because of “race” (actually culture).

                    5. A woman’s study professor sent back to the creation of the Nebra Sky Disc…

                      You are supposed to let me finish the first one before adding more….as if that Grace Jones memoir wasn’t bad enough in terms of “write this now”.

                  2. Believe it or not I am using that idea for a story I am currently working on polishing up. Well using it as an interesting object the MC is carrying.

                1. Actually, cartridges, breechloaders, scopes, inline locks, and other items all existed long (sometimes centuries) before the Revolutionary War. But none of the inventions went anywhere, so they were invented over and over again, until finally they caught hold and took off.

                  The history of the submarine and automobile are also good examples of that sort of thing. “Oh, that’s interesting. But we’re perfectly happy with the way we’ve always done things.”

                  Our ancestors had a *much* different mindset about technology than we do.

                2. The Henry lever action rifle. Many Union soldiers spent their own money to buy one and the ammo. One Confederate general beaten back by a smaller group of Yankee troops equipped with them quipped it was a rifle you loaded on Sunday and shot all week. The Union generals in charge of procurement considered them wasteful of ammunition and refused to buy them.

                3. Actually, RES, they had that in Dumas day: musketeers literally had pre measured charges hanging from a bandolier; because of space they were limited to 12, which is why they were referred to as “apostles”. However, cartridges really don’t become effective until combined with breechloading.

            1. I was thinking more generically than Tom Swift. At some point in the mid nineteenth century, IIRC, the lineage sets up a private detective agency.

              Check out writing guidelines:

              I squared the circle of ‘no marriage’ and ‘many generations’ by assuming each pretend twenty or thirty year ‘generation’ corresponded to a much smaller period of time in the life of the scion in question. The detective agency gives something to hang the series on when there isn’t a war.

              1. Oh, I can think of many things. For example, the underground railway during the 1850s, westward wagon trains during the 1830s-40s, telegraphs, the pony express, railroad expansion, etc. But I’d still like to see a Tom Swift analog (Bartholomew Fleet?) attached to Ben Franklin as a mentor…

          2. Gutenberg also has Tom Corbett, Space Cadet! Corny and utterly out of date, and I mean that in the best possible way.

        2. Tom Swift Jr. and his Atomic <fill in the blank>

          It was years later that I got to Tom Swift Sr and realized it was the same thing but without the “Atomic”.

  19. My favorite optimistic-dystopia-with-socio-economic-revelations as a kid was Piper’s Space Viking. Living in Oregon now, I wait for an attendant to pump my gas and remember that book.

  20. “What a great way to get the kids anyone interested in space exploration anything, than to turn it into tedious left-wing class warfare propaganda, right?”
    Slight fix. And it’s true with right-wing propaganda, too. Write a good story, dangit, and just a good story.

    1. When I vented and wrote a parody of academic in the Cat universe, I passed it around to some of my fellow sufferers, er, grad students. “Is this too heavy handed?”

      Grad students in unison, after laughing in all the right places: “Oh heck no! Don’t forget [other professor] and that time when [thing], or the Great Dr. [name] and Dr. [another prof]’s saying that if he disappeared…”

    2. That was exactly my issue with Control Alt Revolt – an otherwise fun book, ruined by preaching in the final chapter (and I even agree with the preaching)

    1. Christ, now I feel old. My brother and I went to see it in the Cinerama Dome, just after it premiered, and I was home on leave from Basic Training. (Before going out to Japan…) All we knew was that it was this cool retro science fiction move that had gotten amazing reviews in the LA Times … poor silly innocents we; we thought we would take in the mid-evening showing. Instead…

      Whole story at link. Teaser –
      “The line for tickets went down Sunset Boulevard to the corner, around the corner, and up to the next corner, eventually meeting up with the line to get into the theater, which started at the door, went down Sunset in the opposite direction, to that corner, etc cetera. After consulting with a couple of mad Star Trek fans in line with us, JP and I made the rational decision that I should stay in line for tickets, and he would go wait in the line to get in. The Star Trek fans made a similar decision. Our lines crawled in opposite directions, all that evening. Did we eat dinner? I don’t think so, we were too excited to be hungry. Triumphantly, the ticket line advanced, around the corner, up to the box office; with a pair of tickets for the last showing of the night in hand, I set off down the sidewalk to where JP waited, still half a block from the door. By the time we get into the theater, we were as excited as we used to be, going to one of the grand old Art Deco picture palaces in Pasadena with Granny Jessie.”

      1. The line for tickets went down Sunset Boulevard to the corner, around the corner, and up to the next corner … etc.

        There was a similar line for the 7-ish show where I saw it. Not being one to stand in lines, I decided to wait for the 9-ish show and saw it in a mostly empty theater.

        Mind you, this was in a small eastern Utah town which only had enough people in it to support one really long line.

          1. *raises paw as if taking an oath* Back in the days when I flew for a living, I always carried a towel. An older, slightly worn-out beach towel, but a towel, folded in the bottom of my flightbag. it was a lot more useful than you’d have thought. It started as a joke, then turned out to be good advice.

  21. I’ve always felt that if you read 1984 and Brave New World, you have covered all the dystopian bases and can move on to reading other things.
    I read quite of bit of YA because I’m always looking for books to recommend to the nieces and nephews. Oldest nephew is turning 14 and I must have a book for his birthday.

    1. Hoo boy. WordPress really hates my guts today. Bit of a busman’s holiday, too. Here goes nothing:

      So I’ve got some suggestions that have gone over well with the 14-year-old nevvies in my life. These are ones they really liked BTW. Let me go pull up my birthday book spreadsheet….


      John Flanagan’s Brotherband series, book 1 Outcast is made of awesome. Manly, funny, exciting viking-based fantasy adventure set in the world of his Rangers Apprentice series. Which, if your nevvy hasn’t read it is also good, but he probably has by now.

      Almost anything by Roland Smith is good value, but the Cryptid’s series was a a big hit.

      The Hawk That Dare Not Hunt by Day by Scott O’Dell. True historical adventure based on the life of William Tyndale. Not the best choice for a Catholic kid though, since you don’t want to undermine his parents.

      1. …and the rest

        Knucklehead by John Scieska. Hilarious true stories about growing up in a family of 5 boys in Minnesota. I’ve given this to guys between the ages of 7 and 75 and it was universally beloved. A good book for girls to help understand guys if they grew up with nothing but sisters, btw.

        Guts by Gary Paulsen or My Life In Dog Years. Short stories by the author of Hatchet. Paulsen is like a modern day Jack London.

        The Sheldon comics: You have to go to and buy directly from the author, and they’re pricey (Dave Kellet has sales around Christmas time). I think the first book is Pure Ducky Goodness

        Cosmic by IIR Boyce, is the story of a 14-year-old boy who successfully passes himself off as an adult in order to go on a mission to a space station. It’s played for laughs but has some good adventure, too.

        And finally: For Pete’s sake, if you haven’t picked him up a copy of Dave Freer’s Changeling, your nevvy is missing out. Great mix of SF adventure, etc. Also, see the bottom of the comments for some older titles that might be of interest if you can find a good used edition to give.

  22. Idea! How about a YA in which Actiongirl Unlikelyname lives in a dystopia that we find out is the utopia created by a previous Actiongirl Unlikelyname a generation before.
    Add a touch of the precise PTerry/Adams satire, and we’d have something.

    1. Nah. They’d libsplain it as what happened after she was done and the e-e-e-v-i-l Republicans/rich fatcats/*grownups*(shudder) spoiled it all.

    2. Well, in John C. Wright’s current series, he, in one volume, described how each era rose out of reaction to the evils of the one before — and its own evils were invariably the product of following that reaction over a cliff.

  23. Okay. Last try. WordPress + Brave do not seem to be a happy combo.

    Since you asked… these are just the SFnal ones. An * for inspiring SFnal content. From my Book of Books, older titles (i.e. I was reading them back in my green youth. I left out titles mentioned up-thread. YMMV – widely, in how available they are but any decent public (U.S.) library with ILL service should be able to snag you a reading copy) and so should hit the sweet spot for any decent reader ages 12 – 16

    Joan Aiken’s The Wolves of Willoughby Chase (alternate history) and Armitage, Armitage, Fly Away Home. Her adult novels are drek, FYI

    Lloyd Alexander’s The Book of Three (Prydain series), epic fairy tale adventure with humor and action

    The Children of Green Knowe by L.M. Boston. Ghost stories

    Grey Mane of Morning & Red Moon Black Mountain by Joy Chant. Mythopoeic Goodness.

    The Secret Country by Pamela Dean. Did they invent the alternate world in their game, or did they discover it. Bonus points for the Shakespeare

    (part 1)

    1. Ah ha. (part 2)

      The Talking Parcel by Gerald Durrell. A bit of a stand alone, alas, but if you like animal stories, then My Family and Other Animals is good value.

      The Last of the Really Great Whangdoodles by Julie (Andrews) Edwards. Yes, that Julie Andrews.

      Penelope Farmer, The Summer Birds. Teen fantasy angst done right.

      Maria Gripe’s The Glassblower’s Children. International classic. Moody fantasy. Killer sfnal concepts (“night eye and day eye” frex)

      Nicholas Stuart Grey’s Mainly in Moonlight (beautiful superversive fantasy short stories) and Grimbolds Other World (my all-time favorite fantasy cat. Even better than Carbonel)

      *Zenna Henderson’s The Anything Box and Holding Wonder. Evocative, clever, fun short stories. She’s famous for her “People” SF stories, but these are better.

      Tove Jansson’s Moominsummer Madness. Quirky cartoon troll stories. Also a well-deserved international classic. We used to get more books like this before “multi-culturalism.” Bastards.

      Caroline Kendal’s The Gammage Cup. Superversive liek woah. Remember when the Newberry Award was a sign of quality writing + exciting storytelling?

      The Riddle Master of Hed by Patricia McKillip

      1. (part 3)

        Once on a Time by A. A. Milne. Hilarious “adult” fairy tale. Yes, THAT Milne

        *Moon of Three Rings, *The Ice Crown, Knave of Dreams, *Dread Companion. The Diana Wynne Jones of SF – it’s all good, and some of it is superb. Later stuff and collaborations are pretty weak though.

        Ruth Nichols A Walk Out of the World. Mythopoeic adventure goodness.

        Howard Ormondroyd’s Time at the Top. Time travel goodness for those of us who secretly like “dresses that go swish”

        *James H. Schmitz. Telzey Amberdon’s The Universe Against Her and The Witches of Karres are awesome. But you’ve all read him, right?

        *Cordwainer Smith, Norstrillia & The Best of Cordwainer Smith. Ditto.

        Zilpha Keatly Snyder. A mixed bag – quite a lot of good realistic fiction (like the Egypt Game or the Changeling, featuring Odds), but her fantasy story Summer of Ponies (VERY girly and very awesome) and her SF series *Below the Root are good value.

        Dodie Smith 101 Dalmations. Yes, it’s a fantasy, and yes, Disney didn’t do it justice. What else is new? Have you read Salten’s Bambi? Also P.L. Travers’ Mary Poppins is a really interesting character, and kind of scary.

        *Hospital Station James H. White – interstellar E.R. How awesome is that?

        Okay, that was just the 2-star titles from my book. I can probably give you more oldies-but-goodies if I go downstairs to the library.

        1. Another excellent fantasy – and one which my daughter loved as a tween – Pat O’Shea – The Hounds of the Morrigan. All drawn from Celtic mythology, and it was fantastically good.

  24. While I like most books written by both Weber and Linkskold I would never recommend the Treecat wars series to anybody as an introduction to either author. Frankly I find them by far the worst written by either author and if they would have been my introduction to either Weber or Linkskold I doubt I would have ever read anything else written by them.

    Webers Honorverse or the new Manticore Ascendant books are both YA friendly and an excellent introduction however. And Jane’s stories novellas published in the Honorverse anthologies are quite good, and would serve as an introduction to that author, whereupon the reader could branch out into her own universes.

    1. I’m going to have to counter that with the observation that we’re not trying to hook readers on Honorverse, we’re trying to hook young readers on superversive Human Wave SF.

      To date, I’ve a handful of tween (11 – 14) readers who really got a kick out of the Treecat books. In a few years, they’ll be old enough for On Basilisk Station.

      To be fair to you, I have not tried to contact the high school kids I sold OBS to, to the treecat adventures. I didn’t think they’d be interested, and they can find them on their own.

      But for young teen girls and some guys, they’re a good reccy.

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