Reading and Relevance

I come from a strange time and place.  Most science fiction people are “strange” in that most people who read science fiction in the US are considered a little strange.  At least I’m reminded of this every time I go out in public, and mingle with normal every day people.  If they discuss books at all, it’s the latest bestseller.  In a gathering of women, you might get some love for romance.  But our stuff?  That’s coo-eee, out there and “why would you want to read that.

That’s fine.  I don’t expect science fiction and fantasy will ever be more than a bleep in the total number of book sales.  We’re natures little oddkins.  It’s enough for a writer to make a living, though, particularly in indie.

And yeah, it’s weird to be a woman who writes this stuff.  Not within the field so much.  We’ve been in the field from the beginning, we’ve shaped it from the beginning, and frankly geek-boys love any woman crazy enough to like the stuff they do.  The little girls (even those who are technically male) who try to pretend otherwise are sad, silly little things trying to make themselves seem brave and important.

But there are or were fewer women in the field, at least if the field is science fiction (fantasy is different and with urban fantasy, paranormal romance and urban fantasy, we’ve come a long way from that time my Mother in Law thought I had invented the writing of fantasy for adults (no, really.  She wanted to know why any adult would read my Shakespearean series, and enjoined me — for the thousandth time — to “write for children, because they’re the only ones with a mind as open as yours.”  (snort, giggle gasp.)

Look, it’s baked in the cake outside geek culture, okay.  Nine times out of ten when it slips out I write, in meeting a perfect stranger, I get asked “romance?”  and when I had little kids trailing along “Children’s books?”  Or even — my favorite — “Do you draw the pictures yourself?”  I’ll be honest, I think the last one is the result of “lady, you have an accent.  There ain’t no way you can write in English for grown ups.”  (The twin to this is “what language do you write in” and if my kids and husband aren’t around — it embarrasses them mortally — I answer with “Mandarin Chinese, but then I have to pay a translator, because I don’t speak it or understand it.”  I’ll note in all the times I’ve given this answer, the person just nods.  No one has gone “Uh?”  Sigh.)

But I think most women who write get the “romance of children’s books” particularly if they’re married and/or totting kids around.  It’s not exactly that people are heinous in assuming this, either.  Kris Rusch says stereotypes exist because they so often fit reality, and this is definitely one of those.  Most women who write write romance (look up and down a bookshelf someday.  And many women start writing because they want to tell stories to their kids. (Me, I find writing for children incredibly challenging, probably because my own children were… well… odd.)

There is absolutely nothing wrong with this.  It’s just betting the odds when meeting a stranger.  If it’s a woman writer, you assume romance, if it’s a man writer you assume thriller.  Most of the time, you’ll be right.  Sure, if he’s particularly cerebral-looking, you might assume science fiction, but look, there are so few of us over all, that we’re… well, not a good bet.  And women — even though we outnumber men in the field now — haven’t fallen into public consciousness as “science fiction” yet.  (Which is why the general public buys that there is ‘orrible discrimination against us.

But I come from a weird time and place.  That I read and wrote at all (I don’t mean being able to, but enjoying it) was very, very weird.  It will surprise no one that grew up in a Latin culture or is close to one, that I could be studying for finals, and/or doing translation work, and mom would feel free to interrupt me at random, for any reason or none  at all, but if I were embroidering or doing crochet — something I did very rarely because I didn’t have time, and which was a hobby (still is) — she’d tiptoe around me, turn on lights if it was getting dark, and refer to it as my “work.”

And don’t go judging her particularly harshly either.  She made her living designing and making clothing.  In her lived experience being able to sew a neat stitch or figure out the drape of a fabric made much more money than being able to recite ancient history.  (She made more money than dad until she retired because of one too many tight deadlines, and heart attacks.) Also, there might have been some idea that being able to do hand-work was feminine and attractive.  At least I can’t figure out why my classmates (my friends were odd, okay) were working on their trousseau from age six.  I’m not good at reading undercurrents if they don’t fit in my view of the world.

Anyway, reading and writing were frivolous useless things.  And reading science fiction was despised by all my teachers from elementary school on.

My elementary school teacher gave me Alice in Wonderland and collected fairy tales, I suspect to keep me off the silly stuff.  Other teachers, from middle school on, were more blunt.  “Why do you read that trash?” they’d ask, behaving exactly as if I were romances, with pictures of fainting ladies.

More than once, I shocked teachers by doing “free work” on Ray Bradbury, and once made my Techniques of Literature teacher revise her whole opinion of the genre by translating short stories.

But the point there is that I knew how to play them, and I knew what it took to make them respect sf/f: relevance.  The writing had to have some relevance for our current age, meaning it had to be a “critique” of some social aspect or other.

Granted, that has been a strain in the field since the field existed (I wonder how much of it was to justify spending time dreaming about other worlds.)  But there were others.  The “what if” strain can be a warning or a critique, sure.  BUT it can also be “wouldn’t it be neat.”  And particularly in fantasy, it’s often the joy of discovering a new world.

Discovering new worlds is why I read science fiction and fantasy.  Oh sure, some psychologist, given this information would mutter about an overly restrictive environment, and escapism.  Sure.  But what he’d miss was that EVERYWHERE is too restrictive, and the escapism is the joy of running free beyond the limits of this all to solid flesh, the limits of the place and time we happened to be born into.

An interesting thing — under the “this might be useful” — is that years ago, my husband found himself as part of a working team that performed miracles.  They were handed the projects other people had utterly fallen down on. And they pulled it off, time after time.  And one day they found out they all read — preferentially — science fiction and fantasy.  Perhaps it is a matter of flexible minds, and flexible minds like to flex.

What I know, though, is that both in reading and writing, I’m well beyond the “this must be relevant so people will respect me.”

As social critique, science fiction and fantasy sucks.  All the disasters we predicted — and no, not because we predicted them — from overpopulation to the machines taking over, are not only unlikely, but in some cases impossible. All the things we tried push — even the best of us — like the United Nations, have proven stupid schemes that only people who create worlds in their minds, and think people would act rationally all over the world, could believe.

In general had our schemes been adopted, we’d do more harm than good.

But as worlds to dream on, even the stuff we know is impossible, now, we’re champion, and we change peoples minds into more flexible ones, better able to cope with fast technological change or different perspectives.

So there is more merit, sure, in all this playing in worlds that never existed.  But, let’s not fool ourselves, ladies, gentlemen, dragons and sentient mice, mostly we do it because it’s fun, because we enjoy running free through a panoply of endless possibilities.

And honestly?  That’s all the justification we need.

Sure, if mom read my books (she doesn’t read English) she’d probably think this wasn’t real work.  Sure, she’d still turn the light on for me, when it’s late at night and I’m exhausted and just doing crochet to unwind.  But you know? At a little past the half century, I don’t need mom to approve of my occupation.  Or my professors.  Or anyone, really.

When I want to send a message, I write one of these posts, or an article for PJMedia.

When I want to dream and share my vivid dream with other lost souls who like exploring unlikely and impossible worlds, walking down streets that never existed, and tasting flavors not of this earth?

Then I write fiction.

309 responses to “Reading and Relevance

  1. c4c

  2. Christopher M. Chupik

    “and the escapism is the joy of running free beyond the limits of this all to solid flesh, the limits of the place and time we happened to be born into”

    Alas, some people want the genre to be no-escapism, mired in the trendy problems of Current Year.

    • They can gaze lovingly upon my middle fingers. Hey, look, I have a matched set.

      • So ordinary. 😉
        Mine aren’t. It’s amazing how unsymmetrical they can become with ganglion cysts, and scars from moving tons of rock by hand.

        There was a crooked man …

        • What kind of house did you build?

        • Ganglion cyst on fingers, represent! They keep telling me it is common, especially on pencil bump fingers, but you are the only person I have run into who also has one.

          So does yours swell up and shrink down at different times of the month, or is that a woman thing?

          • Are you sure it isn’t Osteo Arthritis?

            • Yeah, actually got it tested and diagnosed about ten years ago.

              The amusing thing is that they can come back even after surgery, or they can just disappear forever on some random day. Harmless but weird. No real treatment. So doctors leave them alone unless they get huge and awkward.

          • Here’s one. No matter how many times I smash the thing, it still comes back.

          • They don’t grow and shrink, only grow, slowly. 3 on left hand, little finger distal joint and second joint, one on middle finger distal joint. Both distal ones were subjected to the Bible-thump method of reduction and remain as small (1mm) raised lumps. 2nd joint one is about 7 mm across and 3 mm high, unresolved. 1 on right thumb, between the distal joint and the nail bed, about 1 mm across and 3 mm high which resembles more a mucous cyst rather than a ganglion one except it started at the joint and has grown/migrated toward the nail rather than growing in situ.
            Zero symptoms of osteoarthritis, although I am smack in the middle of the age range (50-70) for those cysts to occur.

            The one on the thumb is the most annoying. Haven’t decided to drain that one myself or bug the doctor enough to get it done during a visit. Not going to do the big book smash treatment on that one! Mere draining doesn’t remove the cyst capsule, nor close the fistula between the joint and the capsule; so reoccurrence is common with only draining. Would not like accidentally tearing it open while out rock wall building.

            Apparently the historic Bible-thump treatment causes enough trauma rupturing the capsule to also close the opening to the joint, so recurrence isn’t as frequent; but that kind of trauma to the fingers and joints can have detrimental side effects that the old wives tales never seem to mention.

        • Jay Maynard

          Or simply bare-handing ground balls…

      • I tried not to stare but my seat mate on a recent flight had a really odd right hand. A thumb and one finger. Probably lost the outside of the hand in some accident. We carried on a normal conversation before taking off. But every time his little pincer hand came into view the sympathetic pain in my hand was intense.

        • We had a guy come to our house to do the estimate for a piece of work who had a deformed hand (a fused finger or two.) He started off by joking about it to the kids—he’d obviously had long practice with people looking at it oddly and had the routine down to make it unimportant.

          • as a bicycle mechanic I had deep satisfaction of doing modifications to bikes to allow those who had deformities or damage to ride safely. I always led off after introduction with telling them my dad has a missing index finger on his right hand from a milling machine accident.
            This tended to open them up and got them to better show me what they already could do so I could figure out what we needed to do.
            The guy with thalidomide damage trying out a mountain bike was happy to get both brakes on one side for his good hand, but when I did it for his road bike we changed it back, he had ridden so long dealing with it he almost crashed in an emergency stop when he went back to the old habit. It was likely the first bike with under bar thumb shifters! Well, actually, it was a set of modified stem shifters and we put them just inside the brake lever, and allowed him to easily shift both gear sets with his good hand. This was before indexed shifting.
            We rebent bars, modified brake and shift levers, etc.

            • I recall, long years after reading the column, of a pundit’s tale of being on a hospital tour. Everybody was shuffling along, speaking in hushed voices and averting their gazes from various medical indignities. Then the group was joined by a governor — I forget the name, possibly John Connally, Jr. — who wasn’t at all shy. This governor would walk into a ward, spot a patient, walk up to the bed ans boom out a greeting and ask, “Wow! What in hell happened, fella?”

              By his normalizing the situation, addressing the elephant in the room, he put patients and others at ease, allowing them to acknowledge and talk about the situation. It clearly was a kindness he was performing by not pretending there was nothing noteworthy there.

              • I have a cellist friend missing two fingers on his right hand. Genetic. Not a big deal. Very good cellist.
                He’s not shy about it, teaches Suzuki, which means kids before they’ve learned filters, but boy did he and his wife fret during her pregnancies! Neither kid inherited it.
                If he can hold a bow, so can you, my dear student, so relax already!

              • (precocious) Little kids or those with Downs are also excellent at addressing said efalump

        • My millionaire uncle had just a thumb (actually, transplanted big toe) and stub little finger on his right hand. In fact, that’s kind of how he became a millionaire. He was working in his organic chemistry lab by his lonesome one morning, violated a couple of his own safety rules, and ended up blowing off the fingers on his hand. He decided that was God’s way of telling him it was time to retire. He sold his lab to a consortium of Chinese investors, sold his house in Palo Alto (for a tidy profit), and moved to Washington to be closer to daughter (my millionaire cousin) and grandchild.

  3. If I want relevant, I read history, especially environmental history. I write fiction because of ‘What if…” and “Once Upon a Time” and [translating from German] “If they haven’t died, they’re living still today,” which is the Grimms’ version of “And they lived happily ever after.” Fiction lets me play. I’m too well trained to play with my history writing.

    OK, aside from puns in the title. That’s actually become part of the environmental history field, having puns in your paper titles.

    • The greater the need for escape, the greater the need for something far out. I unwind best with a Discworld book.

    • Puns in the title is a grand old tradition in many academic fields. The title of my dissertation starts with “The Code of Many Colors:” An excellent paper (not one of mine!) on techniques for analyzing usage of the “eval” statement in JavaScript is titled “Remedying the eval That Men Do”

      And there are many many more…

      • I have the phrase “Sacrificial Lambda” that’s just begging to be used in some sort of way. I suspect an article about some form of Lisp or Haskell/ML, or maybe something about radio frequencies, would be a good fit…

    • richardmcenroe

      “What If…” “Once Upon a Time…,” or, if you’re John Ringo or Tom Kratman, “Now This Is No Shit, There I Was…”

      • Christopher M. Chupik

        ” . . . standing on the corner, minding my own business . . .”

      • I found out this great obsolete word, “whilom.” The definition of the word I saw is that it is related to “erstwhile”, but then I saw it in the original Canterbury Tales and realized it is, in a single word, the equivalent of “Once upon a time.” “Whilom there was a man…”

  4. Thanks for this post. I thought I was the only one. Also how I met my husband. WorldCon 2000 in Chicago.

    • I met my wife playing Dungeons and Dragons back in 1985.
      Who says girls don’t play RPGs?

      • My dearest friend is a comics and science fiction addict (mentioned in the order in which he met them). His wife played Dungeons and Dragons when the it first came out. He never did.

      • Me too. Sadly, she has amtendency toward multiple personality, so she needed to stop, but we still share fantasies and worlds and isn’t-that-neats. And we’ve been married for more than three decades.

      • I met my ex-wife at SCA fighter practice.

      • I started playing back in the 1970s, and I remember when I roller-skated over to the DM’s house that first time, his mom opened the door, and stared at me in surprise.

        “There are girls who do this now?”

        So, yes, girl table top RPG-ers are and were rare. Though then (and now) they’ve been nothing but welcoming to the girls who join the fun.

        • I find the whole ‘gamers are guys’ thing rather amusing as I think most of the gamers I know are not guys.

          • I spend time at the local game store. So sadly, I have to state that based on my observations, most gamers are guys by a pretty large margin.

            But there’s still quite a few women who show up to play.

            • Local abnormalities apply, but yes. This place is a local abnormality, a place of Odds. So are game stores, for different reasons.

          • Depends on how you define “gamers”. That word now usually applies to folks sitting on their couch playing FPSs. It’s them everyone thinks is “all guys” now.

        • … they’ve been nothing but welcoming to the girls who join the fun.

          Then there are those who insist on making it all about their issues.

          Sarkessian! *spit*

      • Christopher M. Chupik

        “Who says girls don’t play RPGs?”

        SJWs.

    • I am on the board of a company that runs fan based conventions. Real conversation between one of the original founders and two of the board, one male, one older female:

      Founder to woman: How was your drive up?

      Woman: Fine, except for the area surrounded by the anorexic Daleks.

      Male: Hunh?

      Woman: The area under reconstruction.

      Male: No. Daleks? You really are a geek!

      I later determined that this male had thought that any older female involved in the convention world could only have become involved because they were somebody’s mum. He was once again surprised when learned that the first con she had attended was a comic con before he had been born.

      • Oh, hell, I TOOK my mother to a Fantasy convention. One of the last Darkover Cons held in Delaware. The year Anne McCaffrey was GOH. She loved it.

        • The Daughter takes her mother to science museums, aquariums and sometimes to historical museums and the mountains. She splits the cons she goes to between her parents.

          • The older son takes me to museums, zoos and aquariums.

            • She presently has plans to take her mother to the Great Smokys for the eclipse and a couple days in the mountains.

              The whole family likes zoos, but the sun doesn’t like us, so we have to be careful when we visit. We recently found out that the zoo in ‘the city with a very small mountain within it’ has Pallas Cats. Three kittens were born on March 21 and two have survived. We hope to visit them sometime soon.

            • richardmcenroe

              Have to tell you my story of the Flashing Walrus sometime…

              • We took my Step-Mother’s Youngest to the Philadelphia Zoo when she was six. Two Galapagos turtles were ‘getting busy’. Um … yeah …

                • IIRC, it was Oscar Wilde who had an excellent work-around answer for a child upon observing that special activity and asking “What are they doing?”: “Well, the one is blind and the other is showing it where to go.”
                  Or my own answer to my daughter (aged then about 7) when faced with a terribly explicit teenage sexual encounter in the movie “Fast Times at Ridgemont High.”
                  “They’re amusing each other, darling – shut up and have some more popcorn.”
                  I swear, the ability to think fast on your feet is one of the most necessary requirements for parenthood.

                  • I swear, the ability to think fast on your feet is one of the most necessary requirements for parenthood.

                    Absolutely.

                  • I swear, the ability to think fast on your feet is one of the most necessary requirements for parenthood.

                    Especially when a 3 year old son quietly comes into the parental bedroom late at night when said parental units are busy trying to create a new little brother….

                  • SheSellsSeashells

                    I remain in awe of the woman I saw with inquisitive toddler at the farmer’s market. Checking out in the midst of a dazzling display of rock candy: “Mommy, what are THOSE?” “Decoration. Here, want some of the strawberries we bought?”

                    • I was about three when my uncle got engaged. To get me excited to come to the party, his mother-in-law-elect promised me there would be candy. And (the family story goes) she was terribly confused at my stated disappointment at not seeing any candy—“There’s plenty of candy!”—until my parents explained they’d been using the word “candy” to refer to grapes.

                      (They learned not to do that with my younger siblings..)

                • I’m afraid I said, “They’re doing sexual reproduction, dear. We’ll get to the euro-genital tract eventually.”

                  Of course, we live in the country side, and I was blessed with backyard ape who shares my interest in natural history.

                  • As opposed to the SE Asian one. AutoCorrect–!

                  • I haven’t had any version of The Talk with my nine-year-old, but I suspect he knows (through his scientific reading, including books on how bodies are put together) all of the physical basics already. His dad gets to prime him on the emotional ones.

                    • SheSellsSeashells

                      I am probably the only person in my immediate area to have to have an early Talk because of Arthurian legend. Kid was listening to a song about Mordred and things…progressed.

                    • “If they’re old enough to ask the question, they’re old enough to hear the answer.”

                    • It depends. Sometimes the question you *think* the kid is asking, isn’t the question you end up answering….

                      And you don’t realize the mistake until after the conversation is over…

                    • We waited on the talk until puberty started, then did a weekend “retreat” to have the whole business out.

                      The mechanics of the business were just folded into the general science education: anatomy, basic biology etc. I had a theory that the mere nuts and bolts would be squicky but interesting and easy to cover that way before hormones and impending adulthood made it personal. So far, so good on our end.

                    • My late, semi-lamented, father thought allowing me to thumb through Playboy and Penthouse at 10 and 11 would substitute for “the talk.”

                      That was until he realized that I was actually reading them cover to cover…

                    • I’d read a family member’s biology and medical texts. Talk about taking the mystery out of The Talk. I think I was in late grade school when Discover magazine had a detailed article about how HIV was spread, including detailed anatomical drawings and medical illustrations. That answered a whole bunch of questions I had not asked yet.

                  • This would have suited The Daughter, although she was much older by the time she encountered such. It was otters and we were surrounded by a couple of families with a number of children. The older were boys who were snickering. The youngest, a mix, were curious and asking questions. The mothers were embarrassed. One mother told the questioning youngsters that the otters were fighting, and tried to get them to move along.

                    It was all I could do not to start singing a Harry Belafonte’s song, The Man Piaba, but I am not, by nature, that cruel:

                    (This song is dedicated to all the parents
                    Whose children have reached the age of curiosity)

                    When I was a lad, just three foot three
                    Certain questions occurred to me
                    So I asked me father quite seriously
                    To tell me the story about the bird and bee
                    He stammered and he stuttered pathetically
                    And this is what he said to me

                    He said, The woman piaba and the man piaba
                    And the dan dan call back lemon grass
                    The lily root, gully root, belly root, huh
                    And the famous ‘Granny Scratch Scratch’

                    It was clear as mud but it covered the ground
                    And the confusion made me brain go round
                    I went and asked a good friend of mine
                    Known to the world as Albert Einstein

                    He said “Son, from the beginning of time and creativity
                    There existed the force of Relativity
                    Pi R square and minus ten
                    Is rooted only when

                    Hey, the solar system in one light year
                    Make the Hyden Planetarium disappear
                    So if Mt. Everest doesn’t move
                    I am positive that it will prove

                    That the woman piaba and the man piaba
                    And the dan dan coal back lemon grass
                    The lily root, gully root, belly root, huh
                    And the famous ‘Granny Scratch Scratch’

                    It was clear as mud but it covered the ground
                    And the confusion made me brain go round
                    I grabbed a boat and I went abroad
                    To Baden Baden, asked Sigmund Freud

                    He said, “Son, from your sad face remove the grouch
                    Put the body up on the couch
                    I can see from your frustration
                    A neurotic sublimation

                    Hey, love and hate is psychosomatic
                    Your Rorschach shows that you’re a parapathatic
                    It all started with a broken sibling
                    In the words of the famous Rudyard Kipling

                    Hey woman piaba and the man piaba
                    And the dan dan coal back lemon grass
                    The lily root, gully root, belly root, huh
                    And the famous ‘Granny Scratch Scratch’

                    Well, I travel far and I travel wide
                    And I don’t even have me self a bride
                    All the great men upon this earth
                    Have confused me since my birth

                    If the woman piaba and the man piaba
                    And the dan dan coal back lemon grass
                    The lily root, gully root, belly root, huh
                    And the famous ‘Granny Scratch Scratch’

                • Memphis zoo, polar bears. They had moved around behind some rocks for some privacy. But there is a viewing area there.

                  As we were leaving (after laughing at what we had wandered into), a teacher was guiding her small charges (probably somewhere between K and 3) in that direction (instead of down to the underwater area). She was warned, but didn’t grasp our warning. We simply whistled as we walked away, thinking “Wonder how she’s gonna explain that?”

            • So long as he doesn’t try to leave you there as one of the exhibits.

  5. Reminds me of an essay by Mario Puzo. His illiterate Italian mother raised a family of readers, but until The Godfather was made into a movie she just flat refused to believe he was a writer, because writers were aristocrats.

    • Mom is not illiterate, and she used to listen to programs while working late at night that were the equivalent of the history channel. Thing is that she just didn’t see “utility” in it.
      I’m not allowed to tell anyone in the village what I do for a living, because that would sound like deranged bragging. Shrug.

      • When the yard ape wants to be a writer, I help as I can, because it’s a really practical element in the skill stack (like public speaking or cooking) but I’d be happier if she chose something more entertainingly impractical, like one of the sciences.

        • SheSellsSeashells

          I do freelance ad writing, and let my Kid see all the nuts and bolts thereof to demystify it for her. Actual BOOK writing is an ambition of mine, but my general approach is “you never know what skill will be useful, so acquire as many as you can”.

    • My mother believes that I’m a writer, but the rest of the family (daughter excepted) kind of writes it all off as one of those amusing and pointless hobbies that I tinker with. Sigh.

    • I was lucky – my Mom (poor Depression era kid who lived in the movie theaters and the library) made sure I had plenty of fairy tales and SF adventure. My dad’s the one who handed me Dune as a teen. And his mother got me all the juvenile Heinleins that she’d read to my dad and his brothers as kids – she claimed she threatened to trade them in for a Willis if they misbehaved.

    • Mom reads and enjoys my stuff. Dad’s glad I’ve found a second income stream. His imagination doesn’t work in the fiction track, interestingly enough, so he doesn’t read my fiction. He does read my non-fic.

  6. BobtheRegisterredFool

    romance of children’s books

    We don’t teach children that monsters exist. They do, and the children already know. We teach them that the monster doesn’t automatically and always win.

    Insert pastiche of a ‘man of the sea’ speech from some anime.

    • And the monsters were not under the bed or in the closet. I know, I looked. Those were my spaces.. (so, am/was I a/the monster?). But I’ve said that while I did not mind school as such, it was the people in it that made it hell… yeah, there are monsters. They are (or at least look exactly like) people.

      [Wednesday Addams ‘homicidal maniac’ costume…]

      • More like a man with a suit, paper and a pen, who’s not afraid to use them.

        Old Scratch would be proud.

        • I know your point, alas. But there is also the truth that I find someone wearing both a tie and sunglasses to be someone I do not trust and whose word I do not truly take. That is, the more… dubious.. late night convenience store customers are apt to be taken with fewer grains of salt.

    • OR children’s books. Meh. Typo.

      • But a very nice typo. I’d probably put it in your top 10. Or at least top 50.

        • Since I mostly use the alternate definition for romance, I didn’t even blink. Good children’s books, IMHO, should evoke “a quality or feeling of mystery, excitement, and remoteness from everyday life.”

          Of course, the powers that be have dictated that they should now only evoke “a quality of dissatisfaction, victimhood, and despair in everyday life.” Meh.

          • “Of course, the powers that be have dictated that they should now only evoke “a quality of dissatisfaction, victimhood, and despair in everyday life.” Meh.”

            Of course. How else are kids supposed to relate to books unless it is a perfect mirror of the kids’ real lives (or at least the real lives of those who are chronically depressed or being beaten on a regular basis, because all other kids are just deluded into believing that there might be some happiness in the world).

          • BobtheRegisterredFool

            The definition I was thinking is something I’ve seen in Japanese media. “Romance of men” or a “romance between men” that isn’t homoerotic, yaoi, or bara. Assuming I’m interpreting it correctly. I’m not sure if Otokojuku is meant to be read as filled with homoeroticism, or entirely void of it. I enjoyed reading under the assumption that it was entirely void, and almost entirely void of any sexual interest in general.

            • “almost entirely void of any sexual interest in general.”

              Sometimes there is no subtext, and I wish people with juvenile minds would accept that. (Insert rant about how our culture looks for sexual subtexts in everything, and how that’s doing serious damage on a widespread level.)

            • I was choosing a book to read from a list of books for my English class, and decided to read “The Moonstone”, which was described as possibly the first mystery. When I found it in the library, though, it was called “The Moonstone: A Romance”…which gave me pause…but I read it anyway.

              Not a bit of “romance”, as we are familiar with the term today, in it. But it *did* have a lot of “quality or feeling of mystery, excitement, and remoteness from everyday life”. And it was a good read, too.

              • The original romance genre was chivalric romance, in which it meant “work written in the vernacular.” From this is derived the meaning of tales of extraordinary events and unusual people, and the contrast of realism vs. romanticism.

                More here:
                http://doyleandmacdonald.com/genre2.htp

                • I clearly remember how startled I was when, having given my Mum her first Louis L’Amour novel, she returned it with a comment about it being a fun romance.

                  Then I pondered briefly what properly defined a romance novel and cheerfully agreed.

                  • L’Armour had a romance in just about every novel and many short stories.

                    • ro·mance
                      /rōˈmans/
                      noun
                      1. a feeling of excitement and mystery associated with love:
                      “in search of romance”
                      2. a quality or feeling of mystery, excitement, and remoteness from everyday life:
                      Oxford Dictionaries

                      Chivalric romance
                      … stories about marvel-filled adventures, often of a knight-errant portrayed as having heroic qualities, who goes on a quest, yet it is “the emphasis on love and courtly manners distinguishes it from the chanson de geste and other kinds of epic, in which masculine military heroism predominates.”
                      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chivalric_romance

                    • John Prigent

                      A good definition in modern terms, yes. But the original meaning was simple ‘a work of admitted fiction’, as distinct from things like the Chanson de Roland that were supposed to be true accounts of things that had happened.

                    • Still covers everything Louis L’Amour ever wrote, don’ it?

                    • Admittedly, perhaps not some of his boxing stories., and almost certainly not notes to the teacher asking that Beau be excused from school to go range riding with his pa.

                    • Wikipedia is wrong.

                      The Matter of France had very little love interest — witness that Roland never even thinks of his betrothed when awaiting death. Even French writers admitted that the Matter of Britain was the one with love. (Also with the advantage that while many people were descended from the figures of the Matter of France, and more claimed to be (even from the fictional ones), everyone knew that King Arthur left no descendants, so those romances were not automatically preloaded with political significance.)

      • BobtheRegisterredFool

        I just really like the concept.

    • We teach [children] that the monster doesn’t automatically and always win.

      Well, we used to teach them that; nowadays with the flood of grey goo we seem to be trying to teach them the monsters do always win, or that even if the monsters don’t the cost of rebuffing them is to become a monster yourself.

      Happily, the most popular childrens’ book of recent vintage not only taught us that the monster doesn’t always win but that the path to victory is finding and defeating that element of the monster within yourself. Also, that even the nastiest piece of work is capable of redemption, and that it is best to be careful about snogging your best pal’s sister.

      • “We seem to be trying to teach them the monsters do always win, or that even if the monsters don’t the cost of rebuffing them is to become a monster yourself.”

        Either that, or that you’re probably a monster already, and it would be better for the world if you would just give up and let the Swamp Thing eat you.

        And then we wonder why kids never read any more…

    • John Prigent

      What exactly is the difference between ‘Once upon a time, long ago and far away’ and ‘A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away’? Is Star Wars a fairy story for young children?

      • I would say, “Pretty much, yes.” but… I have a decided bias.

      • No difference IMO.

        In many ways the original Star Wars was a “fairy tale” for adults.

        • Star Wars is definitely a fairy tale. That’s why Disney’s new movies are bringing back the fans that the prequels lost. (As I said to my husband when The Force Awakens came out, “This feels like Star Wars!”) Disney understands fairy tales quite well, thank you.

          Rogue One is closer to a war story, and it almost does have the “no shit, there I was,” kind of opening.

          • Rogue One, grittier than most Hollywood science fiction. Without the background of the rest of Star Wars, it would have made a good tragic horror; rather than a heroic tragedy it really was. Everybody dies. End of that story, no sequels. Next stand alone please!

      • BobtheRegisterredFool

        The difference between a fairy tale and a sea story is that a fairy tale starts “Once upon a time…” and a sea story starts “No shit, there I was…”. Why aren’t there more sea stories for children.

        • Because then they swear like sailors and it gets tiresome washing out their mouths. Also, I need the Fels Naptha for the laundry.

      • And “Once upon a time” is not quite so standard as that. . . .

    • “Fairy tales, then, are not responsible for producing in children fear, or any of the shapes of fear; fairy tales do not give the child the idea of the evil or the ugly; that is in the child already, because it is in the world already. Fairy tales do not give the child his first idea of bogey. What fairy tales give the child is his first clear idea of the possible defeat of bogey. The baby has known the dragon intimately ever since he had an imagination. What the fairy tale provides for him is a St. George to kill the dragon.” Chesterton

  7. On social commentary:

    I think SF & F can be marvelous vehicles for social commentary because topics can sometimes be safely explored in these genres that would otherwise cause people to flip. Zootopia, a fantasy, comes to mind, with some scenes that would not go over well in standard drama. I have an alt-history SF story that would be pretty nasty said straight out, but if it can gel, may have people consider some disturbing, yet non-literary, things.

    Predictive-wise, eh. Part of the theme song of Mystery Science Theater 3000 comes to mind:

    “If you ask how he eats and breathes,
    And other science facts,
    Then repeat to yourself ‘It’s just a show
    And I really should relax.”

    Sometimes SF/F takes itself really too seriously. Yes, Hugo, I’m looking at you.

    • On the other hand, I keep on running across demands for Relevance that assume that the topic of the moment is Relevant, but questions of love, wisdom, honor, truth, or any other topic of perennial importance aren’t.

      • Yes, one of the failures of modernism (and post-modernism) is to ignore such ‘romantic’ things. Yet, they are the essence of the strength of man.

  8. … most people who read science fiction in the US are considered a little strange.

    A little strange? A LITTLE!?!

    Girlie, I’m old enough to remember when reading SF marked a body as being as strange as the B.E.M.s on the book jackets.

    • I used to keep my Burroughs books face down because of the covers. I attended a missionary school for middle school.

      • One of my most prized possessions is a handful of 40-year-old protective sleeves designed to wrap around a standard mmpb and hide the cover — it largely consists of two pairs of cardboard panels bound together with a durable vinyl-like facing with a plastic tongue attached to one pair; each cardboard sleeve slides over the book covers with the tongue connecting them. I keep intending to make fresh ones for the new taller, narrower books. These not only shield the books’ fore and aft covers from view, they protect them and the spine from the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune.

        If I wanted to talk about what I am reading I wouldn’t be reading, would I?

        • OTOH, I was at a park with the kids and a book and another mom looked at what I was reading and asked if I read another author in the field (I had), and then related how she had been a surrogate big sister/housemother to that author when that author’s family had been briefly homeless. Of course, I wasn’t actually reading the book at that moment, so the conversation was nice and not an interruption.

      • SheSellsSeashells

        Christian schools run by churches at about an 8 to 6.5 on the 1-10 scale of crazy, here. I caught LOTS of flak for my reading matter. Now the people who like my reading matter give me flak for my religion. Can’t win, I tells ya.

        (Then there was the fit that got pitched when my mother found me reading Stasheff’s Warlock books. Oy.)

    • I miss the bug eyed monsters.
      They wanted to kill us and take our planet. (And sometimes inexplicably kidnap our women.)
      We wanted to kill them to stop them from doing that.
      Simple and elegant.
      Nowadays, we’re supposed to sympathize with the monsters more than man. I don’t like it.

      • Nowadays, we’re supposed to sympathize with the monsters more than man.

        I wish! Avatar and [I gladly expunge from memory what other recent entertainments] want us to identify with the BEM and share their fear of humanity as threat.

        • And it’s sad because understanding that there are monsters and there are reasons for their actions is a huge lesson. “Just for the ‘evulz'” is more untrue than true.

        • Dear Brain: Wake up. And no, we are NOT pursuing ‘Bug-Eyed Mobsters’ to some logical (as if!) conclusion.

          • Oooo. Bug-eyed mobsters. That’s good!

            • You like it? You can have it!

              • Is that a Wayne & Schuster reference?


                Because it sure sounds like a Wayne & Schuster reference!

                • If it is, it is very indirect, as it is a line I heard on occasion from Pa. Now, as to where he got it from… that is open to speculation.

                  • Watch the embedded video — the line is a recurring gag.

                    Wayne & Schuster were a Canadian comedy duo who set the record (IIRC) for guest appearances on the Ed Sullivan Show. Highly amusing for certain twists of humour. The referenced skit might be subtitled “Julius Caesar as written by Mickey Spillane.” Then again, it might not be.

                    When I was the merest sprat the family had an album of the duo featuring four of these skits and it played a large part in flavouring my sense of humour, so consume with caution lest you end up like me.

                    • It is entirely possible that Pa adopted it from that source. It wasn’t until relatively recently that I realized that his odd, occasional remark of “..and, they are mild.” was from a late 1960’s Pall Mall cigarette commercial. And he, rather vehemently, did not smoke.

            • Been done.


              Nobody does it better.

              • Very good.
                But then it’s the striving to do better that occasionally advances the Art, is it not?

        • Avatar: Dances with German Shepherds in Space, with Blue Alien Cat Girls.

          Lots of eye candy to distract you from noticing the lack of anything resembling a coherent plot, or even economic plausibility.

          • Distracted Decoherence.
            Hrmm.. there’s a nonsense[1] quantum computing paper in there somewhere.

            [1] The trick is being able to determine if it is or not.

          • Space elves. They pop up in Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets too. Very slim, very tall, kind of bluish with pretty light shows and pointy ears, in touch with nature (not quite as intimate as the blue cat versions, but anyway). Then evil humans come and mess things up.

            Nothing against elves, but I like the folklore versions – not all that noble if sometimes very pretty, unpredictable and very very dangerous and in several ways more powerful than humans. Likely to find humans amusing. Kind of catlike, in that they like to play with us. The same way a cat plays with a mouse.

            • Probably why I liked the elves in Thor: Dark World. They really were the traditional Scandinavian-type.

      • Patrick Chester

        “We were the good guys, they were the bad guys… and they made a very satisfying thump when they hit the floor!”

    • I remember when you had to keep mum about your weird hobby to avoid ostracism.

  9. “So there is more merit, sure, in all this playing in worlds that never existed. But, let’s not fool ourselves, ladies, gentlemen, dragons and sentient mice, mostly we do it because it’s fun, because we enjoy running free through a panoply of endless possibilities.”

    Amen! That’s the reason I read and write fantasy and science fiction. I don’t need characters to be preachy (Unless the character happens to be a preacher, anyway) or for them to be going on and on about this social injustice or that. Just entertain me with a good story, as I hope to entertain my readers.

    • One of the interesting books I’ve read is “But What of Earth?” By Piers Anthony and his Editors — the contract for the book went south, so Piers sued for the rights for the book, and then published it, editor notes and all.

      While the book itself has problems (which Piers explains — among them, was that it was about half as long as he typically wrote, so the story is cramped), the editor notes are hilarious.

      Among the complaints was one about a certain character, who was a weird monk/preacher type, who was praying — and if I recall correctly, it may have even been a somewhat agnostic prayer. “Is this really appropriate?” was the comment, and Piers’s response was something to the effect of “What do you have against a man’s prayer?” or “How dare you try to censor a man’s prayer?”, adding that he was personally agnostic to boot.

      Even if preachiness has been shoehorned in a story (I can think of a scene or two in “the Probability Broach” or “The Peace War”, to use two examples from different authors — and in the latter, the “preachiness” was merely a biological discussion I thought could have been handled better, but somehow came across as “preachy” to me), so long as it doesn’t overwhelm the story.

  10. > particularly cerebral-looking

    Back in the 1980s when Intel released the 80386 microprocessor they ran full-page ads showing the development team. Silicon jocks, microcode geeks, assembly language programmers, electronic engineers, physicists…

    The picture might as well have been titled “Dockworkers and Stevedores Local 214” for all it looked like a bunch of computer geeks. Mostly, it looked like guys you wouldn’t want to face in a bar fight.

    • At one place that I worked one of the network engineers (a Real Engineer, with degrees and a bunch of technical certifications who did third level support) used to work weekend nights as a bouncer at a dive bar in Northern Virginia. He didn’t need the money, he just liked it.

  11. Speaking of vivid dreams, I woke up this morning with one about a group of naive student types who were being instructed in some harsh realities of survival on Mars, by an instructor who had little patience for fools.

    • Free Range Oyster

      So when will I have it in my inbox for the promo post? 😀

      • Not soon, alas. It wasn’t long enough for a long story, and I’m at work on other projects. But when Muse offers a gift like that, I thought I better write it down this time for future possible use.

    • You dream early Heinlein? Can you tell the rest of us how to accomplish this?

      • I don’t recommend getting yelled at as a child for both good and bad cause for the impatient with fools part, but if you want to read planetary astronomy texts for light entertainment, go right ahead. The life of a geek: How to be a victim of your own privilege.

        • Been there, done that (read college astronomy texts in grade school, learned to use a slide rule at the same age, ground a mirror and built my own telescope in my teens . . .) but I still don’t get the dreams. Now I feel cheated.

    • That’s what you get for reading, “The Moon is a Harsh Mistress” before going to bed.

  12. …frankly geek-boys love any woman crazy enough to like the stuff they do.

    Or even entertain the idea it might be worth trying.

  13. One of my favorite Heinlein shorts (novellas?) is “The Man Who Traveled In Relevance.”

  14. John Prigent

    Hmmm. Maybe I should have broken the ‘male thriller-writer’ mould by getting my wife to use her shorthand and take down the bedtime stories I used to make up for our daughter when she was little. Dennis the Dragon was a GOOD dragon who protected the kingdom for a salary of one cow a month and a dragon-sized cottage that was much nicer than his old draughty cave.

    • The good dragons are the gold ones and…. (Rats! I forgot; probably silver and bronze.)

      • And your wife know shorthand; wow, that is useful. Wish I could have taken notes in college in shorthand.

      • John Prigent

        I turned the usual story on its head, and had Dennis (yes, he was gold) chasing away enemy knights who invaded the kingdom. Also stray princes whom the King’s daughter didn’t want to marry.

        • Of course.

          But Beauty, like the fair Hesperian tree
          Laden with blooming gold, had need the guard
          Of dragon-watch with unenchanted eye
          To save her blossoms, and defend her fruit,

        • Sounds like a good deal all around!

      • All the metallic ones are good, all the color-wheel ones are bad. Also, all the gem ones are neutral, IIRC, but that came later.

        Dragons1 color-coded for YOUR convenience!

        • Maybe they are political factions distinguished by an appearance spell.

        • Of course, that assumes a particular dragon doesn’t go rogue (either good going bad or neutral or bad going good or neutral or neutral going good or bad).

          For some reason I can’t help but think that a good-aligned character gone neutral should be called a “cynic”.

          (While I haven’t played much D&D, I’m a bit familiar with the alignment system, so I know you could be a good cynic, but I can’t help but still…)

          • I was pondering asking where the chromatic alignment theme(s) came from… I suspect were I to write much my research would be minimal, but sufficient to be sure I was ignoring if not outright breaking D&D and/or SW conventions. But I’m contrary that way. I can sorta get along with ST and DrWho, but they don’t seem to take themselves quite so seriously to start with.

          • “It’s.. a banded dragon?!”
            “Main color?”
            “Tan or brown. Not sure. Might even be a light blue.”
            “And the band?”
            “Bands..”
            “Alright, the bands?”
            “Brown… Black.. Orange… Gold..”
            “You gotta be kidding me…”
            “No, those are the colors.”
            “It’s a 10K ohm 5% dragon?!”
            “What the what are you talking about.”

            • What the what are you talking about.

              “It’s part of the Resistance!”

              • Watt the heck?!? That was a shocking pun, even from you! I thought we exceeded your capacitance for horrible puns a long time ago. We should induct you into the Punster Hall of Shame for that, assuming that you aren’t impeded by other misdeeds.

                • I’m a little disappointed by everyone here, who haven’t yet observed that I accidentally left an ample opportunity for another pun in my rebuke to RES…

                  • Like silent flatulence in an elevator, it is sometimes deemed politeness to leave some things unmentioned.

            • LOL!
              At first I thought you were going to go for trying to distinguish the coral snake dragon from the king snake dragon.
              “Quick, Haberdush, is it ‘good for jack’ and ‘killed a fella’ or the other way ’round?”
              “I don’t know, Putner, I thought you were the serpent expert!”
              “Guess we’d better try to kill it, then. Just in case.” *readies sword and shield and sighs*

          • I don’t know — which comes first, the dragon or the color? Is a dragon born gold condemned to be a gold dragon for all its life? Or does a dragon change color to reflect its inner state? Nature/Nurture for the win.

            N.B., no, I have no idea what might have been “won” by that argument; it is a transparent and pathetic attempt to claim utterly meaningless points in a game I’ve scant interest in playing, nor can I think of any particular reason this ought be a question of Nature/Nurture … but the comment required a punchline.

            • Or, what happens if it identifies as a metallic dragon? Who’s to say that it’s not a bronze dragon trapped in a blue body?
              Do dragons use bathrooms, much less which ones?

          • Where’s the fun in that? How can the Munchkin kill dragons with impunity, knowing that his “paladin” status won’t be touched?

    • So jealous.
      I got to introduce my girls to poetry (heavy on the Kipling). But anything longer than a few minutes and they tuned out.
      Even with shameless use of audience participation gimmicks.

      They’ve developed the attention span, but still have no interest in fantasy or science fiction. It drives me nuts.

    • I was about to say that I’m might be about to break it (finished all the artwork tonight – yay!), but it’s an action/adventure for upper elementary school kids, and the C.S. Lewis already broke it with the Narnia series..

  15. “Ah, to sleep, perchance to dream…”

    (which is forever associated with that one episode on M*A* S*H to me).

    but indeed; it’s lovely what true beauty through yon window breaks.

  16. I always found relevance enough in the daily news; for pleasure reading I wanted escapism. not having my nose rubbed in the world’s mess. I found a certain comfort in the misquotation of George Bernard Shaw by “Tailgunner Joe” McCarthy protege, Robert F Kennedy: “There are those that look at things the way they are, and ask why? I dream of things that never were, and ask why not?

    • “Relevance enough in the daily news”, oh, MY, yes!

      “When I go to the Theatre, I want to be taken out of myself. I don’t want to see lust and rape and incest and sodomy….I can get all that at home!”

      Beyond the Fringe

      • In fairness, when I see “see lust and rape and incest and sodomy” in the theatre it is usually on one of Mr. Shakespeare’s plays and serves as a reminder that contemporary evil is not a) purely contemporary nor b) uniquely evil.

        Shakespeare in the Park would have done better to cast Trump as Macbeth or Richard III than as Julius Caesar. Although I am toying with the idea of Hillary as Prospero …

        • I think Shakespeare in the Park is getting a somewhat of a bad rap for doing what they did. It’s my understanding that they had an Obama-looking President play Caesar, for example.

          Perhaps in the future they would do well to cast Anthony as someone who looks like the Vice President, and include someone who looks like the Party’s highest ranking Congressional leader (say, Paul Ryan or Mitch McConnell) as Brutus.

          • Perhaps, but after all the polarizing of the last near-decade, there really ought be no shock that there is polarization.

            • It has seemed to me that a great deal of the complaints about polarization have come from those folk insistent on putting the Deplorable in their pace, and the insistence of the Deplorable that they are in their place.

              Similarly, it has seemed over my lifetime that the greatest problems with polarization stem from those decrying polarization and demanding I, we, get in step with them. Screw dat, I ain’t marching to their drummer.

              Polarization, like Revolution, is only illegal in the third person.

              • Indeed, much like all those persons in Second Life who indicate in their profiles how much they hate drama. Avoid them, for they are full of drama……….

            • Indeed: I’m fairly confident that had the Media and Hollywood types not acted the way they did since Trump won the Presidency, I’m pretty sure that Shakespeare in the Park would have been a blip on everyone’s radar…but the portrayed assassination on a whole new meaning when it comes in on the heels of an actress holding up a facsimile of a bloody head of the President for a photo shoot (among other things)…

              But then, that’s what we get with the polarization…

  17. I got into Bradbury’s The Martian Chronicles as a freshman in high school, I had no idea the socio-political allusions to the paranoia of the Cold War. I just wanted to see the ruined spires of the Martian cities for myself, more than anything.

    • Bingo. That’s what I thought as well.

    • BobtheRegisterredFool

      I read through most of the collection, saw the those allusions, and some of the ones to the Indians, and grew much less interested. (Okay, the initial Martian-human contacts were also a bit too Lovecraftian, trippy, and gloomy for me.)

      I don’t think I will be trapped by the desire to imitate Bradberry.

    • What was paranoid about the Cold War? The Russians were really evil and our enemies.

      • Just because they’re out to get you doesn’t mean you’re not also paranoid. 🙂

        It all depends if the threats you’re seeing are the real threats, or if your paranoia has you spending so much effort guarding against threats that aren’t there that you fail to guard against the real threat.

        • BobtheRegisterredFool

          Yeah. The John Birchers were the least wrong of the big schools of thought about the Soviet Union in the seventies, but that doesn’t mean that they weren’t wrong and got everything entirely right. Analyzing your way through soviet propaganda searching for the truth could easily make a person a bit crazy. And overstating the paranoid aspects really was mainstream leftwing propaganda in our culture, and perhaps qualified as message fiction. But Bradberry put enough into it that it worked as a story first for some readers.

        • Of course we were all paranoid, but were we paranoid enough?

          • BobtheRegisterredFool

            Imagine Rorschach saying no.

            The socialists and the communists are lacking only span of existence to qualify as genuine major religions.

          • I hate the oikophobes. The ones who loved every country but ours. who hated the usual family. who only liked crazy urban leftists. If you were traditional, loved the country and your family and your religion, they hated you. I’m really really fed up with leftists of all stripes. They hate our country and most of the people who live here. They pervert everything and are trying to kill civilization. Most politicians are in it for money and power and flattery. Then there are the anointed and the know it alls and the anti humanists.Not to forget the control freaks and the would be aristocrats.

            • I was willing to coexist with them, but I’ve grown tired of their insistence in meddling in my affairs.

              They’ve managed to move from “annoyance” to “outright enemy.” And they may find cause to regret that.

              “I say to you againe, doe not call upp Any that you can not put downe; by the Which I meane, Any that can in Turne call up somewhat against you, whereby your Powerfullest Devices may not be of use.”
              – Letter from Jedediah Orne: H. P. Lovecraft, The Case of Charles Dexter Ward

  18. I note that WP is sending to my mailbox comments here that are time-stamped prior to my enrolling for email notifications, and that I am receiving some as much as an hour after their time-stamp here — and many later comments are as yet unreceived.

    WP Delenda Est.

  19. So I know the Dragon, and I know we also have an ox and a cat and a wallaby, but who is the sentient mouse?

    (For the record, my own species is “Decline to state.”)

  20. I love the “Mandarin Chinese” answer – too bad you couldn’t capture their confused expressions for posterity.

    Though if you ever commit Star Trek fanfic (or – ha! – get paid to write in that universe) you might want to consider “Klingon – it’s so nuanced” 😉

    • I too like that reply.
      [And, dear mind… kindly do NOT speculate upon Womandarin Chinese and those who might inflict such a thing upon the world. There is quite enough horror in the world as it is.]

  21. One of my highschool english teachers used the “why do you read that trash” line on me. I asked him if he’d ever read any. Naturally enough, he said “No.”. So I said “Then you aren’t entitled to an opinion, are you?”

    Later that year I got an apology from him. He’d been to some conference or other, and attended a talk by Isaac Asimov, or as he put it “This little gnome of a man got up, stuck his hands in his pants ckets, and talked extempore for an hour. Fascinating.”

    • I wonder if anyone bothered to tape that talk or transcribe it. Given how long ago this was in all likelihood (Asimov died in 1992 after all), my bet is it was lost to time, unfortunately.

      • I stopped at a motel in Amarillo one night, and they had several different newspapers for sale at the desk. All of them had Asimov’s death on the front page.

        The guy who made the “little gnome” comment… the web says Asimov was 5’9, which practically made him a giant for someone born in rural Russia in 1920, and about average for an American born at the same time.

        • I’m sure that, like most people, as Asimov got older he got a little bit shorter – so the 5’9″ could have been true at one point in time and he could easily have lost 2-3″ subsequently. (My parents are currently experiencing that phenomena.)

    • John Prigent

      Back in the 50s I was the Headmaster’s despair for choosing the first book of The Lord Of The Rings as a school prize for something or other. He’d never heard of JRR Tolkien, who is now admired by critics.

      • Free Range Oyster

        Shame on that headmaster! The man made three – count them, three! – separate translation of Beowulf (having become dissatisfied with his earlier work), and was one of the preeminent scholars of his day on northern European linguistics and literary traditions. Learned that in a community college literature class (Aussie-born Oxford-grad professor; not sure how she ended up there).

        • John Prigent

          I wish I still had that book – it was a first edition. But I wore it out rereading and it disintegrated before the collectors started bidding high prices for his books. I have the leatherbound single-volume edition instead, and the complete set of his work edited by his son. All anniversary presents from my wife.

        • Actually, I’d argue you’ve understated it.

          Tolkien was THE expert on Beowulf of his time and the time since his life.

        • Aussie-born Oxford-grad professor; not sure how she ended up there.

          With those credentials? Probably couldn’t get a “real” teaching job at a college or university. “Why, she doesn’t know how to teach, she merely knows (and loves) her subject!”

    • I never ran into that. The only teacher who said something was when I planed to do a book report on the novel M*A*S*H. I had to agree to keep the book report clean.

  22. My paternal grandmother had proper dickensian childhood as part of underclass in 1920/30s Glasgow.

    She learned about hard work and having to hustle at early age, and hated malingerers. Nana thought everyone should be working all the time for greater good of family and Ive heard stories from my uncle about how she tormented my father, the aspiring writer, when he was young.

    Idleness was not appreciated in paternal grandparents home, that for sure.

  23. Most women who write write romance

    *looks at romance novel outline for the now moribund “nurse novel” sub-genre*

    So, maybe I should write this and the demand a publisher pick it up or they are sexist for not publishing a straight male romance author?

    • richardmcenroe

      Make it a space-nurse novel. Hasn’t been a good one since Clarissa Kinnison or Sector General’s Murchison…

    • I would say that nurse novels are due for a comeback. First off, there are tons of nurses, and tons of people who like medical stories. Secondly, a lot of nurses are way too fond of writing “character torture” fanfic (endless medical problems and illnesses for the protagonist), so a return to heroic or struggling nurse stories would be nice.

      • Well, we kicked off writing today although nurse or EMT is up in the air but maybe we should go with nurse (the meeting is when she rescues our hero from a crash on the side of the road).

        My new blog will have the daily PbP which means I need to get it up as well.

        • One flag I’ll throw is that nurses outside ER (icu and cardiac to a lesser extent) tend to work under more restrictive orders than medics and much more routine. When you come on a hcp on scene that you don’t know you assume nursing home proctologist until proven otherwise. Usually someone with a few street years can tell in the report. This is not to say floor nurses can’t help. Got a save with two of em and pair of MDs. But for field specific techniques like boarding or fracture care they may be rusty for the amount they actually learned them.

    • You can always publish it under a female pseudonym. That should be ok for you, because you’re a straight male, but if you were a woman writing science fiction and fantasy using your initials to hide the fact that you have a second income stream from your employer (who would then adjust your income accordingly), then that’s proof of evil patriarchy in the publishing field…

  24. OFF topic, or perhaps a reason I read SF in spite of an absence of relevance:

    Another Charlie Gard Case?
    By Wesley J. Smith — July 31, 2017

    Another family in the UK is fighting to keep doctors from forcing their sick baby off of life support. From The Mirror story:

    Charlie Gard supporters are rallying round the family of a seriously ill little boy as his parents face a battle with medics to keep him alive.

    Tiny Alfie Evans in being treated at Alder Hey Children’s Hospital in Liverpool and suffers from a mystery condition staff are struggling to diagnose.

    The 14-month-old family are hoping to find pioneering treatment for their little boy abroad.

    Alfie has been in in a coma in the hospital’s intensive care ward since last December, and suffers regular seizures.

    As in the Charlie Gard case, doctors have warned they may have to take legal action as Tom will not let let them switch off Alfie’s life support.

    That’s a twist: Unlike in Charlie Gard’s case, there is no firm diagnosis. Why would doctors try to force a baby off of life support when they haven’t been able to determine the cause of his cognitive disability?

    But realize, as in all “futile care” cases, the treatment is unwanted by doctors because it is working. Hence, it isn’t the treatment but Alfie’s life that would be declared futile if the courts pulled another “Charlie Gard.”

    [END EXCERPT]

    I wonder how anybody can be expected to develop cures for diseases, birth defects and injuries if institutions decide, will-he-nill-he, that those lives aren’t worth living and that experimental treatments deny the dying dignity.

    Do not go dignified into that good night.
    Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

    • Socialized medicine in Canada, Britain and elsewhere don’t develop new medicines and treatments. I am Canadian and remember reading an article a few years ago about how majority of medical scientists employed by Canadian government work on fine tuning generic drugs to make them even cheaper than they already are.

      I read story last week that doctors in America have reversed severe brain damage in two year old girl using oxygen and hyperbaric oxygen, that kind of research only occurs in US.

      Euthanasia and abortion are legal now in Canada, The State is much more keen to kill you than help you.

      • And still people in the US don’t seem to realize that the incentives in a single payer system are all wrong…. which is on par with believing socialism and/or communism will somehow be different this time.

        • An Iowahawk tweet from this morning (or overnight):

          Difference between being a Cubs fan and a socialist? A Cubs fan can point to a success every 108 years.

        • New treatments and therapies introduce unpredictability. You cannot plan for their costs. Established treatments not only are easy for actuaries to estimate, their costs can be relied upon to go down as patents lapse and capital assets are depreciated.

          I will not engage in a rant about how Obamacare’s promotion of computerized record-keeping constituted a deterioration in service and a payoff to tech supporters. Y’all can figure that out for yourselves.

          • The only purpose of the electronic medical record is to make your private information more accessible to people who have no business having it.

            Of course, the notion of “privacy” in medical data is a cruel joke now, and doctor-patient confidentiality went the way of house calls.

            • If only that was the sole purpose! It also reduces doctor-patient interactions because a doctor following a series of prompts is not looking at the patient. Further, it ensures the doctor is adhering to “generally approved standards of care” or whatever euphemism they’re employing for one size fits all medicine.

              • Oh yes. I sat in the examining room with my Dad during his last years since he was getting fairly deaf. We’d make bets on how many times the doctor would look at him. The actual counts were usually between zero and two, generally as they were leaving.

                Since the doctor spent all his time pecking at a tiny notebook computer, I guess only tradition caused him to even bother to be in the same room…

                • Spot on:

                  Stop making doctors the slaves of computers
                  By Betsy McCaughey
                  “The doctor will see you now.” It’s a common phrase, but no longer true. Even in the exam room, you’re unlikely to make more than fleeting eye contact with your doctor.

                  That’s because federal laws and regulations have turned doctors into robotic clerks. Your doctor has to stay glued to the computer screen, clicking boxes, following prompts and posing questions the federal government wants asked, never mind your reasons for being there. The biggest loser is you, the patient.

                  But help is on the way. The Trump administration has started rolling back these regulations. Fortunately, this regulatory relief does not depend on repealing ObamaCare.

                  You can blame former President Barack Obama for the demise of the eye-to-eye conversation with your doctor. Back in 2009, he signed into law the HITECH Act, compelling doctors and hospitals that accept Medicare or Medicaid payments to use electronic medical record systems in a “meaningful” way — or pay a hefty penalty.

                  What’s “meaningful”? Obama’s tech czar Dr. David Blumenthal explained that it’s not just about getting rid of paper files and “putting machinery in offices.” Blumenthal, an admirer of European-style, single-payer health care, wanted top-down control of how doctors practice. “Meaningful” meant doctors following “embedded clinical decision supports.” Translation: The feds wanted computers telling doctors what to do.

                  The Obama administration claimed this centralized approach would improve care and save money. It’s done the opposite. Primary care doctors spend as much time following computer commands as they do interacting with their patients, according to a recent study in Health Affairs.

                  Jeffrey Moses, an interventional cardiologist at Columbia Presbyterian, complains the system is “taking the doctor’s eyes off the patient.” It places “little value on the doctor patient bond,” he adds.

                  Another cardiologist compares it to being “demoted to an airline booking agent.” (Not an easy job either, but it doesn’t require four years of medical school.)

                  [SNIP]
                  Electronic medical records can save lives in an emergency. Trump’s Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price promises to focus on ensuring a patient’s records can be shared instantaneously among hospitals and doctors. That’s the right approach. Technology should benefit the patient, not shackle the doctor.

                  Betsy McCaughey is chairman of the Committee to Reduce Infection Deaths and author of “Beating Obamacare.”

                  N.B. – McCaughey was a major influence in blocking HillaryCare when she dug down into the legislation and revealed what it actually contained. She was rewarded by being made George Pataki’s Lieutenant Governor, then dumped when she proved she was not a “good team player.”

                  The end result is to reduce the role of the doctor in your treatment. There is no reason the prompts cannot be answered by a nurse or even a medical tech. Sure, illnesses won’t be caught as quickly, but that works out just fine — as we saw with Charlie Gard, the longer t takes to diagnose a condition, the stronger the argument for simply putting the patient down permitting the patient to “die with dignity.”

                  • And the tech for handling the records, including digital images for MRIs and Xrays, was already in existence. Cleaveland Clinic had a massive network that linked all of their buildings, satellite sites, affiliated clinics and doctor offices. This was there before Obama ever ran for president.

                    It was a massive MAN (Metropolitan Area Network) and barring occasional component failure or backhoe intervention a patient could walk into any of their offices and all of their records were there. It was just a matter of time until they ended up linking with other systems, for patient transfer if nothing else. (The managed services division of one of my employers had the contract to remotely monitor and troubleshoot the MAN.)

                    I read a few years later that Cleveland Clinic ended up paying a price for being ahead of the curve. Part of the ObamaCare payments was based on what you charged at the start of the program. Part of that was reduced each year as computerized records brought about increased efficiency and thus squeezed out some of the costs. CC had already squeezed out those costs, but their payments were reduced anyway.

                • Feather Blade

                  The thing that annoys me is that you go to the doctor’s office, wait fort he nurse to come in, the nurse types in all this information, then you wait for the doctor to come in, and the doctor asks you all the same questions and enters the same information that the nurse did.

                  One has to wonder what the point is.

                  • I wonder how offended they’d be if you recorded the first and simply played it back when asked again. Then, I have the same pondering for “N-th officer asked me this all already and asking again won’t change what happened.” I know they are trying to detect flaws as story changes, but it just seems like they want people to cease being cooperative.

                  • One has to wonder what the point is.

                    It is Therapy Theatre!

              • It’s just a few more steps and you can automate that biological doctor-creature right out – and then the bureaucrats can specify programming.

                • Michael Crichton wrote a book called “Five Patients” where he described current medical technology – circa 1970 – and several future technology/SF scenarios.. Since he was a practicing MD with a degree in computer graphics, he knew what he was talking about.

                  He hung up his stethoscope and went off to Hollywood to make movies, and the medical industry has moved on to maybe 1975…

                • One diagnosis. Euthenasia

    • There’s actually an overpopulation and famine in America movie coming to theaters soon, “Whatever Happened to Monday?” Nine identical sisters live in apartment doing human equivalent of “they have far more than one allowed cat but they’re all black.” And the story’s sympathy is with the rebels, it always is in the few overpopulation movies. That’s where any human audience’s gut feeling are.

      • The actual f*ck? THERE IS NO OVERPOPULATION.

        • There are undercurrents of the overzealous.
          And overloading of the underwhelming.

        • Meh – it’s a movie, not even a documentary. The “overpopulation and famine in America” probably exist in the same reality as Wonder Woman* and Thor.**

          *Note to feminists: there is no Wonder Woman. She is a fictional character from a series of comic books set in an alternate reality. Real women have no “Lariats of Truth” nor can they play “Bullets & Bracelets” without severe damage to their bodies

          **Also a fictional character from a series of comic books set in an alternate reality. Any resemblance to an actual Norse deity is purely an act of cultural appropriation.

        • If you lived in an urban environment, though, you might end up convinced otherwise. After all, where you live is crowded.

          This is one of the places where reading is relevant. Because readers (ones with broad taste in reading, anyway) expand their horizons, and learn not to trust only as far as their vision will go. Which in a city is only as far as the next building or crowd.

  25. Keep dreaming. We need more dreamers. Not because everything dreamers come up with works, but because it shows a possibility. And even if the original dreamer doesn’t see the actual potential someone else might.

  26. At a little past the half century, I don’t need mom to approve of my occupation.

    Oddly, I’ve noticed a lot of people are trying to get the opposite and have taken to saying:

    “Isn’t 30 a bit old to still be trying to piss off your parents.”

    Recently I had a 50 year old woman respond, “no, I’m still trying to piss off my dad” (and this woman is in the counseling profession no less).

    Although I first started saying it about Marilyn Manson more and more I think it describes a lot of the “left”, “gay rights movement”, possibly a lot of newly minted in the past two years “transpeople”, and way too many people in the arts.

    • Definitely not wrong. A lot of the ‘one more step’ people seem to follow it.

    • “I first started saying it about Marilyn Manson”

      Was Manson actually trying to piss off his parents, though? Or was he just trying to claim the money of teenagers who were trying to piss off theirs? With a lot of the “shock rockers,” I think they’re playing a character on stage every bit as much as the folks in the Marvel universe; I don’t necessarily believe that their schtick is the real person any more than I believe Mark Ruffalo really turns into a giant green guy when he gets angry.

      Although it is interesting how many people spend their entire lives annoyed at their parents. Sometimes I think I’m the weird one in thinking that I’ll be happy if my daughter’s relationship with me is just like mine with my mom.

      • I first said it in response to an article about him and discussed his parents coming to the show and their reaction. I could have been an act but there was something in the article which made me think otherwise.

        Even if it is misapplied there I think it’s general utility is real and problematic.

        • The saddest aspect of such (limited) ambition is that often it is unachievable. At some point you cannot piss them off simply because they just no longer care.

          Insert extended theological and psychological diatribe about such resentments as hatred and jealousy inflict their greatest damage on those dedicating themselves to worship of such demons.

    • Maturity is when you decide to live up to your expectations, and not your parent’s. However, that does not preclude your deciding to make your parent’s expectations your own.

      My father and grandfather were great men. Nowadays nobody even knows who they were, but they had children, raised them to be responsible, self-supporting family-types themselves, and none of them ever ended up in jail. Sure, they had their faults, but I’d still call them overwhelming successes.

    • Is it just me or are a disproportionate number of people in the “counseling profession” fundamentally disturbed?

      • I am confident that a number of people in the counselling profession, not just you, are fundamentally disturbed. Given what they deal with every day, how could they not be?

      • Yes…and the honest ones own it. I have heard more than one admit something along the lines of “I went into psychology/counseling/etc to try and understand myself”.

      • It was explained in Psych 101 that people don’t go into psychology to help others but to find out how they’re screwed up themselves. The idea of helping others comes along later, they end up sublimating the need to help themselves into helping other.

  27. We have 3 kinds of SF books in our house. We refer to them as his, hers, and ours.

    Which also accurately describes all the rest of the books on the shelves.

    As far as why I read, had a discussion with my English teacher as I suffered through Long Day’s Journey Into Night. I read books to get uplifted and receive a positive message about life, not to get depressed is what I told him. And living with an alcoholic parent (which I didn’t tell him) didn’t make reading the book a pleasurable experience. Most Great Literature picked out by English teachers seems depressing. Makes me wonder what goes on in their lives. I forget what his defense of being required to read it was.

    • Yes — you can take your Catcher in the Rye, shred it and use it to stuff Madame Pompadour! I would far rather accompany Oscar to the Lesser Magellanic Cloud!

      • It was Kip who went to the Magellanic Cloud, not Oscar.

        “All right, take away our star – you will if you can and I guess you can. Go ahead! We’ll make a star! Then, someday, we’ll come back and hunt you down – all of you!”

    • We mostly have “ours.” There’s a few authors that are “his” and some that are “mine” (primarily the fantasy; Evil Rob has his favorites but the bulk are mine.)

  28. BobtheRegisterredFool

    Dear Reality,

    You are making it very difficult to write satire.

    I try to tackle the current situation, and the best I can come up with is the suggestion that someone kidnap Hitler off a WWI battlefield, teach him English, and have him apply for the position of White House Comms Director.

    Sadly, I can not think of any serious advice for handling the matter that would improve things more than the so called joke would. So as a pundit, I’m pretty much bankrupt.

  29. Completely off topic post- but since we have an expert here on the subject of Portugal, I just read the following comment on another blog and was wondering about it’s veracity: Twenty years ago in rural Portugal you would still see widows, some of them startlingly young, dressed entirely in black, which they were required to wear for the rest of their lives.

    • Feather Blade

      I would think it inaccurate unless Portuguese widows were not allowed to remarry.

      Didn’t other places have a “year and a day” time limit on wearing mourning?

      • Actually you started “relieving” the mourning after a year, and then went back to normal clothes after 2? 3? relieving meant grey and lavender.
        Idiots. No, some young widows CHOSE to wear black the rest of their lives. There was actually no law, anyway, and people CHOSE to wear mourning or not.
        Now, once you started getting older, you ended up in a cycle of wearing mourning for older relatives/husband/etc until all you had was black clothes, and stopped bothering.
        Almighty idiots. Like the Viking exhibit people saying Christians were buried because they believed you needed your body in heaven. No, ijits, you need your body for the final resurrection, or at least it was believed so.

        • I just got a Pratchett flashback from your post, so I had to go look for the quotes:

          “Studies have shown that an ant can carry one hundred times its own weight, but there is no known limit to the lifting power of the average tiny eighty-year-old Spanish peasant grandmother.” – from Reaper Man

          “As has been pointed out earlier in the Discworld chonicles, entire agricultural economies have been based on the lifting power of little old ladies in black dresses.” – footnote from Lord & Ladies

  30. Sarah, while it would never do to smile at others’ misfortune, there’s a once in a lifetime opportunity with your name on it:

    June Foray, the voice of Rocky, Natasha, and hundreds more, dies at 99
    https://www.bostonglobe.com/metro/obituaries/2017/07/30/june-foray-voice-rocky-natasha-and-hundreds-more-dies/pQpgo71lPzOxvqrfaoLyPI/story.html

    • We’ve always been trying to get Sarah to say “Moose and Squirrel”, but it didn’t occur to me that she could try saying other things, too! I don’t know who to get for the voice of Bullwinkle, but we should request Sarah to say the following Rocky parts in her best Rocky voice:

      Rocky: Well, they don’t call him Wrongway Peachfuzz for nothing!
      Bullwinkle: You mean they gotta pay?

      Bullwinkle: Hey Rocky, watch me pull a rabbit out of my hat.
      Rocky: Again?
      Bullwinkle: Presto!
      Lion: ROAR!!!
      Bullwinkle: Oops, wrong hat.

      Rocky: Do you know what an A-bomb is?
      Bullwinkle: Certainly. A bomb is what some people call our show.

      Rocky: There has already been two attempts on your life.
      Bullwinkle: Don’t worry, we’ll be renewed.

      Rocky: And now, for all your seniors who are just about to graduate, here are some words of wisdom from Mr. Know-It-All.

      Rocky: Hey Bullwinkle, we’re in real trouble now!
      Bullwinkle: Oh good, Rocky! I hate that artificial kind!

      Rocky: Gee, an unhappy ending.

      (I’d really like to hear Sarah’s Rocky voice now, accent and all!)

      • Having now heard Sarah say “Moose and squirrel” at least twice, I can say that whoever claimed she sounded like Natasha Fatale was either joking or suffering from some strange aberration in their hearing. There is an accent, sure, but not that one.

        I’ve not heard any attempt at a Rocky voice, however, and refuse to (publicly) speculate on that.

  31. Mrs. Hoyt you might find the tl; Dr (YouTube channel) episode on Mouse Utopia. Especially if you are unfamiliar with the experiment, or only aware of it second hand.

    You will have to stop yourself from shouting at the screen before long, however: “No, no, no. It’s because they can’t escape! Gah.”

    • I’ve read about the experiment before. I take some comfort in the observation that we can’t easily use the results of the experiments to humans…however, I also find it interesting that there are people in our society who:

      (1) push to eliminate privacy,

      (2) encourage sexual deviancy,

      (3) encourage single motherhood,

      (4) wish to yank people out of the countryside and put them in high-rise flats centered in cities,

      (5) destroy any semblance of social roles,

      among other things.

      It’s as if there are people who are actually *pushing* to duplicate this study among humans…and it’s not fun to observe, here and there, some of the behaviors described near the end of that video among us (in some countries worse than others)…

      Heck, it’s as if some people think that this is the *ideal situation* for human behavior.

  32. “When I want to dream and share my vivid dream with other lost souls . . . Then I write fiction.”

    Can I get a “Hallelujah”?

  33. Shhhhhhhhh …. Don’t tell anyone.

    Robert A. Heinlein: The Man Who Loved Women
    By Sarah Hoyt
    I was married and in the States, by the first time I heard that Robert A. Heinlein was supposed to be misogynistic.

    This surprised me more than a little because I’d read the man, and I thought he was, if anything, too idealistic and viewed women through rose colored glasses.

    Take his quote: Once a month, some women act like men act all the time.

    [END EXCERPT]

  34. Neil Frandsen

    “White Fang” was written by the San Francisco Bay Salmon Pirate!
    The above assertion easily gets one of several reactions. The ‘best’ are from folk who were busy defending his Essay in a serious ‘literate’ journal, which introduced a new definition for the word, “Scab”.
    :
    http://london.sonoma.edu/Writings/WarOfTheClasses/scab.html
    :
    :
    https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/1904/01/the-scab/306194/
    :
    :
    https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/scab
    :
    Quote:
    3
    a : a contemptible person
    b (1) : a worker who refuses to join a labor union (2) : a union member who refuses to strike or returns to work before a strike has ended (3) : a worker who accepts employment or replaces a union worker during a strike (4) : one who works for less than union wages or on nonunion terms
    Unquote.
    :
    :

  35. “write for children, because they’re the only ones with a mind as open as yours.”
    Take that as a compliment, considering Matthew 19:14. 🙂

    And I’d laugh my heiny off at that answer to “What language do you write in?” Even if it was me that asked it.

  36. “what language do you write in?”

    Genuinely don’t understand why this is atroublesome question or deserves a silly answer. Anyone wish to clue me in?