The State of the Human Wave – Fiction Version by Alma Boykin


The State of the Human Wave – Fiction Version

by Alma Boykin

Short version – a lot better than when the idea was, ahem, floated, in 2012. [2012? That’s… a while ago. A geologic epoch in Internet years. Anyway.]

The original post:

Sarah followed it up a little later: Human Wave Dreaming in August of that year.

Since then, indie sci-fi and fantasy have blossomed as the walls of publishing crumbled. First, Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) and the lending system of Kindle Unlimited (KU) opened doors to anyone with a story to tell. Barnes and Noble offered similar for their Nook, and then Rakutan made Kobo available for a global market reach. For print, Smashwords arrived, followed by CreateSpace, then a host of other options. New word processing software like Scrivener appeared, and then inexpensive or free formatting programs such as Caliber and Vellum brought even that task well within the reach of anyone who wanted to learn the program. At the same time, Kobo and Amazon refined their systems to make them easier to use, no longer requiring conversion from .doc before uploading, among other things.

At the same time, more and more readers began buying human-positive books that put story ahead of message. That encouraged the early Human Wave writers to write more, and we/they in turn inspired others to try their hands. Fun fiction became easier to find, better written, and better packaged. Sub-genres declared dead by TradPub reemerged as fans found more and more new books, and older works re-appeared after long periods of neglect. Sci-fi, fantasy, mystery, westerns, they started becoming fun again.

So what is Human Wave? Stories that entertain, make the reader feel better, give the reader hope, let the reader escape to a place where good triumphs over evil, be that evil a demonic manticore or a petty bureaucracy. Human wave stories are not message free. But the message is positive, and comes second to the story. Gee, readers like that! Readers want the hero to win, and get the girl or guy or whatever, after soundly thrashing the bad guy. Good wins, evil loses, and everyone gets a happily-for-the-moment ending (unless you are the bad-guy). There can be dark moments, grim moments, Valleys of Shadow and a Slough of Despond, but the story ends on an upward note. Yes, the mother dies, but her sacrifice ensures that her children survive and bring justice to the Forces of Evil. The hero ends the story with scars and some doubts, but everyone knows he did the right thing and his lovely, faithful lady is there at his side. Think of the end of Brandon Sanderson’s original Mistborn Trilogy.

What’s the opposite of Human Wave? Grey goo. Message fiction. Stories that beat the reader over the head with her unworthiness, the horrible state of the planet, the doomed future of humanity, the evils of free-market economies, the ills of the patriarchy, and that preach first, entertain a distant fourth. Message fiction focuses on message over story. If you can go through the first chapter and find Plucky Heroine, Oppressed Minority, Genius Gay Guy/Gal (or now Brilliant Transperson), Evil Capitalist/Evil Religious Leader with the “good” folks all standing up to the Oppressive Patriarchy or Corrupt Corporation (or Devious Government Agency), then you probably have message fiction. Particularly if a character is there just so the author can check off a box on the list. If you dearly want the Sweet Meteor of Doom to take out everyone in the book, and you have yet to reach the middle of the book, you have grey goo. Laughing in all the wrong places is another sign.

Some writers felt that Human Wave, and people positive stories, needed something more. From that impulse came Superversive science-fiction, John C. Wright’s term for a movement toward specifically noble, Christian, Western-Civ-positive stories with a message. Soon other writers picked up the banner, and some truly fascinating and engaging, as well as thoughtful and thought-provoking, work emerged. Readers loved it. Note that here too, the story always, always comes before the message. Superversive Sci-Fi became a movement all its own, very much Human Wave but different. Is it a bigger tent or smaller? Is Human Wave part of Superversive or vice versa? Does it really matter? Probably not.

So, in 2018, what is the state of the Human Wave? Still growing, still developing, still healthy as best I can tell. Readers have more authors to choose from, and the Dragon Awards show that. A fan-choice award, nominated by people who love a book, podcast, game, or movie, selected by people who love books, games, movies, and so on, the Dragon is managed by DragonCon but not determined by DragonCon. More importantly for some of us, readers vote with dollars, and those dollars seem to be moving more and more away from the TradPub fiction and toward indie, especially Human Wave indie. Readers also love Human Wave TradPub, don’t get me wrong, but TradPub doesn’t always love Human Wave stories. Some imprints have become very well known for focusing on the author’s minority status and the “edginess” of their work, to the point of almost shoving story out the window. The goal for them is not to entertain, but to preach and to use story as a tool for “raising awareness of [insert woe here]” or “eradicating [insert woe here] and saving the world.” Grey goo has not disappeared, which may explain why so many Traditional Publishers find their readership and profits shrinking. Raising e-book prices so high that hardbacks look reasonable in comparison also has a great deal to do with it, but that’s a tale for a different blog.

Do we still need Human Wave books, movies, and the like? Heck yeah! The more the merrier, so long as the story comes first and entertains the reader. As Sarah says, “Build under, build around.” Given the vehement efforts of the grey goo politicians and their supporters to gain political power and ruin everyone’s days, we need people-positive tales more than ever. The collectivists, anti-humans, and others got a fifty-year jump on us. What if Amazon goes the way of Twitter and Facebook? What if Microsoft manages to strangle Gab, if [OK, when] B&N’s Nook ceases to be a financially viable platform for writers? The answer is write more, write better. Remind readers that there’s more to the book world than grey goo. Selling your own books independently is hard, but not impossible the way it once was. Diane Duane and her husband do it and seem to do well. There are others.

Here’s to the past six years’ successes, and here’s to at least a dozen more!



209 thoughts on “The State of the Human Wave – Fiction Version by Alma Boykin

  1. “Who is he?”
    “Just one drop in the ocean. But some of those drops sparkle, Pelinor. Some of them do sparkle!”
    from memory, the last lines of Camelot.

    Unrelieved blackness is dreary dull. Add a single candle, however, and you can make exciting things happen.

    The darkness is there whether we will it or no. We stand for the candles.

    1. My mother has very fond memories of listening to the radio by the light of a single oil lamp; and the radio show was something called The Stories of Grandmother Basyang. I might be rather literal about the ‘light in the darkness’ thing, but it struck me that part of why it stayed in her imagination was the darkness did a lovely job of cloaking and veiling reality for a while, and the light set the mood (for what were often serial mysteries, horror stories, etc) and stirred the imagination.

  2. Hurrah.

    I’m currently doing design work on a project with a major risk of ending up nihilistic.

    Does any one have any advice on avoiding that? On writing superversive? On writing Human Wave?

    What is your favorite advice for using dark material to write a positive upbeat story?

    1. Don’t let the character give up. And don’t take all hope away even when the character falls. Have them fall FOR something:

      “This poor little caryatid has fallen under the load. She’s a good girl – look at her face. Serious, unhappy at her failure, not blaming anyone, not even the gods… and still trying to shoulder her load, after she’s crumpled under it.

      But she’s more than just good art denouncing bad art; she’s a symbol for every woman who ever shouldered a load too heavy. But not alone women – this symbol means every man and woman who ever sweated out life in uncomplaining fortitude until they crumpled under their loads. It’s courage… and victory.

      Victory in defeat, there is none higher. She didn’t give up… she’s still trying to lift that stone after it has crushed her… she’s all the unsung heroes who couldn’t make it but never quit.” -Robert A. Heinlein.

      1. Rescue. The. Girl. Dammit!

        We do not give jobs to people that they cannot do. Peace be unto RAH, but I don’t want to read about that. I want to read about the rescue and elevation of the heroine.

        Like I always say, Those Who Walk Away From Omelas is a shit story. What a bunch of pussies. Those Who Walk Back To Omelas And Rescue The Kid, that’s a better one. Or drive back with an armored brigade and air support. Why not let the fuckers know they’ve been in a fight?

        1. And now I wonder… do the returners destroy Omelas to get to the kid.

          Or do they rescue kid and Omelas somehow collapses as the horrible story was true.

          Or do they rather quietly rescue the kid – and then announce it – and Nothing Happens… and then Omelas destroys itself for that just cannot be (Happy 2016?).

          Or.. yes.. a vast array of “F*** Omelas” stories with arrangements and complications beyond ox’s simple imagination.

          1. It depends how Old Testament you want to go, and how much magic you want to have.

            You could do it Mission Impossible style, with sneaking in, stealing the kid, and as they clear the city wall the towers start turning to pillars of salt. Nice and biblical.

            Or you can roll up with an army, flatten the place and pull the kid out of the last intact building. That has a certain appeal. Medieval army with Dwarf sappers, Human trebuchet artillery and Elf cavalry. Or a modern battle group with combat sorcerers, that could be kewl.

            Today I’m kind of in the mood for a Heinlein Mobile Infantry drop with fighter support, pull the poor kid out, and the carrier uses her main drive on the place as they prepare to warp out. Then lob an H-bomb into the hole, just because.

            Its the only way to be sure.

            1. I admit I rather like the quiet rescue option it the thing implodes from the True Believers going mad over it. Of course if what they do is simply get another kid, the next rescue gets very BOOM-ey at the end.

              1. Of course they get another kid. That’s who they are.

                That’s why we use the main drive on them and lob an H-bomb in the hole. Otherwise one of the f#ckers might survive. >:D

                1. Hrmm.. I wonder how many rooms the city has for such.. and if only the one (seems unlikely, but how much fiction in the fiction…) were rendered unusable (I dunno, fill it with Flubber?) what then.. for a bit, anyway.

                2. You’d need to start with the piper. The one who visited Hamelin. Now he may be a good guy or a bad one, but if you pay him he does the work as told to. Then, when he had taken the kids who can leave to you, then, and only then, you go and rescue the one or ones who couldn’t leave.

            2. I envision two groups. One sneaks in under the guise of awe-struck visitors and grabs the kid. When the city selects another child, the armoured brigade arrives and sows the remains with salt. Yeah, I need to write that one one of these days.

              1. I remember that I learned of the story from here, read it, and was apocalyptically enraged for the rest of the day. Housemate asked why I was so furious, and I showed him the story.

                Aff: You know there would be people who would be happy to do this, right?
                Me: And that is why I’m practically floating with my rage.

                1. That was the thing for me at first. That those worthless f-cks would walk away free and leave him there. Like that was virtue.

                  But then I understood the larger subtext of the story. Leguin meant to say that WE are Omelas. Western Civilization thrives only because children live as slaves in Third World Countries, digging out resources with their bleeding fingers so we can drive nice cars and get fat eating McDonalds.

                  -That- pissed me off.

                  These days I see it everywhere, that accusation that children starve so we can be fat. Its the glue that holds the Grey Goo together.

                  It is a lie. That is not who we are. We invented the Modern World, with all the miracles it holds. We invent it anew with every discovery, every service, every company and job. That is who we are. We rescue the little boy from Omelas. We save the caryatid. That’s our job, all of us together.

                  Now I’ve got to go write that caryatid story.

                    1. That would be an interesting subversion/inversion of the original story; the tale of the Child of Omelas inspires a rescue that destroyed the city, and in the process it is found that the story of the child is a fiction, either created out of a self-loathing, or those who envied Omelas and wanted it destroyed.

                    2. Sarah, I’m fairly sure that if you tried to write a fantasy novel set in a city called Waterdeep either Ed Greenwood or WOTC would be having words with you.

                    3. First of all, Book Titles can’t be protected.

                      Second, I doubt that “fictional place/character names” can be protected.

                      But while not a Lawyer, while (for example) the name Spock isn’t a protected name, the closer the character named Spock is the the Star Trek Spock, then the author would have trouble.

                      Of course, while not a Lawyer, if a character not named Spock is extremely similar as a character to the Star Trek Spock, then lawyers would getting busy. Especially if the SF universe could be mistaken for the Star Trek universe.

                      On the other hand, I recently read a web-comic where the characters visited a galaxy which contained a “Fun-House” version of the Star Trek civilizations. Of course, it turns out that the similarity was because some Super-Aliens had visited Earth and picked up on the Star Trek television series. Those Super-Aliens had modeled that Galaxy’s civilizations on the Star Trek television series. 😉

                    4. Only the EXECUTION of a work is copyrightable. I know because I’ve had at least one book stolen by the fashionable left. BUT the author didn’t take any of my words, only the idea. (And my book came out years earlier.)
                      So. No, they wouldn’t.

                    5. The writer was probably partly blind to what actually was there. Omelas might actually be one of those third world dictatorships… we didn’t put the child there, his own people did. And are keeping him there because they can’t see how else to get what that neighboring rich country has – or they don’t care because this way the wealth goes all to them, if they allowed the kid out there might be even more wealth, but then they, personally, might in the end get driven out. The neighboring country tries to help, but it’s possible that at least part of their help gets actually used to reinforce the dungeon where the kid is. And other parts probably go directly to the ruler’s treasury.

                    6. And I never liked LeGuin all that much, I’m afraid. Skilled writer, but far too many of her stories are kind of depressing, not just Omelas.

                  1. “Western Civilization thrives only because children live as slaves in Third World Countries, digging out resources with their bleeding fingers so we can drive nice cars and get fat eating McDonalds.”

                    Theses days, should a western nation try to send troops to overthrow some bloodthirsty petty tyrant, they would be denounced and criticized by those exact same people for “imperialism”.

            1. We should have a MGC anthology. “Return To Omelas.” You can call it “fanfic” and let the lawyers pound salt. I’ve got an excerpt from my demon book primed and ready to pop anytime you want it. Valkyries, humans and a werewolf f*cking over the demon-worshiper town, and there’s even a nuke in it. And lippy spiders.

              1. Call it “Return to the City of Evil” and add a preface saying that it was inspired by the famous short story…

                1. There you go. The cover is some serious Viking dude with a sword in one hand and holding the little boy with the other. M1 Abrams backdrop optional.

                  Git ‘er dun.

            2. Life plus 70 isn’t it? I know that Kipling (PBUH) died in 1936 and his poems finally came out of copyright a few years ago.

          2. I’m all for “They rescue the kid, replace it with a doll, and no one notices because the premise of this story is stupid.”

          3. You all might be interested in a recent release by Schuyler Hernstrom called “Mortu and Kyrus in the White City”. It is, as the saying goes, relevant to the interests of this conversation.

                  1. The random orgies taking place apparently everywhere – as in, sex on demand, on tap, in public, jarred heavily with the description of happy children running hither and thither.

                    If LeGuin wanted to paint the city’s inhabitants as hedonistic, self-centered assholes, she succeeded with that part because I went wtf.

                    It’s implied that the ones who walk away are the ones who found a conscience and couldn’t live with themselves, knowing their happiness was from the suffering of a child.

                    I have to wonder, how is the child selected? Ripped from the loving arms of a mother, or surrendered willingly by some amoral bitch? Did none of the other parents fear? Because that child will eventually die and need replacing.

          1. I’m probably misinterpreting RAH, but I’m still saving the caryatid. And then I’m going to have a word with whoever stuck her under that rock. Dat boi is going to have a bad day.

            I’m a fricking writer. Deus Ex Machina works for -me-, I don’t work for it. [insert crazy Scotsman emoji here]

            1. That wouldn’t be a bad human wave story. Caryatid holds up her burden as long as she can, never giving up. And because she never gave up, she was still holding on when Super Phantom flew by, noticed her plight, and was able to help her.

              Super Phantom is a hero, no question, but the “victim” who refused to give in to despair and held on until she could be rescued is a hero in her own way.

              1. “Super Phantom” is the garbage man of the Gods, or maybe the janitor of the Gods, running around cleaning up the mess they made when they should have been paying attention. I’m convinced that’s what Bodhisattvas are supposed to be, guys who came back from Heaven because they can’t stand the wreckage they left behind.

                In a proper universe the caryatid’s reward is exaltation in the Afterlife, but I’m a simple man with simple tastes. She should get her reward when she’s still alive to spend it. That’s the story I like.

                The reason I like it is because I know it doesn’t always happen that way in Real Life. Why should I put up with in fantasy the thing that enrages me in the newspaper?

              2. hmmm. . . .

                I think it is a coincidence, but in Through a Mirror Darkly, I do have a heroine named Caryatid. Then she’s a secondary character and her backstory — has affinities to but is rather different from what you describe.

                Maybe I should write her story.

            2. I’m afraid I don’t understand all this, because (according to Jubal Harshaw, anyway, and I suspect it is true) that piece of artwork was created in response to the artist seeing these columns carved to look like skinny women being used to hold up heavy roof structures, and how they just didn’t look strong enough to carry the load, so he made a sculpture of one of them failing to hold up the stone.

              Of course, I’m odd in that I often don’t get it when people use a radically different interpretation from what was intended, because I integrate the interpretation into my mindset, and seeing something like that is very jarring to me.

              1. “…and how they just didn’t look strong enough to carry the load…”

                I don’t know about that bit. If you look at the Caryatids of the Erechtheion at the Acropolis in Greece, they look like they can carry that building in a basket on their heads. They have grace and -power-. So I think Mr. Rodin is having us on, with his little crushed one.

                Don’t care, I’m saving her anyway.

        2. Eh. One side passage in a very long book, and expressive of Jubal’s fears when he was talking to Ben – and I don’t think that Mike ended up like the caryatid. He accomplished what he set out to do.

          The “message” I got from that was “Look, see how she is being crushed under the burden that is too much for her – but she is still striving gamely to lift it. Get your butt out there and start helping!”

          1. This reminds me of a scene in one of the Percy Jackson books. It’s been a while so I don’t remember which one–one of the later ones in the first series.
            The story version of Atlas’ punishment was still lifting the “vault of the heavens” sorta kinda. If Atlas was in the spot the burden would shift to him automatically, but for anyone else, they had to take it willingly. The “burden” of that lifting was exactly matched to the person lifting. Whoever was in there could lift it but it took everything they had. When it was a demigod rather than an actual god, the burden would keep pace as they tired, matching what they then could lift. And so it was as much a mental thing as a physical, requiring the person in their to keep going through the fatigue and through the pain, but you couldn’t let it go either.

            The thing was used as a trap–having someone take the load from Atlas, then someone else, a girl this time (I forget who–Annabeth maybe?) to take the load from that one which gets Artemis to take it to save the girl. And in the end Percy takes it from Artemis so she can help defeat the volume’s big bad and stick Atlas back under there.

            So I was just thinking of the series of “good” people taking that just barely bearable load of their own free will to help others in the role of the described caryatid.

            1. I should rectify my deficiency on that series – I’ve only seen the one movie. For some reason, the kids never got into those books, so I had skipped them myself.

              1. Mild spoiler from the first book – if you ever saw the Porky the Pig cartoon with Medusa as a “photographer,” Jackson lifted it. I could not explain to the kids why I was laughing in the wrong place and annoyed at the same time.

        3. OK. I will edit a “Return to the City of Evil” anthology. BUT *holds up paw* I will start gathering material in the spring, so I can work on edits, cover, and so on over the summer.

          SO…. if you are interested, please work on your stories. I will issue a formal call for content probably in January or February with a May turn-in date. I’ll also put word out over at MGC.

          1. I may have something by then. I had a very different negative reaction, and am not yet sure where the story I want to tell is. At least the one I would want to tell these days. I was much younger than, and probably a lot angrier at the world.

      2. Orson Scott Card always liked (and presumably still does) to run with this idea. Except that in his stories, the crushing load being borne by the protagonist was something that would make the protagonist better as a result of enduring it. So, yeah, it sucks to be Ender in Battle School. But if Ender doesn’t put up with all of the crap he goes through in Battle School, then he’s never going to beat the Formics.

        As for the Omelas topic –

        I think Pratchett made it quite clear what he thinks of that sort of thing. Case in point, Hogfather’s take on The Little Match Girl.

    2. Have light. I hit that problem in the Cat Among Dragon books (6-9). The main character goes through h-ll in a gasoline suit. But she keeps going, even when someone has to kick her in the @ss to get her to move a little farther. She’s still badly scarred, but she gets a “pretty dang happy” ever-after, and punishes the bad guys (with a little help).

      Never, ever forget hope.

    3. What is your favorite advice for using dark material to write a positive upbeat story?
      Don’t let the character give up. And don’t take all hope away even when the character falls. Have them fall FOR something: 


      Have light. … Never, ever forget hope.

      Don’t give in to the darkside, for there is light and the darkness cannot overcome it.  Remember that if there is Winter coming, after that there will be Spring.
      Try reading a bit of Kipling.

      If— Launch Audio in a New WindowIf you can keep your head when all about you   
      If you can keep your head when all about you    
          Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,   
      If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
          But make allowance for their doubting too;   
      If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
          Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
      Or being hated, don’t give way to hating,
          And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise:

      If you can dream—and not make dreams your master;   
          If you can think—and not make thoughts your aim;   
      If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
          And treat those two impostors just the same;   
      If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken
          Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
      Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
          And stoop and build ’em up with worn-out tools:

      If you can make one heap of all your winnings
          And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
      And lose, and start again at your beginnings
          And never breathe a word about your loss;
      If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
          To serve your turn long after they are gone,   
      And so hold on when there is nothing in you
          Except the Will which says to them: ‘Hold on!’

      If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,   
          Or walk with Kings—nor lose the common touch,
      If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
          If all men count with you, but none too much;
      If you can fill the unforgiving minute
          With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,   
      Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,   
          And—which is more—you’ll be a Man, my son!

      1. ?? Launch Audio in a New Window– ?? –> Head desk

        I guess I would have done better than to copy paste it the way I did. Sorry.

        1. That made me laugh, I thought you were trying to update poem to twenty first century or some such. “If” is top three favourite poems of mine, paternal granda made me learn it as teenager, said it was proper way for a man to behave as an adult.

        2. In Narnia the Never ending Winter was overthrown! Look at John Ringo’s Black Tide Rising series. It’s a matter of POV, action and determination. Nothing on this earth, Zombie Apocalypse, Holocaust or Gulag is permanent. Ringo’s characters bootstrapped themselves from one man with a goal of a zombie free world and a determination not to bow to the zombies to a manning of over 3,200 people fighting the zombies. They have a positive 21st century world on their ships.

          The US Army liberated the concentration camps. the USSR has fallen and people can leave Russia. I think that political prisoners of the Gulags have been freed.

          Elements that can be nihilistic can also be grey. Gandalf started out as the Grey. Nihilism is a state of mind above all else.People who have survived the camps have gone ahead and optimistically built new lives and, sometimes a new country, for themselves.

    4. There is worthiness in death, and heroism in a failed attempt. I always remember that little clip of the soldiers “going over the top” in WWI, and one guy doesn’t even make it out of the trench. He got hit and fell back into the trench, dead. He was every inch the hero the rest of them were.

      That war changed our world. That man did not die in vain. Or live in vain, for that matter.

      This is why I hate the grey goo. They mock that man. They deny him agency, even humanity. They reduce him to nothing more than a dead dog in a ditch. Roadkill. An animal used up and tossed aside by uncaring forces.

      So have some respect for the virtues and sacrifices of your characters. If they live in Hell, maybe spend a moment to consider WHY they’re in Hell and what they’re doing to get out. If anything.

      And because its -your- story, you can arrange the fortuitous circumstance that acts as their Golden Ladder out of Hell. They still have to climb it.

      Personally my Good Guys have every unfair advantage that intelligence and living right can offer. When they have the beer-or-food choice, they choose food. Because they aren’t IDIOTS like other people I’ve met in life. We do not celebrate and elevate idiots. They do not prosper. Good people choose wisely, and prosper.

      Also I love uneven gunfights. Dark One meets Valkyrie is my favorite so far. That did not go well for the eldritch horror.

    5. What everyone has said.

      I like “dark” but I don’t like “hopeless”. And if the character does lose hope for a bit, to find it again, that’s okay too.

      Ha! It’s good old Luke Skywalker, insisting that he knows that there is still “good” in Darth Vader. If the “hero” loses hope for a while, have someone else there to carry it for her. Ha! It’s Mal on Firefly… if you asked him, he’d say he has no faith anymore, but the people around him know better.

    6. There is an intrinsic worthiness in life, and thus in a life spent for a worthy cause, whether it’s a life spent all at one shot in a frozen foxhole in Korea, or a life spent by the kid in the next frozen foxhole after he gets back home and marries that girl in the photo he carried in his breast pocket and raises a family.

      The baby boom kids who rejected the safe and sane and rational and prosperous world that those who came home from Europe and the Pacific and Korea created, who bought the lies their Marxist professors told them about how their parents were dullards who didn’t know the true value of sex and drugs and free love, who bought the line that told them that any effort to oppose the monstrous evil of the USSR was just a waste of the chance to get stoned and laid, and we’re all going to die anyway, so why try anything? – they all did not stay bought into those lies. Life and time showed some, mostly those who escaped academe, that those professors were idiots, and real life and family and society are in fact worthy of sacrifice.

      And the generations who came after looked at what the Boomers had “built”, said “Oh, Hell No,” tried to clean up some of the mess, and worked and sacrificed and struggled to insert some rationality back into society, with varying degrees of success, but in a worthy effort.

      But that work, to bring safety and sanity and rationality and prosperity, is a worthy cause to spend a life for. The kids who raised their hand and took the oath and flew off to the ‘stans and Iraq and The Horn and the Philippines and the Sub-Sahara and all those other places to oppose the latest threats trying to claw everyone back down into the pre-civilized crab bucket are not wasting anything. They are working to protect and extend what their parents and grandparents and great-grandparents built out of the messes they were left. Just like the cops and firefighters and accountants and electrical engineers who make it possible for everyone who accepts the challenge to individually move ahead, to get further than their parents did.

      Avoiding the nihilism and bacchanalia and diversionary navel-gazing and tantrum governance, working to hunt and stare down the grey abyss and make it look away, working to elevate individual humans up to a life with more freedom and more options and more choice, and making it possible to get humanity off of this all-the-eggs-in-one-basket rock, out into the solar system and out to the stars – Those are a worthwhile expenditure of life’s intrinsic value.

      And those are the stories I want to read.

      1. And, the kids of the BB kids, are generally more judicious, more focused, and more determined to protect what is theirs.
        At least my kids, of whom I am so proud, are.

    7. Thank you all, very much.

      I still have a lot of thinking to do. I hope your advice will help me find a viable path for this story.

      1. Here’s one more thing for you: have faith in yourself, in the future, and in humanity. If you believe in G-d, take time to set your soul right with Him. Because stories spring from our souls, (or, if you will, from our unconscious), from where deep inside us we work through things in story and song and dream before we can abstract out the higher lessons.

        Man is a rationalizing creature, not a rational one. Top-down enforcement of “I will put this into my story!” works… about as well as “I will eat right, exercise, and get all the chores done!”

        Therefore, make sure you are all right with you, not bogged down in despair and dread, that your inner gaze is able to see the light – if you have that and hold to that, then that light and hope will flow into the story. For as surely as corrupt souls weave a residue of something foul into their stories, so those of us who look for the light and the good reflect the same in our works.

  3. Interesting enough, I’ve found the same applies to gaming campaigns. If the players are running evil characters, they usually become very disenchanted with that particular scenario far more quickly than those playing heroic characters. Same thing happens in MMORPGs. Full PVP environments have a very high starting population of players. But most quickly leave because, in the words of WOPR from War Games, “There’s no way to win.”

    1. Thank you. Sarah put a name to the idea, and a bunch of us nodded and thought, “Oh yes!”

      There’s a reason I have a unicorn music box that plays a few measures of “The Impossible Dream” from _Man of La Mancha_… 🙂

  4. Here’s to the past six years’ successes, and here’s to at least a dozen more!

    Has it been six years now? Oh my! My heart was seeking it for so much longer.

    Yes, hear, hear! I give ye Human Wave, may the writers be inspired, may the stories penetrate to the heart and inspire their readers, and may it continue on dozens more dozens of years!

      1. “Had that same thought. “Wait! That was that long ago? Egad.”

        This sensation was unexpected development to me as I get older – “wait, that was ten years ago? ” can be really unsettling sometimes.

    1. And I was just thinking how that politically incorrect view is so much more pleasant than the alternatives. Nice hiney, indeed. Our compliments to the lovely lady.

          1. I think they are making them still on the Isle Of Man. 3 wheels and a 49cc engine it’s considered a moped, here in Michigan.
            Wonder if I could use one for my commute to work?

  5. I’m not a writer, so here’s some feedback from a reader’s POV. I don’t want to read something with no one to root for and with no hope. Wallowing in guilt, wandering aimlessly over the pages, and declaring there is no alternative but to suffer does NOT make me want to read. SJW writers are in a big angst contest right now and nobody cares but them. Please keep writing with the reader in mind.

    And a big thank you for the picture for this post.

    1. Another reader POV, not-a-writer.

      Don’t care if there is a message. Story. Story. Story. Message better not be in my face, until the very, very, end, as an over arching theme, when you look back after finishing the story. Yes, message is there, very clear at the end, & weaved through the story, but not the main piece of the story, but told through the actions of the characters.

      1. The ideal message (seldom achieved, even by The Greats) is the one you don’t realize, at first. It’s the one where you think back about the story (did anyone mention that yet? ♉) and go, “Oh, so that’s there too. Huh.”

      1. I don’t ‘swing that way’ either, but it is one of the greater follies of the modern age that we are no longer able to admire beauty, regardless of the sex of the beholder or the one beheld, for beauty’s own sake and take enjoyment from the beholding, without it being tarnished and maligned as base sexual enjoyment and desire. One of the many joys of life, a quite innocent one, turned into something empty and joyless.

        For those who can’t understand what I said above (and there will be those of malicious bent who would) I like looking at people and admiring how they look or praise their physical features (‘She has a lovely profile; he has a nice ass; she’s got legs that make those boots look amazing; mmmm, that’s a delicious slice of beefcake’; ‘I can watch her walking away allll day in that mini’) without wanting to fuck them.

        That is something I cannot forgive the boomers for.

          1. Yes. Opens up the ‘arguments’ that favor incestuous relationships and ‘pedophile acceptance’ because if there is no non-sexual love, then ‘all love is sexual’ thus… yeah. I saw that slippery slope over a decade ago, and was told I was a bigot for pointing out the flaws in that line of thinking, and yet, here we are today, with adult incest having had days in court trying to use the same arguments used to accept homosexuality* and they’re trying now again with ‘minor attracted adults’.

            *I haven’t got anything against homosexuals; or their relationships, as long as they’re purely consensual and harms nobody. My point was, and it still is, that their arguments were too open and broad and could be easily used to justify the acceptance and legalization of other sexual relationships that should not be made acceptable, ever.

            1. “Opens up the ‘arguments’ that favor incestuous relationships and ‘pedophile acceptance’ because if there is no non-sexual love, then ‘all love is sexual’ thus… yeah.”


              I saw this once, as it happens. Live, large event, lots of people in the room, microphones used etc. Perpetrator and victim’s parents in the same room, perpetrator pleading his whiny New Age case. I’ll always remember this pencil neck wailing “But there was no abuse!” when confronted with the notion that what he’d done was evil.

              That the parents didn’t rise up and kill him was nothing short of a miracle. Superhuman impulse control.

      2. It’s a beautiful picture. I can certainly appreciate the beauty of someone who’s athletic, fit, and utterly in their element.

        I can also sigh over “I wish I had the knees to do that!”

          1. It’s never to late to learn. The real beauty of swimming is that it’s one of the few sports that FAVORS the ‘fluffy’ person – we float so much better than the scrawny.

    2. As a reader, I always love the characters. My favorite books are ones that have characters that I can relate to, that I can cheer for. Then give them an interesting story to live (that I can live through them). Maybe they get discouraged, I know I do at times. Maybe there are times when all seems lost, and the assholes are going to win (again, I can relate), but don’t let them give up, or perhaps when they do give up give them something that keeps them moving. Maybe a friend shows up and encourages them. Maybe their dog grabs them by the seat of their pants and drags them along and won’t LET them quit. Maybe they keep going for the sheer bloody mindedness of it and because keeping on is the only thing left to do.

      Then in the end, in spite of it all, let them WIN! Don’t just give it to them, they have to earn it for it to be worth anything, but they have to win. As a reader, it’s important. I want to see that character (those characters) that I have invested my heart into win so that I can know that, at least in a story, it’s possible. Because it give me hope that in my own story, maybe I can win too.

      As a want-to-be writer. I hope I am successful in writing those kinds of stories.

      1. I’d add to that that I’d better ACTUALLY love your characters. If you keep rubbing in my face that your main characters (“heroes” doesn’t apply here, and even “protagonist” is a stretch) are horrible people no better than the villains, eventually I’m going to believe you and wonder why I should care who wins.

        A similar principle applies if your characters are so useless that I’m tempted to replace them with a Roomba in order to have a protagonist who at least moves around a bit.

  6. There are more groups, too. Advancing similar-but-different visions.

    It turns out that there are a whole lot of people who want some entertainment in their fiction and some hope and triumph in their sacrifices. You know… some buckle in their swash.

  7. Human wave isn’t Pollyannaish, There’s always someone who hears the concept and decides that it is. But there can’t be heroes without villains and there can’t be triumph without something to defeat.

    And sometimes the negativity dragging us down isn’t obvious. Sometimes it is, but not always. If someone refers to humans as a cancer, it’s pretty clear. But back when I was reading Io9 it gradually dawned on me that there was a subthread of defeat and despair even in things that seemed forward looking. I started to joke that their slogan, “we come from the future” had a second phrase, “and the lights are out.”

    I find myself avoiding popular sci-fi television shows because I fear that there will be a “downer” twist at the end, as if we somehow don’t deserve the stars.

    1. I find myself avoiding popular sci-fi television shows because I fear that there will be a “downer” twist at the end, as if we somehow don’t deserve the stars.

      Reminds me. The SciFi channel (or was it SyFy by then?) series “Farscape” (one of my favorites–judge if you wish) ended on very much a downer note, but that was unintentional. It was planned as a “cliffhanger” season ender only at the last minute the series was canceled and that was it ending with the main character and his warrior-woman love interest literally (and I literally mean literally) chopped into tiny cubes.

      Fortunately, someone got enough support together to produce a short mini-series to resolve that cliffhanger and finish it right on a much more upbeat note.

      1. I loved that show! I don’t know when I stopped watching it, though, because I never got to that part but that sounds really horrible.

        1. If you ever go back to it, make sure you get the Peacekeeper Wars mini-series along with the series itself. They fix it. (I don’t suppose that counts as a spoiler at this late date.) They pull it off.

          1. I am profoundly glad that I know this! Because one of these days I probably would go back and binge watch the thing and if it ended like you said I’d be extremely upset. Extremely!

      2. Farscape had its moments, but up to the point I stopped watching, they never got over distrusting and backbiting one another. It just grated on my nerves to see it over and over and over and over again.

        1. I wound up seeing more of them than I cared to, as my wife was a huge fan.

          My main problem was that almost every part of the Farscape universe we saw looked like central Africa or Haiti; the only ones who seemed to actively be trying to change that were the Peacekeepers.

          On the other hand, in one episode we got to see Hugh Keys-Byrne playing a role while dressed up in his old Toecutter getup from Mad Max…

    2. My biggest complaint about the villains in the SJW universe is that traditional, truly evil villains cannot be stomached. In the real world, establishing the evil of a character requires a demonstration. He’s gotta do something really bad. But this “triggers” the snowflakes, so those characters can’t exist in the SJW universe. The closest you get is a statement: “This guy’s evil. Trust me.” SJW sensibilities require their villains to have very specific qualities that they don’t like, and none that they do like.

      I think it’s this thinking that makes the SJWs try to rehabilitate today’s movie villains. They’re not really bad, they’re just misunderstood victims!

      1. He’s male, probably religious, probably not leftist. Businessman or military flunky previously. Think the current escapades will redeem the fib in the glitterati crowd.

      2. that’s because they don’t believe in Evil until they get knifed at a roadside in Afghanistan.

  8. And human characters that DO make mistakes, they aren’t perfect… But they survive and prosper in spite of their shortfalls, not because of ‘outside’ influences!

    1. Sometimes the hero does ‘evil’ to do good, & as reader, you cringe, you cry, you gasp, it just is.

      “I used the knife. I saved the child. I won the war. God forgive me.” – Changes Dresden Files – Jim Butcher

      1. Ayup. Because in stories, as in real life, the choice is rarely between two sunny outcomes, or one awesome and one terrible. (In fact, we may look at stories as a way of teaching us that when you have two bad choices,, you make the best one you can, and live with it.)

      2. Maybe you can ride away like a paladin while your unicorn farts rainbows.

        More likely, you can’t right a big wrong without getting some collateral poo stuck to you. Fighting evil can be like wrestling with a pig.

        If you give up, you’re still covered in poo… and even if you achieve your main goal, that may still be your undoing.

        That’s one reason the story of the 57 Samurai transcends so many very different cultures.

    2. And as Sarah has said before (paraphrasing), you can even kill the hero… so long as one inspired character is left to go, “Hang on, this problem still needs fixing, and I’m gonna try!”

      1. And that new character has a chance. Too simple to just get in the circle of sending new people on the same impossible task

      2. $SPOUSE is generally not fond of SF television, but Person of Interest hooked both of us. The redemption arcs were pretty amazing, starting with some very broken people and ending with a satisfying conclusion. I might quibble about the story-arc villains (HR in particular was a bit of a cardboard cutout), but as the series went on, even the man behind the Samaritan AI was understandable, though his end was fitting.

        At the time, the biggest complaint we had about the series was that it was a bit too realistic for comfort. [yikes] Not that it’s gotten much better. I’ll use Google iff there’s no satisfactory alternative, but FB can take a flying leap into a burning lake.

  9. Re: “What if…”

    People now know.
    That alone makes it too late.
    One of Asimov’s most memorable lines (for me, anyway) was that you can’t stuff that mushroom cloud back into a shiny metal sphere.

    That doesn’t mean some dopes won’t try messing with the isotopes…

  10. Went and looked at the introduction to and began pondering a series of short stories following the Adventures of the Grey Goo Assassin. Except who’d read the originals to do it? Who’d want to? Thus… an idea best left alone, I suspect. To parody the miserably dull, one must endure the miserably dull. And.. nope. Nopety nope nope nope. With nope sauce. And a fine nope wine. (There’s probably way more than enough whine, however.) Did I mention nope?

    1. I used to read “Protectors of the Plot Continuum”, which was a similar notion applied to (originally) Tolkien Mary Sues. Great fun, though eventually it petered out. (I am more sympathetic to Mary Sues these days, at least of the “I want to have all the adventures and save all the days!” variety. This is possibly because I read far less fanfic these days.)

      1. I’m not sure of the qualifications, but I’m a bit baffled by “Bambi.” I don’t think it really belongs as a “speculative fiction” film. It always struck me as a relatively realistic “life of a deer” story.

            1. Deer have killed a lot more people than radioactive dinosaurs.

              Deer kill about 200 Americans every year and injure many more.

              Some people see Bambi. I see Satan’s hooved minions…

        1. I’ve seen people categorize “Bambi”, “Watership Down”, and other animal-perspective books as “xenofiction”, which definitely overlaps heavily with speculative fiction in both technique and readership. I think the attempt to believably extrapolate a culture or POV from a nonhuman perspective generates the overlap, but I always got the same sensawunda from both types of fiction.

      1. While we are on the topic, has anyone compared the Worldcon schedule before-and-after Mary three-names “fixed” it? She said that they kept the “good” panels, replaced the “bad” ones, and when the topic was okay but the panelists were wrong, changed the panelists. I’m having trouble imagining what the “bad” panel topics could have been. And was there a panel on “nontoxic masculinity” (with 3 female panelists and one gay man) originally? What about “The Future of Middle-Grade SF/F in America” which is about “how embracing the rising tide of PoC readership is key to middle-grade F/SF’s future” and whose panel description complains that “only” 6% of children’s books are written by Asians?

        And it has been a long time since I’ve been to a SF con: are panels on topics like “ethical non-monogamy” normal these days?

        1. and whose panel description complains that “only” 6% of children’s books are written by Asians?

          Well, that’s a blatant lie if I’ve ever heard one. I’m pretty sure that if they went outside of the US, they’d find plenty of local authors in their local publishing industry, doing their own thing, except it’s not something that the Western illiterati seem to pay attention to for Reasons.

          1. Well, to be fair to them, the panel name does say “…in America”. However, this doesn’t make them look too much better, since Asians make up about 6% of the American population. Why do these people, who claim to care so much about race, not know the simplest facts about racial groups?

            For that matter, why is the only issue of interest in Middle-grade SF/F in America the skin color of the authors? Is there nothing to be discussed about, say, whether dystopian SF/F is popular or good in this age group? And why is this panel about middle-graders anyway — is there something special about the race of the author when it comes to middle-school readers? This whole panel is really strange!

        2. Decades ago, LosCon had a panel on “polyamory” in their schedule, which seems to be the same thing. In fact they had it in successive years, with the same panelists each time. I went to one, and asked how polyamorists dealt with a couple of issues that I thought Heinlein had not sufficiently considered in his stories, and they offered to refer me to a therapist who dealt with poly clients; apparently they could not imagine that anyone would want to ask such a question for other than personal reasons. Anyway, it’s a topic that’s been around long enough to have moss.

          1. Fights between “couples” become much more exciting when there’s more than two sides, or so I imagine. Also, everybody focuses on the “in bed” part. Nobody remembers that part lasts about 20 minutes on a good day, and nobody talks about the extra socks on the floor, extra toothbrushes, parking another minivan in the driveway, all that.

            Now consider a marriage with a human, a Post-Human, two human-made AIs, and an alien AI. That’s going to need a bit of sorting out. ~:D

              1. Heather has two mommies… and two daddies, plus whatever that is. [pointing to alien AI]

                First day of school introductions ~:D

              2. I don’t share that emotional reaction; on the contrary, the idea rather appeals to me. But it doesn’t seem to work well for most human beings. There are costs involved that most polyamorists don’t account for.

                1. I knew (through a mailing list) a group of people that called themselves an amoeba. They were together for a year or so then they dissolved and one of the men ended up being a single father with a girl.

                2. It sometimes seems to work, even pretty well, for a time, but it also seems to be a rather unstable arrangement for most people. I can guess why – two people can perhaps meet in the middle when they have very different opinions about something, but problems can arise fast when there happens to be more than two opinions, or a couple or more join forces against one or minority who then feel completely browbeaten, and so on.

                  I think that system would probably need something like a rather doctrinaire society where it was common enough that very strict rules for how to behave, who has rights to what, what and when and who (whether it was whose turn it is to have sex with whom on which night or who should wash the clothes which weeks) had evolved which everybody knows and the culture keeps up because there is very heavy group pressure from outside for the members of any group marriage to stick to the rules exactly, before it might become something which can work for most people who enter into one.

                3. The polyamorist people I’ve known insist that it’s an *orientation* and that it’s not going to work for you just because you want it to.

          2. For some years LASFS had a double handful of members in a more-or-less stable polyamory group (tho far as I’ve paid attention, they’ve now mostly either gone monogamous, or passed away) which explains why LOSCON had it as a regular topic.

        3. I didn’t see the Before. I did read the entire After list. And actually, I think MRK did a very good job, at least for content — it’s fairly broad-spectrum, recognizably SF/F in focus, and only a small percentage (I didn’t count but my eyeball estimate was 6%) were blatantly-SJW topics.

          As to the panelists, tho, 99% of ’em I’ve never heard of… but I pay absolutely no attention to the one-hit-wonder short story and blog market, from whence apparently came the majority of the clamoring #MePanelistToo crowd.

          So while the topic spread looks pretty good, how it’ll work out with mostly who-the-hell-are-yous behind the tables remains to be seen. I’m not going, so I don’t really care.

          1. The main reason I’d like to see the “before” schedule is that I suspect the “broad-spectrum” part was there before MRK took over. She’s just taking credit for the good work that the previous con committee did. I’d bet that she just added a couple of panels for the main complainers, and eliminated a bunch of straight white men from the program.

            1. I have no idea. Impression I had (from =before= she was called in) was that they’d dumped the entire schedule, but … yeah, would be interesting to compare. Could be MRK was mostly brought in as the token peacemaker.

              At any rate, it wasn’t anywhere near as visibly SJW-skewed as I’d expected. Which doubtless pisses off all the right people, but that’s what happens when your pet SJWs fight about who’s on first until you run out of time!

              1. “MRK as the token peacemaker” would be especially interesting if the addition of Mike Resnick to program happened after her involvement, considering her blog post about the SFWA Bulletin (202) opinion column by Resnick & Malzberg 5 years ago (the one that wound up all the SJWs, including MRK).

              2. The fact that she kept a bunch of the previous schedule comes from her tweet where she says
                “We evaluated the existing programming into three categories

                ·Keep- We like them. Good job!
                ·Repair – Good core idea, but the panel description, staffing, or title needed attention. Most of our effort was here.
                ·Replace – Exchanged for another panel for a variety of reasons.”

        4. As far as the “Ethical Non-Monogamy thing, I saw the exact same panel listing for an upcoming small literary con here in town. At that point I decided things had slipped enough from the original aims of con-based fandom to not feel at all bad that I can’t go because my boys have a Scouting troop obligation that weekend (traffic control at a wine festival, somehow seems like a win-win to me!).

          I also recall a year that my favorite, very family friendly relax-a-con shared their weekend and venue with a BDSM con, including panel-cross promotion. That was very uncomfortable, given I had much smaller kids with me then and folks were wandering the halls in fetish gear with some lack of discretion (justified, it was their con weekend too). Words were had with the con committee by a number of regulars to the effect that we would no longer be able to consider this a family event if this was going to be the new normal, no matter how many panels there were on building Harry Potter wands or puppetry. There was no recurrence of that situation, but there are still some late night panels on the subject, although generally more from the viewpoint of accurately incorporating the lifestyle into your fiction vs living it.

          So, yeah, it does seem to be a regular fandom thing now. For me, there’s no crossover between the interests so I don’t really get it. But I suppose the argument could be made that given the preponderance of erotic fiction under the aegis of “Supernatural Romance” sexual practice panels counts as research. Or for making non-traditional family structures work in your future setting. Still, I also suspect that some of it is an attitude that if we are all freaks here, we should all let our specific freak flags fly, even if unrelated to genre fiction.

          1. When I did convention programming (which I did for quite a few years, back in the day), I always had a sexually themed panel or two. Often this was in the “fannish lifestyle” track, because there were fans who were trying out alternative sexual customs, just as there were fans who costumed or did stuff online or played RPGs—but not always; one of the best discussions I ever got at a con was in the art track, in the panel “Art, Eroticism, and Censorship.” I put the panels where the discussion was likely to be provocative or playful into the evening hours, but I didn’t hesitate to have the serious ones in the daytime hours.

            But one thing I did NOT do was have, say, a polyamory panel where all the participants were from the same polyamory group and had the same polyamory party line. Panels are supposed to be discussions, not preaching.

      2. Yeeaaahhhh… but the stories they’re awarding the Retros to tend to be… interesting. Even when they’re by theoretically not-of-the-body authors.

  11. People actively calling for the end of America ought be given the Philip “The Man Without a Country” Nolan treatment.

    When Antifa Chants ‘No America at All’
    By Sarah Hoyt
    Apparently while countering the “Unite the Right” (which is neither) demonstration, the brown shirts of Antifa got a little upset there was no one there to fight them.

    According to this article* on Powerline, quoting an article in the Washington Post by Petula Drorak who covered the Antifa demonstration:

    Masked — in black instead of KKK white — they pinballed around the empty streets of downtown D.C., randomly chanting and searching for a brawl.

    “Bust some windows!” (Why?)

    “Nazis, go home!” (They did.)

    “No border! No wall! No USA at all!” (Huh?)

    First, I want to say that if Ms. Drorak’s puzzlement at these slogans isn’t faked – is that possible – it might be time she paid some attention to what is happening in the party she (being a liberal) ostensibly endorses. That last chant is no surprise for those of us who have been awake for the last 15 years or so. The democratic party – whose violent arm the Antifa is – has long since become the Midgard Worm, gnawing at the root of all that allows it and its – generally helpless – supporters to exist.

    For those I lost in the last paragraph: the Norsemen, people not known for their sunny outlook on the future, believed that at the root of the “world tree” (i.e the tree that supports our entire reality) there lay a worm, the Midgard Worm, which gnawed at the root and would eventually cause reality as we know it to cease to exist, thereby bringing about Ragnarok (which it turns out is more than just a movie, yes.)

    Okay, that’s it, and I promise I won’t be inflicting any more reminders of my misspent – if you don’t think sitting in a corner and reading a lot is misspent, you must be me – youth on you. I also promise that there won’t be a test on Tuesday. (Perhaps next Wednesday, but not Tuesday!)

    But I wanted you to have that image because it’s one found in other less known mythologies: something that is working to destroy the universe as exists, in the same universe that allows it to exist. …

    *link embedded in original document.

    1. ‘People actively calling for the end of America ought be given the Philip “The Man Without a Country” Nolan treatment.’

      Bingo!! Yep, anyone calling for radical social change — the appropriate response is: You go first. Put your money where your mouth is.

      At the very least, they should be stripped of the right to vote. No America, no vote. (Tho lack of citizenship seems to no longer be a barrier, according to San Francisco, and I think it was Vermont next on the crazy block.)

  12. Six years later, at least we have a logo!

    I have an idea of how it should work, but what I really need is a core starting group of writers who want to participate in promoting Human waves and the writers and novels that exemplify it.

        1. Any chance of moving from FarceBook? That place is Mordor-Online.

          I’m interested, btw.

          1. FB is the platform that most authors have a presence on by necessity. If they’re already there, it’s less difficult to get them to join a group. getting them to migrate to a whole new social media platform just for a group is asking for failure.

            Closed groups on FB are pretty decent, and comprise almost all of my activity there.

            1. FB. I understand the panic. But there are ways to prevent downside.

              My personal page is as locked down as one can get it. There is a possibility, based on powers at FB kicking off people for being “fake”, actually getting kicked off. Hasn’t happened yet but won’t surprise me if it happens.

              *No picture of me, period; well some links by little sis as she scans & posts sibling pics of us growing up.

              *Rarely post anything. Well okay. 12 years ago now when we brought home our new adopted 2 1/2 year-old English Toy Spaniel, another one of her idea of “camping” (where’s my chair, there is dirt on the ground”), & final one just after she died. One of the 3 week kitten found & added to household, another 3 years latter in the same spot. One of the new puppy we adopted 1 1/2 year ago … you get the picture.

              *Would be considered a lurker …

              *Really only post to closed/apply-to groups. Then mostly comments on others posts. Comments similar to what I’d post to this groups.

              *Ignore the ads, let alone click on them. Couldn’t tell you what ads might pop up on my FB browsing sessions.

              So. Yes. Stay away from the drama. FB not so bad.

  13. I was thinking about this, and I realized something that I liked in the authors that I enjoy.

    Even when the characters are in Hell-they still strive. Take David Drake, for example. I was reading “The Sharp End” again, and the character of Vierziger hit me. He’s a self-aware sociopath, might be the figurative if not the literal reincarnation of Joachim Steuben (whom is one of the most scary character I’ve ever read), and has every reason to believe that if there is a Hell, he’s got an express ticket there for his luxury skybox of eternal torment.

    And, he still does a singular good deed-for no other reason than because it was a good deed. He didn’t have to do it, he didn’t need to do it. He could maybe justify it on the basis of destabilizing the gangs on the planet, but the way he did the act-and ended it-ended by putting him at great risk.

    But, he still did it. Without regrets.

    I can’t see, say, Charles Stross or John Scalzi writing a scene like that. Somebody tries a good deed and they’ll get horribly punished by a universe that hates them. If you’re not the biggest monster around, you’ll get eaten. Best to be a greedy, self-centered bastard, then.

    Which is something I hate. We have too many greedy, self-centered bastards. I want to rise to something higher, even if it’s only a slightly higher place to stand in the cesspools of Hell.

  14. Sometimes a little pessimism benefits the story, the same way a little bitterness enhances flavors, or a little dissonance enhances a piece of music.
    There’s a fair number of works that could fall under grey goo that are actually great stories. “Watchmen”, “Evangelion*”, “No Country for Old Men” to put up a few top of my head examples.
    However, too many hacks tend to get the wrong takeaway from the success of these examples. Instead of adding a little lime zest, they dump a pound of chopped lime peels. They make the whole score into nothing but dissonance. They write the story as nothing but bad and grimdark and mean. It gets quickly tiring.

    *Orange goo in this case

    1. To make a good deconstruction work, you have to know and love the original material. “Evangelion” (and I’m talking about the TV series, not the “Rebuild” movies, which do not work) was done by people that have been knocking around the giant robot genre for years, wanted to do “Godzilla” but couldn’t, and (if legends are correct) had to do something because they had to pay their tax bills. And, were on their metaphysical last legs, as I believe Hideaki Anno had finally hit the point where he couldn’t deny he had serious mental issues part of the way through the series.

      And, boy, did they deliver.

      And, it of course gave us a whole bunch of imitators (including RahXephon, which I thought was a much superior product in a lot of ways), and a lot of absolute crap. But, everybody wants to catch the golden goose, and “Evangelion” was laying golden eggs like nothing seen before or since, really. It’s like the MCU-when “Iron Man” came out and made a metric buttload of money, everyone had to try to make their own superhero movies and do their own cinematic universes. And, they didn’t seem to get what worked-and what didn’t. So, you get products that aren’t what you wanted or needed or really did what the originals did.

  15. First read “Omelas” in a collection, long before I’d heard of this blog or even Sarah Hoyt. Took a while, especially with its presentation as a major moral quandary, to understand it as far more a temptation to near-absolute evil…

    Far, far longer than it took me to put the above discussion/motivation together with (strange, but true) part of Sarah’s recent PJMedia post. So, with all the usual explanations/apologies on length—

    The dark man smiiled. Winningly and broadly. “Don’t worry, I’m not here to tell you what to do.”
    “That’s right. You asked for this audience, and now you’ve got it,” said the pinch-faced Town Councilor in the second row. “And we’ve got *you*, too.”
    And the dark man smiled, inspiringly, once more.

    He’ d walked into the Bright City not quite like he’d owned the place, but more as if he felt he could buy it on a whim. Black pants, white linen shirt, shiny black shoes, dark cloak flying back in the desert heat and wind. Raven-dark hair, white skin, and a bearing like the wiliest caravan master ever foaled.
    Shiny silver cloak-pin and badges on his shirt — a wolf, a raven, a falcon, other less identifiable things. An odd design in ruby and topaz, complementary half-circles in an odd double-teardrop shape they did not know to call yin and yang.

    Exotic by any measure. Darkness, alongside light, and still coldly ascendant.

    “You have quite the fame, gentlemen, and the stories of the foundation of your success are whispered or shouted the world across. Especially shouted, in a quarter or two here and there, by stout men and women of good will.”

    “We do not speak of secrets here.” The council leader, hale and white-bearded.

    “Of course you do not, but I am — impertinent. You could say my role is often to speak the inconvenient truth to power. Just ask my own family and friends!”
    And he remembered a certain party, once upon a time. Ah, the power of truth.

    “Your impertinence could be your end.”

    “And yet perhaps not. There are dark prophecies about my fate never come to pass, and yours is not the greatest of them.” He smiled, though the image of his wife with a bowl of poison, catching stray drops, flitted through his mind.

    “State your business or begone, foreigner!” Pinch-face again, saying he could go at will, despite his earlier hint otherwise. Inconsistent little hobgoblin…

    “I am here to render unto you your just reward for generations of ethical, moral behavior. For what you send around, comes around.”
    “You speak in riddles!” A woman he hadn’t noticed. Pity, she was fetching.
    “Yes, so often I do, a longtime failing of mine. Consider it an overly obscure historical reference.” (From a history yet to be written, but why confuse more?)

    “Let me be more plain. Whatever looks too good to be true often is. That’s just Fate — and by the way, all three of the girls say hi.
    “You got the goodies, folks, now it’s time to gimme the gotcha.”
    And he stood up straight and serious and “respectful” for the very first time.

    “Madman! Our ancestors in their tombs refuse your defilement of this body.”

    The dark-haired man threw back his head and guffawed. “Your ancestors are already hard at work for *me*, august councillor! Not in their tombs but in the undying spirit. Usually the girl with the pretty necklace and my stuffy brother, okay, half-brother, with the pirate eyepatch and the floppy hat and crows on his shoulders in place of parrots take turns choosing players for their teams. But there are exceptions, and there is a morals clause in the fine print.”

    The leader spoke simply and flatly. “Who *are* you, and what do you want?”

    “First, more than the man of elegance and taste you see before you, when they aren’t calling me worse, they call me Loki.” And he bowed self-deprecatingly.

    “Second, I want you. All. Forever, or nearly so. I’ve a nice reciprocal labor treaty with my cousin Hel, and she can always use a few warm-ish bodies for the salt mines or the snow-shovel detail in Niflheim. And I’m not really asking.”

    He smiled, again, not so winningly. “As my big ox-like cousin would say: hares [gesturing toward them], trap [twirling his finger in an inclusive circle], sprung.”
    At the last he closed both fists, like a man catching a pair of flies at once.

    And he did not smile. “Third, I want the kid. Sooner is better. My brother’s wife is a real motherly type, and she wants to start bringing him back to the world.”

    There were loud gasps. Murmurs and rumbles of “Sacrilege!” Then a defiant, loud and very clear “Never!”

    And the dark man smiled, merrily. “I was so, so, so hopin’ someone was gonna say that. My big strong simple cousin figured it was time to just hammer this place to gravel, and some of the others wanted to get nasty about it, but I said, give ’em a decent chance and they’ll flat-out *ask* for it.
    “Look, guys, you ate the bait, you loosed the noose, it’s done. Long ago. I’m still willin’ to deal, about *all* the smaller stuff, but if you’re not…”
    He shrugged in a way that looked, for an instant, genuinely tired.
    “If you’re not, I know how to lay a siege.”

    This time, there was nothing. Thought him crazy, nothing to say, just scared..?
    He put his left thumb on the topaz of the brooch he’d borrowed, and said:

    In fire and ice the worlds were born,
    In fire and ice the worlds all die,
    In fire and ice the worlds are born again,
    From fire to ice the balance shifts now here.

    And he reached back over his shoulder toward the open doors behind him with his right hand, and snapped his fingers once.

    “One day they’ll call it climate change. Long after the ice is ten times deeper than the tallest of your towers here. For now, we just call it… Wolfwinter. A special limited preview of the real thing, arranged most especially for you.”

    There were gasps from the few who knew the heavy snowfall visible outside for what it was. Inside the air was still hot, and outside the snow melted as it fell. A few of the councilors stood up in their seats, and one pointed, shaking.

    But still no one else spoke.

    “Well, if that’s it, then, I’ll be on my way. See you soon, and good luck with your rewards of an upright life an’ stuff. Have fun with all that. I know the kids did.”

    He turned and walked directly out, and no one did anything to hinder him.
    Outside the snow speckled his suddenly-seasonable cloak, as the now-murky sky swallowed the sunlight, and the slush packed more thickly on the streets.

    Some of those who walk away, can do it with a happy smile and a merry tune.

    Sometimes it happens there are itches we want to scratch and never even get as far as imagining that’s *possible*. And then it changes — and it’s wonderful.
    So thank you very kindly, Sarah Hoyt, Alma Boykin, Phantom, and company.
    The very best gifts are often the ones most unlooked-for.

    Though I do anticipate that nascent anthology of cathartic exorcism with glee.

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