Old Story

Image by Comfreak from Pixabay

Lately I’ve got interested in stereotypes.  Oh, not racial or cultural. Not gender either. More like the old stereotypes of our field, the stories you think you know where they’re going (the stereotypical — or should I say archetypal) characters and stories are so old you mind starts filling in stuff just from reading a few lines.  Which btw means the author needs to do a lot less work…. and more work, at least if we don’t want to make it paint by the numbers boring.  Though I’ll note in the new era, the paint by numbers pulpish stereotypes sell better than the “so innovative, so literary, so relevant” stuff. (Mostly because those are usually wrong on three counts.)

OTOH I know myself, and things would get interesting/sideways/subverted. Because I’m me.  What they probably wouldn’t get is pulled down into the mud and rolled in with the pigs. Because, yeah, some humans are terrible, but if you live in the real world and pay attention, you’ll find more heroism and glory in anyone’s life than petty self-betrayal and amoral vacuousness.

I haven’t had time.  We’re halfway, in number of rooms (in size of rooms it’s different, though as husband pointed out most of the large rooms remaining ARE very straightforward with no weird angles) in flooring the house.  Three to go. One very small, but….

And I have a million stories ahead to write, anyway, all planned, laid out, some started some almost finished.  But I’ve been grabbing almost randomly old stories (and filk) when I sit down.  (Old stories in paper. Part of the job is shelving stuff in the library, where the new and improved (my old rendering computer almost 10 years old) publishing computer is going, so younger son can use it, and make me paper editions of everything, and run the new, upcoming, wonderful (look, I need to sit down and edit, and — if she signs/agrees to the contracts — republish Kate Paulk, including her new one.  And we have a dozen anthologies in the works too) inkstain publishing (shared worlds, anthologies, and perhaps Kate Paulk, if she so wishes.)  Thing is the thing needs management, and I haven’t even been managing myself well.  Younger son will take it up while he’s looking for work. And hopefully when he finds it and likely moves out of state, there MIGHT be enough money to hire someone for the job — gulp — I hope.

So anyway, I’ve been grabbing old books, the ones whose covers were in primary colors and whose pages sometimes crumble at the touch. Not all SF/F. I have a collection of pulp mysteries as well, mostly picked up when I was depressed and needed comfort.

Look that type of space opera is barely science fiction unless you extend the definition to mean “Man faced with strange situations.” I mean, the science is usually cursory and/or waved at.  Yes, Heinlein did it better by injecting real science.  (I try, okay. A part of the science is handwavium — well, isn’t it always? — but in the part that is essential to my premise I bug all my contacts. Yes, including sons.)

But Heinlein leaned heavily on the pulp stereotypes, the stereotypes of the human mind that go back to — if you could verify it — the campfires of the indo-European culture (whose main strength was apparently multilayered endless sagas. They worked to draw other tribes to the culture apparently. Or at least that’s one of the speculations.  Not so much by the force of arms but by story they conquered. Um….. Nice work if you can get it.

If you don’t believe he leaned on those, go read the opening to Citizen of the Galaxy. Or the first chapter of Starman Jones. Or the scene when Star appears to Oscar for the first time.

I’m not Heinlein. I couldn’t even play Heinlein on TV (though if I don’t wax, the mustache could pass.)

But those old stereotypes have been rolling through my mind like thunder. I’m not sure what the hell to do with them, but they’re there, and maybe something will come of it eventually.

Tell me you don’t get hooked, and sense the surprises hidden in each of these.  (And it’s me. The surprises would probably surprise you.)

There was a laughing devil in his eyes.  He was a disreputable, scarred man of middle years, sliding reluctantly into old age, kicking and screaming the whole way.  Flesh hung loose on his broad frame.  His left eye was missing. What remained of his hair was red and looked like he’d given himself a haircut using metal cutters.

But his remaining eye was the dark blue of space. He walked with the rolling gait of a spaceman, too long in free fall.

There might be another reason for his walk. In the bars of Far Itravine, in the Blind Seer system, he told stories of his fighting pirates in Antares and barely piloting away from a black hole in High Mauritius.  People bought him drinks.

But if you waited around after you left, someone would come and tell you, “Bless your heart, sir. No.  He was a stevedore down in the spaceport locks. The eye and the scars are where an AI loader’s grappling hook hit. His mother was a spaceport whore. I don’t think he ever spaced.”



“Need some company, spaceman?”

I looked her over. You never know, in these far ports.  She looked eighteen, maybe twenty. And she was pretty. Pretty enough to hit close to the uncanny valley.

Instinctively I looked for those seams that join head to neck and neck to body.  Look, none of the comfort women are real humans. Humans are spread too thin over the universe to waste on that kind of thing. Particularly when androids do it better, and you don’t need to worry over their feelings.

To my surprise I found none.  And yet her greeting was straight from historical hollos, and she was wearing something shimmery and so light I could see the shape of her rosy flesh beneath.

I looked at her eyes, improbably spring green, and she smiled back.

That did it. No one smiles that willingly at a guy with my mug. She was either an assassin — since when did I rate assassins, though? — or an alien in human disguise.


Things were rolling along pretty good in Myroclady.  Well, as good they could be, in the middle of the war.

Conscripted laborers had settled down to building the new shiny war ships.  Engineers — male and female — worked overtime at the designs, and laborers slapped them on frames as far as they would go.

And then people started talking of seeing the Invictus.

Yes, that Invictus, the ship blown up with all hands at the beginning of the confrontation with the Alliance. The one that had aboard the best regarded of our commanders, and his son the Young Hope. And the best brains the human race had ever thrown out. At least on the side of free men.

It started with one of the women assembling the shipskin in the molecular vats. She was walking home, late at night, and swore she’d seen the Invictus — “As I remember, sir, from a hollo at school” — materialize in the skies. So close she could see the faces of the lost at the viewports. She said she saw Vir Hopewell — Young Hope — at one of them. “His hair was just like in the holo, but he looked sad.  And he lifted his hand at me. Not quite a wave, you know, but like he knew me.”  And then she burst into tears.

Now, these could be set — with modifications — any time from the ancient agean to the present.  Why set them in space?

Well, obviously, because that’s the frontier we instinctively know we must colonize. It beacons and calls to us, and our dreams are there.

In the nineteenth century, people told stories of Africa that had very little to do with the real Africa, but they sold to the restless.  I think it’s something-like with pulp.

And why some people are so invested in making sure we never dream of that frontier.

They will yell how colonization is bad, even if you colonize emptiness.

Unfortunately all species, at least on Earth (though if it’s not the same in other worlds we don’t need to worry about alien competition) either colonize or die.  A niche species is an endangered species. It endangers itself.

Sure, we can choose to commit sepoku and die in your cradle. Or …. or we can go find out what’s there.

And stories pave the way. Which, I think, is why evolutionary we’re attracted to them. They make us human.

And humans, by definition want to push ever onward, into the infinity which calls to us.

118 thoughts on “Old Story

  1. some humans are terrible

    Meh. ALL humans are terrible. Some are terrible in interesting ways and some are better at suppressing their terribleness.

    1. There are Reasons that Dragons don’t hunt Humans. 😈

      1. They little bipeds are soft, tasty, and easy to catch.

        Until they bring in the guys with the armored personnel carrier and the Ma Deuce, and the dragons realize it would be in their best interest to be somewhere – anywhere – the flightless bipeds aren’t…

        (Brian Daley, “The Doomfarers of Coramonde”)

        1. There’s a scene in John C. Wright’s Last Guardian of Everness (still one of my very favorite books) where the U.S. Navy’s Pacific fleet (the one before the SocJus ladies got a hold of her) goes toe-to-toe with dragons and other mythic beasts. It’s glorius.

              1. I know of at least a couple of exceptions. BEDKNOBS AND BROOMSTICKS, the Disney film, is a distinct improvement on the book. THE ASSASSINATION BUREAU is pedantic and incomplete, whereas the film is a romp.

                I would also say that THE GREAT ESCAPE is an exception. The film isn’t BETTER than the book, but the book is mostly about ways and means while the film is about tension and character. They compliment each-other.

          1. You might like the anime series GATE.

            A mysterious Greco-Roman looking building appears in the middle of a Tokyo street. While people are still wondering what’s going on, an army emerges from it, forms up and starts killing.

            There’s infantry armed with swords, spears and shields, armored cavalry knights, and archers. There are also dragon-riders, beast-men and ogres. They have it mostly their own way against civilians and lightly armed police for half an hour or so, until the JSDF gets organized and deployed. Dragons are no match for Cobra attack helicopters; ogres and beast-men are not bullet-proof. They didn’t even need the tanks.

            After a few months of political wrangling, an armored division is sent through the GATE to demand some answers.

            Even a giant red dragon doesn’t like getting shot with a Panzerfaust-3.

              1. Pleased to have led another fan to the GATE. Enjoy!

                I got the complete series on DVD and blue-ray from Right Stuf Anime for $25 last year.

                Have you met Rory Mercury yet? Wait until you see what she does to a certain Karen at the committee hearing.

                1. Rory is pretty funny. At the red Dragon attack episode I was telling at the sceen: LAWs! LAWs! And the the cute young soldier checked behind him and I was in love. What a great show!

    2. Naw. 99.95% of humans are nice or at least not bad. That 0.05% however, makes a NASTY Impression.

      And that’s NOT counting that Special Case, Theseus.

  2. OK, the third one has me hearing “Dawson’s Christian” in my mind’s ear. 🙂

    And yes, the pattern’s there if you look under the story.

  3. This reminds me a lot of a discussion I had with a friend from Oregon (Nick Nielsen) a while ago, about the ethics of human long-term expansion off Earth. It’s the “From Generation Unto Generation” article in this newsletter (I think I adapted it into a guest post for Sarah here, as I recall):

    Click to access TVIW_Newsletter_N18_v02.pdf

  4. I feel like the first guy, both stories are about half true, mainly the important parts.

    I also keep suspecting he also turns out to be Odin, but maybe not.

  5. What I like best about those passages is that they imply a past and a context, a shared history, a whole universe standing just off-stage.

  6. I couldn’t agree more with this, especially the part about the new frontier and how essential it is for our future that humanity aspire to it and reach it; our instincts calling us there and being expressed in the medium of fiction is both true and very interesting.

    Archetypes is indeed the right word for these sort of characters and stories (not stereotypes), and they are very likely as old as humanity itself, dating back not just thousands but millions of years, though the Indo-European variants have been very influential for obvious reasons. You are right that the plots of the sort of stories you’re talking about are archetypal and could just as easily be told in any setting; they do not depend on being set in outer space or even the future. There’s nothing wrong with that, though; many if not most of the best stories throughout history have been archetypal, their truly distinctive (and superior) qualities instead being the setting (i.e. worldbuilding) and the execution.

    As you point out this leads to both more and less work for the author, because the lack of new or challenging plots and characters demands greater attention be paid to other aspects of the story if it isn’t to be absolutely generic and/or bore the reader. In all speculative fiction, including all forms of science fiction and space opera, the speculation is at least a large part of the point of the whole work, and the speculation and the setting are the main pleasures the reader is getting out of it. Plots and characters that are too complex, challenging, or complicated may actually distract readers from imbibing the speculation and the setting, which is usually the main pleasure they are seeking by reading it. Leaning on the archetypes is a way to still have a good plot, assuming it’s well-executed, without stealing the focus of reader’s minds from the speculative setting.

  7. Dang it. Now I need to sit down and write something. Not that I have time, but it’s been too long.

  8. Africa! Space!! I’m still hoping we find the entrance to Pellucidar, even though I’m now too aged to go there.

      1. I said I wasn’t a’wantin’ to go. But it ought be an irresistible draw for all those Earth-worshippin’ mothers …

    1. I read pretty much all of Borroughs’ ouvre, and Pellucider was next-to-the-bottom of the list. The Moon books were the worst.

      I still like “The Mag King”, though…

    2. The way 2020 is going, the entrance to Pellucidar would be closed, and the H. P. Lovecraft version would be open. Gnrayl! Ftang!

      1. Hey, I’ve got a proposal:

        Lovecraft’s Law — Just because it’s not Cthulhu doesn’t mean it won’t eat you.

    3. Horse hockey. If I ain’t too fat you ain’t too old.

      If I find that entrance you’re going, if I have to kidnap your happy wallaby a**.

  9. “if you live in the real world and pay attention, you’ll find more heroism and glory in anyone’s life than petty self-betrayal and amoral vacuousness”. I love it! And it’s true. The problem is, so many humans these days only barely live I the real world, and few pay any attention even to their own lives. I tell stories – I suck at writing, but telling a story, like around a campfire, or to a child at bedtime, I can give the old bards a run for their money. One of my grandchildren asked “Pop-pop, why are your stories so full of heroes?”. “Because the world is full of monsters, and the heroes fight them. You can be a hero, and fight monsters, or you will became a monster yourself, and fight for them, no one gets to sit it out.” BTW, this was a granddaughter, my children and grandchildren know for some things, I don’t sweat gendered nouns.

    Oh, may I use that line, with attribution of course?

  10. America is one of the mythical lands. Very far west. From Europe anyway. Some people want humanity diminished. It suits their purposes all too well.

    1. We are as close to Tolkien’s True West as exists on this planet at this time.

  11. Reminds me of Christopher Booker’s Seven Basic Plots. Best thing was the critical reaction. Booker talked about how something went wrong with the stories in the 19th century and all the objections to his book came from people who admired the slightly wrong stories. They said he was normative, as if that we’re a bad thing; particularly as the people who object are the most normative people around.

    The more I think about it the more the book affects me. Something did go wrong with the stories and we’re living with the effects.

      1. Those would be variations on the Chosen One plot. Haven’t we seen a few of those recently?

        1. Possibly I should be more specific — it was about the horrible complications of inheritances in wills, and a lot of infighting and killing and revelations of secrets and who was related to who.

          So I guess you could do a Chosen One plot along those lines, but the survival rate among Chosen Ones would not be high, and they’d all turn out to be cousins who’d slept with each other on the sly.

            1. You may have just put your finger on the problem: the 19th-century writers went for self-consciously unclean plots. Older stories might have unclean elements, but the authors knew it and weren’t in love with them.

    1. Are’t the folks decrying Booker as “normative” demanding he comply with their norms?

      Just as those who decry 2+2=4 as culturally bound, insisting there is “no objective truth” seem to be asserting an objective truth…

    2. I’ve seen the N many plots books offered as how-to-write books. I’ve never known one to be useful, or heard of a writer who did.

      Unlike N many character types books. One writer used it to orchestrate her characters, so they wouldn’t all be the same time. Another tested whether the characters were complex enough by whether they were recognizable types.

      1. >> “Unlike N many character types books.”

        Hmm… That sounds interesting. Any good ones people here would recommend?

        1. Eh — well, I use the notion to orchestrate my characters on occasion, but I just use the Olympian gods. This one is more like Ares, that one like Hermes. . . .

  12. Pulps sold and for good reason – they told stories that resonated with how humans are wired.

    And coincidentally as I get older I have been thinking along the lines of the fellow in the second one, likely in part due to the really quite ageist cultural context out here in the Valley of Silicon: “Have I reached the point that any flattering attention is immediately suspect? Given how easy it is for a pretty young face and appropriate curves to ingratiate, is it paranoia or the voice of the experience that this grey hair signifies?”

  13. But Sarah, the whole point of storytelling is to tell the reader how bad humans are and to make the reader feel bad for being human! If people read something that ennobles them and shows how great humans could be, who knows what they might do?

  14. Anyone remember the Dark Days of ‘young adult’ fiction, when every damn book absolutely HAD to be ‘relevant’…and then they wondered why ‘young people’ weren’t reading? Yes, we’re seeing a lot of that tripe again, but if I hadn’t already had the reading bug and the habit of reading old books and books that weren’t ‘age appropriate’, the drivel that was being pushed on kids in the ‘70’s would have stopped me cold.

    It didn’t help that, so far as I can remember, (New) bookstores in my area seemed to shelve according to some esoteric system that had nothing to do with making it possible to FIND anything. Maybe by publisher’s middle initial.

    Books about youth gangs. Books about young alcoholics. Very little that was just FUN.

    Our gracious hostess has remarked at length of the Far Left SJW idiocy in publishing, but something eased up for a while there after the ‘70’s. Someday maybe somebody will tell that story.

      1. Somewhere in there somebody started publishing things like BABYSITTERS CLUB and GOOSEBUMPS. HARRY POTTER and TWILIGHT got into print. Circa 1974 NOTHING like that got through. At least nothing I can remember. Ok, BABYSITTERS CLUB had chirpy ‘morals’, GOOSEBUMPS was uneven, and TWILIGHT is pretty much a blueprint for how to write a teenage girl romance/wank-book. THEY STILL WEREN’T GRITTY-RELEVANT!

        No, it isn’t as good as it was in the days when W.E. Butterworth was churning out Boys’ Sportscar Stories, and the like. It’s STILL an improvement.

        1. Ah!

          It got shifted some- the Hardy Boy books I read were from the 70s, there was like no scifi or fantasy I can remember. A lot of cryptozoology/ancient aliens stuff, though. Some western inspired stuff, and I vaguely remembered that the Narnia books were around then– just barely, 1970.

          There was a big push to be “relevant,” though, and I’d class the Babysitter Club cloud as the mutated to a less nasty form of the same thing. 😀

          They’re selling to libraries. /sad

  15. I find it fascinating that this post should come when I just published a novelette set in a future that has explicitly turned its back on space, that deorbited the ISS and declared humanity would henceforth focus on practical things on Earth. Yet it’s also a future that has sophisticated full-sensory-immersion virtual reality gaming, and although we first meet the protagonist while he’s playtesting a Lovecraft Mythos game, the company also features among its offerings a space opera game.

    And then I realized why they were willing to do a space opera game — because as long as it’s one in which Space Is An Ocean and spaceships fly at the speed of plot, those in authority can spin it as fantasy written in the language of technology, as opposed to the language of folklore (their High Fantasy and Magic Academy games) or of nightmare (the Lovecraft Mythos game). Any player who starts researching into actual historical spaceflight with interest in reviving it can then be treated to a lecture on how difficult, dangerous, and downright dull actual spaceflight is, with only barren rocks as destinations within the Solar System and even the nearest star so far away that reaching it would involve condemning multiple generations to a meager and constrained life, so it’s better to leave space to robots and stay on Earth where humans belong.

    I did end the story with hope that some people would join the protagonist in escaping the constraints of that society’s attitude of “space is a childish thing that we have put away,” but it made me realize how space opera could actually be used to reinforce such an attitude.

    1. Maybe that’s what they’re trying to do with the new Sucky Star Wars.

      1. That has gone through my mind more than once. Take a beloved series and destroy everything that makes it enjoyable, and once it’s been run into the ground, use the falling sales figures as proof that “nobody wants to read/watch that any more.”

      2. Ryan Johnson has been open about his desire in the Last Jedi was to destroy the franchise. I get the impression there is a bit of a revolt against have to tell stories in safe franchises and his script was an act of rebellion disguised as woke reworking.

        1. Going to take some heat here, but . . . I don’t buy that.

          Look. Making a movie is a *huge* investment of time and effort. I find it difficult to believe that Rian Johnson hates Star Wars so much that he spent several years of his life writing and directing a Star Wars movie. Even if you don’t like his take (and lots of people don’t), I’m very doubtful that his motivation was malicious. Misguided, maybe. But hate doesn’t take you that far. It’s like the comic fans who think that Zack Snyder has spent the better part of a decade making superhero movies because he hates superheroes. People don’t work that way. Even people we don’t like.

          1. *waggles hand*
            Depends on the form of their hate, if it may also be known as desire to change, desire to remake entirely.

            There are a lot of atheists who spend more time on theology than I do as a mild theology geek, just with a desire to destroy rather than enjoyment.
            On the flipside, there are also a lot of folks who desire to reform/change a thing and the process would be identical to destruction from the POV of the original thing. Like Saint Patrick changing the theology/philosophy of Ireland.

          2. My impression wasn’t so much hating Star Wars, but the Hollywood fixation on franchises meaning even when he got to this level he couldn’t make his own films.

            Successful directors getting to make whatever they wanted next used to be a tradition. Sure, sometimes we got Heaven’s Gate or Zardoz (although I like the later in a trainwreck way). Now it’s “oh, you get to make another sequel to Lucas/Roddenbery/Cameron/etc.”

            I can see someone using the “get rid of the toxic fans” cover (and Johnson did play the toxic fandom game hard) as a way to give the franchise obsession your middle fingers.

            The thing is, much of his The Last Jedi isn’t a bad story per se. It’s just told with characters who don’t belong in it, especially Luke. It pretty much undoes everything about that character. If Johnson had a movie he wanted to make that wasn’t Star Wars and, forced to make it as Star Wars, did it in the most destructive way possible to the franchise I have more respect than if he just made that crappy movie out of not giving a damn about making a good Star Wars movie.

            And you don’t have to be a fan to make a good franchise movie. The hands down best two Star Trek movies were made by someone who had never watched Star Trek until he was hired . But he respected the source material, watched the entire TOS as part of his prep and gave of Wrath of Khan and The Undiscovered Country.

    2. The Fascist Left desperately wants to kill all interest in space. If we start exploiting even a little of what we can get in THIS solar system, a lot of their ‘we must do things this way because we only have One Earth’ goes the way of the horse and buggy; quaint, but hardly practical. Of course it ain’t PRACTICAL now, but they have managed to convince a depressing number of people that it is.

      People who can’t or won’t do the freaking math. Hell, I ground to a halt in High School mathematics, and I can tell we don’t have enough space to run a modern society on wind and solar even if we COULD get around the intermittency problem (which we can’t).

      The Fascist Left MUST make speculative fiction a downer, so people will stop dreaming.

      I hope they go down in flames, which frankly seems possible. They are fully panicked that Trump isn’t an exception, but the kind of opponent they will have to deal with for some time. They hate him because his way WORKS.

    3. … playtesting a Lovecraft Mythos game,

      That sounds like a variation on the classic Ouija Board (aka The Seance) plot in which the emulation conjures up the real thing and … sure, it’s all fun & games until your best friend gets knocked-up by Yog-Sothoth.

      Include me OUT.

    4. even the nearest star so far away that reaching it would involve condemning multiple generations to a meager and constrained life

      As opposed to the condemning of all generations to the meager and constrained life of the concrete Communist apartment block.

      1. I liked Mike’s line in Kildar: “The Soviets had achieved architecture of surpassing ugliness without even trying.”

        1. I also liked P. J. O’Rourke’s observation that Soviet era concrete was so bad it began crumbling before the buildings got finished.

          1. Same thing in Thailand. Walked by a building going up. Concrete being poured by hand a bucketful at a time into forms high up in the bamboo scaffolding; simultaneously, concrete flaking off existing wall at street level. Yikes!

        1. I on it with the answer “Communist architecture” and the concrete apartment pics.

          Where my answer here came from.

  16. I don’t have any fears about the eventual colonization of space, particularly near space. A news item the other day featured a metallic asteroid worth several quadrillion earth dollars in real money. Avarice overcomes ideology in the end.

    1. CA? Why go to CA? No water. Indians.

      Wait! There’s gold? Lets go.

      Wait. There are gold seekers? Load up the merchandise & here we come. <- the ones that made money.

      Western Oregon, it was land. Eastern Oregon it was gold, then land.

      Space? It will be about more than Gold & Silver. Rare metals. Then there will be those that take merchandise around to the living habitats, mining colonies, etc. Hopefully not a repeat of the “Owing one’s soul to the Company Store.”

      There are always those who will go “Just because it is there.” That won’t be the majority.

      1. Not gold. Metals with real value: iron, nickel, chromium, aluminum, copper, titanium and zinc. Ores that don’t have to be laboriously dug out of a deep hole and dumped on perfectly good land. Smelters that can be powered by concentrating sunlight with a big mirror. We can do all sorts of stuff once we get into space.

        1. We have worldwide shortages of some rare metals, and some not-so-rare that seem to be found only in countries who are hard to deal with.

          1. I gather that some can be found right here in the USA … or could be found if we were allowed to look and, on finding, develop. As Orwell said about British pacifists in WWII, American environmentalists are objectively aiding the enemy.

            Trump’s opening up the oil spigot through deregulating production and promoting fracking has done more to limit Russian and Iranian mischief than sixteen years of Obama/Biden and Bush/Cheney. It helped subdue the Saudis, too.

  17. “Earth is the cradle of humanity, but on cannot remain in the cradle forever.” Tsiolkovsky. Very apropos, IMHO.

  18. I have a question on a point of Genre: What makes a story qualify as “Space Opera” Is just the setting being space-borne? Or are their particular structures, Plot devices or particles of nuance that are required to fullfil the requirements? does the fat lady need horns on her Spacesuit helmet to qualify?

    1. Typical space opera tropes include a wide-open universe (generally involving some form of FTL travel) and structures (including spaceships) on a grand scale, abundant planets with shirtsleeve environments, often inhabited by alien civilizations, cosmic-level threats to civilization, and opportunities for great heroism. It often has some level of Space Is An Ocean, and often involves one or another historical model Retold In Space (the Fall of the Roman Empire for the Foundation series, the Napoleonic Wars for the Honorverse, WWII in the Pacific for any number of space opera anime, etc).

      1. I’ve always though of “Space Opera” as having plots that don’t bear too much scrutiny, like stage Opera. Thus, Lois McMaster Bujold’s work wouldn’t qualify.

        But I’m willing to be corrected.

        1. Absolutely nothing to do with plots. The dividing line between space opera and hard sf seems to be space opera focus most on people less on the science of “problem” of the story.
          Heinlein is now considered space opera by many.
          You’re thinking pulp. Pulp used to point at a plot and run.

          1. My understanding is that “Space Opera” derived from “Horse Opera”, the primary difference being that instead of horses and six-shooters they used rockets and rayguns.

            As I was never entirely clear on what distinguished “horse operas” from westerns I can shed no brighter light on the topic. Mostly, I think, it is the “bad guy snatches hero’s gall, hero mounts up and rescues her. Louis L’Amour could have written The Skylark of Space with very few differences beyond Richard Seaton being broad-shouldered, deep-chested, slim-hipped and slightly lantern-jawed.

  19. OMG Horns on helmets. That reminds me of the old animated movie “Wizards” where Ralph Bashki took old footage of the wehrmacht; rotoscoped it into the film and painted in horns on the helmets to try to disguise the origins. He didn’t fool me though, I’d know a PKW-III almost anywhere, even in a Walmart parking lot.

    1. I’m not sure he was trying to disguise. The mutant hordes were supposedly inspired to fight by Nazi imagery.

      Fun fact: I talked my father into taking me to see that in the theater when it first came out. I was nine.

    2. My Lady loves that film, and I have to loathe Bakshi. Two of his most famous films, FRITZ THE CAT and WIZARDS are flat out stolen from the character’s creators. He got away with it because in the early days of Underground Comix stories were seldom copyrighted (so FRITZ wasn’t) and the creator of much of the imagery for WIZARDS had recently and expensively died of (I believe) liver cancer and his family couldn’t afford to sue.

      I have no idea where he stole COOL WORLD from.

      My Lady and I compromise. We own a copy of WIZARDS, but we bought it secondhand, and I don’t watch it.

  20. Re: Final Countdown. The book is better than the movie, but then, isn’t it usually that way?

  21. Here’s another Old Story — watched Fox News and saw that Ghislaine Maxwell has been put on suicide watch. Her boss Epstein was on suicide watch, and look what happened!

    Maybe ‘suicide watch’ means something different when somebody knows something about the Clintons? I’m not predicting another convenient suicide, but if there is one I won’t be the least bit surprised.
    Major Strasser has been shot! Round up the usual suspects!

  22. sometimes you get distracted.

    “There was a laughing devil in his eyes. . . . His left eye was missing. . . . But his remaining eye was the dark blue of space.”

      1. My uncle has one eye– he definitely still has a laughing devil in his eyes, it’s the way the shape around the eyes goes.

        I think he has a falsey in there, but he always keeps the lid closed and has worn glasses since forever.

    1. Also, “same as ‘dat”. Basement/attic reproduction and distribution of ‘forbidden’ material. You *do* know how to use carbon paper and gelatin as a ‘copy machine’, right?

  23. I know Kate Paulk took a lot of behind the scenes damage from Sad Puppies that lead to her disappearing. There might be other parts I don’t know, but regardless, I would love to see her back.

  24. the campfires of the indo-European culture (whose main strength was apparently multilayered endless sagas. They worked to draw other tribes to the culture apparently. Or at least that’s one of the speculations.

    Imperishable fame. Those campfires rang with promises and examples of imperishable fame.

    If you get out your handy copy of The American Heritage Dictionary of Indo-European Roots. and turn to page xxiv of the 1st Edition (not sure where my copy of 2nd is at the moment) we get this lovely bit:

    Most interesting are the cases where from two or more traditions (usually including Homer and the Rig-Veda) it is possible to reconstruct a poetic phrase or formula consisting of two members. Such are the expressions “imperishable fame”, “holy (mental) force”, and the “weaver (or crafter) of words”, the Indo-European poet himself.

    There are cultural entries through out 2nd edition that expand on this.

    So, since the beginning of the earliest ancestor of our language the power of narratives and their creators has been a key cultural expression. I would argue the people tearing down statutes in our streets daily are among the latest generation inspired by a weaver of words to seek imperishable fame.

      1. I was looking up the etymology of the Romanian word for vampire. It is related to the Greek “Strega” (witch), which in turn takes up back to the PEI root meaning to spin or make thread. From whence come the Fates, the Norns, the Wyrd Sisters . . . Cool!

  25. I have read that it is a peculiarly American (and ***maybe*** Aussie?) thing to define “frontier” as something to expand into that does not *inherently* mean war and conquest of other beings (American history.. yada yada, we KNOW, alright.) There are NO moon-men, but if it “colonized”… who loses? Moonies/Loonies/Lunites/whatever… they’ll be *us*.. and *Earth* will benefit, even if only from esoteric knowledge that can ONLY be learned by living there. Alright, some will lose… their lives. That is a Known Cost of exploration. Anyone unwilling to ever pay it can stay home. That has NOT changed. (Ignoring sentences of “Transportation” and given trans-lunar trip costs….) Ditto Mars… Gas Giant Moons, etc.

    What is the name of “Doctors without Borders” in non-English? “sans frontiers”

    There are borders.
    There are frontiers.
    And these are NOT the same things!

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