Bring Back That Wonder Feeling- A Blast From The Past From March 2012

Bring Back That Wonder Feeling- A Blast From The Past From March 2012

Over the last few years I’ve taken part in more than a dozen panels in science fiction conventions where the question came up “Why is there no sense of wonder in science fiction?”  Or “Where have all the young people gone?  Why aren’t they reading science fiction?”

The excuses are always the same.  The foremost and most favorite is “The age of wonder in SF is between 12 and 14.”  The second is “They’re living in a science fiction world.  They don’t need to read it.”

On this I’m going to call bullsheep and oh, yeah, bullsheep again.

If the age of wonder is between 12 and 14, then YA SF should be healthy and thriving, right? Instead of non-existent in comparison to YA fantasy. And while there’s something to say for that, psychologically – I remember reading sf as a young kid and being filled with a sense of amazement, but actually my most fervent reading age for SF was between fourteen and about twenty five or so.  Partly because at 22 I came to the states, and I found a whole plethora of work that had never been translated.

As for the “they’re living in science fiction.”  Oh, PLEASE.  This is the part of the blog in which we say “your age is showing,” and also “Get over yourself.”  Admittedly the age at which sf/f was most popular was around the forties and fifties.  Not respectable, but popular.  Well, it could be far more accurate to say that they lived in science fiction, at least by their lights.  Most twenty year olds then, probably remembered a world where cars were very few, and where oil lamps and candles still had a place in many houses, but they were living in a world with an interstate system and electrical lighting and indoor plumbing, and the beginnings of computers.  Compared to that jump, the one from the seventies to today is nothing.  Oh, yeah, the computer is starting to make it different, but it’s not the thing that people DREAM of.  In fact, it’s so unromantic, and came on so slowly that most of us have trouble realizing how fundamentally transformational it is.

Recently two more excuses have been brought in.  One is “the boys don’t read.  They’re watching TV and playing games.”  We’ll go into this again later.  And one that is almost right (almost) which is “We had all these great things, but we didn’t pay up.  There are no flying cars, or moon rockets.”

They’re almost right on that one, but not quite.  The people saying this are ten to twenty years older than I, and they’re right that there’s a generation that is disgusted at this – but that’s my generation.  And those of us who still read sf tend to read off beat stuff, or older stuff, not the stuff that’s “pushed” or considered “high quality” by most of the houses.  (Baen, as usual is its own little world and therefore exempt from these discussions.)

The kids alive today don’t know about those broken promises.  Though I’m here to tell you they still get excited about going to space and the future.  It’s just that this is no longer what SF is about.  And (see what I did here) this means that they go play games, which do have mega fighting robots, and space colonies, and the other things that once made them read SF.
This is not even particularly important, except insofar as there are things you can learn from written stories that are harder to come by in games.  I think empathy is one.  And good reading skills is another.  Both of these are useful in life, and we’re shutting a generation out of them.  Beyond that, science fiction has the chance to make kids THINK about the future before it gets here, and also to have them try on new ideas.

So, who killed the sense of wonder?

You’ll forgive me, since I know a lot of my readers belong to this generation, but it was boomers moving into the publishing houses.

I understand WHY it happened.  I just don’t have to like it.  Boomers came of age at a time when population was supposed to keep expanding indefinitely (note to the brainless bunnies who commented on my war is Hell post, no it’s no longer doing that.  It might actually be contracting.  We only have highly dubious counts, from countries who get aid per capita to believe it is still expanding.  We also thought the USSR was expanding, until it collapsed.  There’s lies, damn lies and statistics.)  Youth was the way of the future.  You only have to re-read the Heinlein of the sixties and seventies to get this feeling.  The older people were kowtowing because they expected to be vastly out-numbered.  So between that and a bunch of other cultural things, that one generation grew up thinking they were something special and that they should make everything different.

Also for some reason and I honestly can’t think why, unless it is a combination of their parents’ experiences in WWII AND Soviet Agit Prop (yeah, I know.  I blame a lot of things on it.  But they were GOOD), the boomers thought that they could create a perfect world.

Unfortunately this meant that when they moved into SF, right after Heinlein had exploded out of the ghetto of crudely colored magazines, they decided it was their mission in life to make SF accurate, respectable and, above all RELEVANT.

This is when the problems came in.  They came in because every generation’s idea of “relevant” freezes at around the time they come of age.  The burning issues of the day get resolved and gotten over, but they’re still the ones that formed them.  And some of those issues weren’t even, really, issues by the time they came of age, but they were part of what was being struggled with while they were growing up.

When the boomers swept away the old order of SF and brought their stuff in, suddenly SF became obsessed with gender issues (mostly defined as a rather pat feminism), race issues (the burning issue of their day), and misunderstood economics (that to be honest is still relevant.  their kids fail to grasp economics in exactly the same way.)  The idea of being “cool” made them worship “literary” only since most of them wouldn’t know literary if it bit them in the fleshy part of the arse, “incoherent” “hallucinatory” and “pointless” had to do the turn.

Then came my generation who, btw, are not boomers, though we often get aggregated onto the end of it.  We’re also not gen xers, sorry.  Some people call us the lost generation, though we were mostly found – at work, trying to claw a space for ourselves while being told we weren’t cool or “socially conscious.”  We’re the band of kids born somewhere between 59 and 68 or so, though these things are fluid, and I’ve met “us” stretching all the way back to 51 and them stretching all the way up to 70.  A lot of this had to do with how old your parents were when you were born.  Our current president, for instance, despite being only a year older than I is very much fully integrated in boomer culture, being the child of a very young mother and raised mostly by her parents, and therefore more as her little brother than her son.  Also, for some of us on the cusp, we CHOSE.

I’m not saying all the boomers did was bad.  Largely I’d rather praise them than bury them.  But in SF they’ve been an unmitigated disaster.

Not as readers, as such.  Readers still wanted the same thing – fun.  Not as writers, so much.  Some of the still readable writers – Dave Drake, possibly Weber (I don’t know his age) and many others in the Baen stable ARE boomers.  Connie Willis is also a boomer.  I think so is F. Paul Wilson (though he looks about my age.) – are boomers, but as editors and critics and the people who set the culture.  Maybe it has something to do with the liberal arts culture of the time.

I didn’t notice, because my exposure to SF was limited by what was translated into Portuguese, what was going on until about five years after coming to the US – five years spent catching up on favorites’ books that hadn’t been translated.

And then after a while, I started realizing that these books were… odd.  The new stuff coming out, in the ever-shrinking SF shelf at the local bookstore in Charlotte NC, was… strange.  Not the SF/F I remembered at all.  Well, the fantasy was mostly quest, this being the mid eighties.  I can take or leave quest.  It doesn’t do a thing for me.  A lot of the SF was cyber punk which bored me.  The more serious works were… uh…

And by “Uh” I mean, I’d get to the end and either not remember the book at all or throw it against the wall.

And please understand that while in Portugal, in despair I had resorted to reading NOT JUST typical seventies SF of the “We all have tons of odd sex and then we die” or French SF (check out Pierre Barbet sometime.)  Or even French SF Romance (which was very funny, as it was written by people who’d never read SF.  the one thing I remember, for whatever reason, was the woman being showered by a floating ball-robot that sprayed her with water.  I’m still trying to figure out WHY.  World building was always funnier than heck, as tech made no sense.)  I even got hold of a mag called Panspermia which was French SF and I THOUGHT was devoted to the theories of Fred Hoyle.  Turns out I was wrong.  Who knew?  The fact it came in a plain brown wrapper should have given me a clue, but I was innocent.

So, my tolerance for bad is very high.

But these books were POINTLESS.  They either had meandering non-plots, or they had an endless repetition, of the hit-over-the-head type with … not even social controversy but social markers of that time and class.  You know “Women are better than men.”  “Every culture is better than Western” (or what I call Ashram anthropology… or more likely hashram anthropology.)  These were soon joined by newer and stranger talking points as boomers realized that the world was more difficult to make perfect than they thought, “The human species is a blight upon the Earth.” and “We should go back to eighteenth century tech and die out.”

Sometimes, rarely, you came across a book that bowled you over all the way to the end when, I guess in an effort to stay relevant or interesting, the author killed every character.

Like Amanda who talks about his over at MGC today, I thought that people simply weren’t writing the good stuff, anymore.  And then I wrote it.  And I sent it out.  Do you know the MOST common rejection for DST, back thirteen years ago, was that I had “illogical world building.”  No one could ever explain to me WHY this was so, but mumbled explanations ranged from the fact that “In five hundred years we won’t even be human anymore, and we’ll have all sorts of computer augmentation.” (Rolls eyes.  Why if we get better at bio?) And “it’s too cheerful” or “It ends well” or “The state will be far more efficient and everyone will be happy” or…  I SWEAR I’m NOT MAKING THIS UP, from my agent at the time, “Perhaps you can make it believable if instead of the Good Men, you have the Catholic Church rule the world.”  (WHAT?  No, seriously, WHAT?  I’d never talked about any religion to this man, so I can only assume that the Catholic Church was his own personal bete noir.  Who knows why?)  And yes, most of the time my sf was rejected by agent and never sent out because “no one wants to read that” and “you lack a big idea.”

At that point I did what everyone else seemed to have been doing since the seventies, and moved over to fantasy.  Only fantasy was even then falling victim to the same nonsense.  It seemed, for instance, that having heroic males was out.  And you had to have a certain amount of allotted whine per page about the evils of patriarchy or praise of the great goddess.

So I took refuge in the past and wrote historical stuff – fantasy and mystery.  I’ll note at this time both time travel and alternate history were getting very popular, I think for the same reasons.  But there’s only so much you can do in the past, and most people don’t want to work that hard (Regencies, arguably the most successful historical subgenre – of romance – aren’t really.  They have a few historical details, but, by and large, are modern people in costumes and following outdated rules.)  Also, well… going into the past might be a sense of wonder of a sort, but not the kind likely to appeal to young people.  Particularly since, with few exceptions (Frankowski, S.M. Sterling, Flint) people didn’t do Connecticut Yankee things in the past, making it modern.  Instead, they just struggled along there, and more likely than not died in the end.  (I’m not casting aspersions on Doomsday Book where the death is natural and makes sense and it’s NOT the main character.)

And Fantasy went the same way, till it became “unbearably long feminist screed on the evils of men.”  Look, I’ll take some of this.  Mercedes Lackey and a bevy of other fantasy writers of the eighties did a bit of this. The father was always wicked (eh.  I have that too Which is weird since I’m very close to my dad.)  There were some evil guys.  BUT most of the men were still decent, and even if the main character was female (and that wasn’t always) she would find either love or decent male friends.  But then that changed.  I actually had a book rejected for being “insufficiently female centric” despite the fact the main character is female AND she’s a take charge female (a police woman) AND she rescues her man (Think Athena’s little sister in urban fantasy.)  Why?  Well the explanation had something to do with her falling in love with a MAN.  (The horrors!  Shudder.)

And that’s when I started realizing what was wrong – though it took Amanda to solidify the thought into words – the thoughts we were getting for lack of a better word “pushed at us from the over culture.”  This was the way they wanted us to think, the way that not only were news stories slanted, and narratives framed, (the Duke Lacrosse case) BUT the stuff they were teaching our kids in school.

Was my biggest problem with it, then, that it was blantantly a-historical and counter-factual.  Well, no.  I lie for a living.  My morals are weak.

My problem with it was IN FACT that it was boring.  If I wanted to get these points pounded into me until I got sick, I’d read the newspaper, the advice columns, the fashion mags or watched sitcoms.  There was nothing new THERE.

Meanwhile, btw, TV and movie sf continued doing very well by bringing in much of the feel of the pulp era to the screen.  For instance, you couldn’t SELL Stargate (though I wrote a short story which even called them stargates back a year before it came out.  It’s okay, it’s a very bad story) as a book or a story.  Why not?  Not plausible.  We know humans evolved on Earth.  You can’t violate what we know in science.

Between the bands of political correctness, the bands of “relevance” and the bands of “we want to be literary” science fiction was strangled in the crib by people who didn’t care if sales numbers kept falling because, well “kids aren’t reading.  They live in science fiction.”  And their bosses believed them.

But this is neither a dirge nor a despairing article.  And I MIGHT write dystopian societies now and then, but my characters still manage, by and large, to fight through.

This is to tell you it doesn’t have to be that way.  Ric Locke’s book is full of the sense of wonder.  I haven’t read much else recently, because I’m busy trying to finish contracts so I can put some stuff up myself, but I have a feeling if there aren’t other books like his out yet, there will be.  I’m looking forward to being delighted, shocked and titillated (get mind out of gutter.  You’re leaving me no space) by heretical notions of human history, strange thoughts on human future, and fun rides along the way.

The readers now have control, and I think they want their sense of wonder back.  Do you have a space opera you wrote years ago, which got rejected everywhere?  Dust it off, look it over, unmuzzle it if you tried to make it acceptable to the establishment.

And then put it up.  The future is free.*

(*With the purchase of another future.  Said purchase, as all purchases of liberty might entail the pledge or actual payment of your life your fortune and your sacred honor.  You will only keep the liberty you’re willing to fight for.  The establishment is always the enemy of the future.  You have been warned.)

522 thoughts on “Bring Back That Wonder Feeling- A Blast From The Past From March 2012

        1. And while the manufacturer is always open to calls, He doesn’t guarantee He’ll hold your hand, or even give a personal reply, since He gave you the tools you need to fix the problem.

          1. I dispute that 12 to 14 years old is the he of wonder. As I get older I increasingly believe old age is the time of wonder.

            I wonder where my glasses are. I wonder what I did with the keys. I wonder why I just walked into this room.

        1. In the future’s defense, IKEA’s stuff has already been invented. The future hasn’t. Instructions are harder in that circumstance.

          1. The Reader thinks IKEA’s materials (pressed wood chips and glue) leave a lot to be desired to build the future out of as well.

            1. Sometimes you build the future out of what you have to hand and upgrade later. Future building is messy. But yeah, I’d rather have a higher quality future than IKEA.

                  1. The box Schrodinger’s cat is in is an IKEA box? The Reader thinks that may explain a lot, starting with the missing ‘dark mass’.

    1. The future un-imaginable, which is why it’s entertaining to create alternate futures…Go to it, guys, you’ll do a better job than the “futurists” have ever done!…

    2. The future will be made of blood, sweat, and tears. Hopefully more sweat than blood and more tears of joy than sorrow.

  1. :sings, badly:
    Bring back, that wooonder feeling, woe woe that wonder feelin’, bring back that wonder feelin’, don’t want it gone, gone gone, wooooooe-oooh-ooooh

    K now to actually read more than the title.

            1. “Pet-a the Cat (She’s So Soft and Fluffy)” to the tune of “Rock-a my Soul (in the Bosom of Abraham).” Or “Hark I Hear the Cat Approaching” to the tune of “Hark I Hear the Harps Eternal.” Or “Shut di Door, Keep in the Puss Cat” to “Shut di Do’, Keep out di Devil.”

              Stuff like that.

                1. Nonsense, you can mock a Kzinti if you’re many times their size and much tougher than them. 😈

                2. (Smiles, no teeth)

                  I greatly respect Kzinti, even though humans do the one insane thing in war that Kzinti nave not.


                  ( shows very toothy grin)

        1. I’ve read that black people back in their era used to remark on how black they sounded. . . .

          1. Ooh, did you ever hear the story about David Bowie when they scheduled him for a black club?
            If I remember right, he was THE FIRST white guy they ever scheduled to sing there, and they were really expecting trouble, but the guy running it knew the folks would adore him if they heard his voice.

            He was right, although apparently EVERYBODY was utterly terrified until he got the crowd going.

    1. Stealing from channeling the 1950’s Pepsodent jingle:

      [Leftie Boomer voice]
      “You’ll wonder where the wonder went
      when we become Establishment.”
      [/Leftie Boomer voice]

    2. So glad that I’m not the only one who thought of that song! Though I must be honest, I’m torn between The Righteous Brothers and my hometown boys, Hall & Oates.

          1. A lot of what Hollywood uses to visually identify the 80’s wasn’t actually prominent or widespread until 87-92.

            It’s almost like culture doesn’t conform neatly to a calendar…

            1. Oh, they definitely go way more towards the middle of the decade for archetypes in Hollywood, although I mostly get my “this looks like” from music videos. It’s glorious to see Jagger when he WASN’T ancient looking. (I’ll post another 1980s video for folks who are wondering what I’m thinking of for that. Notably, it doesn’t have anywhere near as strong of decade signals in any direction, although it’s definitely “early MTV” style.)
              When thinking on it, the REASON that Hall & Oats would both have iconic 70s style (that’s their established style) and would have first-wave 80s style (they helped set the style for the next decade) is obvious… but it’s still glorious to actually SEE the styles interacting like that!

          2. But due to my extended family and social cycles I got exposed to everything from the last 4 centuries. Have an aunt that was the church organist. Uncle that was a truck driver that knew every genre. Was the only white kid on a school bus. Worked on the farm where there was two types of music: country and western. Became a programmer and listened to electronica. ambient, trance and chant.

            Inherited my cousins stereo and 8-track full of 60’s and 70’s rock, My sister was pure ’70s pop and rock and I was stuck in ’80’s music in high school and university.

            If you want to know the town high school scene in Texas of the ’70s, the film “Dazed and Confused” matches the memories of my cousins life and his 8-track collection.

            1. Three of the best things my mom did for road trips were CD or cassette tape collections.
              Gilbert and Sullivan, Massive Classics: Classical Music You CAn’t Relax To, and the latest mix tape of mostly old western songs but some Irish stuff from her and dad’s record collection.

              1. Dad wasn’t going to spring for more 8-tracks, so on the road we had what few we got our hands on that were parentally approved for everyone in the car. All… 4? of them. There was a lot of discussion, and silence. And sometimes, searching the radio waves… usually, classical or big band was okay, if we could find it.

        1. I know/knew on online DJ who stated, “1979 was a Great Year for 80’s music.”

          This is, of course, a bit jarring as 1980 was, technically, the last year of the 1970’s decade. So it’s even early than it seems. Yeah, I know, calendar pedantry and all that.

            1. I’ve been listening to a lot of Stratovarius recently. They sound a LOT like The Scorpions or Survivor (quote “Eye of the Tiger” at one point), with a different accent. But they’re recording now. Yes, I know, European rock is . . . different.

              (The lyrics aren’t as complex as in Scorpions’ songs, but it’s still fun.)

            2. > “they were making 80s music THIRTY YEARS LATER!”

              Apparently the 80s are eternal.

              Not that I’m complaining; I didn’t care for that particular song, but the 80s did have some good music.

  2. You are so right about the generational issue! I was born in 63 and I refer to us as the “sidewalk crack” generation… we seem to have disappeared into that gap.

    1. As a purely demographic phenomenon, the Baby Boom extended from 1944-64.

      But as a generational grouping, of similar childhood and coming-of-age experiences, the “Boomers” span about 1941-60. (Early childhoods massively affected by the war, early adoption of television, postwar prosperity and machine corporatism, etc.)

      I was born in 1965, and I am so very definitely GenX. Friends of mine born in 1961 are also very definitely GenX. Obama was born in 1960 and is definitely a Boomer.

      The thing about the Boomers is (dusting off my Strauss & Howe here) the 1960s were the Fourth (Fifth?) Great Awakening, it just wasn’t a primarily Christian awakening this time. (Although it was that as well, or Christian Fundamentalism wouldn’t have been such a big deal seemingly out of the blue in the 1970s.) Various stabs were made at adopting Eastern mysticism, but mostly the “religion” that was “awakened” was progressivism a/k/a warmed-over Marxism and a cocksurety that they knew exactly how to order the world (just like the original Progressives one cycle previously).

      The moment that the Boomers’ now-spent and bitter religious fervor stops being a factor in American culture will not come a day too soon. (Says this sick-of-them-since-adolescence Xer.)

      1. I’ve recently found == shuddup you – I have more in common with Xers than boomers.
        Still being Odd, don’t fit very well anywhere, but it explains my friendships, I guess.

        1. There does seem to be a cusp effect where people born one or two years one side or the other of the “boundary” fall into the “wrong” generation. I’m pretty sure that has to do with whether their parents were late gen^2 or early gen^1.

          1. And then you get the unclassifiables. I’m a GenX like my siblings, but with the decade+ gap from beginning to me at the end, it gets wobbly. Some of the things I was exposed to culturally come from them instead of my parents (so I have the 80s music like a millennial) or skipped entirely (I’m supposed to key into a cultural touchstone that’s a decade before my time?)

            Anyway. Generational markers are bunk anyway, since our culture is like our country, a bunch of cultures dressed up in a trenchcoat pretending to be a bigger culture. And that’s even before the fracturing of culture that alternate paths of information allowed.

              1. My experience has been that ‘default’ musical taste is set in one’s high school years, during which music may have been seen as ‘important’ somehow.

                Since my HS was 1963-1967, you know mine. It is possible to expand that, and I have, but my 3 Sirius XM presets are Little Steven, Jazz, and Classical. (Road noise makes it really hard to enjoy Classical.)

                Went to a local restaurant and the background music was My Music. I asked our much younger server if she could stand that all day at work. She said it was fine, because her dad listened to is and she was used to it.

                1. ‘default’ musical taste is set in one’s high school years

                  High school 1978-82 was the dregs of disco and the corporatization of ’70s rock; New Wave was sort of a thing, but punk and synth and so forth were rumors over the horizon. So it was college for me that set my default tastes in New Romantic and synthpop.

                2. Yeah, not so much for me. (Go figure, Odd.) I tried, I briefly tried, but I was definitely into progressive rock when the vast majority of my peers were into rap, boy bands, and grunge, and it just went weird from there.

                  1. In my case, I hated the music that was popular when I was in high school back when I was in high school, but since then, some of it has appeared on my various Pandora and YouTube play lists, and honestly, it’s not half bad. I’ve gotten to like a few of those bands and come to the reluctant conclusion that, just maybe, my classmates’ musical taste wasn’t quite as bad as I thought.

                  2. I was classical, New Age (Yanni, Cuzco, listening to Music From the Hearts of Space), and some goth-rock (Erasure, The Cure) and Irish/Scottish (Irish Rovers, Patrick Bell, DeDannan, Enya, Clannad).

              2. And then there’s the Odd Odd… music was just so much background, with a precious few exceptions)… until the 30’s/40’s Big Band Swing was found…

        2. I was born in 62 the wife in 66. I’m the oldest she’s the youngest of 7. She had a more boomer upbringing than I did. For one, her da was in WWII my da was in Korea. Her brother went to Vietnam. I was 7 for Woodstock another of her brothers was there.

          1. “I’m the oldest she’s the youngest of 7.”

            I had to think about that for a minute… 😉

        3. I was born in 57, eldest of the youngest 6 grandchildren. I AM NOT a boomer. All my boomer cousins made sure I knew this. I call myself Generation W, you know, the letter before X?
          I actually have more in common with my parent’s generation than I do boomers or Gen X.

      2. I’m amused by all the demographic and political things that seem to forget that Gen X even exists. Where do they think Gen Z et al come from?

        1. The miracle of chemistry and really old farts? They don’t like Gen X because we largely grew up, flipped the boomers the bird, went to work and just wanted to be left alone. And. miracle of miracles, some of us actually got to.

          Be left alone, I mean.

    2. A political generation is about 10 years. Not, repeat NOT, 20. Any analysis of generational politics based on a 20-year generation will give false answers, the sample rate is about half what it needs to be.

      You, Sarah, and I fit into the Baby Buster decade group. Born in the late ’50s, early to mid ’60s. The political events that shaped our worldview were in the 1970s…the collapse of Vietnam (and humiliating retreat), the end of the Apollo program, the hysteria over the coming Ice Age, the long-running overpopulation hysteria. And overarching everything, the Great Inflation. (For younger readers, the value of a dollar dropped by nearly 65% in the 1970s).

      Naturally, we were Ronald Reagan’s political power base. He offered us hope…and we had not seen hope in half a lifetime.

      NEVER think in terms of a 20-year political generation if you want correct answers.

          1. Ummm…I guess that sort of fits. OK, although I think “Atomic Generation” sounds better…a different sort of “BOOM!”. 🙂

      1. I’d argue it might go out to closer to 15 years, BUT 10 years is more common AND it tends to be centered on “one big event.”

        For example, 9/11– if you were between about twelve and twenty five, maybe a little younger for both, it’s a MAJOR world-view establishing thing.

        I can’t think what this theory is called, other than it having to do with when your world view is established, roughly sixteen to twenty three.

          1. I like it because it clicks with the instinctive recognition people already have– “where were you when you heard about X?” resonates that way, I thought my instructor was going to cry when he realized NONE of us remembered Challenger.

        1. There is a lecture by Morris Massey – “What You Are is What You Were When”.
          There’s a fair Wikipedia article about him and his theory of how our values are affected by our experiences. One of his key concepts is the Significant Emotional Event; he uses a timeline with markers such as Sputnik, man on moon, JFK, Watergate, and Challenger to illustrate the concept. I saw the full video thirtyish years ago. There are some teasers on the tube.

      2. What I find fascinating is that I was born in 76, and in many ways line up better with Melenials, bit my wife born in 80 seems to be more of an Xer than I in how and where work should be done. Though that is probably partly due to my early embrace of computers and digital communications shaping hownI viewed work.

        For music, 50-90 pop, jazz, and neoclassical film scores are my go too audio entertainment.

    1. Right? It was seriously annoying to be told that what they “know” — like that the Earth is warming or that humans were only…. what was it? 200k years old (We’re at 600k and some murmurs of a million, more recently) — couldn’t be challenged.

      1. Ugh. Yeah.

        Please, don’t make me spend all my time in the real world. There are taxes. And paperwork. And people deliberately trying to be dull in order to blend in. (Which makes sense in terms of survival, but does put a damper on my ability to form relationships.)

        I might go crazy. And I don’t really know what happens then.

          1. True… I suppose it’s a matter of definition. And degree.

            We’re all a little mad here, so I must be a little mad. Take away my make-believe and I’ll most likely start sliding down the road of utter insanity right quick.

            1. I’ve long thought it amusing that the reason I come to a blog where the regulars pretend to be talking animals and mythical creatures… is to find sane people to talk with.

              Life in the 21st century. Don’t you just love it?

    2. Indeed Clarke’s laws apply:

      1) When a distinguished but elderly scientist states that something is possible, he is almost certainly right. When he states that something is impossible, he is very probably wrong.

      2)The only way of discovering the limits of the possible is to venture a little way past them into the impossible.

      3)Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.

      of late the first lemma of the first law has been being proved wrong way too often, although that may be because the speakers have been elderly but not particularly scientists…

      1. I suspect a variation on the elasticity of the First Law comes from this:

        “When your paycheck depends on X being correct, anything that contradicts X will be nudged behind the waste basket.” (More vigorous alternatives to nudging come to play with things like Covidiocy and the Approved Narrative.)

      2. Hearing the line “Impossible!” from a scientist ought to be a clue that you’re living in a story. Not necessarily proof, but at least a clue.

        Start counting cliches, and pray to whatever power you may believe in that you’re not in an apocalyptic horror fic. You can generally survive a monster movie if you’re smart and have weapons. If the Powers That Be are in the process of deciding Nuking It From Orbit is the only way to be sure… guess who’s probably about to be collateral damage.

          1. nope no no no no no please no. Great Author I take back ANYTHING I have said about this timeline you have so graciously placed us on. Please no, that is one brier patch I do NOT want to be thrown into…

            1. For anyone not familiar with Robert Heinlein’s “Year of the Jackpot” it can be found here:
              The text was clearly scanned and then converted so there are some odd typos, but you can read around them. I haven’t read it in maybe 5 years and forgot many of the details. If you read it note the lawyer and her hubby in the first few paragraphs. Also not that sunspots seem to be on the rise for no apparent reason. This is NOT funny Author, not funny at all…

          1. As long as you don’t misread the cues and become Wrong Genre Savvy. In some circumstances, that’s worse than being not Genre Savvy at all.


            (For example: Living in The Dresden Files universe as if you were playing by Twilight rules will get you very eaten, very quickly. And from what I hear, Warhammer 40k would probably be as fatal or more to people trying to play by Dungeons and Dragons rules.)

            1. > “In some circumstances, that’s worse than being not Genre Savvy at all.”

              But depending on the genre you’re in, it can be funnier.

              …For the audience, anyway.

            2. The question then becomes which genre are WE in? As a pre High schooler I would have said SciFi as we headed for the moon. In College and early working years up through 9/11 I might have said it was a techno thriller. In the Obama years we seemed to be skating into a badly written dystopia. Here and now we seem to have moved into outright Farce, a bad copy of Candide if you had to pin me down with the Various Left side pundits declaring we have (or at least are working toward) the best of all possible governments.

              1. Some ambitious young writer decided they were going to write Surrealist Realism. Really get the literary critics talking.

                They, and we, are intensely regretting that decision.

            3. I think you can stop at ‘Warhammer 40k would probably be fatal’. Even with WH40k rules it usually is 😀

      3. And sometimes progress happens when someone sets out to confirm that the ‘impossible” is impossible. Roentgen gave pushing electrons through glass a shot…. and failed at it. BUT by happy accident discovered X-rays, which aided medicine quite a bit. A Magnificent Failure!

        1. Or when someone sets out to figure why there is an apparent contradiction/ puzzle in the data compared to the existing science. One Max Planck was investigating what was called the Ultraviolet Catastrophe. It was know that as objects had higher temperatures they radiated light at shorter wavelengths up the spectrum until they hit violet and ultraviolet. The relationship was well understood (or so it was thought) but the equations said the high temperatures being used in commercial processes should emit quite a bit of UV and yet they didn’t Dr Planck Hypothesized that only certain sized packets of energy (quanta) could be emitted and wrote an equation (involving Planck’s constant unsurprisingly) that precise described what was being seen. Figuring out WHY that applied lead to A. Einsteins paper on the photoelectric effect, and led to modern models of atomic behavior that ultimately lead into things such as transistors. This happens WAY more than anyone wants to admit, let alone accidental discoveries.

    3. It is indeed the whole point…but they missed it because they are cramped, unimaginative people in the grip of a resentful, nihilistic ideology (i.e., socialism).

      Reality is a crutch for those who don’t have a firm grip on fantasy.

      1. Ha. I like that…

        And of course, there’s the obligatory Puddleglum reference: If my fantasy can beat your reality for beauty, truth, and goodness, I’m gonna go with the fantasy, thanks.

              1. Hmm… Did you link it only because of my comment, or were you already going to do it anyway? Because if it’s the latter, it’s freaky how close I called it.

                Then again, I did pull that off with you once before…

                1. Because you commented.

                  I’m a little busy the last month or so, so I’m not even reading all the comments these days when I do leave a comment. 😀

                  But I saw my name, and giggled, and posted it…because I DID know where it was….

                  1. I did notice you’ve been gone more than usual lately. You missed a couple of things that might interest you.

                    One was a visit from RES. Not only is his wife still okay but his vision problems seem to have cleared up on their own for some reason. So we’re all happy about that.

                    His computer problems seem to be getting worse, though. I offered to send him a Raspberry Pi 4 I have lying around, but that doesn’t seem to work for him. I also suggested a small fundraiser here to help him buy a new laptop but he absolutely refuses. I believe Sarah said she was going to see if they had an older laptop they could send to him. Not sure how things are going on that front.

                    That was in the “I’m Okay” post from about a week ago:

                    [continued due to multiple links]

                    1. And now the entire family is hanging over my shoulder watching the Drizzt video and arguing about how mommy says the name wrong….

                    2. > “arguing about how mommy says the name wrong….”

                      I would apologize for inflicting that on you, but honestly I’m too busy laughing. 😛

          1. The link is correct, but the video won’t display outside of Youtube. I know you like sharing that one, so you might want to find another copy.

  3. Born in 1960 so I’ve been called a Boomer but I certainly don’t feel in any way shape or form of the same generation as my parents. I’m certainly not an Xer.

    Yeah. Sidewalk crack. Sounds about right.

    Don’t step on it or you’ll break your mother’s back!

    1. I was born in 56, so I was 12 in 68 and nothing about the cultural Sixties looked liberating or promising to me. I started looking around at the Big World and all I saw was violence and drugs. By the time I graduated from high school in 74 the “Sixties people” had moved on to “spirituality” which was nauseating.

      I likewise never felt like a “Boomer” in any way shape or form. I’ve seen an alternate category for people too young to really participate in the Sixties (chronologically, the time between Kennedy’s assassination – third grade for me – and Nixon’s resignation) but I can never remember what it is.

      1. Also born in ‘56. I once heard of those of us born from the mid fifties to the mid sixties as the “Busters”, the ones whose promised utopia got busted. We got served the leftovers and broken toys of the Boomers. They got psychedelic rock, we got disco. It’s no wonder we started punk. And then to be labeled as a Boomer. It was like being compared to your older brother while going through school.

          1. “Brat Boomer” “Baby Buster”
            In the interests of communication, would you care to offer a list defining the jargon you’re using here?

            1. I suspect this is shorthand for first half/last half of the Boomers, just like “Ataris” and “Nintendos” for GenX.

            2. Delighted. The McDaniel Breakdown is as follows:

              Birth date 1935-45: Happy Days’ers. Grew to maturity in the 1950s and early 1960s. Tend to be overshadowed by the World War II decade group, who hogged all the political jobs. Steady sorts, but prone to a “throw the kids out when they are 18” mindset toward their offspring.

              1946-55: Brat Boomers. Grew up in the late 1950s and early 1960s, a period of maximum cultural stability in the United States. Got slapped in the face hard by the triple whammy of Vietnam, the Sexual Revolution, and the race/gender shifts. Definite bimodal distribution – half are very solid, the other half are the most self-centered people imaginable. Terrible on national security policy, though.

              1956-65: Baby Busters. Grew up in the 1970s. Hit very hard by the collapse of the economy in the 1970s and the Great Inflation. Voted hard for Reagan in 1980 because he offered hope. Despise the Brat Boomers with a passion – they consider the Brats to be the older siblings who trashed the place and left the Busters to clean up the mess.

              1966-75: Gen X. Came to maturity in the 1980s. The first decade group to be raised to a substantial degree by day care and babysitters. The first decade group in a long time that didn’t really worry themselves about national security – the Busters having disposed with the Soviet Union.

              1976-1985: Clinton Cynics. Came to maturity in the 1990s. 11 Sep 01 was a BIG shock to them. Very computer-oriented, they grew up alongside the Internet. Very cynical…they watched Sick Willie lie his way out of what should have been a certain impeachment.

              1986-1995: Gen Y. Came to maturity in the 2000s. Even more Internet-oriented. The examples I’ve worked with are hard-working, very much like the Baby Busters. Decent sorts. Tend to be quiet professionals.

              1996-2005: Snowflakes. Came to maturity in the 2010s. Soaked in the self-esteem cult. Rarely challenged, either academically or in their behavior. Many have serious issues with arrogance…and ignorance. Accustomed to Internet, social media, and having a cell phone ready to hand.

              1. Oh, great. I’m a snowflake.

                Let’s see… Self-esteem feels like the two-sided horse. I might be over-confident in my own abilities and intelligence. Then again, I might have the right idea of myself, and be worrying about having the wrong idea out of overscrupulosity. (That’s a running problem for me, I’m well aware.)

                I know that there’s enough information that I don’t know I don’t know to fill several Libraries of Alexandria, so at least I’m aware of how ignorant I am. Never touched social media because Mom and Dad kept us off of it, and I don’t even want to bother with it. Cell phone is definitely a part of my life, though.

                Where challenges are concerned; there was a year of middle school (homeschooling group with other families and a base curriculum) where part of the homework was to memorize certain question-and-answer curriculum (flashcards worked best – write question on one side, answer on the other). A classmate of mine memorized them all nearly perfectly. I decided I wasn’t going to be outdone. In class, we’d play a game where the teacher prompted us with the questions and anyone who got an answer wrong had to sit down.

                By the end of the year, everyone else would be sitting down while said classmate and I stood there and recited until the teacher called an end to it.

                Stars, I miss it.

                I think I’d love to have a proper rivalry, particularly in the academic realm. But for whatever reason, that isn’t really how college works.

                1. Welcome to the Odds. We have cookies… if Fluffy hasn’t eaten them all again. Also note, These are trends, they’re useful for predicting over all direction but lousy on individuals.

                    1. Understandable. Were we in-person, the ‘joke’ part probably would have been communicated through a wry tone of voice for the first two sentences. (Essentially, it feels like getting an answer on a ‘Which _____ are you most like?’ quiz that I would have preferred not to get, and going over the description to find out why. While remembering that the point of such quizzes is to be fun and amusing, not a defining statement of my personality.)

                    2. > “it feels like getting an answer on a ‘Which _____ are you most like?’ quiz that I would have preferred not to get”

                      I normally ignore those quizzes, but on a lark I did take a ‘what animal are you’ version a few years ago.

                      Turns out I’m a snake. Lower your opinion of me accordingly.

                    3. I have no objection to snakes. Some of them are rather beautiful – particularly when considered at a distance.

                      Cockroaches and mosquitoes, I would have objected to. Strenuously. But I’m pretty sure no one is putting those in a ‘What animal are you most like?’ quiz, if only for fear of lawsuits for defamation of character.

                    4. > “Some of them are rather beautiful – particularly when considered at a distance.”

                      In other words, you like me as long as I stay way over HERE, huh? Fair enough. 😛

                    5. 😉

                      More accurately, snakes of a purely animal nature are incapable of making reasoned decisions, and react on instinct. I have recently discovered that ‘beautiful’ and ‘deadly’ are at least somewhat synonymous to me, particularly with regard to animals. Nonetheless, survival is a goal of high priority. Thus, to admire said beautiful and dangerous creatures, I must be at a safe distance which prevents me from triggering ‘Attack’ instincts.

                      You are capable of making reasoned moral decisions, however. So, as long as I am at least fairly certain you won’t try to hurt or kill me, you’re fine.

                    6. > “So, as long as I am at least fairly certain you won’t try to hurt or kill me, you’re fine.”

                      Hell, I don’t even plan to hurt Fox, and she likes to torture me with terrible AMVs (she bribes Sarah with baby pictures to get away with it).

                      So you’re safe.

                    7. Crossover shared it first, she did a fanfic crossover between that universe (well, three different versions, there’s a live action, this animated, and a book) and Valdemar.

                      If you think that’s pretty, you might also like My Heroic Husband, a Korean drama with probably the cutest intro idea I’ve ever seen…and it’s set in a dye shop, so ALL THE COLORS.

                    8. > “…. OK, I don’t share terrible AMVs.”

                      Lies. I’ll grant you this one is okay, but that’s just because you picked one with a good Nightwish song this time. The visuals just strike me as random nonsense. The only really good AMV I remember you ever posting was Starlight Brigade, and you got that one from ME!

                      I’ll admit I don’t mind your taste in music in general – I liked some of the Dan Vasc stuff you’ve linked, for example – but when it comes to AMVs specifically I sometimes wonder what demons possess you.

                    9. > “Crossover shared it first”

                      Hmm… I don’t remember you saying you had already seen it when I showed it to you. It’s been a while, but I’m fairly sure I was the one who first introduced you to it.

                      That said, now that I’ve had time to think about it I’ll take back something I said before; you DID introduce me to at least one AMV that impressed me. It was Lone Digger, the one about the cats going into a strip club.

                      And remembering that gave me an epiphany: the few AMVs I really like tend to be the ones where the visuals tell a coherent story. That might be why I’m so down on the kind you tend to post; not only do they usually have music I don’t like, but the visuals are just random scenes that don’t feel like they add up to anything.

                    10. > “Crossover shared it first”Hmm… I don’t remember you saying you had already seen it when I showed it to you. It’s been a while, but I’m fairly sure I was the one who first introduced you to it.

                      That was in response to Lady E.

                      Hard to tell, since we hit the wall. ^.^

                    11. > “Hard to tell, since we hit the wall. ^.^”

                      Ah, right. That’s why I generally quote part of what I’m responding to once we hit the wall. It helps reduce confusion.

                      But it’s fine, I’m sure no harm will come of telling you my weakness when it comes to AMVs. I mean, what’re the odds that’ll EVER come back to haunt me? [rolls eyes] 🙂

                  1. I’m aware, but self-deprecating humor is one of the best kinds of humor. Plus I tend to like personality quizzes, and puzzling out just how accurate they may be.

                    And cookies sound wonderful, even if they’re only the internet-comment kinds. Thank you!

                    1. You’re welcome. And it seems the joke whooshed over my head today. Must find my butterfly net. (now whether it’ll do me any GOOD or not remains a question!)

                  2. Definitely. I’m a Baby Buster…but in truth, I’m a relic of the Civilization that was mortally wounded in the First World War. Trying to keep the spark alight, in the hope that the beacon of Civilization might one day be rekindled.

                    1. I fall into the Clinton Cynic cohort, according to these categories. Not too far from the mark.

                      Back in my active duty period I told guys that I grew up on a dairy farm with five siblings, mom and dad still married, and dad serving multiple terms as a deacon at the church. I might as well be from 1955.

                  3. As long as the charcoal bonbons are in plentiful supply, Fluffy doesn’t raid the cookie jar.

                    The aardvark has been conscientious.

                2. Two sided horse? The near side and the off side?

                  For what it’s worth, I find that even solo working certain power equipment I am still the/an off ox. This will likely surprise nobody here.

                  1. Moo, good ox!

                    I was referencing a sort of parable I’m familiar with. “A drunk man was riding his horse back home. He glanced to his right and saw how great the distance was between him and the ground. So terrified was he of falling off the right side of the horse that he leaned too far to the left, and fell off that side instead.”

                    I.E. If you’re too careful avoiding one problem/vice, you can often be tricked into the opposite vice, which is generally no better. A man who is too afraid to be a spendthrift becomes a miser, a man afraid of being wrathful becomes a coward… Etc.

                    1. I always liked the one about the guy given a ticket for riding a horse while drunk. In court, he argued that the charge should be dismissed because the horse was sober. 😀

                    2. Happened IRL in Pierre and Ft. Pierre, SD. Guy got ticketed for endangerment of an animal because he rode several times on a very busy state highway. He was schnockered, the horse was sober, “it’s not drunk driving!”

              2. 1966-75: Gen X Latchkey and first big victims of the pill, divorce, and mass job outsourcing. Did worry about national security because they saw the Vietnam vets and Red Scare military movies. Never truly trusted authority, got shitted on by Brat Boomers and Happy Days’ers who kicked the pension and corporate ladders away once their own careers were secured.

                1. Did worry about national security because they spent their childhoods wondering if they’d be able to see the missiles on the way in, and didn’t go to Europe for junior year abroad in 1985 because they were worried the Soviets were going to start a war.


                  I still twitch if I hear something that sounds like an air raid siren and it’s not 3pm on a Friday.

                  1. Boomer here – dad was USAF and we lived in Florida for the Cuban Missile Crisis.

                    Ever see a SAC base on full alert? Machineguns set up at the gates … just what you want to see when your school bus rolls onto the base.

                    1. Yeah, I grew up in Anchorage. We were getting at least three warheads and maybe as many as five.

                      Elmendorf AFB
                      Ft. Richardson
                      Anchorage International Airport
                      Port/railyards (Elmendorf might have covered this)
                      Nike Zeus batteries on the mountaintop and on Point Woronzof

                      And since Anchorage is basically an equilateral triangle 12 miles on a side, we were toast no matter where in town we lived.

                  2. Different times…. and also seriously bad weather.
                    Some years ago it was interesting as $HOOTERVILLE then tested BOTH alerts.

                    Now, I use a(n edited) Civil Defense siren as a default ringtone. I know if it’s mine.

                  3. Remember air Raid Drills in Kindergarten though I think my rather conservative town was one of the lat to give them up. Gentle old Mrs. Brainerd herding us into the hallways of our vintage 1930 school, Gave me nightmares as a kid… And I am in the Busters section will turn 62 this year.

                    1. Anchorage had long stopped having drills when I started school in 1969 (probably because fusion weapons made them pointless), but they kept up the siren testing just in case.

                    2. I think the Local towns had come to the same conclusion in 1966. Where I lived was west of Groton Sub Base by about 35 miles and east of New Haven that had Olin Arms and Sikorsky by about the the same amount. And of course we were east of NYC by 75-90 miles. We probably wouldn’t have gottenmuch from blast and heat (unless somebody missed) but we’d have likely been inside 5000+ R/hr and most public shelters only provided 3 orders of magnitude drop, but that’s 5 R/hr and after ~1 day your well into radiation sickness and after a little over 4 you’re well into the LD50 (50% likely lethal dose) whole body dose.

                      For our drills they pulsed the fire alarms rather than just had them run like fire drill. I’ve hated that buzzing fire alarm sound all my life…

              3. Baby Buster: Hit very hard by the collapse of the economy in the 1970s and the Great Inflation. Voted hard for Reagan in 1980 because he offered hope.

                Sounds about right for me (’56) and hubby (’52), he was the baby of the 4 of his siblings by 5 years.

                Happy Days’ers. Grew to maturity in the 1950s and early 1960s

                Mom & Dad and most of their siblings. Including the kicked out at 18, unless you go to college.

                Brat Boomers. Grew up in the late 1950s and early 1960s, a period of maximum cultural stability in the United States. Got slapped in the face hard by the triple whammy of Vietnam, the Sexual Revolution, and the race/gender shifts.

                The remaining much younger siblings of mom & dad (’47, ’50, & ’52). Of which only one (and he had to get major slap in the head by the metaphorical 2×4, hard, to turn him around) is wildly successful financially. All three are solid conservatives. The other two did okay. All three managed to avoid Vietnam for different valid and legal reasons. These era includes my husband’s, and most of BIL siblings. Don’t know the latter as well, but the description fits hubby’s older siblings perfectly.

                Inlaws aren’t covered by the descriptions as they were only a few years younger than both sets of my grandparents. 1910 – 1920’s, and would have been on the front or flying in WWII if they hadn’t been pulled either for polio as a child, or employers making case for them to better serve on home front.

                1. I’m a Baby Buster, but the Clinton debacle taught me that the feminists weren’t serious. I just shrugged at #MeToo, because I knew its application was totally political. I still thought there was such a thing as bi-party feminism with the Clarence Thomas hearings, when the rep and dem women did their little walk up (or down, I don’t remember) the stairs together. I didn’t think they were correct, in this case, but at least I respected them.

                  Then, with Clinton, I found out, nope, it was all politics. All for show.

              4. The Reader is a Brat who clearly took a wrong turn somewhere. In the summer of 69 he was watching the moon landing and reading Atlas Shrugged and H.L. Mencken (yeah pretty ODD). Even in the 60’s his primary music was jazz.

      2. My mother was watching the news when the footage of the Kent State “Massacres” happened. I was horrified. I thought that if they would have just listened to the policemen it wouldn’t have happened.

        And I wasn’t a particularly obedient child, but even I could see that attacking the police might result in a less than optimal outcome.

        1. Well, yeah, but disobedience, frequently violent disobedience, was the norm at the time among many students; I was 24 at the time and saw the process build up in “real time” through the ’60s.

          That said, it wasn’t police, it was (IIRC) Ohio National Guard. And the results were predictable; soldiers make good police as much as military brass make good civil administrators: zero = zero. Whole different trained skillset. Maybe MPs could have handled it, but even that isn’t a good fit.

            1. I had damn little myself; these were part of the same population of entitled crybabies that spit on troops returning from Vietnam. I didn’t experience it, but some I knew, who were more tolerant that I was, did.

            2. A decade or so ago, perhaps longer, Kent State’s Archives and Special Collections had a great on-line exhibit about the shooting and everything going on around it, including several analyses of who did what and when and why. The consensus among the historians and military people was that someone had shot at (or toward) the Guardsmen, and since they were on edge because of earlier harassment and the burning of the ROTC building, it was no wonder that they shot back.

              I was surprised to learn how many of the young people present were NOT Kent State students. Looking back from 2023, they were probably serving as Useful Idiots, photo fodder (and bullet catchers) for the real activists.

              1. A bunch of them showed up at Ohio University right after Kent State, and tried to whip up the college campus into a repeat. Which was a mistake. Two mistakes, really. First, the students didn’t want to get the consequences of “let’s you and him fight” that were just all over the news.

                Second, my alma mater for the history degree is and always has been a party school. “Let’s you and him fight!” doesn’t get very far when the alternative is a kegger with hot babes. Or that other kegger over there. Or…

                And yeah, the eyewitness I know and trust at Kent state said he was doing his laundry, looking out the half-sunk basement’s windows down at the protestors and the guard beyond… and the first shot came from above, behind and to his right.

                He also notes that the night before, the lobby was full of little disposable cups all filled with varying levels of concrete that were set to cure, and the protestors from “out of town, who’d rolled in a week before” were encouraging people to stop and take a dump in cups for the cause as well.

                It’s almost like Antifa is just another iteration of the same old playbook, eh?

                1. “Antifa is just another iteration of the same old playbook”

                  Yep, and the only cure involves rather non-PC actions.

          1. National Guard. Of course. I was quite young at the time so I guess I didn’t realize the difference. But now I remember that was part of the controversy. “How dare you call on the military to gun down our innocent students.”

            But I may have gotten the police part wrong but to this day I don’t remember the “students” as looking innocent. They seemed mean and evil to a little girl watching on a black and white television. It seemed to me at the time like they were goading the men with guns.

            I also saw the Robert Kennedy assassination when it happened. I had nightmares my whole childhood after that. I thought if someone could kill a powerful man running for president and surrounded by so many people, a little girl like me didn’t stand a chance.

            That experience lead me to not have a television in my house when my kids were little and to never watch the news around any kids no matter where I was.

            Kids deserve to have a life without thinking about the cares of adults.

            1. That (in)famous photo of the North Vietnamese ratfink getting what passed for his brains blown out? Due to TV coverage, and who knows what else, I ‘see’ the memory as motion picture (video/film).

      3. I am in the same boat. Born late 1956. Also graduated ’74. At 17, no unusual. What was unusual, unheard of for the last 30 to 40 years, is I was still 17 when I started college late September ’74. I agree with everything you listed. Was never into the ’60s culture, be it drugs or free sex, or music. Did take in the whole female can do whatever you want to. But was that culture or the fact that there were 3 girls and no brothers. Picked that up from dad. We were expected to go hunting, fishing, and camping. No excuses. We weren’t given breaks because we were girls. I’ve related this before here, but bears repeating. Related a story heard from other scouters that their spouses (usually wives) did not come camping on troop outings. That the Ritz was roughing it. Declared “means I don’t have to go camping!” My dad all but fell out of his chair laughing. (I wasn’t serious. Honest.)

        Besides the first time I didn’t go on a weekend campout, our kid got lost (with 3 others). Dad was there (as was dad and mom of two of the others). Not the leaders fault. No, being there wouldn’t have changed anything. Good learning experience for everyone. The 4 youth involved did almost everything correctly, and the one thing they didn’t do per proper procedure, well in this instance, turned out wasn’t the right thing to do (stay put once realized lost) and they got lucky. No downside except the anxiety attack by leaders a few days latter (after camp packed and everyone home). But still …

  4. Oh, this might be from around the time when I first found your blog. If this isn’t the column I remember, it was one with a similar topic. Many of the commenters told their story of how they gradually stopped going to the bookstores, because there were fewer and fewer books there that they wanted to read. Then they found e-books and started finding writers and stories they wanted to read, again. The stories all sounded very similar to one another, and for that matter I had experienced the same kind of thing.

    My take on it is that it wasn’t any particular generation that killed the wonder, it was the socialists. Socialists are usually also nihilists, and nihilism is antithetical to telling stories infused with wonder. Nihilism results in “grey goo” SF and “grimdark” Fantasy, stories that can be fun to read but ultimately go no where. Like Martin’s Song of Ice and Fire novels: an interesting world and engaging characters, but ultimately you wind up rooting for the zombies to win because they’re all just too awful to go on living.

    My $0.02 anyway.

    1. It seems to be happening in tradpub again. I skim cover blurbs at B&N pretty often, and the Grey Goo from small presses is horrible. The Grey Goo from the bigger companies is almost as bad, I guess because they don’t feel comfortable going that far off the wall yet. Lots of reprints, though. Less horror recently, more feminist sci fi and ethnic fantasy (and sci fi).

    2. Dedicated bookstores are unusual in Flyover Falls (one used book, one religious), so the dead-tree sources are the racks at Fred Meyer and Wally World. Fred’s SFF section dropped to a single bay a few years back, and the books were meh at best. They remodeled the store last fall, and I finally saw where the book section went to. Haven’t checked any titles, though. No point, I figure.

      I culled a bunch of older hardcover books a couple of years ago (’70s specials, grimdark anything, Clancy Sharecropper Novels, and books I’d rather not read again). Down to 25 lineal feet of SFF, though the Kindle now has about 250 titles in it, mostly new books published as indy, with some Baen and a tiny amount of re-releases (some RAH I didn’t have in dead tree).

  5. If your agent wasn’t pushing your work, I would call that breach of fiduciary duty.

    Probably way too late for litigation, but the object lesson should be “If your agent is not pushing your work, kick them to the curb and move on.”

        1. Depends. I always liked John Browning’s method. Invent gun. Sell patent to established firearms manufacturer. Go back to workshop and invent NEW gun. Rinse and repeat.

          He’d seen too many inventors who went bust going from the workshop to the factory floor.

          1. Yep, he knew where his talents lay. (And when your traditional partner balks, find another partner, even if you have to go to Belgium. 🙂 )

          2. Ah the scripture of JMB 19:11

            Truly an amazing inventor, both in quantity and quality.

            His 1911 handgun and M-2HB machine-gun are still primary firearms in active military use, and are still fully suitable for purpose. Slight modifications are useful, but not required. (Fixed headspace on the MG, since ammo is now completely standardized. No more go/no-go, fire/no-fire gages. Bigger sights on 1911. )

            Shotguns, rifles, handguns, belt-feds….. and much of it still in use, or endlessly imitated in knock-offs and derivatives.

            The 1897 pump-action shotgun is still quite useful, and able to handle modern ammo within reason.

            The “Baby Browning” pocket pistol is tiny and discrete and reliable.

            If you prefer a 9mm to a .45 (you heretic) the GP-35 is a wonderful and effective example. (Grin)

            Just simply amazing.

            1. The 1911 is probably the most-customized weapon ever, even including the Ruger 10-22. And some “special” units still use it.

              And as for the 9mm vs. .45ACP controversy, ammunition improvements over the past 60 or so years, starting with Lee Jurras, have narrowed the performance gap to almost nothing. The .45 benefitted, of course, but the 9mm benefitted much more (having nowhere to go but up… 🙂 ). I used both, right up until the tragic canoeing accident.

          1. The best revenge is living well.

            Or, its collecting heads in baskets. I forget sometimes. But those tend to smell after a bit, so I stick with living well.


            1. Baskets? Display them on spikes on the fence around the hut. You can even make them have lights that shine forth from their eyes to light the way home for the nice peasant girl who ever so politely did your chores and was respectful of your mobile home.

              For more decorating tips, follow Baba Yaga!

                1. As long as you politely clarify that you’re sharing dinner with her, not serving as the dinner. (The same clarification should also be made, with as much subtlety as possible, should you ever find yourself in a world with Hannibal Lecter. Preferably, just avoid him.)

                    1. There have been princes who answered her questions with a rebuke that she hadn’t offered a seat or food and drink first — a gross breach of hospitality!

            2. Yeah who wants the heads of losers decaying around and stinking up the place?

              Now once you get so you can have castle walls at a suitable distance from the main keep that you need to decorate, well then a few decaying heads to encourage the others might be in order.

              Until then it’s best to line the walls with bank receipts and major awards.

              1. The traditional remedy is tar on the heads. Makes’em last longer, probably not much influence on the smell.

                1. The Celts had a secret tanning recipe to turn them into sacred weapons and friends, which were kept in chests. A tathlum.

                  Pretty much all the world’s headhunters use similar tanning recipes/taxidermy, except the shrunken head guys.

                  1. “The Celts had a secret tanning recipe to turn them [heads] into sacred weapons and friends, which were kept in chests”

                    So, Blemmyes are really Celts, and Herodotus and Pliny the elder were right, if geographically uncertain.

                    Pliny records that “The Blemmyæ are said to have no heads, their mouths and eyes being seated in their breasts”.

                    Or, in their chests …

                    1. The Celts had a secret tanning recipe to turn them into sacred weapons

                      I skimmed that too fast and I was wondering why does looking fantastic in a swimsuit turn you into a sacred weapon?

              2. > “who wants the heads of losers decaying around and stinking up the place?”

                Yeah, but everyone’s got to let their inner Vlad the Impaler out to play once in a while.

                ..It is everyone, right? I mean, it’s not just me?


                1. I commented my own decorating preferences here, but the comment seems to have been frozen. I tried to put a link to a picture into it, so that’s probably the issue. Grr.

                  1. Assuming you only used one link in the entire comment, that shouldn’t trigger moderation. Unless you linked to a source TPTB at WordPress decided to censor, perhaps…

                    Anyway, Sarah might be able to find and release your comment.

                2. evil kitty grin Hmm? Sounds good to me. goes back to polishing small decorative ebony and silver box on mantle. The one holding someone else’s heart

                3. “It is everyone, right? I mean, it’s not just me?”

                  No, it’s not.

                  [Cold stare, while sharpening kilij…]

              3. On the topic of major awards: My understanding is that electric lamps fashioned to look like the legs of adult females make outstanding displays on the ramparts.

              1. Oh of course.

                Do all your “revenging” over the winter thereby avoid the unpleasant stench. Then by spring the skulls may be sufficiently whitened as to be suitable for adding to ones throne.

                This probably needs to be a YouTube home decorating video for the decorating impaired.


    We get what we pay for. Or what someone else pays for.

    And then they get to choose the the tune the piper plays.

    I’d rather pay my own way, as much as possible.

    I’m kinda particular of the “music” in my life…

  7. And that’s why indie is eating trad pub’s lunch.

    Trad pub could completely swamp us, with their reach and distribution – but by ceding all the fun and interesting stories to us, they’ve ceded the market of everyone who wants something entertaining for their beer money.

    Me, I’ll just keep writing my fun little explorations of life after the initial terraforming with romance and tactically correct action, with my group of like-minded (but not like-genre’ed) authors who are doing fun and interesting things. Like my love, who’s writing historically accurate westerns instead of tradpub’s “Sales are falling! Throw more gore and sex in!”, and CV Walter with her SF Romance that includes healthy relationships and women’s clothes with pockets and JL Curtis with his contemporary westerns that are cowboys vs. cartel on real working ranches, and his not-quite-milSF with the ‘interesting’ things vets get up to after they’re out.

    Because the readers are giving us their beer money, and asking for more, so why not?

      1. I have unhappily decided that I have to finish this urban fantasy in order to get back to the novel that’s 80% of the way done. grumbles at back brain

        back brain blows raspberry at me

        Excuse me, I may have to track down some Louisiana rum and compare it to Pusser’s rum to shut the inner critic up and propitiate my back brain into giving me the next chapter.

        1. I just want to somehow extract more time to write from twenty six hour days. I know. I counted. And I even know what happens next! There’s plots and everything! And that the dialogue is crap and needs fixing! But time… ask me for anything but time!

        2. Heck, I have to get the “I’m not doing another one in this world” novel done in order to get the “novel I’ve intended to write since 2019” book going.

            1. The book that is 80% done and stalled while the urban fantasy eats my writing time is… 8 years old, at this point. I thought I finally had the writing chops to tackle and finish it, and this latest draft has eaten almost a year of my life.

              Once you get yours out and I get mine out, we need to find time to have some port, and complain to each other. Especially about the final product still leaving things out from the initial concept that now it’s going to take yet another book to get that cut scene out of our heads and on the published page…

                  1. Fox….. Are you going to tell me I have to do more than six books, before they allow me to do anything else?
                    Don’t push me. I’m feeling fragile. I might flop on the floor and cry.

                    1. (Singing)

                      This story’s just

                      Six books long!

                      Six books long!

                      And it’s gonna make money!

                      A whole Lotta spending money!


                1. No it’s not, it’s a trilogy. I’m assuming you know that old question “How many books are in a trilogy?”. Answer: it depends on who you are…

                  1. 150,000 words into what was supposed to be a more or less 500 word supershort. False advertising! Lies and more lies! The current plot thread is more than 10x as long.

                    I wuz lied 2. There is no cake. Only plots and the plotting…

                    1. It says its six books. I have learned to disbelieve the work when they tell you “I’m only gonna be ‘X’ books/words long! Promise!” (I think they’re all filthy liars until proven otherwise).

                    2. A Diabolical Bargain snuck up on me by pretending to be a novelette. In my defense, it was my first novel.

        3. “track down some Louisiana rum”

          Or find some French Rhum Negrita. Not that good on its own, and it is marketed as a mixing rum. Good in rum&coke/kooba-leebray (tried to order one in France – ‘kooba’, not ‘cuba’). Inexpensive, and a bit uncommon these days in the US. Bought a case once, years ago; long gone.

      2. Well, you always said writers do well in an economic downturn. Since Biden’s puppet masters wish for Jimmy Carter to hold their beer and watch this, you get a little silver lining with your currency inflation.

    1. “I’ll just keep writing my fun little explorations of life…”

      Two words: DON’T STOP! 🙂 The last was, in many ways, your best yet. IMHO, of course…

  8. Wow, that was quite a rant. I enjoyed it. I know I’m really tired of English teachers pushing “literary SF”. I include Ray Bradbury in that category, I never could get much of a sense of wonder from most of the stories I had to read. Same with “The Left Hand of Darkness”, it did nothing for me. On the other hand, a lot of the “what if” stories, particularly based around technological advances were very enjoyable. As far as fantasy, it needed to make sense, which I suppose can be categorized as the technology of magic. Whether the main character is male or female doesn’t matter that much to me, but they need to be believable. I’ve enjoyed cyberpunk, but I’ve been in the computer business for over 45 years. I understood a great deal of what networking could do long before it became common.

    Anyway, time to get back at it. I am a boomer, born several weeks before Sputnik went up, just for reference.

    1. “I know I’m really tired of English teachers pushing “literary SF”.”

      Same here. I read for fun or escape, I do enough anal-yzation at work.

      We had one attempted that my senior year of high school. Not only had I tapped out the genre to a large degree, I had a book collection of science fiction and fantasy in the high hundreds of tombs plus a side job at a large used book store.

      So I spent an extra period every Friday in the Science Lab developing film or helping build scenery for the Drama Department, instead of arguing with pretentious twats about the “Illustrated Man” or “A Canticle for Leibowitz”.

      1. grins There’s a story floating around about an author who was invited to a class to speak. The students spent weeks analyzing his book before he came, and when he arrived, they started asking “Why were the curtains in this scene blue? Was it to represent depression or his lost lover’s dress, or…”
        “No. The curtains were blue because I needed a colour to describe them, so I picked blue!”

        The funny part is, if you plug “the curtains were blue” into a search engine, you’ll get plenty of responses of people bagging on literary criticism… and then people defending it, saying that uncomplicated readers don’t realize everything in a book or a movie is absolutely there for a reason, and nothing is left to chance…

        …and speaking as an author, and as someone who’s teched and knows a thing or two about how the sausage is made…

        The curtains are usually just bloody well blue because that’s what was convenient, not already overused, and, if on stage, available on hand or cheap and easy to get. Yes, sometimes they’re a Chekov’s gun or deliberate mood setting, but just as often, it’s an extraneous detail.

        …if it’s not an in-joke or an easter egg the critics completely failed to get.

        Or something going horribly wrong, like the moment Ozzy found out the bat a fan threw onstage wasn’t rubber after all…

        1. See, this is the basic problem with literary criticism. For criticism to work at all, it must presume to find things in a work that the author did not deliberately intend.

          While I am certain that an author is a product of their time and situation and that this can leak into their writing unintentionally, I believe this is a phenomenon at the margin. So while a feminist analysis of Shakespeare might be clever, it reflects the critic much more than the author.

          Does this make most university English departments and literary magazines obsolete? Well, yes. That’s too bad. I feel terrible. Just terrible.

          1. There is the story where Clarke’s daughter is in a HS literacy class. They read one of Clark’s SF stories. Question by the instructor: “Why do you think Mr. Clark wrote this story.” His daughter raises her hand. “He needed the money.” Teacher takes exception to the answer. Sends a note home with daughter to give to parents. Clark writes back “Daughter is correct. I wrote the story for money because daughter needed new shoes.” Oops. (Google foo failed. So don’t have the “story” or the daughter’s name. Also could have been a different author than Clark, but point remains.)

              1. Might have been Asimov

                Probably? At any rate it was a hard SF writer that would have been read in HS when author was still alive. Point regularly brought up (by someone else) to refute that there is an extra special high status reason, not financial, that authors write stories. I mean one author wrote a series just to answer “What happened to the rest of the world when an event caused one island to disappear?” Wrote it for money too. Author tends to write under “What If” alternative history. But it is “What If” and money, that makes him write. Not any other reasons.

                  1. I did not remember that that was her name. Sort of gives me a new outlook on “Astra and Flondrix”….

            1. He is indeed. Both. And I’m extremely thankful for his sort of “Denier of the Emperor’s Clothes”. IMNSHO, except for specialists who intend to teach other proposed specialists (the “incest” method of “higher education”), English classes should be restricted to studying English as a language, as is so obviously needed today, and should probably end in 8th grade or thereabouts; if you can’t learn syntax, grammar and spelling in 8 years you probably can’t learn it at all.

        2. Same kind of story around about RAH; at Berkeley, IIRC, he was asked ‘Why did you write X?’ and his honest answer was like ‘I needed money and I thought it would sell.’

          1. Heinlein in The Number of The Beast, talking about Stranger “What some writers will do for money.”
            Pauses. Hangs head. Can confirm. Still don’t know whether to re-issue THOSE books.

            1. Re issue the books!

              Someone will be paying to be entertained. Use proceeds to do more.


            2. Because those ones ARE “that kind of book.” And thus will do quite well. Almost certainly.

          1. I’ll admit that the second comment there is kind of off-putting. It feels like someone trying to justify his own overanalysis: “Well, even if the author doesn’t think it means anything that the curtains are blue, I know better than the writer of the story!”

            I can agree with the first comment: “sometimes it the curtains are just blue and doesn’t mean anything, but sometimes it does mean something, and the purpose of literary is to find those latter cases and explain them.” I disagree with two of the unstated premises, however:

            (1) That teachers/professors of literature are necessarily very good at picking out what matters and what doesn’t.

            (2) That stories where the blueness of the curtains symbolizes something are necessarily “deeper” and more important than the stories where the curtains are just blue.

            1. There’s a bit of a simile to Marbury v. Madison, isn’t there? 🙂

              Marshall, C.J.: Judicial review is implicit in the Constitution.
              Madison: No it ain’t.
              Marshall: Yes it is, because [reasons].
              Madison: Look, I wrote the damn thing, and I’m telling you is isn’t in there.
              Marshall: Well, that would mostly put SCOTUS out of a job, so I’m going to act as if it is regardless.

            2. Unstated premise 3) The curtains, other elements, or motifs are what carry the meaning of the story.

              As opposed to the plot, the characters, the character growth, the actions and adventures and outcomes…

              Literary criticism has devolved to reading Maus and asking yourself “What do the stars mean”, instead of “What does the story mean?”

              If you’re having a 15-year-old read A Tale of Two Cities, which already has the difficulty layers of outmoded language in style, of a culture that is alien to him by 160 years describing a culture alien in time to them by almost a hundred years, and vocabularly challenging for someone raised on sightwords and hit with words he may never have seen before – with no phonics grounding to help sound them out or etymology training to help make sense in context – and then you want to suck all the adventure out, by having them trudge through it only looking for the motifs?

              That’s not easy, that’s torture.

              Hand him Harry Potter and ask about the motifs, because he already knows and enjoys the book.

              If you want to tell me that Hamlet wearing black is very symbolicly important, or write about Shakespear through a feminist lens, then you have mistaken counting the oak galls and proclaiming that this tree is superior to the ash tree because it lacks galls, and here is the life cycle of the gall wasp… for the entire forest.

              which takes some gall!

              1. Unstated premise 4) People who read for fun are ignorant of deeper meanings, while people do Literary Criticism are THE SMART PEOPLE, and the correct response to someone who someone who doesn’t like litcrit complaining about their media being political these days is to “laugh my ass off at you.” Readers complaining about getting politics instead of story are ignorant and deserving of mockery.


                Unstated premise 5) If LitCrit can find deep political meanings in everything, then everything innately has these deep political meanings – whether or not readers who read for story are aware,


                6.) Stories that are all politics and no story are just as good as stories that are all story and take LitCrit to “discover” the symbolism and meanings they wish to attach.

                …If the dude had stopped at defending the concept, he could have made a wrong, but somewhat compelling argument. But then he had to go shooting his mouth off, and get a dig in at people he considers his inferiors, and that smug condescension and loathing?

                Yeah, that killed every bit of arguement he had prior. all I’m left with is “well, this argument certainly illustrates why people say the curtains are just fucking blue – because the opposition is held by such arrogant, condescending bastards like you, and your form of studying english only creates people who hate to read because of how you tortured them, and more of your parasitic kind.

                It’s a far better world where the curtains are just fucking blue.

                1. Also that their deep readings are CORRECT.

                  Augurs in ancient Rome read the omens in animal livers. They couldn’t do that without training.

                  1. I’ve noticed that every method of divination seems to involve “educated” analysis of something that normal people would consider to be random nonsense. Almost as if appearing inscrutable to normals was the entire point.

                    I have a theory that you could construct an entirely new system of divination based on interpreting Tori Amos lyrics. Or Nightwish. Or The Birthday Massacre. Pick your poison; the less comprehensible, the better.

          2. I think the important distinction that a lot of people miss when talking about literary criticism (especially at the teaching level) is that the symbolism is one layer of the story and should not be the only layer out there.

            I mean, if I read a story that is all about the symbolism, but it skimps on things such as plot or characterization, I’m going to think of it as a pretentious piece of fluff and waft it aside. (Being fluff, it has too much air resistance to be thrown with great force.)

            Symbolism can be fun and can add a lot to a story for those willing to search for it. But if it’s at the forefront, it’s not a story, it’s a game.

          3. sinal salute
            The fact that Hamlet was wearing black wasn’t “an important part of the story”, the fact that Hamlet was still mourning his father’s death publicly while the new king had hastily married the queen was an important part of the story.
            The inky cloak that is but the trappings and the suits of woe was merely a show of… is it grief, or is it rebellion against the new king? Ah, there’s the thing, wherein we catch…. the heart of the play.

            To make it about the black clothes misses the entire point… and misses the point that over-analysis to the point the critic thinks they know hidden meanings that the author didn’t intend is something most survivors of public education have been hazed by.

            1. Now that I think about it, this kind of thing is probably why I got half Bs in English in high school even though I got As in literally everything else except Band and P.E.

              Also why I couldn’t get through Camille Paglia’s Sexual Personae — about halfway through she diverts into a five-page “analysis” of a four-line poem by Blake, and the sheer flights of projection were too off-putting to continue. And I love Camille Paglia.

  9. “Kids don’t read any more.” That’s the point of Marxist public education. My teens were assigned the most boring, vile books to read in high school. They were not given inspiring adventure stories. Oh, no. They had to read “The Great Gatsby,” among others.

    Yes, I’m calling it. That piece of crap “great American literature” was all about how the American dream was a mirage. Of course Gatsby had no idea what the American dream was all about. He wanted the wealth and trappings of a luxurious and empty life, instead of the happiness and satisfaction of building something. So read about his sad and useless life, teens! Don’t you love to read now? Argh.

    The left accuses us of banning books, when they took Huckleberry Finn away from schools. They’re the ones that take Harry Potter from the middle grade shelves. They are, as always, what they accuse us of being.

    1. Cite on the Left taking Harry Potter from the School Libraries.

      The Harry Potter thing was about Conservative Christians not wanting their children Required To Read Harry Potter.

      “Liberals” were screaming that the Evil Religious Right wanted to ban Harry Potter.

      Note, I understand the reasons that the Conservative Christians didn’t want their children to be forced to read the Harry Potter books even while I don’t agree with their reasons.

      1. The “Conservative Christians” who wanted Harry Potter removed are the same ones that protested against the Starbucks Christmas themed cup. Maybe one mentally disturbed person. I doubt even that.

        The left creates this out of thin air so they can remove good books and inspiring stories and replace them with leftist indoctrination. Read a “banned book” list sometime and wonder why they include Animal Farm and 1984 and Brave New World. Hm.

            1. True, but when Conservative Christians “screamed” about them, they weren’t banned.

            1. Yawn

              You claimed that the Left banned Harry Potter.

              This was a “faked book banning report”.

              Show me evidence that the Left banned Harry Potter (not related to banning the author for her “transphobia”).

              1. Ah, a sighting of a Goalpost Mover. Haven’t seen your ilk for a while. Occasionally I’ll go for the fun of posting link after link, and watching you move the goal posts each time, claiming I haven’t quiiiiiiiite proved it to your satisfaction.

                Not today. It’s Friday, and I’ve got some celebrating to do. Declare yourself the winner, if your ego needs it. I don’t mind. Have a nice day.

          1. Shouldn’t be surprising. There was a backlash against the Potter books even as they were being published, because they were suspiciously fun and kids actually loved them. There were articles denigrating anybody over the age of ten who read them, opining that kids’ tastes would be destroyed by reading something so popular, and so on. It was one of those weird moments when the left, epitomized by Teh Grauniad, and the right, in the persons of certain evangelical ministers, came together to hate the same thing.

            1. Interesting.

              I know more about the Conservative Christians who disliked the books, but wasn’t aware of the Lefty dislike of Harry Potter.

              I’d note that Wiki and other places, talk more about the Conservative Christians’ dislike of the books.

              1. The left was more incensed that it was popular, and that adults were reading kids’ books. The religious right was, as usual, stupidly convinced that the books were gateways for demons and stuff.

                1. The Conservative Christian response was stupid but understandable to me.

                  I just never heard about the Left’s response to the books.

                2. It wasn’t actually “the religious right.”

                  It was, “some people who are actively religious.”

                  Most of the ones I know personally are quite far left– even though Progressivism is a jealous god who will allow none before it, they definitely do exist.

                  There were also the folks who objected to the books on personal religious grounds, AND objected to their child being required to read them in class. Presumably those do tend to cluster to the “right.””

                  Probably the “best” ones were where folks had to lie and say then-not-yet-Pope Benedict the 16th had condemned the books. He hadn’t.
                  (Short version, a German lady wrote a book about how horrible it was, sent it in to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith– then headed by Cardinal Ratzinger– and got a letter back saying “look, lady, it’s fine to be worried about this stuff, and it’s perfectly fine to be concerned about glorifying witchcraft, but you really need to read the genre a bit and calm the heck down.” Which was misquoted in promotional texts, poorly translated, and attributed to the Pope later on.)

                  1. I had more in mind the American evangelicals (usually ministers with perfectly shellacked hair whose ministries very humbly feature their own names as branding), and it was never “the entire religious right”, only the activist, attention-seeking ones, the latter-day heirs of 1980s televangelists.

                    One in particular funded a comic book “exposé” of the “dangers” of the books, Hairy Polarity and the Sinister Sorcery Satire. The art was actually really good, and the story was Jack Chick-level ignorant twaddle. (Also, the irony of an evangelical borrowing a trick from porn and making sure he was protected from copyright suits by putting “Satire” right in the title is kind of delicious.)

                    They exist, they were religious and they were on the right. Identifying them correctly is not a smear on everyone on “their side”.

                    1. I am familiar with the evangelicals that were involved, since I kept having their nonsense thrown at me by folks who were shocked that not all religious were identical and synonymous with “the right.”

                      What I am disagreeing with you on is the idea that being actively religious– or even “evangelical”– puts someone on the right, since I was interested enough to actually look at what policies they were pushing.

                      Unless one accepts the idea that one had to be pro-abortion and pro-sex-work to be on the left, which is a different sort of central-ground shifting.

                    2. “evangelicals”

                      The hard core religious right doesn’t regard slick hair “evangelicals” as Christians. And never push their buttons by using the term Judaeo-Christian…

                1. LOL 😆

                  I tried to get into the First Harry Potter book but for various personal reasons I couldn’t finish it.

                  But I don’t buy that idiot’s “reasoning” and I never had problems with others enjoying the series. 😀

                2. My opinion of his “intelligence” is based on his classification of C.S. Lewis, E.B. White and J.R.R. Tolkien as writers for pre-pubescent children. Of course, it is the LA Times…

                1. Oh, you have a page on Harry Potter? 😉

                  Seriously, I’ve mentioned before that I dislike the series mainly because of how Harry was treated by his aunt and uncle. Pure child abuse IMO.

                  Interestingly, Chris Nuttall has commented that baby Harry appearance on the scene would have caused his aunt & uncle financial problems. IIRC he said that Dubbledore (name is very likely wrong) should have provided them with financial support.

                  I thought that Dubblebore should have kept an eye on how they raised Harry (especially since he was so important against Tom Riddle).

                    1. Ah! Haven’t see it and won’t go looking for it.

                      Don’t need Wiki to know what kind of person you are. 😀

                  1. But see, if Dumbledore had been keeping an eye on Harry and making sure he wasn’t being abused, that wouldn’t have keyed in to the common trope “my life sucks (for entirely childish reasons) and I’m going to fantasize that my REAL parents are wizards or royalty or something”.

                    My issue with the Potterverse is that Rowling clearly did not do a lot of deep thinking about the interface between the muggle and wizarding worlds, especially at the level of government (boy it sure looks like the Minister of Magic gets to tell the PM what to do), or the extent of what magic can and can’t do, what Hogwarts graduates actually do after graduation, and other worldbuilding issues. Like she also put in a lot of “cutesy” touches in Sorceror’s Stone that I think came back to bite her in later books. I don’t know this for sure, but I suspect that the first book was NOT originally conceived as first of many.

                    Also, I can’t be the only one who’s noticed that for all the time the kids spend in classes, they never study English or Math or History or Choir etc etc etc. Hogwarts and other magic schools in the world seem to turn out completely unrounded individuals with no basic skills other than sorcery. No wonder the government, the prisons, and the newspapers are so awful.

                    1. Also, I can’t be the only one who’s noticed that for all the time the kids spend in classes, they never study English or Math or History or Choir etc etc etc. Hogwarts and other magic schools in the world seem to turn out completely unrounded individuals with no basic skills other than sorcery. No wonder the government, the prisons, and the newspapers are so awful.

                      So you are saying that they were objectively superior to real schools in almost every way? Interesting.

                    2. Agreed. My problem was with the world building. I’ve heard people compare the Harry Potter books to the Oz books — not intended to be internally consistent. It bugged me because I was doing a whole “explain something” multi-chap fanfic between books 6 and 7 and … she simply didn’t keep track of stuff, especially in the last couple of books. I mean, I had timelines and kept track of everything, you know.

                      But yeah, she got a lot of kids to read. That was good (not sarcastic).

                  2. I am reading Harry Potter to my son (he loves them though we’re leaving book 3 until he’s a little older). As a consequence, I have a story rumbling around in my head that I’m trying to make go away while I finish everything else (this does not usually work, probably won’t this time either.) where the Dursley equivalents are far more reasonable human beings and responsible parents for the kid… but still don’t want the Harry equivalent to be a wizard. (After all look where his parents ended up and the crook who did it is still OUT there.) And several other things that might make the world building make more sense. (Why would Dumbledore have harry doing the dangerous stuff? What might prevent HIM from addressing it or any of the teachers?) Not sure where it’s going (and hope it takes a while to get there, I have other things to write!

                  3. I was surprised with all the gold Harry’s parents left behind, that some of it wasn’t converted for his aunt and uncle to raise him. Or maybe it was but never spent on him. Did Dumbadore (also prob spelled incorrectly) keep an eye on Harry? Yes. The non-magical witch next door who Harry was often left with when the rest of the family went on vacation or had fun (not shown in the movie, was mentioned in the book). She was keeping an eye on Harry. While he was treated as unwanted extra household member, he wasn’t flat out physically abused, borderline neglected, yes. But that bullying was the premise for him not wanting to be lumped in with those he quickly perceived as bullies, as Malfroy. The neighbor, not until the last book, explicitly tells Harry that she couldn’t make his stays with her “fun”, he had to be perceived as disliking it intensely or she’d be out of his life altogether. Yes, I thought the real world interaction with the magical and the muggles was a bit lacking. A lot of memory charms had to been used to prevent muggles from learning about the magical.

                    1. But see, the trope doesn’t work if your secret parents are actually taking care of you and making your life less miserable. But the trope is that the secret parents (or in this case foster figures/godparent types) take you away from all that. The weird bit of the story is that Harry had to go back to the Dursleys for the summer instead of being taken in by the Weasleys (with a subsidy from the held-in-trust gold account).

                    2. Harry had to go back to the Dursleys for the summer instead of being taken in by the Weasleys (with a subsidy from the held-in-trust gold account.

                      True. But that is answered in the 6th book. A binding covenant was made that as long as Harry had a home with relatives he was hidden, and he and they were protected, from Voldermort and his minons. The letter allegedly explains this. If the Dursley’s take in Harry, as family, the covenant was established and binding. The minute that covenant was broken both Harry and his relatives were vulnerable. Why the Dursley’s didn’t send Harry to the Weasleys as soon as the summer covenant was met? Except for the fact that the Dursley’s didn’t exactly treat Harry like family and they didn’t want anyone to “know”/verify Harry’s version. They knew. Without Harry saying a word. Harry still got blamed.

                    3. And boy howdy that sounds like a late retcon to assuage people writing fan mail with this exact complaint. 🙂

                      And also doesn’t explain how Harry and Dudley could be attacked by Dementors at the end of summer vacation in Book 5.

                    4. It probably started with the simple fact that its’s an English boarding school, and going home in the summer is simply part of the school calendar, See “To Serve Them All My Days”.

                    5. Biggest problem with how Harry was treated is that he was “destined” to defeat Voldemort and Voldemort planned to kill or enslave non-magicians so you have this young man who is to risk his life to protect non-magicians when all his life he dealt with non-magicians who treated him poorly.

                      If Voldemort was Smart, he should have attempted to recruit Harry and Harry might have joined Voldemort in order to “get back” at his aunt & uncle. 😉

                    6. And now I’m visualizing Voldemort in a recliner protesting, “I can handle things! I’m smart! Not like everybody says!”

                    7. True.

                      But Voldemort didn’t know Harry was treated badly by his muggle relatives. That was the point of hiding Harry, and the magical contract of Harry’s relatives, where Voldermort or other wizards couldn’t find him. Plus Voldermort set out to kill Harry as soon as he was born. Also Neville was targeted too by hints (his parents were tortured pretty sure for his location). Voldermort found Harry when he killed Harry’s parents. Then marking him as his downfall (per the prophecy).

                      Voldermort only knew that the one to defeat him (half the prophecy) was a male born late July, thus went after males born late July: Harry and one other, by hints but not said, Neville. Found Harry first. Voldermort was to arrogant to think of doing anything else. Harry had the choice to walk away. But he had the example of Hermonie, and Ron and his extend family, and others who he looked up to who apposed Voldermort.

                    8. Sounds like an interesting idea for you to explore.

                      Me, I was once reading a meme where the theory was that Petunia and Vernon were spoiling Dudley in hopes he wouldn’t mind as much as Petunia did when Harry’s a wizard and — he’s not. The real dramatic twist — after making all of the family real humans and not comic figures — would be for Dudley to also be a wizard.

                    9. would be for Dudley to also be a wizard.

                      One of the supposedly Easter Eggs at the end of the series in the movie was that Dudley is seen in the background, with his child, as Harry and Ginny are putting their two on board the train. Implying that Dudley had a wizard child. I never look to spot this. But it is possible.

                    10. > “A lot of memory charms had to been used to prevent muggles from learning about the magical.”

                      Which is why Obliviate couldn’t be made Unforgivable, even though it REALLY FREAKIN’ SHOULD be.

                    11. balzacq,

                      And also doesn’t explain how Harry and Dudley could be attacked by Dementors at the end of summer vacation in Book 5.

                      That one actually does make sense. The “blood protection” only protects him against Voldemort, and the Dementors who attacked Harry and Dudley weren’t sent by Voldemort: at the end of the book, Umbridge confesses that she sent the Dementors, hoping that Harry would use magic to defend himself and the Ministry would have an excuse to expel him.

                    1. Well, she did to start out with. Then as the series continued, I think she said that the books “grew up” as well as the children. Which to me meant we had to start taking things seriously that were comically horrible in the first two or three books. I don’t think she really pulled it off. Not sure I’ve read anything that tried to do the same thing.

              2. “I’d note that Wiki and other places, talk more about the Conservative Christians’ dislike of the books”

                Well of course they do. Have you seen what Wiki (and other places) say about Sarah, or Larry Correia, or Ringo or any other prominent and popular writers of “the right”? Why would you expect them to discuss their own examples of nonsenserie?

            2. Several of us at work rather liked Harry, and that went back to the first couple of books. The younger fans were in their mid 20s, and old farts like me were in the mid 40s.

              OTOH, I really liked the Sluggy Freelance parodies of the early books. On the gripping hand, I liked Bored of the Rings along with the source books.

                1. ” He pours without head!”

                  Doon is hilarious, better than Bored of the Rings, I wish I had a copy.

                  1. Huh. I’ve read Bored of the Rings but I’ve never heard of Doon before. I should look that up.

                2. Ah, missed that one. [Looks at listings in the ‘zon]. OK, used paperbacks in the $13 range. That hits my “gotta think about it” threshold.

                  The “also available” books mention several other parodies. Not sure whether to laugh or run screaming… The Soddit. Really? 🙂

                    1. There was a Peter David fantasy that worked in a bawdy LOTR parody at the beginning of the tale. I read it once, and it’s probably only funny once.

                1. Hey! Someone referenced it!

                  I just described HPMOR to a fellow college student and Harry Potter fanfiction reader tonight. I’m hoping he has as much fun reading it as I did.

                2. I hated the ending. The result * was OK, but the *method of winning came off as a Deus ex machina to me.

                  1. It’s good overall. I recall that Harry came off as a bit of a Mary Sue for the first few episodes, but then the consequences of his actions start catching up with him so don’t be put off by that.

  10. The wonders of the universe are theirs to explore, but instead they’d sooner explore the depths of their own navels.

  11. I think much of the problem stems from the general hysteria and hopelessness being pushed after about 1970. It was a culture-wide thing. Pick your disaster dystopia…overpopulation, pollution, ice age, nuclear war. They were ALL on the table. It was the age of the Big Disaster Movies.

    The irony being that anything that wasn’t hopelessness sold like gangbusters. The original Star Trek. Star Wars…if you haven’t seen that first movie on a big screen, you really haven’t seen it.

    Me? I’ve got two novels I’ve been playing with. I REALLY need to get the overdue NATO AGARDOGraph done first, though.

    Novel #1 is my Space Guard story. Ensign Ed Davis was launched out on a routine rescue mission. Take Q-port units out to a merchant ship that had botched their navigation, then ‘port it in. Easy…until the merchantman vanished…

    Novel #2 is the toughie. Partly because there’s some Gary Stu wish-fulfillment in it…and partly because it’s the book I am convinced Doc Smith wanted “The Skylark of Space” to be.

    1. Once upon a time there were Progressives who actually believed in progress. They had some very serious faults, such as not caring about how the ordinary plans of ordinary people got steamrollered by their Great Big Plans for Society, and grossly underestimating just how toxic socialism was to an economy. But they still did believe in a better, shinier, more prosperous future.

      But then around 1970 (plus and minus a few years) those Progressives were replaced by a new Left with a new party line of “Learn to live with less, you greedy hate-filled bastards!” This new Left prophesied a future of doom, despair, and impoverishment – and when they saw that it wasn’t happening on its own, they worked harder and harder to make it happen.

      My own growing suspicion is that in the mid 1960s the Left started seeing how the USSR was losing the Space Race, and more generally how Super Soviet Economics was not going to leave Western Free(ish) Market “horse and buggy” economics in the dust, the way everyone thought it would. So the prosperity and well-being that even a semi-free West was better at creating had to be trashed as evil and wrong, and the poverty and oppression that Super Soviet Economics was superior at producing had to be praised as good and virtuous.

      1. I’m sure that KGB subversion ops spreading around lots of covert money had NOTHING to do with that. Nothing at ALL.

  12. OK, WordPress says I don’t exist (have no account). And it doesn’t want to take my posts. But it gives me my funky green avatar. What the flip?

  13. Part of this is not the fault of the Boomers (weird for me to be sort-of defending them), but simply the puritan strain of American culture. You know, the jerks who think that Fun and Enjoyable must always be the opposite of Good and Important. They are always with us, always choking on their own self-righteousness, and always deadly intent on eradicating fun and enjoyment at any and all costs.

    1. Puritanism: the haunting fear that someone, somewhere, may be having a good time.

      H. L. Mencken

          1. Yes, they are. Remember, the Tolerance movement was a “liberal” movement that led to the 18th Amendment. The only Amendment to ever be repealed…

            1. Point; recall what “WCTU” stood for. As for repealing amendments, I have a couple of additional candidates… 😉

            2. Otto Corrupt is doing his best.

              The Temperance Movement showed one sign of the Left you will all recognize, since it’s an intemperate rage at temperate drinking.

          2. It’s neither left nor right, it’s a streak that runs through most of American culture. Right now, it’s stronger on the left, but that’s just because that’s where the power is just now.

            1. Depends on how you define left and right. For example, I equate “left” with collectivism and statism and “right” with individualism and freedom. By that metric, the Westboro Baptist Church would be on the left because of their obsession with controlling others.

              But then, that sort of thing is why I don’t consider “left” and “right” to be very useful terms; they can mean vastly different things depending on who you ask.

      1. The world is full of self-important, self-righteous, obsessed assholes, tormented by the conviction that Somebody, Somewhere is Doing Something they don’t approve of, and driven by a compulsion to Do Something About It at any cost.

        — Me.

  14. I’ll reiterate here, as I often do, that everybody should find and read Poul Anderson’s short story “The Critique of Impure Reason”, which lampoons the pretensions of Seeryus Litrachoor, critiques an older Isaac Asimov story (“Reason”, of course), and demonstrates the real value of SF, all in a very, very funny story.

    1. I mean, how can you not want to read a story that includes this line?

      “At any rate, if Miss Forelle has finally told you to go soak your censored head in expurgated wastes and then put the unprintable thing in an improbable place, I for one heartily approve.”

  15. As for the “they’re living in science fiction.” Oh, PLEASE. This is the part of the blog in which we say “your age is showing,” and also “Get over yourself.”


    That’s the kind of thing you say– with great glee– if you grew up loving scifi.

    Or even just culturally aware of, going off of the smiles and/or chuckles I’ve gotten when I get to do something Super High Tech like a video phone call, or pulling up a picture of something from across the state on my home computer or wave my phone at something and get the reaction, then I grin and go “Isn’t the future AWESOME!??”

    1. Our toys today are waaay beyond science fiction. Remember ‘The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress’? Installing a new memory bank of ‘ten to the tenth bits’ was a major upgrade for Mike.

      That’s about 1.2 gigabytes.

      Your phone probably has 4 GB of RAM. The latest Raspberry Pi computers have up to 8 GB of RAM.

      I got some 2 terabyte USB3 SSDs for media storage — $170 each.

      1. I recall an episode of “Knight Rider” mentiong KITT having “one megabit” of memory.

        1. So, 128 kilobytes? Damn, who knew a fully-sapient AI could be so compact?

          Pedant alert: presumably it was really one mebibit and 128 kibibytes, but those prefixes didn’t exist yet (and the writers probably wouldn’t have used them anyway if they had).

      2. Doesn’t matter any more. Moore’s Law no longer drives things. Storage and processing speed are now trivial. Software is the limiting factor.

        1. Until someone wants a depth migration on a 1.5 Terabyte data set… (There’s a reason that Exxon was, for a while, installing the equivalent of a Pixar every other month in servers. May still be but with the state of the industry probably not.)

      3. I have a 5 TB external drive. I think it was $79 on sale. Haven’t priced them lately as I have “enough” (for degrees of “enough”).

        1. For several years I liked to note how flash drive capacity kept going up while prices remained the same. It was a nice little reminder of progress.

          Nowadays we basically have “yes” much memory available for cheap, so further increases don’t feel like such a big deal any more.

          1. I impulse buy five-packs of mini-SD cards that have ten times the space of the SUPER BIG INVESTMENT SD card mom got when I was a teen, for her expensive new phone…. for about the same price.

            That’s one of the nice-to-live-in-the-future things. ^.^

              1. That’s a terrifying thought. Living for centuries with the kind of pain I’ve been in for decades. It’s bad enough knowing that it will take several years for the aftermarket parts in my chest to wear out.

                1. Jay Leno had a joke thirty years ago: “New medical advances promise to give people more years in their 80s. That’s no good! People want more years in their twenties!

                  1. My husband jokes about we should retire in our youth (20s – 40s) and work to pay for it in our elderly years (50+). In some ways we do, physically, most cash checks in our youth physically that our old people bodies pay the price for. Getting old isn’t for sissies.

              2. I’m not so much into living longer as I am living healthier. Quality of life improved immensely in the 20th century, to the point where “old” shifted by decades.

        2. The first computer I owned that had a hard drive (second one–the Heathkit used floppies, because I wasn’t rich) had all of 15Mb spinning. The next one had 40M, with another 40 added later. The one after that hit 400M.

          All since were in gigabytes until a few years ago, then terabytes. I have a handful of USB 1TB drives as spares for the backup drives. [makes note to check the status of the two active ones.]

          Haven’t surpassed 2T. Yet.

      4. I recall an SF story (forget title and which ‘zine it was in.. there were still two or three then) where this exchange happens (and it was at least partly dated THEN):

        “The ship’s computer has 128 Meg-”
        “That’s not much memory!”

    2. I tried to find and insert a clip of the Firefly scene where Zoe says to Wash, after he says something like ‘That sounds like Science Fiction’, “You’re living on a spaceship, Dear.” Couldn’t find it, but in the tracking noted that Disney now holds the rights to the property and is considering a Disney+ ‘reboot’. Oh, Gawd, No!

  16. Oh come on. I don’t care how many giga/tera bytes you have that’s just shelf space.

    Real living in sci-fi involves robot maids, flying cars, kitchens with devices that produce dinner by voice request, houses that clean themselves, transporters that move you instantaneously 1000’s of miles and time travel.

    Amazon doesn’t even have 2 day shipping any more. There are rolling blackouts in major cities and you can’t afford a dozen eggs.

    My teenage grandkids definitely don’t feel like they are living in sci-fi. They feel like things are sliding into the dark ages.

    I can’t believe me, of all people, has to try to be a beacon of hope for them. I’ve never been exactly Suzie Sunshine.

  17. This is not even particularly important, except insofar as there are things you can learn from written stories that are harder to come by in games. I think empathy is one. And good reading skills is another.


    1. I was going to bring this up. I’ve mentioned before that my reading skills shot WAY up once I discovered computer games, because the first ones I got into had lots of words and I really wanted to be able to play them.

      1. And I’m focused on the empathy part. I’m not rightly sure how books are supposed to be an empathy teacher. But I know many extremely potent ways in which video games do it.

        1. Can you be more specific on how that works? I’ve felt empathy for video game characters, but I don’t remember learning it from games.

          1. It probably depends on the game, which is why I didn’t object given this was a decade ago– first person shooters, Super Mario, and that NFL sports game, they aren’t going to get this much, but the less-niche-these-days video games that are a story?
            Even MMOs, like Final Fantasy 14?
            (the award winning game that lets you play for free up to level 60 and through two expansions{thumping sound, followed by dragging sound, before normal conversation resumes})

            They do exactly like books, sometimes including the inner monologs– they get you to care about the characters, including some that get you to REALLY FREAKING HATE the bad guys on a visceral level, and then walk you through why they did it (if done right, not excusing, just explaining how a non-monster got to that point) and then walking through a redemption, not always via death. Or you go, and fight, and fail— and then your character gets back up and tries again.


            1. > “first person shooters, Super Mario, and that NFL sports game, they aren’t going to get this much”

              Mentioning Super Mario in the context of games teaching empathy brought this to mind:

              > “the award winning game that lets you play for free”

              [rolls eyes]

              You are like a brochure. 🙂

              Are you running short of playmates over there or something?

              > “they get you to care about the characters, including some that get you to REALLY FREAKING HATE the bad guys on a visceral level”

              I can’t think of any villains I hated quite that much, but I have ended up caring for video game characters more than I expected to. Alyx Vance in the Half-Life 2 episodes comes to mind; the scene with her in the train car full of stalkers especially got me. Definitely triggered ye olde protective instincts, hard.

              1. :laughs: It’s a meme based on a tweet and ad series, fans started using it as copy-paste.

                (The ad series is AWESOME and HILARIOUS and I love how edits for spoiler Tall Dark And Emo But Actually A Rounded Character Is That Legal?!?! showed up.)

                Have you tried the expanded Free Trial of our critically acclaimed MMORPG #FFXIV?

                You can play through the entirety of A Realm Reborn and the award-winning Heavensward expansion up to level 60 for FREE with no restrictions on playtime!

          2. Foxfire already had a good answer, but to expand on it: it comes from having an opportunity to run moral experiments over and over and over and over again.

            1. run moral experiments over and over

              The daughter recently played through Detroit: Become Human while I watched and contributed. Each scene has a dozen or more decision points for interaction with NPCS (“be hostile/neutral/empathetic/cold” etc) and therefore has a large number of possible endpoints, that then ramify through further scenes and affect the overall ending.

              Also, the art was gorgeous and the motion-captured human actors were top notch.

        1. If it comes up with your grandkids (forcibly adopted or otherwise), there’s a lot of text-heavy stuff available now cheap or for free. There’s plenty of stuff that can teach them other things too (such as zachlike games if you think you have any budding programmer/engineer types).

          Ask the gamers here if you need help.

        1. Okay, my kids played Sam and Max, which was pretty good, but not much on the reading.
          As for empathy, it’s the closest you can get to someone’s mind. Reading, I mean.

  18. Himself definitely likes to shove us out of our comfort zones.

    And, Sarah, just so you know, it means more than I can say that you are doing this.

    If you can stay positive to help others, well so can I. Laugh in the face of danger and all of that.

    Thank you. It means more than you can possibly know since I am trying because of grandkids I know and love and you are doing it for people you have never met. But I actually feel like I am saying something meaningful to the grandkids when I tell them, “You remember how things used to be before COVID? Go forth and make them even better!”

    My hand raised, homeschooled, kids actually have been buying the lie that the planet needs us to all become bug eating peasants. I don’t think THEIR kids are quite buying it.

    As you say, in the end, we win and they lose. I would never have thought that my kids would become THEY but here we are.

    But there but for the mercy of God go I, and His mercy is infinite so, while there is life there is hope.

  19. This is a great place to write THANK YOU for recommending that Space Station Noir book. Talk about bringing Old America back-!

    I would never have read it w/out the “this Noir is not a woke-whistle for degrading nihilism. It’s SF pulp noir fiction. It is delightful.

      1. Amusingly, religious symbols appear to be among the enemy’s weaknesses in both cases. High-capacity assault rosaries, anyone?

            1. The Baptists get the chicken. Methodists will frisbee-toss casserole dishes at the monster while singing ALL the verses of “Oh, For A Thousand Tongues to Sing.” If that doesn’t do it, they’ll segue into “Holy, Holy, Holy.”

                1. Nonsense.

                  All any Bible-Believing Christians need is to have their Bible in hand!

                  Of course, that might leave out some of the more Leftish “Christians”. 😈

                  Oh, in Ammie, Come Home by Barbara Michaels, the evil ghost was a Puritan and “laughed” at the Catholic Priest brought in to “clean” the house.

                  But it was driven out by a person holding his old Bible. 😉

                  1. > “All any Bible-Believing Christians need is to have their Bible in hand!”

                    Meanwhile, I guess a guy like me is stuck waving around a basic math textbook or something. Or maybe Economics in one Lesson. At least both seem to repel evil politicians.

                    1. There was a Harry Dresden fanfiction in which Harry considered whether Sanya’s version of the Catholic sign of the cross would be a question mark and a sincere “Maybe.” Might that work for you?

                    2. > “Might that work for you?”

                      That sounds more like an agnostic thing, and I’m an atheist.

                      It occurs to me that the agnostics are kinda screwed in this scenario; they don’t really have anything to put their faith in. “I have a firm conviction that I don’t have a clue either way” probably won’t cut it.

                    3. Agnostics MAY have it easiest– if they are truly agnostic, then ANYTHING that indicates being open to more information would be their symbol.

                    4. Yeah, that would be awkward. You’d need to find something that doesn’t require religious elements, like the basil used in Romania, or silver bullets, or throwing poppy seeds in front of the vampire (or into the coffin) so he or she has to spend eternity counting the seeds before he can emerge from the coffin.

                    5. > “Agnostics MAY have it easiest”

                      Depends on exactly what causes vampires to be repelled, I suppose.

                    6. Goodness, yes, I was going along the line of “symbol of faith” being the thing, with a solid dose of fun.

                      To be absolutely realistic, vampires are repelled by a crucifix or other blessed/holy items because they are demonic; it’s the same way that those possessed by a demon would respond to the actual blessing, not the item or the person holding it.

                      That’s about as much fun as looking at the list of symptoms of demonic infestation to a location, and those Ghost Hunter “haunting” symptoms. (ie, not fun at all)

        1. I could have used “Men of Harlech” like they did in Zulu; but that might be subject to accusations of suntan bias. Although, Drac was biased against suntans, the clip was much more concise.

          1. Or, as the line in “Fearless Vampire Hunters” goes, “Oy vey, have you got the wrong vampire”

            1. In A Logical Magician by Robert E. Weinberg, there’s a scene where a vampire comes to kill the hero. Said tries to recall and recite a prayer. The vampire calmly states that he died an agnostic.

              1. There’s a worldbuilding issue in general with regard to religious weapons against undead, which is probably dictated by the author/screenwriter’s personal views.

                Option 1: A vampire’s reaction is to whatever faith they held to in life, in which case a Christian vampire reacts to crosses and holy water and a Jewish vampire would react to a Star of David and recitations from the Torah (and similar). In which case atheist and agnostic vampires might be particularly feared, because there aren’t symbols which work against them, or at least aren’t so many.

                Option 2: A vampire’s reaction is to faith in and of itself, in which case so long as the person holding the item believes in said item, the vampire will react. (Dresdenverse largely operates on this rule.) A faithful Catholic could use a crucifix, a faithful Jew could use a Star of David, and an atheist or agnostic could potentially use something else they have faith in. Some representation of logic or reason, perhaps. But an atheist who tries to use a cross is out of luck.

                Option 3: A vampire’s reaction is to God (or perhaps gods) as a reality. If the author is a Christian and the story is set in someplace similar to our world, then only Christian symbols will work against vampires. (If the story is set in D&D or some other fantasy world where multiple gods exist as beings of immense power, then a reaction to the holy symbol of a cleric is a reaction to a real and tangible source of magical power.)

                1. Chuckle Chuckle

                  In F. Paul Wilson’s The Keep, a Jewish scholar is confronting a being that he thinks is a Vampire and has a collection of Jewish Holy Symbols as well as a crucifix,

                  The creature ignores the Jewish Holy Symbols but reacts to the crucifix.

                  Mind you, the creature isn’t a vampire and actually isn’t bothered by the crucifix.

                  He’s playing Mind-Games with the scholar so that he can corrupt the scholar.

                2. Option 2 was used in an X-Men Meet Dracula comic back in the mid-80s. Kitty Pryde’s Star of David is effective, but unbelieving Wolverine’s crossed claws are not.

                    1. I skimmed the comments for that video, and apparently there’s a sci-fi novel called Blindsight that uses the same premise (and might even have inspired that bit in the Castlevania anime). Someone mentioned that, in Blindsight, right angles give vampires seizures.

                    2. Hoo boy. Solitary confinement in rooms painted with grid lines. Or checkerboard. Or plaid, even.

                      Every good D&D player knows there comes a time to commit war crimes. And psychological torture has so many possibilities!

                      (Just be very sure they don’t get the opportunity to seek revenge.)

                    3. > “Hoo boy. Solitary confinement in rooms painted with grid lines. Or checkerboard. Or plaid, even.”

                      It probably wasn’t too big a deal when most of humanity lived in huts and such, but in anything close to modern times? Yeah, a severe weakness to right angles would be absolutely crippling. To the point of dooming your species, even.

                    4. Could modern architecture be a deliberate strategy, then? Like The Dresden Files explanation for Dracula?

                    5. > “Like The Dresden Files explanation for Dracula?”

                      I haven’t seen or read any Dresden Files outside of one episode of the television series many moons ago, but I think I get what you’re driving at.

                      And yes, in a world with super-powered predators it’s plausible that humanity would work whatever defenses they could into their day-to-day lives. That would include their architecture.

                    6. In one of the early Dresden Files books, we learned that the Dracula novel was written to provide “hunting information” concerning one type of Vampire. (IIRC called Black Court Vampires).

                      Apparently, it worked out just fine as the Black Court Vampires were almost wiped out. Of course, the one survivor that Dresden knew about was very dangerous because she was old and had plenty of experience. 😈

                3. Briggs’ Mercy Thompson and Alpha & Omega series world work on Option #2. In fact Mercy’s first brush with the vampire layer the vampires don’t recognize the Lamb necklace of Mercy’s as a religious icon, so she isn’t forced to remove it. They learn eventually that she considers it a religious icon, as the “Lamb of God”. Their realization is a shocking wake up.

                  1. I would imagine. (Evil smirk.)

                    The trick, I suppose, lies in knowing your enemies. If you know who’s likely to drop by your lair and what they value, you can make a pretty decent guess at what sort of things they might consider holy. Of course, that doesn’t help when someone you genuinely didn’t know existed breaks down your door because one of your minions accidentally trashed their car, but against established vampire hunters, it helps.

                4. Option 2 is the one I see most frequently.

                  In Carpe Jugulum, Pratchett posits that the Discworld vampires are suffering from a psychological effect. The father of the vampire family in the story constantly springs flash cards with holy symbols on his children so that they can learn to overcome their fear of holy symbols.

                  Though this backfires later…

                  In the novel, Pratchett also points out why it might be a good idea for vampires (essentially immortal monsters that can be temporarily put down for a time) to have known weaknesses, as opposed to being seemingly invincible monsters.

                  It’s worth noting that holy symbols aren’t the only things Pratchett’s vampires have mental compulsions about. The need to drink blood is also apparently a mental thing, and some vampires in later books have taken a pledge not to drink it. And as part of this pledge, they have to find a substitute item to indulge in. For one vampire, it’s coffee (which might also be a subtle dig by Pratchett at how most people treat the stuff 😛 ). So long as the vampire in question has a cup of coffee, she doesn’t start trying to suck the blood of others. But when she goes without coffee for a long time, she start looking at her fellow characters as ambulatory snacks.

                  1. Unfortunately, my library doesn’t have that ebook, and I’m several states away. Come to think of it, LU’s library might have more than just reference materials…

                    ‘Starts looking at her fellow characters as ambulatory snacks.’ How many people would half-jokingly say “Honestly, same,” with regard to coffee withdrawal? I don’t think I would, but I know others would.

                  2. But when she goes without coffee for a long time, she start looking at her fellow characters as ambulatory snacks.

                    :considers her time on the ship:

                    This sounds absolutely human to me.

                    1. I was sure you were going to pull out the “billions of happy meals with legs” line.

                      This is more disturbing. Well played.

                5. The vampires claim it’s psychological warfare: they KNOW no one would die voluntarily.

                  They assert so AT GREAT LENGTH.

                  1. Suicides?

                    But I take your meaning. It’s quite amusing to imagine preternatural/supernatural powers of darkness learning the foundation of Christianity and having various styles of breakdown.

                    “But… But… It doesn’t work like that! It can’t work like that!… Can it?”

                    1. First and foremost, it depends on “What Is A Vampire”.

                      Much of the original folklore have the vampire as an Evil Spirit possessing a dead body and preying on (and killing) humans. IMO such a being couldn’t convert.

                      Now some modern vampires are a separate species that preys on humans. These vampires usually have no problems with “Holy Symbols” and may be able to refrain from killing humans. This type might be able to convert and see humans as “beings equal to themselves”.

                      Most modern vampires are humans infected by other vampires and might be “good” people. IMO it depends on “can the vampire feed on humans without killing the humans”. If they can feed on humans and animals without it being necessary to kill, then they could be “good” people and honestly convert. Obviously, if they are good people, they could continue to follow the religion that they had while not-vampires.

                      I’d note that some series have that an infected human is no longer the person that they were before they were infected. IE The infection involves the human “persona” being replaced by a demonic “persona”. Being “demonic”, the vampire may not be able to “convert”.

                      Of course, many modern vampires don’t appear to have problems with Holy Symbols but may have problems with things like silver.

                    2. many modern vampires don’t appear to have problems with Holy Symbols but may have problems with things like silver.

                      Or the Yellowrock universe (Faith/Gwen Hunter), while most “younger” vampires do not know why, the religious aspect is because of HOW the first vampires were created. It means they are vulnerable to Silver (8 pieces of silver), Oak (the wood of the cross of the crucifixion), Christianity symbols (representing Christ), including consecrated Churches (entering = instant flame to ashes), fire (cleansing). Even at that they are only vulnerable to the symbols to incapacitate (an oak or silver steak to the heart can kill, eventually). Takes beheading to kill otherwise.

                    3. Good read.

                      Basically, it’s a “Vampires Are Infected Beings” type of Vampire.

                      They don’t have to kill but can lose control of themselves.

        2. Or, paraphrasing from the climax of ‘Carpe Jugulum’ –

          “An ax isn’t a holy symbol, you idiot!”

          “Really?” pause “Let’s make it one!”

          In later books, at least one person who’s of the same faith as the second character is spotted wearing a tiny axe much like a Christian would wear a tiny cross. ^_^

          1. I read an LP once in which one of the PCs was raised to worship “The Lady of the Saw.”

            As in, the CHAINsaw.

  20. > And yes, most of the time my sf was rejected by agent and never sent out because “no one wants to read that” and “you lack a big idea.”

    See? If you had just STFU and written vampire porn like you’d been told to, you’d have Fort Hunston sitting atop your own private mountain, a permanent spot on the best-seller list, and you’d sleep on piles of money. But nnnoooo…

      1. Except that it likely would have flopped like a lot of other political lies, selling a few copies at most, and done absolutely nothing for your career or income. So you ended up in the exact same spot, but can still look yourself in the eye when you look in the mirror. 😛

        1. > “So you ended up in the exact same spot, but can still look yourself in the eye when you look in the mirror.”

          No, she ended up in a better spot. Because, as she learned last year, we’ll be there for her and her family if she truly needs it. That probably wouldn’t be the case had she taken the other path.

            1. Not if a vampire liked your writing and decided you should hang around for a few more centuries telling tales…

                1. Just that you wouldn’t be looking at yourself in the mirror. Although, as someone of Irish ancestry, I do have a problem with sunlight…

                  1. Hey, I’m already on record as wanting to give lichdom a try. If you’ve got any secrets to immortality, spill. 😛

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