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Here’s To New Beginnings

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Two major religions — at least — are celebrating the raison d’etre of their existence and one of the branches of one of those will celebrate it next weekend.

I know that Easter/Passover doesn’t align with the equinox, but all the same, it is part of a very old tradition of celebrating a new beginning around this time of year.  (In fact new year used to be in Spring.)

Things are growing, my lawn shows signs of green, and we too want to be renewed and have a second start.  Unlike the “resolutions” of the New Year, which no one over 10 believes anymore, this one hitches our wagon to the power of new life in the world (or at least in the northern hemisphere, cradle of our culture) to wipe the slate clean and help us, magically, mystically renew and grow.

I suspect it’s a very, very old feeling, an ancient tradition, this time of year to bet on renewal and hope.

We’re about a month off my favorite time of year, when the air is mild, there is a song of cuckoo’s somewhere from the woodland.

Some years ago I promised myself I’d take a week off in June.  Probably not this June, since well… since I have two conferences second half of June.  But come July maybe I can sit back and enjoy a long weekend off with my sweetie.  And if we can’t spring for a hotel, maybe just a weekend of parks and museums will do.

In fitting with new beginnings: with the drug interaction eliminated, I can now think and write once more.  Which is what I’m doing today, while the family talks downstairs.

I’ll join them once I nail this plot point.

You guys go. Go home to your cats. Happy Easter, a joyous Passover, and may the year turn to warmth and delight and glorious, unrestrained life-force for all of us.

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Movement

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You know, I think there are right now any number of people holding their breath and waiting for things to go back to “normal.”

Their ranks include everyone from traditional publishers, to journalists, to … well, to most people who are not actively involved in “how things change.”

Heck, even some of us who are have to fight trained-in assumptions and ideas from our previous life.  Because you know, I can sniff the air and read the atmosphere in my field. I know how things used to go, and sometimes it’s really hard not to panic at some of the signals and events, before taking a deep breath and going “but it’s not like that with indie.”

In the past from which our bodies and — still — most of our minds come, understanding the cyclical nature of things and reading the signs was vital. If you were a hunter who understood the seasonal or otherwise nature of the game movement, and could read the signs of whether this was a large herd or just a limping, elderly buck, you left more descendants.  The same if you could figure out that the bush would flower again and bring berries, and went to look for them when the weather showed certain signs.  Your kids were better fed and arguably smarter, and therefore you had more descendants.

The other thing that we’re good at internalizing is a narrative.  The reason that Marxism is so spectacularly successful is that it’s a “just so” story which — granted if you know bloody nothing about either real Marxism or how the world works — seems to explain everything around you.  It reduces people to easily understandable classes and the myriad struggles of the human heart to “class struggle.”  The stupid old turn of the TWENTIETH century theory never fit very well, even back then, and it’s increasingly tattered, but if you squint and are willing to ignore all signs of things being upended, you can kid yourself it explains “everything.”

People love things that explain “everything.”  It’s at least part of the attraction of dictatorial regimes. You don’t have to think about details, they’re decided for you.

It’s also why we have things like the Iliad.  And probably precursor epics long since lost to history.  If you believed that your people was destined for glory, you’d put more oomph into cultivating your little plot of land and raising your passel of lads, which in turn led to more people who believed it and carried it abroad.

Heck, the West is suffering from the twin collapse of the blind faith in Christianity (and a unified Christianity at that) and the collapse in its innate superiority that superseded it. Were many of the beliefs that propelled the age of European empires crazy, counter-factual and objectively racist (or truly in point of fact White Supremacist, a much abused phrase these days.)?  Sure.  Heck, my people, being able to tan, was ipso facto inferior.  If you don’t believe me read early twentieth century North European writers and their side swipes at “Portagee”.  No matter how smart you were, if you could tan, you were held inferior to the most buck-toothed staring-eyed Englishman.

But it was a narrative. And any narrative is better than none.  Even the subjugated or despised people joined the project for a chance to be “close to.”

Am I hankering for a return to that time?  Are you insane? Did I immigrate to a Northern European countries? Are my kids anything close to blond?  Pfui.

I hanker as always for a world where the individual is revered as an individual and MERITOCRACY rules the day.

Everything else is just a choice of how many people are you creating a hell for.  Current Western Civilization is still the best thing that happened to humanity. It still by and large creates the most wealth and the best living conditions for most of the people in the world.  But it’s lost confidence. Or rather, confidence has been beat our of its children in elementary school.

A lot of this is the relative of the 60s “going back to the land” insanity coupled with a strong suspicion that native peoples of non-western origin are somehow magical (that good old noble savage.)  The end result is something completely insane like Occasional Cortex’s idea that magical native Americans will direct people in healing the Earth.  Because they’re magical and stuff, don’t you know.

Anyway, this kind of nonsense gets fed to kids in school about how precious every other culture/genetics/etc is and how bad and reviled the West is.  And then we’re surprised they don’t get married, don’t have kids, don’t really want to have jobs or do much of anything.

You see, it turns out Mea culpa mea maxima culpa, much less when that culpa is innate, unavoidable and nonredeemable is a lousy way to propel a civilization.

The good news though is that self-hatred is also not stable. And that the narrative is selecting out the easily manipulated:they just don’t do anything and check out of civilization.

The other good news is that while the browbeaters and setters of the death narrative were working at it, the world moved on, and the still fertile, splendidly inventive Western civilization pulled another egg out of its hat: computers, communications and soon almost entirely personal manufacturing.

Yesterday some idiot on FB was ranting about how Sad Puppies had wanted to keep all minorities from writing science fiction.  Leave alone the fact none of us were publishers.  Unbeknownst to a lot of people — some of whom ask me for help of that kind, as though I had any power — writers have near-no power over what their publisher accepts.  Or to put it differently, sure, mega bestsellers — say Larry Correia — have the power to have their publisher LOOK at your work (for those further down the line don’t even count on that. It’s iffy.)  And if the work is okay, even though it might not stand out from the pile, they’ll give you a shot.  Note that usually these friends-of-success writers last exactly ONE book.  but it keeps the author happy, so what the heck.

On the other hand it takes far more than hyper-mega-bestseller to blacklist another author.  I’ll be honest with you, I don’t know if J.K. Rowling would do it.

I know of a bestseller who took offense at my first series and demanded I have no publicity or support and be fired after it.  Was that the reason?  Meh. There was 9/11 which probably greatly exceeded Miss Bitch’s influence.  But even if it were, there were other houses, as I’ve proven over the last 18 years.

And now? Now there’s indie.  So, were we trying to prevent people from writing SF/F?  HOW? Unless we have magical powers, that would be a goal for insane people, and none of us is that crazy.  Heck, we weren’t even trying to prevent them from getting awards. We were just trying to have some people, other people, occasionally, sometimes, also get awards, so the hyper-academic focus of the awards changed more to “what fans like.”

It doesn’t matter now, obviously (yes, they are dead to me, and not just to me) but it matters from how people react to things they don’t expect and don’t know how to explain. They fit them, with shoehorns if needed, into a narrative that has nothing to do with them.  Because most of the establishment in SF suffers from the twin narratives of Marxism and centralized everything, they literally couldn’t conceptualize our rebellion except in Gramscian terms of pyramids of victimhood.  If we had a problem with stories it couldn’t be with poorly researched, poorly written dreck like “if you were a dinosaur my love” getting acclaim in a tiny, claustrophobic, incestuous, log-rolling group.  No, it must somehow be a matter of racial/class/cultural/gender and orientation classes.  Which is why all of us magically became white Mormon males, and they hold onto it buckle and tongue despite the patent inanity.

Because a narrative that fits very badly is better than no narrative at all.

And right now the narrative is breaking up all over. I still don’t understand why Europe doesn’t have blogs, but even there something is happening. Perhaps merely through the exposure to the glorious immigrants from noble savage cultures, which are telling the very abused children of the Europeans that they’ve been lied to, and their parents have been lied to, and their grandparents–  But something is happening.  And the establishment is reacting as though it were a passing thing.

If you haven’t heard much of the yellow vests in France, rest assured they’ve not gone away.  In fact, they’re still there, still fighting. It’s just that the media is convinced if they put their hands over their ears and sing “lalalalalala” it will go away, in time, because in the past such things (such things as they explain them, not as they are in fact) always did.

They are perhaps thinking of the outbreaks of the sixties and seventies which vanished without a trace. But those were the revolts of youth fueled in no small part with Soviet money.  Now… let’s say they can talk about Black Bloc all they want to, but a large number of people on the streets have white hair. And they’ve had just about enough of propaganda.

In the US? Well, sure, we have blogs and alternate channels of information. We tend to think they’re magically important, and the left does too, hence the sudden desire to deplatform us.

But.

I’d say the most important thing in the last twenty years and the seeds of what is going on now underground, at people level, was the Tea Party.  It was reviled, slandered, and destroyed as an image. But that’s the whole point, of course. Because enough people took part in it to know it was no such thing.  Then reading the coverage, they walked away in disgust.

Meanwhile the media, very happy with the hit job, decided to astroturf Occupy Wall Street, and again, to read their fulsome accounts of the glorious heroes of the revolution, and then walk by the gathering of the mentally ill and old hippies on oxygen which showed up even in small towns (Colorado Springs, seriously) made a few more people go “that’s just not right.”

Without those there would have been no 2016 election.  Without those we’d still trust the media.

Now, there’s still some Gell-Mann amnesia, sure.  People who wouldn’t trust the media about anything else, default to believing them about things they know nothing about.  Which means they still have some power.

The problem is that they have no clue that power is no longer absolute and it’s not coming back.

Sure, blogs have something to do with this, because someone in your circle will have heard the truth and you’ll go “oh, that makes a ton more sense.”

I shudder to think what Obama would have been without the blogs to uncover his vapid inanity.  FDR is only the beginning.  And he MIGHT have got away with Fast and Furious, as retarded a scheme as ever breathed.

Which brings us to how people are acting now.  The media, really, truly, honestly doesn’t get it. This would be the time to become ultra-extra-careful, to report only what you fact-verify to oblivion and not to be paws of idiot politicians.  But they seem unable to help themselves.  Because they’re sure the old pattern will return.

So we get things as the Sol Pais incident.  What in heavens name possessed my state to close schools in a large city because a young, out of state woman, had bought a SHOTGUN?  It doesn’t really matter if she had made scary statements. What does that matter? have they ever met an 18 yo?  I went and looked at her “scary blog” and you know what, I was once a teenager and I raised teens. There was nothing scary there.  In bad taste, sure.  But people go through miles and miles of twerpitude before they become adults.

As for her “infatuation” with Columbine this amounted  to a drawing of a boy on a skateboard, labelled Dyl that they decided was one of the Columbine killers, because OF COURSE what you immediately think of when you think Columbine killers is skateboards, right?  Oh, and she liked Marilyn Manson.

Seriously?

They back pedaled to all her threatening statements being verbal, before they stopped reporting on this.

Which brings me to: this happened when our Jar-jar-brain governor just signed a red flag law, allowing the state to raid my home for guns if they don’t like something I say.  Like, giving anyone the right to swat you for “sounding unhinged.” Great idea.  Seriously, did he have his brain ablated at birth?

This case, whatever was really going on with the kid — a psychotic episode is not out of the question, but I’ll note she sounded QUITE sane in the gun forum, and also that what she actually DID accorded with her thinking she was coming to CO to meet up with people and go hunt. She did not go near ANY schools and mount Evans is hunting territory. Yeah, that we know she didn’t get a hunting license, but 18 yo’s have some weird things they forget. Older son was older than that when I realized he had clue zero how to write a check, for instance — was seized upon and blown all out of proportion to lend strength to this VERY BAD LAW.

Would it have worked in the past?  Probably.  Which is why they’re still trying it.

But gaslighting is really hard when daylight is coming in through the windows.

They’ll continue trying. Change is really hard to deal with.  Only five or six years ago, talking to an editor who is smarter than the average bear, I was told all the indies would come crawling and begging to be published, when they found out “how much work it is and how much it costs.”  By then I was re-releasing my older books, and it cost me an average of maybe $200 (less if I do more work myself.) And the work is not significant.  And there are people making six figures. More than I ever heard of in trad.

So change is hard to conceptualize.  And the establishment keeps waiting for things to return to “normal”.

They don’t realize that in paleolithic terms, the icebergs have melted, the herds are moving in different ways, and there’s no reason for us to stay here, trapped with them.

My prediction is a lot more eruptions like the Yellow Jackets.  And the sudden and stunning reverse of 2016 which has them in shock, still.  And, and and…

Sure, they’ll get some in.  And it depends then on whether it’s something essential. For instance, when the Hugos got calvinballed, we just went “whatever dude. Keep the wrapper. It’s not the real thing.”

Our elections getting calvinballed? That’s going to end in tears.  The FBI joining the raindeer games? That’s probably going to end in tears and blood.

But they’ll get some successes along the way.  They just won’t prevail. Because they can’t.

The real world has changed and doesn’t match the model in their heads at all.

No matter how many times they press the right lever, the machine fails to dispense the tasty pellet.

Which leads to more howling of fury more claims of “unfair.”

But more people are waking up too. (As opposed to woke which is like one of those nightmares where you just scream and scream and nothing changes.)

Ladies and gentlemen: refuse to focus on the crazy and roll up your sleeves.  We have a civilization to rebuild.

The things writers read- A Blast From The Past From December 2008

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The things writers read- A Blast From The Past From December 2008

Apropos nothing I’ve been wondering if I’m typical of how writers’ read. I don’t mean in fiction.
In fiction – with the strange exception of people I’ve been hearing about lately, who do not read at all because they’re afraid it will taint their writing (most of these people aren’t published, I should add) – the short answer to a writer’s reading tastes is like the one about the eight hundred pound gorilla. The short answer is “Anything he/she wants to.” The even shorter answer is “Everything.”

For years I held fast to one certainty. I didn’t read Romance. And then it started trickling in. It started with Dave Freer – curse you my friend ! – telling me I had to read Heyer. He was right, I did. Venetia quickly became one of my favorite books, an obsession I promptly passed onto the boys. And then friends recommended other writers. And then at RWA I found my reaction to Romance is about the same as to other genres. It leaves no mark. Meaning that I can read most of it painlessly. About ten percent will strike me one way or another. Ten percent will make me run out and buy everything the writer ever wrote. Ten percent makes me throw it against the wall and at least metaphorically stomp on it. Which makes Romance just the same as Science Fiction, Fantasy, Mystery and Thrillers.

Two things I don’t read, and they’re highly personal distastes – one of them is gross out horror. It’s not that I’m a sensitive plant. A friend is forever protecting me from gross/shocking sights because the fact that I don’t like paint-the-room-red scenes fits in with his idea of being a lady. I’m a lady and therefore I should flinch from this sort of thing. Actually the truth is that it bores me. In the dank mess that is my mind I can come up with much worse than anything I’ve ever read. Without trying. Depending on how stable I’m feeling, sometimes the difficult part is not to write this stuff.

The other thing I don’t read, for a different reason, is porn. No, look, I’m not going to claim to be much purer or high minded than other people. I assume some of you have read my stuff – coff. It’s just that what goes where and how many times has never held any kind of fascination unless it is at that precise moment happening to me (and then I don’t particularly want to share it). I’m not excluding erotica. In fact I’m learning to include erotic passages in my writing. (Which is funny, considering I sold my first erotica piece ten years ago, but it was very much a one-off.) But in erotica what’s important is the emotions that dictate the acts and are shaped by them. That’s different from in and out and “oh,” and “ah.” Fictional characters need to have emotions to be real.

But everything else that falls to hand, from fairy tales to my kids’ Disney comics, gets read. Depending on the time of day and what I feel like, I can find myself reading very odd things.

On the other hand, my non fiction forms a much more interesting pattern and one that I’m not sure other writers follow at all. I know that many of my friends – Dave Freer, for instance – read a lot of non fiction as well. But I also know that a lot of them read almost exclusively fiction. I read at least as much non-fiction as fiction. Possibly more, depending on what is going on in my life. (Non-fiction demands less emotional involvement than fiction, so when I’m tired or depressed, I read mostly non-fiction.)

One of the first books I read was a scholarly history of Portugal and since then I have continued to read a lot history, but also other things – things I love include old biology books. Old science books, of any kind, including nineteenth century educational texts. Travel logs. Books on economics, physics… well, just about anything.

I buy non fiction the way other people buy food when they go to the grocery store hungry. “Oooh, that looks good.” Hitting Amazon with time on my hands, means a jumble of books gets bought. Ditto hitting a bookstore. Or for that matter the dumpster outside a bookstore.
Generally speaking there is a pattern to it, though, and it can be exemplified by the stuff that dropped into the house today via the mail. First, there was Black Swan, a book on well… our perception of quantum reality and rare history-altering events that were thought to be impossible before. So far I have no reason why I’m reading this. Just… it’s interesting and it’s there. I keep it downstairs in the kitchen and read it while having meals, or tea, or cooking (or huddling by the oven because it’s been so cold). That sort of thing.

The other one is Gentleman Boss, a biography of President Chester Arthur. This one is being read with the vague idea of a series of historical murder mysteries. I’ve discussed the first of this with my agent, with the idea that it was a one-off, and possibly main stream. For all it know it’s still main stream, but I have a vague suspicion it’s not one-off. I’m reading this book with the idea of pinning that feeling down and seeing if there is a “there” there. To put it in perspective, the idea for the first of these mysteries came to me almost a year ago, and the suspicion there might be more did not hit until last month. That one is by my bedside table, and I read a few pages before sleeping.

Then there is – still un-started, (because if I start it, it will make me go back to that project and away form the one in which I’m working just now) and I don’t remember the title, is about the status of women in baroque France. That one is for a very specific half-way through project.
And then there’s just general “ooh” reading. When I had the idea for my Heart of Light Series, I didn’t even know where my memory of African History came from.

It wasn’t until we were moving that I found, stuffed in a closet, all the books I’d already decided I needed to buy to carry the project through. Finding them, I remembered I’d read them ten years before and that was why I just needed to refresh my knowledge. I’d read them in a fit of “Ooh, that looks tasty.” In the same vein, lately I’ve been doing a lot of cryptozoology reading. No idea where it fits in, yet.

Do other writers read like me? I don’t know. I know that the older I get the more I want to read – and listen. And watch. The Great Courses series is ruining me – and the more conscious I am of how little I know. Even with all my reading, the idea that I can create a plausible world – scientific or magic – is a staggering piece of hubris. I look at my book-stuffed house and I think “I want to know more.”

 

Ringing Through The Changes

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Yesterday, in the middle of nowhere, I just felt like sitting down and bawling my eyes out.  Now if this had been ten years ago, when I was more ah captive of the changing moon, I’d know where it came from and ignore it.

You see, I don’t talk too well to my body, which perforce includes my “thinking meat” as well as everything that influences it.  When I start feeling something that has no basis in my immediate reality, that’s when I look at what’s going on with the body, to see if there’s something off.  Yes, I’ve literally gone “My eyes are closing and I’m yawning, but this is really interesting work, how can I be bored? Wait, it’s 3 am.”

Now I know the inability to listen to the subtle signals from your body or anything else is a mark of being on the spectrum. (Autism spectrum, they mean.)  But in this house, younger son and I have been exempted of that by psychologist decree.  Because younger son has the sensory stuff, and because we feared it since both of us are “math brains” and he was, through no fault of our own, born after we were thirty, we had him tested.  The psychologist who did the test said he had picked up some social behaviors from Aspergers, most likely because that was most of his group in school, but he and I were almost anti-autistic, in that we are very conscious of other people’s emotions.

She might have been right, or she might have been toking — hey, it’s Colorado — but I do know that neither us nor the rest of this household is any good at judging what our physical side is up to.  Which is why we tend to become obsessed with something or other and push till we drop.  Husband will literally tell me “I’ve worked four fourteen hour days, and today I just can’t concentrate and want to sleep. I don’t know why.” (Looks at beloved husband over glasses.)

In my case and younger son’s I suspect we learned to ignore our bodies because they were never quite on point.  Mine has been trying to kill me since I was born, and his just threw up enough annoyance often enough he sort of blocked the signal. (This is the kid who used to announce he was going to be ill by throwing up. And looking very surprised.  He would have temperatures of 104 and be acting completely normal to that moment.)

Anyway, this has some problems.  Recently it had the problem that it totally missed a drug interaction.  In the past it has had problems with my not realizing I was sinking into hypothyroidism or suffering from sleep apnea, or all sorts of good stuff.

These days, being late middle aged (shut up wretches. I’ll use “old” when I’m over 65) I’ve learned to pay attention to little weird feelings.  Because that bizarre exhaustion in the middle of a clear blue day might very well be a sign that I’m coming down with something.  Or it might foretell something serious.

So I was completely shocked when, having wrapped up for the day, I suddenly felt I’d very much like to sit down and bawl.

It would make perfect (well, somewhat) sense for me to wish to sleep. It had been a busy and weird day.  Or to wish to go for a walk, since I’d only had  short one. But why, in the name of Sweet Dance Fandango did I want to cry?

I did what I usually do in those circumstances, and asked friends.  They pointed out there have been a lot of very fast changes in my life, starting about three years ago when we moved.  But the changes seem to be picking up speed, instead of slowing down, which ain’t fair.

I had some inkling of it. In fact, I’ve talked about it here.  I had figured out that I was caught in the middle of a tidal wave of change a few months ago and told older son “I think I might be going through a mid-life crisis a bit late.”  And he looked at me and said “You might be. But think about it, mom, if you were a human in the wild, by now you’d be dead twenty years.”

Which has a way of putting things in perspective, right?

Though not all the changes, some of what’s happening is that I’ve fobbed older son off  er… while older son still lives in the house (kind of. It’s an independent apartment in the basement) he legally has his own family unit (soon de facto as well as de jure.  I mean, as an independent couple.  To allude to sir PTerry we don’t think there will puppies in the basket a while yet, since they’re both perhaps TOO financially prudent. That would be another and rather fast change, but not yet.); my career has taken a sudden sharp turn, which changes my view of myself and where I’m heading (in a hand basket. With greased tracks. And little multicolored streamers.) This is not bad, but it is a big change; I haven’t suddenly become aware of my parents’ age, but I’ve suddenly become aware of the toll it’s taking. As for my non-fiction career, let’s just say I’ve got a feeling something is just waiting to pounce, but I have NO idea what.  (I’d still like to find funding for something like instapundit but international.  I have enough immigrant and fluent in other languages friends to do a multilingual news aggregator and maybe start chipping away at the mass media dominance in the rest of the world too.  But it would take money, because we’d need someone to coordinate it and keep an eye on it. And dear Lord, not me. I want to write fiction again before I die.)

There’s other stuff.  Friends who are moving on.  Not friendship break, as such, we’re just drifting past in different different directions.  This is something I’d never thought of, because in the village friendships were lifelong. In fact, one of the most predictive things in your life was your first grade friends.  But of course, it would be. People lived nearby and with very little change to their lives.  Our friendships seem to move more like people on different currents in a very slow river.  Eventually an entire group is replaced, and while you might keep contact and still love people, you’re not that person anymore, and the group has changed.  When this is abrupt, which only happened to us once, when our writers’ group fell apart, it is a major trauma.  But most of the time it just goes on, until you look back and realize either you have a new group, or you just don’t have anyone.

I’m not either place, and some people we’ll keep, thank you (they’re recent acquisitions, in the last 10 years or so) but there has been driftery (totally a word) going on, which I probably became more aware of because of older son’s change of status. And of course, we lost — or perhaps realized we’d long ago lost — our oldest friendship in the last couple of years.

There’s other things.  You could measure our life by cats. We had the old firm: Pixie, (Best cat evah!), Petronius the Arbiter of blessed memory, Pixel’s crazy brother Randy, and our fluffy sweet girl DT.  It seems when we have four, the configuration is stable, and the cat gods don’t send us new ones.  But as one shuffles off stage left, the replacement shows up. The second firm, Miranda, Euclid, D’Artagnan, Havelock and Greebo (outside, now inside and an editor, poor thing.)  Of those Miranda is now on the mantle shelf, and Euclid probably not with us more than a few months. There is a mass over his thyroid.  D’Artagnan being mostly older son’s cat lives with him (Well, we got tired of the howling in the empty room when older son moved away to medschool, (before we moved nearby) and showed up one weekend with D’Artagnan in a carrier.)  As soon as Miranda shuffled off we got back a little girl cat, Valeria Victrix, which I’d raised since she was two weeks old and with an eye infection, and her mom abandoned her at a bookstore’s door step.  (Older son named her. He was reading Operation Chaos at the time.)  Alas getting her back is tied up with the breakup of that long standing friendship, and the insurmountable “will never be forgiven” is that idiot decided 8 week old kitten was “mean” (I suspect because being idiot he didn’t realize she was too young to retract her claws.)  He’d lost a cat, so he wanted her, but never told us they didn’t get along. This despite the fact that Dan loved that girl cat and really wanted her. Instead, out of stupid pride (I’d guess) he kept her, ignored her and feralized her for eight years.

The amazing thing is that given all that she’s a very sweet girl. She was skittish and hid for a year and a bit, but is now demanding pets and dive bombing at all our ankles.  She’s still afraid of strangers and still periodically yells at Greebo for no reason. (Or some reason. I think they’re siblings. They have the same belly-markings in white.)

Anyway, the second firm is starting a turn over.  Two nights ago I dreamed of a little cornish rex cat, so maybe Miranda’s replacement is warming up.  Because Dan and I have dreams of having only two cats, or maybe a cat and a dog someday, I’m hoping she’s coming for younger son, not us.  Which, as I told him, means that he needs to finish up with studies (Stupid university scheduling tricks has extended him till next May) and find a job.

In exasperation, because he’s looking for work for the summer/next year after graduation/part time work for the next year with marked lack of success, but at the same time he has a couple of ideas that if they come to fruition are sort of like shaking the money tree [the odds are SLIGHTLY better than the lottery, let’s just say that] I said “so are you going to be an unemployed bum or a billionaire?”  And he said “Probably both, alternating, mom. I am your son.”

Now, when I was about his age, my mom told me she’d given up on ever being rich. Have I?  I don’t know.  My world is very different, and I have a lot more options.  There is this idea for being ready to replace Amazon when it comes to ebooks that I’m cooking with a friend. Our goal is mostly not to be dependent only on Amazon, but in a couple of years it should pay us living salaries.  Billionaire?  Not aiming for it, but the future is wide open.

I guess what I’m trying to say is I hate being caught in the middle of changes. And rather than slowing down, they seem to be ramping up.  Both boys graduate (G-d willing, and the creek not rising) next May or thereabouts.  It will for sure mean a move for one, and I hope it means a move off our family unit (in terms of self-support, though as I’ve indicated, I’m ready to shuffle him off have him find a woman of his very own.)  And I doubt we’ll have poor Euclid another year.  Worse, Greebo-the-editor has started losing weight. He still moves very well for 16 years, and is sassy as ever, but he wants pets and cuddles more often (his time is early morning, when mom is gathering her wits and making her plans before getting up, but he has been coming up for pets at night, too.)

There are other things going on, which are none of ya’ll’s bizwax.  Small ones, big ones.  For the first time since the kids were toddlers, I’m having trouble carving out a slice of three/four hours to write uninterrupted before one of of the family or friends pings me with an emergency.

Of all this, of course, the kids and being more or less (almost) done raising them (well, I’m done raising them, just not launching them, if that makes sense) is the big thing.

This morning, I remembered when Robert was 9 and Marshall was 6 and, for the first time in ten years, I went to the grocery store by myself, (I was on strict bed rest with Robert.)  And suddenly I felt like I’d forgotten something/didn’t know what I was doing.  It grew into being normal, of course.  Now it would be weird to lug them both to the store.  In fact, I think the last time I did so was almost 10 years ago.  (And it was because I needed help carrying stuff.)

I know this too will grow.  And this new thing Dan and I are doing, trying to find who we were before kids will be okay too. (No, there isn’t a problem in our marriage. Honestly, it’s about the only thing that is still stable in this storm that’s been overtaking me. But we’ve been a family so long, we’re having trouble figuring out how to BE just a couple, without making the cats substitute children or trying to be the YOUNG couple we were and aren’t anymore.  I know this all sounds very silly. And we should count our blessings.)

At the same time, possibly because of physical changes not unusual for women my age (though more usual for younger women. Eh) stuff about me is changing.  Mostly little stuff.  Like, why on Earth do I now like Mexican food? I never did before.  And where did the interest in needle arts come back from? I hadn’t done that since the kids were tiny.  And…

This morning I thought I didn’t care, but I was exasperated the changes didn’t wait till next year. Because it’s an election year, and therefore I’ll be fairly useless anyway. Then I realized things probably won’t slow down next year anyway, as G-d willing one son will move out of state and maybe two sons will move, and honestly we’ll probably lose another cat (and hopefully not gain a new one! Forlorn as the hope might be.)  And… and… and…

All of this of course hit us because of the major holiday.  It might be our last one with everyone nearby.

None of this explains the crying, except from stress, of course.  Most of the changes are good.  The ones to career haven’t been (I really must try not to get fired, okay fired and rate-limited twice in the same week again.  That was a fun time.) But I’m not done either.  One door is closed, but there is a little daylight coming in around one of the rocks, and I have a spoon.

Finding time to stop and write would help.  Probably.  The health stopping throwing bigger and brighter challenges would help too.

But apparently life is change.  And somewhere over the ridge the change will slow a little, and I’ll catch breath for a while before it starts again.

I’m not upset, I’m….

When I was little and standing in the sea (I never learned to swim. Long story) sometimes a wave would roll me.  If you open your eyes under water, you see yellow sand swirling around, and light and you can’t tell if you’re up or down, and you desperately want a breath.

That’s kind of where I am.  But I’ll find a foothold here, any minute, and poke my head above water soon.

And older son isn’t wrong, either. I’m lucky to live in a time where the period of equilibrium ahead can be relatively long, relatively healthy, relatively productive.

This morning I woke up with this Agatha Christie quote in my mind:

I have enjoyed greatly the second blooming that comes when you finish the life of the emotions and of personal relations; and suddenly find – at the age of fifty, say – that a whole new life has opened before you, filled with things you can think about, study, or read about…It is as if a fresh sap of ideas and thoughts was rising in you.

I’ll drink to that time coming.

 

 

 

A Wholly Separate Reality

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This morning I was reading a book first published in the 40s (I think) and reprinted (among other editions in 95 and I was very surprised to read the intro on that.  The I guess published and probably fairly well known author (well, I’m not aware of having ever read him) writing it talks about the author’s (of the book) great female character, and how she’s not like the women at the time who had three options “scream, be rescued, throw up.”

Now I’m acquainted with this version of reality from our present bubble heads. Yesterday someone was lecturing a bunch of us on how “fandom has changed” apparently in the strange belief that sf/f fandom was EVER not a gathering of oddballs and strange people, which yes, included strange females and strange people from other races. Pfui. The only way it’s changed is that we have more NORMAL college professors.  Which is why they’re so tedious.

I just wasn’t aware these illusions about women — characters or real life, the way the sentence was written was hard to tell — went back that far IN PRINT.

I remember in the eighties being very puzzled at my well educated, mostly female friends in the US imagining a lot of things about women which I knew not to be so.  Like the one who said that women had become hysteric because they “couldn’t hunt or do male stuff” in the renaissance.  Which forced me to explain practically every middle ages woman hunted.  Unless they were a little odd.  The noblewomen joined the hunt, and poorer women would probably set snares, as well as killing the livestock.

I know I was surprised when I started posting DST in a private group and people were so excited that “she’s not waiting to be rescued.”

I was glad they liked the book, but dear lord, when have women characters waited to be rescued, outside some very tedious books, or books where they’re not the main characters?  (Non-main characters always have less action. It’s part of writing.)

I mean, Heinlein female characters had more options than those.  A lot of them were rather able with gun, knife and hands.  Heck, Agatha Christie’s characters had more options than that.  Dear Lord, as our Mary Catelli is fond of reminding us, female fairytale characters had more agency than these people are crediting female characters in the 20h century with having.

Sure, if all you know is the Disney version of fairy tales, it might seem like the main female character gets rescued a lot, but even then they usually follow the hero’s journey and have a hand in their own troubles.

So why are moderns and let’s face it mostly leftists so infatuated of the idea that female characters (and possibly women) had no agency whatsoever before the late 20th and early 21st century?

I don’t know.  But I can’ hazard guesses.

The first is that they want to be seen as rescuers.  If women were treated as empty-headed dolls and perhaps WERE empty headed dolls before the left “liberated” them, then women do naturally belong in the preserve of the left. Also, what the left made it can unmake, and women like me who don’t sing in the choir are ungrateful AND at risk of being enslaved again.  (How many times have we heard that, complete with accusations of “gender traitor” as though vaginas were something you had to swear allegiance to?)  This is a naked attempt at getting power over half the population and demanding right to our gratitude. More the fools those who believe them.

The second is that they’re genuinely ignorant. Having been taught a Marxist version of history they don’t understand power or ability or agency as anything but a collective endeavor that needs to be affirmed int he history books, with holidays, proclaimed from the roof tops, etc.

It never occurred to them that women aren’t mentioned much in the history books except as someone’s wife or mother (unless they’re queens, but they tend to blank those out) because being a wife and mother was genuinely back breaking work in the past.  That managing to get your children to adulthood alive was a miracle. That it took both halves of the marriage for one half (the one not always pregnant) to achieve something in the public sphere.  Instead, like true sexists, they see only male achievements.  As such, they discount everything women did do, and instead invent reasons why women were “suppressed” by men, or their achievements lied about.

In fact, the only people lying about female achievements, from the middle-ages nuns to the early twentieth century female writers are… the left.  Their minds are so distorted that they can’t understand the feats of quiet (and not so quiet) strength it took to be a woman before the pill effected some liberation from wretched biology and before the free market and invention liberated women from the drudgery of household work.

The third is also ignorance, but more profound than simply “of history.”  It’s an ignorance of humanity, how strong both halves of humanity were required to be in centuries past, how much they had to fight and suffer for us, the few, the pampered few to be here… and completely ignorant of how hard life can actually be.

The week I put DST up, I had been reading (coincidentally. I tended to get my books from library sales before KULL and many of those were history books and biographies) the biographies of several women in the War of The Roses and — again, luck of the draw — the biography of Emma Smith, wife of Joseph Smith (note that I didn’t have any particular interest in Mormonism — and don’t really — but was interested in the biography.)

Those women, while their husbands achieved “well known thing” were busy as heck, and probably worked and suffered more than they did, not less for being very private. They were pregnant, or raising kids or worse, burying kids all alone and struggling to manage estates or farms on their own so their husband could do “well known thing.”

They weren’t waiting to be rescued. They certainly weren’t waiting to be pampered princesses. Not even those who were genuinely princesses.  “Faint, throw up and be rescued” might have been the options of Victorian wealthy maidens. I doubt it was what they actually DID, though they might have played to the image. (Read Agatha Christie’s biography sometime.)

But that was a very small slice both in time and social standing. They are not and will never be the norm for women.

And sure, most past books didn’t have 100 lbs women beating 300 lbs men.  That’s because that is… what’s that word? Oh, yeah, impossible.  Unless you have an explanation of some sort, and no, training is not enough.  Magic, or bio enhancement or something MIGHT be. Depends on how you handle it.

But going around beating up people is not the only form of agency. It’s not even the best one.  It’s the agency of a type of man, not even all of them. I’ll note that in the Musketeer books (Dumas, not mine) the Cardinal is not powerless, or fainting or throwing up just because he’s not out on the street, fighting.  He has thugs for that.  And Milady, likewise, is not a fainting flower, even though the book was written before the 20th century.  Even Constance Bonacieux has agency.  Yes, in the end she trusts the wrong woman and gets poisoned while they’re trying to rescue her.  But that’s agency too. She makes the decision.  She didn’t need to fight in the streets.  The men did that for her. It’s obvious her husband, even, is her pawn.

So, dear crazy people who think that women “only had three options” all of them passive before the late-twentieth to early twenty first century: I don’t know what color the sky is in your world, but in ours it’s blue and occasionally grey, and if it’s green you probably should run.  If in yours it’s made of green cheese? The problems you face have nothing to do with us.

You are ignoring the rich panoply of human experience. You’re belittling the abilities and experiences of real women in the past.  And it’s entirely possible you’re too pampered and rich to understand much of anything.

Check your privilege.  You’re probably high on it.

Whenever you’re ready to join the real world with real people, we’ll be here.

 

 

 

What Remains

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The Portuguese, or at least some of them, or PARTICULARLY my mom have a tendency to burn most of the belongings/correspondence/papers of the deceased.

This is something that would shock Americans and in fact it is probably a measure of my acculturation that I was somewhere between shocked and upset when mom burned paternal grandma’s decades of correspondence.

You see, grandma was the family’s node point, keeping in touch with relatives and friends from 80 years before, and their outflung progeny.  Also as part of her correspondence would be 30+ years of daily letters to/from grandad where he worked all over the world froM Brazil to Venezuela to South Africa. During the period of early 30s to mid 50s.  Just the casual historical mentions in that would be…

OTOH I get mom’s habit is more normal for Portugal than the tendency to save and study everything.

This might be because, as Robert puts it, Portugal is an iceberg in time.  The amount of history and the amount of Portugal buried below the waterline in time greatly exceeds the present.

The same way family tombs with a vast chamber where you lower the new coffin atop the old ones, and the ones at the bottom likely become dust, burning most of what we get from the dead might be the sane thing to prevent the past taking over and choking out present and future.

Heck, a lot of us do this in our own lives.  I’m in the middle of a process of doing that with my clothes, since the weight is FINALLY coming off.  So, formerly cherished and go to garments, that are dropping off my butt or sagging on my chest are being given away.  (some will be retrofitted, but honestly, I prefer to donate so that someone having an issue with their weight can find something nice.)  This is more of a wrench than you think, considering that sometimes those garments were the one bright spot, the one thing I knew looked good on me, in an otherwise blah time.

I do the same with a lot of other things, form knickknacks to dishware, from books to music. Things that were important to myself at some time but no longer used, I try to donate so that someone else can enjoy them.  Sometimes they are things that I used for purposes I no longer need to fulfill.

For instance, there was the collection of fondue pots.  We used to have a new year’s party at our house when the kids were little, and serve fondue.  Then we moved, and stopped having the party. So the fondue pots got eventually donated.

OTOH I shocked the woman who came to pack my house, because I keep a box (just one) of kids clothes, most of them toddlers’ but from six months to about five years.  You see, one of the things is a lambskin winter coat where the hood has EARS. And the back says douce come un agneau.  My best friend from elementary school, who married a Frenchman, gave us that for Robert at a time when we literally couldn’t afford a winter coat for him.  And he looked adorable in it, as did his brother later on.  They looked like teddy bears with human faces.  And it was warm.  Then there’s the dragon outfit I made for Robert when he was five. The knit coat and hat mom bought Marshall. Etc.

The packing lady was like “But your sons are grown!”  And sure, they are. But hopefully there will be grandkids who’ll wear the coat and look adorable. And anyway, those are pieces of their childhood and important TO ME.  Do I mind if the kids throw it all out when I die? No. They’re important TO ME. The kids might find them funny or not.  It doesn’t matter.

I’m trying to minimize, however, the amount of cr*p the kids have to deal with when we die.  Which means sometime in the next year there will be a great purge, mostly of art stuff.  (Since I now do most of it on the computer.)

Yes, this was brought about by the fire at Notre Dame.

It seems that they saved a lot more than not. And I’m confident the French will do well by the source of revenue.  And of course, it’s part of the patrimony of mankind.  I mean, mom was in tears about it.

But in a post-Christian Europe, how long will those marks of the past be acceptable and tolerated, much less cherished?  What comes after? And how many things form other civilizations have we already discarded or lost that would be relevant to us.

This is one of the things that fascinates me about lost civilizations (for the purpose of this post as advanced as ancient Greece, Rome, or even Gobleki Tepe)?

It disturbs me, like the idea of grandma’s lost letters.  What there, what true patrimony of mankind is lost forever, beneath the Earth or burned or otherwise obliterated.  What would it tell us about our ancestors and ourselves?

No way of knowing, except in dreams.

It is important, the way Notre Dame is important. Because it gives us the range of bigger than ourselves things humans can accomplish. A measure of human dreams.

And yet much of it, maybe most of it, is burned, lost in the past we can’t retrieve without a time machine (makes story note.)

And only those of us who dream in words can bring it forth for the rest of the world.

Which is why we must.

The Squid And Its Ink

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I’m no longer surprised when someone takes offense when I say something like “communism has been driving the culture for a hundred years.”

I have been called insane and worse for saying that, and incidentally for saying that the Earth is not overpopulated, we have no way of telling the real population count worldwide, because even in the US counting is a bureaucratic mess, and that it is my opinion — though hard to substantiate — that the population is in fact already falling. I’ve been saying both of those for 20 years.

All I can say is that I’m getting less push back on both now. People actually in touch with the culture have started suspecting the same thing and being vocal about it 5 years ago or so.  I’m not the only thinker on the right (the thinkers on the left are something else and quite approve of what they see happening) to think that Western Culture is dying of a fatal wound inflicted around WWI.  I’m even less the only one looking at what is actually happening in the world, from economics to the relations between nations and smelling a rat on population.  Most of the people already ringing the bell on population though have more than my gut feeling/sense of the culture as representative of how many people, understanding of how the rest of the world does censuses. A lot of them are scientists, in command of things like “water consumption in Africa” or “the actual population density in x or y.”  I see them, occasionally, pop their heads above the maelstrom of the culture, only to be shouted down by those who are teaching our kids that humans are a plague upon the Earth.

No, I don’t have the links. As I said, I see them pop up, here and there. But they’re still very countercultural, and get shouted down. I just note “I’m no longer the lone voice in the desert” and carry on.  I also note that these outbreaks are getting more frequent and that if you get scientists who are not invested leftist ideologues in private, all of them snort at the UN population ideas.

I’m particularly not surprised when it comes from a commenter who 9 times out of ten comes here to misunderstand what I wrote or otherwise try to cause dissension.

I don’t mind trouble makers. As some of you know, all I do is step in and go “stop fighting each other.”  I do mind people who willfully or otherwise misunderstand, and always misunderstand to rebuke and reproach from a position of their assumed superiority.  Which is part of my issue with “our betters” in the culture, btw.

I’ll note in passing that Heinlein, then a convinced democrat and honestly a socialist, thought that the democrats had become fully dominated by communists by WWII.  You don’t need to have his insider view of the Democrats to understand the same, if you look at the gyrations of the American left before and after Hitler and Stalin broke their pact.

Now, were most democrats communists? Please. Most of them were rather traditional people in traditional communities who would spit on a communist faster than listen to him.  On the other hand they were listening to communists without knowing, swallowing communism in bite size without realizing it, being led down the garden path.

I didn’t say the communists were openly ruling the country. I said that for a hundred years, secretly, they were in full control of our cultural institutions. (And not just ours. Europe–  Never mind.)

“But Sarah, World War 2 is not 100 years ago.”  Of course it’s not. It’s 75. But the ideas of Marx were driving the culture long before that.

I know this because I don’t read what people say about how they feel about communism. I read their output in fiction, in news, in thought instead.

And because I grew up in another country which was in many ways in the past, I read American cultural output at least 30 and sometimes more years older than I.  British too.

Hell, some of my favorite writers from childhood had their heads full of rats. MORE full of rats than Heinlein when he was a socialist.  Heinlein at least always had a firm grasp on the nature of humans, so even while he approved (at least I think so, I haven’t correlated the publication date) of socialism and Unions, his depiction in Starman Jones is exactly the kind of bureaucratic hell one would expect.

Most writers weren’t as grounded as Heinlein, and Heinlein had the distinct of advantage of, while working in an intellectual field, having grown up poor and done a lot of things to “root, hog or die” along the way.  It’s almost inevitable that the biggest crop of nonsense comes from authors who were more intellectual/intellectually minded from the beginning.

To begin with, let’s establish our terms: Communism — this is me, buster, and the first squawk about how means of production and their different handling makes a big difference gets a baseball bat — is a more severe form of socialism, and the socialist’s ultimate goal and dream.  Yeah yeah “but socialists let you retain ownership of the means of production”: define means, define production, define ownership.  When you still have the field but the feds tell you it’s a wet land and you can’t farm it or build on it, is it still yours? When you still have the cows but you have to shoot them on the government command to prevent flatulence, are they still yours?  I’m not in the mood for the semantics they taught you in school, buster, and I have a baseball bat.

Both philosophies come from Marxism, a crazy and flawed prophecy based vaguely on economics and history but infused with the vision of a grifter who never did anything useful with his life, despite holding himself very high in intellect, and who died in 18… 83 I think.  Around there somewhere.

Marxism maintains a lot of crazy crap, starting with the idea that if you regulate everything suddenly, automagically, the state will wither and there will be paradise while soup rains from the sky.

It has got all sorts of refinements added to it over the last hundred years.  You see, it is typical of the squid to let out a cloud of ink when you’re about to catch it. In the same way, when Marxism fails, its followers immediately come up with another just-so story as to why it would have been proven right “if only.”  (It absolutely follows When Prophecy Fails by Leon Festinger, by the way.)  The last major patch applied to the crumbling software was the Gramscian one, which explains why workers in the West haven’t arisen to seize the means of production.  You see, it’s all race and whatever based.  No, it doesn’t make a wit of sense, but good Lord, neither did Marxism.  What it is is a way of placing the left’s hopes for workers uprising on our “little brown brothers.”  No, that’s not what they say. It’s all blah blah colonialism and oppression.  But what it boils down to is “other races are naturally socialist/communist” and we must now count on them to lead us to the great progressive future.

This is part of the reason they’re denying Venezuela is a disaster of socialism and screaming US interference even harder than usual.  It’s also the root of all the crazy “check your privilege.” the intersectionalism insanity and sundry other bits of ways to avoid thinking on the left. And it’s been driving way longer than people who are not in their circles realize.  In the early two thousands or late nineties, someone attempted to pillory me in the letter columns of Analog for having a story in which if history had been different the Chinese would be Capitalist.  I didn’t understand how any human being could believe culture is genetic and race-tied. Even I didn’t believe any thinking human being would swallow Gramsci whole and make it part of their worldview without realizing this made their worldview a racist swamp.

So, I’m not going to take communism apart in detail, because in detail there is a lot of squid ink and ways they obscure when they’re about to be caught. Also, I have real work to write, stuff I get paid for.

I’m going to stick to the generalities: Marxists, in general believe that government is best held by “enlightened” or “progressive” (they might have been in the 30s) people who can lead us to that paradise where government will automagically wither away.  They discount the ability of individual people to choose their fate and how they spend their money. They might or might not wish for international control — that was almost exclusively a Soviet thing, disguising its expansionism under a cloak of “one world government” — and they might or might not openly call for the abolition of money.  They do absolutely think that pretty much any economic (or often otherwise) activity should be regulated/legislated/controlled by the government. And by “government” you’re to understand a government of like minded Marxists. Most of them believe they’re “caring” or “kinder” or just filled with revolutionary zeal for “the poor downtrodden masses.”  None of them I’ve ever met even knows what poor downtrodden masses are, and almost all feel that in a just world their own intellect would be worshiped and they’d be in charge.

This I oppose to “right wing” which is only, really, the right wing in the US. In Europe it tends to be a disagreement on who “the best people” are with the right holding on to hereditary and religious markers of the best people as opposed to ideological (which has made them very easy to infiltrate by the Marxists, so now most of them are Marxists, but without atheism and with a head nod to “all the best families.”)  In fact both systems, Marxism and the European right can be and often are startlingly similar.  But at least the European right doesn’t wish to deliver their own people bound to their foes, and sometimes one supports/votes on very small differences indeed. The choice often isn’t between cake and death but between slow poison or fast one. Always vote for the slow one.

For a while the right in the US went the way of the right in Europe. When the left controlled all the cultural apparatus and moved the Overton window so that anything non-socialist or Marxist, or which had different assumptions about history and the future was unspeakable without being ridiculed or causing its speaker to be destroyed in public, a consensus emerged that communism would — of course — ultimately win. It was the future and so much more efficient than sloppy capitalism. Therefore we can slow it/make it less totalitarian and brutal, but that’s all.  A lot of the older Republicans, possibly including Romney is still stuck there. McCain LIVED there: “You’re going to eat us, but I say eat us slower.”

In many ways I’ve spoken in defense of these people, not because they’re not despicable, but because they grew up in this ethos and find it difficult to adjust. Humans need a vision of what comes after their time. And their vision is of the Marxist future. They thought communism would win in the end, while still being opposed to the brutal tactics, etc. to achieve it.  (Note that they don’t dispute a communist future, if non-brutal would be a good thing. They sort of assume it. Which is bizarre and wrong, but it’s what they grew up with.)  In a way standing between your people and the system you think will inevitably win is a position of great courage. These people were and are the fighters at Ragnarok fighting the battle they already believe lost.  The fact they don’t take well to having the narrative they’ve held onto punctured merely makes them human.

Note I don’t say I want them in power. Only that their issues are understandable. I feel sorry for them and think great evil results when they’re in control, and they should be kept away from any power real or imagined. But they do have courage. And I understand how they got where they are. So I don’t hate them. I just don’t want them in control of anything.

So, what does all this have to do with 100 years of cultural dominance?

This post is already incredibly long.  However, I have a plan to re-read again my formative science fiction. Most of which is from the thirties and on. (90 years. Science fiction. How hard are you going to quibble?)

From reading early twentieth century books my understanding is that Marx’s system of thought had penetrated the intelligentsia thoroughly before even WWI.  WWI smashed the hierarchies of belief in the entrenched systems of power in Europe, and allowed Marxism to fill the gaps more and more.  I remember reading (while pursuing a rabbit hole — yes, my name used to be Alice) about the publishing industry in GB and how it became increasingly “progressive” after WWI. Note this was said with approval. That they were actively searching out books that supported progressive ideals.

I have been having a weird drug interaction that acted like ADHD and dementia combined, so this reading has been delayed.  However I’d started at some time with The Green Man of Socialism (Obviously Occasio Cortez’s mate in the wild) which is mostly a national kind of socialism, probably prevalent from WWI to WWII (note that Marx himself was largely a national socialist, and the nationalism he believed in was British.) which changed it to international socialism.  Which in practical fact was Soviet nationalism projected abroad. (And is now largely Russian nationalism projected abroad.)

I can tell you that books from WWI on are full of the idea that money is inherently unjust as a means of trade, that somehow capitalism brings about war and death, that “there should be a more equitable system” etc. Periodicals of the time are more explicit on the idea of “world peace” through some kind of unity; the idea that the bright young things who believe in redistribution and “easing the burden of the little man” or whatever they call it, are right, etc.

You find it even in such relatively innocuous writers are Agatha Christie (whose horse sense, like Heinlein often save her from the grosser errors.)

Rex Stout? Avowedly anti-communist, while advocating for one-world-government, education as a way of convincing the young of the progressive future (redistribution via high taxes, etc.), believing every single canard the leftist press brought up against more right leaning politicians (many of which we now know to be wholly invented) etc.  Was he a communist? One assumes he wasn’t. His detective is a creature of excess and very human. But the principles he was advocating and his throw away lines contributed to the increase of leftist fog in the culture. (Partly why the gatekeepers allowed him to flourish. Not saying he was untalented. Note despite his politics giving me a sour stomach, he’s still one of my favorite writers. But the establishment in publishing, while unable to MAKE you could bury you.  As I and others know.)

We’ll leave aside Heinlein’s early folly.  It’s hard to underestimate how much WWII convinced people that force could remake culture for good.  I’ll just note he gave up that insanity after his tour of the world. And he riled the left up often enough even before that one can only trust “a storyteller’s true instincts.” They still hate him as one hates an apostate.

Let’s instead go with Clifford Simak.  A middle-class journalist from the heartland.  So involved in the culture on two fronts.

I don’t revile Mr. Simak who was one of my favorite writers before Heinlein became one.  In fact my brother was surprised second son wasn’t named Clifford. (He would be but husband put foot down hard.)

Recently I had the opportunity to send 4 of his books to a friend who hadn’t read them, and I envied him a little reading them for the first time.  At the same time I felt forced to explain that I didn’t think Simak was a communist — and I had Jerry Pournelle’s words he wasn’t — but reading him my friend would encounter many of the ideas that make the left today insane: one world government; government as only and always a force for good; the need to defeat religion and other “remnants” of the past; the advisability of abolishing money.  Even, past that, the ideas that always follow (because inherent in that world vision) that humans are naturally evil and need to be controlled, etc. (But government somehow escapes this.)

Despite these ideas — which Jerry assured me were just middle brow when these books were being written — Simak has touches of humanity and of love for individuals.  Like Rex Stout he’s worth reading.

But as decent people who consciously would tell you they were anti-communists, they were still “another brick in the wall.”

Was there a conspiracy to move the world left?  I don’t know. Arguably Russians have only ever been good at ONE thing: propaganda and corruption of other cultures.  From time immemorial.  And there are records of the Soviet Union paying off/subsidizing A LOT of leftist groups/causes, many of which would be shocked to know they were being manipulated.

But how much of it was that, and how much merely people who had been disillusioned with tradition and whose world had exploded in the industrial revolution and its echoes seizing a new prophecy and a new vision, particularly one designed to appeal to intellectuals with little experience of the everyday working world, and an unwarranted good opinion of themselves?

That society had gone to mass-production of everything including news, art and entertainment would only facilitate that kind of group-think.

Just as our current distributed forms of communication undermine it.

Has the culture been in the hands of increasingly more communist Marxists for almost a 100 years (some sectors more)?  A-yup.

What does it matter now?  Well, the squid is still letting out ink, but it’s in a little tank and the rest of us can see what it’s doing and see it very clearly.  This is where the worm turns.  Let’s hope its turning belies history and doesn’t leave blood as well as ink in the water.  But changing so many infected minds quickly enough to avoid that is going to be… tricky.

And a man who argues that people said they were anti-communist, in defiance of these people’s cultural period just might be hagridden. And wearing an overcoat of self-righteousness.

Let’s end the masquerade, so everyone knows where they stand.

 

 

 

 

Vignettes by Luke, Mary Catelli and ‘Nother Mike and Book Promo

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Book Promo

*Note these are books sent to us by readers/frequenters of this blog.  Our bringing them to your attention does not imply that we’ve read them and/or endorse them, unless we specifically say so.  As with all such purchases, we recommend you download a sample and make sure it’s to your taste.  If you wish to send us books for next week’s promo, please email to bookpimping at outlook dot com.  One book per author per week. Amazon links only.-SAH*

FROM AMANDA S. GREEN:  Nocturnal Revelations (Nocturnal Lives Book 6)

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As a cop, Mackenzie Santos knows every shift might be her last. That was driven home two years ago when Samuel Wilcox came much too close to killing her. She still had nightmares of waking in the morgue. But that was nothing compared to leaning she is descended from one of the oldest and most powerful shapeshifter bloodlines. Until the night she “died”, she always believed shapeshifters and werewolves were the thing of bad Hollywood movies.

Now she knows differently. Monsters really do walk among us. Some are human. Some are shifter. . . And one wants her dead.

Worse, so much worse, whoever it is wants to reveal the existence of shapeshifters to the humans. He–or she–doesn’t care about the consequences. Somehow Mac and those who know her secret must discover who their enemy is and stop them before it is too late. But can Mac do that and stay alive?

FROM JASON FUESTING (Who, when he started this series asked me if I felt he was trespassing too close to my USAians and was told we need more people hitting that zone.):  By Dawn’s Early Light (Echoes of Liberty Book 1.

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Eric Friedrich was supervising the last ice harvesting shift for his ship’s shot-up environmental systems when they detected an anomalous ice comet drifting by. Investigating the icy tomb, Eric finds a ship that couldn’t exist- a relic from a nation the Protectorate killed billions to erase from history. .. And will kill even more to keep secret.

When his world explodes, Eric must make allies in the unlikeliest places, and seize even the slimmest chance of survival while unraveling a conspiracy that shattered planets and set off interstellar war!

 

Vignettes by Luke, Mary Catelli and ‘Nother Mike

So what’s a vignette? You might know them as flash fiction, or even just sketches. We will provide a prompt each Sunday that you can use directly (including it in your work) or just as an inspiration. You, in turn, will write about 50 words (yes, we are going for short shorts! Not even a Drabble 100 words, just half that!). Then post it! For an additional challenge, you can aim to make it exactly 50 words, if you like.

We recommend that if you have an original vignette, you post that as a new reply. If you are commenting on someone’s vignette, then post that as a reply to the vignette. Comments — this is writing practice, so comments should be aimed at helping someone be a better writer, not at crushing them. And since these are likely to be drafts, don’t jump up and down too hard on typos and grammar.

If you have questions, feel free to ask.

Your writing prompt this week is: blue

And Marry Our Fortunes Together

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Perhaps not coincidentally, I’m thinking a lot about marriage, (mine is fine, thank you. It’s a combination of the kid getting married and seeing a Peterson lecture on it, mostly.)

Mostly I’ve been thinking — a lot — on the changing nature of marriage.  We won’t go into same sex marriage, because I don’t want that donnybrook in my comments again and also today, fundamentally, I have a wall to paint and this would distract me.

But the thing is that those who hold onto the traditional definition of marriage, as it exists now, beyond the sex of the people engaging in it are, with few exceptions, holding on to a dead form.

Look, two things have fundamentally altered the nature of marriage.  Four, except for two being  subclauses of the other, which make the marriages we contract, and our understandings of it completely different from what it was, say, 100. years ago.  Note I’m not saying this is better (in many ways it’s not) nor that a lot of us aren’t doing our best to hold onto traditional marriage. But even then, the bits and pieces of the “real” (secular) world intrude as they can’t help doing.  Because marriage, while a contract between a couple is also a contract with the wider society. It’s a contract upon which other contracts are formed, the smallest grouping that is fundamental to society (including the creation of new generations. Something on that later.)

The fact that it’s in flux is a lot of the problem. In fact, societaly speaking marriage right now might not be functional in any sense, including traditional and modern.

In the traditional sense marriage was ordained to make two into one: “for the procreation of children, as a remedy against sin and for the help and support the two would have of each other.”

Part of that, ultimately, ties in to the idea that in Eden woman came from man, i.e. we are pre-ordained as a dual being.  Something like that.  It’s hard to explain mystical concepts in every day words.  Interestingly that idea pre-dates Christianity and is central to a lot of very old myths: the idea that we’re always two meant to be one, and that the two halves of one person have to find each other to be complete.  If you’re a believer, this is very old because it’s right. If you’re not, it’s because the very duality of humanity suggests it to the human mind.

That idea is under attack on several points.

First of all the procreation of children: it seems a lot more people avoid that, and it’s easier to avoid by several means, mostly the pill or course, but others as well.

A subclause of that is that we have more means of entertainment than any of our ancestors.  I see people lamenting that younger people are having less sex, as well as looking for physical reasons for this up to and including lower testosterone in males.  And that’s probably part of it, (the lower testosterone, btw, might be induced by the role of males in society right now, since a lot of testosterone production comes from perceived victories. This would also explain higher testosterone in women. In which case all the current nonsense is not just annoying and a bad idea, but leads to extinction.) But the other part of it is probably that we — in Freudian and therefore not quite right terms — can sublimate our sexual impulse into a lot of other things. And the more creative you are, the more you do so.

I think our ancestors defaulted into sexual activity a lot out of boredom and a need for connection, while we’re fueling pursuits not-sexual from the same needs.

Second subclause is that women are — because contraception is a thing — expected to work outside the home and put at least some of their self-worth into a career rather than “the procreation of children” and their upbringing.  This makes marriage… subtly different. You’re two independent people coming together and the terms of union are not the same as they were in most of the past.  Possibly the forms of marriage first appeared to protect the pregnant woman/the infant.  While that’s still sought out by those of us who want children, the game has changed.

The other major change — not a subclause — is longevity.  For reasons known only to the psychiatrists they desperately need it has become fashionable on the left to deny the advances of longevity over the last hundred years. This might be because they desperately want us to believe we can sign onto something like the Green Nude Heel, or give up all our health autonomy to the government and we’ll live “about as long.” I’ve learned to be suspicious of this type of squid ink in the cultural water and ask myself what they’re trying to obscure.

Pish. And tosh.  I was 14 the first time I met an 80 year old. He was barely connected to the world and had constant tremors.

You’ll say “ah, but that was selection bias.”

Hardly. I lived in a village. I met people of all ages. 75 was considered VERY old.  Hell, 60 was the beginning of OLD and 65 was “old enough to die with no remark.”

Portugal was not a third world country. It was at least second, maybe first and a half.

And when I became conscious of such things it was at least the mid to late seventies.

I’ve mentioned here before that once you got the kids married/out the house people “prepared to die.”  This was not subtle. They basically shuttered all interests, except grandkids.  Consider that born when parents were 28 and 31 I was considered a very late child, almost late enough to be my parents’ grandkid and you’ll see when that “get kids out of the house” was.

I’ve talked to people my age who grew up all over the world and their experience is similar.  Right now my 60 some year old friends consider themselves late middle age. (Or sometimes middle, middle age) and some are studying for or embarking on new careers.  There’s a whole second life after your raise the kids. And 85 is considered old, but certainly not decrepit for at least half the people, who are active, engaged and might have businesses.  I know losing friends at 80 some feels like “well, they were old/not very well, but d*mn.” Losing someone at 65 incites “so young” comments.  And medical son tells me getting 100+ year olds in the hospital isn’t even unusual.  I remember a long discussion in the mid 80s about whether 100 year olds existed in any numbers or it was just bad record keeping. It seems silly to argue that now.

What does all this mean, and what does longevity have to do with marriage.

Why… everything.

Look, marriage was a bond for life, but you didn’t have a ton of life past your reproductive age.  Now you might have half your life after that, as a couple.

Add to that the “more entertainment”thing which includes more spheres of action, and what you get is “more identities”.  Depending on what people work in/get fascinated by or the causes they adopt, people might have many identifies in a life time.

One o the enemies of marriage is changing the rules of the game.  Say (I’ve seen it) a woman becomes an all-in feminist activist in her late 40s and this affects her relationship with her husband to the point of questioning minor things such as whether sex is patriarchal oppression?  Or take something seemingly less crazy, like someone decides to pursue a passion for… piano playing or crocheting in middle age.  Even if they don’t quit the day job, and simply channel all their energies to breaking in to the new field: that’s going to affect the couple’s options of work and play and what they do together to the point it might break them.

At some point, because marriages were breaking anyway, no fault divorce seemed the logical answer to all of this.

If Peterson is right, it was rather a step in the WRONG direction.  The reason he claims marriage is essential to happiness goes around all those definitions of marriage as was (but not counter them. While having a fairly traditional marriage, this applies to us, with hobnail boots on, for instance) is because it is an indissoluble association. That is, the fact that you can’t run away from each other makes marriage THE safe space where you can see each other without veils, and be each other and have someone else accept you.

Because we’re all broken (or as Peterson puts it “full of snakes”) it is important to working on our brokenness to know there is someone who knows it and can’t run away.  It’s easier to deal with secondary effects if our back is protected.

Mind you, in the age of divorce this is not true, which makes marriage fairly worthless.  Also, no one tells anyone this as a real and very needed reason to get married, which means it took Dan and I a couple of decades to find that this was one of the very important things in our marriage.  We could be ourselves, even the parts we didn’t like very much, because the other one was here for keeps.  And being able to be ourselves allowed us to improve ourselves, if that makes sense.

Sometimes I wonder if all the necessity for “safe spaces” is because we lost that one, fundamental safe state, where we could take off the armor and let the other see the cracks. I know, since we were recently reviewing insurance and what the plans for the other would be if one of us woke up dead tomorrow (yes, I know, but that’s how grandad said it) which in turn affects the amount of insurance. My thought was that  don’t know if I can go on without that one place I can be me, and that one person who still loves me (mostly defined as sticking around) despite knowing me.

It amused me highly this morning, while doing housework to a Rex Stout audio book (I’ll resume it while painting. It’s Homicide Trinity) that bizarrely Nero and Archie fit the Petersonian definition of marriage.  I.e. lifelong, indissoluble union where you know each other and still stay.

Note nothing is said about sex in it.  I don’t know if sex has anything to say in that definition, except that if you’re both seeking it elsewhere it tends to send your loyalties elsewhere too.

I also don’t think it works with more than one person. I think revealing yourself wholly to multiple people at once would be impossible.  The necessity to manipulate your image to different people (even with friends we do that) would make group marriage untenable as a safe place and a life-long union.

Which means Heinlein correctly diagnosed the stresses on marriage, but went in a completely sideways direction, at least if we agree with Peterson’s thought.  I agree with it more than with Heinlein, which doesn’t detract from my admiration from Heinlein on most things.  Making predictions is hard, particularly when they’re about the future. He got the nature of man more right than not.

Again, mostly I’m going on my own experience, which leads me to believe that whether you believe in traditional marriage or not, the most important nature of such a union is that it be permanent and indissoluble.

I’m not telling you that’s how it should be.  I just think that in the long run we’ll find for society to persist and civilization to continue that’s the most important thing of all.  Perhaps even sex between spouses doesn’t matter as much (I know married couples who had to give it up usually for health reasons, and yet continue to function as married people. Which means the seventies obsession with what’s happening in bed for the functionality of marriage was probably wrong.) as the ability to be “naked” in a metaphysical and psychological sense before each other.

In which case our years will be considered even crazier than not.

As in all things, I only know how this works for me and some friends close enough to give me some insight into others’ lives.

But I thought it was worth pondering. (Besides giggling at the idea of NW and AG as a married couple, mostly because I can see both gentlemen glaring in my head. 🙂 )

Now I’m going to paint walls. Try not to burn anything down.

 

 

 

Clearing the Fog

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In a way I’ve always loved fog.

Literal fog, I mean.

For someone who lives with her head between worlds, fog can be magical. It obscures reality, it shifts, it obscures and reveals.

When I was a kid the village got thick, milky fogs. Okay, part of it was the fact that the city of Porto sent all its garbage to a fertilizer factory on a hill overlooking the village, and that — as a result and because of either lack of funds or lack of permits to build — the factory burned great big piles of garbage above the village almost every night (Yes, I do have asthma. Don’t ask.)  The problem is that the village was in a valley and mom’s house was located about halfway up a slope coming up from what used to be a swamp before the railroad raised the ground to build on it (the other side were still swamps.)

The thick, heavy fog would settle there, and the smoke would weave through it, making it more opaque (also stinkier.)

I did not love the throat burning or the constriction in breathing, but I loved the shifting, obscuring and revealing quality of it.  It was the sort of fog where you saw clearly maybe two feet in front of your face and where, as you advanced, anything might happen. That street light might turn out to be a UFO. The lights advancing towards you might not be a bicycle or a car going slow as heck, but a carriage from the age of sword fighters and romance.

You knew it wasn’t. You didn’t even really want it to be. (I told son the other day after we drove past something that might have been outlandish and was certainly surreal that we’re the sort of people who’ll never have adventures. We don’t get out to check it out. We like this world and this reality, thank you so much.) But it could imagine it was and make the world fractionally more magical, teeming with potential interest that wasn’t there before.

It’s in a way the same reason I like reading about lost civilizations. It’s not that I believe they existed or even want them to have exist (if many human civilizations have risen and fallen, that makes our prospects dim) but I like reading about it for the daydreams and the possibilities (which honestly would be easier if every “lost civilization researcher” weren’t obsessed with astrology. Why must it always be astrology?)

There are times, though, when fog is scary.  The scariest drive of my life (which includes drives in snow storms and heavy rain) was the drive from Colorado Springs to Denver in a thick fog where we saw realistically maybe 5 ft in front of our bumper.  On a highway that has a sudden drop on the right side. We couldn’t even tell where we were on the road, and just followed increasingly dimmer back lights.

And now I’m trying to get back to driving (after five years of very bad sight) I’m glad I took son to grocery with me two days ago.  When we came out there was a fog mixed with frozen rain.  Probably not too bad, but I’m night blind. The combination meant I’d not be safe to drive back, because it’s hard to see through that stuff.

That is more or less where we are, as a society.

The left has had control of education, of means of communication, of intellectual ideiation and narrative for a century.  Full control, I mean. Before that they had partial control and toe holds.  Also before that they were not as full on communist. All the things we “know” and were taught aren’t necessarily so.

And make no mistake, while the current crop of fog machine leftists are almost transparently inept, this wasn’t always so.  Much of your ideas of everything from industrialization to the position of women in society to… well, anything is informed by very smart, very gifted men and women who believed in lying for their cause, and that sufficient lies would bring about utopia.

You realize this when you realize how lies shade differently in other countries, how you get people in Europe who earnestly believe the only alternative to socialism is monarchy, or that people were starving to death in Sweden just before socialists took over.

The lies corrupt everything, including the West’s view of itself.  And it’s a fog.

It’s hard to drive when the fog obscures the road, and when you’re no longer sure where you came from.  And there are drop offs, suddenly, on the left side, which will kill us not only as individuals but as a civilization. Certainly as a nation (ask Venezuela.)

And the new crop of leftists doesn’t even realize the lies their “ancestors” told. That’s why we get idiot children who honestly and earnestly think there were no women of note in SF/F before 1990.

Less idiotic ones but who have no children earnestly believe women are still told they can’t do math and shouldn’t go to STEM (across the board. Yeah, I’m sure there’s one here and there, but trust me, no.) And aren’t aware that the problem is that all these girls and women are being given “the has-vagina A” and thus rendered incapable of facing real competition in college. Because everyone is so afraid of “discouraging” a female.

It’s hard to set course in those cases. You might think you’re writing the most daring thing ever by being a woman with a female main character (or a gender fluid one — rolls eyes –) in a science fiction book. You might think that if only girls got more encouragement they’d all be engineers and mathematicians (if they got more rigor we’d have a bunch of more of them, I’d wager.) You might even think socialism is nothing to be scared of. After all the soviet union was communist not socialist. (Except that they never called themselves communist.  And communist East Germany called itself Democrat. Let those who have ears hear.)

Your history, your literature, your news are covered in fog. It might be pleasant to imagine they’re something other than they are. Certainly if you believe in the power of the government to bring about utopia. But it doesn’t make it less dangerous. Because you can’t see the precipice clearly.

Some of us have taken it upon ourselves to get fog lamps and hit the road, but there’s too few of us and the space we clear is limited.

You have to know you’re driving in a fog and take due precautions.  Don’t simply know all of our cultural references are wrong in some things and then assume they’re right in all the rest.

Months ago when talking to younger son, I asked him how we came out pretty close politically, since I discussed history, writing, engineering and science fiction with the boys, but never politics. And they were faced with such a barrage at school.

He said “You taught me to question everything. To look for proof. When you do that, the conclusions kind of end in the same place.”

Question everything. Not just what you’d like to question. Search out primary sources. Don’t think that because you were taught lies, the precise inverse is the truth. Things are never that simple and easy. Not in a world of humans.  Question, search, look. If a theory seems too seamless, a view point without flaw; if there’s a just-so story that explains everything, it’s probably the fog creating a fairy tale.

The only way to drive through the fog is to take it slow and make very sure of your ground.  Yes, sure, your predecessors back lights are useful, but make very sure they’re not just driving off a cliff and taking you with them.

There is a culture to rebuild. History to relearn.

And the fog must clear. Eventually.

Until then do what you can to see your way. Clearly.