Category Archives: Uncategorized

Places of Power

There are individual places of power, places when you just feel right, places that recharge you.

I know most of you are going to say something about majestic redwood forests or some such, but well… different strokes for different folks.

After deciding at 8 that when I grew up I was going to live in Denver and be a writer (and keep in mind that my geography was so great at the time that I actually thought Denver was by the sea.  I might have had it confused with Dover…) I found that there are places in Denver that are “places of power” for me.

Perhaps they were invested with extra power by being visited when we had a “vacation” with the kids, when they were little, but there’s very few times when I’m depressed and dragging that can’t be made way better by taking me to walk around the lake in city park, or to the natural history museum, or to Pete’s.  Perhaps Pete’s most of all.  It’s not unheard of for us, in the middle of an otherwise normal evening, to go to Pete’s for coffee.

As for power… well, going there restores my mood and I feel better, more able to cope.

Most individual places of power are like that, but not all.  I don’t have any bad feelings/memories associated with any particular place, but I know people who do.  Returning to one of those places might be traumatic for people.

In the same way civilizations have places of power, good and bad.  I once had dinner where the founding fathers discussed revolution, and it had a feeling of energy and excitement.

In the same way I have heard people describe sites of great disasters or worse of evil events, like the death camps, or the pyramids of Mexico, as places where even the birds won’t sing, and things feel odd and hushed and depressing.  The same has been described of battle sites of WWI, for instance.

How much of that is because we know what happened there?  How much because there is something that attaches to a place where mass death occurred in quantities?

Whether you believe that there have been other civilizations we don’t even remember, in the potentially 250k years we’ve been human (again, these would have to be either bronze age level or so much more advanced than ours that they returned the Earth to pristine condition when they left, and only some troglodytes, our ancestors, stayed behind.  Either is POSSIBLE, but I’d bet on a lot of the first kind) the truth is even in the history and pre-history we do know, there are tons of such places that have potentially been forgotten.  Some we’ll have forgotten the location, (no one quite knows where the battle Cannae took place, for instance) and some that it even occurred.  One of the things humans have always been good at is batch lot slaughter and genocide, often for what the people doing it believe are laudable reasons.

Would those places also feel hushed, strange, weird?

The fact is that there are some places in which most people experience a feeling of oppression and even some of the other strange things “being avoided by birds and animals” and magnetic issues, for no reason at all that we can figure out.  And most people just sort of avoid it.

I don’t know exactly where I’m going with this — Havey is now sick, and we spent a disturbed night, other than having to clean bathroom and carpet when I woke up because Euclid-cat has old age incontinence — except that if you find a place in a highly populated area and no one has built on it for centuries, don’t.  You might not feel the unease until you’re living in it full time.  (Aka my parents’ house.  And judging from things we’ve unearthed while setting in gardens, etc, probably ancient battle site, Romans vs Celts.)

It fascinates me: the idea that places where great evil occurred have been forgotten, and yet something lingers to tingle the back of our conscious.

The same way of our being gone for so long and our civilization so thoroughly obliterated that what we sense as unclean places are forgotten disturbs me in a way I can’t even explain.

Perhaps it is the fate of humanity to again and again build civilization, which gets forgotten along with all its sins and glories…  only to tickle the unquiet the dreams and the restless senses of those of their descendants who don’t even have any idea of their existence.

 

Sunday Vignettes by Luke, Mary Catelli and ‘Nother Mike & Promo to the Left of me, Promo to the Right – by Free Range Oyster

*Sorry this is late.  I actually did have technical difficulties with WP.  Also, okay, I’m a little afraid of this week’s word for the vignette.  What were they thinking?  – SAH*

Sunday 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: leather

Promo to the Left of me, Promo to the Right – by Free Range Oyster

I’ve nothing witty to say, so rather than attempt and get only half way, let me say that you are a wonderful bunch of folks, and I hope you enjoy these books. All hail the Beautiful but Evil Space Princess! As always, future entries for the promo post can (and should!) be sent to the new email that I messed up last time! Happy reading!

Jason Dyck, AKA The Free Range Oyster

Muse Denier, Shenanigan Enabler, Totally Not a Vegetable

TL Knighton

Sabercat

Tommy Reilly Chronicles Book 1

Despite his rich-kid roots, Tommy Reilly is struggling to make it as a freighter captain. Despite a universe of possibilities, he finds himself running afoul of both pirates and corrupt bureaucrats who seem determined to get in his way at every point. It’s like karma for his bullying past is smacking him in the back of the head.

All of that changes when a figure from his past asks for his help.

Now he’s finding himself at odds with a greedy and overly ambitious business owner who has government backing who happens to be the same man who impounded the very load he needs on his ship. The fact that the load is only the first step in securing information that could bring down the status quo might have something to do with that, however.

Tommy and his crew of misfit rejects have to use skills most of them would rather forget to secure their load, all with eyes watching them everywhere.

Alma TC Boykin

Grasping for the Crowns

The Powers Book 2

Armies and peoples clash and the Powers stir.

The war that began in 1914 grinds through 1916, tearing apart countries and families. István Eszterházy struggles to keep his family fed and his House intact, as British, Italian, and now American treachery threatens to rip the Habsburg Empire asunder. The war is winnable, but the peace the Entente demands could undo centuries of work.

And the land itself stirs as the Powers, poisoned by hatred and fed by war, begin to move. Caught between Pannonia and Galicia, between his family and his liege, István must find a way through. Or the entire empire may collapse around him.

Francis Porretto

Innocents

A novel of the Onteora Canon, set in the very near future. Genetic engineering and zygotic microsurgery have produced both wonders and horrors. Wonders such as drugs tailored to attack a specific disease in a specific sufferer, or surgery to eliminate genetically borne handicaps before mitosis can begin. Horrors such as blindness or deafness deliberately inflicted upon unborn babies, or pitiable creatures whose bodies and minds are warped to satisfy the whims of wealthy perverts.

Security specialist Larry Sokoloff is on vacation far from home, straining to forget a woman he loves but cannot have, when Fountain, a teenaged escapee from a malevolent institution, comes under his protection. What he learns of her nature and origins lays bare the darker face of the Janus of biotechnology, and catapults him and his colleague Trish McAvoy into a mission of vengeance and cleansing. For adults only.

JD Beckwith

eConscience Beta

Peacekeeper Incorporated’s breakthrough nanotechnology could bring repeat offense crime to an end, freeing society from the need for criminal incarcerations. But first, they have to finish testing it. With funding on the line, and time to prove out the project getting short, the lead scientist must find a way speed things up. That’s unfortunate for his guinea pig, and anyone who would stand in his way.

Can the goal of ending most crime justify committing one… even a few?

And what happens when you conflate altruism with egotism?

Find out in eConscience Beta, where two lab techs and an uncouth petty criminal must outwit a brilliant but sociopathic scientist who’ll stop at nothing to establish his legacy as the man who ended crime.

 

The Writer Is Lazy

There might be more Grant this weekend.  Then again there might not.

The good news is that I’m better, and Greebo is ALMOST as good as new.  The bad news (or probably part of the good news) is that I just feel like sleeping a lot, and I get this sense it’s part of the healing, so maybe I should?

Also, we probably should either decorate or put a sign upfront saying our religion doesn’t celebrate Christmas, before the neighbors get pissed.  In that case, I’d need an sfnal religion, so they can’t check, and I don’t feel like making one up.

Of course, yes, this is a disadvantage of living in the suburbs.  It is what it is.

I have other stuff I need to do, including trying out some software, but I thought I’d just chill and maybe nap.

I’m sorry about being a lazy blogger, but sometimes this stuff hits.

At War With Reality

I’m a bookish person — I know, astound you — who lives at least ninety percent of the time in her own head.  This led to some really weird times in my childhood, where I could see the ideal world so clearly but it just didn’t mesh with reality.  So I would say things like “money should be abolished” because you know, people should just trade for what they needed.

I was never stupid enough to believe top-down control would work to give to each according to their needs, and I didn’t even believe a computer could do it, because I was you know, reading science fiction and so primed for “how this goes wrong” even before I understood the concept of GIGO. (I.e. he who controls the computer, controls the world.)

But I also could see, as every bookish, idealistic kid can, the chasm between what people deserve and what they, by and large, get.

I was, of course, also not very clued in to the real world, so if someone say wasn’t doing too well at work, to me that was the most unfairest thing ever, not realizing that in a complex adult life there’s always something that is far less than perfect.  The older I get the more I give thanks on bended knee that the area of my life that’s always been less than perfect is the career and the area of life that’s close to wholly satisfactory is my marriage and my kids.  Because, screw the world, and my oeuvre, I’d sacrifice them all and the price of a cup of coffee besides if it means my kids would be all right.

Of course, even there there’s no guarantees.  There’s never any guarantees.

The cry of “but it isn’t fair” is an infant (or bookish adolescent) cry, because as you grow up you realize the world is way more complex than that.  Way more complex.

You can’t eliminate money, because the world is not the village, and there are trades far more complicated than a chicken for a large sack of onions.  Money is an imperfect means of exchange, because humans are imperfect beings.  But it is the best way to retain and transport value, until you’re ready to trade.  And it gives way more flexibility to a trade than “what I have on hand right now” for “what you have on hand right now”

I mean in what other way could my distributed fans pay me for my stories with the result of whatever the heck they do for a living, including but not limited to healing the sick.  Even I am not always sick.  Even a doctor doesn’t always need a story told.

I think I realized that around 14.  It always surprises me when other people don’t, and when they keep looking for different ways to distribute wealth than “what I have for what I want.”  Even if what you have is your time, or your company.  Marx’s crazy is that someone, someone else, extraneous to each individual making the exchange should control all the exchanges.  Worse, a group of someone’s should.

I’m not sure where he got that stupid idea, given that he too was a bookish man, and therefore probably not happy with crowds.  I think perhaps it was the gregarious Engels’ idea, and Marx went along with it, because like the perfect grifter, he couldn’t disappoint his patron.

Also being bookish and educated, both of them had the strange admiration of intellectuals for those they assume to be brutes, all want and muscle.  Frankly it would have been better for civilization if both of them had dissipated that bullsh*t in a physical way by tumbling a muscular, illiterate wench or three.  Oh, wait, Marx did that with the household help, and produced a son who was a carpenter, and therefore much more useful than his poisonous daddy who never recognized him (of course.  I mean, why would he admit to fathering a son with the maid?)

Marx’s successors and worshipers have invested that power of the crowd the only way it can be invested: in governmental bodies.  Which are somehow supposed to be perfectly fair and perfectly impartial and perfectly able to arbitrate over imperfect humans.  No, don’t ask me how, being composed of humans.  I’m not an idiot.  I’ve seen bureaucracies up close and personal, and know the sausage at the end of the process might not contain any elements of what is intended. I don’t advocate such nonsense.

Ah, but if the illusion of the “but it isn’t fair” were just monetary, it would do less harm.

I never had the illusion of “I can be anything I want.”  I’m not stupid.  I was sickly when I was born — premature — in an unheated house in the middle of a snow storm.  I remained sickly.  Mostly because my immune system tries to kill me every so often.

By the time I was twelve, I’d spent most of my life in bed, and given that Portugal hadn’t yet adapted to the idea antibiotics existed (and to be fair, mostly we had various generations of penicillin which has limits) in seclusion.  This means I spent a lot of time when I’d rather be tramping around in the sunshine, or playing with my friends, in a room that didn’t even have a window (it was the middle room of a shotgun apartment) reading comics or playing with legos and inventing friends.

Either because of long periods of inactivity and seclusion, or because I was born premature, I was always incredibly uncoordinated.  Most of the games my friends played, when I joined school, were not games I could play, no matter how much I tried.  Jump rope remains an unattainable achievement.  The elastic game (two girls hold a loop of elastic around their legs and stand about six feet apart, then one jumps in the middle, through a number of set figures in you either don’t touch or touch and warp the elastic in prescribed ways, each time in a more complicated movement) was beyond my attainments, even at its simplest.  Even when I put the elastic around two chairs and practiced, I couldn’t get past the “baby figures.”  That other people, even the dumb ones, could do this, was a source of wonder to me, but I wasn’t stupid enough to think I could do it, simply by wishing so.  Or, as I realized after a month of fruitless practice, even with much hard hardheadedness and work.

My body simply didn’t work right when it came to coordination and movement.  It wasn’t fair, but there also wasn’t a whole heck of a lot anyone could do.  I accepted what my body was, spent most of my recesses walking around, balancing on the edge of the flower beds, and eventually sitting in a corner with a good book or twenty.

In the long run it turns out that heavy reading — particularly considering my future profession — was far more useful than being able to do the elastic game.  On the other hand, maybe I’d be svelte and healthy had I been able to play the elastic game for five years of my youth.  Who knows?  Maybe some of the girls who exceeded at the elastic game would now be very happy if they could write books and get paid, which they might be able to do if they’d spent five years reading at recess.  Who knows?

Beyond economics, each of us is such a complex net-weave of influences, genetics, events that left their mark, the ideas we were exposed to, the dreams we dream, and oh, yeah, our bodies and the aptitudes and health of our bodies.

“It’s not fair” is as meaningless to this as to anything else.

Yesterday I ran into — in an otherwise sensible article — this kind of crazy, yeah, the kind of crazy that inspired the #metoo movement.  I won’t go into the lady’s claims of #metoo in the business world, except to say I doubt them, because she’s about my age, and even in Portugal stuff like asking someone to come discuss business in a hotel alone with you so you can take advantage of her was already frowned upon.

But one of her claims was that yeah, me too was necessary as long as women couldn’t walk safely alone at night.  Me too was necessary as long as women had to “endure” stuff muttered or called out to them.  And this should stop.

This is when my head hit desk with force.

You know who else can’t walk safely alone at night (unless armed): small men.

We are a bimorphic species with females being, on average, substantially smaller and weaker than men.  (Note on average.  Don’t tell me about Russian women power lifters and cubicle geeks.)  As long as that’s true, you can’t make the world safe for women.  Why not?  Because there’s always going to be one bad seed.  It’s not that most men even need to be taught not to rape.  The sane ones would rather self-castrate.  But in six or seven billion (or five, depending on how much face you put in UN numbers) there’s always going to be a few million bad seeds.  And male bad seeds will manifest in rape and violence, just as most women bad seeds manifest in manipulation, extortion and poisoning.

You can’t make the world safe for smaller and weaker people.  You can only make women good at defending yourselves.  Self defense — the extreme defense of your right to life — is your most basic right, and if you know other people are stronger and larger than you, either because you’re a woman, because you’re sickly, or because you’re young or old (and all of us will go through this at some point) it is your own duty to make sure you’re safe.

The world is not a kindergarten.  There is no benevolent teacher to ensure fairness.

And as for trying to change humans themselves, that always ends in mass graves.  Hundreds of thousands of mass graves.

Oh, and the same goes for the “stuff called out and muttered.”  Men are, by virtue of their form and function, more interested in sex than women.  Again, on average, by and a large, statistically.  Don’t compare your local female nympho to your local male celibate.  There are always extremes, but the way to bet is the other way.  Women crave connection and relationship, men crave sex.

Yeah, there’s a point we meet in the middle, and women can crave sex in a relationship as much or more than men.

But women — in general, grosso modo — don’t crave sex with random strangers.  So you won’t see a gaggle of  say female office workers, standing on a corner calling out “Mmmmm, you’re so fine” to male strangers, no matter how fine the strangers are, or how uncouth the females.

But men, in general, crave sex.  So, yeah, male construction workers are going to stand on the corner and go “mmmmm, you so fine” and worse at passing strange women.  And depending on how uncouth and desperate they are, this might be a lot more explicit, and the “fine” might extend to my dumpy, middle aged self.

This is again the price you pay for being in a bimorphic species.  Men have all the cravings and instincts of pre-human and certainly pre-civilized great apes.  The good ones control them, but there will always be a bad seed.

Don’t like it?  Find another species.  Stop trying to make women into men (“you should sleep with a lot of people.  That’s liberating” and “if you’re a stay at home mom, you betray your gender”) and stop trying to make men into women.

Not only will this crazy fill many graves, it will make sure a lot of people are never born and those who are already here have miserable lives.

Accept the world isn’t fair.  Yeah, women, someone is always going to look at you funny, make a clumsy pass, be an idiot.

If you give the government power to stop that; if you take off like a pack of baying hounds and destroy the career of every guy who ever looked at you cross eyed; if you embrace identity over rationality; if you demand equality over liberty; if you elevate the collective over the individual, it always ends the same way.

“Fairness” seems like a beautiful call.  The end is always death and destruction.

In the real world there is no such thing as equality.  The only equality to be found is in the grave, where we all decompose the same way.

Beware when you demand others twist themselves out of shape for you.  The mob will come for you eventually.  You too will dance to its rough music.

 

 

HRC: Idealism and Realism – by Amanda S. Green

HRC: Idealism and Realism – by Amanda S. Green

Here’s a hint: these don’t mean the same thing for Hillary Clinton as they do for most of the rest of us.

When I started reviewing this book, I did it as a lark. Sarah and I had discussed whether or not one of us should do it and, somehow, we decided it should be me. I expected the book to be a dissection of the election season, biased to be true, but I thought I’d be reading about the time from when Clinton declared her candidacy to when she faced defeat on Election Night. Sure, I knew there would be a few forays into her past, especially her political past since that impacted the election. What I got bears little resemblance to expectations.

For the most part, I’ve reviewed one chapter at a time. Last week’s post covered two chapters. I thought that would be a one-off because of the subject of that part of the book. Nope. I was wrong. I cover two chapters this time as well. Why? Because so much of it is a repeat of what HRC already said. The stories might not be the same but the lead-in to them is as is the import. Yes, we know she started out as an advocate and activist. Yes, we know she cares deeply (her words) about women’s issues, health care issues, civil rights, children. She has made that perfectly clear in the first 200 pages of the book.

So why is she hitting these points so hard, time and time and time again? More to the point, why is she doing so in a book that is supposed to tell us what happened in the election season? I don’t know the answer, but I have my suspicion. That suspicion grew stronger as I read these two chapters. As I said before (I think it was in last week’s post), much of this book reads like her primer for running again for President.

Heaven help us.

One of the most persistent challenges I faced as a candidate was being perceived as a defender of the status quo, while my opponents in the primaries and the general election seized the sought-after mantle of “change”. The same thing happened to me in 2008. I never could figure out how to shake it. (Pg.195)

Earlier, HRC whined – er, complained — about how the voting public perceived her and how she couldn’t understand it. Once again, she does so. The fact there were voters more than willing to discuss the issue with her didn’t matter. She had her own mantle she proudly proclaims, that of advocate and activist. She pulls out her history of working for women’s rights, etc. Her basic message is simple: “How dare we not view her the way she views herself?”

Change might be the most powerful word in American politics. (And probably the most misused and tired word after 2008 – ASG) That’s part of what makes America great. But we don’t always spend enough time thinking about what it takes to actually make the change we seek. Change is hard. That’s one reason we’re sometimes taken in by leaders who make it sound easy but don’t have any idea how to get anything done. (pg. 195)

That is probably the only thing she’s said so far in the book I agree with. Of course, we’d disagree – strongly – on who and how to apply this to. I, and so many others, said it when Obama used “Change” as his keyword when he ran for President. I said it years ago when Bill Clinton ran, not to mention good ole Jimmy Carter.

In 1992 and 2008, change meant electing dynamic young leaders who promised hope and renewal. In 2016, it meant handing a lit match to a pyromaniac. (pg 195)

What HRC doesn’t take into consideration is that what she sees as needed “change” isn’t what a large number of the voting public thought was needed. She doesn’t get that her proposed policies alienate so many who actually go to the polls on election day. She has spent so many years in Washington DC and New York that she forgot what middle America held dear.

Of course, she tries to prove her case as the “candidate of change and understanding” by recounting how she supported many of the BLM leaders and their cause. “I respected how effectively their movement grabbed hold of the national debate.  . . and I was honored when they endorsed me for President. But I was concerned when other activists [within the movement] proved more interested in disruption and confrontation than in working together to change policies that perpetuate systemic racism.” (pg 201)

Yes, there are issues regarding race and law enforcement that need to be addressed. However, it bothers me when someone who claims to be such a concerned activists limits those reforms to one group or segment of our society. Still, HRC showed her own willingness to walk back from her stance that “it was time for public officials – and all Americans really – to stop tiptoeing around the brutal role that racism has played in our history and continues to play in our politics.” (pg 201) She does so very quickly when she recounts an encounter she had with several BLM supporters who came to see her speak one day.

You see, these folks did the unspeakable. They attacked one of Bill’s law enforcement bills while he was President. Instead of coming out and just saying they were right and the bill was flawed, she characterizes their condemnation of it as “oversimplified beyond recognition.” A number of paragraphs later, she finally admits not only that the bill was flawed but that it actually made the problem it sought to solve worse. Why she couldn’t just say that, I don’t know – except it was an attack on something that had the Clinton name associated with it.

As you can see, this chapter follows the same pattern as the previous several chapters. We hear about her as the activist and advocate. We see her meeting with those who need the system to “change”. But where do we hear about the campaign and the other candidates (except for her taking another swipe at Trump)? That’s simple: she finally gets to it on page 211, twelve pages into the chapter. That’s when she begins writing about the water problem in Flint, MI and one of the debates. This is when HRC finally showed some passion and her team was thrilled.

For months, we had been losing the “outrage primary”. Bernie was outraged about everything. He thundered on at every event about the sins of “the millionaires and billionaires.” I was more focused on offering practical solutions that would address real problems and make life better for people.” (pp 211-212)

In other words, she was boring while Bernie excited people. Sound familiar? But that’s about all. She was angry about the situation and her team was excited. That’s a perfect point where she could discuss how to use that to benefit her campaign – or discuss why she chose not to, right? Instead, we get another page plus of her walking down memory lane about a town hall meeting in New Hampshire in 2015 and Kids like Jaylon, the Children’s Defense Fund. Disjointed and incomplete, much like her campaign.

Now to “Sweating the Details”. HRC was excited to take part in the “Commander in Chief Forum” on the USS Intrepid, September 7, 2016. Sponsored by NBC and moderated by Matt Lauer (stop snickering), this wasn’t going to be a debate. Each candidate would be given half an hour to speak and answer questions. The other candidate would not be onstage at the time. Trump won the coin toss and chose to go last. That left good ole Hillary to face Lauer first. “I was confident that with a real focus on substance and a clear contrast of our records, Americans would see that I was ready to be Commander in Chief, and Donald Trump was dangerously unprepared.” (pg 218)

Lauer led off by asking HRC to discuss the most important characteristic the Commander in Chief can possess. Okay, am I the only one who could see where this was going before HRC answered? The problem is HRC didn’t see it. Instead, she left herself wide open to what would follow by discussing steadiness. Even when Lauer clarified her answer by saying “You’re talking about judgment,” she didn’t see what was about to happen. It was only when she saw his expression that she thought he might be about to ask or say something she wasn’t expecting.

Yep, you got it. E-mails.

It was disappointing but predictable that he had so quickly steered the supposedly high-minded “Commander in Chief Forum” to the subject of emails, months after the director of the FBI had announced there was no case and closed the investigation. (page 219) And therein lies part of the problem with HRC. She still doesn’t understand that the emails and her private server presented a problem for the American public. She didn’t get that we saw it as a security issue, no matter what the FBI director said. We saw it as a trust issue – remember all those erased emails? How many people remembered the erased Nixon tapes and wondered what HRC was trying to hide?

This was her chance to answer some of those concerns. Instead, by her own words, she “launched into my standard answer on the emails, one I’d given a thousand times before.” (page 220) She couldn’t be bothered to take a moment to respond to Lauer about it and that would soon bite her in the ass, something she really did not appreciate (and something she makes clear in the book).

Lauer turned to a question from one of the veterans NBC had picked to be in the audience. He was a self-described Republican, a former Navy lieutenant who had served in the first Gulf War, and he promptly repeated the right-wing talking point about how my email use would have landed anyone else in prison. Then he asked how he could trust me as President “when you clearly corrupted our national security?”

Now I was ticked off. (pp 220-221)

The lack of respect for a veteran fairly drips from the page. First, note what was more important to HRC – the fact he was a “self-described Republican”. I don’t remember whether he said that at the time he asked the question or if this is something her team dug up later. But that was more important that the fact he served in the Navy, was in the first Gulf War or anything else. She also left me with the feeling that she would have been happier if there had been no Republicans in the audience, much less allowed to ask her questions. Really open minded, isn’t she?

Then we are treated to a page or more about how Lauer was mean to her. He asked four follow-up questions about her emails. He didn’t ask a “policy” question until the end of her time and then didn’t give her time to really respond. She mourns the fact she hadn’t “pushed back hard on his question.” My question is simple. Why didn’t she? This is the same sort of excuse she’s made before in the book. She could have pushed back when Trump “invaded her space”. She could have pushed back now. But she didn’t. Why? And why should we want a Commander in Chief who won’t stand up for herself – or himself?

The telling statement comes after she spends more time complaining about how Lauer didn’t go after Trump the way he did her. “Sadly, though, millions of people watched.” (page 222) Wait, what? She would have preferred those millions of people not to watch, not to try to become informed on the issues and on the candidates they would soon be voting for or against? How much does it say about HRC that she would have preferred her less than stellar performance not to be seen?

There’s another swipe at Bernie – note the theme. It is never her fault.

No matter how bold and progressive my policy proposals were – and they were significantly bolder and more progressive than anything President Obama or I had proposed in 2008 – Bernie would come out with something even bigger, loftier, and leftier, regardless of whether it was realistic or not. That left me to play the unenviable role of spoilsport schoolmarm, pointing out that there was no way Bernie could keep his promises or deliver real results. (pp226-227) In other words, it was Bernie’s fault for playing her game better than she did. Riiight. There’s more, including the allegation that he’d promised not to make personal attacks and failed to carry through with that promise.

Now, remember back at the beginning of the post when I said I had my suspicions about why HRC really wrote the book? The last nine pages or so of the chapter deal almost exclusively with what HRC would have done in the first 100 days of her presidency as opposed to what Trump did. It reads like a campaign speech. It even includes digs at Trump’s appointments. But, above all that, it reads like a politician practicing her speech before going on the campaign trail.

One thing has become perfectly clear as I read this book. No, not that HRC is still bitter and angry that we weren’t smart enough to elect her President. No, it’s not that she isn’t smart enough to take the lessons she should have learned when she lost the nomination to Obama and applied it to the last election. It is that she lives in her own world of reality in which she is the star, the center of the universe. It is that she expects the world to mold itself to fit her sense of reality instead of taking the hard look at herself and asking the hard questions.

And, with the next chapter entitled “Making History”, I have no hope of that changing.

(You can find the other installments in this series at the following links: What Happened or How I Suffered for this Blog and had to ShareGrit and GratitudeHRC Gets Caught TryingA New Deal, A Square Deal or How She Wanted to be the Next Roosevelt, It’s All His Fault, and Turning Mourning into a Movement.)

[I know this is hard to watch, imagine what it must be like to read the book.  If you want to help finance Amanda’s liquor bill, use this address  Send the woman a drink-SAH]

Our Debt To Society

Having been what’s known as fried, between rewrite and health and cat health (Greebo is doing better, thank you) I have defaulted to my reading tier that’s one step above Disney Comics (which as some of you know are my go-to when sick/brain dead.)  Yep, Jane Austen fanfic.

And I keep hearing of “our debt to society” and “Doing what we owe society” and “doing our duties to society.”

If this makes you squirm, it does me too.  But here is a refreshing difference between these, which stay largely true to the regency and modern day regencies, with modern day sensibilities: they’re not talking about money.  They’re not even talking about charity.

Sure, charity was part of the duties of a lady of the manor in regency England.  But it usually wasn’t indiscriminate charity.  There might be an organization to rescue “soiled doves” or to educate the children of the poor.  But most of the charity duties of the lady began at home: among her tenants and her husband’s employees.  This was just good sense, since of course, in small communities, you’d know who the deserving poor were, and who the hopeless grifters.

But that’s not included in what all this “duty to society” thing.

Your duty to society is to be involved in it.  To do your part, in whatever position in life you’re involved in.  Do your visiting/mingle with your peers/discuss the news of the day.

That was viewed as a duty.  Charity or even paying your taxes?  Not so much.

Remember, this was pre-Marx, and it was not assumed that if you had a lot of money, you must have stolen it, since the economy for Marxists is a fixed pie.

Instead, your duty was to evaluate your neighbors’ characters and try to improve whatever group you mingled with.  With a view to being virtuous and compassionate yourself (and compassion often meant empathy and understanding more than money.)

It is amazing to look back on this from our day and age, when compassion, duty, etc, is all about money, and when the left side of the isle is losing its mind because the government is allowing us to keep a fraction more of the fruits of our labor.

To read them, civilization is coming apart.

Poor little materialists.  To them compassion and caring has the sound of caching, and your property belongs to them by right of conquest.

It’s interesting to note — and for us introverts to remember — that being social apes, humans DO need social contact.  In fact, recent studies show we need a dismaying something like 3 hours a day (though it need not be prolonged.)

It’s also interesting to note that we’ve not only found that the economy is not a fixed pie, and rich people don’t automatically owe something to the poor, but that indiscriminate charity and “help” are often counterproductive.  Case in point, on a macro scale is Africa where international charity has held back native development and industry for about a century.  On a micro scale, I’m sure you each know a case or two.

I wouldn’t want to live in the regency, of course.  I like today’s tech, and I’m very, very fond of the greater freedom women enjoy as individuals now.  (Though a woman of my age and education would always have had a certain freedom.)

However, it’s interesting to note that the models of the world we had before Marxism oozed into literally every field of endeavor were apparently more in tune with reality.

Shocking.  I know.

But it tells you things can be rebuilt.  We just need to erase the crazy cakes, non functional eructations of Marx from our mental map.  It’s not easy, but it can be done.

Shoulder to the wheel.

Do it for the children.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Go Small Young People, Go Small – A Blast From the Past From March 2016

*Sorry, still recovering from whatever the heck respiratory thing hit me, and in a deadline crunch.- SAH*

Go Small Young People, Go Small – A Blast From the Past From March 2016

There is a movement afoot to make our kids content with less.  My sons, both of them, like their parents, unable to comprehend the fact that body and mind have limits, have always dreamed big.  Now mind you most of their dreams are not predicated on “I will own” but on “I will do.”  In that they also resemble us, aka “why we’re not rich”: because while we don’t want anyone to pay our way, our work has always been geared to what we want to do and what we feel must be accomplished than merely to “I must get rich.”

No, the two are not exclusive, and getting rich doing what you feel must be done is the ultimate objective, but my husband has the tendency to refuse advancement which means he can no longer do the work he loves and I… I refused to “sell out” in a way and it wasn’t all politics.  It was also that the books that make you a darling of the industry could put an insomniac to sleep and are, therefore, torture to write.  At least for me, your mileage may vary, void where prohibited, etc.  (And the laugh line in all this is that the books I’d consider selling out and the ones I consider following my drive are completely reversed for the people using those terms.)  As for the activities purely designed to make money, neither of us could ever stay with them for very long.

Which explains why we’re not rich, and why there is a very strong chance our children won’t be.  That is not what the school was preparing them from.  In “job day” after “job day,” my kids would listen then come home baffled with some variation of “My classmates want to be bureaucrats who make a median salary, marry a median woman, drive a median car and have one or two median children.  None of them wants to push, invent, take risks, or make any waves at all.  And I can feel the push to be the same.  It’s what they want for us.”

If this were planned, I’d say it was attempt to make us like Sweden where the world “enough” has double plus GOOD connotations.  I’d say that it was an attempt, in other words, to make the American people suitable to Euro Socialism.

I don’t believe it’s planned.  Not in most of the people pushing for that.  I think it’s part of fifty years of education that pushed “the world is overpopulated”, “humanity is a burden” and “diet for a small planet,” and other bits of insanity.  The teachers and others pushing this point of view honestly think humans are scary and dangerous and if they don’t outright go out and start mowing them down, they try to convince them to do the equivalent of curling up in the fetal position and pretending not to be there.  (And don’t get me started on the pledges not to reproduce pushed at 12 year olds.  Just don’t.  It won’t go well.)

This is not what I mean by going small.  I don’t mean destroying your hopes and burying your ambitions and “leaving light footprints” or any of that nonsense.  I believe humanity has as many rights as any other species to “Grow, multiply, and fill the face of the Earth.”  More, maybe, since we have the means to control our environment that other species lack.  More, because if Earth’s biome ever explands to the stars — its one chance at survival in the truly long scales — it will be because humans took it there.

IOW, growth is what life does and human life is not less than other life.

What I mean by going small is different.

I’ve confessed before that before 9/11 I was an INTERNATIONALIST Libertarian.  This tends to make people who know me look at me as though I’d grown a second, evil head, and I confess those ten years were a sort of holiday from reason and thought.  The fairytale was so pretty I wanted to to work.  Besides, I have friends in a lot of countries who could work in a “one world” sort of thing.

Oh, I knew better — duh and derp — of course I did.  I knew most countries in the world are kleptocracies and this is not just the result of bad politics, but of bad culture.  The culture infects the politics and makes them what they are.  The country I came from still gets its politics from Rome, aka “rule of law? what rule of law?” or “he who has no godfather dies in jail.”  And this is not overcome by selling them slogans.  Their form of government changed at least 3 times (in macro movements) in the twentieth century but “the way things are done” didn’t, as it hasn’t in at least 2000 years and probably more, because that’s culture and the only way cultures change that rapidly is through major trauma, like invasion or mass death and even then never that much (and also there’s a boomerang tendency to revert) as Portugal’s history is example.

But I wanted to believe.  Not in a whole world of brotherwood or a Coke commercial, but in a world of free humans working together.

I read Grumbles from the Grave and P.J. O’Rourke’s all the trouble in the World and Eat the Rich and foreign news and history, but you can picture me with hands over ears going “lalalalalalala.”

9/11 shattered that and at any rate I was always a bizarre sort of internationalist as I was an American patriot and for small governments and didn’t wish national identities to be abolished, only, somehow, for countries to work in harmony for free minds and free markets.  (And for my next trick, I shall make this elephant fly.  Fly, elephant, fly.)

9/11 shattered my “lalalalalala.” It shattered a lot of people’s more serious belief in “one world” government/polity/entity whatever you wish to call it.

This is a very old idea, a very old thought, that people came up with to “prevent war.”  i.e. “if we all were one nation, there would be no war.”  Which is stupid, given the number and nature of civil wars throughout human history, but never mind.

The generation that fought WWI embraced it with the fervor of desperate, shell-shocked children.  This is why so many of the early science fiction books assume it, and so many of the tv series use it not just as a background for humanity, but as part of what makes a world/breed/etc civilized.

This seems more plausible to America than anywhere else because, as noted here before, our states have a very different culture but the same, overlaying structures that ensure easy movement between states and communication between every citizen, as well as a sense of belonging.  It’s easy to think this means we could extend it to the world and make it the same.

It’s easy to think but impossible to implement.  I’ve heard that entire Italian villages moved en mass to NY in the early 20th century.  This might be true but I suspect it’s a bit of an exaggeration.  It’s more “everyone who was young and who had a mind to succeed moved.”  IOW those who came what was then (due to slowness of travel, and expense) an almost for sure one-way trip were of a different mind as those left behind.  They were also, consciously or not, willing to work to shed their centuries of culture and the things that made the land they came from what it was.

This is not the same now, because travel is a few hours and relatively cheap.  We see the problem of this in moves between states too.  Used to be you moved, you adapted to local ways of doing things.  Moves were always piece-meal anyway save for great migrations caused by massive disturbances.  And even then The Grapes of Wrath might have overstated the matter a bit. Now it’s easier to move between states for a job or an opportunity, and that means when states become inimical to job creation, they send vast hordes forth to get jobs elsewhere.  Hordes that bring with them their way of voting that made the initial state inimical to job creation.  Or as we call it around these parts, Californication.

Partly in reaction to that, and partly because it’s obvious attempting to get people to reject their country isn’t working, and partly because we have been pounded for a century, via all forms of media and education with the idea of “identities” hinging on totally insane things like skin color, food preferences and a myriad other incidental characteristics, there is a nativist/racial/statist movement afoot. Now that movement is more plausible than the one-worlders.  I never understood how, having determined that dividing people into economic classes and setting them against each other wouldn’t bring about paradise, the one-worlder Marxists convinced themselves setting people against each other by melanin content and what is between their legs and other more or less arbitrary characteristics would a) yield uniform classes and b) bring about utopia.  I think the underwear gnome was involved in their plans.  And it is also, invariably involved in the “national identititarians” plan.

There aren’t many of them, mind, but like the one worlders they are convinced the world is inevitably going to go their way and they’re the way of the future.  Look, guys, if you find an arrow in history tell me, okay?

And like the one-worlders, their conviction comes partly from the belief humans are widgets.  All they disagree on is what divides one set of widgets from the other.

Unfortunately for them and everyone else who has  sought to impose an arrow on history, humans aren’t widgets, and even if there is such things as an “average” woman or man, worker or intellectual, Masai cowherd or German goatheard, the “average” is a mathematical construction created by statistics and if you meet these people you find that each is highly individual.

And the tendency to view people as “average” and “median” and to divide them according to statistical characteristics is a twentieth century characteristic born of the typical industry of the twentieth century.  I.e. when the watchword of the century was the refinement of the previous century’s “mass manufacturing” and “mass production” one had to know what the average or median person wanted.

Because while people aren’t widgets, it is possible to produce something with the maximum appeal to most of them.  Surveys, statistics, etc, all reveal what’s the most acceptable to the majority of people.

If there are two TV channels (what I grew up with) none of them is going to devote three days to an extended documentary on dinosaurs, because the majority of people would be bored stiff by that, have their eyes roll inward on their skull, and go to sleep.

But if there are 300 channels, one of them can be the “dedicated dinosaur channel” and it will find enough audience to survive.

The technology of the time didn’t allow 300 channels, or personal 3-D printing, or authors to put their own books up for sale, worldwide.

For the two centuries before us, the economies of scale and mass production have tended to try to make everyone as close to the same as possible, so the industry could provide them with the means for civilized living.

And that’s where the one worlders’ dreams came from.  “Make everyone the same and everyone will be happy.”  (Not quite that way, but you get a whiff of this in early Heinleins.  Never that stupid, because the man had a brain, and knew there would be malcontents anyway.

The nationalists’ dreams come from seeing the obvious flaws in that, the persistent nature of culture, the horrors of trying to make many nations one.  Because that never ends well.  And it is aided and abetted by “the future and its enemies.”  Ie. the bureaucrats and other classes that have grown fat on the nation-state and who therefore long to extend and expand their power.  Mind, it’s much easier to be a kleptocrat over a more or less small and homogeneous nation.

And they come too from the fact that nation-states have been sold for what? three centuries now, as a form of uber-identity that replaced religion as Europe became industrialized.

Only nation-states are children of mass production, took off at the same time as the industrial revolution, and are, in the end, wholly artificial creations in human history.

Sure, humans identify with/are designed to identify with a tribe.  And the tribe is, as far as studies can determine, suppose to be about 50.  A couple hundred people, at the most. IOW “Me and my cousins.”

That means when the nation state “stole” tribal affiliation and put it to work for the nation state it had to pervert it.  It had to devote its not inconsiderable mass-media and mass education to make people think of the nation as a tribe.  This was probably (mostly) not done on purpose, though heaven knows I’ve read my shre of books approved of and designed by central states selling the idea of “the Portuguese race” or “the British Race” or even “The German race.”

Even in countries as small as Great Britain or Portugal, the regional differences are vast, the tribal loyalties often vivid and vociferous and the cracks the nation-state papers over momentous.  For “countries” like Italy or Germany, children of the nation state movement, itself, it is about as accurate to speak of a national identity as it is to speak of a Kenyan or Rwandan national identity.  The borders were drawn by bureaucrats, planners (or conquerors) and have bloody nothing to do with the “tribes” underneath.

The only way to keep the nation state cohesive and to sell them on the idea they are a tribe (and thus harness the instinctual need for a tribe) is constant propaganda by mass-media means, and the harnessing of people’s longing for a great tribal leader which was probably evolutionarily sane when we lived in hominid bands (IOW yesterday in evolutionary terms.)

This is why nation states are always and forever looking for the man on the white horse, the father of the nation, etc.  IOW it’s why the twentieth century was the twentieth century.

But the thing to remember is that the nation state on a large scale, itself, was a creation of mass industrialization.  Even the empires of the past were different.  Even the Roman idea of making everyone a Roman citizen was a different thing, because they had no mass media and no way to sell “we are tribe.”  So the Roman citizen might adopt a lot of the identity but it was overlaid on his local identity of Celt or Greek, and the underlying identity was made to work with the overarching one, instead of being crushed by it.

In the same way, even old and on an European scale relatively large countries like France, took centuries to eliminate — by education and identification, and ultimately by force — other linguistic/cultural groups within themselves. Because they couldn’t put on TV programs every morning telling children they loved Big Brother.

What I mean is that the last two centuries of civilized life have been profoundly unnatural for humans.  Look, not complaining.  Natural is sleeping naked in the Savannah.

But the point is that the type of industry and communication that brought about these massive nation states (the bigger the better) with their massive bureaucracies is being replaced by “smaller, more personal, more agile.”

This doesn’t mean the future is ripe for one-world.  On the contrary.  And it doesn’t mean the world is ripe for nation-states.  On the contrary.

Go small, young people, go small.

I’ve been watching this work in my own industry, where the most agile people are the ones doing well, and to the extent that publishers will survive (let alone thrive) it will be the ones who are willing to keep as small a staff as possible, subcontract/pay bounties on individual jobs that need to be done for books, and generally be capable of shedding/adding functions as the market conditions evolve.  (I’m not saying that the big publishers won’t stay around.  It takes a long time to kill a behemoth.  Just that they in no way are suited to the conditions on the ground now.)

It’s sort of the same with nation-states.  Nation states serve some vital functions that smaller groupings (and certainly our individual, tribal groupings) aren’t very good at: mutual defense.  Construction of large scale things, some of which will still be needed, like, say highways, and ultimately the suppression of tribalism.

But Sarah, you just said tribalism was good!  No, I said tribalism is natural, and you have to accept it’s there, and by tribalism I mean the fighting of groups of about 100 people against groups of about 100 people, whether the fight is financial, of words or physical.  We identify with an “extended family” of blood or not, and will defend it against all comers.  It’s what makes humans so admirable — and so screwed up.

The bad side of that is that left on their own anything larger than a medium city would be a nightmare of internecine warfare, and why the one-worlders and “governments will just wither away” people are nuts.

So the overarching government of nation or state is needed to keep the tribal impulses at bay and to guide the entity to the common good.

But what the twentieth century has shown us is that decisions should be made on as local a level as possible, not only because people accept that better, but because people closer to the problem are less likely to think it’s a great idea to sow wheat in the snow or to teach all the kids that the sky is made of green cheese.  Not that as small as possible rule doesn’t also go wrong.  We all know tyrannical families and crazy-cakes small cities.But when polities that small are completely insane, at least the damage is contained, while when an entire country goes batexcrement insane you get WWII.

So it would seem the ideal political organization for what our industry is becoming and what our technology is enabling would be a “nation state” loosely connected and with a relatively powerless central government whose only function would be to prevent inner strife, defend the nation (both in the sense of war and guarding the borders) and oh, I don’t know, provide for the common good by arbitrating those projects that must be large enough to span all the myriad states that otherwise comprise the nation.

And each of such states and each of the entities under them should be as free to govern themselves as possible, each unite, down to the individual, retaining as much autonomy as physically and mentally possible.

Such state would be very agile and able to change itself in an era when technology and industry are changing at an incredibly fast rate.  It would be a chaos dancer, capable of being both very large and very small, and flowing into the future seamlessly.

Of course, such a country would not have survived very well in the nineteenth and twentieth century when the ideas of the mass-industrialized “tribe” nationalistic state were ascendant and what every right thinking person “knew.”  And it would have trouble, being relatively powerless at the central level, countering the naked aggression of those nation-states. So it would change to fit the times.

It is probably pure coincidence that the way it was founded is now more suited to the coming technology and industry.  Or possibly because the coming industry and techonology allow for the emergence of very old tendencies in humans, it was designed that way by people who thought deeply about the nature of humans.

I’m not a materialist determinist.  I don’t believe that the material conditions determine the mental and emotional state of men by themselves.  In many ways not only doesn’t man live by bread alone, but man lives by belief alone, in that he is able to hold on to beliefs contrary to reality even when it destroys everything around a culture/nation/etc.  Look at North Korea or Cuba.

But by and large, and always providing for stragglers, the way the cultures of humanity are expressed, the way people LIVE is determined by the technology/industry of the time.

Thus, mass industrialization birthed the nation state.  And as mass industrialization is tottering, the nation state as we know it (which is not the same as tribal identification/regional loyalty, etc, but is an overarching bureaucratic entity selling itself as a tribal entity) is tottering with it.

This is not to say the one-worlders are right — I can’t imagine a HUMAN world in which they would be right. You can’t just blend all human cultures and come up with anything usable.  The only possible one-world government would be in a world settled exclusively by one culture.  And even there, as the world population grows, it will fragment.

In fact, both nation-states and one-worlders are ideas of the past, brought about by mass-everything.

I expect the world of more individualized everything will bring about a lot of small units — down to the individual — that connect upwards in ever larger/less powerful entities, till at the top of a large enough territory is one that just provides for the common welfare (ie. too big to be done in small scale) and common defense.

Where I differ from other people who see that and see “one world” is that there are common cultures and common geographic areas that must be respected, and people are not widgets.  The importation of say masses of middle easterners into Germany is not possibly while watching out for the common defense and welfare of Germany.  Not that Germany is really an ethnic entity (it is composed of smaller tribes, and since WWII it has absorbed masses of immigrants) but because it is a geographical and cultural entity and you can’t simply move individuals in and out of those.

In other words, I think we need nations.  I just think in the coming era those that survive, thrive and make their citizens rich will be those that are as decentralized as possible at their center, while defending themselves and understanding the cultures that comprise them.

How we get there is something else.  It will happen, because humans always adapt to the changes in tech and industry.

But it’s not straight forward or rational.  Which is why at least half (and possibly more) of the right AND left feeling we’ve gone down a wrong path are reaching back for solutions, but not far enough back, which is why there seems to be a growing consensus for national socialism.

It won’t work.  It’s like the publishing houses trying to solve their problems by pricing e-books higher and giving myriad interviews about how ebooks are vanishing.

The denial of reality is strong in humans and can be imposed for a period of time, but not on the whole world and not without consequences.

The future is small, more fragmented and overall (not accounting for small pockets of tyranny) much freer.

IOW in the end we win, they lose.

Getting there, OTOH, as any great movement in “how we live” in the history of humanity is going to involve convulsions and conflicts and mass-scale dislocations that will at times feel the world is coming apart at the seams.

That’s because it is. But it doesn’t follow, no matter how painful the process, that what results from that is a bad thing.

The important thing is to neither prematurely try to make the world burn nor (prematurely also) reach for a solution of the recent past.  Both of them are normal human reactions, but both of them will do nothing but delay the solution and create devastation and suffering.

In the end, the future is small.  And if we can get there it would enable the biggest and most glorious form of human civilization yet:agile and capable of rapid change and keeping the bad side of the human nature to as small a group as possible, while maximizing human ability to create and prosper.

Go small, young people, go small. And dream big.

 

 

 

 

Turmoil

There are things that turn your life upside down without being really major.  In the last two weeks it’s been an upper respiratory infection my husband and I keep sharing, and lately the fact that Greebo, editor-at-tuna at Baen has been under the weather with the same.  Now, it’s unlikely it’s the same virus (though it does happen viruses cross the species barrier, it’s very rare) but still.

The “we have a cold” is just annoying, honestly.  Both of us know we’re probably not going to die from this, though I need to keep up with the asthma meds, as already being clogged up make it harder to get through asthma attacks.

OTOH when Greebo stops eating and starts hiding in that pose cats do when when they think they’re very, very ill and possibly going to die (scrunched against the wall in a small space) I panic.

We were about ready to take him to the vet for hydration when last night he started acting more like himself (we did take him to vet for antibiotics on the off chance it was bacterial.)  He came up on the bed for about an hour of pets, and ended up falling asleep in the crook of my elbow.  (Very flattering and at 16.5 lbs of cat incredibly uncomfortable.)

But he’s still not fully himself, because he waited till nine thirty to herd me into the office.  For which I’m grateful because my upper respiratory issue, which was almost gone, came back with a vengeance, possibly due to stress/worry.

When I was a little girl and I asked grandma what she wanted for Christmas, she would answer something like “All I want is a year of good health.”

At some point, mom started giving the same answer combined with pious statements like “You don’t know what a value your health is till it’s gone.”

Now, my health sucks, as it’s always sucked.  I have spent most of my life “down with something.”

My older son says that and the depressive tendencies are how Himself keeps me from taking over the world.  I think he grossly overestimates me.

But here’s the thing: since turning fifty the health is markedly worse.  Not in the “main” part of when I’m ill, but the times between.  I.e. when I’m “okay” I’m not as okay.

I’m half convinced people who stop walking/stop going upstairs, etc just have low tolerance for pain.  Because at some point, after fifty, something is going to hurt all the time.  At some point, you just make a decision to carry on, forge on, live on, and not let it limit you (which is not the same as not taking care of yourself, though I do have some attacks of that too, when I get impatient.)

After fifty if you baby yourself too much, you’re going to end up cutting off capacities.

It’s sort of the same thing with my writing.  I don’t know when it was I realized I’d never make it “big” for a given definition of “big.”  And no, I don’t know if it’s the writing, the political opinions, or the fact that I simply am very odd.  It’s probably “yes” or “all three” so that even if I fix the other two, the politics will keep me out of the big time.

Also there’s the fact that the writing success “ladder” is melting away under me as I climb.  (I swear I didn’t break it.)  Mostly traditional publishing is dying from an inability to face reality.  Senescence, you could say, just like your body when it stops healing as well, as you get older.

Now, I can’t save the writing field (not my circus, not my monkeys) or even mainstream publishers (other than Baen, who sort of isn’t, they wouldn’t touch me with a tent foot pole anyway) but I can not give up.

It’s not easy.  Knowing that there’s a limit to what you can achieve, no matter how hard you try, is like those constant pains in my knees from the auto-immune arthritis.  It holds you back.  As my friend Dave Freer says so often “you get battle fatigue.  You lose the “get up and go””

But I figure it’s like the pains in the body as it ages.  If I give in to despondency and despair, all it means is that I’ll be limiting myself, making myself small and incapable.  Sure, there are things I probably can never do.  But you know, I do believe there’s something else hereafter, and if I get there I want to be able to say “Well, it didn’t work the way You wanted it, and yeah, it’s likely my fault for being mouthy and not having a good poker face, but damn it, I tried.  I gave it my best shot.”  I don’t want to say “I knew it wouldn’t get anywhere, so I gave up.”

Because I don’t know where the writing comes from, or why I’m compelled to do it, I’ll continue doing as much as I can, through turmoil, illness and various disappointments.  Because the thing isn’t entirely under my control, and maybe there’s a reason for that.

The world, on the other hand, is safe from my taking over it.  At least while I’m completely congested.  Afterwards, we’ll see.

Sunday Vignettes by Luke, Mary Catelli and ‘Nother Mike – This Time it’s Warped

Sunday Vignettes by Luke, Mary Catelli and ‘Nother Mike – This Time It’s Warped

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: bent

This Thing Isn’t ENTIRELY Under my control

So this week I actually got exercised enough at some guy pontificating on what writers need and how we’re essential to the republic (rolls eyes) not to mention the “censorship of the market” (that’s people not buying books they don’t like, yo.  In case you don’t understand fancy prog-speech) that I wrote the world’s longest fisk.

For those interested, it’s here.

This led to a bunch of arguments all over the net, including on Brad Torgersen’s page, where a junior asshat came and lectured me about how if I’m not writing JUST for the lurv, I shouldn’t be writing.  And when I pushed back on his nonsense, he started telling me to go copulate with myself.

Among his many insane statements was that most great writers never made a living from their work, and that’s why writers should write only for the lurv.  The only great writers who didn’t make a living from their work were those who suffered from personality defects (or bad luck) that precluded marketing.  The only ones of those we consider great were lucky enough to have their work fall into good marketeer’s hands when they died, because, think about it, if their work never got disseminated widely, we wouldn’t consider it great.

The myth of the great artist writing things “ahead of his time” is a pernicious one, and might very well (I haven’t researched) be part of the Marxist take over of art.  If they can convince people the art they hate is just because the artist is “ahead of his time” they garner critical praise that would otherwise be lacking, and push incredibly bad world-built books (New England a theocratic state in modern times.  SNORT. GIGGLE) into the reading lists in every school which then make the book a commercial success, of course.

Most great writers were admired not to say loved in their own time.  Yes, some like Dumas ended up dead-ass broke, but that’s where the personality defects come in.  It’s possible to make a ton of money and end up broke. To be fair, Dumas was probably the most stable of his quirky, insane family.

Note that when I say this I’m arguing against myself, since my work has failed to be astoundingly successful.  Is it lack of push, wrong political color, or am I simply not both accessible enough and different enough to leave a footprint?  Don’t know.  Could, for all I know, be luck and also personality defect.  Yesterday, watching a much more junior writer sell himself, I realized I couldn’t praise myself half so much without vomiting, because I AM aware in the long distance I am but an egg.  Yet other people assure me that level of self-selling is what it takes.  Fine. Personality defects.  Unfortunately my work will after my death fall into the hands of two boys who frankly couldn’t give away gold nuggets at a cent a piece, so I am one of those who will be forgotten.

But after said asshat erased the thread (probably because I pointed out to him he wasn’t using logic in any way, shape or form) I was thinking about that.  Is your best work done because you have to, or because you need a paycheck?  I’ve had friends who are far more successful than I say “you should write only what you love.”  Which is… interesting, even if that particular friend was under the impression I was writing tie-ins.  (I never have because I don’t even GET media.  I read for fun.)

It’s interesting because it’s not been my experience.

Look, in the course of a long career, under traditional publishing (and maybe indie, because you owe it to fans to finish series they love) all of us write things that are the last thing we want to write at that moment.

Take the Magical British Empire.  When I sketched it out and started sending the proposal out it was 98, and I was an Internationalist Libertarian and also trying to write “literary fantasy.”  I really, really, really wanted to write it.  When this series was accepted in 2010 (?) I think, I was a chastised, far more realistic libertarian, who had realized through the Shakespeare series that while I can write lit fan, it’s not my thing.  But they were paying me, and I needed the money.  Two boys in middle and high school and…. I wrote it.  It was hard as hell though, and a slog.

Now, it didn’t do markedly well, granted.  But it did about as well as things I absolutely loved when I wrote them, like Draw One In The Dark, which also didn’t do markedly well.

Or take the shifters’s series.  I still love it, and I’m aware I need to do a fourth book, but other stuff that must be written NOW because it’s under contract gets ahead of it.

Take the furniture refinishing mysteries.  They were pushed at me because the musketeers were “failing” and so the last in the contract was turned to a furniture refinishing mystery.  I wrote that thing in two weeks, and while I enjoyed it, it was almost devised as a way to make my then editor run screaming.  To be honest she hated it, but the fans LOVED it.  It still sells amazingly well.

Or take Plain Jane.  I was invited to work on this series on the queens of Henry VIII.  I wanted Kathryn Howard.  I got Jane Seymour.  I had not a clue what to write about her (most boring life till she died giving birth) so I put it off until I was literally getting daily phone calls, because the book needed to go to press.

Then I wrote 80k words in three days.  As seems to be a theme of my life, no one had given me the guidelines, so I didn’t even know the concept was “life of a queen told by her best friend.”  So no one even read it, because what I wrote was Jane Seymour, herself.

That d*mn thing still sells.  It’s more than a decade old, and I still get royalties every quarter.

Now, was it written with love and interest?  Are you kidding me?  It was written with “I must deliver, it’s under a house name, just do something.”  In this case I cast it in the mold of a Cinderella story and fit in the historical things we know.  And it sells.  Good Lord it sells.

Is there some intrinsic quality to the books I was compelled to write?  Say A Few Good Men?  A feel, a glow lacking in Plain Jane?

If there is the public doesn’t see it, and the humbling thought is that I might one day be remembered only for that paint-by-numbers work.

So, should you write for the love or for money?

Again, in the course of a long writing career, you’ll do both, at different times.  I’d have quit the business in 2003 if we hadn’t been so stupid as to buy a house before selling the other, and weren’t therefore in the position of paying double mortgages.  But even though my heart was broken at how they’d treated the Shakespeare trilogy, I couldn’t quit.  We had to pay or lose the house.  And so I wrote on, and somewhere along the line found my heart again.

But does it matter for “quality”?  Define quality.  If it’s for “critical acclaim” I’m not looking for it, and frankly nowadays books are mostly subjected to Marxist critique, (Whether it’s called that or not) so mine need not apply.  If by quality you mean “more people will like it” all indications are my great work was written in three days, while concussed and strictly for the cash.

Yeah, but do writers have to write, whether they’re paid or not?  I don’t know.  I’ve met both varieties.  I’ve met people who love writing (to an extent and most of time me) and people who write to have written/get paid.  The success is uniform among both groups.  I.e. same percentage make money from writing/are acclaimed.

Me?  I’m broken. I have to write, and I have to write fiction.  Failing everything else, I write endless Jane Austen Fanfic.  (I’ve never fallen so low as to write Disney Ducks fanfic, but don’t quote me, that might be a project for my 90s.)  In fact over the last decade I’ve come to realize if I don’t write fiction for a long period of time, it’s because I’m ill, and probably deathly ill.

What I write is often informed by what’s under contract/people love though.  Except when something highjacks me and rides my brain without my permission.

So, it’s human, but is it art?  I don’t know.

I’m grateful I can write.  It gives me great pleasure.  I’m gratified when it ALSO brings in money.  The rest?  Not mine to decide.

The thing isn’t exactly under the my control.  Sometimes I think I am but the imperfect instrument of that which writes through me.

And the best I can hope for is that at the end, the Author will deem me worthy of having been written.