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Oh, the Humanity

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So, in my deep dive into human origins (it’s all Francis Turner’s fault, really) and the origins of various groups in Europe I came across what seems now to be a more or less established fact: that modern Europeans are the result of a mix between Early European Farmers ( likely immigrated from somewhere near Anatolia, btw the group that Otzi belonged too.  They looked, and genetically resemble modern Sardinians.) and the Indo European herder invaders, the Yamnaya.

The curious thing is that Europeans have mostly maternal lines from Early European Farmers and paternal lines from the Yamnaya.

The conclusion drawn (and not wrong, though probably not absolutely right either) is that the Yamnaya killed the EEF and took their women.

This is part of the view of man as the killer ape that shaped so much of the thought in the seventies, and incidentally gave rise to — if not the whole — an entire strain of New Wave Science fiction.

Incidentally this helped shape the idea that humans should never go to other planets, and over time poisoned generations with a hatred for their own species and a drive to self-extinction which we unfortunately see a lot of in the new generation.

Pinches nose bridge.

Yeah, okay I fell for it.  Remember I was very young. At fourteen the idea that humans were uniquely bad and killers wasn’t implausible.  After all, you know, adults who had degrees were saying this stuff, they probably knew something I didn’t know.

Turns out not so much.  It was mostly hysteria from the (then) most pampered generation in history at the idea that war existed and they might be required to serve, or worse, they might die in a nuclear exchange.  The second was scary, admittedly, and no one who didn’t grow up with the hammer hanging over them can know how scary it was that all authorities told us we were most likely to be killed in our beds because we wouldn’t roll over for communism.  (And I’m sorry, yes, that’s what every authority and entertainer said.  Bah.)  It was made scarier and crazier by propaganda from the soviet union that targeted mostly the young and convinced them pacifism (which is known as surrender) was some kind of an answer.)  Those who kept an eye on the fall of the Sov Union (difficult as our press here didn’t really cover it) or who keep an eye on China agree that war is scary but it’s not the scariest thing.  And there are things worth fighting for.

Maybe I shouldn’t judge.  It was a concerted propaganda front from Imagine to New Wave post apocalyptic stories.  Most humans don’t want to think everything out for themselves.  We are social apes, if not particularly killer ones. (More on that later.) So we absorb the ethos of our time and tribe through our senses and bypass our thought to belong.

But the truth is that it’s all a load of Marshall’s pre-school teacher (second son had the improbably named Mrs. Hooey for pre-school.)  I mean, all of it.

Are humans killers?  All animals are.  Even so called herbivores.  Periodically people get pictures of cows chomping on bunnies and are shocked.  Every one who has kept chickens knows the dastardly creatures haven’t forgotten they were once dinosaurs.  To see a flock pursuing a lizard is a thing of beauty, but they will even turn on their mates and eat large chunks. With chickens, ladies and gentlemen it’s a matter of size.  Forget Godzilla and King Kong.  If Aliens wanted to exterminate us, they’d create T- Rex sized chickens, and we’d be running away frantically, as they laid our cities to waste.

And apes?  Dear lord, apes.  Far from being uniquely killer apes, we’re somewhat restrained and controlled.  Chimps will tear baby chimps from their mothers’ arms, rip them to shreds and eat them.  Mostly when the female is a stranger to the group, and sure there’s an evolutionary reason there.  But sometimes they seem to do it to a member of their own band and just chomp them.

So, no, we’re not uniquely bad.  And if the voluntary extinction movement had their way, we’d only be leaving the Earth to those worse than us.  Never mind.

But then there’s the whole “EVERY MAN WAS SLAUGHTERED, EVERY CUTE AND YOUNG WOMAN TAKEN” which the right proposes in the idea they’re being “realistic” while the left embraces with “See how evil humans are!” and both of which give me a headache and a pain in… wherever rationality is located.

Yeah, sure, one of the strains — paternal — was almost completely eliminated.  The question is… over how long, and how widespread an area?

Are we really studying ONLY the generation immediately after the invasions, and finding no paternal EEF strains?  Are we studying it everywhere?

If we were then that conclusion would be warranted.  But…

No, of course we aren’t.  Good heavens.  Yeah, we have a lot more remains showing up every day, and our tools are getting better.  But the preservation of human remains is an iffy thing, and great strides though we’re making, it’s not that fine a tool or an exploration.

I suspect that yes, in many places there were raids that killed every man and took every woman.  The rape of the Sabines is not a unique thing in the world (and the women had their revenge.  The grandmother’s told stories, remember?  And maybe the invaders influenced the new generation less than they thought) and for primitive tribes or nomadic tribes, or the Middle East until very very recently, it was the pattern.

I’m sure those isolated EEF hamlets and farms got trounced suddenly, in the night, without any idea what was coming.  And my mind can conjure up quite vivid and scary images, thank you so much, of being a young woman and seeing her whole family slaughtered and what came after.  The farm burning in the night, the wagons, the mistreatment  over the next few years till she acquired Stockholm syndrome and identified with the oppressor.  (Did you know there is a mechanism in humans that can replace the native tongue with a learned one, given enough trauma.  Given I’ve pretty much done it it makes me wonder about “enough trauma.”)  The plains Indians did that, and read the stories of young female abductees to get the full force of their condition.

There is a reason nomadic herding cultures, and primitive cultures of all kinds keep their women covered up or in the back of the house.  And no, it’s not “evil patriarchy” (though it is evil patriarchy, in the sense of father-the-protector.)  It’s because the casual travelers who drop by for a drink and the sacred host’s duty offering of a bite to eat might be scouts for a whole tribe on the move.  Showing them your beautiful women is inviting one of those raids in the night.  It’s the way the world is, outside our very fortunate and technological life. And until 90 lb women can reliably trounce 200 lb men, it will be.  We have what keeps the tribe going.  We will be coveted. The more primitive and savage a people is, the worse that turns out.)

I’m sure there were horrors there, too, like the things we’ve learned from the Middle East and which echo some of the less savory Greek legends: parents served their children’s flesh, cannibalism and human sacrifice and indescribable tragedy.

In fact, in many ways, for many of us from European extraction (and even those who are only partially so) you could say this was the invasion our collective unconscious comes from, the place where the dreams and nightmares fester, and a lot of our legends originate.

But EVERY village?  EVERY hamlet of EEF?  Oh, please.  If you’re going to maintain that, you have to tell me which innovation caused the Yamnaya to be so devastating in battle.  And don’t tell me bronze weapons, because the EEF had that.  And don’t tell me that it was because the EEF were peaceful agriculturalists, because we have proof they weren’t  They seemed to conduct lively raiding and stealing among themselves, just to keep their hand in.

If you’re going to make that kind of claim, you surely best show your work.

No, the people who say it was ONLY the hypergamic nature of women that did it aren’t right either.

But knowing what difference a difference in the “attractiveness” of a population can make over a thousand years and that women were and are hypergamic, and also, honestly, that women instinctively prefer brutal men (though those of us who are rational have let that far behind), yeah…

Some village, hamlets, farms were completely obliterated except for the cute women.  But a preference over say 50 generations for Yamnaya men would do the rest of the work, till EEF farmer male contributions were mostly trace.

Which, of course, brings us to “Humans, who we are.”

Yeah, I’m sure there was unimaginable horror in that invasion.  There’s been unimaginable horror all through history.

But there are other things.  Man is not the killer ape.  Man is the killer MAN.  By which I mean a self-tamed ape, who sure indulges in violence but usually has a reason for it (good or bad, as future generations might judge it.) and a goal, and who tells himself stories about who he is.  Stories that make us more noble, braver, but also less bound by instincts, more able to temper them in the ways we wish we were.

Was that already operating in that ur-invasion.  I think yes, because, as I said that’s where our legends come from (ah, those grandmothers!)  So I suspect there were other feats, our deeds in those dark nights when the wagons full of young fighting men descended on the sleeping villages: bravery and altruism; young men dying for their women and friends; young men dying for the village, and sometimes, yes, young women insisting on fighting alongside brothers and husbands; but also less futile sacrifices,  mothers running into the forest with male children who would otherwise be killed, and men fighting so their women could run away.  But there would be other behaviors, too, from the invaders: unexpected mercy, unwonted and sudden kindness to the very old and very young, and yeah, occasionally, falling in love with one of the young women taken in the raid, and giving her more power over your culture and your young than she would ever have got otherwise.

Do I have proof of this?  No. It’s not the sort of thing that leaves a mark in the bone and the gene.  (And btw, most Jews have Egyptian paternal DNA.  And every Jewish male wasn’t killed.  It’s just women are hypergamic, and over time it tells.  But the culture, the culture was still not Egyptian.  Or they’d not be around now.)

But it is almost guaranteed, because they’re human and we’re human.

Humans are not Killer Apes.  Sure, they’re that too, but that doesn’t distinguish them from other apes, who are just as killer or more.

Humans are story telling apes.  And some of the stories we tell ourselves are about a morality that’s probably anti-evolution, but is part of civilization, of what allows us to live together in numbers and make scientific progress.  To the extent it is present, society, and innovation functions more.

The west seems to be the wedge of this storytelling, this self-taming, this innovation.

To beat our chests and/or cry over our origin story is just zany.  To say we can’t go to the stars due to our horrible taint is goofy.

What do we know about the morality or killer instincts of the crustaceans of Antares or the lizardoids of Proxima?  Do we have any reason to think that any species made of flesh and come through the crucible of evolution would be like unto angels of gentleness and light?

Pfui.

It’s time to quit the disparaging stories and the self hatred.  Killer Ape?  Builder Ape! Dreamer Ape! Lover Ape! Poet Ape! Engineer Ape! Traveler Ape!

We deserve the stars, and they wait us.

 

 

 

Sorry and Vignettes by Luke, Mary Catelli and ‘Nother Mike

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*Sorry guys.  I’m actually on the mend.  At least today, for the first time in three weeks, I woke up with a clear head.  But the overdue short story is still not finished, the house looks like Pompeii after the volcano, and I am trying to do three things at once, so I forgot this.  I have a couple of books to promo, but they’ll get done next week.  I just can’t do the finicky work right now. I’ll add them next week.  For now, here’s the vignette, and I’ll be back tomorrow – SAH*

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: mature.

Oh, yeah, and Happy Father’s Day!

This Is Not A Post

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*We apologize for the typos on this blog. Turns out that cartoon animals can’t spell. Also, Sarah is mostly blind and was doing this remote, on a small screen!

Being Human

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It is a part of my being sick that I get obsessed with the stupidest things.  This time, and thanks to a friend who also went down that rabbit hole, I spent days reading about the earliest traces of civilization and the oldest signs of humanity on the land.

Since I also recently started reading Campbell’s comparative religion books, what struck me most was how much the “history of becoming human” has changed.  We seem — now — to be talking of fully human creatures, or as human as any, far older than we expected.

And Gobeleki Tepe has pushed back our “could build impressive stuff” scale too, and there are murmurings of yet older and more impressive stuff.

Some of this is that we have the technology to scan land masses and to study our own genes such as never before.

There’s other interesting stuff lurking in the genes of the animals that are almost symbiotic with humans: dogs appear to have been domesticated at least twice.  Horses, also, are shadowy as to when precisely they were domesticated.  And as for cows, I was highly amused to learn they’re of relatively recent domestication and all domesticated cows come from populations in two neighboring villages in the middle East.  This doesn’t mean of course that they weren’t domesticated elsewhere.  Lineages might have died out.

There’s that shadowy part to this whole thing.  The thing you can see is so much smaller than what might be there.

Or let’s put it another way: if a discovery like Gobleki Tepe can upend all our ideas of ourselves, we really don’t know that much about our past, do we?

Now that we’re talking a full 400k years of modern humans, the idea of past civilizations isn’t risible.  It is perhaps inevitable.  And things like the study of the evolution of the last 10k years or the divergence of human races seems in turn risible.

Because really, what is ten thousand years?  And what are the present races.  There have almost certainly be others going back to the dawn of … to wherever we came from, which seems to recede in the fog the closer we get.

I presume most of our “civilizations” as such have been maybe Egypt/Rome level.  I could be totally wrong, of course.  There has been a recent paper about possible industrial past civilizations, even if it seemed to me that the men doing it put too much reliance on “global warming” as a mark of an industrial civilization.  However, even on skimming, they also seemed to study the dispersal of metals and such which are more reliable.  Of course, they weren’t looking for civilizations in what could be human times.  These would have to involve some other species.  Or we came from elsewhere altogether.

Then again they say something about how everything humans are and we’ve done, if we disappeared tomorrow, we might be missed completely in the fossil record by a future civilization a million years hence.  Which again means we know very little about who we are and where we came from.

We do know some things, looking back: there is a lot of human sacrifice and cannibalism as far back as we can go, and cruel inhuman religions.  Like all babies left with no trace of where they came from, Humans have a tendency to alternately revile and exalt themselves.

OTOH there is the valid question of how much of our present civilization and what we are now came from Judeo Christianity.  We know that it is possible to have a very high degree of civilization without it: India, China, the meso-American civilizations, but none of them seem to conquer nature/develop science as a useful thing the way the US has.

Which in turn leads to all sorts of plot bunnies about humans being “cultivated” — by G-d if you believe or by something at any rate — through 40 rises and falls of civilization or so, and trying to engineer the software in the mind to make it “stick” this time, to shepherd us to the stars, maybe.

But of course you can’t go wade through human evolution and ancient civilizations without coming across racialists.

No, not necessarily racists. just very invested in some races being better than others and everything being defined by race.

Like most such obsessions, they’re fed by two things: the fact that it’s forbidden to even mention differences between races/groups of people in any scientific group, even when it’s bloody obvious; and the Marxist lens that has infused the last 100 years.

Even people who think they’re anti-Marxists see the world through that lens.  Which means they not only think in terms of widgets with every member of the group being the same as every other one,b ut they also believe in hierarchies of groups.  Some groups are better than others.

This nonsense on the left feeds the idea that if every group isn’t precisely represented in the right “proportions” in every field of human endeavor, it’s discrimination.  On the right it feeds into crazyness about how some groups are “inferior” or “unfit for civilization.”

Except here’s the thing: we don’t know what high IQ is good for, other than working in scientific disciplines, but I’m here to tell you that high IQ by itself is not the greatest determinant of… well… anything.

Older son who has always been fascinated by the human brain and how it works says IQ above a certain amount is a handicap.  The same thing that establishes a lot of connections also makes simple things get lost in those connections.  Which explains why the most likely place to find a genius is working a menial job with no future.  Or in a mad house.  There is also a certain amount of neuroticism inhering to high IQ.

For instance, I can write books in a couple of weeks, but I spend most of my time spinning my wheels and lost in my mental underwear.  If one could pare down some of the uneeded connections…

Perhaps it is not a coincidence I only became regularly published once I’d had major concussion.

 

There is a lot to be said for intelligence.  I’m not knocking it down, me.  It could be said in my case, a certain quickness of thinking and a boundless intellectual curiosity might be the one thing I can contribute to the world, (the Petersonian highest good I can pursue.)

But even in a scientific, western society, it’s not the be all end all.  Older son and I joke that our ancestors must always have been odds in normal tribes.  They couldn’t be just a tribe of their own, because it would die out, between the fact no one would do as told, the fact that we find say new forms of basket weaving far more fascinating than having babies, or the fact that we can get lost in completely unproductive side lines for years.  One or two people with our obsessive nature in the middle of normal people would help, sure.  We come up with a new perspective or really strange stuff, but ah… a lot of us becomes counterproductive.

And the same goes for every level of IQ.  Look, guys, I’d go boogaboo if I were forced to do a lot of the things that people do for fun.  I have a very short patience for repetitive work, and my manual hobbies either are things I can do while watching a movie, or things I do while listening to audio books.  This is not a brag.  It leaves a ton of unfinished things in my wake, as I get bored.  Also, once I really master a skill, I get bored doing it.

It’s not a recipe for civilization, and I’m not the worst of my kind.  I can stay with things long enough to have a career.

Are races different?  Sure.  In the aggregate — which tells us nothing about the individual, btw — they are.  They have different abilities, and yeah, IQ is a part of the picture.  Though it’s almost impossible to extract the shadings of ability from the culture.

Take me, for instance.  I have the greatest trouble with organization.  I come from a culture that values haste (despacho) over planning.  My kids, too, have the same problem.  Which could be because it’s genetic.  Or it could be because they grew up with me, where meals happened when there was a break in the writing, and projects wold strike suddenly.

I noted that my older son, when he won most of the departmental prizes for chemistry at graduation, was up there with people with MOSTLY German last names.  And yeah, chemistry tends to be a German thing, as does btw, grammar in my field.  (Philology tends to be a thing of Latin breeds, though.)  But note that if my son has German ancestry it is minuscule on my husband’s side, and on mine it would go back to the wild tribes who descended on the Roman peninsula, and I’m not even sure how genetically related they are to present day Germans.

Again — culture? genes?  Who cares?  Who is deciding that a race, a purpose, an idea is inferior.

My guess is that if we’ve climbed the civilizational slope again and again, the secret to perhaps staying on top, perhaps getting to the stars, is the variety of us, not everyone fitting the same narrow niche.

And if you think a technological/scientific civilization doesn’t have any room for non-abstract thinkers you’ve been drinking the elitist leftist koolaid again.

Humans are clever apes.  This means we make niches that fit our abilities.

We should be more concerned with cultures holding people back than with genetic abilities.

And as for you — and yeah, me also — as fascinating as all this “where did we come from?” and “what is human?” is, the important thing is to make the best we can of what we have.

Note that older son, for his rabbity Latin disposition, chasing off after enthusiasms, and forgetting odd little things, and not organizing (note this goes back very far.  Romans built to last but they seem to have sucked at the fundamental maintenance of things built which requires the daily, mundane stuff.  Of course they were slave owners, so application to daily tasks was not needed.  Did they not select for it?  Or was it just culture?  Which came first, the chicken or the egg?  You lay down your money and you take your winnings) still beat the pants off a few hundred people in the chemistry department and won all the honors.  Now, he was probably doing it on “passion” not obsessive organization.  (We always give birth to strangers.  I have no clue what he loves so much about fussy, minutious chemistry.  I hated the stuff myself.  Physics was my meat.) Sufficiently advanced insanity can replace any kind of carefully planned sanity.

Are we races? Are there differences between the races?

Sure, but in most cases to observe real non-physical differences you have to define races as cultures, and then it all goes murky.

Back when we considered adopting, our pediatrician told us any kid we adopted would become — if not be — high IQ, and he told us of families he knew.  I suppose that fails at the extremes.  But again humans are plastic, adaptable apes.

What we need is for the right and the left to stop obsessing about genetics.  There’s a good chance that the races and cultures we see now are a minuscule part of what existed before, an echo of far more massive differences/ideas/cultures.

Make the best of who you are.  Plot a course for where you want to be.  Evaluate your strengths and weaknesses as dispassionately as humans can.  And then work towards what you want.

And as for other races?  Let each person pursue what he/she wants.  Fight against dysfunctional culture, your own and others.  And let humans be human and climb, their dysfunctional, multitudinous way towards the stars.

This time maybe we’ll make it.

 

 

Owning stuff is soooo hard — Trekonomics 5 – by Amanda S. Green.

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Owning stuff is soooo hard — Trekonomics 5 – by Amanda S. Green.

That sound you just heard was the sound of a book being planted against the far wall. I’ve managed to get through Shrillary’s rewriting of the 2016 election, Lenin’s pile of written excrement and more without doing so. Who knew something talking about Star Trek would be the first book I’ve thrown across the room in a very long time? I knew it was coming. From the first page of Manu Saadia’s Trekonomics: The Economics of Star Trek, it was like watching a train wreck in slow motion. I knew I should look away, but I couldn’t.

After spending time explaining that the Trek universe has capital but not money, Saadia reminds us that those wonderful replicators aren’t really owned by those who use them. You remember the replicators. They can make you anything you want, as long as it isn’t something unique like a piece of art or that last bottle of wine from the Picard winery. But they can make you clothing, food, pretty much anything else you want. But you don’t own it. Very subtly, we’ve learned the truth – the state owns it.

Guess what, that pretty much means the state owns whatever you create using the replicator. Not that Saadia is going to come right out and say it. After all, that’s not the point of indoctrination. You don’t tell the sheeple the unvarnished truth. You tell them the wonderfully enticing parts and let them discover the darker side of life on their own, when it’s too late for them to do anything about it.

[C]apital, whether in the form of tools or machines or in the form of education or talent, does not yield any exchangeable value.

What? Isn’t this the opposite of the example Saadia gave earlier about that last bottle of Picard wine? Wait. Here comes the handwavium where the goal posts get moved again. You know, if this keeps up, those posts will be better traveled than most of us.

Now Saadia clarifies – or maybe simply muddies the water some more. You see, we’re talking about replicators. People don’t use replicators to create things that can be used to drive their personal capital. Remember, these are the enlightened folks of the Federation. They don’t sully their hands with currency (mainly because they threw out canon and uplifted the Federation in the whale movie). But then, Saadia seems to contradict himself:

You do not derive any excess wealth from the ownership of your home replicator.

Take this statement out of the Trek universe, place it into something written by Bernie Sanders or Vladimir Lenin. Now ask yourself this: what is “excess wealth”? Further, now Saadia says you own the very same replicator he said mere paragraphs earlier that you didn’t own. Which is it?

Confusion and obscuring of facts are wonderful tools to pull the wool over the eyes of the unwitting.

But the writing in circles and moving of goal posts continues. You see, according to Saadia, if you lived on a faraway outpost and had the only industrial sized replicator (and again, after saying no one owned their replicators, he says you own and operate it – Gawd, I had inconsistency), you’d have no reason to charge anyone else on your faraway planet money for the use of your replicator. Why? Because there is no money.

So, what about charging “in kind” for its use?

Well, according to Saadia, you wouldn’t do that. It’s not the way things are done in the Federation. After all, they’re really nice people who are willing to do whatever it takes to improve the lot of everyone in the Federation. Remember, they’d even be volunteering for their turn in the dilithium mines because that spirit of community is soooo strong.

But here’s the kicker – and the proof that, despite his previous comments to the contrary, the state owns the replicators. According to Saadia if you did do something so crass as to demand payment in kind for the use of your replicator, you’d probably find the courts acting to take it away from you.

Wut?

Your replicator, located on your property and that is under your control and used for you enjoyment and survival. But, if you dare tell your neighbor he can use it if he does something in return, you will see the court swooping in and taking it away from you. But what if your neighbor abuses the privilege – sorry, the right – to use your replicator? Are you still obligated to let him do so? My guess would be yes. After all, you are an uplifted member of the Federation. You aren’t worried about such silly things like ownership, control, personal freedom.

In fact, “private ownership of capital (the replicator) implies service more than anything else.” Your cost, according to Saadia, is only time. Of course, this is a simplistic version of the same sort of argument you get when unions go on strike for higher wages or activists start demanding a “living wage” of $15/hour. They say it will only cost the business owner. They don’t think about the fact those costs will be passed on to the customer and on down the line. The end result is that cost increase will increase the amount of money needed to make that so-called living wage. But that reality doesn’t fit the narrative. Reality rarely does.

But it gets better. Going back a paragraph in the book and you get Saadia’s argument for why you wouldn’t want to own the replicator anyway. After all, ownership would mean you would be responsible for its operation and maintenance. “You must use your knowledge, your capital, to maintain the contraption.” It is a “burden” to you and a “service” to the community.

What. The. Fuck?

Using that same argument, why does anyone want to own their own home? Hmm, maybe they don’t in the Trek universe. Maybe all housing is owned by the Federation. That means no one would have to worry about finding a plumber when the toilets back up, etc.

Remember when Saadia said a program about women going about their daily lives would be boring? Maybe now we have our answer about why we never really saw what happened on a daily basis inside the Federation. Talk about boring. No one is inspired to do anything creative. Why would they? No one is encouraged to use their replicators to form something new and distinctive.

I am reminded of being behind the Iron Curtain before the fall of the old Soviet Union. Block after block of boring, bland buildings. Men and women walking along the streets who were more automatons than humans. They were beaten down. There was little joy seen in public. They didn’t dare. It wasn’t what was expected or encouraged. They had money, but it had little value. Value came on the black market, something it seems the Federation doesn’t have. Creativity behind the Iron Curtain had to be approved of by the State. If not, you faced everything from being denounced to being imprisoned to worse. But, on the black market, you could buy and sell just about anything. It was how many found a way to survive. Smuggling was how works of art, of literature found their way out of the country and into areas where they could be made public.

At least those living behind the Iron Curtain had options. Those in the Federation, I’m not so sure. At least not as long as they remained in Stepfordland.

You see, in the Federation, your first requirement is that you act to better humanity. Then, you can figure out how to better yourself but only so long as that doesn’t run contrary to bettering humanity. Or, as Saadia puts it, “the biggest challenge for every Federation citizen resides in how to allocate his or her talents, time, and capacity for empathy, and how to best contribute to the common wealth.”

Common wealth.

Which answers the unasked question of “if the state (Federation) owns your replicator, who owns what is made from it?” Common wealth. Service. Burden of ownership.

I don’t know about you, but I’m on Team Ferengi all the way. Hell, I might even ask for the occasional trade to the Klingons or even the Romulans. Life might be hard but it would never be boring and it pains me to say it but life in the Federation sounds like a lifelong snoozefest. Maybe being on a starship would help. After all, you do run across the occasional alien planet whose development you can influence despite the Prime Directive. But I have a feeling I’d be tempted to hijack the starship to get as far away from the Federation as possible.

I’ve had a blast reading and snarking this book. Well, I usually have had a blast. I’m not so sure looking at the mark on the wall where the book hit it this morning. But, other than a few variations on the same theme, there’s not a lot of new material. So, I’m going to finish this up over the next week or two. The new material is enough to keep me going and snarking. Since I’ve told Sarah I will not, never or ever, read anything written by Michelle Obama, I’m looking for the next book to snark. I will, however, return to Sowell first. I love me some Thomas Sowell writing.

Now to find coffee. It’s too early for booze – unfortunately.

Straw

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Most people have their heads stuffed with straw.  Particularly people in power in any field.  They don’t have to listen to anyone else, so they don’t.  And because most people want to be heroes — and because unfortunately for the last fifty years at least people have been raised to want to “change the world” — they make themselves important villains to fight.

It’s particularly convenient when you can convince yourself you’re doing good in the world by doing well.  I.e. it’s convenient to convince yourself that your pursuit for money and fame will make the world a better place.

And meh, if you’re a writer and you convince yourself your thriller is giving a message that it’s bad to abuse women, who are you hurting?  Pat yourself in the back all you want to.  It’s fine.

The problem comes in when you need to see yourself as heroic and you are really not doing anything that is particularly brave or groundbreaking.  I mean, sure, you can write a book saying “don’t beat women.”  But you know, that’s not a temptation of most males, outside certain ethnic and religious groups.

Then you convince yourself everyone is secretly beating women, and your book, YOUR BOOK, is the one that will change it.

This is also relatively harmless.  In my first writers’ group we had a lady who had been raised in an ultra fundamentalist, bible-literalist environment.  She was dissecting the Bible to find contradictions because she was going to write a book with them, and this would convince people the Bible was NOT literal and change the world.

I didn’t have the heart to tell her that, seriously, most of the world didn’t think every word in the Bible was the absolute, fricking immutable truth, particularly not in the translation of a translation of a translation.  Heck many Christian groups discard vast portions of it.

And besides, she was happy and it gave her life purpose.  At least she didn’t spend her time accusing us of having her for wanting to upend the inerrant nature of the Bible, or accusing vast groups of controlling the world and keeping the truth of contradictions in the bible from coming out.

The problem I have with the publishing establishment right now (and the political establishment) is that they feel a need to fight these invisible enemies, but also to make other people into their invisible enemies.

There is a guy, very publishing establishment, although they’ve tried to shed him a couple of times, but he crawled back and licked their feet and begged to be let in, who comments regularly at MGC.  He’s a good example of what is going on in publishing (and politics) even though he’s low level and probably believes every word.

I didn’t even know — or care — that he was gay and apparently in a relationship with a non-white gentleman.  And if I’d known, I’d care about the same as any other commenter’s orientation or sexuality.  Except that one of the other commenters found out he’s been going — note — TO THE OTHER SIDE OF THE POLITICAL FENCE to ask if he should go to Liberty con with his partner.

The answer of course was that they’d get abused, possibly attacked.

Bows head and pinches nose.  Guys. There are several gay couples at Liberty con every year.  Some are part of our (yeah the evil “Puppies”) inner circle.  As for race, the first year I attended LC I ended up leaving the GOH talk to rock a baby outside the room.  Mostly, because my kids had just outgrown my arms, and I really missed babies.  I’m still amazed the family trusted me, because total stranger, but I was one of the guests, so…  And mom really wanted to hear the GOH.  That baby was bi-racial.  He’s now a teen.  I catch glimpses of him, though teens and later run in a pack at LC, and adults don’t have much to do with him.

Now I don’t care, except it would be good for this man to see no one cares, and that people are decent to him despite political differences (which are more likely to come up than orientation, because no one cares about that) and to have a conversation with people who are completely different from what he expects.

But for him, this is very real.  There is a vast right wing conspiracy who hates him for something he can’t help, and who would attack him and his partner for no reason.

I don’t know if the people at the top of the hierarchies on the left believe this.  They might.  It’s after all much better to say you’re corrupting an award and holding on to power and threatening to destroy careers because the other side is racisss sexissss homophobic, than to say you’re trying to save you little piece of the pie till retirement and after that you don’t give a damn.  So you might convince yourself that this straw is real, and everyone on the powerless, quixotic side is a black hearted villain.

But the problem is that a lot of the low levels believe that as received wisdom.  People they admire propagate this bullshit.  And so they grow up convinced the world is against them: that everyone hates them for being women, or gay, or whatever, and that they will never be allowed to succeed.

That’s a horrible idea.

The truth is, the right hasn’t been the establishment since WWII.  We have no power.  We didn’t use to have a voice.  And so the left built themselves a pretty little enemy, one that was easily defeatable once educated.

We were ignorant troglodytes, with little education, who were, ah, how did President Obama so eloquently put it?

We clung to guns and Bibles and were afraid of people not like us.

He might have considered he was afraid of people not like him.  If he took a minute to think.

Does the stereotype exist?  Well, there are 300 million of us.  Just about everything exists, including a one-eyed-one-legged purple haired women who is afraid of eggs because she thinks they’re space aliens.

In significant numbers?  Bah.  I know some people who fit one stereotype or two, but none that fit all three.

I’m tired o the straw-spinners making everyone who opposes them afraid of “women and minorities.”  Really?  That’s what they’re going to go with?  Like anyone can work without coming across women and minorities, in any field for the last fifty years.

Perhaps the straw is spun because they’re afraid of people who are not like them.

Or perhaps it’s done calculatedly to make themselves feel brave and special.

I don’t care.  I care that it stops.

There have always been women in fantasy and science fiction, and the only people trying to stop them were New York publishers who though that “the public” was made of woman-hating straw.  There have always been people of different levels of tan.  There have always been gay people.

We don’t care, so long as you can write.

And as for politics, no, the right is not “Nazis.” You can tell by how you’re not in a camp.  The more you build up the straw and scream this bullshit simply because we disagree with you on how to build the best society FOR ALL, the more you get ignored.

We’re well past the time now — in publishing or in politics — where we could avert  backlash pendulum swing.

We’re now in the place that I and people like me are trying to prevent it from swinging too far and bringing about that horrible straw world you fear.

I beg you, with tears in my eyes, stop stuffing everything with straw and start thinking.

 

Belonging

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Sorry this is so late.  I woke up dead.  Okay, okay, not really dead.  Though Dan has argued that my drive to write is so great I’ll become a natural zombie, it’s not that bad yet.  However, I’ve been up for two hours and struggling to stay awake.

This is a problem because I’m trying to finish an overdue short story.  It’s a difficult convoluted story because it’s a noir mystery, as well as a fantasy.  I know every step, but because of the nature of the beast I have to mind every word.  Which is difficult when you write 500 words and then have to sleep for two hours.  Yesterday I managed 2k words, but I have about 4k to go.

Also, Larry has sent me back Guardian for my part of it now, and I haven’t even been able to read it, because I conk out after reading anything mildly challenging.

Fortunately I saw older boy and his lovely bride to be, both younger and fitter than I go through this, so I’m not panicking.  It’s just a bad virus with a long ramp up and residual depression in its wake.

I’m about a week behind them, so much as I’d like to clean and finish writing Guardian (the story needs to be written today, even if I sleep in between) I might need to work relly hard to be health for Liberty con.

Speaking of which there’s a whole lot of evaluation and re-evaluation of cons going on in  the house.

Cons were never big marketing events for me.  Not that I’m not personable, and usually I make a few fans every con, but I’m… well… when I broke in the kids were little, so I couldn’t travel, and also we didn’t have a ton of money, and then when those improved I just seemed to have no immune system left (mostly because of thyroid issues.)

But thing is, I have a lot of very good friends who are wholly indie, and some who are amazingly successful.  Some of the best earners have never attended a con.  Some attend cons for fun, but see no bump on their sales.  My own indie sales show no bump when I attend a con.  Oh, ten or so extra sales, but even if all those people become lifelong fans it doesn’t pay for itself.

That used to be my check for cons “will it pay for itself?”  World Fantasy usually did, because I got enough invites to anthos, and sometimes invites to submit that I usually made more than I spent.  Worldcon was bigger and I rarely got work from it, so I went there less.

Cons were sales tools only to the extent that they allowed us to appear successful in front of publishers, who then put muscle into pushing us and made it so.  Since the push model only sort works-ish and most editors have become really sparing with the travel, this is not a viable strategy even for mostly-trad writers.

For hybrid or indie only, cons seem to have absolutely no effect on money/sales.  Which is why I say cons need us more than we need them, at least for those of us who are fine going indie.

And yet I told you I’m trying to be okay for Liberty con.  Well… That’s because there’s a high concentration of my fans there, and I like my fans, and I like meeting with you.  I’ve always been solitaire, partly because I was the much younger kid in the family.  (There’s nothing as sad as learning to play multiple sides of a board game because no one will play it with you.)  And then in school I found I was Odd and very few little kids wanted to talk dinosaurs and space or play at being Robin Hood and the Three Musketeers.

There is still that aspect to cons.  I get to see my people.

Right now I do Liberty con because so many of you go there, and I do Cosine because it’s close enough for a day trip.

In future we’ll try to see those of you in other cities.  We think once the boys are off the paycheck (Two years, G-d willing) and we’re doing a little better (right now ALL my income goes to boys) we’ll schedule weekends away every other month, and arrange to meet with you guys wherever, like we meet with locals at Pete’s Kitchen around 4 pm the first Saturday of the month.

Not for sales but because, I’m sorry, I think you’re my tribe, and even solitary writers need to belong sometimes.