Category Archives: Uncategorized

And All The Devils Are Here

Yesterday I was hanging around at Richard Fernandez (Wretchard of Belmont club) facebook page.  (I hang out there a lot) and he was talking about the forever war.  No, not the book.  What we’re going through.  He was explaining that in Syria as well as all these other fronts we’re fighting on, there is this… holding back of force.  We could win, sure, but our elites no longer believe in victory.  Victory is so rude, so brash, so full of itself, so culturally “insensitive.”  Instead they believe in measured, endless war, that leads to negotiations, also seemingly endless.

And meanwhile, in the endless war, with no goal in sight, no objective of “winning” real people (on our side and theirs) are dying, and even more people (in the Middle East and in Europe, and even here) are having their lives disrupted, turned upside down, their life work destroyed.

This kinder, gentler was is in fact an endless, grinding hell — granted felt more strongly abroad than here — which is imposed on the world in the name of compassion and sensitivity.

When I read that, my thought was “The doors of hell are locked from the inside.”

Because, think about it, in every one of the fronts in which we’re enjoined to be “sensitive” and “respectful” and “culturally diverse” what we get in the end is a blunting of what we know works, and instead of mitigating the awful consequences of whatever it is, it just prolongs it, and makes it horribly endless.

We know how to win wars.  We did so in WWII and installed occupation forces and puppet regimes afterwards, long enough that those countries wouldn’t be a threat to us.  And I see you cringing from those words, but think for a moment: is that more horrible than an endless grinding war; than whole populations always in strife; than children — those who don’t die — growing up in endless hopelessness because the war never ends and the healing never begins.

Oh, sure thing,t hey keep their pride and their culture.  In this case a culture that stones uppity women and throws gay men from roofs.  Those will continue dying too, while we dither and measure our response, and our fighting men die while our REMFers and our effete, castrati elite contemplate the beauties of “negotiation.”

And you’ll shrug and say “what do you expect of a president who thought it was terrible we forced the Emperor of Japan to surrender?”

Fine, that’s a point, but it’s not just him.  It’s the whole “elite” the “glitterati” of Western culture, those educated not only beyond rationality but beyond usefulness except as puppets of our enemies.  The poor darlings were taught that unless we have the perfect solution — to anything, really — we must compound with half measures, we must ignore what we know works, we must never declare that we know how to fix this, much less attempt to fix this.  Instead, we must whisper and apologize, and cringe and writhe, while making the problem observably worse.

Take the war on poverty.  We know how to defeat poverty.  95% of the people in poverty can be saved from their fate, and their children and grandchildren rescued from it by tough love.  Instill bourgeois virtues.  Marriage, abstinence, continence, chastity, hard work.  It fricking well worked before, bringing most of Europe out of peasantry and starvation into an educated and in historical terms wealthy beyond dreams citizenry.

But it would require us to say that some behaviors are better than others.  It would require us to arrogantly refuse to turn a blind eye to self-destruction.  And those bourgeois values are so outdated.  They leave so little room for artistic self-expression.

And then there are the poor who don’t respond to this: the addled, or otherwise willfully destructive.  Those on whom social pressure wouldn’t work.

It is as though those who disgrace the label of “liberal” believe that we shouldn’t leave those who can’t be saved alone in their misery and must therefore precipitate the greatest number of unfortunates down to keep them company.

And behind this is a grotesque sort of elitism that you hear when they think they’re safe and among their own: “As technology advances, most of these people aren’t smart enough to keep up. So we need social programs.”  Social programs which, as constituted wage war on those very bourgeois values that could save these people.  And it’s bullshit, besides.  There is no technology so advanced that there is no room for people who can do things with their hands.  Hell and damnation, other than the internet, when did we become so “advanced” and when are the jobs our “studies” graduates do above the mind of the common man.  These people are wanna-be elites so incompetent they must cast other people as subnormal to feel superior.

Again, we know how to pull people out of poverty, but because the solution isn’t perfect and is what they’ve been taught to consider uncouth, we allow them to live lives of utter hopelessness, for generations on end.

Everywhere you look: war, race, poverty, disease, you see the same thing.  “We know how to stop this” but in the name of “compassion” and “sensitivity”, in the name of caring and listening, we allow people to suffer and die, world without end.

In the end they call evil good and good evil, and allow intolerable situations to continue, all so they can feel good about themselves.

Which is far worse than it would be if they didn’t know how to fix this.

The doors of hell are locked on the inside, and there is a sixth column in front of them, preventing us from opening them and setting the captives free.

We’re going to have to go through them to rescue civilization.

Forget Your Place

Recently we were talking here about the culture war and I realized with shock that I’d never have engaged in the fight if Larry Correia hadn’t started.  And the reason why not surprised me.

It wasn’t that I wasn’t aware of the strange phenomenon in our field, where those with power pretend to be the underdog and scream about the injustice, even as they dispense whatever justice or injustice they want with no reprisals.

It wasn’t that I was scared of what it might do to my career.  Since 2012 I have known indie can make me more money than even Baen, so if Baen should for some reason be unable to publish me, (say, because public opinion turned overwhelmingly against me) I could go on writing and publishing.  If I burned this name, I could adopt whatever pseudonym I decided to use.  No one even needed to know.

No, the reason I would never have stepped out of line, if Larry hadn’t started it up, is that I had internalized the condition in the field — the condition in the culture at large — as the way things are, the sort of unspoken law, against which no one can fight.  The very vehemence of the response to Larry told me, not that he was right — I and anyone with even a modicum of honesty knew that, however much we kept our mouths shut — but that the establishment was vulnerable.  No one uses that much overwhelming force to stop that which is no threat.  More importantly, there was a sheer joy to speaking what had been forbidden, to letting the truth pour out.  It reminded me of the probably apocryphal words attributed to Christopher Marlowe shortly before his death: “To speak the truth would be worth it even if it were just once and one had to die for it.”

Realizing that, realizing how far we’ve come since Larry dared stand up and speak, realizing how much things have changed (and no, not to increased strife.  The strife was there before, but only one side was discomfited) I realized how many times even I, who have an avowed problem with authority, even I who moved across the ocean to escape a culture that believed a lot more in one’s allotted place and one’s allotted destiny, have a tendency to accept “my place” and stay in it.  Not because I’m afraid, or because it is comfortable, but because it seems inevitable.

It is never inevitable.  If something is wrong, fix it.  If something is uncomfortable, change it.  If something is making you chafe, step out of it.

Oh, sure, there are obligations and promises given, and I’m NOT suggesting you be monstrously self-centered.  I’m not talking about the type of situation where someone is dependent on you and you have an obligation to them.  All of us go through those situations, and the reward comes in living up to your obligations.

I’m rather talking about those situations where things just aren’t right, where entire fields, or entire offices or entire families or social groups are being run by a small, easily offended clique or by tyrannical individuals who enjoy power, and you stay quiet, because staying quiet is easier and you’re used to it, and you don’t want to buck the trend.  It’s not, mind you, that you’re afraid to lose your job, but that people might look at you funny in the break room, and things will change.

In these cases, it is your duty not to know your place.  It is your right to speak your mind.  It is your time to challenge the status quo. And it is important that you do.

Because politics is downstream from culture, and if you don’t change culture, any change you make to politics will be fleeting. And we’ve let it go far too long.

Know your place.  And then forget it.  Your place, in a free society, is wherever you want it to be.

Go forth and make it so.

 

Dragoncon AAR – Kacey Ezell

*I’ve never been to Dragon con, but the Lady Correia says she and I are going next year.  Not sure DC will survive.😉 Meanwhile I read this with envy. – SAH*

Dragoncon AAR – Kacey Ezell

Pre DragonCon Prep

So the time had finally come.  I was returning to DragonCon after a year’s absence.  It seemed like a fitting reward for surviving this past summer.  What with moving across the country, getting settled into a new house, job, school, etc…

DragonCon was just what the doctor ordered.

But here was the thing: unlike in previous years, I was well behind the power curve when it came to preparations and packing.  When the last week in August rolled around, I still hadn’t ordered the badge ribbons I needed, or the t-shirts, or the really kickass printed leggings I decided I required in my life.  It was like I was putting off my packing and prep.

I suspect it had something to do with the creative slump I’d worked myself into having.  See, I’ve been working on this collaboration project with John Ringo and Chris Smith, while simultaneously trying to finish my novel with Nico Murray in time for DragonCon.  By the end of August, the novel was drafted, and being edited by Chris.  I was pushing for 500 words a night on the collab, but I was bogging down.  I felt creatively drained.  So much so that for 3 or 4 days immediately before Con, I didn’t write a word.  I just curled up with one of my favorite comfort reads (The Elemental Blessings series by Sharon Shinn), and let my brain rest.

That helped stave off the immediate burnout, but what I really need to recharge was just on the horizon.

DragonCon.

Where you and 70,000 of your closest friends get together to party for four days in five hotels in Atlanta. Where you realize that you’ve left Earth and landed on your long lost home planet of Geekdom.  Where you meet random people on smoke breaks and they turn out to be lifelong friends who change the course of your personal history.

If you’ve never been… yeah.  It’s like that.

In general, attending a Con has the effect of recharging my creative batteries.  I knew that DragonCon would do more than that.  I just needed to get there.  So late on Wednesday night, I packed up my clothes, costumes and express-shipped internet goodies.  It was game time.

Thursday 1 Sept 16

En Media Res

For over a decade of attending DragonCon, I’ve been a “Thursday to Tuesday” kind of girl.  However, during the past several years, “Wednesday is the new Thursday” has become more and more of a truism.  I genuinely wouldn’t be surprised if we start to see DragonCon becoming a week-long event in the next 50 years or so.  Certainly this year, it was impossible to dismiss: there was programming on Thursday, thus Wednesday had become the new start of the Con.

EZ and I flew in from Baltimore at 11:30am.  On the flight, my intrepid husband and “designated drinker” (I don’t imbibe alcohol) had four airline drink tickets which he redeemed.  However, for one reason or another, the flight attendants weren’t able to actually bring him his drinks until we were about 20 min out from Atlanta.  Undaunted, my love soldiered on, to include downing an entire mini bottle of Jim Beam and chasing it with Coca-Cola as the flight attendant looked on, waiting to clean up.

Grown up vacation had arrived. 🙂

We got our bags and hopped the MARTA down to the Peachtree Center Station.  When we emerged onto Peachtree Street enroute to the Westin, we could already see costumed congoers lining both sidewalks.  The annual geek invasion of downtown Atlanta was well underway.  We managed to roll our luggage uphill to the Westin and into the lobby without incident.  At this point, the love of my life had to find the restroom (I blame the Jim Beam), and so I moved on to check in.

The check in line for the Westin stretched across the entire lobby floor back nearly to the restaurant.  I’d never seen it that bad, not in any of the years I’d stayed there.  Fortunately for me, I’m a Starwood Preferred Guest Gold member, so I got to cut to the head of the line.  I’ll be honest, I felt a little guilty…

No.  No I didn’t.  I might have felt smug, though.  It’s a character flaw of mine.  I’m working on that.  Slowly. 🙂

In any case, I checked in to my room, my friend Marisa’s room, and my friend Seth’s room.  We were hoping to get all of the rooms on the same floor.  We succeeded with mine and Marisa’s, but Seth’s was on a lower floor due to the type of reservation he’d made.

We dumped our bags, and almost immediately got a message that Marisa was inbound to the Westin.  So we went downstairs to meet up with her, give her her room keys, and do the traditional squealing and jumping up and down that comes with meeting up at DragonCon.

Once the squealing and jumping was handled, lunch was the next order of business.  Meehan’s Pub is located right next door to the Westin, and has the best truffled macaroni and cheese on the planet.  Although I will say that this year’s wasn’t as good as I remembered.  I don’t know whether that’s due to me building it up in my head, or to a change in staff or recipe, but whatever,  I still ate all of it with a smile.  We discussed the plan for the rest of the day and decided to delay getting badges until about 7pm or so, since that was when EZ’s best friend, Seth (Seth whose room I checked in) would arrive.

Shortly after lunch, my friends, Bravo and Alpha texted me that they were arriving.  Bravo and Alpha are the internet codenames that they use.  They were travelling with their daughter, Whiskey, and their roommate Charlie.  They’d arranged to share Seth’s room, so it worked out well that I was able to give them keys.  We got them set up, then they headed off to get badges and give blood.  In the meantime, Marisa, EZ, and I walked over to the Hyatt to drop off some items in Barfly Central (BFC).

If you’re not familiar with BFC, it’s become an institution at several cons that are well attended by fans of Baen Books.  “Barfly” refers to the denizens of “Baen’s Bar”, which is an internet bulletin board.  Though much of the discussion has migrated from the Bar to Facebook and other social media, the term has stuck, and Barfly Central is where you can find many of those fans at cons such as DragonCon, RavenCon, Chattacon, etc.

Dragon’s BFC is held in the suite “owned” by Tedd Roberts, aka Speaker to Lab Animals.  Speaker is a very good friend and bit of a mentor for me.  (I have a lot of those).  He was sharing the suite with his two sons, Stephen and Brian (whom I continue to mix up), The Evil Penguin (aka EP), and Doc Wohlrab.  During the evenings, they open the living room part of the suite to those who have a “Baen Barfly” ribbon to come, hang out, drink, smoke (on the balcony), chill, and whatever.  They also allow me to hold my Corsets&Kilts party there.  I was very excited to see them, especially Doc, Speaker, and Chris, my wonder twin and writing buddy.

Afterwards, we went to the Marriott to pick up my badge.  Now, since I was listed as an “Attending Professional” this year, I had to pick up my badge at the VIP Badge Pick Up location.  On the way there, we ran into Jerry and his lovely wife Dora.  Jerry and EZ proceeded to tease me about my lofty new status until I thought I would burst.  It was, however, all in good fun.  They desisted soon enough.  I just had to make a few threats. 😉

Next, we went to the Sheraton to pick up badges for everyone else.  While we were there, Seth texted that he was on his way.  We had him tell his Lyft driver to drop him at the Sheraton entrance while Marisa and Stephen (Speaker’s son) went to go get their badges.  Afterwards, they were kind enough to bag drag Seth’s ridiculously heavy luggage up the hill from the Sheraton to the Westin while EZ and Seth and I stood in the badge line.

Once that was complete, we made the obligatory stop at the liquor store, where Seth purchased wine for Marisa in thanks (not sure what, if anything, he bought for Stephen! If nothing, I’m sure he’ll make it up next year!).  As it turns out, those thanks were highly necessary, because Seth’s bag held not 1, not 12, but 40 12oz. Cans of AMP energy drink.  He and my husband like to mix it with vodka.  Grown up vacation indeed!

At that point, I think we might have gone back to Meehan’s for dinner, where we were joined by the inimitable Cathe.  One of the jokes of the weekend was set when she was describing her accommodations at the W hotel nearby.  It seems that the bathroom lighting at the W resulted in a perfect stripper-silhouette whenever someone took a shower. Now, keep in mind that Cathe has an extremely dry and twisted sense of humor.  She’d just finished joking about performing experiments on people.  So when she summed up her dissatisfaction by saying mildly “it’s a modesty thing,” with a perfectly deadpan face, EZ, Seth, and Marisa didn’t know whether to laugh or run.

Which is pretty much par for the course with Cathe.  She’s fantastic. 🙂

After dinner, I think we headed up to make it a relatively early night.  I think.  I honestly can’t remember much.  I do remember thinking that I was exhausted, and it was only Thursday.

Friday 2 Sept 2016

Corsets, Kilts, Pies, and Blood

Friday morning, I woke up wanting two things.  One, I wanted some of the drinking chocolate that Chris had brought for me from the  Hot Chocolatier in Chattanooga, TN.  Two, I wanted to hang out with Marisa and Alpha.  I sent out a few text messages to coordinate these things and soon met up with everyone downstairs by the Starbucks in the Westin lobby.  I ordered some steamed milk, and proceeded to use all of the chocolate that Chris had brought (sorry, buddy.  But as EZ says, you only YOLO once, right?) to make drinks for myself, Whiskey, and Bravo.  So delicious.  After that, we headed out to get lunch at the food court in the Peachtree Center Mall.

A new addition had joined the ranks of delicious eateries there:  Panbury.  Panbury is a hand-pie shop specializing in savory pies.  Though their sweet peach mini was to die for as well.  My hands down favorite, however, was the “Steak and Stout” pie.  Oh my goodness.  I think I ate 6 of them over the course of the weekend.  So delicious.

On this occasion, however, I wasn’t overly hungry (see massive amounts of drinking chocolate, above) and so elected to try one of the smaller pies for my first time.  The Jamaican Chicken Patty was also delicious… but I would later discover that the Steak and Stout was better.

At around this time, it was close enough to 1pm for us to decide to mosey over to the AmericasMart to see the newly opened vendors halls.  Halls.  3 of them, for those of you keeping track.  DragonCon is not your average little Con with a Huckster’s Room.  Just something to keep in mind.

As was the crowd wrapped all the way around the building waiting to get in.  So we decided to try to get in another way.  The Westin has a skybridge to the AmericasMart Building 1.  This year, Gaming resided there.  However, we were successful in finding another skybridge route that led to Building 2 and the vendors.  I managed to locate Glennis and Thomas at The Missing Volume before getting a text from Marisa.  She had broken off to meet up with her friend and roommate Kristin, and was looking to find us.  Alpha and Charlie, too, had broken off to go up to their room to get something, and wanted to know how to get to the vendors as well.  The route was somewhat convoluted, so I told both groups to meet me on the 6th floor of the Westin and I would walk them over.

Big Mistake.

When we got back to the skybridges, we were told the vendor area was at capacity and were funneled out through Building 3.  Which we were apparently never allowed to set foot into.  So someone at the AmericasMart made a mistake, and we were the recipient of a good few sharp words as a result.

But no huge problem, at the end of the day.  Since we couldn’t go shopping, I decided to break off from the group and go give blood.  I like to do this at DragonCon every year, since it’s one of the few times that I can give blood without impacting my flying schedule.  So I headed over to the Hilton and went to do that.  The process was remarkably simple and quick, and I collected my t-shirt and a sandwich and some juice and was on my way.

Big Mistake #2.

I got dizzy.  Not falling down dizzy, thankfully, but head-hurting, I-should-have-eaten-more-cookies-and-had-more-juice-before-standing-up dizzy.  Fortunately for me, the hero of my story and his stalwart sidekick (EZ and Seth, in case you weren’t paying attention) were close by, and they headed to the Hilton to pick me up.  We hung out for a little while, they drank more drinks, we got some food (Noodle Cafe this time… also delicious!) and then I met up with Doc to go down to the Armory for a private tour.

If you’ve not checked out the Armory at DragonCon, I highly recommend it.  They have some seriously cool weapons on display, both firearms and bladed weapons.   Thanks to Toni Weisskopf, we were able to get a private tour and have our questions about both blades and guns answered by the experts.  It was truly enjoyable, and I made several new friends.  After a lot of talking and storytelling I headed back to the Westin to get ready for Corsets&Kilts

If you’re not familliar, Corsets&Kilts is a party that takes place at DragonCon, as long as one of the founders is there to throw it.  The original founding pair are me, the Ringmistress, and Boy Casey, the Godfather.  We’ve had others stand in from time to time when one of us is unable.  This year, once again, Doc Wohlrab stepped in as the Docfather and did an awesome job.  As before, BFC hosted the part, the lovely Ginger acted as our mixologist, and we had a blast.  Corsets were stuffed, Kilts were dangled, and there was plenty of “wink, wink, nudge, nudge” almost-but-not-quite-over-the-line naughtiness.  An old friend, Tasha, was there, and it was so delightful to see her and catch up.  Thank you once again to everyone who participated and made the evening such a success.

Afterwards, I was all too aware of the early show time for the parade in the morning, so EZ and I went back to the Westin for sleep.

Saturday 3 Sept 2016

Medical Mercenaries and Zombies

Saturday morning dawned bright and early.  Which is kind of a stupid phrase, I suppose.  If it was dawn, it was, by definition, early.  And at DragonCon, 6am is sacrilegious early… unless it’s late.  Then it’s fine.  But I got up then anyway.  Or thereabouts.

Okay, it was 7.

Which was a problem, because I had to be in BFC at 8am in order to meet the rest of our DocWagon group that was walking together in the parade.  The night before, Speaker had informed me that he was going to pass, due to a pulled muscle, so we had one extra wristband.  This worked out well, because we had a last minute addition in the form of an actual Flight Doc named Kim.  He’s a barfly and an old friend of Chris’s, and I was happy to give him Speaker’s extra wristband.  However, Chris had an eye injury that morning, and so he wasn’t able to walk with us either.  Which sucked, because now our DocWagon group lacked a decker.  But we soldiered on, and Alpha ended up wearing his wristband, as her own had gone MIA.

We marched in the “Everything DragonCon” section up front, which meant that we were walking with Michael Jackson and “Weird” Al Yankovic cosplayers.  It was a lot of fun, and the weather was perfect, as opposed to the blazing torture of years past.  We waved to thousands of kids, walked our 1.1 mile route, and ended up in the Marriott.  At which point, I kicked it into overdrive and took my privately scouted egress route back to the Westin.

See, the parade started at 10am.  The Black Tide Rising mass signing was at the Missing Volume at 11:30am.  I had to be at both.  So I’d figured out that I could take the habitrails from the Marriott to the Peachtree Center Mall, stop to get more pies, then duck down into the MARTA station to get under Peachtree Street while the parade was in full swing.  Then I came up the escalator, had to fight through a small portion of crowds in order to get to the intersection, when I could turn away from the crowd and walk back a block to the street entrance to the AmericasMart.

It worked better than I could have imagined, and I was actually early for the signing!  Once the other contributors and our editors showed up, we had a blast, signing a ton of books and just generally cutting up with one another.

The Baen Roadshow was next, and I had the honor of talking about Black Tide Rising and how I found out that my story had been accepted.  Toni also had Chris Smith come up and talk about his story, which was fun for both of us.

Following the Roadshow, I headed back to the Westin in order to pick up Whiskey, who was going to accompany me to my first few panels of the con.

The first panel was “Apocalyptic Throwdown: Aliens vs. Zombies”, by the Apocalypse Rising track.  The panel was organized like a debate or a game show in which both teams had to support the position that their style of apocalypse was the “best”.  I was team Zombie, which was, in my opinion, the more difficult position to take.  I’d MUCH rather fight zombies than aliens.  We don’t know anything at all about aliens!

Team zombie was, alas, the loser by split decision, despite my shameless usage of the cuteness factor of Whiskey sitting in the front row.   I pointed out that the crucial pathos of zombies is that they’re the remnants of people you know and love, like her.  :)  It won us points, but not, in the end, enough.

But the panel was super fun!  All the more so because Speaker was on it as well.  Congrats Speaker, on your throwdown win!

The next panel was right next door, and it was entitled “Zombies, Rot On.”  The moderator didn’t show, so I ended up pinch hitting.  Once again, I have Speaker to thank.  About a month or so ago, he published an article on Sarah A Hoyt’s blog about moderating.  I took his advice to heart and did my best.  Both of the other panelists were both grateful and complimentary, and the congoers seemed to have a good time as we discussed the enduring popularity of zombie fiction.

After that, I returned Whiskey to her room and found some food.  Pie again, I think? Maybe?  Then we headed back to the AmericasMart and the 4th floor for what was probably my favorite panel of the Con: Alt History’s “Steamy Steampunk Reading Hour”.

I had written a short story especially for this panel.  I haven’t written erotica or anything like it since I was in college, but when Nico asked me to do this reading with her, I decided to come up with this.  It’s a spin-off short story about a side character in our novel titled Over The Night Horizon.  The story is called “Beautiful Boy”, and you can find it here if you like: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1XVW_hEHc_0hEN5gKgNBYrGnQBGK-MMoVfwlR2b-oM4U/edit?usp=sharing

(Please note, there is a brief mention of suicidal ideation and behavior consistent with an eating disorder.  Also some serious sex.  Please don’t read it if it’s not your thing.  Thank you.)

Nico read a selection from our novel, another panelist whose name I didn’t get read from hers, then I read from my story.  Then the moderator had a fourth panelist Skype in to read from the Victorian equivalent of Penthouse Letters.  Wine was passed around, giggles were legion.  The text messages my husband sent me during my reading are priceless (and private!  Sorry!).  A rollicking time was had by all.  I devoutly hope that I contributed in some small way to lots of people getting some that night. 🙂

After Steamy Steampunk, we made our way back to the Hyatt and the Marriott to walk around and party.  Seth made a friend named Matt.  It was Matt’s first con, and he brought along a bottle of rum to share.  This, it turns out, is a surprisingly effective technique for meeting people at a con.  Matt seemed to have a LOT of friends. 🙂

I ended up back in bed sometime around 3ish.

Sunday 4 Sept 2016

Crossing Cultures and Elevator Friends

In a cruel twist of fate, I had another panel at 10am on Sunday.  I managed to get up early enough to make myself presentable… though I did have to wear a mask.  :)  In seriousness, I dressed up in a renaissance-inspired tailed bodice and a beautiful mask from Maxx Empire back in the day.  I brought two more masks with me as visual aids.  Visual aids for what?  Well, I’m glad you asked.

As I’ve mentioned, my friend Nico and I have written a novel.  It will be available on Amazon soonish.  I’d give more concrete details, but I don’t have them.  In any case, it’s a steampunk setting… but not your standard Victorian steampunk.  It’s more like, late Renaissance, early Age of Discovery steampunk.  With vampires.  And cursed jewels.  It turns out that Nico is rather bored of Victorian steampunk, and if I’m honest, so am I. This conversation turned into a suggestion to the Alt History track about a panel, and the “Beyond Victorian: Alt History in Other Cultures and Eras” panel was born.  Nico and I were both featured as panelists alongside two other gentleman and the moderator.  It was really fun to talk about all of the exciting historical cultures out there to play with, and who had pretty fashion to emulate, etc.

After that, Marisa, Kristin, and I went shopping.  I purchased this ah-mazing leather pirate captain’s coat thing that looks really, really good over jeans and will be my standard con wear for the forseeable future.  :)  Thanks to Kristin for facilitating my purchase when I realized I’d left my credit card in the room.  Electronic money transfer for the win!  And thanks to Rory at Crimson Chain Leatherworks for hooking me up.  Literally. 🙂

Lunch was then in order.  I headed back to the Westin to change, then over to the Hyatt.  Along the way, I met an Elevator Friend.  An Elevator Friend is someone whose acquaintance you make in an elevator at DragonCon, and then you see them later and you both remember each other.  In my case, my Elevator Friend was named Dante, and I convinced him to come to my next panel: “First Contact Improv!” by the SciFi Lit track.

“First Contact Improv!” is a game-show style panel moderated by my friend Speaker.  In it, the panelists have to tell a first contact story using prompts from the audience and their own packets.  Hilarity often ensues.  Especially because when Chuck Gannon had to leave the panel to see if his novel had won the Dragon Award (It didn’t, but he was stoked to be nominated), I volunteered my new friend Dante to participate!

Yes, being friends with me is hazardous.  Why do you ask? 🙂

Dante, however, did great.  He rolled with the punches and even did some can-cans on stage with me and Michael Z. Williamson.  The panel was complicated by the fact that the sound was wonky, and none of us panelists could hear the others.  But we got a few laughs anyway.

Once the panel was finished, Dante, Marisa, Kristin, and I went down to the bowels of the Hyatt to finish eating (me and Dante) and see some panels (Marisa and Kristin).  Marisa and Kristin’s panel didn’t work out, so the four of us went back to meet up with EZ and Seth at the Westin.

I had another panel at 7pm in the Hyatt, so we said goodbye to Dante and went to hang out in the Hyatt bar.  The five of us managed to get a booth (magic!) and we sat and laughed and laughed and cut up about everything that had happened for the last three days.  Seth told a story about a drunken fun house mirror encounter in the men’s room somewhere (he never again found that men’s room).  Kristin, Marisa, and I examined the irony of telling someone to go F— themselves as an insult.  We enjoyed some gorgeous costumes as they wandered by, and we joined in singing Happy Birthday to some guy whose only wish was to have everyone in the bar join in and sing to him.  Happy Birthday, dude.  :)  I hope you had a great one.

My 7pm panel was titled “The Best of Military Science Fiction” by the SciFi Lit track.  I found myself seated between two of my biggest mentors:  John Ringo and Michael Z. Williamson.  I find that I’m often seated between those two whenever the three of us are on a panel together.  I’m wondering if this is a theme.

This was a fantastic panel.  We had such a good time discussing what makes good MilSF, what doesn’t, how we write MilSF and what we look for in our stories.  John talked a lot, because that’s what John does, but the other panelists all got their say as well.  It worked out really well.  Also, I got to take a selfie with S.M. Stirling, which I sent to my mother.  She’s a fangirl of his. 🙂

Immediately following the panel, we decided to grab dinner (Noodle Cafe again!) and then headed up to BFC for John Ringo’s Sushi and Sake release party for MHI: Grunge.  We hung out there for quite a while.  I was privileged to have a long conversation with Chuck Gannon about my in-progress solo novel, and he asked some questions that were really helpful.  Thank you, Chuck!

I also made a date with my Wonder Twin and writing partner, Chris,  to help me provide emergency childcare for some friends the next morning.  Their other plans had fallen through and both mom and dad had to be in separate places at the same time.  Chris and I agreed to be at their hotel room at 9:30 the next morning to help them out.  Because that’s what family does for one another.

BFC closed at 1am so that the hosts could attend the Cruxshadows concert in the Hyatt Ballroom.  I went with EZ and Seth, and we ended up meeting up with Doc, Jack Clemons, and a few others, including Jenny Ringo.  Jenny had never been on stage for the finale of “Marilyn, My Bitterness”, but we fixed that.  I told her to stick close to Jack and hang on.  He’d handle the rest.

And he did.  I’ve realized that while I love several of their songs, my favorite part of the Cruxshadows concert every year is not necessarily the being on stage at the end, it’s the coordinated, militarily executed effort to get on to the stage at the end. 🙂

That and belting out the words to Rogue’s a capella cover of White Rabbit.  That was cool, too.

 

 

 

 

Monday 5 Sept 2016

The Mass Exodus and Time to Chill

Monday morning was not the time to try and use an elevator to get anywhere in the Westin.  The majority of the congoers were leaving, it seamed, and the elevators were completely packed.  Unfortunately for me, I had a babysitting appointment to keep.  However, I did luck out and manage to get one of the elevators that hits every floor, instead of the usual express elevators, and so I made it to my babysitting appointment on time.  Chris arrived shortly after I did.

There was Kung Fu Panda and Star Wars Episode 7, and lots of toddler cuddles.  Her mom came back to relieve me in plenty of time for my 1pm panel, so it all worked out great.  EZ and Marisa even got food for me (more pie!).

My last panel was “Secret History: Bet You Didn’t Know It Happened That Way!”, from the Alt History track.  It was a really enjoyable panel, but I’m pretty sure we never really touched the topic.  But no one seemed too disappointed, and I got to meet Eric Flint for the first time.  He asked me if I would be his source for helicopter questions.  :)  I’m always happy to say yes to that one.  His lovely wife was in attendance, and I had the opportunity to meet her, too.  Very nice people, the both of them.  I feel privileged to have made their acquaintance.

After that, we headed up to BFC to help with teardown, and so that I could meet with Chris Smith and John Ringo about our collaboration.  We had a very productive conversation, and I’m even more excited about the project now.  At some point, when John says it’s ok, I’ll see about posting some snippets to my Facebook page.  So stay tuned for that!

By the time dinner rolled around, EZ, Chris, Marisa, Seth, and I had decided that we wanted some bison, so we walked over to Ted’s Montana Grill.  Once again, the Marisa, Seth, and EZ show had me laughing so hard I nearly fell out of my chair.  And when you add in Chris’s humor… it’s a wonder I ate anything at all.

The Con was winding down by this point.  The streets were increasingly empty of costumes and nerd t-shirts.  The knowledge that it was almost over had crept in.  But we had one more mission:  secure rooms for next year.

 

 

 

 

 

Tuesday 6 Sept 2016

Phone Party: May The Odds Be Ever In Our Favor

Tuesday morning at 9am, the Westin opened up reservations for DragonCon 2017.  Now, up until this year, I’d been reserving rooms outside of the DragonCon block using my Starwood Preferred Guest points.  However, when I tried to do so for DC17, I was told that the rooms were all showing sold out.  The only way that’s possible is if DragonCon bought the ENTIRE HOTEL as its room block.  So.  You see what we’re dealing with here.

The night before, I’d coordinated with Marisa, Chris, and Jeremy to have a Phone Party where we all call in to try and get through to reservations and reserve some rooms.  EZ was supposed to join us, but he was rather epically hungover and sleeping.  So I gave him a pass.  Because love. 🙂

The four of us stalwart warriors (five if you count Penny, Jeremy’s service dog) gathered in Marisa’s room and readied our phones.  At the crack of 9, we hit “send”.  Jeremy was the first to get through.  I waved for him to hand me the phone and spoke with a lovely and helpful young lady who laughed helplessly when I told her what I wanted.

“Have you been getting a lot of these calls?” I asked, my voice amused.

“It just went crazy in here at 9,” she said.

“Yeah, everyone wants to make sure they have their rooms,” I said.

“Maybe I should go,” she said.  “If it’s that good.”

“It’s great!” I said.  “You should go!  But make sure you have a room… On that note…?”

“Of course!” she laughed.  “What can I get you?”

We were able to reserve four rooms via two reservations.  So all of our people were covered.  I later found out that the Westin rooms sold out in an hour and a half.  I don’t know how long the Sheraton took.  The Hilton and the Hyatt both allowed this year’s guests to reserve for next year at checkout, so I’m not sure how many rooms they’ll have available.

That leaves the Marriott for host hotels.  Reservations open up usually sometime in October.  Watch the DragonCon webpage at www.dragoncon.org for details.  And may the odds be ever in your favor.

EZ and I shared an Uber XL to the airport with Marisa.  The flight home was uneventful, as was the drive from Baltimore to my house.  My girls and my cats were super excited to see us.  And we were excited to see them.

Mama had missed her babies.

 

 

 

 

Final Thoughts

DragonCon 2016 was one of the best Cons I’ve had.  It was my first year as an attending pro, which meant that it was a slightly different experience than before.  While it’s really fun to sit on panels and be involved in programming, I will say that a tiny part of my brain missed being able to sleep in as I like and skip whatever programming I wanted to skip.  As a professional, however, that’s not so much of an option.

 

So.  Lessons learned for next time:

  1. Coordinate my panel schedule with EZ earlier, so that we can maximize our time together re: meals, etc.
  2. Start building packing lists earlier. I didn’t forget anything crucial, but it was a near thing.
  3. Wednesday really is the new Thursday. Next year, I think we’re going to try Wed-Mon, but leaving late on Monday.  We’ll see how we like that.

 

Things that worked and shall be maintained:

  1. Don’t stress about spending time with everyone/seeing everyone a lot. It’s Dragon.  It’s not necessarily going to happen. Let people go with the flow.
  2. Learn panel locations and routes ahead of time as much as possible.
  3. Try to be early to panels. And be ready to step in and moderate if necessary.
  4. Dressing up as a panelist is a lot of fun. People appreciate it.

 

To all of you who spent even a little bit of time with me this year, thank you.  You all made my DragonCon.  I can’t wait to see you next year!

So, I was going to do a post

And then as is becoming normal on Sunday, I got caught up in other stuff.

Er…
There will be Dark Fate 6, but it might be Tuesday.  I have a guest post tomorrow.  Sorry, I’m wrestling with a chapter.

:/

An Embarrassment of Books- Freerange Oyster

An Embarrassment of Books – Freerange Oyster

 

Welcome back, Huns and Hoydens, to another fabulous weekend Promo Post! I’ve been inundated with submissions this week, mostly new names and faces. Behold, Hoyt’s Horde expands! We hope all of you newcomers will stick around: the Horde of Huns is a fun crowd, and we always like having fresh mea- er, new blo- that is, we like to meet new people. With the influx there’s quite a variety in this week’s selection, so whatever your taste it seems likely you’ll find something. What a great time to be a reader!

Since we’ve got so many new folks, a bit of housekeeping. For a book to be included, I need a link to its Amazon page. If you have it listed elsewhere (see Mary’s new collection below for an example) then send me a link to each of those pages. Links are all I need, though fervent expressions of gratitude and stacks of Federal Reserve Notes are graciously accepted. Also – for those of you inquiring about editing – since my main inbox is getting rather swollen at the moment [Aw, go put some ice on it -Ed.], please be sure to send quote requests to my editing address. Last but not least, please make sure that you leave reviews for books you read on whatever outlets you use. Reviews make a huge difference for authors, both in sales and psychology. If you liked something, let the author know! As always, future promo post entries can (and should!) be sent to my email. Happy reading!

Jason Dyck, AKA The Free Range Oyster

Minion Wrangler, Code Monkey, Word Polisher, and Chief Assistant to the Assistant Chief

Kia Heavey

Domino

Domino has always relied on tooth and claw to keep the barnyard vermin-free for his employers, the Browns. When he’s not on patrol, his main concerns are prowling with housecat friends and trying to impress the mysterious, lethal female who lives in the nearby woods.

Then a brilliant and charismatic tom moves into the neighborhood, purring strange notions and introducing new “friends,” and Domino soon learns there’s no way to bite or scratch a poisonous idea. As the evil grows, life-long friends become unrecognizable, once-proud felines renounce their very identities in fear, and the natural order is turned upside-down. Locked in a deadly rivalry, Domino must rely on his wits to save his territory, his family, and a time-honored way of life from the bloody scourge that descends.

Nitay Arbel

On Different Strings: A Musical Romance

Guitar virtuoso Amy Ziegler ekes out a precarious living as a teaching assistant in the Mays College music department. One day a mysterious older student shows up: Ian Keenan, an engineering professor and closet songwriter. Opposites attract, and music is the language of the spirit.

Each is passionate about music, and each has been deeply wounded in love. Thus a weird yet wonderful friendship grows between the reserved English academic and the outgoing small-town Texan girl who grew up in poverty. Each secretly starts yearning for more, but the world has other ideas. Soon they become caught in a maelstrom between rivals, exes, their own pasts, activists, and campus bureaucrats. Will the rapids tear them apart, or will love and sanity prevail?

Mary Catelli

Journeys And Wizardry

Drunken mermaids – a clan cursed to become crows – a magic book that even the Nameless Necromancer fears – and more in this reprint collection of thirteen stories and a poem.

Also available from these fine booksellers:

Jeff Faria

The God That Failed

The Patriots of Mars Book 1

In 2231, twenty-five billion people walk the Earth. Few lack basic food and shelter. Energy is cheap and abundant. A vast army of ‘bots serves our every need, and those who can afford to do so might live forever. To some, it is a golden age.

But Earth is devoid of resources, now harvested on or around Mars. Nations are ruled from above by governments owned by enormous transnats, and from below by powerful street gangs who have largely usurped the police.

This world is not for everyone. A fifth of the world’s population has withdrawn into the drug Nirvana, while millions more have chosen Martian exile. And a phantom group called ‘The Patriots of Mars’ has committed an act of rebellion that shocks the world.

Josh Reynolds, a Martian-born teen with a secret, is trying to change his life when he gets caught up in the wake of the Patriots’ insurrection. As he struggles to both find and save himself, Josh begins to realize that the change he had hoped for could become something more far-reaching than anyone had imagined.

Justin Robinson

The Good Fight

Toronto is a crowded place. Plenty of eyes and ears all around. Plenty of chances to be overheard. Be careful what you say…

In this spooky Canadian page turner, 16-year-old Terry Conner finds herself the target of an unspeakable evil, bent on enslaving all of humanity. Her crime? Nothing less than speaking her mind.

Marina Fontaine

Chasing Freedom

Freedom is lost, but not forgotten.

In 2040s America, civility is prized above truth, conformity above free expression, and “green” living above basic human needs. Most have given up, too busy trying to survive in a country where life is cheap and necessities are scarce. Yet even in the midst of drudgery and despair, unbroken spirits remain.

Julie is a girl who has everything, including a plan to ignite the spark of resistance.
Randy dreams of winning Julie’s love and escaping the emptiness of over-regulated life.
Joseph seeks revenge on the system for a family tragedy.
Daniel is a young artist, who can’t seem to stay out of trouble.
Chris is an orphan prepared to do the unthinkable to protect his younger sister.

Whether by choice or by accident, each will take a path on a collision course with the oppressive regime. Will they find the freedom they desire? Or will the cost of defiance prove too high to bear?

Marina Fontaine is an immigrant from the former Soviet Union. She uses personal experience to craft a novel that takes an intimate look at life in a totalitarian society and the role that individual choices play in advancing the cause of liberty.

Karina Fabian

Discovery

Sisters Ann, Tommie and Rita are part of a classified mission to explore an alien ship that has crash landed on an asteroid three billion miles from earth. Humanity’s first contact with beings from beyond the solar system is bound to unlock the mystery of life in the universe, but the crew have their own secrets; hidden fears, desires, horrible sins – and a mission to kill. Researchers discover something unique about the third arm of the ship: something wonderful, something terrifying. Something holy. This discovery challenges Rita and Ann to confront their own pasts in order to secure the safety of the mission and the very souls of the crew.

Timothy C. Ward

Revolt

Godsknife Book 1

The rift between Iowa and the Abyss is thinner than it seems. Modern society meets the power and reality of myth in the new war between Chaos, Order and Maker. A priestess of Order seeking godhood unleashes a virus to mutate and enslave the human race. Those who survive will face the height of her power, but will they bow before it?

A fleet of enlarged praying mantises has invaded Des Moines, Iowa. Swarms of cicadas are turning survivors into winged soldiers. Orchestrating the warzone is a priestess of Order, who’s pursuing godhood, and the nation of followers who’ll get her there.

Caroline’s new friendship parts the veil between reality and myth, as a recruiter of Order needs her to hide him from capture. In their escape, the boss she’s loved like a father reveals his elevator into the Abyss.

In this new world, Caroline finds a usurped god and an angry ghost eager to make her their getaway back to power. What if the person her friends will need is heartbeats away from becoming the real threat?

Karl K Gallagher

Torchship Pilot

WAR IS BAD FOR BUSINESS: The crew of the freighter Fives Full want to enjoy the profits of their dangerous voyage, but when war breaks out they’re pressed into service for missions a warship can’t do. Winning the war demands pilot Michigan Long act ruthlessly… and may cost her her conscience and her marriage.

Jason Anspach

’til Death

Rockwell Return Files Book 1

Sam Rockwell is a fledgling private investigator specializing in Returns, or, recently deceased ghosts with unfinished business. After his no-nonsense father is murdered and comes back, Sam takes the case hoping for a big break and a chance to win the heart of his Girl Friday.

Short on experience and long on the swagger of the dog-eared pulp fiction he keeps in his desk, Rockwell sets out to find his father’s killer only to find himself caught up in a deadly game of Cold War Intrigue at its most horrific as the Doomsday Clock inches closer to permanent midnight in this witty throwback to the Golden Age of Hollywood noire.

’til Death: Second Impressions

Rockwell Return Files Book 2

Wisecracking Private Detective Sam Rockwell is running for his life, but that doesn’t keep him from taking the case of a Return who’s slipped past Heaven’s radar and overstayed his time on earth. Together with his fiancé, Amelia, Sam brawls and dances his way through San Francisco to unravel a zany mystery where nothing is what it seems at first blush.

The laughs and silver screen thrills of Jason Anspach’s signature 1950s Cold War tale of Hollywood noire are back in this madcap sequel as Sam and Amelia return once again to right wrongs, solve crimes, send the dead off to their proper eternity, and maybe, set a date for their wedding! The Maltese Falcon meets It’s a Mad Mad Mad world in this smart and witty paranormal romp.

Feast of Fools

“I could not move to warn all the younger soldiers

That we had been betrayed from above” Leonard Cohen

So, I get it, I do.  I get pulling for the underdog.  I get flipping stereotypes on their head.  I even get subverting cultural assumptions.

There is something very powerful in taking a story where you least expect it.  The first time it’s done.

I even understand the attraction of “nostalgie de la boue” back in the 20s, when people ripped into the Victorian culture with a fascination for anti-heroes, for losers, for the seamy underbelly of a society that had lost self-confidence, a society whom its icons had prepared for glory and who got instead the death and the rot of world war one.

In a way too, it was the fascination of all artists for the people who DO things, even if the things their characters were doing were mostly despicable.

I confess that to me Miss Marple, based on Agatha Christie’s grandmother, always sounded more real than the jaded, underworld, seamy characters written by “serious” authors of the time.

In fact, I even get the fascination with “evil” or at least bad characters, with the idea that no one is clean, with the idea that “society is to blame for everything.”  They are ideas that seem very serious to the increasingly more adolescent artists of our society.  All adolescents think unhappiness and pouting is the most serious thing ever, and that their parents, and their parents values are “Hypocritical”.  Because they can’t live up to what they’d like to be, they assume no one does.

But here’s the problem: at this point none of those “trope exploding ideas” are actually revolutionary.  They’re not shocking.  They’re not strange.

The counterculture has become the culture.  It has lost surprise.  It has lost shock.  And it has never acquired authenticity.

Look, if any businessman in a novel turns out to be clean and honorable, I am genuinely surprised.  Ditto if any middle aged couple is faithful and NOT child molesters/murderers.  Other things that shock me are homeless people who are genuinely unpleasant, evil or who brought their situation on themselves through drug or alcohol abuse.

In science fiction I’m amazed if an alien species is not superior to humans. I’m shocked if other species aren’t destroyed by the fell hand of humanity.

You know what else surprises me?  When good wins.  When there’s a happy ending.  When characters work hard and attain their objective.  One of my favorite re-reads is Patricia Wentworth’s The Case of William Smith.  It is hokey and full of strange coincidences.  But it is also a “Cream rises” type of book.  And that’s so rare and refreshing, in anything from WWI on.

We have lived to see the strange spectacle of elites screaming against the culture they dominate, and calling it evil and marginalizing.

The very gatekeepers who control publishing and the movies tell us how racist and sexist and alienating those industries are, seemingly unable to realize that they are the ones with all the power in it.

Oh, I get it.  I understand it. In a culture that cherishes the underdog, they want to sound like they’re perpetual underdogs.  The weird thing is that they manage it.  They manage it only because they also control all newsmedia and education, but they manage it.  Most people, at least in fields they’re informed about, take what these people say for granted.  Thus they assume that yes, science fiction is a closed shop where women aren’t welcome, without ever noticing most writers and editors and agents ARE women.  Or that this complaint comes from people with all the power in the field. When I grew up reading SF authors older than I — Le Guin, MacCaffrey, and others — and when the books both by males and females often deal with definitely non-binary species.

One of the most bizarre posts on facebook, last week, on the whole situation in science fiction went on and on about the “Sad Puppies” being gatekeepers and not letting people write what they want.  Saying this about a collection of people where most are authors and about half indie is mind boggling.  Even leaving aside the fact we never said people couldn’t write whatever they wanted, or even shouldn’t writing whatever they wanted, but that the gatekeepers (and awards) tended to concentrate on a certain type of story which had less than universal appeal.

It illustrated for me what we’re faced with.

We’re faced with “cultural elites” who have got hold of the institutions, and who are merrily destroying them, convinced that the institutions are somehow “the other.”  We’re faced with people who are in charge of society saying society is to blame for everything and trying to disassemble it, in ways that only make the problems worse.  We’re faced with people who say the powerful are to blame, and then seeking to get more power for themselves, at the head of the most powerful political institutions ever created.

A society at war with itself might survive.  Some countries seem to make civil war their culture.  But a society delusional about reality will not survive.  And a society where the elites wish only to fight the shadows of a past that objectively never existed is in a state of collapse.

Western culture is a derelict, on the corner, who having snorted too much Marx, keeps stabbing itself in the face with a pen and widdling its pants.

This is not a good strategy for survival.  Sooner or later the real bad boys in the global block are going to come over, steal its money and shoot it.  In fact, the only reason this hasn’t happened yet is that the spectacle is so sickening it shocks even the truly evil.

Or put it another way: Western society right now is like a splendid banquet hall, into which the young people with bright ideas gained access in the twenties or so.  But they never adjusted their vision of the culture in relation to the rest of the world, never did anything but continue to rage.  And they hired the people who were interested in exactly the same raging, even though those people had the best the culture had to offer, and were pampered beyond belief.  This resulted in the dominance in that splendid banquet hall of people who, ignoring the food laid out for them, prefer to write obscenities on the floor with their own excrement and demolish the walls in the belief that the roof will still remain up and protect them.

I have never, ever, in history or legend, heard of an elite that so utterly HATED the culture that spawned them.  Oh, sure affecting that hatred has been fashionable before.  But not the actual hatred, nor the belief that what they’re fighting is not controlled by them and those like them.

I can’t even understand how any culture, any civilization survives that.

Except for two things: the internet which has given us the opportunity to know we’re not alone, and also to fight the massive amount of disinformation rained down on our heads every day.  And us.

Most of us don’t want to be a true counterculture.

Heavens above, most of us just want to do our thing.  I would have been perfectly happy writing of dragons and spaceships and leaving my politics only in those places where they can’t help showing, because every creator puts a bit of him/herself into the creation.

But the times are such I can’t do that.  Even if all I want is to create in peace, I found myself having to fight the calumnies, the politics of personal destruction, the attacks on friends and acquaintances.

For instance, the other day, on facebook, on a post that had nothing to do with writing, a woman whose name I did not recognize told me I was horrible for repeating things and that she was relieved she no longer had to work with me professionally.

Curious, because I’m bad with names, but not THAT bad, and assuming she’d been one of the revolving undersecretaries to one of my agents or editors and might have had to deal with a manuscript being late or something (her implication of course was that I was both political at work — I’m not — and somehow a termagant.  No, I’m also not.  Not professionally.)  So I asked.  It came out she was the typesetter for Baen, and from the period she worked for them AT MOST she could have typeset Draw One In The Dark.  (I don’t think she did.) IF she did that, I had NO contact with her.  At the time page proofs were physical copies, and I sent them back to my EDITOR marked.  (Now they are electronic, and I usually send corrections to both my editor and the typesetter.)

Meaning this woman had no opportunity to find it a great trial to work for me.  But on a thread about something else, she was willing to impugn my professionalism and make it seem like no one should work with me… for the crime of disagreeing with her.

This is what they are.  This is what they do.  If you dare voice a contrary opinion, they will come after you with the maximum force at their disposal which at this point is just career-killing.

If they do this in the light of day, what else do they do behind people’s backs.

It is fashionable to accuse people to the right of Lenin of believing in conspiracies.  But it doesn’t take a conspiracy.  It takes an ideology that has identified hatred for its own home and culture as a supreme good, and who views any attempts to stop it as evil.  Any believer in this ideology will do what it can to stop “evil” and because they believe they’re “powerless” they don’t balk at abuses of power.

You’ve heard of “practice acts of random kindness”?  This is the same but with “practice acts of random sabotage and character assassination.”  Most of them are small and stupid enough like the idiot’s attack on me on FB.  But if there is an accumulation of them, it begins to have an effect.

And it puts another layer of corrosion on the culture and society.

And this, ladies and gentlemen, is why the Culture wars are important.  And why I fight.

Because though no culture is perfect, western culture has achieved the highest standard of living for the most people in history.

And I believe that is worth preserving.

Lest darkness fall.

 

 

Solar, Space, and Geomagnetic Weather, Part V: Solar Activity and the Activity Indices By Stephanie Osborn

Solar, Space, and Geomagnetic Weather, Part V: Solar Activity and the Activity Indices

By Stephanie Osborn

http://www.stephanie-osborn.com

“Interstellar Woman of Mystery”

Rocket Scientist and Novelist

Okay, back to bar magnets again. Because the Earth has one. But of course it’s three-dimensional, not like our iron filings on paper example. Imagine picking up the bar magnet with the iron filings and paper attached, and rotating it 360º, letting the iron filings remain in the areas they move through. Now you have an image of what a three-dimensional dipolar (2-pole) magnetic field looks like — sort of like a giant pumpkin.

prettyloops

 

With the solar wind (which is probably the largest influence on the interplanetary magnetic field) pushing on it from the Sun direction, the side of the pumpkin facing the Sun tends to smush in, but the side away from the Sun tends to stretch out and form a long tail. (You can see a really good animation of how this works here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Animati3.gif) This is all to say that you HAVE to think of the geomagnetic field three-dimensionally. And if it is three-dimensional, then each part of the field has an x-, a y-, and a z-coordinate component.

Let’s simplify for a minute. Let’s say that we’re going to look at the component of the geomagnetic field that is running horizontally to the Earth’s surface at any given point. Now because the Earth is curved, this is a tangent line that is continually changing as you move around the Earth. Now let’s look at the disturbances from normal, caused by solar weather — coronal holes, CMEs, what have you.

So we have these variations that are going to be different for different parts of the Earth for the same event. How do we measure it? It’s a little like a Richter scale for geosolar storms. It runs from zero to nine, and there’s a special formula that enables it to be calculated regardless of the location of the observatory, just like the Richter magnitude of a quake can be determined from seismographs on the opposite side of the globe. This scale for solar-induced geomagnetic activity is called the K-index. Zero is essentially no activity; anything above 5 is considered a storm level of activity. The bigger the number, the greater the effects seen on the ground, and the farther south the auroral oval can be seen. At a K=9, the aurora can be seen…in the TROPICS.

space-battle

Yes, this is the Aurora Australis observed from space.

 (Just for the sake of more information, the letter K was derived from the German word “kennziffer,” which apparently means “characteristic number.” Us scientists, we love our imaginative names, you know?)

Now if we reference the Kp index, we’re talking about the interplanetary K index, not the geomagnetic K index. This is an average of all the K indices from all of the observatories, weighted as appropriate (remember, you won’t get the same measurements from the various observation sites, so you have to factor that in, as well as the fact that the geomagnetic field is constantly changing). This gives us an indication of what the interplanetary magnetic field (IMF) is doing. BUT — not all of the stations report in at the same time. So then scientists have to calculate something called the “estimated Kp” which is just what it sounds like — an estimate for those stations that haven’t reported in yet. This can sometimes be a very good predictor of what the magnetic field is going to do, and sometimes not so much. We’re still very much learning this particular science.

Most of the time, it looks kinda like this:

chart-one

 

Each vertical bar represents a 3-hour period. The bars are color-coded to show you how much effect it will have on Earth. Green means little to no effect. Yellow means the geomagnetic field will be unsettled, and you might see a few minor effects. Red means the geomagnetic field will be “storming,” and you WILL see effects. The taller the red bar, the stronger the effects.

So, occasionally, it looks more like this:

chart-two

 

If it ever looks like this, we’re probably in trouble:

chart-3

 

It actually DID look like this, though. This is from the big geomagnetic storm that occurred October 28-29, 2003. According to NASA, “During the height of the solar activity, more than half of the deep space and near-Earth space science missions experienced the effects of the Halloween storms of 2003. The Solar and Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO) satellite, a collaboration between NASA and the European Space Agency (ESA), failed temporarily. NASA’s Advanced Composition Explorer (ACE) satellite experienced damage, and instruments aboard many spacecraft had to be shut down temporarily.”

“The effects of these storms were ghoulish enough that [aircraft controllers] had to re-route aircraft, it affected satellite systems and communications, and it also caused a power outage in Sweden for about an hour,” said Dr. Holly Gilbert, a solar scientist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md. “The aurorae are normally limited to the higher latitudes, and these storms were so powerful they created aurorae that could be seen as far south as Florida.”

And here is an aurora photograph, taken during that huge geomagnetic storm…from just outside HOUSTON, TX, on October 29, 2003.

redskyandtrees

 

But we’re not done with indices. There’s also something called the a index. This is based on the amplitudes (yep, there’s the reason for using an a) of the deviations from geomagnetic normal, taken over a three-hour period. Then there’s the A index, which is an AVERAGE (yep, that’s where the A came from) of all the a-indices for a 24-hour period.

One more index we need to look at is the G scale, which is the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) way of quantifying the strength of the geomagnetic disturbance. For any K index of 4 or less, the scale shows G0. At K=5, we jump to G1 — minor storming. For K=6, we have G2. For K=7, G3. At K=8, we have a storm level of G4, and at the maximum K=9, we have maximum storming of G5. Think of it like the Earth’s solar DefCon level.

Next time we’ll go into those DefCon levels in detail.

 

~Stephanie Osborn

http://www.stephanie-osborn.com

Comet Tales blog/Osborn Cosmic Weather Report: http://stephanie-osborn.blogspot.com/

 

The Imaginary Divide by outofthedarkness

*Forgive me.  I’m working on Darkship Revenge and don’t want to take my head out of it -SAH*

The Imaginary Divide by outofthedarkness

 

I listen to a wide range of music, but I tend to circle around back to country for major events, and the anniversary of 9-11 is one of those. One of the songs on my playlist for the anniversary is “In America” by the Charlie Daniels Band. I happened to notice that the song was originally released in 1980, in response to a lot of the social unrest of the 1970s. Yet, I could swear that the song was written today. The call for American unity is every bit as solid and relevant now as it was then.  It set my mind to wandering about how much this perception that Americans have never been so divided is largely the same in every generation, and therefore how much of it is imaginary.

The founding of the country was fraught with bitter divides between schools of thought. There were those who thought that we should appoint a new king, those who thought that we needed a limited government, and those who thought that we should have no government at all. Looking though the published arguments from the time, it’s clear that there was a lot of bad blood. Insults were flung about in our early presidential races that couldn’t be said today in polite company. The Civil War had divides that led to bloodshed and families fighting on different sides of the war. The WW1 generation had very mixed feeling about the war until we were in it, leading to passionate debates and arguments. This has been going on forever here. Americans love to argue loudly about politics, maybe because we can, and we are a passionate people. Such conditions are never good for still waters and smooth sailing.

Even so, as every generation ages, people find shared experiences from their youth and decide that these are the markers of their generation. They comment on the idiocy of the youth. They raise families and complain about the conditions that they are raising a family in. Every generation of children tries to be radically different from their parents here, and every generation of parents finds their children trying beyond measure, and every generation of grandparents finds that the youth of “today” is so much worse than they were in yesteryear. People across the great divide of politics go to church together, attend the same schools, play on the same sports teams, discuss the same books. We’re alike and united in so many ways that it’s almost comical to see how divided we think we are.

The internet certainly makes it louder, by removing the expectations of “polite company” from the public sphere. There’s a false feeling of being invisible. Yet, the people who have these passionate and angry arguments can often sit in the same room together with little to no issues. It’s only the small number of extremes that need to exist in a sort of echo chamber. They drive away other viewpoints, and are almost universally considered horribly rude. As loud as that small number of people are, they aren’t the majority. The majority is going on about having kids and jobs, discussions about issues, bills to pay, and books to read. By and large, America isn’t actually more divided now than it was in the past; it’s just that the extremes now have a super loud megaphone. It’s harder to politely ignore them.

This is actually really great news. I felt much better after having thought it out. We all need to go back to looking at those loud jerks as if they’re kind of crazy and go on about our business. We need to continue to learn, build, and have discussions. At the end of the day, Americans mostly stick together in the face of crisis. We can always go back to fighting with each other tomorrow, when it’s safe to do so again. We’re a nation of adopted family, brother and sisters that loudly wish pain and dismemberment on each other in our internal fights right before we kick in the teeth of the outsider who dared to look askance at our little sister or brother. Perhaps that’s the very best thing about being an American.

You Are Not Alone

This weekend I was in NYC, at the Calliope Writers’ workshop.  The Calliope Writers’ workshop, supported by the Talliesin Nexus and Liberty Island is a writers’ workshop.

If you’re saying “what, another one?” well… yes.  But it is much more too.

For the writers’ workshop part, I would encourage any of you, even those already making a living from writing, who WISH to make a greater living and who are “liberty minded” to apply and see if you get in.  The catch there is that it’s very … exclusive.  I was going to say “demanding.”  In 18 years of teaching, judging contests, etc, it was the first time I was confronted with writers who were thoroughly professional and whom I was supposed to advise.

Was I able to help them improve?  I think so.  Mind you, one can even help one’s peers, because the blind spots are always different; that is the point of writers’ groups, after all.  But there were other things I could give them insight into.  When you’ve been 20 years in the field, you’ve been 20 years in the field.  Not only have you managed your career and seen it rise and fall, but you’ve seen freinds establish careers and come and go.  Which brings us to things like “You’re not actually writing fantasy, you’re writing alternate history” or… other things.  You can help less experienced authors focus and go where they need to be.  Hopefully.

But what floored me and to an extent confused me (besides being exhausted, yesterday) and will take me months to potentially process is this: I cam out of it with a changed perspective on the field, on my career, on the future.

One of the speakers, I don’t remember who — because I didn’t take notes, just soaked it in — said this was the beginning of creating connections and structures of mutual help for libertarians and conservatives.  (More libertarian than conservative, but none of them crazy, that I could see.)  The left has always had their structures of help, their prestigious workshops, their sympathetic agents and publishers.  And before the other side sneers “always” — yes, always, since the beginning of popular mass publishing, give or take.  Certainly all my life and I’m more than half a century old (barely) so for our purposes and for purposes of the entertainment, news, industrial complex “always” — so that they can speak power to truth and continue yelling that they’re oppressed, even as they stomp hard on any dissent.

We who disagree need parallel structures.

And they’re right.  And this workshop more than anything I’ve taken part in has convinced me we have a chance.  I’m not a betting woman.  If it weren’t for other considerations, like love of country and love of liberty, I wouldn’t have thrown my lot in with this lot publicly, years ago, not when I thought we’d less than 10% chance of taking back the culture (or at least achieving parity) in my lifetime.

I didn’t think so, at least until this weekend.  Yes, yes, guys, in the long run we win they lose.  The technology is going our way, and besides, they are like elves.  They can imitate and exploit, but not really create.  The “Mind killing” (their term) necessary to accept the shibboleths of the left leaves them unable to create even if they are creative and intelligent people (and many of them are.)  They are so scared anything they say will get them thrown out of the cult it turns all their work into pap. Grey goo, if you wish.  Which is why the new and exciting way of evaluating works as “Does this advance progressivism” was born.  But that’s a digression.

I just thought it would take too long, and there would be a dark period of sorts before creators and builders could take over.  And I also knew this might entail death to Western civ as such, because the left is a suicidal cult that destroys the culture from within, leaving us wide open to the incursions of the real barbarians.

The real barbarians can’t hold us.  No, trust me.  They can’t.  But I thought in fact that we were at best sowing the seeds of victory in a real war our children and grandchildren would have to fight, both culturally and possibly physically.

Now I believe — or perhaps I gut-feel — we have a shot.  Not a huge shot, particularly not the way the overculture (and politics) have entered their final suicidal form.  But a shot of sorts.

There will still be a very bad period. We’ve bought ourselves that with our silence and acquiescence back in the bad old days when they had the megaphone and we were afraid to be considered stupid or worse.  But I might see the other end of this before I die.

But if what kept us quiet before was the isolation, the utter isolation and thinking we were the only ones seeing the holes in ideology and news stories, if now we can communicate and organize, WHY didn’t I have hope until this weekend, not at a gut level?

One of the first answers is, I think, “Humans are social animals.”  I knew almost all the mentors, and had brushed against some of the students on line.  BUT that’s one thing.  To be in a room with sixty people and be able to speak, be able to ARGUE without fear? That brings something home.

We’re all of us, despite this tenuous connection online, far too alone. Even for those employed in other fields, keeping your head down is the only alternative to being unemployed, because the shibboleths of the enemy hold the field, and it’s permissible to call those who disagree with you all sorts of names and impugn your character, and attack your livelihood.  And we don’t realize how that takes that sense of being an outcast into our very souls.

I’ve spoken before of Lloyd Biggle Jr’s The Still Small Voice of trumpets.  Without spoilering (you should read it) when an artist displeased the king for any reason or no reason at all, their arm was cut off and they were sent away to the “camps of amputees.”  The culture was such it couldn’t stand ugliness and worshiped beauty.  And their musical instruments were… harps.  Once your arm was off, you were done.  You were isolated.  Your very “deformity” made you invisible.  Until someone invented trumpets.  Then the worship of beauty forgave the deformity.

In many ways we who are to the right of Lenin in publishing have been like that.  We were told we had “bad numbers” or simply never bought again and people were left to assume we had bad numbers.  And we disappeared.  Our only existence was as “invisible” has beens.  Our voices had no place in national dialogue.  And even as publishing runs headed for the cellar, the “king” told us it was other reasons: games, videos at home, all sorts of reasons.  Anything but the fact that science fiction and fantasy had become purulent patronizing pap.

But ah, we do have the internet.  We have indie publishing.  And now that we’ve crawled out of the basement (or left the camp of the untouchables our cloaks floating behind us, our trumpets sounding) to ground zero, other people think it is worth to establish a beach head.  A counterculture insurgency.  And they’re willing to spend time and money on changing the culture, so that in twenty years politics too will be different.

And being there, at the center of it, you could feel the currents and the energy.

We might win, or we might lose.  But life, Liberty and this constitutional Republic we inherited are worth fighting for.

I’ve got my trumpet.  I came back with endless sheet music.  Things that must be written and other things.  Things I must to do facilitate connections and ease paths as mine could not be eased.  Because now it’s different and we have a chance.

Sound the trumpets. We declare the revolution.

 

 

The Steve Jobs Myth – D. Jason Fleming

The Steve Jobs Myth – D. Jason Fleming

Steve Jobs is often held up as something of a modern hero. The man was undeniably a genius. And he did a lot of good in his quest to “change the world”.

However, he also had two problems, and one of them might do nearly as much damage to the world as he did good.

The first problem was that his genius caused people to excuse his a-hole tendencies, and he exploited that to the fullest. (He also had a massive charismatic effect on people which he used ruthlessly, the so-called “Jobs Reality Distortion Field”.)

The second problem follows from the first: People everywhere are always looking for The Easy Answer. Jobs presents two paths to worldwide fame and riches: Be a genius, or be an a-hole.

Guess which one is easier. Take as many guesses as you need. I’ll wait.

Why, yes, you’re right.

Witness, as merely the most recent and most egregious example, Miss Elizabeth Holmes.

This Vanity Fair article (archived version)lays out, in fascinating detail, how Holmes followed the Jobs “Be a jerk to everybody, all the time, and as opaque as possible” playbook virtually line by line, except that her company, Theranos, wasn’t founded on genius. It was founded on the illusion of genius. An illusion made easier to maintain by the precedent that Steve Jobs set.

She started the company as a 19-year-old college dropout, and rode her constructed legend to making it a $9 billion empire, before the curtain was pulled back and it all collapsed around her.

Holmes wore black turtlenecks every day, “a homogeneity that she had borrowed from her idol, the late Steve Jobs.”

Holmes had learned a lot from Jobs. Like Apple, Theranos was secretive, even internally. Just as Jobs had famously insisted at 1 Infinite Loop, 10 minutes away, that departments were generally siloed, Holmes largely forbade her employees from communicating with one another about what they were working on — a culture that resulted in a rare form of executive omniscience. At Theranos, Holmes was founder, C.E.O., and chairwoman. There wasn’t a decision — from the number of American flags framed in the company’s hallway (they are ubiquitous) to the compensation of each new hire — that didn’t cross her desk.

And like Jobs, crucially, Holmes also paid indefatigable attention to her company’s story, its “narrative.” Theranos was not simply endeavoring to make a product that sold off the shelves and lined investors’ pockets; rather, it was attempting something far more poignant. In interviews, Holmes reiterated that Theranos’s proprietary technology could take a pinprick’s worth of blood, extracted from the tip of a finger, instead of intravenously, and test for hundreds of diseases — a remarkable innovation that was going to save millions of lives and, in a phrase she often repeated, “change the world.”

That “change the world” riff is directly from Jobs, and if you’ve read Walter Isaacson’s bio, you know that he used it to seduce a lot of people into doing his bidding.

And the rest of it shows that she studied Jobs very carefully. And learned how to manipulate people, individually and en masse, by selling them a vision. Like any good sociopath, she learned the form in great detail, and eschewed the substance. (No, I’m not saying she is a sociopath. Only that she apparently operated like one. The whole thing was a confidence game, one way or another.)

And I’m afraid that Jobs’s malicious influence is much larger than just Miss Holmes and Theranos.

Have you noticed how programs and apps and websites have taken to “improving” by taking away functions you liked and used every day?

Now, everybody thinks they know what you want better than you do. With the extra added side benefit of “molding” your actions to conform to what they think is preferable.

Again, Jobs was very, very good at actually determining what people really wanted, versus what they held onto simply because it was familiar. He killed the floppy disk drive. He veered away from power-on buttons. He got lots of changes through that seemed huge at the time, but in hindsight are natural.

And because of his precedent, in addition to (at least) fifty-plus years of marketing “wisdom” that treats customers as mindless sheep, everybody now treats you, the user, as a “moist robot” who does not think, but merely needs the proper stimulus to behave the way they want you to.

Steve Jobs was the outlyingest outlier there is: He was a jerk, but he actually was a genius, and he actually did want to change the world, and he actually was very good at figuring out what people would want before they even knew they wanted it.

The foundation on which the Cult of Jobs was built was, wonder of wonders, actually pretty solid.

I would bet that not one single emulator of his has the same solid basis on which to stand. They all learned how to imitate him, to give the impression of integrity as it is currently misunderstood, thanks in part to Jobs’s antics. But I would be surprised if any copied his substance. Because genius cannot be faked. Only the appearance of it can.