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Vignettes by Luke, Mary Catelli and ‘Nother Mike

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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: doubt.

 

 

Unfalsifiable

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Yesterday on the net there was a kerfuffle with one of the snowflakes trying to ban Baen authors from conventions.

In it, one of them insisted that Larry is an evil man (and Ringo too) and when confronted by real life people saying that “No, I met them, they’re nice people”she said that’s how you know they are bad men.  She then unrolled a litany of “life experiences” that proves that anyone acting nice is a monster.

Um….

I fully believe some of her friends were monsters.  There is a type of “feminist” male who uses ideology to mask their evil.  It’s the same type who would have been overly pious when the marker for “good” was being religious. (And which led to the stereotype of good, religious people being evil.)  I found this stereotype in the sixties as “pacifist” and “anti-war” males, and it finally came into focus with me with Heinlein saying that any man with enough testosterone to sire a child would down the white flag and hoist the jolly roger at the first opportunity, because these guys were often public “good” (for values of what was considered “good”) and private evil.  A good example of this is Clinton in his treatment of women.

So, some of her friends are monsters.  Are all of them?  Well, when you assume if men act nice they’re monsters and if they act like monsters they’re monsters… where’s the falsification of your hypothesis?  And do you want to live in the world you created?

It goes with other things too: if all white people have “white privilege” to the point that you call concentration camp survivors privileged, but at the same time you point to people of color who succeed and say “but they’d books at home, so they had white privilege”… how do you falsify the idea of white privilege?

If people disagreeing with your taste in books makes them Nazis and white supremacists, even if they’re libertarian and not white… where’s your falsification?

If everyone on your side are “good people” even though you’ve uncovered a few of them as monsters, where’s the falsification?

It applies to our own side too, alas.

If you know everyone is out to get conservatives, and you wave away the fact tons of conservatives are still up on Amazon, even as others get taken down as Amazon being careful not to hit everyone… where’s the falsification?

If you think all gays are child molesters and when someone points out gay people who’d rather self-castrate than molest a child and you say “they must just be hiding it?” where’s the falsification?

When you, right or left, think anyone who deviates from your points and — for good and sufficient reason — disagrees with say 20% of your beliefs is an enemy and functionally on the other side… where’s the falsification?

Look, guys, for years, I’ve had reason to suspect things like shenanigans with my books, but I say nothing, because, you know, can’t prove it one way or another.  I’ll say most of my books get dropped on the floor, but so do most books ever, so I can’t SAY it’s political.  I can suspect it’s political, but I can’t SAY anything. Because I can neither prove nor falsify.

It’s like the “big conspiracy” theory of history.  How do you falsify it?  It might be true (though aspects of it are highly unlikely) but if you can’t falsify it how can you believe it?

On mom’s side we have an invidious legacy of incipient paranoia. I’ve seen relatives go down it.  If you think everyone hates you and you can’t do anything, it eats you up inside, isolates you, seals you inside your crazy believes and will make you a bonafide loony, instead of a charming eccentric.

The other side is fully there, drinking their own ink.  After the Soviet union fell, their big theoretical effort was designed to creating unfalsifiable beliefs like that we live in a patriarchy, or that women are always oppressed, or that there’s “invisible” racism, or that … well, whatever the cause du jour is.  They’re all unfalsifiable, because they have handwavium to explain away contrary evidence.

Which means their side is becoming more and more insulated from reality, and therefore dangerous and destructive when they get their hands on… anything.

We’re not there yet.  Most means of communication are on the other side’s hands, and we’re exposed more to their point of view than ours.

But ours is starting to be AVAILABLE and that’s already winding up the more… ah… fragile members of our side.

Mind how you go.  This is a very premature warning.  Except for a few … fragile people, we’re nowhere there yet.
BUT the worm is turning.  The times are changing.  Let’s not look into the abyss and become what we beheld.

If a belief is unfalsifiable, try not to hug it to your bosom and pet it and call it George.  Chances are it’s not real. (Unless it’s a religion, and then carry on.) Chances are there are contrary examples.  And at any rate, you’ll be saner by remaining open to the opportunity of falsification.

Reality is that which bites you in the *ss while you’re sealed in your bubble.  Don’t seal the bubble.

 

Escape Hatches

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Yesterday, driving around, we noticed a street named after a telecom company.  We’re not extremely familiar with where the telecoms were, partly because we lived in the Springs at the time (yeah, there were a few there too, including MCI that Dan worked for) but we suspect the (tiny) road was built to accommodate headquarters for the company, like, you know, Walmart being on Sam Walton’s rd. if they can get away with it.

The company, which was never one of the big players is long gone and in fact both of us had to wrack our brains to remember it.

And it brought to mind a beautiful day circa 1996, when Dan and I had left the kids with a babysitter and were out for a spin in his old mustang convertible (much like yesterday night.  Well, except the babysitter part.)  We were driving around, not up to much (I think we got ice cream, ate it outside the store and went back home) and Dan said “you realize that in tops 10 years, but probably 5 long distance will be worth nothing?”

I thought he was nuts.  Sure, we had cell phones (actually we didn’t, for another few years.  We had walkie talkies, because we lived in a tiny mountain town, and we could communicate with the kids from their jaunts downtown to home with a walkie Talkie.  It seems like yesterday the unit crackling on my desk, and Robert’s voice “Baby bird to momma bird.  Come in momma bird.”)  And those often had free long distance “in the tri-state area” (remember that?) But we were still paying a hefty every-month bill for my weekly one-hour conversations with mom.  And I thought “Dude, how?”

It’s twenty years later.  Long distance is still here, but it’s not a money maker for anyone.  I now pay an additional $10 fee a month for those conversations.  Only, frankly, because we’re so cheap that if we were merchandise we’d be out on a bin with “ten for a dollar”.  So our base plan is cheap as heck, and excludes international call.  We added it on to my phone only, because with my parents in their eighties it wasn’t feasible to NOT be able to call at the drop of a hat.

Twenty years.  The telecom companies got absorbed into bigger ones, and then different ones.  the landscape changed. Today only street names remain as the bones of great bit creatures that walked the Earth and vanished when conditions changed.

They collapsed… not gradually but invisibly.  Most people had moved on, and didn’t notice when they disappeared.

I predict we’re in for a wave of similar extinctions in the next five to ten years.  The first wave will take out publishing, a lot of the print media, a lot of written entertainment, some art.  They won’t disappear, mind, but what’s been happening with Indie will have completely replaced it, in anything that matters.

I’m not saying that book publishers will stop existing, but they’ll go more bestsellers-only, perstige-editions only, hard cover only.  It’s already happening in fact.  It’s sliding more that way every year.

I am predicting next will be schools.  I already have a friend making most of his living of what you could call “Indie school”.  It’s full time online tutoring to compensate for awful schools.

The tutoring to compensate for what the schools will not do is not news to me.  In most Latin countries, Portugal not an exception, schools have gone so bad that the only way to make it to college is with someone else teaching you.   (Not me, of course, because, well, we didn’t have the money.  So, uphill both ways.  I learned my own self, the best I could.  There are still weird holes.)  No, like publishing, I doubt schools will ever be replaced, or not for 20 years or so, but the revolution HAS started.

Look, it’s not just books.  It’s anything that’s information, including education. It’s cheaper on line.  It’s more convenient.The costs of delivering a lesson to new audiences is the cost of storing it on a server.

It will only take long (unless a catastrophe of some sort intervenes) for it to die because education is so regulated.  That’s all.  Mathematically, economically, technologically it’s already dead.

Movies… well, that’s harder and further off, because the tech is not quite there yet.

The movie industry is, however, doing to itself what publishing did to itself back in the nineties, so… when the tech is there for small companies to produce very professional, competitive movies?  It will be swift and terrible.

So.

The economy is getting better (thank heavens) but don’t be lulled into complacency.  The better the economy, the faster things will change.  It’s a catastrophic technological revolution.  It hits things no one even thinks of.  I just realized when writing this that I haven’t seen a walkie talkie for sale in years, because… well, who needs them?

If you’re in an artistic or communication industry, or one of the subsidiaries, you’re going to get hit.

Keep awareness of what is happening at all times.  Learn what others in your field are experiencing.  Prepare an escape hatch.  Ideally, prepare several escape hatches.

Learn to do other things, or to do what you do in different ways.  Be ahead of the change, not behind it.  For is it not written “Keep your clothes and weapons where you can find them in the dark”? (RAH, PBUH)

Build under, build over, build around.

Stay alert, stay moving.

And be not afraid.

 

Trekonomics 4 – And the fiction continues – by Amanda S. Green

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Trekonomics  4 – And the fiction continues – by Amanda S. Green

The more I read of Trekonomics, the more I wonder how the author managed to write it with a straight face. Perhaps Saadia didn’t. Perhaps this is yet another situation where an author had tongue firmly planted in cheek and saw only dollar signs at the end of the rainbow. Unfortunately, I have a feeling Saadia really feels the book is a serious study of the economics of the Star Trek franchise and is fully onboard with the socialist underpinnings of it all.

Last week, we talked about the lack of currency in the Trek universe, especially after the whale movie. We started discussing the lack of scarcity – hello, replicators! – and we’re going to continue along that line today.

According to Saadia, there are two types of scarce goods in the Trek universe. The first are strategic goods or, as Saadia defines them, those resources necessary to maintaining the Federation [Note from SAH: she had Ferderation, a minor typo, except I REALLY wanted to keep it because it seems to me what this guy is describing is more a Ferderation than a Federation] “polity and way of life”. Those resources are dilithium crystals, starships and people. The second type of scarce goods are those one-of-a-kind custom-made goods and services. The examples for this sort of thing given by Saadia include the Picard family’s Bordeaux wine, the pleasure planet Risa and Sisco’s New Orleans restaurant.

Now, I could start picking holes in this, but I won’t.

Oh hell, sure I will. Where’s the fun otherwise?

If the Trek universe is one where there is no real scarcity of goods thanks to the replicators, why are dilithium crystals a finite resource? Why aren’t the replicators capable of making them out of this so-called free and ever-abundant energy that can be used to make everything else? Oh, later in the chapter, Saadia does some hand-wavium. You see, the crystals really aren’t all that scarce after all. What limits them are political constraints between the Federation and other governments that might be in control of the areas where those crystals can be found. So, there’s no need for money only for political negotiation – riiiiiight.

But it gets better. When Saadia tries to explain what happens when more than one person wants that last bottle of Picard wine or how it is determined who gets to go to the pleasure planet, his “no currency, no scarcity, no need” arguments fall flat. The handwavium turns more than a bit frantic and all anyone with an ounce of sense in their head can do is snicker. First, he says that “canon” is “rather vague” on the explanation of what happens in those instances. Duh. It’s vague because there is no way the socialist-leaning Trek world can explain it away and not let evil capitalism in.

Then he really begins to stretch to find an answer. He claims the conflict between people wanting that scarce item or reservation or whatever wouldn’t make for exciting TV. Hmmm, how many shows or movies have been based around the chase for something that is one of a kind. Can anyone say, “Maltese Falcon”? Saadia tries to make a joke about “Keeping Up with Lwaxana Troi” or “Real Housewives of Risa”. Sorry, but if ST:TNG wasn’t anything more than a SF soap opera, I’m not sure what it was. Hell, it was basically The Love Boat in space all too often.

But here is the kicker for me. This is Saadia’s explanation and ain’t it a doozy?

One must assume that the scarcity of some unique goods never leads to conflict or competition. The motivation for acquiring them—showing off social status through the ownership of objects—has long been excised from the Federation.

Apparently, the economics of the Trek universe have done away with conspicuous consumption. (Why? With replicators, you can pretty much have anything you want so why does no one want what they don’t need? Oh, I know. I was right in my first post on the subject when I commented that it sounded a whole lot like the Stepford Wives. In this case, its’ the Stepford Federation. Everyone walking in lock step with one another and never wanting to be different or to strive to do more.)

According to Saadia, no one would care what sort of bag you carried or what you wore. No one would bother keeping up with you. If that’s the case, then why do the Picards still have a vineyard? Why is there a pleasure planet when there are holodecks? Why are there restaurants when you can program any meal you want into your replicator?

What.

The.

Fuck?

Riiight. Nope, not buying it. But what do I know? I’m just a mere mortal who still believes we need a healthy dose of competition and need to get us up out of bed each day.

In trekonomics, the absence of money implies that status is not tied to economic wealth and discretionary spending.

Okay, here is where I want to start planting the book against the wall. We have spent too many pages already being told there is no status. Oh, Saadia might not say it in so many words but that’s the import of all that’s been written. Now, we know there might be status but it’s not tied to “economic” wealth and discretionary spending. Wait? I thought there wasn’t personal competition among members of the Federation? If that’s the case, then why is there personal status? Hmm, do we have a contradiction? Surely not.

For Federation citizens, the notion of luxury itself has evolved to encompass the full range of experiences available to humanoids. It is possible to envision that people seek the unique and the memorable in personal relationships and in fleeting moments of satori, rather than in the acquisition of things. Looking for and collecting artful artifacts, ancient or otherwise, seems to be among the few areas where one can exert her erudition and flaunt her good taste.

Wait! What? If someone is “flaunting” their good taste, isn’t that a way of saying they are better than someone else? Or, at the very least, a way of saying, “Hey, look at me!”? How does that fit with this utopian social setup Saadia has been saying the Federation has become? It doesn’t and that is the problem. Or, more accurately, it shows the fallacy with socialism. There will always be someone who wants more, has more, who is more equal among the equals. That person is the one who will be “flaunting” their “good taste” or their collection of whatever. Never mind that the average citizen can’t and won’t have that art collection, etc.

The next section of the book has a title that had me smiling and shaking my head. Consider the title and tell me what you think:

Everyone’s Lot Has Been Terminally Improved

I know what Saadia is trying to say – that life for the citizens of the Federation has been improved to the point that there is no more improvement to be had. But my first thought was that life had become terminal there. Which, in a way, it has, at least if Saadia is right. Think about it for a moment. What would life be like if there was no hope of improvement, of new discovery or of new ways to make things better? But let’s see if Saadia has made up another definition for what the title means.

He starts this section talking about dilithium crystals again. You see, according to Saadia, even though these all-important crystals might be in distant and hard to reach locations, that’s no problem. In the Trek universe, labor, prospecting and extracting tech are close to free. Now, here is where a good editor might have helped Saadia. Is the author talking about tech related to labor and prospecting and extracting the crystals? Or is Saadia saying that the cost of labor, the cost of prospecting and the cost of extracting technology are close to free? Yes, I’m being a bit silly here but so is the so-called economics of the Trek universe.

So what if there are not enough people willing to spend some quality time on a mining asteroid? This is where ethics comes into play. The deeply ingrained civic sense of every Federation member leads enough of them to respond to the call of duty.

Pardon me while I laugh hysterically. If this is the case, then why didn’t we see this happening all those times the Enterprise needed new dilithium crystals? Why am I having a hard time seeing Wesley Crusher volunteering to go do his time in the mines? (Oh, gawd, I would have paid to see that episode, especially if he got trapped, never to be seen again.)

Because of this, because of replicators and because no one in the Federation would dare be rude and fight for that last bottle of wine, there is no scarcity. No scarcity means no money, no profit and no markets. Wut? Tell that to the Ferengi.

Trekonomics, for its part, assumes that the lot of everyone, on average, has been terminally improved. There is nothing left to optimize, economically speaking, when everything is available at zero cost. Selfinterest, conflict, and competition may certainly exist, but the reward for winning in the marketplace cannot be monetary because there is no excess return to expect or gain. The reward is of an intangible but no less real nature: glory.

Ah, more handwavium and moving of goal posts. We’ve been told there is no need to be better than anyone else in the Trek universe, that the outliers are those like Kirk. They are the ones to leave the planets and join the Federation. But the above seems to say there is still a need for personal glory and, since that is a very human need, wouldn’t that lead to more intense competition instead of less? Hmmm. Could that be a chink in the perfection of the Federation?

If the reward for winning in the marketplace consists of merit, prestige, and recognition, then self-interest will drive at least some individuals to excel at their trade and to shoot for the moon in their endeavors. The product of their combined labor will be available to all at no cost.

Except, this assumes the product isn’t one-of-a-kind. Which, if the person making it has any common sense, would make sure it was. Damn, the more I read this book, the more I like the Ferengi and the less I like the general population of the Federation. The above passage brings to mind Atlas Shrugged and how the government tried to steal the labor of the innovators and creators for the “common good”. It also reads like a direct extract from any of the core writings of socialism and communism. Yep, I’m on Team Ferengi.

There’s more about social currency and how those of the Federation could strive for recognition and status but, damn, can we please stop making exceptions to the rules? Either there are no classes and, therefore, no status, or there is. Either outliers – or Odds – are moved into careers like Star Fleet to get them away from the normal so they won’t expose them to wrong think or they aren’t.

Not that such moving goal posts surprises me. It has been at the base of socialism from the beginning. There have always been the more equal among equals. More than that, there’s always been the “out” of saying “but we’ve not had real socialism yet” because of all the different phases Marx and company said we have to go through before humanity has advanced enough to accept it.

Here’s the thing, not only is there no real economics in Trek, what little you might be able to find doesn’t work. At least not unless you look at the Ferengi from TNG on or at characters like Harry Mudd in TOS. It is handwavium and supposedly “feel good” economics. Yeah – no.

The title for the next section has sent me running for the hills. There isn’t enough coffee this morning. But next week, we’ll begin with “The Burden of Private Owndership” or, in Amanda-speak, “the next attempt to indoctrinate you into the world of socialism where you lose all hope.”

*Okay, I’m plotting what the worst book I can inflict on Amanda next is, and I regret to inform you she’s rejected MO’s book out of hand. (Sigh.)  Anyway, meanwhile, she’s a working writer so buy something of hers.  (She’s damn good too.) – SAH*

 

Awards, Money and Writing, oh, My

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Sometimes I’m thick like two four by fours nailed together.

It’s a very specialized form of stupidity, mind you.  There is only one category of things I can’t seem to get easily.  However that category is “Stupid sh*t people believe and do” which means it affects an awful lot of things in all areas of life.

This particular bit of “wait, what?” came in an epic facebook subthread on a David Weber post.

Oh, it was the usual we’ve seen over the years with a troll accusing Sad Puppies of racism, sexism, homophobia and us asking him what the hell sense that makes.

On the face of it it makes none.  It wasn’t our intent, or what we set out to do, which in Larry’s case was deviously “proving the awards are biased by making the fools react and show their hand.” (Mission accomplished with the assterisk thing, the no award, and the changing the rules to make sure massed fans never have a voice louder than the inner clique.  Well done indeed.) Brad Torgersen wanted to save the award from itself, and restore it to “a fan award.”  He was thwarted by having people like Anderson and Butcher, who would have given the award new prestige shot down by the “no award” crowd.  Me?  I just wanted the award to mean something other than “terminally literary” (which these days also usually means terminally lefty) so maybe “award winner” could provide people with a to-read list.  I thought this would be important going forward, in a mostly indie world, where it’s easy to get lost in the shuffle.

And yet people on the left side of science fiction and those who’d been getting awards kept lobbying the same accusations against me and mine.  Actually the lefty controlled organs still do.  We’re seeing a late echo of this in attempts to ban people they deemed were “puppies” even those who weren’t, like David Weber. And most places including the wikipedia page on the subject propagate the lie that we were white supremacists, and against minorities, women and gays writing science fiction.

Note they don’t say winning the awards (that could be justified because we said we didn’t want you to win an award just because you fit a victimhood class, or even preferentially because you fit a victimhood class, but they were saying we didn’t want any of these people to write science fiction.)

This was the most absolute and complete nonsense.  The Sad Puppies I knew, and who met, not in smoky backrooms, but usually in public on our blogs, though sometimes in a dashed emails when something weird came up, like accusations against us in main stream press were: Larry, who is half Portuguese and grew up dirt poor, and who looks more Portuguese than he is; Brad who is in an interracial marriage and who is so far to the left of me and such a bleeding heart liberal we call him the powder blue carebear; my friend Amanda Green, who yeah, is from Texas but holds something like four or five degrees and has traveled extensively and who has a lot more patience for claims of feminine victimhood than I do; and my friend Kate Paulk, born and raised in Australia and doing the best she can under severe illness (yes, she is differently abled, mother suckers. Very true in her case.)  Then there’s me: Latin, first generation immigrant, none of the advantages, not even knowing how the field worked, or that you could meet publishers at conventions (Guys, I didn’t know there WERE conventions till five years after I started writing.)

Our levels of success are:

Larry is a bestseller, duh.  A real one, not a “pushed” one.  However let me assure you I have a huge number of bestseller friends and not one of them can get anyone published much less get a publisher to stop publishing anyone.  ANY publisher.

Brad has one novel and any number of short stories published.  Until SP he was “very promising newbie.”  He ALSO has no power to get anyone published, much less fired from a publisher.

I’m a mid-list author who frankly since she came out of the closet politically has no hope of getting published anywhere but Baen and even Baen might look askance at my “respectability.” (Which is not a concern for bestsellers, but is for midlisters.)  This doesn’t matter because there’s indie and I can make more there or at least I did in my one, very odd, indie novel.  OTOH if the guys have no hope of affecting who is published or isn’t, much less do I.

As for Amanda and Kate, they are both indie authors.  The worst they can do against your career is give you a very bad review.  Since those are a dime a dozen in the field, that’s not exactly a ton of harm.

That’s why every time the left trotted out this accusation, and every time they brought it out, I felt like they were more idiotic than usual (which given the stew of undigested nineteenth century crap that makes up their so called philosophy was very idiotic indeed.)  I mean, let’s suppose we were villains with the evil intentions they ascribed us.  Were we also crazy?  No?  Then how did we think we could achieve our goals? And did we not notice it would keep all of us but Brad from publishing?

It wasn’t till the middle of the night (I’m on pred and I have a fever and the combination is… interesting) that I woke up realizing what they meant.

In my defense, the ideas are so twisty they could go down a corkscrew without touching the sides.  They’re also so deeply ingrained and deep set that these people not only never examine them but assume that everyone is acting from the same bolus of undigested stupidity.

It starts with their being enormous racists.

Yes, I know they’ll deny it strenuously, but really, they are.  They think they’re helping “minorities” and “the oppressed” by telling minorities and the oppressed how to think and feel, and by demanding “safe spaces” for people of other colors/orientations and for women, because you know, just being in the presence of other people oppresses them.

But other than their “benign” intentions the racism is there.  They assume that people of color (any color, even my spun-gold) can’t compete with standard white people.  They assume that women can’t compete with men.  They assume that gay people are fragile flowers who’ll be destroyed by the wrong word.

Having made those INCREDIBLY PREJUDICED assumptions, they cast themselves in the role of heroes helping the poor “downtrodden.”

Of course this gives the usually white, usually upper class, usually female “helpers” and “allies” an extra dose of self-esteem, for being so caring and “heroic” and speaking truth to power.  In fact they’re mostly speaking power to truth, that is they are the gatekeepers and authorities and standing in the way of anyone who would challenge their vision.  They’re also virtue signaling to their buddies in the industry who suffer from EXACTLY the same illusions and prejudices.

They don’t realize they’re casting people as helpless victims because that gives them, the “saviors” a chance of posing as larger than life heroes.  At least I hope to heaven they don’t realize it, and are just ASSUMING that of course minorities aren’t capable of anything by themselves.  I hope and pray they’re doing all this WITHOUT EXAMINING THEIR ASSUMPTIONS.  Note, in their heads they’re the good people, because they want to help the poor brownz (and gayz and womenz) people advance, not keep them in the dirt, where they’d stay without this help. (It’s the “where they’d stay without this help” that makes my middle fingers rise in reflex salute.)

At some level though they do realize it, because there is no one they love more than those who have nothing to offer but their victimhood.  AND because the elite, gatekeeper lefties at some level realize that their assumptions are enormously racist, sexist and homophobic, the “allies” invented micro aggressions and “white privilege” and “invisible racism” to make themselves feel better.  It’s not that they believe the people they want to help are inferior, none of it, it’s that the system is set against them and always will be.  They give themselves away in the fact that these theoretical constructs of theirs can’t be falsified (if I experience “endemic racism” or micro aggressions you can’t falsify my experience.  And if death camp survivors have white privilege, who doesn’t, really?)  They also give themselves away by what they’re now calling “privilege” like being literate and having your parents read to you as a child.  Oh, and most of all they give themselves away by hating with a bloody and purple passion anyone who falls under their parameters for oppressed and who says “no, thanks, I can do it alone.”  Or “No worries, I don’t believe any of your stuff, and I think I’m as good as you are and can do as well.  I don’t need safe rooms or protection.” They PARTICULARLY hate those minorities that MAKE it, like Larry. They love most of all those who let them “fight” on “their behalf.”

It’s not a new strategy.  Many medieval kings used it believe it or not, deriving their power from the lowest class whom they told they were fighting for them against the emergent bourgeoisie.  It was called the High and Low alliance and it didn’t come about because the king had a mad pash for the people, but because under the guise of being a kind and wise protector, he could keep his power over the nation, the big noblemen and the increasingly louder middle class.

So, oligarchs will do as oligarchs will do, right?

Which makes it no wonder that this “ally and protector” role is the one embraced by ALL the big publishing houses, the ones with power, the ones who can actually stop publishing people or stop pushing them or whatever, even in our diminished times.  It is also embraced by all the bien pensant both in our field, in the news and in academia.  This is like “most children of good families in Europe are communists.”  These people are rich (mostly very white), went to prestigious universities, and are mostly wealthy.  They are certainly powerful.  When the tide of opinion turned against that, their way to retain power was to make themselves into “allies” and “protectors.”  This is conscious at various levels to different ones of them.  BUT they do know they are the good guys, helping the little people who’d be lost without them, right?

Right.  So, along come the unwashed, nominating people they just like to read.  And of course the left thinks we want to keep women and minorities from publishing.  It’s obvious if you make their assumptions.

So, ignore that ALL their assumptions are bog-stupid and require a level of crazy that will have you thinkink you can psychically communicate with plants, and follow along.

1- Assumption one: minorities can’t actually write, not things anyone wants to read.  Yes, I know they say that’s because the field, the world, the universe is racisss sexisss and homophobic, but the truth is that they think these are less than people with full agency.  Because you know, if you have full agency and are as smart, on average as anyone else, you can change your writing style and focus to make it what people will buy.  And yes, they’ll say that’s not “authentic” because that’s how they keep writers in the plantation.  Yes, that was tried with me.

2- Assumption two: because they’ll never sell, the only way for minorities to make a living in SF/F is to have academic jobs.  Look, I told you I was thick, didn’t I?  I should have tweaked that when the third agent tried to push me into getting a university teaching job and writing less.  Because I could already be teaching (languages) in college, and in fact that’s my fall-back job when we’re in trouble, it never occurred to me this was being suggested as the only-true-way for me to make a living from “writing sf/f”.

3- Assumption three: because everyone is racist (as the gatekeepers in fact are) there are people out to get these people simply for being different color etc.

4- Minorities and women can’t compete with white males in a field not ACTIVELY biased FOR them, and not biased to give awards for right genetics and right think.   I want to note that while I reject the left’s assumptions UTTERLY, I reject this one UTTERLY AND VEHEMENTLY.  Sure, I can’t beat every white male in my own field, but I can’t beat every woman either.  However, I am better than a significant number of them, enough to know what’s holding me back is not my gender or the fact I can tan.

(This btw for the first time reconciles the fact that while giving all praise (and awards) to diversity the left in charge of publishing thinks that all minorities can write is narrow stuff relating to their own history and victimhood.  “Authentic” in other words. They also discourage books with minority — of any kind — heroes.)

If you follow all those assumptions and you have some experience in Academia, you know that the left insists on giving awards on the basis of race, sex, etc, because that helps with university jobs.  (To be fair most of them also work in academia.)

This means that by trying to remove the awards from going automatically to the oppressed ones (and their saintly allies) and making them compete in an open field with those evil white males we are making it impossible for them to make a living writing science fiction.  So, by wanting awards to be actually meritocratic (a lot of people have also pulled their masks off by coming out AGAINST meritocracy.) we are evil racist, sexist, homophobes who want to keep the poor downtrodden from WRITING science fiction.

Ignored in all this is indie, of course, because you know, it doesn’t fit in the academic career plan.

Ignored in all this too is the fact that writers write.  I wrote for 13 years (8 novels, five since published) uphill, both ways, without so much as a personalized rejection till year eight (for novels.  For shorts I got a personalized rejection first time, then nothing for eight years.)  I wrote even in times when I didn’t have the money for stamps to send the novels out.  I wrote when I thought I’d never ever ever break in and that writing was just a weird hobby.

So, you know, you can’t keep anyone from writing.  And with indie you can’t keep anyone from publishing.  And the last thing I care about is the color of the hands that typed in the manuscript.  Heck, I don’t even care about the color of characters, or their sex, or their orientation, or if they’re purple aliens.  I care that they are interesting. Keep me reading, and I don’t even care if your worldbuilding shows you have no clue how a real economy works.

Anyway, problem solved.  I figured out why they accuse us of this insanity.  And it makes sense, if you buy into all their assumptions.  Of course, if you buy all their assumptions you’re more than a few slices short of a loaf or exquisitely indoctrinated, or using their assumptions as a hustle, but never mind that. (And if you’re like me, it’s hard to control the rise of the middle fingers in response to the assumptions, but never mind that either.)

Now when they bring this stupidity up, we can confront them with the submerged part of their ideas, which, like an iceberg, are massive and dark.

And we can return to ignoring them and writing fiction (and some non fiction).  Because you know, writers write.  They don’t use fiction as a vehicle for a university job. It doesn’t really matter what color or sex the writers are or with whom they prefer to bump uglies.  Writers write.

Some of us are so broken and so innocent we just want to tell stories and have them read.

And that’s what I’ll do.

 

 

 

We Were Never the Scintilla

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Recently, in varying forums on recent events, I’ve come across something I thought was dead and buried in my young days. Something I even fell for until I became much older.

It’s the whole “after the mess you made of the world.”  The bizarre thing is that they were aiming it at people like me: we came after the boomers, and really our generation is known for what on the world stage?  Cutting our hair and going to work? Oh, yes, I know, we are a “Material” generation who doesn’t care about social causes.  The thing is, if we had, or those of us who did, would it do anything?  Would it have given the feckless whining babies the perfect world they feel they were entitled to at birth?

Look, perhaps there is something to the human psyche that we feel we should, each of us, be born into the garden of Eden.  I don’t know.  I remember being fourteen and yelling at my parents they should never have brought me into that messed up world.

If questioned on why the world was messed up, I would have poured fourth the usual cant of the school indoctrination.  We were going to run out of oil.  There would be famines.  And the world was polluted and overpopulated.  And there were so many poor people, and and and.

It wasn’t what made me resentful of course.  What actually ate me up is that I didn’t fit in very well with the other kids, and didn’t know why and how to fix it.

And of course, it was somehow, obscurely, my parents’ fault.

Yes, it is the subject of Billy Joel’s “We didn’t start the fire.”  I realized that as in my head I heard “every generation, blames the one before.”

But does every generation?  Did every generation?

I can go back to Greek and Latin writing and find the older generation bitching about the younger and asking what the world would be like in the kids’ hands, but I don’t remember this resentful bitching tone of “Well, we have to do this because you gave us a world that was a mess.”

It seems to me this expectation that the world will not be a mess, that it will be handed off shiny and new is a thing of the new era, of crazy secular religions like Marxism which don’t recognize humans are and have always been broken and that no one, including the first generation of humans ever got handed a perfect world: either in the sense of everyone being perfectly well provided for and happy, or in the sense of each individual human having the best shot at happiness and doing well possible.

Perhaps it started with the guilt after WWI and veterans who wanted to keep the horror away from the kids, and talked about what they had done as if they had some personal guilty.  Maybe it started before, but what sense does it make?

Coming across that vaccuous cri de coeur my first reaction was “I’ve been doing what I can to fight communism that would destroy the prosperity and security of the present world, you’re welcome.”

But I’m sure that’s some of the snowflakes’ problem “Why didn’t you make a perfect communist state for me?”  “Well, because I like you to have shoes that aren’t all size 47 for the left foot.  Again, you’re welcome.”

But the thing is, yeah, some generations change the world.  Even then it’s not every individual.  And some arguably change it for the best.  If the WWII generation hadn’t gone marching off to defeat Hitler at the risk of their own lives, we’d live in a very different world and  a much worse world.

Did they need to come home and inflict mid-century-modern and sitcoms on the innocents back home?  Who knows?  Probably inevitable.  As it was probably inevitable that they raised their kids to study war no more and inflicted on us the confused and drug addled culture of the sixties.

Which then led to the people who were born in the sixties coming into a world infected with somewhat-brain-cooked old hippies, a bunch of which raised the SJWs currently afflicting us.

Did I create the mess I’m handing to my kids?

Oh, likely.  I mean:

And I was round when Jesus Christ
Had his moment of doubt and pain

Made damn sure that Pilate
Washed his hands and sealed his fate
Pleased to meet you
Hope you guess my name
But what’s puzzling you
Is the nature of my game
I stuck around st. Petersburg
When I saw it was a time for a change
Killed the czar and his ministers
Anastasia screamed in vain
I rode a tank
Held a generals rank
When the blitzkrieg raged
And the bodies stank
Pleased to meet you
Hope you guess my name, oh yeah
Ah, what’s puzzling you
Is the nature of my game, oh yeah
I watched with glee
While your kings and queens
Fought for ten decades
For the gods they made
I shouted out,
Who killed the kennedys?
When after all
It was you and me
Let me please introduce myself
I’m a [wo]man of wealth and taste

Which is to say, “what, are you nuts? How old do you think I am?”

I wasn’t there in the Garden, for whatever the vision of the Garden you have, and do I look to you like an apple monger?

Sure, we didn’t start the fire, but it goes beyond that.  We aren’t even a scintilla in the mass of humanity.

Sure, we can do what we can with the gifts we’re given to make the world what we conceive to be a better place, but none of us not even famous dictators have that much power and influence.  After all the famous dictator’s role in history at large, is to make humanity realize that eugenic killings are bad ‘mkay?

If we improve our lot and make life a little easier for our kids we’ll have done better than could be expected.  Making things easier for everyone’s kids?  Some people manage it: people who develop new variatals of wheat or a new antibiotic.  For most of us it’s not a possibility.  We just tend our little lot, and if we’re luck, it will be for a blessing and not a curse.

Were kids today handed an unprecedentedly broken world?

I wouldn’t say so, on account of famines being rarer than they’ve ever bee in history.  On account of people having a boatload of options, what with travel and the internet, for learning, improving themselves, and finding some place they fit in.

Were they handed a world with some unusually nutty ideas rolling around it?  Sure.  Because prosperity gives people time to fixate on f*cking stupid sh*t.

But so what?  The world has always been broken.  Humanity has always been broken.  You wanted a perfect paradise?  Why?  What could you do in it but be the serpent.

You don’t like the world and your life?  Change it.  By which I mean, shut your yap, put your hand to the wheel and push.

Keep the good, eschew the bad, bind the wounds, and work.  Because all this yapping does nothing but let us know you’re unhappy.  We already know that.

We just think the cause of your unhappiness is internal.  You should  fix that. Which weirdly is best done by forgetting yourself, finding a job, working, trying to get better at it and contribute more.

Whenever I’m hired for everything my principle is “How can I be worthy of what they’re paying me?”

It’s not a bad principle for (just) living.  “How can I be worthy of this world, broken though it is, and make my life here an improvement on it for as many people as possible?”  Find that.  Do that.

And then the world will take care of itself.

 

A Fundamental Lack of Trust

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I’ve come to the conclusion I’m a very suspicious person.  I don’t trust anyone absolutely, myself included. And that’s — mostly — a good thing.

The part where it’s not a good thing is the part where my back brain is convinced I’m a lazy shirker.  So I often miss the first few days (weeks, months, okay for the hypothyroidism years) of illness because I think I’m just malingering.  “Oh look, I just want to sleep and can’t think straight.  Must be because I don’t want to do work, lazy bitch that I am.”

Apparently this comes from a fundamental misunderstanding of my character.  Apparently it usually takes two or three illnesses on top of each other to stop me cold.  And even then, I’ll still be trying to crawl towards the goal.  Of course part of that is that I suspect I might just be lazy, so I push.

But anyway, you’re going to ask, how can suspicion be a good thing.  It’s like I think paranoia is a virtue.

Nah.  I don’t think most people are trying to fool me.  I just think most people are impaired by their perceptions and preconceptions (as I am) and therefore rarely can know the whole truth.  So I examine things.  And then examine them again.

Perhaps it’s a side effect of growing up in the village, again.  Most people there were likely to have explanations for things that went back to… oh, probably Greece.  Yes, yes, the pebble falls faster near the ground because it wants to be there like a horse in his stable, type of thing.

So I would hear that explanation and then my dad would blow it up when I asked, and tell me the real explanation.  And then at some point I started seeing (early 20th century) holes in his explanations.  Which led to… well, I guess “Trust but verify” as an attitude to go through life with.

It didn’t help/helped? that my schooling had books change every year in the mid to late seventies, depending on who was in power, to reflect a completely different picture of history and the world.

So, why is it a good thing that I can’t just lean back and trust and must forever be in an … informationally adversarial relationship with the world?

Human beings are meant to absorb a lot of stuff and just take it unexamined, I think.  Tribal lore type of stuff.  It’s best for both group cohesion and well, it allowed little ones to know not to pull the tail of the tiger, before they’d seen anyone eaten.

But a lot of what we take in in the modern era is fiction.  We’re surrounded with fiction more than at any type in history.  Even the Greeks who memorized Homer from the cradle weren’t so immersed in story.  Even the apprentices who hit the Theater every afternoon to watch Shakespeare or Marlowe or for that matter Green, weren’t that immersed in story.

We get story from songs and movies, from news articles (that narrative) and well… everywhere.

And since human beings are designed to accept lore, when the story was fairly unified (mid to late twentieth century) through the centralization of the means of communication, it meant most people were going around with a mind-picture of the world and history that had only a few contact points with reality.

It also means even now people are having trouble discarding that picture, because it’s tribal lore.

Hell, even I need to root through my thoughts now and then and go “How do I know that?  Have I ever examined it?”

All sorts of stupid, ridiculous stuff, including the romantic illusions came from writers and painters into the culture in the eighteenth and nineteenth century and has facilitated the rise of leftist mush-heads.  Stuff like “everyone can be rehabilitated” and “children grow best with no restrictions or rules” and “real learning should be fun” and “if you punish your child he’ll be violent” “The natural man is peaceful, communitarian and healthy.”

There was never any proof that any of this stuff worked.  EVER. It just sounded really good in books, and so people wanted it to be true and repeated it until it became an assumed and basic part of the culture, despite the fact that it’s completely and utterly wrong.  It’s wish-casting and what a lot of people over centuries wanted to be true.  It is also completely contrary to human nature and the world.

And of course, the whole noble savage and communitarian past and “the natural man” isn’t greedy and doesn’t want possessions bullsh*t plowed the field of the mind for Marx’s poisonous seed.

Which made Stalin think if he only killed enough people the “natural man” would emerge.  Or no, he just liked killing people, but it gave the left in the US a reason to not utterly repudiate him.

You still run across custard heads who think that if we dropped “capitalism” — aka the natural system of trade and value that humans always use, even when it’s forbidden (which is why not EVERYONE in communist countries starves.  There’s always the black market) — then humans would be like onto angels, with no greed, selfishness or hatred.

Of such illusions is hell on Earth made.

And these things tend to be particularly prevalent among Odds, (which is why they’re so prevalent in SF/f.  Oh, my people!) because we obviously don’t fit into the current world.  It obviously wasn’t made for us.  Or at least it’s what instincts and history tell us.  And they’d be right.  By definition, we’re Odd.  We stick out.  We’re not like those other people.  (Even if, like with penguins sometimes only we know the difference.)

So there’s a tendency to believe that if only we smash everything, what will emerge is a world we would fit in.

History is full of “radical losers”, of brilliant misfits who left a path of destruction in their path.  Yeah, probably the French Revolution was the work of our people, and we know at least the beginning of most communist revolutions was.

That bright vision of the perfect world, once all the people who don’t get us are gone is so alluring that school shooters are probably the least destructive action taken by Odds and misfits throughout history.

But it’s not true, you know? In fact, when all is smashed and enforced from the top, there is less room for us; less room for deviation.  Only prosperous and not-stressed societies tolerate misfits and suffer Odds to live.

And there will never be a world for us, unless we found a colony on another planet.  (And not I can’t tell what that would be like, though I suspect a tribe of our sort would make for a very strange civilization.)

It’s natural of humans to want to fit in.  And some of us will always be askew with the world.  It’s a bitter pill to swallow.

But you should swallow it.  You should not trust the beautiful bright visions of a world that belongs to us, and you shouldn’t trust yourself when you want to believe in it.

It is the prosperous world in which most people look at us like we wear our underwear on our heads (even when we don’t) that has the most room for us and the most possibility for us to find at least some of our tribe.  It is the world in which millions shun us that allows us to live.

It is what it is.

Ignore the lies your self tells you.  That critter is just not trustworthy.