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In The Name Of The Underclass

I’m fairly sure it was sometime in per-history and lost to us that the first human (or proto-human) realized he could get power by riding on the backs of someone who had none.

It’s a neat trick, mind, and one that logically shouldn’t work, but does. Again, probably the first use was Ogg who pointed out under the leadership of his predecessor Grog, the women and children were starving to death because only the warriors go meat.  In the name of championing the women, he hit Grog over the head and the other warriors didn’t kill him, because, well, he had a point.  Look how many kids had starved last winter, and they weren’t even fat enough to be good eating.

One example of this is the French Revolution, where the ascendant middle class used the true plight of the poor (some of whom were starving) to destroy the monarchy and install a regime more favorable to them.

Not going to defend the ancien regime, but seriously, the rivers of blood in the revolution were because some lawyers and clerks felt themselves locked out of the upper classes by birth.  But they used the fury of the true dispossessed (and even for them things were going better, but helping us in the revolution meant yeah, some were starving.)

Because it’s hard to argue with starving children, or miserable old people, or the truly helpless.  Dave Freer tells me that the idea of fairness is in the human brain from the monkeys.  In the band there is an idea of “equal” or at least equitable distribution, and no one likes the monkey who boggarts the bananas.  (Yeah, I know,not bananas.  Never mind.)  So it’s easy to turn that sense of fairness against humans.

In the twentieth century, this is what the Communists and Fascists both did.  It always started with “but look at the people starving” before proposing a solution in which you killed more people than would have starved.

You’ll say this is used on both sides in the US, and you won’t be exactly wrong.  Sure, Trump used the “jobs being sent elsewhere” to get to power, but you know what, his solution is not “let’s give the middle classes of these states money.”  That’s the other side’s solution because they presume a lot of people are too stupid to take part in our present economy.  Trump assumes they can work if we halt globalization.  He’s half right.  The shipping of work abroad WITH INTENT AND MALICE will hurt those countries in which the lifestyle is more expensive/better.  Because while the great equalization is taking place, it will hurt us, materially.  Also, given the regimes in those other countries, I’m not sure it will ever bring them up to our level.  It might just be a matter of having serfs in third world countries forever do the work, so that people in the US can be given welfare checks and kept in doped-out submission.  Globalization is one of those ideas that only makes sense if you presume the rest of the world are Americans by culture, an idea that even RAH forsook once he had a world tour.  So, much as it hurts my open borders Libertarian self from 16 years ago to say it, he might not be wrong on that.  What he is is incomplete.  We need to reduce regulations as much as possible, and make it easier to start businesses.  What businesses could these people start, you say?  I don’t know, and neither do you, but I bet you they would if it weren’t so maddeningly difficult to start a business, particularly a food or service related business.  I have a friend who just started a food business and who is being pecked to death by ducks.  His product is good, people love it, but the regulations and pointless hoop-jumping take more time than the actual business.

I know, someone is going to tell me without the FDA we’d all be served tainted food.  There’s a stupid leftist meme running around about Paul Ryan, Rand Paul and Ayn Rand going into a bar and being served tainted alcohol, because there’s no FDA and they all die.

This is a part of the “and before government stuck its head in, we all died” version of history the left loves.  It isn’t true, it was never true.  People who want customers don’t poison them, and in the rare cases of real harm, there was still the remedy of the courts.  Shakespeare’s son in law had to run off to the States when he served tainted wine in his tavern, and if there was an FDA in Elizabethan England, they’ve kept it remarkably hidden.

This is the same school of thought that thinks that if murder were legal for a day, no one would be left alive.  Or who does old west or medieval shows where everyone kills everyone for profit, or whatever.  I don’t understand how these people’s heads work, unless they themselves are stupid enough to do all these things if there weren’t a piece of paper holding them back.

Thus endeth digression.

The point is, when the big chief Ogg takes over after deposing the iniquitous regime of Grog, mostly what happens is that the vast majority of meat changes hands from Grog’s cronies to Ogg’s cronies.  The women and children continue to starve.

Actually in the case of communism they starve harder and faster, because the economic theories of communism are so startlingly bad that there is less meat to go around.

In the case of socialism, well…. it depends on how close to Communism it is.  Venezuela’s is very very close to communism.

In Europe, as they’re trying to do it, they just think that the vast majority of people are too stupid for the elites to make ANY use of, and so it consists of having a vast underclass who are treated like children, and whose only escape is drugs.  And then you can use that vast underclass to say “what would they do if we stopped giving them their monthly ration of chocolate.  You must see they’re helpless.”

It’s a neat trick.  We know for a fact, because we have seen it in action, that the best way of getting rid of the vast underclass is not to pay them to remain an underclass, but to remove the obstacles to their developing their own business and bourgeois virtues that allow them to become productive members of society.  But that of course would not suit those who want to use them for power.

Oh, I think I just encapsulated most of the history of Africa in the last hundred years too.

And this is without counting the true crazies who then view the underclass problems as GENETIC and propose solutions indistinguishable from Hitler.

This movie has been on repeat loop since pre-history.  It’s time to shed the habits of thought that think we’re very smart, but others are poor things that we need to take care of (if we just put Ogg in power.)

Remove the trammels that keep people down, and people will rise.  Yes, even the “underclass.”  Humans are humans and we’re all clever monkeys.  And IQ measure, btw, not only is notoriously difficult to pin down, but take it from someone who has known a VAST number of true geniuses, it is not a measure of how useful or even functional you are in society.  Most geniuses I know have trouble staying out of the homeless shelter.  The difference between the “elites” and the underclass is opportunity, training and culture.  (The culture being the good old virtues of self-control and deferring gratification, i.e. planning, and a certain go-gettism I’d call ambition, only not in the sense of more money or whatever, but of “I could do this.”)

I was struck recently, while discussing citizen of the Galaxy with friends by their saying “Torby would have done well in any circumstances.”  Yep, he would.  It’s the hardware in the head, not where you start.  And not how much money you’re handed.  Or even, honestly, how smart you are.

Let’s start giving people the right hardware and removing obstacles to their inventiveness and industry.

You get what you buy more of.  We’ve bought sloth and passivity long enough.  Let’s start buying industry, thrift and invention.

Yes, I know you’ll say “won’t think of the children?”

I am.  I don’t want them to grow up in a world where they’re so bored and feel so useless, the only thing they can do is shoot up drugs.

Say no to the oldest ploy in the world.  Be a true champion of the underclass.  Demand they pull themselves up by their bootstraps.


Days of Future Past – A Blast From the Past post from November 2013

*Yeah, I know.  I’ll do fresh posts later, but yesterday and today I’m taking a break from “word work.”  It’s not total loafing.  Yesterday I made the house look somewhat less like a pigsty.  But it allows me to clear the mind a little.  Sorry.  At any rate, I thought you’d find this one interesting. – SAH*

Days of Future Past – A Blast From the Past post from November 2013

Sometime ago I was talking to a friend who is an older science fiction writer.  This was so long ago that the kids were then in their early teens.  I was telling her how difficult it was, writing and (back then) unpacking into the new house, and cleaning, and keeping the boys on track for homework, and she said that yes, being a working mom was very difficult, and that they’d thought back in her day that by the time we got to now, with most moms working, there would be public refectories that would serve meals.

I remember I looked at her for a moment, then said “there is.  It’s called PF Chang’s.”

This was before 2008 and the entire economic crisis, and we’d just had friends from out of town visiting.  We’d driven from restaurant to restaurant, on a week night, trying to find some place with less than an hour wait where we could have a meal uninterrupted by servers trying to hurry us up.  (Right now, our go to for this is a little Thai restaurant, where the service proceeds at glacial pace, and which is easier on the purse – unless we go to Denver where, of course, we go to Pete’s kitchen, where we’ve been going since the kids were little, back when the neighborhood was actually dangerous instead of just being iffy as it is now.)

We finally did find a place to eat with our friends, but it was more expensive than we’d meant to spend and in the mean time we’d gone through a whole range that is well above our “I’m fried/we spent the day working, let’s grab something to eat.”  (These days that’s mostly Applebys and we try to make it on Monday for the discounted burgers, but never mind.)

All these places were full on a weekday night, and it didn’t take much listening in to realize most of the people waiting were people who came here twice or three times a week.

Now, I’m not going to cast stones.  Back before the boys were a glimmer in Dan’s eye, both Dan and I were working in high pressure jobs, which didn’t pay overtime but expected it.  When you’re both working 12 to 16 hour days, the last thing you want to do is go home and cook, or even assemble a sandwich.  And we rarely managed the time to go out grocery shopping, for that matter.  (In that year and a half we were both at those jobs, sometimes I bought clothes because I hadn’t had time to do wash – and I shopped by my usual method of running in, grabbing something that fit and running out.)

What surprised me about that tour of city restaurants, years ago, was not that they were packed, but that they were packed at that price range.  (Then again, I guess some people have less… skinflinty ways.  Also, most of them aren’t writers, so they get more regular payments, I guess.)

To return to the main point, any society that requires its women to work outside the home (and the combination of social and tax pressures more or less requires that) must have some way of doing the house work.

For the science fiction writers of the early to mid century (probably up to the seventies) in the US, the thing that made the most sense was to have the government provide nutritious meals at your local refectory.

Could it have worked?  In real life?

I fail to see how, short of a Stalinist regime, where you end up having turnips five times a week and like it.

Would it be possible to have them be something like a school cafeteria, with discounted food?  Sure.  But I bet you that absent compulsion or restriction, they’d be competing with all the restaurants providing the same service in the free market.  And while I imagine some of these centers would survive, particularly in the poorer neighborhoods, the customers would mostly be the desperately poor and derelicts, using government vouchers, and receiving the quality of food no one else would want, at prices that would come out as a big chunk out of the taxpayer’s pockets.

I don’t think I think this because my beliefs trend that way, but because I simply can’t imagine the level of complexity of planning and compliance of the populace necessary for this to work.  I think it would/could only work if individual food preparation were outlawed, and even then I bet you there would be a grey food market/preparation market.

Take my kids, (please, I sell them to you cheeeeeep.  You’ll have to feed them!) They went to an urban high school.  What this meant is that they went to school surrounded by restaurants, snack bars, fast food joints, etc.

Technically, only seniors had passes to go out at lunch, and everyone else was supposed to go to the cafeteria.  In point of fact, you had to be careful driving around downtown at lunch time, for the flocks of high school students headed to McDonald’s, Wendys, Carl’s Junior or, my kids’ favorite, Subway.  In four years in that school, when not brown bagging it, older son frequented Subways.  He didn’t even know where the cafeteria was until he had to find out because he was on crutches.  And then he found the reason everyone went out was that the choice was so bad and relatively expensive.

If high school students can do this, so can adults.  The whole “government provided meals” would never have worked.

Why, then, did it make sense to science fiction writers at one time?  Why did even Heinlein include it in at least one of his juveniles?

First of all, you have to understand we writers are creatures of iniquity.  We don’t necessarily write what we think is true, we write what we think sounds cool.  For instance, I’m – sigh – ninety percent sure flying cars will never be the main form of transportation, but I have them in my stories, because they sound cool.

In the same way, in an age when most women stayed home and tended to the home fires (quite literally) imagining a cool and liberating future involved imagining a future in which women could just grab their food ready-cooked, courtesy of the government.  And the government, which had just won WWII and done all sorts of big building projects across the land, had the “can do” image to provide this.

People didn’t think of what would happen if they couldn’t choose what to eat when, they thought “oh, cool.  This will be taken out of our hands, and we won’t have to worry.”

The end result of this form of thinking has stratified in many people’s heads this idea of the future where a cool and efficient government does everything humans have trouble with on an individual level.

It is a nice dream and it would be very good – if government were composed of telepathic creatures, capable of looking into everyone’s hearts and seeing what they wanted, and benevolent enough to want to grant it.

No government known to man has ever been that way.  Even in that post WWII time when government was doing and building, it was hardly the beneficent society of providing lollipops for all children.

Government is really good at force and indifferent bureaucracy, and while it did much that needed done, it often did it in a high handed and crushing way (talk to the people displaced by reservoirs, for instance.)

There are things that the government can do (I would argue not as efficiently as the free market, but never mind me) like put a man on the moon, and things the government can’t do, like take people out of poverty.  The difference is that one problem is susceptible to the application of brute force, and the other is too complex or too dependent on individual variables to work.

Yes, it looked good enough for a time.  And yes, it seemed – would seem – to be more efficient.  It would save on resources!  All that food uncooked/uneaten in the restaurants!  All the restaurants that go out of  business! And what about the people who can’t find a place to eat?  And those who can’t afford the restaurant they REALLY want?

But in the end, the people running the Public Feeding Cafeterias would not be super humans with no pity or favor, no confusion, no human feelings.  They would be as human as the rest of us, and some of them would be empire building little sh*ts while others would be just finishing their time and pushing paperwork around till Friday and maybe a few would be really devoted public servants (who get screwed by the empire building little sh*ts, since, this being the government it’s a really big organization and he who passes the buck fastest wins!)  And the cafeterias would offer burn turnips five days a week and burnt radishes the other two.  And people would start driving out into the country to buy eggs off farmers, under the table, and black market ovens would get sold, or things sold for other purposes repurposed “It’s really a foot warmer, but Bob fixed it so it heats to 350 degrees and has a door that closes.  I sell cakes out the back door of the mini-van by the side of I-75 on Sundays.  It allows us to buy fresh food to cook for ourselves, so we stay out of the government cafeteria.  I was so tired of turnips. Then there was that batch contaminated with uranium and all of Mary’s teeth fell off.”

That would be where the public feeding system would have ended up.  I prefer the imperfect and ‘wasteful’ system of private restaurants.

And what about all those dreams of a perfect, organized, top-down future?

Shhh.  It was just a nightmare.  Wake up and work for the real future.  Imperfect, flawed, sometimes more interesting than I want to think about – but possible, in a way those dreams of future past never were.


Alone in the World

I’ve been thinking lately about a bunch of philosophical conceptions on the left side of the island.

First, I’m going to say that this is to an extent the result of self-selection that has nothing to do with politics.

The left has a narrative that is a just so story.  It is, as was pointed out here, in the comments, a Christian heresy, but one that caters to fake “rationalism.”  What I mean is that the narrative of the leftist/communist/socialist story includes all the comforting high points of Christianity but avoids the opprobrium of “superstition” cast by enlightenment onto traditional Christianity.

Leftism, whatever they call it, has its roots in Marxism, and Marxism offers a comforting view of paradise (primitive times, when property was communal and blah blah blah.  If the flavor is feminist, it was communal property and ruling matriarchs) fall (we discovered something that changed us.  These days it’s fashionable in academic circles to blame agriculture, which apparently was no good, very bad, terrible for us, even though, you know, it allowed us to colonize the Earth and have a vast and varied population.  In the seventies it was war.  There are as many candidates for the liberal sin that caused human fall, as there is for the Christian sin, and honestly, none of them make a heck of a lot of sense) and redemption (here it’s different from Christian redemption, where each individual redeems himself, but the species can’t be redeemed till the second coming.  Um… scratch that. Perhaps not that different.  It is assumed that the evils of the human species are because we are not designed to live in “capitalism” which these dodos seem to think is any kind of trade or hierarchy.  They actually do call monarchies “capitalist” even absolute monarchies.  And because we are distorted and made “evil” by this structure, when the communist state withers away into a perfect classless, communal society, we’ll be redeemed, as surely as by the second coming.  Frankly, at least the second coming is more plausible from a scientific point of view.  At least it doesn’t require a bloated, totalitarian state to behave in ways that no totalitarian, bloated state ever behaved.  And while our species might have no experience of the Son of the Creator returning again in full glory this time to rule over us, we do have endless experience of totalitarian states.)

However, all of this mystical belief is dressed up in “science.”  History is taught with the idea that it has an arrow and the arrow leads inevitably to collectivism, and because they only teach select portions of history, the poor kids are convinced of it.

This is partly what I meant by self-selected.  The people who tend to gravitate left, PARTICULARLY those older than say 25, are the GOOD kids.  This is something that is rarely appreciated, and poor things, they view themselves as daring rebels.  It’s sort of pathetic, actually.  (Having grown up in a village, I’ve had a great chance to observe human nature, and one of the inevitable funny twists of the human mind is that the most flexible of humans like to think themselves steadfast and inflexible.  The kindest flatter themselves they’re cruel.  Meek women think they’re termagants.  I’m not sure why, really.  It just seems to be an invariable part of the human “package.”)

They’re the people who went to school and listened really well, and answered what the teachers wanted to hear.  They’re the ones who internalized lessons, and explanations, and the ones who want to have a system in which to integrate everything they learn. Everything has to “fit” in their world view.

I kind of understand that because I too like “grand unified theories.”  It’s just that after the age of fourteen, I started discovery too many things that didn’t fit anything they’d taught me.

I think those of us on the conservative/libertarian side are more like that, because though we were raised in the same culture, a culture permeated with the mechanistic view of Marxism, we COULDN’T integrate every fact, and instead of choosing to ignore those facts, we realized it invalidated what we’d been taught.  Instead of shutting up and fitting in, we went rogue.  We went against the school, books, entertainment, the way news were reported, the way history was taught, and started looking for non conforming facts.  We, in fact, preferred to believe our lying eyes over their sacred narrative.

This makes us a little odd but also predisposes us to be able to process five incompatible facts before breakfast.  It doesn’t mean we’re always right, but it means we can go “Okay, that doesn’t fit what I would like to believe, and I’m okay with that.  I’ll wait more facts.”

The left’s beliefs aren’t in general that robust.  They must silence dissenting facts and opinions, because the dissonance is unbearable.  They’re terrified they’ll become “of us” you see.

Why is this important?

Because over time, with their dominance of the entertainment-educational-intellectual establishment (which let’s face it, like all ESTABLISHMENTS prefers good boys and girls) they’ve become more an more solipsistic.

They were always a little solipsistic, a little convinced that what you believed was most important.  What you believed (not what you did) made you good or bad.

But now they have to defend against so many attacks to their vision — be it blogs, or people talking peer to peer about the things the media would rather not be mentioned — that they’ve retreated into a sort of crazy solipsism.  Or if you prefer, a crazy religious frenzy.  What we believe is paramount, and making the right gestures — even when we know they’re futile or counterproductive (raising taxes.  Leaving the borders open and encouraging the destitute of the world to come in. Encouraging America’s enemies.) will eventually, automagically, bring about a world in consonance with their beliefs.

Obama’s administration was most obviously in thrall of this vision of the world.  Most of what he did — the apology tour; refusing to lower taxes (even though he admits high taxes depress the economy which is bad for the poor); refusing the pipeline, giving uranium to Russia and money to Iran who is still by declaration at war with us — were akin to sacrificing goats in front of a shrine, because then the rain will come.

That they do this while calling it scientific and proclaiming they’re the party of science is part of that humans liking to think themselves EVERYTHING they aren’t.

But it also makes their vision not only dangerous, but frail.  They can’t allow us to dispute it at all, because what people BELIEVE determines how the world is.

This kind of mentality led to most religious massacres in the world.  It is the belief system that is at bay and indefensible that goes on the attack, that must silence the opponent and make them BELIEVE OTHERWISE at all costs.

When you view antifa, or the other various children’s crusades, as well as their romantic imaginings of resistance, remember that’s what you’re seeing: a belief system that can no longer confront reality, and is therefore trying to impose itself by force alone. (This is probably why they have such high affinity for Islam.)

I’m not telling you it’s not dangerous.  Sure it is.  It is at this stage that belief becomes fanaticism, that annoyance becomes fury, etc.

And it’s dangerous in and of itself to have a religion masquerading as a political party, because sooner or later they win elections, and then you get… well… craziness.

Will there be blood?  Almost for sure.  How much blood?  Well that depends when and where and how many of them there really are, outside of “positions formerly of power.”  I can’t answer that, because part of what they did was corrupt all statistics and data.  Since what you believe is more important than reality, they’ve massaged data to be what they want, because thoughts create reality.

Solipsism is a fun set of believes, until the bus you don’t believe in runs you over, and unfortunately their bus can run all of us over.

But I do know something: in the long run what can’t go on, won’t go on.  In the long run reality wins.  And we at least try to understand there is a reality external to our skulls.

It’s going to be bumpy as hell, but be not afraid.

In the end we win, they lose.



Just let the Vignettes Ring, by Luke, Mary Catelli and ‘Nother Mike

Just let the Vignettes Ring, 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:Noisy

They Walk Like Men

One of the interesting things about the bonfire of vanities going on on the left side of the political spectrum in the US is watching what happens when people choose to live with no restraints but that which they want and can get.

It’s not a new story.  You could say it’s an extremely old one.

There has been a tendency, because we are, after all, a Judeo-Christian civilization, even when people don’t acknowledge that, to think of civilized people, of people who have a high material culture and civilization, as people who also have a high intellectual culture.  There is a tendency too, particularly when imagining other civilizations and fantasy worlds to port a lot of our ideals into it, ideals which, honestly, people on the left have long forgotten started out as religiously based.

It is easy to forget that values such as care for the poor and helpless, a sense of restraint in our social and sexual dealings, the idea that just because you’re rich and powerful or in a position of power over others, you shouldn’t use it as a lever to treat them as objects and basically as things, there to serve your will and wishes aren’t “natural”.

There are some excellent mysteries by Anna Apostulou which take place in ancient Macedonia, in the time of Alexander.  I’d read about the time but never seen it imagined in detail, as Apostulou did, but as far as I can tell, her research is impeccable, and the society she sketches is appalling.

It is a high civilization.  No, sure, they don’t have our mechanical stuff or anything like that, but it’s the kind of high civilization I imagine we humans have attained several times in the past and lost completely, some of which might be under water from the various floodings of the melting of the ice age.

When I say “high civilization” people see spaceships.  Um… no.  And no cars, no airplanes, no electricity.

But let’s adjust the viewer to what was considered civilized and sophisticated say in the early eighteenth century.

Macedonia was probably that sophisticated. To fair, material culture wise, other than the fact we had electricity, (though often only one lightbulb and only in public areas.  No, not us, but I knew people who used oil lamps in bedrooms.  I have a hazy memory of sitting and trimming oil lamps at grandma’s when I was really little, and honestly I have no clue if the electricity-in-every-room I remember was then in place, or if we just had to have oil lamps because the electrical supply was so unreliable.)  they probably lived at the level of the village, and in some places a little better.

And yet, it is not anything we can picture as “civilized.”  Not only is there no care in protecting the helpless, there is no attempt at self restraint, except in the name of an “honor” we wouldn’t recognize.  And since their idea of honor is closer to Arab than ours, there are atrocities committed in the name of that “honor.”

But — I did say they are very good mysteries, right — these people are still recognizably human, with all our impulses and wishes and wants.  It’s just that the idea you should restrain yourself, or, frankly, give a good goddamn about anything but perhaps honor and tribe doesn’t exist.  There is religion and gods, but they’re things to appease, not a dictate of good behavior.  Pious didn’t mean “good” or “moral” in our sense.

So, what is this all about?

Well, the code of self restraint and looking after people who need it, as well as of looking beyond family and tribe is not uniquely Jewish-Christian.  There were ancient philosophies and schools of thoughts in other religions that advocated both of these, though sometimes with kind of interesting twists.  (Often reading histories not of the west is a lot like how P.J. O’Rourke described the Philippines.  Everything is great and normal, until you wake up and find mommy eating live snakes in the kitchen at two am.)

In fact, I suspect you could write a history of human civilization/life that swung between the pendulums of “natural man” and “restrained man.”  (In which man means human.  It just doesn’t scan right, auditorily if I do that.)

But for almost two hundred years now, starting with the romantics and the myth of the noble savage, we’ve been swinging away from “restrained” (by morality or civics) man and towards “natural man.”

Only the natural man isn’t.  Not any more than the restrained man.  And not at this level of civilization.  I suppose there is a “natural man” who sleeps in trees, wears no clothes, eats whatever he can catch raw.  He’s not a noble savage, but the amount of damage he can do to himself or others is limited, because he can’t really spread his ideas, since he can’t talk.

The “Natural man” these people aspire to is “unrestrained man” with all the wealth and power of civilization at their command.

This is what’s in the head of western elites at this point.  Their very expensive education has destroyed all the historical, moral, civic structures of their ancestors in favor of “just doing what comes naturally.”

I’ll note the right side of the spectrum behaves better, but who knows if it’s natural or simply because they can’t say boo without the press jumping on them.  OTOH the fact they identify as right, despite all the material disadvantages of doing that must mean they believe in SOMETHING enough not to just switch it to left and reap those advantages.

However the left, because they are in perfect accordance with the press and other supposed guardians of moral/public behavior, get a free pass even on the most atrocious transgressions.

My guess?  What we’re seeing in corruption, betrayal, aiding and abetting enemies (giving uranium to Russia, whatever the hell is going on with Muslim Brotherhood ties, etc.) and just sexual insanity and extortion, is the tip of the iceberg.

The natural man, unrestrained and with no fear of discovery because no one would expose him/her, since they’re the “good people” can get amazingly complex and bizarrely perverse.

I’m almost afraid of what we find next.



What Happened: Grit and Gratitude (It took grit and I’m not grateful) by Amanda S. Green

What Happened: Grit and Gratitude (It took grit and I’m not grateful) by Amanda S. Green


Grit and gratitude is the title of the next section of Hillary Clinton’s book. She’s still trying to figure out “what happened” and why she lost the election. Poor Hillary is without a clue, unlike most of the rest of the nation. If there was any question before that she refused to admit, much less accept, she had anything to do with losing the election, this chapter seals the deal.

She picks up the story one day after the election. It seems her team had to scramble “to find a hall for my concession speech.” As I read that, I figuratively, if not literally, scratched my head. They had the Javits Center atrium all set up for her acceptance speech. Who can forget the pictures of what she was going to do that night? The image of the US map on the floor and the glass ceiling over her head. But they didn’t have a place for her to say she’d been beaten. Wasn’t the Javits Center good enough?

Oh, I know, they hadn’t reserved it for the next day. Maybe that was it. I bet they planned to have the election watch, party and acceptance speech all done by the next morning, complete with clean up. And, yes, my tongue is firmly planted in my cheek right now. But wait, here’s an article showing the area being cleaned up and put to rights the next day. So why couldn’t she use the same venue, sans the map and glass ceiling?

The truth is probably much simpler than all that but it doesn’t fit with the image she is trying to give in the book. As noted in this article, Hillary apparently didn’t have a concession speech prepared. So, when it became clear she wasn’t going to win the election, she first had to pout and rant and rave about how the country had let her down. Then she had to concede, first with the call to the new President-Elect and then in a speech to the country. I have no proof of this but I have a feeling her campaign had no idea when or even if she would give that speech. So, they had to find something once she let them know Bill, or someone, talked her out of her room to give the speech.

As she writes about that morning, she describes how she’d decided not to wear white “the color of the suffragettes”. Instead, she chose to wear purple, “a nod to bipartisanship (blue plus red equals purple) . . . We had really gone the distance on the symbolism.” Perhaps that was part of the problem. She relied on symbolism instead of listening to what the voters were concerned with. She went with ideals and not needs.

Her ego shines through again with this comment, “My job was to get through this morning, smile, be strong for everyone, and show America that life went on and our republic would endure.” (emphasis added) Is there any doubt she saw herself as our great savior? I’d say as our “great white savior” but that would be so politically incorrect of me. VBEG. In that one statement, she proves in her passive-aggressive way that she felt no one, not Trump, not Bernie, no one could “save” our country, that she was our only hope.

I guess it shouldn’t surprise any of us to see Donna Brazile, DNC chair for the latter part of the campaign, throwing Hillary under the bus – sorry, clarifying at least some of what happened:

He [Gary Gensler, the chief financial officer of Hillary’s campaign] described the party as fully under the control of Hillary’s campaign, which seemed to confirm the suspicions of the Bernie camp. The campaign had the DNC on life support, giving it money every month to meet its basic expenses, while the campaign was using the party as a fund-raising clearinghouse. . .

Right around the time of the convention, the leaked emails revealed Hillary’s campaign was grabbing money from the state parties for its own purposes, leaving the states with very little to support down-ballot races. . . Yet the states kept less than half of 1 percent of the $82 million they had amassed from the extravagant fund-raisers Hillary’s campaign was holding, just as Gary had described to me when he and I talked in August. When the Politico story described this arrangement as “essentially … money laundering” for the Clinton campaign, Hillary’s people were outraged at being accused of doing something shady. Bernie’s people were angry for their own reasons, saying this was part of a calculated strategy to throw the nomination to Hillary.

Maybe Hillary should have asked members of her own party what happened. I’m sure they would be glad to tell her. Instead, she said, “I also stew and ruminate. I run through the tape over and over, identifying every mistake – especially those made by me.” (pg. 20). Funny, she’s had a year and she’s written a book and she still doesn’t know what happened and she still hasn’t identified any mistakes she made, at least not publicly.

Her ego shines through like a spotlight pointing out the failings of the rest of us poor peons. “I doubt that many people reading this will ever lose a presidential election.” Wow! Full of herself much? She does “wave” to Al, John and Mitt. Lucky them. LOL. I’m sure they would be happy to sit down with her and discuss the failings of her campaign and what she could have done differently.

She did allow herself a day to “lay low” before she started reaching out to people. “Everyone was so upset – for me, for themselves, for America.” There she goes again, putting herself first. If she hadn’t already established a pattern, I wouldn’t have thought much about it but she has made it abundantly clear in the opening pages of the book that she is only concerned for herself and her wants. Just as she’s made it clear that she was going to be the savior of the country.

“The White House is sacred ground. . . I hope [John] Adams would have been okay with a wise woman. I can’t imagine what he would say if he could see who was walking those halls.” (pg. 24)

Pardon me while I laugh hysterically. That statement is wrong on so many levels when you consider either of the Clintons. First, for the White House to be sacred ground, Slick Willy did his best to debase it and Hillary aided and abetted. Can any of us forget “I did not have sexual relations with that woman”? Or can we forget the way Hillary attacked the women who accused Bill of sexually assaulting them. But, according to her today, that’s been litigated and in the past. How she can say that and keep a straight face, all the while condemning Weinstein and the others is beyond me.

But Slick Willy’s escapades aren’t the only laughable things when looking at the above quote. She hopes John Adams wouldn’t have a problem with having a “wise woman” in the White House. Obviously, she means herself. Answer me this: if she is so wise, why can’t she figure out what happened during the electoral season that caused her to lose the election? Why can’t she see that she, herself, was part of the problem?

She goes on for page after page describing what she did to recover from the loss. When asked how she was, she either answered honestly or said she didn’t feel like talking about it. She let people do things for her. (Hmmm, considering how she now says she didn’t know what her campaign was doing re: Russia, etc., I would have thought she was letting them do things for her BEFORE the election). She spent a lot of time thinking about her mother. She did yoga. She drank her “share of chardonnay”. She went to Broadway shows and caught up on TV. She prayed (which is the last thing she notes having done during this time).

I prayed that my worst feast about Donald Trump wouldn’t be realized, and that people’s lives and America’s future would be made better, not worse, during his presidency. I’m still praying on that one, and I can use all the backup you can muster.

Remember, this from the woman who said she didn’t speak negatively about him after the election, who said she wanted everyone to give him a chance. This book was published September 12, 2017. The book deal was announced February 1, 2017. So, despite her claims that she wanted everyone to give Trump a chance, she was ready to throw him, and everyone else, under the bus less than a month after he took office. Way to prove we have to think twice about believing anything that comes out of your mouth, Hillary.

But she realized her “task was to be grateful for the humiliating experience of losing the presidential election.” (pg 34). All I can say is that if what we’ve been seeing from her since the election is her gratitude, I’m thrilled beyond words that we haven’t seen her really angry. We might all melt into a waxy mess like the Nazis at the end of Raiders of the Lost Ark. Of course, that wouldn’t hurt her feelings – or those who supported her. After all, most of them think we’re Nazis anyway.

I’m going to finish up the book in a series of weekly posts over the next month or so. I’ve taken a more in-depth look at the opening chapters because they really do set the tone for the rest of the book. Unless you’ve read it for yourself, you can’t imagine just what a love letter to herself this book is turning out to be. What is going to be fun is seeing just how far Brazile throws her under the bus with her book (which comes out this month). If you promise to give me much good booze, I’ll take a look at that book for you. Consider it my way of taking one for the team.

*Hi, this is Sarah.  Part of me thinks that we shouldn’t continue letting Amanda do this.  I mean… the things my friends do!  But part of me thinks we should buy her enough booze that she finishes this and does the Brazille book too. If you’re a similarly twisted individual, this is her paypal link. Send her the price of a drink.  UPDATE: Paypal link should work now.  Sorry, I should have verified last night, but I was derp.*

The Human Condition, a Blast From The Past From January 2014

*Sorry guys.  Hopefully this is THE last “fill in” post before I come back full force, but I really need to work on Guardian and get it out of my hands, at least for a while.  Of course, tomorrow might be Amanda’s post.  She is apparently doing a second post on Hillary’s book.  One is between interested and horrified.  The things my friends do to themselves.  I shall have a link for you to send her the price of a drink, because, really.
Anyway, as is I spent too much time evaluating BPFs, but this one seems to be the most relevant right now. – SAH*

The Human Condition, a Blast From The Past From January 2014


When I was in a writers’ group years ago, my friend Alan had this gag he did when commenting on an obviously short or funny story.  “I found what it said about the human condition profound and illuminating.”  Or “This is obviously about the human condition, but other than that—”

Well, that gag made me hesitate to make this post, but this post IS actually about the human condition.

Yesterday just before going to bed, I read an article linked from Instapundit about poverty in the Appalachia.  Of course, this meant I spent most of an unquiet night (yesterday was one of those days where real life and interruptions intervened to keep me from going for a walk or even using the treadmill – by the time I had time to, I was dead on my feet.  For some reason just walking around most of the day, but not an uninterrupted, full out, fast walk of three miles, doesn’t allow me to sleep well at night.) dreaming of buying land in that region.  It was the line about violent crime being below national average and also the line about how cheap cost-of-living was.  Something in my back brain went “Well, it would be a place we could live in on my writers’ income.”

While this is probably true it would be quite stupid at my age, since I doubt there is any easy way to access emergency medical services.  (Yes, I’m only fifty, but my health has been iffy from early on, and I tend to work myself into sickness.  Also, given my inability to catch on that I’m ill till I’m VERY VERY ill, I have needed medical services in emergencies more than I should, and I don’t expect this trend to taper off.  Also, if we bought we would be buying for the rest of our lives, and I hope (fingers crossed) for another forty years with increased need for medical services as I go.  Which is one of the reasons for considering relocating to a LARGER city.)

Now I’m awake, and not shopping for land amid verdant hills I’ve driven through once or twice in my life, I was thinking about the article.

I have reasons to add some salt to it.  First the characterization as a “White Ghetto” brings with it a whole lot of freight which the journalist should have been wary of and clearly wasn’t.  Because of the title and leaving the correction about how low crime (other than welfare fraud) actually is, I imagined the images that “Ghetto” conjures: shootouts in the glades, women murdered in their houses… that sort of thing.

Turns out no.  While it is inhabited by a bunch of welfare recipients, has almost no stores (this possibly to the lack of population density) and lacks opportunities for local employment, this region is not a hell hole of gang shootings and violent theft.

Which immediately makes it completely different, and far more desirable as an address, than any urban ghetto.

In fact, the author says that for those who have money and who are “well connected” (though this is likely true I think the more important part is “self controlled”) it’s a paradise.

Which brings us to what is wrong with the rest of the local population, and how to help them.

The first is obvious and is going to make me sound horribly heartless.  The second… Ah the second is far more difficult.

The answer to the first is “There is nothing wrong.  They are normal, sane humans.”

And now you’re going to gibber at me about drug use and child neglect.  And – not here, but elsewhere – someone is going to call for more federal money dumped into the place.  They’ll call for more Head Start, more jobs programs.  The left who – with more than a bit of self flattery – will flap gums about how our technological society is leaving people behind, how all these poor people simply aren’t SMART enough to make money and thrive in the new new technological world.


This flatters the left insanely because they clearly are “smart” enough to thrive in the new technological world.  Lately in reading their stuff it’s all about power couples and marrying intelligent people and – bah.  They wouldn’t know intelligent people if one bit them in the arse.  They are what in our school system were A students.  These were never – at least when I was going through school – the actual SMART people (unless the smart people made a great deal of effort.)  True geniuses tended to be odd.  They dressed funny, sometimes had er… hygiene issues, and they had the confounded habit of correcting teacher.  As such, they were heartily despised by all right thinking people, and usually managed Bs, unless they were really really smart, in which case they trolled the D/F region.  In adulthood the geniuses I’ve known – those functional enough to hold a job – tend to hold jobs in convenience stores, fertilizer plants, or other menial positions where the fact they don’t dress fashionably and haven’t attended Harvard doesn’t matter.

This is why the beautiful people hold on to CREDENTIALS over accomplishments as signs of their specialness.

Which is why the “economy” the left is thriving on is a combination of glitz, glamour and valueless money printed at speed and of crony capitalism which devours the real substance of prosperity accumulated by our ancestors.


Part of the reason that even as the welfare model is collapsing all over the world, the left is hysterically seeking to bolster it is that they really think they are in a “With Folded Hands” future, where everything that “the little people” could do has been mechanized and therefore we should give the little people the means to survive and let them get stoned out of their minds, because, what else is there to do?  Kill them?  Oh, please, the left aren’t monsters.  They just hold on to monstrous ideas.  (Note I said “part of the reason” – some of the left is doing this for the power, of course, and to create a neo-feudal society.  But the rank and file of the evil party are not actually evil.  They’re just human and know a lot of things that just ain’t so.)

(Is there a lack of work for uneducated/not particularly intellectual people?  What, in the last 20 years?  Show me where the advances in manufacturing/computing/etc put these people out of work.  What is really happening is that our personal do-gooders have priced the US worker out of competition – and it’s not even the minimum wage, an effort as sane as legislating air humidity, as the crazed and increasingly futile environmental and other regulations – so the jobs have moved overseas.  This will correct itself either when the other lands create a middle class that demands better treatment – though they’re unlikely to demand crazy enviro regulations – or when we hang the komissars with their own guts.  Because as has been pointed out on this blog, there will always be need for the kind of mind that thrives on detailed, repetitive work, and which really really really doesn’t want to speculate about the causes of the Spanish-American war or read about Elizabethan England.  Whether these minds are less able, I refuse to even consider, because look… I couldn’t do what my plumber – or my hairdresser! – does.  I certainly couldn’t do what factory workers do.  It would drive me as batty as for them to do what I do.  Yeah, they test lower on IQ, a test designed to measure achievements of a certain kind.  We’ll just say they have different types of mind and that, without interference, there would be work they could do.)

So, what is wrong with these people is that they’re human.  When war on poverty was declared, it’s obvious what they were thinking of as an explanation for poverty was what is now called “The beesting theory of poverty.”  That is people are poor not because of any one big problem/injustice, but because of an accumulation of little things.  Car broke down, children got sick, got laid off, and is so held down that nothing – nothing – can lift you up again.

Does this happen?  Yeah, sure.  I’ve known cases of its happening to my friends and relatives.  I’d call it “crisis poverty.”  But I’d dispute the theory that this explains long-term poverty.

The facts seem to dispute it too.

I’m not just going on my own anedoctal experience – though I have that – having been in that situation at least twice in my life, and having clawed back out of it, or even in the experience of my friends and relatives, ditto, but on the fact that very few middle class people “fall” that way and never get up again.  In fact statistics seem to show the middle class moves up far more frequently than down.  I can’t find it, of course, but someone did an analysis of middle income in constant dollars, and the middle class has shrunk, as has the poor class, but the upper income has grown.

No, the sort of ground in, long lasting poverty is, as instapundit noted in linking this “the condition of the human race.”

Heinlein has a quote about it, and I’ve mentioned it here before:

Throughout history, poverty is the normal condition of man. Advances which permit this norm to be exceeded — here and there, now and then — are the work of an extremely small minority, frequently despised, often condemned, and almost always opposed by all right-thinking people. Whenever this tiny minority is kept from creating, or (as sometimes happens) is driven out of a society, the people then slip back into abject poverty.

This is known as “bad luck.”RAH

Insty mentions this, but Heinlein doesn’t go deeper into the mechanism, and neither goes insty.

Look, I’ll admit I don’t have any study on this, except what everyone has: that minimum income guarantees don’t make regions markedly richer (I understand that there was a program in Denver that spectacularly had the opposite effect.  I don’t remember when – the seventies?), that people on welfare that covers their bare minimum needs have trouble escaping it, and their kids have trouble escaping it, that socialist countries tend to go the route where no one quite starves but no one thrives, and everyone sort of simmers on at “poverty” level, more so as the years go by.  (Sweden? Norway?  Well, not enough years.  Despite the oddities of culture there – and yes, culture does count – they seem to be heading down, just not as dramatically and as fast as bigger and more diverse countries.)

Part of the issue with the war on poverty is that it seemed completely reasonable “Give people just enough to lift themselves up out of dire need and they’ll do the rest.”

Only people don’t work like that.  No?

Okay, do an experiment with your toddler: offer them a food they like well enough but aren’t crazy about – say eggs – and tell them they can have chocolate cake instead if they clean their room to your satisfaction.

Sure they’ll take the bait SOMETIMES, but most of the time they’ll shrug and have the egg.

I don’t know about other human beings, but I know one of the most prolific writers I know says he’s the world’s laziest writer.  He just FORCES himself to work.  And I can attest that I too often think I’m two people: one that wants to go bum out on the bed with a book, and the other who chases her around and makes her write.  (The chasing around time usually involves my bummish self trying to justify her leisure with increasingly crazy stuff like “I’m cleaning the litter boxes.  Scrubbing the toilet!  Ironing!)

I also know my older, extremely driven son, often tells me he is incredibly lazy and doesn’t force himself to do a quarter what he should.

I think all humans are lazy and all humans given a “minimum to live comfortably” don’t do anything else.  It’s not a bug.  It’s a feature.  A Neolithic hunter who continued hunting after he’d eaten enough for the day would deplete the food supply and the meat would rot.  This idiot left no descendants.  We’re descended from the sensibly lazy ones.

So, what about that “despised minority” – well, the despised minority that does more than strictly needed and thereby makes themselves “rich” and advances the wealth of all human race are usually, in social terms, deeply flawed.

It either has a tribal identity which needs security in mobile goods for the next time its crazy neighbors try to kill them, or it – one on one and individual on individual – is deeply broken.  Often they are Odds, and no, don’t get recognition just for “being smart” or whatever their oddity is, so they keep trying to get some recognition for SOMETHING.  And often they have other issues.  It is not coincidental that the lives of almost all great men often resemble horror tales, particularly the childhood parts.

There is another driver and that is a cultural identity that prizes work above all else.  The famed “Protestant work ethic” though I always thought that was funny as obviously there is the same thing on the Catholic side (but maybe there wasn’t at one time) was a powerful driver.  People would judge you for being lazy and not trying as hard as you should, and that in turn made people try very hard indeed.  Most people.  Because as Heinlein also pointed out the strongest motivating force for any simian, member of a highly social species, is the approval of its peers.

So you can see how when the “war on poverty” started and there were still fumes of this social judgment going on, the bee sting theory would apply.  Oh, sure, there were still ne’er do wells who weren’t even pretending to try, but they were few and far between.  Most people would at the very least PRETEND they were trying to climb out.

So people looking from the outside would think “let’s make it easier”.

But the very fact of giving people unearned income makes two implicit assumptions: that poverty is not their fault and that it can and should be treated from outside.  (I.e. that there’s nothing they could do.)

That in turn changed the culture so people don’t at all feel guilty for not trying to climb out.  In fact the poorer they are, the more “deserving” and the more obviously burdened, and they should be given more stuff to bring them to parity with “luckier” people.

And then you have vast regions of poverty.

I resent very much the implication that the people of that region are good for nothing but being “peasants” – although in a right wing publication, the writer clearly buys into the left’s nonsense about “too dumb to thrive.”

Medieval peasants were in their unenviable condition because they needed the Lords to defend them in case of attack and this meant giving the lord rights to micro-manage their lives.  Which meant they could never climb out, because this was their “condition” – and yes, the lord looked after them in terms of keeping them alive.  And could kill them as well.

It might seem primitive to us, but it’s a highly sophisticated structure and far from natural.

As soon as the Black Death burst the bounds of the middle ages structure, the peasants took off into the wilderness, where they could take risks for their own survival AND they could innovate and be richer than ever before.

So, am I suggesting we abandon the people of Appalachia to their fate? Isn’t that cruel?

How much crueler can it be than what we’re doing to kids raised by drugged-out parents?  And what business is it of ours anyway?  Keep the payments for the elderly and the too young, and cut everyone else off.  Let them make their way to where they can make a living, or learn to wrest a living from the land again.

Horrible, right?  Well, it sounds horrible, even to me.  Because I grew up in a time when it was assumed it was the state’s right and duty to improve human lives – even in contravention of human condition.


The chances of it happening?  Not high.  So these people will go on living in pill-happy serf-like poverty (but producing nothing useful, unlike the serfs.)  Until and unless the gods of the copybook headings in terror return.  Or until the culture takes a turn where work is again enforced as a virtue.

And then we’ll find the vast majority of those “too stupid to thrive” people do indeed thrive and that most of them aren’t stupid at all.  They’re just human.

And here’s the truly stupid thing about humans: as much as we hate work, work is good for us.  When we work, we create something of value to others, and that raises our simian status among our peers, and in turn that’s good for our mental health and even our physical one.  (Work here being defined as doing something useful, not filling federal forms or polishing dog poo.)

And the more we work and the more confidence we gain, the more we find we can do, and the more interesting it becomes.

But none of us would start without some incentive that makes it more painful not to work.  For a lot of us that’s being not quite right in the head (what, you think a person who sits around writing lies for a living is sane?); for others it’s having something to prove; but for the vast majority of sane humans it is to need to eat and have a roof over their heads.

And this is why in the war on poverty we lost.  We met poverty and found that the seeds of it resided in each of our very sane normal brethren.

Poverty is normal.  Sloth is normal.  It’s we who work who are crazy. Absent that madness we’d all be living in caves and feasting-starving on hunted mammoth.

This That and Important Stuff

First this and that: still marooned “this” close to the end of Guardian, mostly because it was really cold in the house night before last.  We had a huge temperature dip and hadn’t adjusted the thermostat.  Which is fine, except that I only noticed when I went to bed.  And then I wasn’t awake enough to get up and change it.  So I spent the night shivering, and was a zombie all day.

You’d think being a zombie is good for writing MHI, but it’s not all it’s cracked up to be.  So I went to bed almost at sunset and slept till seven am, and I’m able to think today, so I’d LIKE to race to the end.  MIGHT be tomorrow though, because yesterday was a fricking wash.

Second, if any of you in the area know of an internship younger son (a year from completing BS in EE and ME with Aerospace as a minor — his school doesn’t offer it as a major.  Plan is to finish the two, get a job, then take master in Aerospace on the side) half time and paying, we’d be very interested in having him apply.  School didn’t tell us he had reached maximum he could borrow until this semester, so we’re in the hook for this semester’s full tuition, which wouldn’t even be a big deal if we’d had warning.  We’d just have postponed some work on the house and such, but… we had no warning.  Their excuse, btw, was that he hasn’t even started to use Parents Plus loans.  Yeah, no.  Not gonna.  Anyway, he needs to work this last year, because we can’t pay it, particularly not if my health doesn’t hold.  (It probably will, but…)  I don’t like to be in a position where if I don’t deliver books we’re broke, iow.

Meanwhile I figured out part of the problem with health, now that thyroid is almost right-adjusted has been second hand apnea.  We’ve gone through this before and it took us five years for Dan to get a cpap.  Well, he lost tons of weight and stopped using it.  He probably shouldn’t have (in his family even thin people have apnea after about 30) BUT he couldn’t make our doctor understand it needed to be adjusted DOWN.  So…. weight crept back on, and I think for the last two years he’s been really noisy at night.  I don’t really hear it, not consciously, but I also don’t enter deep sleep.  We got these mouth adjusters (I’m supposed to have one anyway, as I’ve broken teeth grinding them at night) and it stops the noise.  He still does apnea, as in, I’ll wake up with him struggling to breathe and have to touch him or shake him, but that’s not constant, and I think I only wake on really bad episodes.  So, I’m sleeping better.  (Unless I’m freezing.)  And you’ll think this is weird (unless you’ve gone through it) but I started sleeping with my shooting ear protection on a year ago, and yet didn’t get it until we had to be in a hotel where we had to get up and go to bed at same time.

Anyway, I think poor sleep has been an issue, but it’s getting taken care of.

Unrelated, sort of, if you look to your right, you’ll see a patreon coming soon link.  What you won’t see is that the paypal link is different.

I’d like to ask all of you who subscribe/send money to please change to this link instead.  It doesn’t have subscription ability, but I think Paypal does, anyway.

Reasons for this are IRS.  The other one goes through Goldport Press and it makes it almost impossible not to claim it as income.  This one will be understood to be gifts because you like my blog, not because you’re doing business with a publishing company.  This is why I’m not even offering anything for it.  That and because I’ve sucked at actually sending stuff.  Now you know I was first hypothyroidal then sleep deprived, this might make more sense.  I’ll still make good on this — I still need to do Hoyts’ Huns t-shirts, but it’s low on the priorities — but only once Guardian is in.

Patreon was put there by my husband.  I’ve tried to explain the problem to him.  Since patreon is donate x per, I don’t see how to make it just “Support my blog.”  Also, I think honestly, you should get something more.  So, my intention is to write a novel which I put up episodically for the patreon patrons.  Only I want to have it finished before I start that.  IOW it will be a little while.

Yes, I know some of you REALLY want to support me, and don’t like either paypal or patreon.  Yes, I got your emails.  If you look inside any book published by Goldport Press, there’s an address.  That physical address works for checks, if you MUST.


Later on, links to mail chimp will appear, also. We’re trying to make it work, because for some reason it won’t take on this site.  We actually want to do several mailing lists: science fiction, fantasy, mystery, historical and maybe eventually romance.  I know a lot of you read all of it (thank you) but some only read a subgenre and it gets tiring to continuously be told about books you have no interest in.

On the important, this is important:

Victims of the red revolution: The haunting faces of prisoners worked to death in Stalin’s slave camps emerge as 100th anniversary of 1917 Bolshevik takeover approaches.

This is important because mendacious, power hungry and usefully idiot people, have spent thirty years convincing everyone they could that the communists were all gentle, idealistic souls, and that, really, the suffering in communist countries was not as much as that caused by the evil, dehumanizing capitalism.

Communism or socialism are totalitarian systems by nature, even if socialism is totalitarianism with velvet gloves.  When human beings are viewed as existing only for and as of use only to the state, this always happens. Things that we’d have trouble imagining otherwise befall human beings, because human beings don’t matter except in the collective.  So you can kill any number of them to bring paradise to the others.  Only paradise is never paradise when you can be condemned and killed for no reason you can anticipate, when everyone’s needs but the rulers are viewed as “minimum necessary” and not “whatever they want.”

There is no way to do communism (or socialism) right.  Socialism kills by making people stop reproducing (something our ancestors would find impossible to believe) and makes your life small and constricted on the installment plan.  But the end stage of the disease is communism, and communism ALWAYS ends up killing humans in unbelievably large batch lots.

A hundred million broken eggs, still no omelet.  Because the eggs don’t matter and the faith that an omelet will somehow emerge is theological, not practical, there is no way to stop breaking eggs or cook an omelet.

Just say no.  Collectivism: not even once.


I’m Late and Halloween Story

Sorry, I’m very late on Guardian which was supposed to be done yesterday night.  Not only am I going slower because eyes, but the minute I stepped in the house yesterday all the trouble in the world fell on me.

So, I have to work today, and therefore am going to leave you with a Halloween story.  I THINK this is out in one of the anthologies, but I just want to go write, so I’m not going to look for it.

This is unproofed, since I’m using an archive copy.

This story was first published in secret history of Vampires or something like that.  (A Daw anthology.)  It was not the one that was supposed to go up today, but I can’t find the other.  Things have vanished, including two set up short stories WITH INTRODUCTIONS by friends.  After I turn this in, I’m going to spend a week cleaning my computer.

For now, there’s this:

Blood Of Dreams

Sarah A. Hoyt

©Sarah A. Hoyt 2011.  Reproduction in whole or part prohibited without express permission of the author.

Blood Of Dreams

Sarah A. Hoyt


I met him at the base of Impotent Man’s Dream – the local name for the soaring, silver rocket commemorating Soviet Space Exploration.  It was a winter night, blind and white as only the Russian winter can be.

Sheets of snow blew past us, clinging to my hair and the scarf I had stylishly draped around my neck.  Truth be told, to do this weather justice, I should have worn one of the huge overcoats favored by Russian babushkas.  Something huge, and shapeless and impermeable, under which I could layer enough clothing not to feel the sting of the cold and the snow.

But I didn’t have that option.  I was wearing what I’d been advised to wear – a knee-length skirt, tight to the knee and slit at the back.  Nylons.  A molding blouse and jacket.  I had at least managed to wear the scarf, even if it was fuzzy and multicolored, and a hat, even if it was little more than an amusing scrap of fabric perched on my head at an interesting angle.  My chestnut curls I left free down my back and they were slowly getting crusted with snow flakes.  It was all I could do not to allow my teeth to chatter.

The man I’d come across the Atlantic to meet was similarly ill-attired for the weather, but it didn’t seem to disturb him.  He wore his customary charcoal grey suit, and he walked in the slow, measured step of someone who has all the time in the world, which I suppose he did.

As he got closer, he smiled at me, a smile that barely uncovered the very tip of his fangs.  All the rest of him looked exactly as it had in countless statues, in numberless paintings, and, of course, on the corpse beneath glass in the mausoleum on Red Square.  A bald head surrounded by wispy dark hair slopped down to a neat, oval face with large, expressive eyes and a neat moustache crowning small lips.  A little beard completed the whole.

He looked to be in his forties and no one who didn’t know it would have guessed he was dead.  Much less that he was Vladimir Ilych Lenin, the founder of Russian communism.

He walked towards me, with the unnerving little smile, and I wondered if he would try to attack.  To be sure, I didn’t even know what to expect.  What I’d learned about this particular man was only that he’d become a vampire early in his career and that he remained alive beneath the ruse of the mausoleum and the preserved body – of which the book by his embalmers was only the latest and most complete scrap of fraud.

Other than that, I knew practically nothing about vampirism.  Oh, I knew that it was caused by a virus in the saliva of the vampire.  Which is why the only victims allowed to live changed into vampires themselves.  And that, after a period in which the bearer became ever more charismatic, a period sometimes as long as twenty years, in which the vampire could gain control of a crowd or a society, it led to undying death.  The vampire must avoid light, slept during the day and could only be active during nighttime.

This might seem like an awful lot of knowledge, but it wasn’t.  The most important piece was missing – how strong was the vampire?  And how great his need for blood?

I steeled myself to his approach, and did my best to return his smile with a small one of my own, endeavoring to look confident and prepared.  He would be less likely to try to eliminate me if he thought I had a plan that would either prevent it or avenge me.  Something I had learned as a journalist, working in the most troubled spots of the world from Rwanda to Sudan to the wastelands of Afghanistan, was that if you appeared to be in control the enemy was less likely to attack.

An expression of amusement crossed his gaze and I thought he must have seen a lot of people trying to bluff it.  But it didn’t matter.  He didn’t rush for me.  Instead, he stopped in front of me and inspected me carefully, from the tip of my ridiculously high heeled boots – at least I’d insisted on boots – to my snow flecked hair and the little twist of red fabric perched on top of it.

He stretched his hand. “Call me Lenin,” he said.

It would, of course, have been safer not to touch him at all.  But then I might as well admit my fear.

So I stretched my hand and gave him my name, in a voice that came out unexpectedly fluted and high.

“You wished to speak to me?” he said.

I nodded.  I’d left the little rolled up note, beneath the edge of his glass sarcophagus, where he was likely to find it upon opening the lid and reaching out, early evening.  It said I knew what he was and that I wished to speak to him.  In a way it was a bit of blackmail, and in a way, like all blackmailers, I was scared.  I didn’t want to push my luck and wasn’t sure where the boundary lay between safe pressure and the kind that would backlash.  “Yes,” I said.  “But not here.”

And I headed through the blind snow to the side street where I’d parked my little rental car.  Confident that he would follow me.  Or at least wishing to appear so.

I did not hear his steps behind me, but when I opened the passenger door of my car, he was there, sliding in.

A small, confined space might seem a bad choice of place to be confined with a vampire.  But I assumed he’d find it uncomfortable to attack me while I was driving and perhaps get ripped apart.  My informer had told me that they didn’t like getting severely wounded, that it could take them months to heal.  And that Lenin, on display as he was, sleeping in his glass coffin all day, could not afford it.

I’d believe that.  I’d believed so much, already and risked so much on this quest.  I drove through the blinding snow in which my car headlights made no more than a faint web of light a few inches wide.  But I remembered the streets – having learned them by heart – and the turns and presently fetched us up in front of the modest hotel I’d chosen.

We got out in front of the reception, where light shone brightly through the plate glass window.  The hotel was one of the few that had someone at the reception desk at all hours.  As well as a valet to park the cars, and a couple of burly guards to keep them safe through the night.  At least two of which were alert and paying attention and the others within reach of a frantic scream.

Lenin either acknowledged the futility of attacking me here, or his curiosity in knowing how I’d learned of him was greater than his need to obliterate the threat.  He followed me up the stairs, three flights to my room.  For obvious reasons I didn’t care to take the elevator.

When we got into the room, he looked around and sniffed, as if detecting some sort of odor.  Then he smiled fully at me, showing me his fangs.  “There is no one in the rooms on either side or above,” he said, with a sort of gleeful malice.  “Even if you have the room bugged or if you are bugged, no one will get here in time to save your life.”

The room, though opulent by old Russian standards was spare by either Western standards or the standards of new Russian luxury.  It had a single bed, a desk and straight-backed chair, and an arm chair in the corner by the window, where the open curtains showed the unending panorama of swirling snow.  A mirror on the back of the shutting door reflected the window and the snow.

It felt cold and lonely, as if I were the last woman alive at the end of the universe.  I wondered if he was projecting that feeling.  I knew vampires could influence people, but how?  Could he reach into my feelings and make me feel things?

I smiled at him, feeling cold sweat trickle down the back of my neck.  It wasn’t true or not exactly, but could someone get to the room in time to save my life if he attacked?  Somehow I doubted it.  “How do you know there is no one nearby?” I asked instead, affably.

“We can feel the life nearby,” he said.  “We can hear the heartbeats.  The nearest ones are downstairs.”  He grinned again.  “This means you are at my mercy.  How did you hear of me?  How did you find out the truth about me?”

“Oh, don’t be foolish,” I said, and smiled in turn, with confidence I didn’t feel.  “If I told you that, what reason would you have for keeping me alive?”

“What reason do I have in any case?” he asked.  “You’re nothing but a mortal who’s somehow stumbled onto my true nature.  Why would anyone believe you?  And if I kill you, who would care?”

There was something to his features, a sharpness, as if wolf-hunger were shaping his thoughts and moving him towards a goal I would not like.  He could smell my blood.  It was a disquieting thought.  It took all my well-practiced will power to put a smile on my lips.  “Reason enough.  You’re not as secure as you might think you are, in your glass coffin.  There is talk of burying you.”

“There was talk of burying me almost twenty years ago,” Lenin said.  “It hasn’t happened yet.  I still have loyal followers.  People who would never allow the symbol of the revolution to be swept away or defiled.”

“They let your statues be cut down,” I reminded him.

He blinked, as if thinking of this for the first time, and took a deep breath and shrugged.  “What does it matter?” he asked.  “Statues are just statues.  My body, they won’t touch.  For too many years worshiping me was the only religion allowed.”  He put his hands in the pocket of his suit pants, making them bulge in a way for which they weren’t designed, and bunching the coat above them.  He took a step nearer me.  “They worship me.  They won’t let me be buried.”

I shrugged.  “Well, perhaps not, but recently they have reburied Anton Dinikin with all honors, have they not?  And did he not fight against the Red armies?”

He stopped and chewed on his moustache, then taking his hands from his pockets, he opened his arms in a show of helplessness, a show of willingness to listen.  He chewed on the right corner of his manicured moustache.  “Very well,” he said, and backed up, to sit on the arm chair.  He crossed his leg, one over the other with the accustomed ease of the diplomat who has listened to every story and sat, smiling, through the longest speech.  Not that he was a diplomat, of course.  But he had pretended to be one at times, and clearly the training held.  “Very well,” he said again.  “It is possible my nightly excursions through the city have missed something, if not of the state of the city, at least of the state of the world.  So tell me how do you propose to make me more secure?”

He came to the point too fast.  I expected to have more time to work on him with those womanly charms that, I’d been assured, worked on vampires as well as on living men.

I gained time, standing in front of my mirror shaking out my curls.  “You need another life,” I said.  “If this one should come to an end.   I could get you sequestered from your coffin and…”

He shook his head.  I saw it in the mirror and realized that at least that one myth had been wrong.

“If they should decide to bury me, I’m sure they would do the thing thoroughly, making sure that I was in the coffin first.  Perhaps even making sure I was staked first.  There are people in the hierarchy that know the truth.  Some that have to, of course, like the people who pretend to be responsible for preserving my body.  They are well compensated and some…”  He grinned, fangs gleaming.  “Are allowed to write books about it and profit by them.  But there are people who know, and some of them might still be alive and in power.”  He looked scared suddenly – or not so much scared but as though the memory of something scary had crossed his mind, making his eyes widen and his mouth open a little in an expression half-shock and half fear.  “They staked Stalin, you know?  Staked him and buried him.”

I remembered not to show surprise.  Or rather, I remembered not to act as if this were old news, and I were surprised he knew it.  Instead, I trembled a little and my eyes widened and I said, “Stalin?  He was one of you?”

He chuckled, delighted, as if he were a child who had bested me in a game.  “Oh, you don’t know everything, Miss American reporter, do you now?”

I shrugged.  “Staling is not being discussed now.  He seemed like old history.  Though he might have,” I said, judging it the time to drive in a little wedge of jealousy, “had more influence on communism than you did.”

Lenin didn’t take the bait.  He shrugged.  “Not on communism,” he said.  “On the regime, on the government of the Soviet republic, but not on communism.  Communism would never have existed anywhere, it would have died a ghost without me.  I took the poor clay of the March revolution and issued my April Theses and I set everything in motion.  Everything to make the dream of communism come true.  The dream of a perfect state where there would be no inequality and no injustice.”  He paused and frowned.  “Only it all seems to have been too much like a dream that lasts a short time and from which you wake to find the real world intruding upon your thoughts.”  He rubbed the middle of his forehead with two fingers.  “It wasn’t supposed to be this way.  I didn’t count on the way people would refuse to cooperate, refuse to be perfected.  Or perhaps it was Stalin.  He never had any finesse.  But at least… he died for his trouble.  Truly died.  Staked and buried in the kremlin.”  He looked up and tilted his head at me.

Was it my impression that his fangs were growing longer.  Probably.  Only the same little bit of them protruded beneath the lips as he smiled, a slow lazy smile.  “And now we come to you.  You have somehow found my secret.  And you want to help me.”

“Why are you in the glass coffin at all?” I asked, trying not to think that I’d come into this willingly.  I’d willingly set my neck within reach of his fangs.  “And why did you make Stalin a vampire and your successor, if you did not wish it?”

His eyes flashed with anger.  He showed his teeth in a snarl.  For a moment I thought he’d spring at me.  But instead he punched the arm of his chair, hard.  “He tricked me.  The Georgian swine tricked me.  He came into my room, when I was…  When I was dying and becoming … as I am now.  He so maddened me.  He told me that as soon as I was in his power he’d stake me.  And he’d have Trotski killed.  I was…”  He cleared his throat and seemed to recover a little self-control.  “I was ill.  I could not prevent my anger from rising.  I sprang for his neck.”  He paused and took a deep breath and I felt he was controlling an anger that would have, otherwise, taken him over the edge and into the abyss.  “But he’d calculated it and it was near dawn when, as my body changed, I’d started to fall into the sleep of death.  Though not a full vampire yet, not yet shunning the sun, I was already controlled by the cycle of the day.”  Again the open arms and open hands, in a show of helplessness.  “I didn’t drain him, as I meant to.  And when I came to, later, he was already on the way to becoming one like me.  I couldn’t drain him.  And when I became fully dead, a full vampire, he had me placed in the mausoleum as a way of having me watched.  Of knowing where I was.  He didn’t dare stake me then, not yet, as he was not sure whether this would mean I’d turn into ashes and people would wonder where my body had gone.  But he had me on display.  Where I dare not move night or day, I dare not leave the mausoleum because of that damned honor guard.”

He got up and went to the window and looked down at Moscow.  “It all looks so different now.  I really believed it was true, you know – Marxism.  I believed that the rich and the poor would grow further and further apart in their modes of life and that a proletarian revolution would result.  I was only trying to accelerate things, trying to bring about the brighter day.  I thought it was inevitable and it would cause a blood bath whenever it happened.  I was only trying to make it happen faster.  For Sasha, you know.  My brother Alexander.  He rebelled against the Tsar and he was hanged.”  He sighed.  “And now Sasha is dead, and I’m here, but other than that…  Was everything I did no more than a passing diversion in the course of history?  Is man never to live in a truly equal society?”

“You believed so much,” I said, judging the time to be right.  I could hear rustling in the room next door and I judged that the person waiting there was growing impatient.  If I did not move fast, he would let Lenin know of his presence.  He would reveal himself.  Try to take things with force.  As he had suggested at first.  “That you found out about the vampire legend, in Siberia.  You found that there were indeed vampires, creatures who lived forever and who fed on human blood.  But they didn’t die immediately.  No.  Vampirism was like an illness, and in the incubation period, leading up to the death, the vampire became… powerful.  Capable of influencing individuals and groups.  You were a man of thought, Vladimir Ilyich Ulianov.  But you were not a leader.  You were one of these men more comfortable in the real of words and thoughts than dealing with real men and real people.   You knew if you became a vampire – or a vampire larvae – you could do it.  So you sought out an old woman, in the freezing vastness of Siberia, who gave you to drink ashes of a vampire, dissolved in blood.”

He chuckled, more surprised than amused.  “Blood.  I purchased my dreams in blood, it’s true.  The blood I drank, the blood I had to spill.  And my blood, the blood of my family.  Because of being a vampire, I never had children.  I would have liked to have had children with Nadezhda.  Now Nadezhda is gone and my communist state is gone and you say they will soon bury me.  Even if I remain alive beneath the dirt, or if I dig myself out, what good is there in it?  What good will my life have been?”

I turned around and grinned at him, in turn.  “You can make me into a vampire,” I said.  “Into one like you.  And then I’ll have the strength and the charisma to get into politics in America.  To get to the top.”

He grinned in turn.  “Is that all this is?” he asked.  “You want the power?  You know better.  I gave Stalin the power and look what he did?  He made an unsteady dream even shakier.  I would never…”

“Listen, it’s not just the power for power’s sake,” I said.  “I too have a dream.  We know more about how the world works now.  About we know how to control things with money.  You ignored human nature, but people will do a lot for money.  We can manipulate international markets.  We can equalize classes, distribute wealth and knowledge.  We can make the world a better place.  If I get to the top of the most powerful nation in the world, I can do all that.”

For just a moment, he grinned at me, then he sighed.  “All those dreams cost in blood.”

“My blood,” I said, tossing my head aside to reveal my pale neck.  “And you can have it.  Just not all of it.”

“How did you find out?” he asked again.  “About me.”  Somehow he’d got out of his chair and he was right next to me.

I shrugged.  “Old letters.  Old papers.  But I’ve told people.  People would know.”

He smiled, fangs gleaming.  “No one would believe you.”

Close up, he smelled of mothballs and old wool.  His hands reached for my arms, gripped them with the strength of vises.  “No one would believe you,” he said.

The bite on my neck hurt very little.  Like a pinprick or an injection.  I wondered if vampires, like certain poisonous animals, had an anesthetic in their fangs that dulled the pain.  And then the world grew dim.  And I realized he was not going to stop.  That he was going to drain me completely, not just infect me with the virus that caused vampirism.  That I would die here.

The door shook, rattled, and opened.  “Let her go,” a voice with a strong Georgian accent said.

He dropped me.  “You?” he said.

I thought at least it was true that vampires had good manners.  They could not talk with their mouth full.  I tried to giggle, but I couldn’t even stand, and I fell to the floor, in time to look up and see Joseph Stalin stepping between myself and Lenin.

Stalin was attired as I’d always seen him attired, in the year and a half I’d known him – after he’d chosen me and tracked me down through a web of shared acquaintances and contacts.  He wore Armani, well cut and better made.  “Me,” he said.  “Me, the Georgian Swine.”  His tone of voice implied there would be vengeance on the one that had uttered those words.  “Me.  Why would you think they staked me, before they buried me in the Kremlin?”

“Krushchev,” Lenin said, wiping away from the corner of his mouth a trickle of my blood.  “He would never have dared to denounce you to reveal the stories of oppression under you, even to a limited number of people, unless he knew you could no longer get at him.”

Stalin laughed.  “Krushchev.  Dear Nikita knew nothing of why I’d had you – or myself – embalmed, as he thought.  He put me in the mausoleum, beside you, because the crowd demanded it and not because he realized he needed to keep an eye on me.  And he had me buried because he found me embarrassing.”  He smiled, displaying the pockmarks that disfigured him ever since he’d had smallpox as a child.  “I wasn’t as pretty a corpse as you.  But I dug myself out, little by little.  As long as it took, I dug myself out.  And I spoke a word in Brezhnev’s ear, when he became Secretary General.  And that was the end of the nonsense.  It was only when I had found my way through the Russian … illegal merchant network, and when I found communism a hampering of my ability to make money and increase my power that I spoke words in the right ears and allowed Gorbachev and his glasnost to flourish.”  He waved his hands in a self deprecating manner.  “You have before you one of the most successful businessmen in Russia.  Oh, no one you’d hear about in the papers.  But all the ones you do hear about owe me money.”

“I should kill you,” Lenin said, somberly.

“You should,” Stalin said.  “You should have years ago.  But you didn’t.  And now you can’t kill me.  Or her.  Because I might not have as much charisma or strength as you have.  But I have quite enough to ensure you don’t kill her.  You don’t want to fight me, Lenin.  Your corpse might be disfigured.  People might find out.”

For a moment, Lenin hesitated.  But then he turned and made for the door.

As Stalin bent to offer me his hand to rise, I could hear Lenin slapping frantically at the button.

I felt woozy and weak and too close to death for my taste.  That death that I’d now arranged to meet – through being infected with a powerful vampire’s blood – much sooner than would otherwise have happened.

“It will all be worth you, you’ll see,” Stalin said.  “The part of the virus that induces charisma seems to lose force with each generation.  I’ve infected people – a young student on a tour of Russia once, for instance.  And though it still can make someone president of America, it doesn’t seem to be as intense.  They don’t seem to command the following they should.  The following that made Lenin and I living gods.  You’ll be as powerful as I am, you’ll see.  You’ll maneuver to lead the west.  I’m very close to owning the East.  Together, we will rule the world.”

I nodded, but my neck hurt, and I felt very far from powerful as I leaned on his stocky body that smelled only of very expensive cologne.  “And then I’ll die.”

He grinned at me, his fangs stubby amid his large, broad teeth.  “Don’t let that worry you, my dear.  Our kind always rise.”





Again a Still, Small Voice A Blast From The Past From May 6 2012

*If I were writing this post today, I’d call this “Everything is Proceeding as I’ve predicted.”  From various signs, the waters of traditional publishing are getting very rough indeed.  Not for Baen authors, no, but I have no idea what a systemic collapse will do, either.  Also I found these ten probably publishable handwritten novels while unpacking, and I have others, fragmentary, partial, needing rewrite in my drive.  This to tell you there will be Indie.  Because… why not?

OTOH if I wrote this today and looked at the price of ebooks by the big publishers, I might also entitle it “The strange suicide of the book industry.”  Or perhaps “For the love of reading, someone take the razor blade from traditional publishing houses and call a psychiatrist.”

Anyway, I thought you’d be interested on how we came so far so fast.  Five years.  It feels like forever and it feels like yesterday.  Technological revolutions are weird things.

And while on this, welcome back one of our “One armed musicians” Margaret Ball, who has new books out: Insurgents (Harmony Book 1), Awakening (Harmony Book 2).  I haven’t read them yet, because I’m trying to finish Guardian.  Yeah, it’s taking longer than I expected.  I was complaining to husband about it and he said “Could be because your eyes are crossing both directions.”  I said “You might be right.  I’d better book the six month overdue MRI.”  (And he said something like “I see how it is.  You only mind the health if it affects the writing.” Which is not… wrong.)  BUT I should be done with Guardian by late tonight (Whether Larry will kill me when he reads it is something else.  Let’s say Mr. Trash Bag–  ARGH.  Snerk collar.) And Margaret Ball’s writing has never yet disappointed me.

Again a Still, Small Voice A Blast From The Past From May 6 2012


A year and a half ago I blogged about Lloyd Biggle Jr.’s novel, The Still Small Voice of Trumpets.

I’ll confess I was not perfectly straight forward with you, when I did that.  If I remember, I wrote from the perspective of a reader, and how happy I would be to see the writers who had vanished, how happy to rediscover them.  But I couldn’t close that circuit and make that connection.

I couldn’t do that because at the time I was still agented.  I was still not writing for indie.  I did not know if I could be or would be at any time.  And this imposed certain controls on my tongue.

For those of you who have never read Biggle’s The Still, Small Voice of Trumpets, some spoilers follow.  I’ll just say that despite the spoilers, despite knowing how it will turn out, you should still read it.  It’s one of the classic space operas that is near and dear to my heart.

First, to give you space if you wish to read no further because of spoilers, let me tell you that the proximate cause for this post is a comment by Robin Munn about how, due to the horrible contracts houses are now forcing many writers to sign, until publishing collapses and something else rises phoenix-like from the ashes, many writers are going to disappear for ten years or so.  (It’s in reply to this post.)

My answer said something like “yes, but writers have been disappearing randomly, strangely, for fifteen or more years now.”

I’ve talked about this elsewhere, and I won’t go into the mechanisms.  If you wish to read my old post He Beats Me But He’s My Publisher, go for it.  If you don’t – and I’m not the first person to describe this mechanism.  Dean Wesley Smith and Kris Rusch have described at least parts of it – I’ll give you a quick summary.  At the end of the eighties, sometime, while I was laboring largely in vain to break in, the publishing landscape underwent a marked transformation.

It was mostly a revolution in retail.  I remembered reading at the time about the bright future ahead, now chains were displacing indie bookstores, and how there would be more books and cheaper for the public.

This was true to an extent.  I was very happy when a Borders opened here in town, because it had a much bigger selection than anyone else, and I could go out and buy anything, even late at night…


Except the book trade is a specialized trade.  If the people who were running, managing, distributing, etc, had been readers, true book people and/or if the publishing industry hadn’t itself gone through a convulsion of mergers and buy outs that left management quite removed from the day to day business of publishing… or had most publishers the most rudimentary understanding of economics, the chain bookstores would have been a very good thing.
If ifs an’ ans were pots and pans no one would ever go hungry.

However, the conjunction of book retail being treated as just any other retail “by the numbers” and of the publishing houses having clue zero why it would be a bad idea to control the numbers from the inside out… was a very bad thing.

Sorry, I’m so used to the situation that I just realized I might need to unpack it further, for you.  See, to some extent, publishers always had some control over how much “push” a book got.  To an extent.  The book reps – the people who went door to door, bookstore to bookstore, drugstore to drugstore, everywhere that stocked books saying “hey, you want to stock this because” – tended to be (I think, this was before I was in the industry) readers.  But they also got marching orders – of course – from the publisher.  If told “We’re pushing this book to be big” they’d go out and lean on the stores to stock a lot.  Did it work?  Eh.  Sometimes.  And sometimes, no matter how much they pushed, the retail managers, who back then were by and large readers, would read the book and go “Joe, this is a stinker.  It won’t move.”  And sometimes the reverse happened to.  You had “surprise bestsellers.”  A book that was slated to go down into obscurity would catch the fancy of retailers, and they would hand sell it.  It would reprint, and reprint, and reprint.

That was before retail became consolidated into three big chains and before Borders brought its innovation of “computer numbers” and “ordering to the net” to the business.  Ordering to the net is ordering to the last “net sold” number of books by that author…  No matter the genre, the subgenre or the author’s growth.  (And let me tell you right away that there is no writer – not even Heinlein or Pratchett (genuflect) who never wrote a stinker.  And there are few writers so bad – one or two – who never wrote a book I like.)  Or… what was on the cover.  Or…

What the “computer numbers” system was supposed to do was streamline ordering and give the retailer a real basis for re-ordering.  What it did was provide cover and allow both retailer and publisher to play the numbers.  Let me put it this way – if you had only two books on the shelves per store your chances of selling more than half were almost none.  Your chances of reprint were less than that.  And your writing name would have to be changed within three books.  The alternative was you gave up writing and retired in disgust.

BUT the publisher didn’t have to think about “did we use the right cover?” or “If we bought it, how come it didn’t sell at all” or even “Should we have pushed more.”  No.  They could say “the numbers were bad” and cut the author off.  It was ALWAYS the author’s fault.  Even when the book didn’t even make it to the shelves.

This is what made me think of The Still Small Voice Of Trumpets.  In the book – spoiler warning! – our hero finds himself in a world of people with a mad appreciation for the beautiful.  The most valued art form is music and the type of music is the harp.  The world is ruled by a mad king who periodically – for no reason anyone can divine – has an harpist mutilated by having an arm cut off.

This makes it impossible for the harpist to play again and though the harpist might have been very popular, it effectively erases them from public view and public consciousness.  They disappear into the villages of the one-armed men, where they are in fact untouchable and “dead” to their fans.

In the interest of fomenting revolution, our hero invents a trumpet that can be played with only one hand and teaches the one-armed men to play.  In one of the most moving scenes of the book, the one-armed men march into the capital, playing their music and all their former fans, suddenly, remember them and realize how unjust their condemnation was.  Which starts the revolution.

When I wrote that first post, a year and a half ago, I was thinking how much traditional publishing was like that mad king.  I know of an author who sold very well and had the door slammed on her face because… she dumped her agent – one of the big names in NYC.  I know of authors who gave up in despair after two or three series died without their being able to do anything.  I know of authors who never got started, because they saw how their “older” (in the field) friends and mentors were treated.  And I know of authors who suddenly wouldn’t be bought and never found out why.  The wrong word at a party; the wrong blog post; the wrong expression when a political joke was told…  And it all came tumbling down, and you were banished from publication and from the shelves.  And your fans forgot you.

(In here, because the commenters asked before, I should say that it’s an open secret in the business that if you’re writing for Baen “you’ll be okay” – partly because Baen is in many ways a family enterprise, and not run strictly by bean counters.  OTOH when, like me, you like to write many different genres, it’s rather a lot to ask Baen to start a mystery line just to keep you happy.  So at least one of my pen names – Sarah D’Almeida – was sent off to the village of one armed men.)

If you’re like I used to be, before entering the business, you just went “Well, I guess so and so lost interest in the series; stopped writing; retired.”  If we were still writing – in other genres/under other names – we HAD to abet the deception.  In the interest of continuing to be published – not angering the mad king – we lied to you.  We said “Oh, I hated that series.  I’m much happier with this one.”  We said “Oh, that just never went anywhere.  I didn’t know what the next book would be.”  We said “We always just wanted to be myster/fantasy/romance writers, so we crossed over.”  And what the heck could you do but believe us?

But now we have our trumpets.  Indie publishing allows us to bring back dead pen names; to start writing again; to start writing at last.  We’re no longer dead and gone, banished to the unseen villages of one-armed men.

We are, more and more, marching into the capital, playing our trumpets.  Our fans are remembering us.

In the revolution that follows, a lot of mad kings will be deposed.  I agree with Robin that what emerges will be completely different.  I’d like to believe that as at the end of a fairytale the good are rewarded and the bad punished.
It’s more likely to be like the ending of Romeo and Juliet: “All are punished.”

Rough waters are ahead.  Revolutions are always hard.  But I think in the end, the system will be a little less closed, a little less insane, and a lot fairer.

Listen.  Can you hear it?  The sound of indie publishing is the Still Small Voice of Trumpets.  And they’re ringing freedom.