Bibliotherapy – Cedar Sanderson

Bibliotherapy – Cedar Sanderson

Cedar Sanderson

A meta-analysis of the utilization of, and reading recommendations for effective bibliotherapy in a non-clinical setting.

Bibliotherapy is the use of reading to improve mental health, reduce anxiety, and increase ‘mindfulness.’

Firstly, what is mindfulness? Psychology Today defines it neatly. “Mindfulness is a state of active, open attention on the present. When you’re mindful, you observe your thoughts and feelings from a distance, without judging them good or bad. Instead of letting your life pass you by, mindfulness means living in the moment and awakening to experience.” In other words, rather than flowing through life on autopilot, we pay attention to our surroundings, to the people around us, and more important, to why we react and feel the way we do. This self-analysis is vital to living in harmony with our self, and with others. A good thing. And reading can enhance it?

A study published in Explore: The Journal of Science and Healing, examines the result of a small pilot trial of only 37 people, finding that fully 89% of them completed it, and the majority reported a reduction in stress, anxiety, and an improvement in mindfulness and resilience. What were they reading? Materials on how to reduce stress, without training, simply given the material to read. This is interesting, but perhaps not appealing to the average reader.

I would insist that books which portray resilience and mindfulness in the characters, without being written specifically to instruct the reader in how to reduce stress and anxiety, are as efficacious in obtaining the desired result.

In the early 1800s when bibliotherapy was first being explored as a treatment (alongside other methods), “It will be useful, as soon as out patients begin to discover any marks of the revival of mind, to oblige them to apply their eye to some simple and entertaining book,” Benjamin Rush wrote. While this is evidently targeted at those who had broken down enough to become a patient, what if the bibliotherapy was instituted much earlier, with the idea of preventative care rather than palliative? In addition, the idea was not met with overall approval. Isaac Ray wrote that “Cheap novels and trashy newspapers are more a cause than a cure of insanity.” The therapy endured, though, and became much recommended whether it was simply to allow the weary mind to escape daily tedium, to meditate, or to seek self-improvement.

In 2012, a study in Clinical Psychology and Psychotherapy showed quite clearly that bibliotherapy was effective in cases of subthreshold depression. “The results indicated that cognitive bibliotherapy resulted in statistically and clinically significant changes both in depressive symptoms and cognitions, which were maintained at follow‐up. In contrast, placebo was only associated with a temporary decrease in depressive symptoms, without significant cognitive changes.” Subthreshold depression is difficult to define, and has no clear treatment. Most would term it merely a case of the blues. However, most young adults and adults would admit that this is a condition they have found themselves in at some point. Reading, it seems, is an effective self-therapy.

Preventative care, then can be helpful. The study I referenced above followed a group of people for a year. They were given books to read that were not challenging – a 6thgrade reading level – and rated ‘highly interesting.’ The participants then discussed their reading monthly.

The interactive facet of this therapy seems to be an important part of it becoming truly effective for some, and for some purposes, although it is commonly carried out with private readings. A study of a Read-Aloud Group Bibliotherapy for the elderly: an Exploration of cognitive and social transformation, explored the use of group discussions to increase the mind’s ability to remember, endure, and heal

. “The idea that literature plays a role in healing has prevailed within nearly all human societies. From the distant past to the present day, humans have witnessed the extraordinary ability of literature to touch the soul, broaden the mind, enhance the imagination and invigorate the human spirit” (Katrina Genuis)

We are convinced, then, that bibliotherapy is a tool we can use in our own lives to improve our minds, our stress levels, and quality of life. How shall we go about this?

We can read to improve our minds, seeking out interesting books that instruct us without dwelling on ‘morbid thoughts’ (Galt, 1953). Historical books, references that improve our professional aspects, those can be part of the prescribed bibliography. Challenging our perceptions, too, is important. As is conversation about what we have read.

Beyond that is the use of reading for our physical health. Psychoneuroimmunology as described by Dr Gene Cohen is the phenomenon where stimulation of the central nervous system enhances the immune system. He reports that ‘an involvement in the arts associate with positive feelings triggers a response in the brain.’ His findings are supported by a study published by the University of Tokyo, which found in a two-pronged stufy of nearly 100 participants: “Study 1 revealed that participants felt more relaxed after reading positive poems with either personal or social content than after reading negative ones, and they felt least refreshed and calm after reading negative poems with personal content. Study 2 showed that participants reported less depressed feelings, both after reading an excerpt from an explanatory leaflet and after a controlled rest period.”

We conclude, then, that the content used for bibliotherapy is important. Negative, depressing, morbid, and nihilist materials are almost worse than nothing at all. For most, this is not surprising, as the twig is inclined, so grows the tree. However, an examination of popular literature shows that the quality for bibliotherapy must be considered. Dystopian, horror, or ‘literary’ fiction should be avoided. Instead, stories that offer insights into the resilience of the human character, which may go through a valley of despair but in the end offer hope and portrayal of personal growth, these should be offered for bibliotherapy. Uplifting personal stories, which can offer the reader a pleasant escape are not to be scorned, but rather sought out as a mental exercise in relaxation.

Through the pages of a novel, or a particularly well-done biography or historical sketch, the reader can find solace and solutions for their own struggles. However, the overly negative or heavy-handed treatments will not be effective. Choose the materials wisely.

Finally, discussion and group participation can be of further use in the alleviation of feelings of loneliness and irrelevance, and to help the reader become more socially active while stimulating their mind. Keeping in mind that a positive atmosphere is as important here as it is between the covers of the book, the group should be chosen carefully, and a route to withdraw from that group should be available if the dynamic becomes toxic. Online groups can be variable, with exiting them being simple, but they lack the face-to-face interaction that can be beneficial for the lonely.

In closing, consider this from a study carried out in Army Hospitals, “men bore their hardships more easily by reason of reading matter that either diverted or nourished them in some mysterious way.” (Jack and Ronan, 2008). What would you consider to be a nutritious book, then? A diverting one?

Bibliography

GENUIS, KATRINA. “Read-aloud group Bibliotherapy for the elderly: An exploration of cognitive and social transformation.” Journal Of Applied Arts & Health 6, no. 1 (June 2015): 77-89. Art & Architecture Complete, EBSCOhost (accessed August 23, 2015).

Macdonald, J., D. Vallance, and M. McGrath. “An evaluation of a collaborative bibliotherapy scheme delivered via a library service.” Journal Of Psychiatric And Mental Health Nursing 20, no. 10 (December 2013): 857-865. PsycINFO, EBSCOhost (accessed August 23, 2015).

Moldovan, Ramona, Oana Cobeanu, and Daniel David. “Cognitive bibliotherapy for mild depressive symptomatology: Randomized clinical trial of efficacy and mechanisms of change.” Clinical Psychology & Psychotherapy 20, no. 6 (November 2013): 482-493. PsycINFO, EBSCOhost (accessed August 23, 2015).

Morita, Haruka, and Genji Sugamura. “[Reading poems to oneself affects emotional state and level of distraction].” Shinrigaku Kenkyu: The Japanese Journal Of Psychology 85, no. 5 (December 2014): 437-444. MEDLINE with Full Text, EBSCOhost (accessed August 23, 2015).

Sharma, Varun, et al. “Bibliotherapy to decrease stress and anxiety and increase resilience and mindfulness: a pilot trial.” Explore (New York, N.Y.) 10, no. 4 (July 2014): 248-252. MEDLINE with Full Text, EBSCOhost (accessed August 23, 2015).

Burning Down The Field in Order to Save It

So, I thought I didn’t care about the result of the Hugos, because in making the establishment lose their collective sh*t at the “non approved” nominations, we’d proven our point: that there is a political color bar in SF/F; that the self-proclaimed elites of sf view what fans like as problematic and therefore view the supposed “fan” award as the toy of the glitterati; and that NATIONAL PUBLICATIONS marched in lockstep with the narrative of a tiny clique over an award that in the past has sometimes been given with hundreds of votes (after which display it’s pretty hard to claim that the left doesn’t have a death lock on the media. And btw nothing was weirder than being told by the National Media we were the ones wanting to drive people off the field, while nominee after nominee was hounded off the ballot by leftist who — since WE have no political color bar — were often their co-believers.)

Turned out I did.  Yesterday was even more of a victory to the Sad Puppies than I expected.  And I wish it hadn’t been.  And I’m absolutely serious about this.

I don’t mean I wish a different set of books/stories had won.  That is only to the extent that the DELIBERATE and PARTISAN slighting of such unexceptionable luminaries as Kevin J. Anderson and Jim Butcher (Yes, yes Three Body Problem.  Well, I didn’t find it worth it, but I bet you half the people who voted for it voted either under the illusion they were favoring Chicoms OR as a slam against the puppies.But quite beyond that the block voting for the clumsy Ancillary “but pronouns” would have won first place if it weren’t Australian Rules) is a blot on the face of our genre and makes me sigh and roll my eyes.

No, I mean that the display of naked bias and, more importantly, of infantile foot-stomping and the clever-dumb insults only toddlers could think brilliant BEFORE and during the presenting of the awards makes me, today, embarrassed to call myself a science fiction and fantasy writer and, for the first time in my life, wondering if it’s time we came up with another word.

I’m just going to put it out there, without further elaboration, that adults don’t put on a panel on a subject that presents only ONE SIDE of that subject and that blatantly lies (“against diversity; mostly male” etc.) in front of a national audience.  Adults, at least ones who haven’t crossed over the line of senility, don’t create an asterisk to assign to this year’s awards.  (And for the person who played so dumb in the comments as to pretend they don’t know why an asterisk is offensive — yes, that’s why you weren’t approved — that is the mark used before/after dubious sports wins.) Adults don’t create little skits about defending the Hugos from death (particularly given what they’ve done to the Hugos’ prestige) and adults DO NOT say you shouldn’t boo no-award.

Another thing adults don’t do — or at least not adults in any definition I personally know — is slate: that is blindly vote for a list provided to them.  And that’s exactly what the Puppy Kickers did.  They voted, blindly and without reading the works (remember they bragged about that all over twitter) for the PK slate, including “no award.”  All this supposedly “opposing” a slate that we told them WASN’T a slate but a barely followed list of suggestion.  (And all you have to do is look at the vote totals to see that proven.)

Another thing (and this has me giggling this morning) adults don’t do is go to a blog that has nothing to do with Vox day and start crowing in the comments how they defeated Beale.  (No, I’m not approving you either, you clever fools.  I’m shocked you have the brainpower to push buttons on a keyboard.) You know what? I have my disagreements with Beale, as in most of the things we think are diametrical opposites and I often disagree with everything he writes, including the and a.

Until today I viewed him as a mirror of the SJW posturing.  I retract that and I give him full measure of applause.  Yes, his views are still repulsive and he still makes my skin crawl as often as the Marxists do, but you know what?  At least he has a brain and uses it.  Those of you celebrating might want to take a deep breath and wonder — for just a minute — if you did anything more than what Theodore Beale wanted.  Because from where I’m sitting, the man that set out to destroy the field and prove that everyone calling themselves its leadership were mannerless and brainless children not only won last night, he won walking away. He won without DOING anything.  He won by convincing yourselves to hit yourselves repeatedly with the obvious hammers of partisanship, lack of care for quality and INTEREST in the health of the field.  And before you died, you gloated you had won.  The mind boggles.

Well done, Vox Day.  My laughter is tinged with tears because I don’t know if the field I loved will ever recover from stupidity displayed in such an open manner. I think today I prove the Valentine Michael Smith adage that sometimes you laugh because it hurts too much to cry.

NO ONE can look at those results and think the puppies supporters vote in unison for some imagined agenda.  Not even the rabid puppies supporters. I think KJA and Butcher suffered from “most beautiful girl who doesn’t get invited to prom” syndrome (I was there, once upon a time, where guys self-shot-down because “surely she’ll laugh at me.”  Yeah, I ended up having a date, but there was a reason I thought badly of myself.) I think most people thought “Oh, they’ll sweep it in a minute.  Let me lend my support to the small but deserving Three Body Problem, so the field doesn’t look like ignorant asses. And I think that’s a shame because two men with such following would have lent their luster to the award and helped rinse it from at least a decade of mostly forgettable work that toted the right party line.

That is my only lament as far as the Hugos go.

Oh, sure, my editor, Toni Weisskopf, who has done more to keep this field alive than the rest of the field combined, deserved an award.  But I don’t think she deserved the award that was preceded by the classless and infantile display we watched last night.  Also, she knows she has not only the heart and respect of the fans, but the heart and respect of every author who’s ever worked with her.  Unlike past Hugo award winners in that category, about whom former editees trade horror stories on line and out.  So, I think in a way she already has the award of being the best-loved editor/publisher in the field. No, on consideration, I’m glad that Toni wasn’t besmirched with “the asterisk Hugo” awarded by people who if they were not too old would certainly be toddlers. (Only toddlers at least lack the experience of the world to know that with their “clever digs” they’re actually making fools of themselves.)

So while I am not upset at the results (except insofar as it proves a large number of my field is running the Marxist malware to such an extent that it will vote a slate to avoid an imaginary slate) I am upset at the display of infantility or senility or perhaps roboticity in my field yesterday (Though who would program robots that way?)  No one watching that live stream — and there was a lot of it captured and it will be replayed — can imagine that those who proclaim themselves the “intellectuals” of our field have an IQ above room temperature.  And certainly no one can imagine they have an emotional maturity above that of a toddler displaying to one and all the magnificence of the turd just deposited in the middle of the floor.

Before the pre-Hugo show was done a good number of you, by email, by PM, in private groups and on the phone were yelling that next year we No Award everything and BURN IT ALL DOWN.

The temptation is great, and I know it’s what Beale wants, and OF COURSE can manipulate the SJWs into doing.

However…  However… if we burn it all down, what we’ll be doing is destroying forever the reputation and the history of the award Heinlein (among others) won.  And while the last few years have gone a long way towards doing just that, I — like my comrade at arms and brother-of-the-heart Brad Torgersen — would prefer if we could save it.

I confess that job is going to be ten times as hard now, as people in the public at large aren’t likely to understand when leadership changes and that we aren’t the same idiots on display last night.

On the other hand, did you think it would be easy?  Did you think it was just a game? The effort to bring dignity and meritocracy to science fiction is like any other battle in the cold civil war: they will bring unreasonable force to bear on it, seeing it as part of a greater battle.  They’re not afraid of destroying that particular portion of the culture in order to “save” it.  Meanwhile we’re hampered by actually wanting to save the thing we’re fighting for.  And regardless of what else happens we can be sure that people like Beale are all for setting it on fire from the other side.

Impossible, you say?  Nah.  It’s a million to one chance.  We can’t lose.  But it might take years and years and we need to keep that in mind.  We need to commit and stay strong.  Anything worth doing is going to take years of fighting.

I’m not going to cry out for “No Award” because politics is downstream from culture, and if you guys want decent governance for your grandchildren, we need to take beachhead after beachhead and restore it to health NOT allow the other side to burn it down because if they can’t have it no one can.  I couldn’t much care about the Hugo, but I care about western civilization and it’s time we started fighting for it.

So, for next year, I give you Kate Paulk running the platform of bringing in more and more voters.  MOAR.  Sad Puppies IV the Embiggenning.  (Though none of us will do more than snicker if, since Amanda and I are helping Kate, you call it “Sad Puppies IV, the Embitchening.” We know the other side is going to call it that anyway, and we say “Yeah, and how” in advance.)  We’re here, we’re not giving up and we’re prepared to fight like girls.  May G-d have mercy on their souls.

And to every one of you, my friends, This One Is For You.

SO Tired of the Bull Excreta

Okay, this is an odds and sodds post, but the first thing to do is to say that while I thought Captain Comic’s pamphlet juvenile, I didn’t think it was unfunny, I certainly didn’t think it was offensive (ah, yes, the famously bad word genitalia.  Let me clutch my pearls.)

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The Science Fiction Establishment Clutches Its Pearls!

I can sort of understand their taking the pamphlets off the table, though, not because they were the Worst Thing EVAH but because they were a direct attack on their philosophy.  Worse, they were a HUMUROUS attack on their philosophy and as we all know the devil cannot be mocked.

What I CANNNOT understand or forgive is the taking of the ribbons “Ask not for whom the puppies bay” and “Strawman Larry, that Man is a Jerk” while digs at them are WAY more subtle, are not offensive, and couldn’t even REMOTELY upset a person who is not on the other side of the controversy, even when that person was raised in a convent and never heard the word “genitalia” as clearly a lot of the SJWs did.

THIS is theft, nothing more, nothing less.  Oh, no wait, it’s also more.  It’s censorship of despised view points.  Worse than that, apparently Sasquan thanked this woman, Dori, for “policing” the freebies table in a public tweet.  I want to know who did it, and I want that person reprimanded by the  con.  There is nothing offensive about those ribbons — most of Liberton con had at least one — and you have no right to confiscate them and not allow them distributed.

This is Captain Comic’s comment on it in the comments:

I don’t tweet or twit or twot or what the hell ever, so I’ve not been able to thank any of the counter protesters on the chain, notably one Jim Rizzi (@RizziWorld). If your reading this, Jim et al, thanks for backing up if not me, at least the first amendment.
And to whomever used an official Sasquan handle/account to thank her, excuse me, I mean thank xir (fight cis normative pronounds now!) I say this:
You work with/for the con. You people have the reg info. There can’t be that many people with a “Captain Comic” badge name, and darn fewer with a first name of David. You want me, call me out with the Cat Voice From The Ceiling system (it makes more sense if you’re attending). Put something up on the meet and greet board and I’ll see about dropping by for a visit.
As I commented at Amanda’s blog, how the hell did this ever become THIS?
I AM EMANUEL GOLDSTEIN!
FTW!
Sincerely yours,
David
Captain Comic
Evil League of Evil Faceless Minion #6969
(And how did all the “childish/juvenile/immature” detectives miss THAT one?)

As for Mary-Three-Names claiming that the people who wear those completely innocuous ribbons self-identify — yeah, as what, not afraid of your shunning and calumny, Mary?  And Mary, darling, remember, you also just self-identified.  Me, I’d like to identify as not bowing down to the SJWs, right now, because, you know, congenital stiffness of the back.  I get it from my science fiction daddy.

And since yesterday one of the few people I respect and try to listen to (I don’t in general listen very well.  Not something to be proud of and something I try to change, but it’s not my default mode) Dr. Pournelle asked me why I am not writing, and why I’m involving myself in fannish politics.

I am writing — actually more than I have been in years, until yesterday when allergy to an antibiotic made it hard to see, let alone write, and I wouldn’t have written that post if I hadn’t been mad enough to do it despite illness — however, this is important because it’s no longer fannish politics.  If nothing else, this kerfuffle has proven it.

I’ll quote something overheard in a discussion from my friend Michael Z. Williamson:

A Latino, an Indian, and a White man
Walk into a room. How does NPR describe them? As three white men. Because badthink:
The prestigious Hugo Awards, which honor science fiction and fantasy writing, will be held Saturday. Lately, they have been given to more and more women and writers of color as the world of sci-fi opens up — and that’s prompted a backlash from a group of mostly white male writers who call themselves the “Sad Puppies.”
My question is, why does NPR suddenly care about the Hugo Awards?
Pretty much every denial of a leftist media conspiracy are left in tatters for any thinking person, by all these major media handling a very niche subject with the same dishonest party line.
Why would the WSJ EVER care about the Hugo?
Why would the Guardian?
What’s next? Pravda and Beijing’s organ, whatever it’s called?
If anyone could make me back off, it would be Dr. Pournelle, but I am sorry, this is not a fannish fight.  This is a fight for the cultural soul of the west, even if where we’re fighting is on the outskirts.
Science fiction is a beach head that the entertainment-industrial LEFT, of Course, had taken, and they’re calling all their organs, no mater how remote to come and defend it, with impeccable coordination.
I don’t like to fight, but I don’t like to submit.  When under fire my only possible response is to give them hell.  It might be ineffectual and fifty years too late, but I will not submit.
I understand not fighting before because saying “These people are all coordinated” sounds like you’re paranoid.  But when so many major organs care about an award that sometimes, in recent years, for some categories, was awarded with tens of votes, it’s no longer even a question.
I’ll just have to write with one hand and fight with the other.  In good news, I delivered Through Fire almost a month ago and am making good progress on Darkship Revenge.
Speaking of newspapers suddenly interested: for months Brad and Larry have been telling every newspaper who contacted them to please call/write/get in touch with me.  None of them have.  Of course, this could have nothing to do with my being female and foreign born and thereofore torpedoing their “white male backlash” narrative, right?  RIGHT?  Even though Brad only took point this year because I’ve been VERY ill most of the year, I’m the “token” and don’t exist.  Right…
Yesterday the WSJ shocked us almost to death by actually contacting me.  However — scalded cat being afraid of cold water, as grandma would say — just in case, you know my comments somehow get cut so I sound like a Stepford wife, I’m reproducing my answer to request for comments in full, beneath.
Hi Michael,
First of all thank you for actually contacting me.  Larry has been telling people to contact me for … a year? And no one else has.  As someone who once – long ago, in my native Portugal – trained as a journalist I applaud your intention of looking beyond hearsay.
If what I say below is not clear, please contact me to clarify.  I am suffering a massive attack of auto immune issues and am on meds that make me fuzzy-headed.
The short version of my comments is:
Sad Puppies which is a loosely connected (we’re not organized) group of fans (some of us are writers, but fans first) suspected that a small clique (whether motivated by power or politics, we don’t care) held sway over the Hugos.  This was in part because so few people voted in the award.  So we set out to increase the voter pool and we called attention to supporting/voting memberships and a group of people we thought were deserving of the award. The reaction from the clique was one of fury and name calling.  (For details look here https://accordingtohoyt.com/2015/08/12/the-goat-kicks-back/.) At this point, I’m not even going to watch the awards.  Whoever wins, we already proved our point.  Watch next year for Sad Puppies 4, the Embigenning where we make the voting pool so large even OUR suggestions hold no sway.
More detailed comments in case you need or wish for context:
I probably won’t be following the Hugo ceremony because I’m not that interested in how it turns out.  I bought a membership and voted but what we set out to do has been done whether the puppies win or Noah Award does.
We set out to prove that the Hugos, which are supposed to be a fandom award had become so reduced by low voting numbers that it was being controlled by a clique which more often than not followed a progressive agenda.
That has been more than proven by how said clique reacted to our telling our blog followers (in my case ONE post) about supporting/voting memberships and giving them a rough list (which didn’t fill all slots) of things we found interesting.
If the other side had simply said that they didn’t like our selections, we’d have gone “okay.”  Taste is taste, right? Instead they called us racist, homophobic, misogynist.  Hit pieces came out in several publications saying we wanted to take the awards back to some imaginary dark ages (science fiction has always been fairly inclusive, see post here: http://adventuresfantastic.com/the-women-other-women-dont-see/) This despite the fact that I am Portuguese, born and raised (Sarah Marques de Almeida Hoyt is my married name), that Larry is part Portuguese and that those writers we suggested are of all colors, genders and definitions. (Because we don’t care about that.  We care about the writing.) An editor on the other side compared us to child molesters.  An employee of a publishing house called us extremists. I made a little collection of the rage here:   https://accordingtohoyt.com/2015/08/12/the-goat-kicks-back/  It more than proves our point that they did all this because we encouraged the nomination of unexceptionable best sellers like Anderson and Butcher for what is supposed to be a FAN award.
That is the reaction of a small clique that has engaged in log rolling for years to reward its followers and those they approved of, whether for political reasons or others. Our point is proven.
Next year Sad Puppies 4 headed by my good friend Kate Paulk will try to make the number of voters so many that no suggestion list – not even ours – can hold sway and so that the award will be representative of what the public at large is likely to enjoy.  That way “Hugo Winner” will become a “buy signal” for most people again.  Kate intends to call it Sad Puppies 4, the Embiggenning.
Odds and sodds that have nothing to do with the Hugos (which I’d be very glad to never mention again, if giving it up wouldn’t involve surrendering) my husband has made lists of my long suffering subscribers and what they’re due.  Mind you, it won’t be quick, mostly because we’re putting the house up on Monday and things are tight as a drum till I deliver a couple more books.  But eventually those of you who’ve subscribed for a year, even if you’re not subscribers now, will get what you’re due.  And sorry this has taken so long, but my health was in such a state of collapse that my notes/keeping track of it was… almost non existent.
And yes, yes, guys.  I’m writing a short story (well around 10k words.  I’m at 8k and reshaping it so it won’t be a novel) for Ringo’s Black Tide Rising anthology.  This is difficult, because my brain is in novel mode.  But now that I’m not poisoning myself with an antibiotic that apparently was trying to kill me and that the auto-immune is bearable (I won’t say it’s better, though it is, but it’s still … well, if you don’t know how bad it can get, like my new doctor didn’t, you would still try to hospitalize me or send me to a specialist right away, or something) I’m hoping to finish it this afternoon.
And then novels will happen, possibly very fast, supposing I don’t attempt to die again soon.  And I hope I don’t because this, like the leftist kabuki theater is getting TIRESOME.

You Fight Like A Girl — a Spoiled and Ineffectual One

Okay, today was really not a good day for me to wake up back in middle school.  For those not aware of it I had an ENORMOUS auto-immune attack.  Yes, I know what set it off and it was very stupid of me.  It probably wouldn’t have set off if my whole system weren’t weakened by the grueling months of work on the other house. (Yeah I’ll post pictures here.  Those who saw the pictures on FB know what an Herculean task it was, mostly performed by Robert and I in hero mode.)

The attack was so bad that I went to the doctor, who proceeded to freak at me, because my arms are raw flesh, while I tried to explain that’s NOT what caused me to come in, but the fact I’m taking benadryl to control it and it “turns off” the writing which is difficult to explain to anyone who doesn’t write.  The stories are still there, the words just won’t come.

The problem is that since the steroids worked on my lungs but not the eczema last time (I think the eczema is mostly stress) they wouldn’t give me steroids and instead put me on a panoply of prescription and OTC meds which so far haven’t stopped the itching (yes, yes, I know, give it at least two days) BUT have thrown me in to the deep end of depression, do not pass go, do not collect three hundred whatevers.

So it was a really bad time to wake up back in middle school.

How did I wake up in middle school, you say?  Well, apparently — and note I’m going on reports of the other side via Twitter, the place the nuts go to scream — someone lifted a comment by Captain Comic from Amanda’s blog and put it up as flyers at Worldcon.  This is of course an “Attack” by the “puppies” and it’s the worst thing ever.

This is the entire text of the comment:

To: Amanda S. Green Re: SFWA Membership

Dear Amanda,

First, congratulations on your recent sales! We here at SFWA are always happy to see the professional success of authors.

It should be noted, however, that one or more of the markets you listed are under review for desirability issues.

However, if the sales are validated, I’d appreciate it if you could take a few minutes to answer a few questions to help us properly determine the true quality and merits of your work.

1. What does your genitalia look like?

2. How do you feel about what your genitalia looks like?

3. Have you ever changed your genitalia?

4. If you responded “No” to question 3, are you planning, or have you ever planned to change your genitalia?

5. When you are naked in bed with another person, what does their genitalia look like?

6. Of the major characters in your stories, how many have genitalia different than yours?

7. Have you ever represented a character of the LGBTQQIAPHDBDSMBFDVIPRSVPRESPECTEIEIO groups as an antagonist/villain or as having any negative traits?

Finally, please provide an evaluation of the melanin content of your skin. If you do not have a medical result available, please go to your local Sherwin-Williams store and obtain a copy of Palette Card #17 – Earth Tones and enter the color number of the swatch which most closely resembles your skin. If your skin is lighter than the faintest color swatch on Palette Card #17 – Earth Tones, please enter “Oppressor White”.

Again, congratulations on your sales and I hope we can process your membership in time for you to participate in our annual Shunning and Denouncement Survey. It’s great fun.

Sincerely yours,

S. J. Woreeahr

President, Socialist Fiction Writers of America

The comment is by Captain Comic, who makes that type of comment a lot.  No, I don’t know who he is.  No, I’m not dossing him over this.

In the alleged flyer, the name was changed to I THINK (I’m too tired to go look and I’m saving my will power to pushing myself to actual work.) Carol Wilson, instead of Amanda.  Why?  I don’t know.  Who is Carol Wilson?  I don’t know.  Seems to be a non existent person.

The first I knew of it was a kerfuffle in one of my private groups, where people were saying that tracking who left the flyers was totalitarian behavior.  Others were acting like this was the worst thing ever and of course the concom needed to track the perpetrators to its source.

You know, I read Revolt in 2100 a long time ago, so I don’t presume to quote it, but I know when the main character’s friend is showing him the power of words to wind people up, he says something, and the Lyle is at his throat.  At which point the friend says “What did I say but that you are the product of a legally sanctioned marriage?”

I kind of had the same reaction to this alleged (again, the report was by someone who “took the whole pile” to the concom so I have no independent verification) flyer.

What the heck does it say that is not something we said over the throwing out Mike Resnick and Barry Malzberg thing?  That for a professional organization, SFWA sure as heck cares a lot more about what’s down between your legs, if it’s been changed and how you use it.  Oh, and your color, too.

We’ve all said it.  And the other side of this fight has said more than once that it cares about “advancing progress” (to the Marxist past, but never mind) so I don’t think they can object to “socialist” either.

That is the unvarnished truth.  That is what the flyer (if it existed) said and what the comment says.  Now, honestly, yeah, it says it in as crude a way as possible.  No, I amend that. I can think of at least twenty cruder ways to say it. BUT it mentions genitalia and color, both of which send born-and-raised Americans into a froth I DON’T GET. People in the private group I belonged to were frothing over the use of “Carol Wilson” (I honestly don’t know if she exists.  Might be the name of the person who copied it, who knows?) and asking “what if this were your wife or daughter?  Would you want this said about them?”  What?  That if they wanted to do well in SFWA their genitalia and skin color mattered more than their writing?  Why is that so terribly insulting?  You can disagree with it, and most members of SFWA will.  But those of us who left because we think the silly organization has lost the plot and is now arguing over the irrelevant just sort of shrug.

I didn’t understand the furore then.

For those who haven’t been to worldcon, the freeby table, where the alleged flyers were allegedly placed isn’t even usually past registration but in the lobby of the hotel (if it’s different this year, let me know) which means people can put whatever in it and do.  I have int he past put things on tables of cons I haven’t attended (bookmarks and nefarious covers, yep.)  Some of those things will be off color.  Some will be insulting to people of various religions and political color.  My memorable one, because it made me do a double take, was from a Satanist group which opened up with Christ performing a sexual act. It was written in huge letters, so I couldn’t help reading the first paragraph and being grossed out.

Note I did a double take, but I didn’t grab the lot and go running to concom.  I know some cons remove stuff, though last I checked it was more likely to be the stuff of someone they hate than an actually offensive item.  Because we’re science fiction, and arguing over offense and freedom of speech would take THE ENTIRE CON.

Anti-semitic and political stuff doesn’t even register, because it’s so common.  Stuff threatening to kill say, George Bush?  Oh, my Lord, if the secret service took SF nuts seriously, we’d all have been arrested because of those materials in that place.

Now, if the comment had been posted in the official con news release, or all over the green room or something, then it would have been important, because it would have meant the concom was in on it.

AND if the comment said anything about killing socialists, or SJWs or whoever the heck Carol Wilson is?  Yeah, that would justify an immediate investigation.

But it didn’t.  As a blog comment it was passably witty.  As a pamphlet and out of context, in a con that’s not run by SFWA it was just weird.  Though I suspect there’s weirder stuff on that freebies table.

And then I woke up this morning to find out that not only is this alleged pamphlet THE WORST THING EVAH but that Amanda Green and I and of course the rest of the Sad Puppies are somehow implicated.

Guys.  Deep breath.  If we were implicated this would be A LOT MORE PAINFUL.  I mean, we’d have come up with something that got under your skin and crawled there.  Particularly if Amanda and I had been involved, because you see, we fight like girls.

So do you, so you should know the difference.  Only you fight like whiney, spoiled little girls.  All of you.  Even the guys.  I think it’s the statist persuasion.  You just don’t see fighting as something you do.  You view it as “getting the grownups attention and getting them to spank the people we don’t like.”

Yep, there’s a branch of girls who fight like that.  Like the 18 hell-spawned b*tches in training that almost made my middle schooler commit suicide by constantly accusing him of stuff to the adults.  And even we thought it was true, until I was waiting for him in a place they couldn’t see, and saw one of the girls who was “afraid of him” and whom he had “followed home calling names” — which is why I was waiting for him — following him out of the school calling him the foulest names and throwing ROCKS at him, while he just trudged on doing his best to ignore him.

But you see, these girls were the children of staff at the school, so they were believed and petted and given special treatment, and eventually we had to take my kid out and homeschool him for a year, before putting him in another school (where he didn’t have any problems, ever, and got a solid group of friends, both male and female, because really he hadn’t done anything but for some reason become the center of these deranged kids’ obsession.)

And they were girls.  Spoiled little girls who never had to struggle for anything in life. And therefore went screaming to the mommy-and-daddy substitutes.  And were sure he was dangerous.  And… and … and…

Let’s suppose the pamphlets existed.  Let’s suppose they were made by someone on the Sad Puppies side.  (More likely to be the Rabid Puppies side.  They’re more… insane?  But never mind that.)

What actually happened here?  The pamphlets, in clinical if unsavory language, called SFWA socialist and said it cared more about the physical characteristics of the writer than the work.

Um… okay.  And?

If it’s not true — and it can be argued it is — SFWA members who aren’t, of course, the ones the leadership objects to, can d*mn well defend themselves and cite reasons why no.

The Sad Puppies side has been called racist, sexist and homophobic and accused of being neo-nazis, which can affect our livelihood and personal lives.  I’ve had friends of decades tell me that they still stand by me even if I’m homophobic (and they’re gay) and I had to ask them where the h*ll they got that idea.  They got it because if you repeat something often enough and with enough screaming people believe it without thinking.

Which is how little girls fight.  “No smoke without fire” is probably the stupidest saying ever, but it was applied to me several times, when girls (I went to an all girl middle and high school) accused me of something I wouldn’t even remotely think of doing.  Because enough of them said it, the authorities thought it must be true.

These alleged pamphlets are similarly being touted as an attack and “the worst thing ever” and people aren’t stopping to think about what they actually say.  And Amanda, of course, is guilty, because she didn’t — what? — erase this blog comment?  Doss Captain Comic?  WHAT?

I’ll note Captain Comic, too, left a comment here (funny really) about working under cover at worldcon.  The comment is obviously innocuous and the under-cover consisted of buying registration.  BUT of course they’re combing our blog comments and someone will post it as evidence of wrong doing on my or Amanda’s part.

This is a very — VERY.  I can’t express how much — day to do this to me.  REALLY really really bad.  I don’t feel I have the energy to put up with this cr*p and I’m on my last nerve just from personal stuff that has NOTHING to do with sf/f (because, yeah, I have a life.  Fancy that.)

I don’t know who made those pamphlets.  I don’t know if it was a Puppy, Sad or Rabid.  You see, we REALLY don’t have membership numbers, (yeah, Rabid does.  Not my circus, not my monkeys) and the only thing you need to be a “Sad Puppy” is to say you are.

But I would caution people who are jumping on this as The Worst Thing Evah and An Attack and Proof of Puppy Perfidy.

I would caution you because, contrary to the other side’s deranged claims this is a movement of women now.  Yeah, Larry started it but he was ready to drop it last year.  This year, the women pushed for it to go on, and I’d have spearheaded it if I hadn’t been ill enough that I couldn’t.  Brad chivalrously offered to pick up for me, but the backbone of the movement is women.  Go through the prominent names: Larry Correia, who actually did almost nothing this year.  Brad Torgersen, who was taking over for me.  And then me, Kate Paulk, Amanda Green, Cedar Sanderson, and peripherally Sabrina Chase, Celia Hayes and a slew of other female indie writers whom I can’t remember now because meds.  This year Human Wave which is mostly women IS the Sad Puppies.  And next year more so, as the dreaded “Sisterhood” or if you prefer “Critique Coven” mentioned in my books is falling in place to support and help Kate Paulk carry the load.

See, we’re not spoiled little girls.  And all of us have found ourselves in the receiving end of spoiled-girls and precious-darlings attacks before: in school, in college, in our jobs.  We see these people coming, and we see them going.  And in self defense we have learned to fight like a girl.  You might for instance look for my post The Goat Kicks Back, in which I frame these lunatics in their own words.  Well, my friends have been capturing a heck of a lot of insane screaming since then, including over these alleged pamphlets which are, of course, The Worst Thing Evah.

I’m tired and depressed, which means I could totally do a post all in quotes.  Oh, I could.  And I could contrast it with the rather silly alleged pamphlet.  And we could see which is nastier, and which actually makes threats.

Amanda is much on the same page, as she told me this morning:

I read somewhere the other day that someone wants to ban the term “you fight like a girl” because it demeans women. I’m still shaking my head over it. One day, folks are going to realize that girls don’t fight by the rules. We fight dirty. We take advantage of any situation we can. We kick, claw and bite both figuratively and metaphorically. Saying that “you fight like a girl” is demeaning is just as ridiculous as saying there would be no war if women ruled the world. All I want to ask those folks is if they have ever been to middle school or seen a woman go full berserk in the protection of a loved one. You can try whatever you want where I’m concerned. I’m a big girl and can – and will – take care of myself. But come after mine and heaven help you because you’ll have unleashed a whole can of butt-hurt on yourself. The only rule I follow when it comes to fighting is that there are no rules. Best remember that when trying to pick a fight with me.

Because you see, if you want to make SF/F middle school, go right ahead.  We’re not leaving it.  If you annoy us enough we’ll just start fighting back like girls.  And you won’t like it.

You fight like a girl — a spoiled and ineffectual one whose recourse is to run to the “authorities” screaming for help against “the worst thing evah.”

We fight like girls.  Girls who were never the darlings and had to be competent and good at their jobs.

We’re all busy — in my case both with work and personal stuff — and really don’t have the time to pay attention to this nonsense in which no one was THREATENED and no one was harmed and the most offensive word is “genitalia.”

Yeah, if the pamphlets existed they’re unsavory.  If they were put there by a Sad Puppies supporter it betrays a juvenile sense of humor and lack of social ability.  THANK HEAVENS only Sad Puppies have that in Science Fiction, right?  (Did the sarcasm just drip so heavily it corroded the floorboards?)

Be real.  Wash your faces.  Straighten your pink ribbons. This doesn’t even begin to be as mean an attack as the Sainted Scalzi twisting my publisher’s words into their opposite.  It’s just silly pigtail-pulling. Get over it. Because if you don’t we’re going to get REALLY upset.  And you don’t want that.  No, seriously, you don’t.  Not that we’ll do anything physical, of course.  We will fight like girls.  We will make you the laughing stock of the world.

We’re very busy.  Be glad for that.

I’d advise you to throttle back on the whining before you tempt us into actually fighting.

UPDATE: Apparently my site has been reported as a malware vector.  NOT found to be, mind, but reported, so corporate places block it.  This has been done to MGC a number of times.  You know, I can’t think of a single time I even thought to do this to a blog on the other side.  Why not?  Because I’m not afraid of people reading them.  CLEARLY these people are afraid of people reading what I say.  Possibly because they know I tell the truth (to power, darlings.  Consider who has power in traditional publishing after all.  Yep, their side.)

I wanted to say “what are you?  Two years old?” but then I realized really, it’s the greatest compliment they can pay me.  “We’re so scared of you we don’t want people to even glimpse what you say.”  Keep doing it.  It just shows who you are and how terrified you are of opposing views.  (Slow Clap.)

UPDATE: Captain Comic left this comment on my blog

Captain Comic

  1. Dear Sarah,
    Uh, it was me.
    I changed “Amanda” to “Carol” specifically because Amanda is a real flesh-and-blood genre writer. To the best of my knowledge there is no SF or Fantasy writer with that name. If there is, I hereby sincerely apologize for any discomfort or response you may have suffered.
    Noticed that some of them were whole cloth taken away and simply replaced them with some more.
    Juvenile? Definitely. Worst thing ever? Not by a goram country mile!
    It was simply an exercise in reducto ad absurdum.
    How many times have we heard that this year’s Hugo ballot is MISOGYNY! writ large simply because it doesn’t have the same number of women as last year’s? That an alternate lifestyle individual who won for short story was “brave” and his statue was a special moment?
    Whole swath piles of “Puppy” and “Larry” ribbons would get scooped up and put down the memory hole. My reaction? I replaced them with new ones from the bags and bags that came from Roseville, California back around Memorial Day.
    Then I personally gave a “Strawman Larry: That Guy’s a Jerk!” ribbon to Toni after one of her panels. She said thanks, pulled off the backing and added it to her badge string.
    Since parody that makes them stamp their feet is something SJW’s can’t stand, I will refrain from putting out the rest of the flyers.
    Sarah, I’d also like to apologize to you for this taking up any of your valuable time.
    As for the four thousand warm bodies at the convention center, It Was Me. Captain Comic. That’s what it says on my con badge. I’ll be wearing a “Wendell’s Roughnecks” t-shirt for most of today.
    You got a problem? Come at me.
    But first, take a good long look at who you treat the issues of race, gender identity and sexual identity.
    And I hope you can all forgive me for not tearfully denouncing myself in front of the concom, as well as for taking no small amount of pride that a quick little idea I tossed off a few months ago could become such a tempest (teapot contained or otherwise).
    Yours,
    David
    There you have it.  You can stop going through tapes now and see what you can do.  He didn’t insult ANYONE and he didn’t threaten anyone.  I think it was a juvenile prank, but definitely not “The worst thing evah” and you can stop trying to rope Amanda and I in, too.  I’d say really, you don’t WANT our attention.

How hard is “I don’t care” to understand? – Tom Knighton

*From what I hear — what you think I have time to read them?  I’m overdue on three stories and five novels, guys — the other side didn’t understand the meaning of “Go ahead, I have no objections.”  So today I’m bringing ESL guest lecturer Tom Knighton to explain the meaning of “I don’t care.”  ESL, you ask?  Well, I don’t know what they speak, but it’s CLEARLY not English. They keep insisting we don’t mean what we PLAINLY say we mean, so they must be reading what we say in some other language.  Brutopian, likely. (Readers of Disney Comics will know exactly what that means.  Why the happy people of Brutopia know everything) – SAH*

How hard is “I don’t care” to understand? – Tom Knighton

There are people who are just going to have an opinion on what you do, think, or say. It’s not any of their business, mind you, but they’re going to have an opinion. It’s a free country, more or less, so they have that right. However, it’s amazing how their opinions are often based more on the voices in their own heads, rather than anything you’ve actually said.

For example, I recently wrote a post over on my blog about how I really don’t care what the other side of the aisle reads, writes, or gives awards to. I just don’t care what they do. I care what I write. I care what Sarah writes. I care what Brad Torgersen writes. I care what Larry Correia writes. The list goes on.

You see, I care what those folks write because I love what they write. I want to know what they’re writing so I can read it. I care what I write because, well, it’s mine.

For anyone else? I. Don’t. Care.

However, not caring apparently means different things to different people. For example, while linking to my post, Mike Glyer of File 770 commented, “If Tom Knighton hadn’t titled his post “Why I no longer care” it would be easier to focus on his actual point”. Which is funny because my actual point was that I no longer care. Luckily, I have someone like Mr. Glyer to discern my real point.

Gee, thanks Mike.

You see, while Glyer’s been given a relatively free pass and considered by some to be a neutral party, he has also managed to try and set me up to look like a sexist schmuck by linking to a post where I take issue with a woman who wants to ban men from literary readings. Oh, I wrote that, sure enough, but he linked it in the Puppy roundup, despite it having nothing to do with Sad Puppies, but he left out the post from a few days after where I took men’s rights activists to task for calling for a boycott of the new Mad Max movie.

However, Mike’s not alone in apparently knowing what I mean better than I do. At least one commenter on his side took a post where I said I don’t like message fiction to be condescending towards people who do. I’m going to be as clear as I possibly can for a moment. I don’t care what you read, write, or seek to give Hugos to anymore. I think the stuff you like is absolute shite, but since so many of you have said the same thing about the stuff I enjoy, I really don’t give a flying flip if that offends you.

Still others have taken my comments about preferring action oriented stories as evidence that I don’t like “mushy stuff”, as one person put it. I almost gave myself a concussion from the facepalm I gave myself on that one.

I’m a married man, with a wife I love. I get plenty of “mushy stuff” in real life, so no, I don’t seek it out in my reading. However, I don’t close a book because there’s a romance subplot either. The key word is “subplot”. Not plot, subplot. I don’t want it to be a driving force in books I read, but I have no issue with it being there. There are some books were I all but demanded it, as a matter of fact, but as a subplot.

One comment I made was: I don’t need to be told that the protagonists are gay, straight, trans, or whatever.  That’s not pertinent to my interests.  Whether the story is fun, is.

As I’m sure my fellow Huns can imagine, this was taken as something completely different than what the words actually say. You see the word “need” up there? I don’t need to be told. I need to know whether the story is fun.

Now, some seemed to act like a gay character in a story made it unfun or something. This, boys and girls, sounds like what we like to call “projection”. Do they have it in their own minds that gay characters can’t exist in a fun story? I said nothing of the sort. I think nothing of the sort. I just said whether they’re gay or not isn’t pertinent to my interests. How difficult is that to understand?

Another took that comment to mean I don’t want the “mushy stuff” in my books. Again, I invite you to go and read my original post, if you haven’t already. Where did I say any such thing?

You see, I don’t care what these people read. Hell, I don’t particularly care what people I consider friends read. I care what I read. Nothing more, nothing less.

And yet, for some reason, there are perfect strangers blathering on about what I like to read. Am I just that interesting? Is my patronage that important to these people? Somewhere along the way, did I become the arbiter of good taste in fiction, and therefore what I like has some significant bearing on the publishing industry?

No? Kind of what I thought.

So why then does my choice of fiction offend so many people?

Of course, to those offended (and I’m sure they’ll be linked to this post soon enough), understand this: I. Don’t. Care.

I don’t care what you read, write, or vote for. I also don’t care if it bothers you that there are some books I like that don’t meet your oh-so-learned approval. I don’t care if it bothers you so much that I don’t actively seek out books with minorities, gay, trans, or whoever else you think I should seek out. I just don’t care.

In fact, I urge my comrades over here to not care either. We have argued that they’re irrelevant, so why have we given them so much relevance? Let’s read what we want to read, and let them read what they want to read. Let’s buy as many of those books as we can, so that publishers will produce more of what we want.

Will it force them to create less of what the other guys want? *shrug* Don’t know. Don’t care. I won’t lose a moment’s sleep over it either way.

Let’s just read what we like, don’t buy what we don’t like, return books that we hate for a refund, and let the free market sort it out.

Poor But Honest

When I was in North Carolina, at one time while my dentist was asking me questions while she had both hands and instruments in my mouth, she finished one of my sentences that started with “Oh, we grew up poor” with “But honest” which was not at all what I meant to say.  Oh, we were honest, as in we didn’t steal, but mostly for two reasons: one, grandma would have given us her “more in sorrow than in anger” look, and second, we weren’t conscious of needing anything.

Don’t get me wrong, I was a kid like other kids, and when there was a faddish toy I would drool over it.  But, perhaps because we didn’t have a TV till I was eight, it just never occurred to me that we were poor.  When I was six I asked grandma what we were and she said “We’re not poor, we’re not rich.  We make do.”

That’s about right.  In the same message in which my brother said we’d been poor as Job, he also mentioned we were rich as kings, much richer than we’re now when grandma would objectively describe our lifestyles as “what a luxury” what with running hot water and a bathroom per person in this house right now.

If you just said “Wut?”

Look, the only reason I knew there were people much better off than us is that at 12 mom contrived to have me attend a high school in the “rich” area of town.  (Theoretically, we all lived in a rented room down the street from the school.  In point of fact, mom paid a lady to forward our mail.) For the village we were between middle class and upper middle class.  In fact, when truly rich people came to the village or had their kids visit, I was among the small number of kids invited to play with them.

My childhood is, in point of fact, unclassifiable in US terms.  Sarah C. wrote a thing which I might post later, about all this, about the nostalgie de la bue and saying “but I was even poorer” that goes on on the other side, which quickly becomes “but I drank a cup of cold poison.”  She pointed out anyone born in the US (with the possible exception of Appalachia and other small pockets, such as the one Larry grew up in) was automatically better off than anyone born abroad.  From what I’ve seen, probably still is, except for the very rich.

OTOH the American assumption that those who come from  Latin countries that my dentist reflected must have been starving in tar shacks is almost — almost — infuriating.  The reason it’s not infuriating is that it is so funny.  Built into this is the idea that either Latin people are discriminated against in their own countries (wut?) or that they need leftists to enlighten them and make their lives bearable. Note this doesn’t apply if you come from English Speaking countries, where in point of fact, many people lived like we did when I was a kid, because then, of course, you have privilege, so you couldn’t have been poor-poor.

My delving into my childhood was more to show that I don’t impress conventionally.  And it’s really hard to sell me the Marxist theory of oppression that must be broken by government.

We’ve been damn broke.  And we’ve been enviably rich in many ways.  And we faced “you can’t come in” with “you and whose army”.

I grew up poor by US standards, but everyone was poor.  Okay, not everyone.  I remember going to the architect’s house when my parents were having the house built, when I was 5? 6? and being very impressed at the shiny woodwork.  We lived in a 100 plus year old house and our doors were painted and repainted with thick white paint.

My grandparents owned land and houses (grandma’s dad had bought most of the village before dying young.  He was a cattle dealer.  Yeah, yeah, I have cowboys in my ancestry) but in an era of rent control it didn’t do much, except for the fact we retained “right of cultivation” to a lot of the backyards, (lawn was sort of unknown in our circles) so we could grow twice the potatoes, had a chestnut tree and a lot of vines.

My parents lived extremely tight because dad has a religious hatred of credit.  Not just credit card debt, a hatred he passed on to me, or loans, but of any credit, including mortgage.  The first fifteen years of their marriage (I was born around year ten) were spent saving to buy a house outright.  They didn’t manage it, but built a house with a ten year mortgage.  And after that was paid off, when I was about 16, our lifestyle APPROACHED middle class US.

I still didn’t go to coffee shops as much as my friends, because I had no allowance, and earned my pocket money, but that was good as it saved me from the “coffee and pool” circle who usually repeated every year.

OTOH in my twenties I had some very rich friends who didn’t give a d*mn if they had to pay for me, so I got to vacation in really expensive resorts.  Mind you I came home to mom turning off the hot water (which the new house had) in summer because it was wasteful, but I got to go to places where the British nobility hung out.  And by the time I was in college, I was invited to embassy and consulate parties, due to my grades in foreign languages.  (Italian consulate had the BEST ice cream because most ice cream parlors in Porto were owned by Italians.)

Anyway, the reason for delving into my background was to point out that it rendered me singularly immune to Marxism.

When I was in 10th grade, one of my friends drank the koolaid and disputed with me that my family was upper class.  I asked her how, since her dad — skilled blue collar, manager — made about twice as much as my dad did.  Her sputtering reaction was that my parents were better educated, they had books, they–

They had the markers of upper class in the village.  Though in mom’s case, she was as educated as my friend’s mom, at least formally.  But mom took an interest in world affairs and history (mostly through the radio) while her mom took an interest in gossip and recipes.

I stiffly pointed out to said friend that Marx’s “classes” were economic only.  She didn’t like like.  She is still, I think, communist.  Eh.

My best friend at the time came from hereditary-upper-class meaning that her family had some noble ancestors (oh, who doesn’t in Europe?  Keeping it in their pants just didn’t apply to those people) and a lot of manners and parents who were both educated.  But I used to give her my used sweaters (when we got to the point mom was retired and, I swear, made those for recreation) because her family had 13 kids and therefore were a little tighter than we were with 2.  (Though I’m sure her dad too made more than mine.)

The completely insane background and the fact my dad acted like the dad in Have Space Suit “Dad, I want a radio.” “Go ahead, I have no objections” — Which meant I built one from parts of broken radios in the attic — left me singularly unimpressed by both wealth and poverty.  Later when my brother replaced his crappy and now broken tape player,(which he’d bought with his tutoring income) I bought it off him for 20 escudos and spent more time fixing it than listening to it, until mom got tired of her kitchen table getting used to perform surgery on the beasty and gave me a tape player bought from the smugglers (What?  Well, the shop was in Smuggler street which was a dead give away.  Yep, I grew up in a fantasy town) when I was 19.

I learned there was absolutely no virtue in being poor.  A lot of the truly very poor in the village made more than we did but spent it on either wine or frivolous stuff (mom classified meat every day as frivolous stuff, mind.)

In fact, when government started rendering assistance, most of the welfare cases lived in crappy houses and went through broke periods through what mom called “lack of head.” When they had money they ran through it, then pawned everything the second half of the month.

(Mind you mom thinks I do the same, because while I have two kids in college, I can’t drop 10k to come over with the kids when she wants me to.  To an extent she’s right.  No matter how tight the money, you can plan to make it plenty.  We choose not to live in a tiny apartment with the kids.  OTOH it’s our investment: buying more house than strictly needed, in places headed up and trading up regularly that allowed us to own a house that our peers couldn’t with double the income.  Now if we can sell it and downsize, when we no longer need the space and good schools are of no consequence, we can come close to debt free, which we couldn’t otherwise.)

All of this and dad’s cavalier attitude to anything I wanted to do “I need to go to Germany to improve my German.”  “Go ahead.  I trust you abroad.”  (I got a job as a hotel maid for a summer.) his absolute assumption that if I wanted I could figure out how to do it, and his certainty that he didn’t really care how difficult it wold be to get into college for instance, both of his kids WOULD make to college made me singularly unimpressed by people who complain of micro aggressions and discrimination.

And it made me singularly unimpressed by wealth, too.  My rich friends had it easier, of course, but they were also easily impressed by brands, and they had never had to fight for what they wanted.  If grades didn’t qualify them to enter public — free — college, that was all right.  Mommy and daddy would buy them a spot in the private one.

I think this is why the plot lines that consist of “victim is oppressed and spit upon and dies in gutter/gets bloody revenge” have always bored me.  The idea that you have to “make way” for someone and make their path easy because they’re a one-footed Patagonian Lesbian makes me laugh.

You are a minority/poor/oppressed and want to write science fiction?  Fine, I give you my dad’s answer “Go ahead.  I have no objection.”

You want to feature a minority/poor/oppressed in your story?  Go ahead, I have no objection.  Just don’t make them sad sacks who need the help of the enlightened to get anywhere.  Sad sack characters and ex-machina socialists are BORING.  I don’t care what they taught you in school, getting there on your own is much more fun, both to do and to read about.

This is something the establishment doesn’t get — both the genuine upper class and strivers.  It’s amazing how many of the puppy kickers are in point of fact well off, upper class in the Marxist sense, even if they feel “downtrodden” for whatever reason.  And the rest, the strivers, have adopted the attitudes of the “upper class” and their class-signaling Marxism.  As I said originally, more papist than the pope — It’s something they can’t seem to grasp.

The working class gets rescued by benevolent Marxists (or even attacks academics while drinking gin — good Lord, pull the other one, it plays Elvis) is only exciting to Marxists with messianic illusions.

From the rest of us it elicits a yawn and an itch of the middle finger.

Write people of whatever color, orientation, wealth level you want.  Make them live.  Make them interesting.

We don’t add special points for flagellation of Marxist stereotypes and we do deduct them for predictability.

Or write whatever the heck you want. I mean, the pap has its fans — but it’s not us.

Just don’t demand we doff our hats and bow and scrape and tell you that stuff we don’t like and which is formulaic and poorly written is “of course, better” because it “fights the patriarchy” or whatever other idea you’re obsessed with at the time.

We don’t care.  You’re in an entertainment job.  Your job is to entertain the public.

The public is rarely entertained by lectures.

If it makes you feel better, I’ll make grandma’s face when someone was bragging to her about how special they were, and I’ll say “Oh wow.”

But I still won’t tell you boring stories that conform to whatever the new Marxists are peddling are better.  Learn your craft.  Then write whatever the crap you want.  And let the rest of us write whatever the crap we want.

Go ahead.  we have no objections.

The Wealth of People

I’m no Adam Smith — which is good since otherwise I’d be really, really old — and I thought until recently that most human beings understood where money came from, how it was earned, and what it was necessary for.  Also, of course, what it was.  I.e. a symbol that allows free trade between individuals.

I thought this, arguably because when in 6th grade my younger son had to do a paper on the history of one of the inventions that made modern civilization possible, he did it on money, complete with a retrospective history of money and trade and an explanation on why money was a good thing because it facilitated trade between humans.

I should have known better.  At 12 my son was virgin of most higher learning, ignorant of the great theories of economics, and flying by the seat of his pants because a project was due.

The evidence from politicians, “economists” and social theorists starting with Marx is that there is a VAST group of people out there who have studied carefully in order to deny the function, use and utility of money and to substitute for it the raving lunacy of a street person, like the Occupy member who told us the government should just print money and give everyone a million or some such.  See, at the time I assumed this was just a street person and that other people understood LOGICALLY that money is a symbol for wealth and that money uncoupled from that symbolism has in fact no value.

But apparently there are adults (I’ll assume, it’s entirely possible the commenter below is a 4th grader who hangs out at Vile 770 from whence he came, but I sort of kind of doubt it) who believe that money is sort of a free bene produced by the government and the only reason you wouldn’t give more of it to everyone is that you were an evil greedy capitalist.  (Moustaches to twirl, optional.)

For the win, on the Post Ca Ira is a comment by Zander Nyrond (I noticed he misspelled Nymrod, too.)

“These are the people who favor raising the minimum wage because in their world this means that poor people will have more money, completely missing the fact that most poor people will lose their jobs…”

Correction. Most poor people will not “lose” their jobs. A job is not a thing you can misplace, or that can fall through a hole in your pocket and vanish down the back of the sofa. What you mean to say is “if the government orders employers to pay their workers barely enough to live on, those employers will take away their workers’ jobs out of spite and to show the government who’s boss,” and that you approve this course of action as right and proper. And once you’ve said that, you’ve pretty much said enough.

I confess I had to read that about ten times.  If it wasn’t written by a fourth grader, I’m at a loss about the mind behind it.

No. Seriously.

It starts with this:

Correction. Most poor people will not “lose” their jobs. A job is not a thing you can misplace, or that can fall through a hole in your pocket and vanish down the back of the sofa.

I’m not 100 percent sure what he thinks a job is.  Yeah, sure you can’t MISPLACE a job, but you sure can lose it in the sense of no longer having it.

As I mentioned before, I don’t come from the most hardscrabble background I can think of.  Not only was my parents’ childhood worse (dad could only attend high school because the Stone Mason’s union allowed two promising working class students a year to become members and get a card.  This allowed him to get soup for free at noon.  Otherwise he would have gone all day without eating, and while I presume he could still have passed, maybe, it’s really hard to conceptualize. More on that later*) but many people in the village I grew up in had it worse. However, we lived “close to the bone” and both my mother and my paternal grandfather, in whose house we lived, lived from “job” to “job” because they worked, as do I, as contractors.  That means when you turned in a job and got paid, you had to look for the other.

Of course, both of them worked for the highest price they could get the “boss” to agree on, but my grandfather did at least one set of cabinets in exchange for a chicken a week and other considerations, because the person who had the need for the cabinets had no cash.  And mom, as I’ve mentioned, bought a knitting machine and would undertake unraveling and re-dying really old sweaters before remaking them for what you must understand was a pittance (consider the wealth of people who couldn’t afford to buy yarn) so she could keep (quite often literally) bread and soup on the table every day.  One of my earliest memories is of going to sleep with the sound of the knitting machine, which was metallic and heavy and sounded like a little train.  She set it up in the kitchen and I slept next door in the hallway.  (My brother slept in the living room on a pull-out.  The “apartment” cut out of my grandparents’ house — and yes, we paid rent — was a shot gun with only one bedroom and no bathroom, because the bathroom was outside grandma’s back door.  Curious fact, should I ever become important enough anyone cares, the bedroom in which I was born is now a fancy bathroom with textured tiles, since new owners remodeled the house.) Mom used to listen to the radio and knit till two or three in the morning. She favored educational programs. (Possibly because FORMALLY her schooling stopped at 4th grade, though she served an apprenticeship after that.)  I suppose my first interest in mythology comes from listening to those programs underlying the steady drone of the machine.

When you work like that, from job to job and pay to pay, you become really conscious of the people who would pay you or would pay you more if they could.  In the village it was very easy to see this.  One of the things mom did was contract young women to clean the house/do the dishes, so she had more time to work (because time was money) but in case it’s not immediately obvious, we were often tighter than a boa constrictor’s embrace.  So there often was no money to pay these young ladies.

What mom, that capitalist exploiter did, was make the girls’ clothes (often from leftovers, like my clothes were.  You see wealthy clients would drop off lengths of fabric, and if she used less they told her to keep the leftovers.)  It became known in the village that getting a wardrobe made by mom got you courted by men a class higher than yours (and don’t ask.  You’d probably see no difference.  Consider in her youth mom thought butchers were “upper class” and “select” and you’ll know everything you need to know.)  So mom had a waiting list of girls willing to work for her, so she’d make them clothes.  It will also tell you how these girls normally dressed/groomed that after lessons in the later and clothes made by mom they usually married in six months, so the list was handy.

Now mom being an evil capitalist TM was hiring these girls to MAXIMIZE her profit.  Because — as any craftswoman — her profession dictated her time was money, she was freeing some of it to work more.  (Something I’d dearly love to do and part of what The House Exploit TM is about though it doesn’t involve household help, just reducing housework.) For it she traded more time, (to make the girls’ clothes) but it was CONCENTRATED time as opposed to broken up bits.  Spend a weekend making the girl a skirt suit, sure, but you don’t have to quit work after lunch to wash.  Or after dinner to clean the kitchen.  (I think our laundress was paid in a similar way, btw.  The only time I remember mom paying in money was to the bread woman and the fish woman and of course at the shops.)

Now imagine the government looked at that iniquitous mode of payment and said “well, you get the fabric for free, and all you put in is time, and since you’re not paid by the hour, that’s worth nothing, which means you’re paying these girls nothing.  You must pay $2 an hour and $1 towards social security.”

That job would have vanished.  The girls would effectively have lost it.  Sure, it wouldn’t have vanished behind the sofa (the only sofa we owned was brother’s pull out, which served for mom’s clients to sit on when leafing through fashion books and looking at mom’s sketches.  It was pretty light and nothing could have vanished behind it.) it would still be gone, and the girls couldn’t have found it, no matter how much they looked.

It didn’t matter that mom would have liked them to cook lunch, do the marketing (we didn’t own a fridge until I was eight, so someone needed to shop for food every day, unless all we had that day was soup and corn bread which we could contrive from stores in the house), wash lunch dishes and come in after dinner to clean up while she worked on paying jobs that paid for our food and electricity and dad’s bus ticket to work.  (Mom swears most months his earnings went to keep him in suits and shoes and pay for lunch away from home and hers ran the house.  I don’t know.  I know he turned all his money over and that to have money to have a coffee at the coffee shop was a red letter day.)

It didn’t matter that village girls fell over themselves to work for her in exchange for grooming tips (like, wash every week.  No, seriously.  And how to get rid of lice, which were endemic in the village) and nice clothes.

If the government dictated mom pay these girls “a living wage” ($2 was a bit more than that, actually) and something towards retirement, the job wouldn’t have existed.  Mom would stay up till four in the morning working, instead.  The house wouldn’t be clean to her exacting standards.  AND the job would have been lost, having vanished up the government’s spout.

But Nymrod, the precious flower, if he’s an adult, has never run a business, not even a lemonade stand.  I’m going to assume he’s either a trust fund baby or is one of those people educated in gender studies or race studies or other ways to “make money by intimidating others” and has no clue where money comes from and what it means.

Money is a short hand for value.  Ask people to pay more for “value” than the value is worth to them (and often than they can) and there goes the job, which is the contracting of work for money.

If it weren’t so, why not simply mandate that minimum wage should be a million dollars?  Then everyone could be millionaires, right?  And this is probably how it works inside Nymrod’s head.

Notice also, his/her/its/sea animal’s ONLY understanding of why someone would be fired when the government interfered to mandate that a job provider pay more for an employee’s services:

What you mean to say is “if the government orders employers to pay their workers barely enough to live on, those employers will take away their workers’ jobs out of spite and to show the government who’s boss,”

First of all I want to approve of Precious Flower’s understanding of government.  Yes, indeed, we are in fact the boss of government as laid out in our constitution, and I’m glad you know that at least, even if you seem to inhabit an imaginary world where the sky is made of lard and butter in all other respects.

However, I also want to point out that anyone born in the twentieth century has long since gotten used to government being not just a bad servant, but a truly despicable one.  Our right to life liberty and the pursuit of happiness is so regularly infringed that I can’t remember anyone doing much of anything to show government who’s boss.

Most of us, as most people in the West, try to live as best the government allows it and keep the tzar as far away from us as possible.

I find it salutary in these circumstances that he/she/it/fruitbat realizes we’re the boss of government.  Good on you mate.  There are vestiges of sanity in that addled egg you use for a head.

HOWEVER the bizarrely insane idea that someone would fire an employee to show “government who is boss” much less that this would be the only reason one would do it when the government arbitrarily interferes in your contract with your employee to dictate what you should pay your employee is mind boggling.

How can a person, living in the world for a number of years (if he/she/it/fruitcake isn’t 10) haven’s spotted the fact that you don’t hire people out of the benevolence of your heart but TO DO SOMETHING YOU NEED DONE is quite beyond me.  And how they can’t think from that that if you fire someone “to show the government who’s boss” you’re going to have to do that work, buy a machine to do it or (and a lot of restaurants, fruit pickers and other low-margin people HAVE to do this to survive) hire someone illegally to do it is beyond me.

In fact, I can’t imagine anyone who has the money to hire work done that they need done and chooses not to do so to “show the government who’s boss” or indeed to “be a big meany capitalist” or to “play it again Sam” or whatever the heck other motives the powerful mind that came up with that theory can conjure.

If my mom had been forced to pay in money, no matter how convenient it was for her to have someone else do the cleaning, she’d have had to do it herself and rob more hours from sleep. (Possibly any amount of money.  I don’t know the exchange at the time, but I know the escudo — Portuguese currency then — was worth pretty much nothing in the world stage, and our daily bread bill was so small that it was calculated in cruzados, the currency that had been hyperinflated and superseeded when mom was little. (* A note I promised above.  The Portuguese government went bankrupt during mom’s and dad’s childhood.  This meant that you couldn’t guy things at any price people could command so there was a lot of in-kind trade.  Dad’s family was all right because they grew vegetables and had eggs they could trade for bread.  The least said about mom’s childhood the best. If I’m to believe her, gleaner rights helped their survival. ) I suspect it would translate to something like 5c a day. We were the equivalent of Obama’s brother living on $1 a day, only at the time I suspect it was more like 25c. Even then, some of the sweater re-knitting mom did was for the farmer across the street who in turn supplied us with two cups of milk daily and about 3 lbs of heavy, dark corn-rye peasant bread a week.  And that later in various forms was the staple of our diet, so we could save on the expensive wheat bread.  I don’t complain, mind, I love broa, that dark, heavy bread which as made by the farmer had the consistency of a brick. In fact Caldo Verde (broth with tiny bits of meat and a lot of julliened greens) and broa would be my last meal if I got a request.)

Then there’s the “living wage.”  Let’s not go there, or into the fact that most minimum wage earners are indeed young people NOT LIVING FROM IT or not staying stuck in it very long.  At one time I worked retail for minimum wage.  I no longer remember how much it was, but I know that a full day’s work netted me $20.  I know this, because my now late brother in law came to visit and wanted me to go with him somewhere (weirdly, I think an SF con) and I couldn’t because I had to work.  He offered to pay me $20 if I called in sick, but I wanted to keep the job and couldn’t miss it.

Anyway, the money was risible, particularly after social security took its cut.  BUT at the time it paid Dan’s student loans a bit faster, and I judged that a worthy goal. (Since the one thing I promised dad when I got married was that we wouldn’t live on credit nor run up loans.) It also meant we had fewer of those months when we had a week to go till paycheck and only $6 in the bank.  That too was a worthy goal, as I liked to eat every day.

Living wage?  In the late eighties?  Not hardly.  Not unless you had three roommates and ate a meal a day.  BUT it was what we needed, which is why I agreed to work for it.  And, btw, I had no work history in this country and translator jobs are hard to come by without that, so that was the best I could do.  Once I had that I could get a multilingual translator job.

I’m going to presume anyone trying to live from minimum wage qualifies for medicaid and a host of other services.  (I could be wrong.)

But I do know that you will only be paid what you’re worth, because the people paying you CAN ONLY AFFORD TO PAY THAT MUCH or it’s only worth that much to them to have you do that stuff.  Sometimes it’s one, sometimes the other, but in any case, if the government forces them to pay more, they either won’t be able to or will replace the job with a machine.  Or hire someone more competent and have him do more work for the money.

The problem with this, as was noted in the comments yesterday is that that first job is an essential step.  You’re not worth very much — I sucked as a retail clerk, frankly.  Mostly because I got bored way too easily — but proving that you’ll be there on time and are trustworthy is necessary to get another job, even one you’re already trained for, if you have no other work history in this country. Without it I wouldn’t have been able to have the job that allowed us to buy a house.  (Okay, in the long wrong this was futile as we lost money on that house, but we couldn’t know that at the time and it was a quirk of our personal history because we had to move due to lack of jobs and… yeah.)

And since he/she/it/marchpane likely has never actually had a real job, I should probably explain to the critter that most jobs are good for people.  Being paid for something you did, earning your bread with the sweat of your brow, builds self confidence, a sense of self reliance and the reluctance to take handouts or be patronized in exchange for those.  Of course, that’s possibly why Precious Flower would prefer government kill jobs and give people handouts instead.  As the blogfather himself says “They’ll turn us all into beggars, because beggars are easy to please.”

And then we come to the end of the idiot’s screed:

and that you approve this course of action as right and proper. And once you’ve said that, you’ve pretty much said enough.

Let’s forget what he thinks I’m approving of and instead consider that I DISAPPROVE of the government making it impossible for people to contract for help and/or earn a living.

Yeah, you know why I have said enough, Cupcake?

Because I’m there right now.  I work for a living.

I know in his/hers/its/Sanders Voter’s world, writing is something you do for self expression or to demonstrate how wonderful you are, or to feed your soul or whatever the cr*p it is people tell themselves when they’re too rich to be sensible.

In many ways I didn’t come very far from the village.  Oh, I live way better.  We have heating, cooling, and alas I’m in no danger of starving.  But that’s because this society has a much lower “floor” and also because my husband works very hard to supply us with MOST of the necessities.

It’s not a necessity to help the boys with their professional training for instance, just fulfilling the promise we made them if they took STEM degrees. And a more reliable providing for our old age than the Social Security which we pay for but which won’t be there at all when we need it more than likely. And it’s not a necessity to be renting while we try to sell the other house, so we can reduce our living space, so we pay less in heating and I have less work cleaning, so I can write more.

BUT my money is necessary for such things.  And I don’t get paid unless I finish work.  And my work gets the money my employer thinks it’s worth.

I mean, there were years (the Musketeer Mysteries) when I was paid 5k a book.  It was all the house was willing to pay and if the government had dictated they pay me 10k, then they simply wouldn’t buy my books.  (Imagine my crying when I had to pay 14k that year in self employment tax.  Almost 3 books for the privilege of working my fingers to the bone.)

Now if Baen offered me 5k for a book, I’d politely decline and go indie, because Witchfinder made me 3 times that so far.  BUT that’s because I have other options.  If I didn’t, I’d shut up and take it.

A living wage?  I don’t know.  I work weekends and evenings.  I take two days off a year.  I once — granted when I was paid less — costed out my time and cried because I made less than a dollar an hour.  Now, writing is sitdown work and way easier than say cleaning hotel bathrooms (which I’ve done if anyone is keeping track.)  So you could say I’m able to work long hours as I do it inside, and it’s not physical labor.

Perhaps.  But a lot of the minimum wage jobs are fairly easy.  My biggest problem with mine was being bored out of my gourd, because even if there was no one nearby, they didn’t allow me to read under the counter.  And if someone worked those the hours I work they would probably make more than I do.

The problem is there aren’t that many jobs of the kind available, because there’s a minimum mandatory payment that’s often more than “warm body, standing by cash register” is worth.

So yes, I disapprove of the government making jobs disappear.  Because after 15 years as a writer, I have no resume, and I’ve forgotten most of my foreign languages (I can’t even speak Portuguese grammatically anymore) and if things go upside down I might need a retail job.  And I’m not sure I’m worth much more than minimum wage as is.  Much less as the fantasists like Nymrod would wish it to be.

Nymrod too has said more than enough.  Mostly that he/she/it/special snowflake has no concept of earning a living, or of a life where what you actually DO means something.

Bless his/hers/its/magical unicorn’s heart.

A Spark of Hope – Amanda Green

A Spark of Hope – Amanda Green

I’m probably going to get into trouble for this but I don’t care. You see, something happened Thursday night of last week that made me stop and think. Yes, I know. It can be dangerous for me to think. That’s when those non-approved thoughts happen and I forget to walk in lock-step with those who are so willing to tell me what to think and what to do. Well, screw ‘em. Thursday night showed me there is at least a glimmer of hope for our country and I’m going to cling to it, reminding myself that what we see and hear from the main stream media isn’t what mainstream America thinks.

For those who don’t know me, I live in North Central Texas, right smack dab between Dallas and Fort Worth. For some, this is the beginning of “the West”. For those of us who live here, it is the difference between fast-paced Dallas (although nothing like NYC) and a slower-paced Fort Worth. We have many of the same problems of any major metropolitan area. We have our fair share of poor schools, gang-related issues, drugs, crime, and poverty. You name it and you can find it. Maybe not in the same numbers of say, Detroit or Cleveland, but it is there.

Like too many places of late, we’ve had our own instances of white cops killing black youths. The last time that happened was less than two weeks ago. Late one night, 19 year old Christian Taylor, a young man who had so much promise ahead of him, broke into a car dealership in Dallas. Security video showed him jumping on top of cars, denting hoods and breaking windshields. When Arlington police arrived, they found him inside the dealership building – Taylor had driven his car through the glass wall to gain access. And, unfortunately, events played out in such a way that this young man lost his life. A rookie cop made access to the building, separating himself from his training officer and Taylor was shot and killed.

When the story first hit the media, there was no doubt the media was playing up the angle that we have seen all too often, that of a cop too eager to kill a black youth. A “copy” of the radio log was leaked to the media showing only two seconds elapsed from the time the cop confronted Taylor to when he killed him. The only problem happened to be that the “copy” turned out to be a heavily edited copy and that two minutes elapsed instead of two seconds.

Now, this piece isn’t about whether or not the cop in question was right or wrong in what he did. In my mind, mistakes were made on both sides. Taylor never should have been at the dealership and he sure as hell shouldn’t have driven his car through the glass to gain entry. He shouldn’t have run when the cops arrived and ordered him to halt. But the rookie cop made mistakes too. He shouldn’t have made entry into the building without first securing the scene. He should have waited for back up. His training officer should have had better control over his actions. I won’t speculate on whether he should have deployed his Taser, as his training officer apparently did, instead of his weapon because I haven’t heard all of the tape nor seen the video. All I know is a young man lost his life and a cop is now without a job. This was a tragedy no matter how you look at it.

So what does this have to do with what happened Thursday night, you ask. Very simple. No matter what the media tried to do with this story, no matter how they tried to stir the pot of discontent, it failed. And believe me, the media did its best to make this story into much more than it is. Not just locally but on a national level. In fact, the national media was the worst about trying to stir up trouble. I heard media mavens trying to draw a parallel between what happened in Arlington to what happened in Ferguson. I stopped counting the number of times the national media led the story off with some version of “There’s been another black youth killed by a white cop”. When it became clear the “copy” of the radio log had been heavily edited, national media was all but silent on it. After all, it didn’t fit the picture they wanted to paint.

Fortunately, the Arlington Police Department is active on social media and learned about this leaked “copy” very early on. It didn’t take APD long to release the entire log, showing that things didn’t quite play out the way the media was portraying it. Even more fortunately, Taylor’s family, while grieving and having more questions that any parent or family member should have about a loved one’s death, called for calm. They didn’t fall into the trap the MSM tried to set for everyone involved. They have been class acts through this all, mourning Taylor and asking for answers but also asking for calm from all sides. My heart and my prayers go out to these people and I hope they get the answers they want and they deserve without much more delay.

So that is the basic background for what happened Thursday night.

That night, I went into Dallas to see Motown – the Musical with my mother and a friend. I grew up in the 60’s and 70’s, so the thought of spending an evening enjoying the music of that era thrilled me. I also expected that the crowd for the show would be a bit different, not because of the fact it was Motown but because we were going on a night of the run that we don’t usually go to. This was one of the last shows instead of early into the run.

The audience was filled, something I was thrilled to see with school starting soon. The people attending were a bit older than usual, on average. Again, not surprising because this was one of those musicals that called out to the fans of Motown and let’s face it, Motown was at its most popular in the 60’s and 70’s.

I hadn’t seen Motown – the Musical before. All I knew was that it would have some great music and would tell the history of Motown Records. From the reviews, I expected plot to be sparse. I didn’t care. I was going for the music. So imagine my surprise when the plot (yes, it was less developed than most musicals but it was most definitely there) followed historic events. John Kennedy’s assassination was shown, as were the assassinations of Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King, Jr. Nor was the language of the times sanitized.

I’ll repeat that. The language of the times was not sanitized.

There are times during the musical when various people ask Barry Gordy, Jr., founder of Motown Records, why his sales force is all white. Initially, there is no answer. Then, as the world begins changing during the upheaval of Vietnam and Flower Power, and all the other movements of the 60’s and 70’s, he asks his sales manager the same question. In a subsequent scene, a promoter from down South calls the Motown sales manager and is all but beside himself with anger and disbelief. He wants to know why the sales manager sent a “g** damned n***er” down there. The sales manager, as white as the driven snow, doesn’t miss a beat. He asks the other guy how much money he makes off of Motown records. Then he says that if he wants to keep making that money, he’d better get used to seeing that “g** damned n***er” down there.

When that happened, you could see the audience reaction. You saw a number of folks, mainly white, holding their breaths. After all, we’ve learned, often the hard way, that you just don’t use the N-word. Some of us have been on the end of the lectures that it is all right for blacks to call one another that word but it is never to pass our lips. We shouldn’t even think it. So to hear it on stage, and so soon after Christian Taylor being shot by a white cop, there were those in the audience waiting for the shoe to drop.

It didn’t. I didn’t see or hear one angry mutter, one angry reaction from anyone in the audience. The very nice African-American woman sitting next to me, simply nodded sagely and commented to her companion that she was so glad things had changed for the better. She remembered those days. Things might not be perfect now but they were so much better than they had been and that was what we all needed to remember.

That seemed to be the reaction of everyone in the audience. I wondered at it and then realized that I had fallen into the trap that MSM had set. It had done its best to foment discord between the races that we now expect trouble. Worse, we expect it at the drop of a hat. Fortunately, that hat did not drop Thursday night and I got to see that there is hope that it won’t drop, at least not for long.

You see, those men and women in the audience, be they black or white, knew something that the media and those social activists who go into communities they have no ties with and who serve only to stir the pot of trouble did not. They knew that, while there is still a ways to go in this country to rid it of foolish prejudices (on all sides), we have come a long way. They knew that you don’t move forward if you resort to violence as your first choice. They have been there. They know it is better to build bridges than it is to blow them up and then trek figurative miles to find another way across the chasm of prejudice and distrust.

For three hours Thursday night, several hundred people of all ages came together to remember times much worse than today and to celebrate the fact that we have come so far. We celebrated the victories. We mourned the loss of men and women who had a dream and did their best to follow it. We ignored the media that would have had us at eachother’s throats simply because of a single word.

In short, we proved the media is not nearly as powerful as it would have us believe and, for that, I am most grateful.

So here’s the final point. As the Christian Taylor case showed, the media is quick to release and comment on anything that serves the cause du jour. It doesn’t do the fact checking it should. It doesn’t issue the qualifiers it should when it gets information from unconfirmed sources. So, instead of jumping to conclusions – either to immediately agree with what the media says or to immediately disagree with it – find that grain of salt and apply it.

Most of all, remember that there is still hope for this country. It might not be as big as any of us would like but as long as that glimmer is there, I will continue fighting to grow it from a spark to a flame. Will you?

It’s All About The Bling

So, let’s suppose there was an award that no longer meant increased circulation for the book that sported the little seal on the cover: how far would you be willing to fight to preserve the right to have the award given to the people you wanted/to have the chance at the award yourself? If you were, that is, someone who played by the rules of the “in” group, the writers and publishers we’ll call “the old establishment”?

I am making a leap here, as I’m not sure the Hugo no longer boosts print runs at all.  I know it no longer boosts them as it used to, because the Hugo used to be d*mn big noise, when I came into the field.  The hierarchy when I came in, as told to me by older and more scarred pros was as follows: The Hugo meant an increase in circulation; the Nebula did nothing for you; World Fantasy Award LOWERED your circulation.

No use arguing those, btw.  Last time I sat at a world fantasy banquet, the publisher was loudly hoping her author wouldn’t win it.

How does this happen?  This happens because science fiction forgot it was science fiction and its greatest aspirational desire was to be considered “literary” — where “literary” is neither better nor worse than other writing but has the markings of “stuff they teach in college.”

Now I have nothing against stuff they teach in college, but it’s in truth just another genre.  You might think it’s “better written” but that’s because it’s what your college professors told you it was good writing.

As someone who has enough training to teach literature in college, let me tell you a secret: there is no sacred anointing that makes that stuff good and the rest “trash.”  As a writer it took me years to get rid of the markings of “literature” in my writing and even more years to believe that this was NOT what denoted quality. My first series still suffered heavily from it and was tagged as “literary fantasy”.  So did the Magical British Empire for that matter.

Those markers?  They’re mostly an aping of the things we consider “literature” or “important literature” because they attach to books that have proven their importance by surviving the centuries.

So, for instance, the language will be a little difficult, and the rules of the world/behavior might seem irrational.  Listen to me very carefully: in centuries old work it is so because the time has changed.  To put them in intentionally is akin to faking antiques in furniture something I know how to do and which is in fact a difficult craft, but which does not make the furniture into REAL antiques, no more than the use of tricks to make something feel like an old work that has been good enough to survive the centuries makes that work one that will survive the centuries.

In fact, something you can be sure of is that almost every work that is lionized by the elites of its day will be ridiculed by the future.  With exceptions, of course.  Shakespeare was beloved of both the groundlings and the elites.  But he lived in more robust times than most of us do/have throughout history.  In the bloody turnover of Elizabethan England, a lot of newly enriched merchants were the elites, and they hadn’t acquired a veneer of faux sophistication yet. And what kept Shakespeare’s work alive and going is that he did appeal to the masses.  Go and count how many small American towns are named after his characters/locations.  These were colonists, living hardscrabble.  They had no room for affectation and affected tastes.  They loved it because it spoke to them.

But unfortunately somewhere in the nineties or two thousands, the turn over of science fiction and fantasy professionals and fandom into the hands of people with degrees in humanities from excellent colleges was complete.  Which means these people are trying to write/publish that which would impress their erstwhile professors or their colleagues now.  And they all come from similar milieus.

This would be fine if science fiction were in fact a “literary” subgenre.  Or if “literature” would ever approve of science fiction.

In fact science fiction is still sneered a by academics and their minions who hark back to an SF that never existed and talk of “naked girls and alien space lizards.”  In fact a well known novelist with SF themes got very upset and said something of that kind when they asked her about science fiction.

(Oh, and let me interject here that yes, there is craft to “literary” and it’s hard to do.  But that doesn’t make it “better” — better according to whom, tovarish?  How will your work survive the ages when people won’t give you their beer money now. — every genre is hard to do WELL.  Yes, even romance.  The increasing slide of romance into erotica means that people have more trouble conveying “sizzling hot” without describing the body parts going into other body parts.  That’s craft they’re lacking. Writing transparent prose so that the reader remembers as if he lived the story and doesn’t stop to admire your pretty prose is d*mn hard, particularly for someone afflicted with my love for words)

So, given that you could never get into the “big boys” table of literary and are stuck trying to make science fiction/fantasy look “literary” and looking down at your colleagues and screaming you are SUPERIOR TO THEM, and that the award at best gives you a modest boost, how hard would you be willing to fight to keep it within the right kind?

Apparently the answer is: up to calumny, slander, character assassination, death threats, hate male, and the destruction of your own reputation as a sane and reasonable human.

When we set out on this, back in the dim days of our first discussions of Sad Puppies (I object, of course.  I have cats) the goal was to make the Hugo worth something again.  Granted, we can’t cater for everyone’s taste.  If you’re a heavy mil-sf guy and the prize goes to hard sci fi it won’t be to your taste.  BUT to cater to the “literary” crowd is to cater to the tiniest fandom in SF.  (I found this out in sincere arguments with agents while looking for one between my third and fourth.  They all wanted me to write literary sf — because I CAN do it — because it would win awards and increase THEIR prestige (and make me slit my wrists in a warm bath if I had to write much more of it.  It was no fun.) But they all candidly informed me that it sold almost nothing and so I should try to get a job teaching or write for literary journals or something.  Why do you think they kept telling us that Ancillary Justice as a “fun space opera” — because no one buys “literary”.  Or yeah, some people do, but not enough to keep you in writer kibble.

Our idea, goofy as it sounds was to get some good books/good names associated with the Hugo, so Hugo would mean a boost in print run again.

We were shocked at how hard they were willing to fight to keep it a “just us” club.  And the ridiculous levels they’d go to.

And then I realized that, like the agents I interviewed they don’t view the Hugo as a promotional tool at all.  They view it as bling.

What I mean is, when your book hardly sells, and you have to have other jobs –teaching, speaking, whatever — you need the awards as an appearance of legitimacy.

Awards are very important because most of the general public, even the casual readers who MIGHT try SF know nothing about the award process, who votes for them, or how it has gone.

So if you can’t say “I’m a bestseller” saying “I have x award” gives you immense prestige in the eyes of the world. I realized this while talking to someone who had read his first ever sf novel over summer and was asking me about mine.  He was like “yah, uh uh” until I said “And it won the Prometheus.”  He obviously had clue zero what the Prometheus was, but “won the Prometheus” translated to “instant affirmation someone else liked it” and he wrote down Darkship Thieves for looking up later.

And even if — as has been the run in recent years — picking it up after finding it had won an award, you immediately put it down and promised never to read any SF again, if that was the best out there, the bling still has value.

Why?  Because they’ll book you on TV when there’s something even vaguely related to SF.  Because all foreign countries still translate Hugo winners because they don’t know any better (and also most of them are more addicted to the symbols of status than we are.)  Mind you, it’s killed their market.  There’s a reason that Portugal no longer has sf/f shelves in most bookstores.  BUT you’ll still make a boatload of money from so many (if small) translation rights.

For the outside world, those who don’t read sf, having “x” “y” or even “z” award still translates to money in your pocket and being considered by the world at large as the best in the admittedly tiny pond of science fiction.

If your philosophy in life is “I got mine” and your goal is to get while the getting is good, and “Apres nous le deluge” doesn’t trouble you at all, you will of course do everything to keep riding the award pony until it’s so dead that it even stinks in the nostrils of the “mundanes.”

Think of it as the parable of Solomon.  If they weren’t killing the field in the name of uplifting it, we’d even let them have it. Because what we love, more than our own careers is Science Fiction.  Note most of the supporters of Sad Puppies have no books on the ballot, not even short stories.  And some who are on the ballot are there under protest: Dave Freer, for instance.

As it is, of course, we have to keep fighting. Because we want the genre to mean something and we want other people to find the joy and challenge in it that we have found.

If the books that won the Hugo, once upon a time, could speak to a young girl/woman in Portugal, who transitioned from reading them in translation to reading them in English and perfected her English in the process, if the genre could change her life and help her endure rather trying times, it’s a genre worth saving.

And saving doesn’t speak to going back to the past, but to porting the same enthusiasm and life to present day sf.  (i.e. stop with the formulaic repetition of what you think are “international” or “multicultural” truths.  Their attempt to be cosmopolitan which somehow uses exotic puppets to deliver their message to the world just reveals they never were out of your university campus, at least not in their mind.  Of them I think it can only be said: “Pardon him, Theodotus: he is a barbarian, and thinks that the customs of his tribe and island are the laws of nature.” Real cultures have evil as well as good, a lot of them have more evil than we do, and it is patronizing and ignorant of them to make them into less than human, and walking advertisements for theirr academic philosophy. I agree that there needs to be more variety now, in a connected world, than there was in the past.  BUT not a variety that makes natives of other cultures into painted saints.  Trust me, that would have disgusted me when I was fully in that culture.  Oh, and if they try to attract people of the culture you’re writing about, forget it.  They’ll almost certainly get it wrong.  I can’t read anything set in Portugal.  the “flavor” is wrong. EVEN when other Portuguese write it, because they’re catering to the US market, anyway. And it’s better to write middle class US and make it exciting than to write a novel set in Lisbon and make it deadly dull by having all the usual villains and pseudo saints.)

I know this will be twisted and screamed at.  If they could twist Toni’s post that amounted to “let’s establish bridges of understanding” to mean she was trying to exclude people, they can twist anything.

And I don’t expect them to stop, because they care about nothing but their own false bling, their tarnished glory.

I just want them to know we won’t stop either.  Because that baby you want cut in half is still alive, if barely.  And we’d like it to grow up into a fully realized person, one that can lead humans to the stars and keep humanity human wherever we go.

Yeah, it’s a crazed dream, but at least it’s not all about the present and bling we can get to make people who know nothing of the field respect us.

And you know, as we’ve said over and over and over again, with us it’s all about the dream.

We’ll continue working for it.

It’s Not The Age, It’s The Miles

So today I woke up after sleeping over 12 hours straight, and I’m still somewhat sluggish.

Do you know when you finish a book and your body goes “I’m done” and for a few days falls into something akin to flu only it’s not, and you sleep a lot and end up watching the A & E edition of Pride and Prejudice and IF YOU’RE LUCKY don’t read all Disney comics for 2 months?

Okay, maybe that’s just me.

Yeah, there are milestones I just passed, though none of them is finishing a book (not just now, at least.)

We finished work on the house, though we still need to get a realtor.  For those on FB who’ve seen pictures, yeah, it’s huge and (now) gorgeous.  This has been our strategy with houses, and we doubled our money on the two houses we lived in before, so we sank it all into it.  So, we have tons of money, but until it sells we’re broke.  Meh.

At any rate we finished cleaning it.  And that was a huge project now done.  I felt somewhat fluey-but given the amount of work we put into it, well…

But then yesterday we went up for Robert’s med school matriculation and I came home so tired, I couldn’t even READ and slept for 12 hours.

I think my back-brain has interpreted the ceremony was “we’re done raising him.”  While foolish brain is wrong, of course, you’re never done worrying for/helping your kids if my parents are an indication, it’s also right in a substantial way, because Robert is living elsewhere and is now treading his own path, one of which I know very little, and where I have to “let go” to a large extent.

I think my brain interpreted that as “we’re done with the heavy lifting now.  Rest.”

Of course I’m not resting.  Today I need to clean the house we’re living in, which hasn’t been acquainted with a vaccuum in three months, and then I need to finish short stories so I can write novels.

But in a very real sense, one task is sort of done.  Kind of weird as in my mind we’re still figuring out how to set up things, since getting out of our parents’ house.  Eh.  And now we’ve podded someone else out to his own little space, to do his thing, and the next will follow soon.

Milestones mean a new mile has begun, I guess.  Now is the time for what I never could do before: concentrate on my writing and REALLY work it.

… of course if other house doesn’t sell soon we’ll be doing it from under a bridge.  But no matter.  Things don’t matter, people do.  And I love and appreciate my two sons, and am looking forward to their becoming even more awesome as they take off on their own.

And yeah, I’m feeling sort of old, because they’re obviously men, but I won’t keep them back to flatter my balcony.

And after this cop-out post, the writer goes clean and vacuum.