I Say, I believe there’s a promo post on this blog – Jason Dyck

I Say, I believe there’s a promo post on this blog – Jason Dyck

Salutations! I hope you all have a lovely weekend ahead of you (or ahead and behind you, for Shadow and Mr. Freer and any other Huns across the Date Line). To help make it lovely, we have some great books for you! As a rare case, I’m going to add my personal recommendation to one of them: Touchstone by Sonia Lyris. It’s a free novelette tied to her upcoming novel from Baen. I read it when I was supposed to be compiling this post (which is why it’s now almost 2 AM as I type this) and I loved it. Also, Mr. Van Stry has all of his books on sale right now; I’ve only included a few in the interest of space and it not being 4 AM by the time I’m done. And at last we have Karen Myers’s latest release, which she gamely and good-humoredly sent to me despite all the invisible, flaming hoops we made her jump through. 🙂 So go read good books, enjoy them, leave constructive and useful reviews, and have a fantastic day, my friends. As always, future promo post entries can (and should!) be sent to my email. Happy reading!

Jason Dyck, AKA The Free Range Oyster
Minion Master and Henchman-at-Large

Karen Myers

The Chained Adept

Penrys’s past is unknown, but she’s got a better grip on her future: find out where she came from, discover what happened to her, and figure out how the unremovable chain around her neck makes her different from other wizards.

What any of this has to do with the renewal of an ugly war between neighboring countries, half a world away, is just something she’ll have to sort out, along with the rumors of wizards where they don’t belong.

Assuming, of course, that no one removes her as a threat before she can find her footing.

All she wants is a firm foundation for the rest of her life, with a side helping of retribution, and if she has to fix things along the way, well, so be it.

Sonia Lyris

Touchstone

Sons of a low-born hero, Pohut and Innel are sworn into the royal household in the wake of their father’s death. Far from home, scorned by the nobles around them, the two young boys must hold to each other as they try to make a place for themselves. Above all, they must answer the questions: why are they there? And what will they do?

Dave Freer said: “[A] really well-constructed fantasy world… a great self-standing novelette and an introduction to a new Baen author.”

Available free on Baen.com; Sonia’s novel in the same setting will be released by Baen on March 1st.

John Van Stry

Champion for Hire

Portals of Infinity: Book One

Imagine if there were portals that connected all of the Infinite Realities together. Places where the past came alive, only gods and goddesses held sway. Or maybe magic was real. Or perhaps places where the future came to life, both good and bad.

William has just found one of these, quite by accident, and the more he investigates this new world the more he realizes that it may just be able to offer him a lot more than the one he’s been living in.

However, there are forces at work beyond anything that Will has ever come across before and the local Goddess seems to have taken a liking to him. Will may soon find himself getting an offer and cannot afford to refuse.

The God Game

Portals of Infinity: Book Two

Will’s life has definitely changed since that day he went hiking in the woods of Pennsylvania. He’s discovered that reality is a lot bigger and stranger than he had ever imagined. Learning about the portals that link the infinite number of worlds opened his eyes to that wider reality. Learning that he was being groomed to become the Champion of a God in one of those realities was an even more startling discovery.

But now it’s time for him to pay the bill for his ‘recruitment’. Just as the Gods on a single world fight and jockey for power and position, the older Gods from the many different spheres of the infinite play a much larger and more complicated game. The Goddess Aryanna has a quest she needs completed, and William and four other Champions are the ones tasked to do it.

What bothers Will however is what could a Goddess possibly need? And why would it take five Champions to retrieve it?

Of Temples and Trials

Portals of Infinity: Book Three

With the first of what he suspects will be many favors completed, William finds himself busy with important tasks back at his home on Saladin. Queen Rachel has several jobs she needs him to do, and Feliogustus has similar tasks in mind for him as well. All in all, it seems easy enough to Will, it’s not like he’ll be fighting in any wars, or traveling across the infinite on a strange quest after all.

But things aren’t always as easy as they might seem, and both politics, as well as the other gods, aren’t going to ignore Will, or the tasks he’s been set to complete. And is if dealing with that isn’t problem enough, when the time comes to do some serious diplomacy between Hiland and a neighboring Kingdom, a deadly problem comes from a most unexpected quarter, forcing Will to take immediate action to payback both his, and his God’s foes.

Conspiracies

Shhh.  Did you know there’s  a secret cabal that runs the world?

I don’t know why but this idea is hardwired into the human brain as plausible, and also as cool.  Things like the Da Vinci Code owe no small part of their success to the fact that people want to believe that some unseen, all-powerful force is behind history.

I could give you a guess as to why. It’s a guess and a just so story, but it has some merit. After all humans owe no small part of their recent (say last 100 thousand years) success to the retention of PHYSICAL infantile characteristics well into adulthood, as well as the prolongation of childhood.  Now there is no logical reason this would prolong intellectual infantile characteristics… no reason beyond the fact that we are both a body and a mind and mind tends to respond to the body.

As infants and children, we are all born into a world (a very small one) run by a secret conspiracy of one or two.  I mean, I know my parents could turn my world upside down without warning (and often did, without realizing it.  I mean, seriously who forgets to tell their 14 year old they’re supposed to leave on vacation the next day?) upending all my plans and changing all my set habits.

Even as adults, our lives can be upended by nothing we’ve done or can prevent.  Look, almost all the hard times we’ve gone through were caused by stupid economist (manipulating stupid politician) tricks. Then there’s stuff like 9/11 which more or less put paid to Dan’s job at the time because it involved traveling, and suddenly, with the airline industry in disarray we had the choice of moving East or his spending two days a week traveling.  Which made the four-days-on, three-days-off job into a five-days-on-one-day-off.  Nothing we could have done or prevented and definitely unseen forces changing our lives.

Where I differ from conspiracy theorists, is that while I agree unseen forces (or at least too many potentially visible forces to follow and “see”) are at work in everyone’s life, I don’t believe those forces are a conspiracy, or centrally located, or even vaguely coordinated.

Take for instance the “conspiracy against libertarian and right wing writers in science fiction.”  I don’t actually believe in any such thing.  Oh, sure, the usual suspects were positing that we believe there is a conspiracy of elite “feminists and homosexuals” ruling everything and against us.  They countered this by pointing out all the states and other governments that republicans control. Which has nothing to do with publishing or the gatekeepers in the arts in general.

I don’t even… I mean… these people literally don’t know if it’s ass or breakfast time.  That’s as much sense as they make.  They seem to have clue zero of how we think EVEN WHEN WE EXPLAIN IT TO THEM.  In public.  Day after day at Mad Genius Club, for instance.

My friend Bill Reader (who laughed at my shock at their theory above) seems to have been right.  Their only attempts at understanding us seems to come from seeing us as themselves but evil (I need to buy a fake mustache to twirl.) And they believe in centralized conspiracy theories (i.e. the only opposition to “progressive” ideas is the Koch brothers Libertarians who, apparently having taken leave of their senses, are supposed to be financing and spearheading everything from the religious right to banking conspiracies; or the only reason that we don’t already have cars that run on spit and rainbows is because the evil oil companies CONSPIRE against those being made public; or the only reason they’re not personally successful with their degrees in the science of basketweaving is that the MAN is holding them down.)  So, we too must believe in conspiracy theories, but they must involve people the progressives consider allies.  Hence an elite of homosexuals and feminists.

Yep the idea was so strange I’m not going to lie, I giggled.  And when they inevitably pick up on this, I shall gif them because the only way to answer the utterly absurd is with absurd pictures.  I think some of my gay friends who are very successful indeed come closest to an “elite” of homosexuals — which comes to nothing as most of them are conservative/libertarian.  The individualists fail to organize, and, oh, yeah, they couldn’t conspire their way out of a wet paper bag (not even one of those brown racissss paperbags.)  BUT they’re good at the real world of individual work and achievement.  As are a lot of people.

Now I do believe there is a self-proclaimed elite running most of the entertainment, arts, news and publishing.  But I don’t think it got there by a conspiracy, or that they are “homosexuals and feminists.”

Mostly they got there by gerontocracy, which, except for brief periods is the form of government of most western societies.  Where people live long enough, their power and wealth increases with age.  And the makeup of the ruling class of elders resembles nothing so much as those who got a head start by being born in the right families 70 or so years ago.  Hence the Clintons and the Warrens and others seem to be mostly white, mostly elderly and a little more than half female (perhaps because women live longer.)  That’s all.

Now I don’t say it’s easy for libertarians and conservatives (at least open ones) to make it in the arts.

The people in charge are imbued with the ideas that were fashionable in their twenties and thirties.  And that, due in no small part to the USSR’s agit prop efforts in our universities (no, not a conspiracy.  Both the plans and the documentation of actions are there if you care to look.  An enemy undermining you while at war is not a conspiracy.  It’s just psychological warfare) are mostly Marxist.

(Oh, btw, the usual suspects also say communism is not originally Marxist, because Marx posited the withering of the state.  I’d make a gif post about this — and might — but all they’re showing is that they know as much about Marx as the guy who was ahead of me in line to sign up for Russian classes so he could read Marx in the original.  Yeah, he posited the withering of the state.  After the all-powerful state had freed people of the evil influence of capitalism, so a new generation was born with no greed or self interest.  This would be the Homo Sovieticus.  And it borrows more than anything from the tales of the second coming.  As we’ve found, barring a Messiah, men are still born as men and an all-grasping state doesn’t automagically make them into angels.  Something that would only shock Marx.  Oh, and current “progressives” which are probably the only thing more clueless than Marx.  Their fathers have eaten sour fruit and the children’s teeth are set on edge, or if you prefer, their father was an idiot, and they’re even more brainless. I mean they routinely attribute criminal behavior or even bad behavior to that corruption of morals of living in a capitalist society, but they don’t even know the whole mystical mumbo-jumbo that underlies that “society is guilty” theory.)

This means that in those fields where the gerontocracy has seized power, not being a Marxist is the equivalent of being a child-abuser (this analogy was made by the Puppy Kickers during last year’s Hugo kerfuffle.)  If you’re not a Marxist, you don’t want the evil capitalism that distorts all of humanity’s good impulses to be superseded.  You  actively hate (as opposed to merely not believing in) the idea of a society where we all live in peace and harmony and everyone receives benes according to their talents and needs.

Worse, at least in the arts, (where “Marxist analysis” and writing/painting/composing to “improve the world” have replaced the sense of aesthetics that ruled before and that went back to the renaissance’s rediscovery of Greece and Rome), if you’re not following the Marxist aesthetics of either criticizing the world as exists (particularly the individualist and capitalist parts of it) or trying to change it, you fall outside their ability to classify.  I.e. you will read to them as very bad.  Or possibly as bewilderingly mixed.  To put it another way, they can’t make head or tails of an aesthetics based on ludic enjoyment and cathartic/emotional release.)  So when they say the things we like are very bad or “infantile” or “incompetent” they are right, according to the way they judge.  Of course, according to the way we judge most of their stuff is preachy, puerile and most of all stultifyingly predictable.

So, what we have here is a clash of two cultures, having nothing to do with a conspiracy.  And btw, it doesn’t mean any of us can’t fake their aesthetics and get into traditional publishing.  In fact, if indie hadn’t arisen through disruptive technology, most of us would have gotten in/kept working at it.  Look, Marxist aesthetics aren’t hard to fake, really, and most of us learned them in college ANYWAY.  In fact, removing them from our brain is the hardest part of writing at least at first for most of us with an “excellent” education.

Fortunately we don’t need to fake it, or get into fields that are, at best, limping on towards their logical end, due to technology, economics, and the fact that the current market in literature (and art, and–) bypasses gatekeepers and sells straight to the public.

You don’t need to believe there’s a conspiracy against you to believe your values are at odds with the decadent gerontocracy in control and also that hitting your head against a wall is painful, when there’s a big gate you can go through and which is open right next to said wall.

(Not that I don’t advise people who have yet to break in to try both.  One book for trad, one for indie.  Because the magic of a gerontocracy is that sooner or later the rulers die.  Sooner, since they’re so hot and heavy on assisted suicide and all. And having a foot in the door and a place inside from which you can undermine the establishment has never hurt anyone. At worst, you’ll have a minor part in changing it before it dies.  At best you’ll make a lot of money while doing it.)

But I personally don’t believe in conspiracies.  Not the history-revising conspiracies, not the economy controlling conspiracies, not even the gatekeeper conspiracy.

I believe in chaos.  I believe in chaotic systems.  Which is why I don’t believe in centralized government OR planned economies.  I mean, I believe they can exist. Just like gatekeepers exist, using their fading “power” to control rent seekers and unthinking newbies into following them like blind ducklings into No Awarding fresh blood in the field, even while shrieking they’re being held down.  (Because you know, the most powerful house in the field is fighting against people who have the power to…  No, it doesn’t stand scrutiny.  Also, notice who is leading them.  Gerontocracy again.)

Those aren’t conspiracies so much, as people using the channels of power they acquired through decades of patient climbing on the backs of others.

I also believe they fail spectacularly and in proportion to how much they try to control.  (So, say, the USSR fails harder than someone just trying to control to whom awards are given in a backwater field of a dying industry.)

Conspiracies fail because three can keep a secret if two are dead and even the disorganized chicanery of gatekeepers and rent-seekers can be disrupted by a hacking of emails AND because technicians and engineers stand ready to rock the best laid plans of oldsters in control of dying industries with technologies that bypass them.

Those who see in a clash of cultures a conspiracy or in their opponents’ rejection of the gatekeepers belief in conspiracies are woefully unprepared to deal with a world where change is going accelerating, disruptive technology building on and causing more disruptive technology, no matter how much the “elites” try to slow it down.

And that’s fine.  We have no interest in their useless lawn, when we can plant orchards of of our own.

So let them attempt to conspire.  Let them continue to perceive us as through a distorted mirror.

As I said, gerontocracies are self-limiting.  In the end they collapse for the obvious reason.  And afterwards, we’ll be here, building.  And catching society on our own load-bearing structures which we’re creating under, around, over and beside the ones that the “progressives” are so happily destroying.   (Partly because theirs is a philosophy of destruction and always was. Practical Marxist revolution =destroy what’s there — ????? — utopia. And partly because they’re old and out of touch with the world as it is.  Which means their brilliant ideas don’t work well in the present.  Particularly in science fiction, the gerontocrats and those who follow their lead are the future of the past.)

So.  Go about your business.  Fear not the conspiracy.  Dance happily in the chaos.

While they have some power, they will make our life a bit unpleasant.  But their power is smaller every day.  And in the end, we’re free.  And that’s no conspiracy.

 

 

Nice Prizes For Good Little Girls

I was never a good little girl.  It wasn’t that I was bad, exactly, or at least I never had evil intent.  But I was never very good at obeying, or at doing what I was expected to do, expressed or assumed.

I could adduce several reasons, including the fact that I lived at odds with my strong willed mother, but I don’t think that’s it.  I think it’s more a fault in ourselves — or in this case, in myself — that I was not put together right from early on.

Oh, sure, I liked baby dolls — for a while, though mostly I liked doing their hair until they were bald — but I also liked cars, and trains, and I really liked making stuff out of wood.  And while I could sort of kind of like pretty dresses and clothes, I couldn’t be bothered to stay in them or keep them clean very long.  Mom said the only way to keep clean after putting me in a pretty dress was to sit me down somewhere and have two adults keep an eye on me.  The wall or the tree or the mud puddle might have been there for months, but the minute I was put in a clean, frilly dress, I felt an irresistible desire to meddle with it.

It got worse when I entered middle school, and when most girls were trying to impress boys — and teachers — with how pretty and sweet and gentle they were.

It was as though I hadn’t got the memo.  I knew very well that teachers preferred girls who obeyed and parroted back their line than girls who actually learned, learned more than was required and thought for themselves.

And of course there was sexism.  Look this was a Latin culture in the sixties and seventies.  Some teachers might pay lip service to women being as smart as men, and everyone paid lip service to women having the same rights as men.  But every day, in interaction, men were expected to be smarter and more rational than women.  In school even the teachers who tried not to acted like it was very strange I could compete with boys.  And because boys had the advantage of being expected to be right and smart, it was pretty hard to compete.

I was expected to be smart but not so smart.  Which is part of the reason I felt the need to be smarter than all of them.

Somewhere at the back of my mind, I had the idea that people would like me DESPITE the fact I wouldn’t play their game?  Adolescent rebellion, perhaps.

It grew into something different: a decision to do and fight for what is right, regardless of what people wanted me to do.  If you always rebel against what people want or expect, they control you as completely as though you always did what they wanted.

As an adult, not feeling the need to be liked, or approved of, I developed my opinions and ideas with no reference to what those with power wanted me to believe.  And most of all I prize the right to be left alone.

Oh, sure, I played the game when I was first published (and to get published) but that was different.  I was doing it not just for me but for the kids.  To be blunt, we needed the money, and for various reasons that was my best choice.  Also, of course, I felt I should be writing, and this was the only way to get published.  (It seems like another world now.)

But as soon as I could, I walked away from those houses in which uniformity of opinion and behavior was expected.  I still am not very good at being a good girl.

Which is good.

Because recently there is a lot of talk — and action.  Has anyone forgotten the all-woman Nebulas — about giving prizes to women, about women only now breaking into science fiction (an insult to all the women who came before) about the Importance of Recognizing Women.

And every time they talk about this, every time they ignore the pioneering women, every time they recognize inferior work because it was wirtten by a person who happens to have a vagina and SAY WHAT THEY WANT TO HEAR, I see my teachers smirking about girls who wore jeans and enjoining us to wear nice dresses and behave in a feminine manner.  I hear “Nice Prizes For Good Little Girls.”

I wouldn’t want a prize given in those conditions.  I guess the adolescent still lives in me.  me.  I want to win on my intellect, on my work, on the qualities of mind and personality that mean a lot more than what I was born with.

Note I was born into a sexist society, yes, but I’ve never been oppressed.  I’ve never given anyone the right to oppress me, and I’ve yet to meet the man I can’t compete with on more than equal terms.

I don’t need anyone and certainly not people who think they’re superior to the rest of us, to “improve my lot” or make up for supposed oppression.  I do not need Nice Prizes For Good Little Girls.

This is good, since I’ll never manage to be a good little girl.

But just like I wondered, when I was in first grade, about the berribonned girls in frills who never stepped wrong, never felt the need to jump in a mud puddle, and never climbed a tree, I wonder about the women in the field, those women who babble about being liberated and about how they don’t need men, and about whatever the party line is, and who don’t view it as an insult that others assume the right to reward them for being good little girls.

Liberated?  They’re just doing what is expected of them, like any Victorian housewife.

Self-sufficient women who think for themselves don’t get these pats on the back.  And this is good because we’d break the arms of those patting us.

We make our own way, we think our own thoughts, and we do not feel the need to attack men or hate them.  Those men who compete with us on equal terms are our brothers.  The others we ignore.

Because like those men we are free.  And that’s all we ask for.

Freedom’s Never Easy – Amanda Green

Freedom’s Never Easy – Amanda Green

Last week, I read a comment from someone on Facebook that brought back memories. Not good memories, not by a long shot, but not terrible ones either. No, the memories were of a time when the nation had been beaten down emotionally and psychologically. It was also a time when I saw up close for the first time just how dedicated so many of my fellow Americans are to the continued survival of this country. It is a memory I mean to hold onto and not let be overshadowed by the white noise of everyday life.

No, I’m not talking about 9/11. In many ways, that was the Pearl Harbor of the current age. Unfortunately, our leaders in Congress and in the Pentagon – and, yes, in the White House – didn’t have the guts to do the job that needed to be done. We are constrained to fight a civilized war, something that is an oxymoron at best and, at worst, the slow surrender of our country to an enemy the powers that be don’t want to defeat.

But that’s another topic and many other posts.

What I’m talking about is 1979. Yes, I know, a number of you weren’t alive back then. But a lot of us were and we remember those days. Trouble was brewing in the Middle East, particularly in Iran. The Shah was losing power. His son was in Lubbock, TX, training at Reese Air Force Base. Gasoline prices had gone through the roof and the supply was limited – at least that’s what we were told. In parts of the country, gasoline was being rationed. Here in TX, you were able to buy gas based on the last digit of your license plate. Odd numbers could buy on odd numbered days and even on even. If you were traveling – and I don’t remember for sure but I think it was 100 miles – from home, you got an exemption. IF you could find a station with gas where you were. Yes, there were even lines at stations to fill up.

My grandparents talked about how it reminded them of the Depression. Oh, not that it was anywhere near as bad but the signs were there that, if something didn’t happen soon, it could be. We looked to Washington and nothing happened. We had a president who very well may have been a very good man but one who was totally out of his element and in over his head. We had a Congress that took more pleasure in harping across the aisle than in taking direct action to deal with the problem. Instead, we were told to conserve. Turn down the thermostat. Use public transportation – which was a laugh in this part of Texas because there was no mass transit, not even on the drawing board.

Then came the Iranian Revolution. Protests against the Shah and his rule had begun approximately two years earlier. Those protests had grown, despite the attempts by the Shah to not only quell them but to silence his detractors. January 1979 saw the Shah fleeing Iran. Gone was a supposed ally and in his place was a government that had no respect and even less regard for this country. In fact, that enmity extended to any western country that wasn’t ready to fall in line with what the Ayatollah and his advisors wanted.

As a country, we watched – much like we are now – as journalists and businessmen, government officials and more – were kidnapped in Iran and held for ransom. We were worried about those people but there was a part of us that said they should have realized the danger of the situation and gotten out. That changed the morning of November 4, 1979 when the American Embassy in Tehran was stormed and more than 60 Americans were seized. Thus began 444 days of uncertainty and anger and frustration for this country.

I’ll never forget that morning. I was living in Lubbock at that time and attending school at Texas Tech. When I walked into the Commons, the group I usually met for coffee before class were all there. Like me, they had already heard the news. Unlike me, they had been busy in the hours since it had been announced.

You see, each and every one of them were either retired military or in the Reserves. Every one of them, male and female, had been on the phone to either the commanding officers or former commanders to see what they needed to do. They were ready to pull on their BDUs, lace up their boots, grab their battle rattle and go bring our people home.

They were determined. They were angry. They were ready to take action. They were, in short, willing to lay down their lives to protect the lives of not only our citizens who had been taken hostage that day but all those the Iranians had abducted over the years.

Unfortunately, it didn’t appear that our government was willing to do the same thing.

Instead of answering the calls that we do something, the government told us to be patient. They were doing their best to get our people home. Negotiations were underway.

Those failed. As did the one attempt by the military to rescue our people. In April 1980, Operation Eagle Claw was launched. We lost 8 servicemen, an Iranian civilian was killed and we also lost two aircraft. And back home we took another blow to the solar plexus.

Each night we listened to Frank Reynolds, and then Ted Koppel, on Nightline, which first broadcast four days after the embassy was stormed. I don’t think I will ever forget the way the show would display America Held Hostage Day (and the appropriate number was inserted). We watched, praying to see good news but, all too often, seeing instead images of our countrymen and the others held hostage. For many, it brought back memories of the films the Viet Cong would release of our POWs.

We truly were held hostage.

As Texans, some of us looked at H. Ross Perot and what he did to try to free two EDS employees who had been arrested not long before the revolution. He put together his own team of experts, former military and paramilitary, and tasked them with getting his two people out of the prison where they were being held. When they realized they couldn’t come up with a plan to do so, a plan that had a higher chance of success than of failure, they started thinking outside the box. They saw the writing on the wall, to continue with the clichés, and knew the day would come when the followers of the Ayatollah would storm the prison in an attempt to free their compatriots who the Shah had imprisoned. When that did, in fact, come about, the EDS employees managed to slip out and meet up with Perot’s team and they were whisked off to safety.

And yet we continued to watch as nothing, seemingly, was being done to free all those other hostages.

What had happened? When had the United States gone from a respected country, one the rest of the world knew would rise up like an angry giant when provoked?

A country is only as respected as its leader. If those who hate us have no respect for our president, if they know he will not take quick and decisive action to counter any move they make against our interests, they will do as they wish. We saw that in 1979. We had a “nice” man in the White House, one with little to no real experience on the national level, much less the international. He wanted to hold out the olive branch to the wolf who was waiting to eat the lamb. With each day that passed, the Iranian revolutionary government thumbed its nose at us because it knew Carter would not order a decisive action against it.

As a country, we were frustrated. We were demoralized. We knew we needed new leadership. We needed someone who would stare the Ayatollah in the eye and not blink. So, when the Republicans nominated Ronald Reagan, we had the cowboy we wanted to ride, not into the sunset but into the thick of the battle. The results at the polls and in the Electoral College showed just how tired the country had gotten of having a “nice” man in the White House. In the popular vote, Reagan received 43,903,230 votes to Carter’s 8,423,115. Reagan received 489 electoral votes to Carter’s 49.

And we still had hostages being held in Iran.

What we didn’t know, and probably shouldn’t have, is that negotiations were going on behind the scenes. Carter and his advisors were negotiating paying what was nothing more than a ransom to get our people out. The Algiers Accord was finalized January 1981. The election had put pressure on Carter and others to quickly conclude the negotiations because Reagan had made it clear during his campaign that he would not pay ransom for our people. The implication, if you want to be nice about it, was that he would take a much more direct form of action.

Would the election have turned out differently if we had known Carter and company were in serious negotiations with the Iranians? Probably not. Most of us wouldn’t have had much patience for the fact the Iranians refused to deal directly with Carter or his advisors. Instead, they would work only with the Algerians. According to Carter, that meant translating anything he or his people said into French for the Algerians who then had to translate it into Farsi for the Iranians.

Am I the only one who has visions of the Keystone Cops dancing in her head?

So, how does this apply to today?

It’s simple really. We have another president, now a lame duck, who has proven to be much like Carter when it comes to foreign relations. Instead of standing up to our enemies, he tries to court them, often to the detriment of our allies. He has shown, in my opinion, that he puts our relations with those enemies above the safety of not only our troops but of our country as a whole. Once more, I see a country that is beaten down. Will our next president be the one to bring us out of this depression, for lack of a better word, or will he (or she) drive us further down the hole?

That is the question we have to ask ourselves when we look at the candidates. If the answer is yes then, for the love of all that is holy, we have to do everything we can to make sure that person is not elected. Unfortunately, I’m afraid we will be faced with a “lesser of two evils” choice. Sometimes, that’s the hand we’re dealt. If that is the case, we do whatever it takes to make sure our senators and representatives are held accountable until the next presidential election.

In short, it is time to make America great again. It is possible but it won’t be easy.

A Plague of Talents

Most Christians and probably most non-Christians in western civilization are familiar with the parable of the talents.  For those not, the quick summation is as follows: a man gives his servants some amount of money each.  After a while he calls it back, and it’s not enough to return it untouched.  If you have made no return on the investment you’ll be punished.

For people of faith, it is normal to consider the “talents” as, well, talents, G-d given and for which we owe a return.  In other words “use what you were given.”

One doesn’t need to be religious to believe in talent, or at least a given set of characteristics that makes you perfect for something or some pursuit.  I see this in my kids, as each seems to have been born with a set of abilities and interests that leads them to the careers they wish to pursue.  I see this because I saw them grow up from day one, and it should surprise no one that the kid who figured out how to close the supermarket doors, in the two seconds I had my back turned, should want to be an engineer.  Or the kid who looked after the old/infirm and orphan cats want to be a doctor.

Of course, there’s probably some confirmation/recollection bias there.

However I’ve been known to tell people I don’t believe in talent.  As you can see above, this is not absolutely true.

What I don’t believe in, rather, is the primacy of talent in determining one’s success.  This is for some reason a peculiar belief of people in artistic fields.

There is not only the bizarre belief that you have to have “it” if you’re going to be big”, but also the concomitant belief that if you have “it” you’ll make it big despite yourself.

As far as I can tell neither of these is true.

One of the most naturally talented writers I know: blessed with natural language command ( the very smallest of the writing gifts) but also with good pattern recognition for plots and with the ability to bring characters to life (I have this too, but I honestly don’t even know what natural inclination/ability causes it. I know when it’s not there, but I don’t know how to teach it) won a contest in which I placed second when I was pregnant with number 2 son.  It’s twenty two years later and to my knowledge she’s still not published and is not even attempting indie.  Why?  I don’t know.  She spent years rewriting one book.  So, she’s the most prodigiously talented individual I’ve ever met.  And it’s done nothing towards a career.

On the other hand, in my fifteen years of trying to mentor and help others, I saw people whose first efforts made my eyes cross, and who seemed to have nothing, neither natural facility with language, no concept of plot, not even any idea what a character was supposed to do.  But by dint of reading up and writing a million bad words, they got to good ones, and are now published and some of them are making more than I am.

Because it’s not the talents you are given, it’s what you do with them.  And most of what you do with them is “by the sweat of your brow.”

There are at least three sad conditions relating to talents, and two are related to too-much talent.

The most serious one is called “Easy come, easy go.”  I’m not going to say that is the case of my sometime friend mentioned above, but it might very well be.  I know other people, undoubtedly talented, who either gained notoriety or published right off the bat.  Most of them never succeeded in repeating this feat.

Next one I call “cat with ADHD” and it is the problem of a lot of us.  We write, we do art, some of you crazy people compose music, program, design games, and do only heaven knows what more.

The problem with this is that you can’t pursue several horses at once and catch them all.  (Not even several pokeman.)  Particularly through the years when you’re very busy, say with family or studies or whatever, pick one thing to do and apply yourself to it.  There will always be time for the rest, maybe.  But if you try to be all things, you’ll be nothing.

And then there’s the most tragic condition of all: that is when someone who is actually nothing special, is convinced they are all that– that their natural talents are such they need to do nothing and try no harder than the lowest difficulty setting.

This is sometimes because the person has other qualities (for a while there publishing would fall on its knees if you were female and in your twenties.)  They’re fashionably tan, or have some other distinguishing characteristic, including physical beauty.  Or they’re the “right” political color.  Or even, they sleep with the editor, or were the editor’s roommate in college.

Anything like that (though less in our diminished times) can cause people to acclaim an otherwise mediocre talent.

So why is this not good?  Because when you receive all that acclaim for talent which is in fact not there, at some inner level you either know it, or you are going to find it out.

I’m avoiding making comparisons to politics, and to people who were convinced they could arrest the climb of the seas.  There is plenty, heaven knows, in our own field, of people being acclaimed for work that is at best good journeyman stuff.

The problem is, even if the person him/herself believes it at first, sooner or later they hit the inescapable wall of their own incompetence, lack of training, or lack of knowledge, or sometimes, even, lack of talent.

We all hit it sometimes, and the normal reaction is to go ahead and learn or try or develop what you don’t have.

However, if you hit that wall after years of being told you’re the greatest — for reasons you can’t even figure out — you might not know how to overcome, compensate, or fight.

Heinlein said never ruin your children by making their life too easy.  I’d say the same applies to anyone who wishes to write, or even, simply, to live the best life they can and make use of their talents to their fullest ability.

Learn to maximize what you have and compensate for what you don’t have.  Remember that work is more important than talent and that if you don’t work, study and figure out how to make the most of what you have, talent by itself will get you nowhere.

Do you have a duty to use your talents?  A duty to whom? I don’t believe you’re owned by humanity.  But the waste might be a betrayal of yourself and what you could be.

If you do decide to use your talents, remember, the greatest talent of all is the willingness to work and to get better.

In the mess ahead, all of us will need all our talent and most of all our work to survive and to rebuild.

Go do it.

 

 

 

 

On Teacher’s Kids, and Hugos

Rules are for the “LITTLE” People. Yes, there will be a post later, but it might be tomorrow. Because this is important and those of you not at Mad Genius SHOULD be aware of it. -SAH

Mad Genius Club

Now, I was a teacher’s kid – a child at the same school my mother taught at. Teachers’ kids tend to meet other teachers’ kids. I’ve never heard any one of them have this experienced any differently, so I would guess it is pretty universal: besides it makes sense. Authority is assumed to bias in favor of its own (whether children, or friends, or merely those like themselves). It is a perception which needs no proof – but needs a lot constant visible evidence to counter. If you’re a sensible teacher who loves their child, you make sure there are no signs of favoritism, and in fact are harsher and less trusting with them, than other kids. If you’re the kid… no matter how much you love your mother or father the teacher, you do not ever show this affection or close bond at school. In fact, if you’re smart…

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Promo Post, the Triskaidekaphobia Edition- Jason Dyck

*Happy Valentines day to all of you.  I’ll be celebrating with my sweetie.- SAH*

Promo Post, the Triskaidekaphobia Edition- Jason Dyck

Cedar Sanderson

Warp Resonance

Five Space Opera tales, short stories and novellas with a foreward written by Peter Grant.

Tamashira has a dilemma. Stay with the ship and crew she knows, or risk being stranded on an unknown planet forever when the warp node goes out of resonance. Really, it’s not a hard decision to make. But then a girl is kidnapped and she must face her past or have a death on her conscience.

Lira is a space scout. Like the mountain men of old Earth, she explores and blazes trails. But her duty has taken her to a very settled planet, to retrieve a young woman, and it’s no milk run.

Lissa looks to the stars, excited to leap off the Earth and into her destiny. But first, there is someone she has to see one more time.

A lonely young woman on a faraway planet tends her family and wishes she had someone to talk to, other than family. High above in a courier ship, a ship’s officer is about to learn how content she really is, even if she doesn’t feel that way…

Susan is not afraid of bugs. But when she makes a second contact with aliens, that lack of xenophobia might not be enough to keep her alive. The cat is, she learns, sometimes smarter than the human.

From the foreword by Peter Grant: “There is occasionally – all too rarely – a moment that comes when reading something new, a sort of mental frisson, when one realizes that one’s reading something special. This isn’t just another run-of-the-mill book or story, but something that is reaching out of the page and grabbing one by the throat and dragging one into its world and storyline, absorbing, entertaining, sometimes even enthralling. That’s what happened to me the first time I read Cedar Sanderson’s work. It was her novel, ‘Vulcan’s Kittens’, and I’ve never looked back from there. She’s one of the few authors whose work I’ll buy sight unseen, knowing that it’ll intrigue and challenge me and make me think.”

Mark Alger

The Genesis Undertaking

The Baby Troll Chronicles Book 2

Where did Dolly come from? Now, the story that lays it all out, who she was, who she is, The story of her unique beginning, covering the first twelve hours of her life as a Real Grrl and her struggle to survive against the odds, and with all the Gods of Man (well, a good third of them, at any rate), out for her blood. Why does she constantly jones for cheese Danish? Why does she, at 5’2″ love Chuck Taylor basketball shoes?

Dolly is ribald, cheeky, sexy, adventurous, outrageous, and fun. A great ride. Dolly may make you blush, but she will also make you laugh.

Ben Zwycky

Nobility Among Us

“Still, this process does not sit well with me. Letting the people think they are in control of these proceedings, having them vote for their chosen candidate as if they will change the way things are done, these are dangerous ideas. Furthermore, these are actual lowborns we are admitting to our ranks. What if something slips through the filtering process, what then? I have this nagging feeling that this whole enterprise will come back to haunt us one day.”

Brought together by a reality show designed to pacify the people of Gandria, Viscount Marcus Draishire and his low-born wife are secret devotees of the forbidden book. This could get both of them imprisoned or worse. Marcus hears a case of a cattle farmer suing his baron for unfair taxation. Should he follow the king’s decree, that all nobles are immune from criticism, or judge the case on its merits? Marcus chooses the latter and gets himself some unwanted attention. He now has to balance acting in the best interests of his subjects against antagonising his superiors, who tend to express their displeasure with a bomb, bullet or knife.

The people under him have their own struggles and the nobility itself is walking something of a tightrope, the need to crush dissent weighing against that of projecting a benevolent public image; no-one wants another uprising.

On sale this week

Selected Verse – Faith and Family

A series of love poems that gives glimpses into the magical process by which a lonely and shy young man transforms into a husband and father and how the love in his family grows. This is followed by verse that look at aspects of wider family life, then at the ways in which the divine has revealed itself in history, both in ancient and modern times, how these clash with a fallen world and call us to something higher and grander than ourselves.

On sale this week

Beyond the Mist

The Chara Series Book 1

Am I falling or flying? Powerless or mighty? Imprisoned or free?

I have nothing: no possessions, no memories, no reference points or even solid ground to stand on; just falling (or is it flying?) through an endless mist. A voice beside me says this is the last free space in a world of slavery and suffering; another that it’s a self-imposed prison from a world of beauty and adventure. Who should I believe? What is waiting for me out there?

I make my choice and begin to discover what lies beyond the mist.

On sale this week

Celia Hayes & Jeanne Hayden

The Chronicles of Luna City

Welcome to Luna City, Karnes County, Texas… Population 2,453, not counting a fugitive former celebrity chef…

Where the high school football team is called the Mighty Fighting Moths… and their yearly Homecoming game is under some strange and irregular curse.

Which was once meant to be a stop on the San Antonio and Aransas Pass Railroad, but which was derailed by True Love…

Where half the townsfolk has the surname of Gonzalez or Gonzales, they’re all related and descended from the holder of the original Spanish land grant… but no one has ever been able to figure out whether his name ended in an ‘s’ or a ‘z’, due to illegible handwriting on the original paperwork…

Where the last two members of a Sixties hippy nudist commune still still keep the faith with peace, love, and organic vegetables at the Age of Aquarius Campground and Goat Farm…

And a historic marker on Town Square marks the spot where a local bootlegger was nearly hung in 1926 for (among a long list of offenses against the laws of God and Man) impersonating a nun.

Luna City, where eccentricity is just a part of every-day life. Drop in for a visit – you might never want to leave.