Vignettes by Luke, Mary Catelli and ‘Nother Mike and Sunday Book Promo

boy-1262989_1920

Book Promo

*Note these are books sent to us by readers/frequenters of this blog.  Our bringing them to your attention does not imply that we’ve read them and/or endorse them, unless we specifically say so.  As with all such purchases, we recommend you download a sample and make sure it’s to your taste.  If you wish to send us books for next week’s promo, please email to bookpimping at outlook dot com.  One book per author per week. Amazon links only.-SAH*

FROM ARLAN ANDREWS: Silicon Blood.

51rybxcng-l

In the near future, the drug cartels of South America establish their own criminal nation, Cordillera, and proceed to flood the world with cocaine and political corruption.

America responds by using the new science of nanotechnology to produce microscopic machines – “nanobots” – to eradicate such drugs once and for all. But these tiny devices can also be used to create new kinds of drugs inside a human body – a “pharm” — or to devour it from within.

After a catastrophic nano-plague, a new and powerful drug lord, El Hombre – “The Guy” – uses nanobots to set up a worldwide drug ring, harvesting new drugs from human bodies and enforcing obedience with threats of devourment.

Jerry Gade, a nano-engineer with a horrific secret, fights back.

The struggle between Gade and The Guy takes place in both the human domain and in the invisible world of their own nano-creations.

The outcome of their battle will determine the future of the human race.

FROM MARGARET BALL:  An Annoyance of Grackles (Applied Topology Book 3).

51jsnz3ctkl

Problems come not as as single corvids, but as full flocks…
Life at the Center for Applied Topology is never precisely normal, but Thalia Kostis, Brad Lensky and their coworkers have been enjoying a brief run of peace, quiet, and optimizing the theorems that allow for teleportation and camouflage. Everything is within parameters, until they get saddled with an intern who’s convinced that he’s God’s gift to math and that their applications of topology are illusory.
A rebellion is brewing – but bigger problems are afoot. Their old enemy, the Master of Ravens is back, and has teamed up with a mercenary with a grudge over the Center’s recent disruption of a profitable contract. Together, the two are planning on taking out the Center – and everyone in it!

FROM BLAKE SMITH:  A Short and Sweet Regency Romance.

51qwos42zol

Marianne Stanhope is in trouble. Her family is urging her to accept the attentions of a most odious suitor, so she turns to a gentleman of her acquaintance for aid. But Mr. Firth has his own reasons for assisting Miss Stanhope, and it falls to her childhood friend Mr. Killingham to convince her that she’s made a dreadful mistake.

FROM L.A. GREGORY:  Hawkwing: A Novel of the Bitterlands.

51nsj1gn-ol

Kestrel’s land is scarred in ways its inhabitants cannot begin to understand, built on long-poisoned earth and menaced by twisted plants and animals. Farmers, hunters, and magic-users fight a long battle to create safe havens and reclaim lost ground, but their casualties mount over generations.

Kestrel knows little and cares less about the patterns that shape her world. She’s a shapechanger and healer who has spent the handful of years since reaching womanhood cleansing the wildlife of her blighted land with medicine and magic. Sure of her place and confident in her skills, she takes care of her own and doesn’t poke at things that don’t concern her. But when she returns from a routine journey with her brother to find her home ransacked and empty, Kestrel must gather her remaining family and search for new allies before old magic and older hatred rob her kin of their freedom, their lives, and possibly their souls.

FROM K.M. O’BRIEN: The Sculpted Ship.

51uwr6cvc3l

She dreamed of adventuring across the stars as captain of her own sleek ship. Then Anailu Xindar grew up.
She didn’t lose her dream – she changed it; made it practical. She became a starship engineer; she saved her money; she earned the skills and experience a starship captain would need.
She still didn’t feel ready to go out on her own – but then her safe job went sour.
With her newly minted Imperial Shipmaster’s License in hand, Anailu just needs to find and buy a cheap, reliable freighter. Instead, she ends up making a crazy deal for an impractical, rare ship that’s long on beauty – but short a few critical components.
She’s determined to get her crippled ship back out among the stars, but her technical skills won’t be enough. Anailu will have to brave the dangers of a planet on the edge of the empire: safaris, formal dinners, rogue robots, and a fashion designer.
She may even have to make a few friends – and enemies.
The Sculpted Ship is set on the outskirts of a thousand-year interstellar empire, where a young woman with ambition, skill, and manners has a chance to achieve her dreams.

(newly edited and revised October 2017)

 

Vignettes by Luke, Mary Catelli and ‘Nother Mike

So what’s a vignette? You might know them as flash fiction, or even just sketches. We will provide a prompt each Sunday that you can use directly (including it in your work) or just as an inspiration. You, in turn, will write about 50 words (yes, we are going for short shorts! Not even a Drabble 100 words, just half that!). Then post it! For an additional challenge, you can aim to make it exactly 50 words, if you like.

We recommend that if you have an original vignette, you post that as a new reply. If you are commenting on someone’s vignette, then post that as a reply to the vignette. Comments — this is writing practice, so comments should be aimed at helping someone be a better writer, not at crushing them. And since these are likely to be drafts, don’t jump up and down too hard on typos and grammar.

If you have questions, feel free to ask.

Your writing prompt this week is: picture.

RAH!

birthday-1114056
This should be a serpent eating its tail, but I don’t feel like looking for an image, so twisty candles will have to do.

It is Heinlein’s birthday.  It is also coincidentally my oldest son’s birthday.  It is one of those things that makes me believe I’m living in a novel, as it connects me simultaneously to the past and the future. The man who molded my thought, and the man I helped mold (a little bit.  It will shock all of you that he’s a stubborn cuss, right?) both sharing the same name and born on the same date.  (Though our Robert started the being born thing on the fourth of July, he hung fire till the seventh early morning.  Go figure.  And yeah, I loved the three days hard labor.  Not.)

Lately I’ve been giving a lot of thought to what it means to be a writer, and to what a writer hopes to leave behind.  There are reasons for this, and yes, my entire family, collectively, has yelled me into going to the doctor.  I’ve been putting it off because it’s probably nothing, and I don’t want to give trouble, but at the same time, there are worrying symptoms, and at any rate I’m 55 which means I’m closer to the end than the beginning. There’s also the fact that 27 years ago today I almost died.  (They gave Dan 10% of chances both Robert and I would survive.  They said more than likely he’d lose one of us.  I’m very glad he didn’t.  I love my family.)  Also, 21 years and six months ago the doctors all said I wouldn’t live more than a few days (pervasive pneumonia. 11 days in ICU) and I prayed very earnestly to be allowed to live to raise my boys. Which I admittedly have.  And write my books.  Which I sort of have.  So, hence the morbid thoughts.

Anyway, any writer who is a working writer leaves a lot of crap behind.  And sometimes it is not what HE/SHE identifies as crap.  I mean Austen’s favorite book was Emma, a book I can barely get through because of the desire to reach through the book and strangle the eponymous twit.

So we’re not usually the best judges of our work, though I confess to giggling like a little girl while listening to number of the beast and hearing him refer to Stranger as “what some writers do for money.”

I have three of those, truth be told. Not that they made me anymore than a slightly upgraded advance.  (Hint: I haven’t reissued them yet.)

His books that I love: The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress; Citizen of the Galaxy; Puppet Masters.  All the others too, but after those.  And btw, yeah, Puppet Masters was a rushed thing, for money.

I hope but don’t believe my work will be similarly worthy of praise thirty years after my death.

Happy birthday RAH (both of them) and thank you (both of them) for inspiration and encouragement to do my best.

I’m trying.

 

The Guardian fan-girls over yet another Clinton – by Amanda S. Green

The Guardian fan-girls over yet another Clinton – by Amanda S. Green

 

I know. I know. I was supposed to have blogged yesterday. Life has been “interesting” in more ways than one of late and time got away from me. I sent Sarah and apology and a promise to have something for her today. Later, she sent me a link to an article with the comment, “If you want something to snark . . .” Well, it took reading only the first paragraph to know snark won out. I needed something to snark and, OMG, she gave it to me. Of course, it is easy – and almost a duty – to snark anything in The Guardian [Teh Grauniad – ed.] and doubly so when any member of the Clinton family is involved.

You see, according to The Guardian, US media refers to Chelsea Clinton as “royalty”. They do so because she grew up in the Arkansas governor’s mansion and left for university from the White House. She’s special because of that, you see. “It is a uniquely strange and unenviable version of celebrity that stole Clinton’s anonymity before she was old enough to spell it.” I guess they’ve never heard of Caroline Kennedy or John F. Kennedy, Jr. Both of whom were thrust into the spotlight because of their family name, the fact their father was president, his assassination and their mother’s own fame. Or how about How about Lynda Bird and Luci Baines Johnson, daughters of Lyndon B. Johnson, former U.S. representative, senator, vice-president and then president? They grew up in politics and had the spotlight on them all their lives thanks to their father. Or Amy Carter, Jimmeh’s daughter? Or any one of numerous other children of politicians – or Hollywood stars – who grew up in the spotlight because of who their parents were? Nothing about Chelsea Clinton’s childhood makes her “royalty” much less makes her childhood “unique”.

Perhaps the writer doesn’t know what “uniquely”, which comes from the word “unique”, means. According to the dictionary, “unique” means “existing as the only one or as the sole example”. Considering the examples I’ve already given, not to mention others I could give, I’m pretty sure she hasn’t a clue about the meaning, at least not in this context.

But let’s go one.

Perhaps “pretentious” would have been a better word to use when describing Chelsea. First, the day before the interview, the writer spoke with one of Chelsea’s “handlers” who left her wondering how far she’d be able to go off-script in the upcoming interview. Then, the next day, the interview was held at The Clinton Foundation, in a “discreetly unadvertised expanse of midtown Manhattan office space populated by serious-looking people and elegantly adorned by African-inspired artwork chosen by Clinton’s father.” Oh, and the interview itself didn’t take place in a simple office or coffee room. Oh no. A Clinton could never be that normal. It took place in the board room. Yes, there is a psychology to this, one the author apparently either didn’t recognize or chose to ignore. It was Chelsea making sure her own importance, and her control, wasn’t overlooked.

Three paragraphs in – and they are long paragraphs – we have yet to hear anything about Chelsea’s book, the reason for the interview. There have been two, maybe three, references to the fact she ahs a new book out. But dayam, this is a fan girl’s scree to a Clinton. She’s soooo wonderful. She started the interview precisely on time. She was soooo informed about British current events. She noticed the author’s medical sleeve and asked about it and about the origin of her first name, “Decca”. It’s as if she’d never conducted an interview before with someone who had grown up being groomed for public speaking and service. Trust me, Decca, Slick Willie trained his daughter well, much better than her mother did, when it comes to connecting to people.

Finally, in the fourth paragraph, we get to the book, “She Persisted Around the World”. Well, we sort of do. We finally get the title. We know it is a sequel to another book Clinton put out. But most of the paragraph deals with how the original book got its title from the confrontation between Mitch McConnell and Elizabeth Warren when McConnell used Senate rules to stop Warren from reading a letter from Martin Luther King, Jr. Of course, good ole Decca is full of condemnation for McConnell and his “scathing attack” on Warren and his use of an “obscure senate rule” to silence her. Nothing, of course, is said about why he used the rule and little is said about how she had been warned, more than once, that she was in violation of Senate rules. That wouldn’t fit the narrative of an evil white male silencing a woman and we much stay true to the narrative, no matter what the cost to truth.

You see, Clinton wants to show girls they can be whatever they want to be. Okay, that’s cool. But let’s look deeper. Using research from the Geena Davis Institute – Yes, it is THAT Geena Davis and the full name is the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in the Media. Sorry, am I the only one to laugh hysterically about this? – to prove her point that the vast majority of cartoons have male protagonists, Clinton wants to see this change. She wants little girls – and, of course, little boys – to know girls can be more than sisters or mothers, friends or partners. She quotes Sally Ride, “You can’t be what you can’t see.”

Ride’s quote, while accurate, was taken out of context. It came from an interview she did and was in response to being asked about being a role model and the transition from astronaut to public face of her company. Ride basically said she didn’t become a physicist or an astronaut to be a role model. However, after her first flight, she realized she had become a role model. That’s when she said, “Young girls need to see role models in whatever careers they may choose, just so they can picture themselves doing those jobs someday. You can’t be what you can’t see.”

On the surface, Clinton appears to be supporting what Ride said. But then, when you look at it closer, you can see where she is using the quote to advance her own agenda. You see, she wants girls to be “more” than best friends or partners, more than sisters or mothers. No where in her interview does she seem to say it is okay if that is all the girl wants. Ride, on the other hand, makes it clear that girls need role models in “whatever careers they may choose” and, yes, motherhood, etc., can and is a career. But, again, that doesn’t fit the narrative.

Clinton says, “It’s so often the case that our stories are centred around men, told by men, the heroes are men – and so I think it’s hugely important that we make women more visible in the stories in our history that have always existed, but also to imagine and create more female-centred stories moving forward.”

Wow. Just wow. I feel sorry for her. To grow up in a home with a supposed feminist mother and not having known those stories already exist. I’m older than Chelsea. I grew up in a home with books about Marie Curie and other women in history. I can walk into my study and find books about Abigail Adams, Mary Todd Lincoln, Marie Curie and so many others. Books that my parents had. I can find novels with female leads, strong female leads. I didn’t need to see women in roles I wanted to be in. Why? Because my parents told me that, as long as I did my best, I could try for anything. I might not always get it – they were realists after all and not trying to raise a precious little snowflake – but I could try. Apparently, Chelsea either didn’t have this or she doesn’t believe there are parents out there who don’t rely on the media to raise their kids.

Yep, this comes back to the media. Remember, she is using the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in the Media to justify her work. I guess you have to reach for something when your dad was philandering in the Oval Office when you were a kid and your mother refuses to admit she lost the fucking presidency not once but twice.

She has talked in the past about inheriting her maternal grandmother’s “responsibility gene”, and mentions to me that her daughter’s nursery has been encouraging conversations about the concept of fairness. “It gives us the chance to talk with her about what is fair, and that she already has unfair advantages because of who her parents are. I don’t think she really understands the concept of privilege yet, but I want her to be able to understand that as soon as she’s old enough to.

Oh. My. Ghu. She has to have her daughter’s nursery “encouraging conversations about the concept of fairness”. If she is so “woke”, why is this even necessary? She should have already been having this discussion. Oh, and let’s not forget this is with her three-year-old daughter. Mmmm, yeah, I also “don’t think she really understands the concept”. She’s three! Maybe instead to talking to her about privilege, Chelsea should be talking to her about what is right and wrong, what is nice and what’s not. But nooo, this is so much more “woke” and sounds so much better to the other “woke” folks.

There is so much more but all it shows is what we already knew. The Guardian, if it ever knew what journalistic integrity is, has long forgotten its meaning. Pretty much like how the author of this article has forgotten the meanings of the words like “unique” and “lifelong impossibility of being” Chelsea Clinton. OMFG. You can almost hear the squees, in full fan-girl mode, of Decca as she writes about Clinton. For an article that is supposed to be about Clinton’s book, well, it isn’t. It is about how wonderful Clinton is, how strong she is for having survived being Clinton, etc. There isn’t enough snark – or enough booze – to keep reading.

What it all boils down to is this – Clinton isn’t Trump. Evil Trump. Bad Trump. She doesn’t do her father’s dirty work like Ivanka does. She even manages to get in a passive-aggressive slap at Barbara Bush in the interview. Yes, the interview that was supposed to be about her book but which surprisingly – or not – turned into a political interview. Remember when Decca lamented that she worried about how far afield Chelsea would go from the stated purpose of the interview? I think it is clear this was never going to be an interview about her book. This was a very carefully planned attack on the current administration and a set up for either her mother’s next run for office or her own political future.

Poor little Chelsea, sitting high in her mommy’s and daddy’s foundation, looking at her name on the door and knowing she has to do something to live up to their “legacy”, no matter what that legacy might be. I hate to tell her this but her family never has been and never will be the Kennedys, no matter how hard they try.

One thing does come clear as you read the article, however. Chelsea learned how to manipulate and communicate from her father. She is much smoother than her mother ever will be. This is something to keep in mind. Slick Willie has a daughter who can be as slick as he. Will she be satisfied with her “work” for the foundation and her writing or will she soon stick her toe into the political waters? Only time will tell but I know where my money is.

And no, I am not going to read her book. I’ve already read one Clinton’s book and my liver is still recovering. I think I would almost rather read Michelle O’s book than this.

Sarah, you own me a drink or three for having waded through this trash. I should have known better. Grumble. Grumble.

 

What Shall Always Be With Us

future-175620_1920

There are a bunch of sour pusses running around who quote John Adams on “Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.” to claim that every misfortune that comes our way is because we’re not moral and religious according to their version of morality and religion, or that we’ll never make the republic function, because, you know, we’re not perfect angels.

That sound you hear is me rolling my eyes hard.

Look, I haven’t made a concerted study of John Adams other than reading up on the revolution in general (yeah, I know I need to but time keeps running away from me.)  I do know that while religious and definitely moral (look, a man who defends enemy soldiers because that’s the right thing to do is moral.  You just might not like where his morality takes him) he was not a sourpuss, and would not demand that everyone be perfect angels according to his definition of moral and religion before the republic would work.  If he felt that way, he might as well have sat on his hands, since humans are not and have never been angels or morally perfect, or you know flawlessly religious.

I think what he meant was more along the lines of “people have to agree on a frame work for the world and it should be [what we would call] that of western civ.”  I.e. humans are imperfect, and only G-d is perfect, and we do the right thing even when it hurts us.  Also, the right thing is roughly contained in the ten commandments which by themselves enjoin respect for “the other” and his rights.

Not that John would expect us to be perfect at it.  He was human, and though it’s tempting to imagine their world back then was much simpler, it takes only an average intelligence and a modicum of knowledge to figure out it wasn’t.

Which brings us to that common framework, and not just in morals and religion (It’s always hard to educate people in a plural religious society.  Just not deriding religion in public might be all we can ask for. Morals on the other hand, we have a framework for in our own constitution and we should definitely be raising kids with the idea of the “right thing” you know like not stealing or murdering, and not sponging off people.) We’re failing them all across the board.  Which is unconscionable considering the years we make kids spend in Maximum Security schools, aka K -12.

I might have told the story here of when I was in college and for reasons I can no longer remember (the Shakespeare group?) took a train at 4 or 5 am into the city.  These trains are the equivalent of red eye flights with the difference that not only are they cheap, but they are the only way people from far flung regions can get into the city.  (Or could.  This was before the highway system and widespread car ownership) Which means they start at 9 pm or so and stop.at.every.stop.no.matter how minor.  Back then the stop in the village was almost voluntary in that it wasn’t even marked and sometimes new conductors “forgot” it playing havoc with my school schedule.

This one stopped, though, and on it were people from far in the mountains, who’d been traveling all night.  There was also a young man, maybe 14 who was making his way through the train, telling the tragic tale of how his family had been killed in the war in Spain, and he was a refugee with nothing.

In case you’re wondering, this was 1983.  Yeah, there was no war in Spain.  I tried to fit it with any of the bombings, but nothing recently in the news fit.  And yet, all these women were cooing over him and opening their purses.

Look, at the time, the war in Spain was something they’d heard from their parents as I had.  The required education was fourth grade, a lot of it very practical skills like how to tell if an egg was rotted, with a smattering of academic stuff (math, history, geography, grammar) at the end just so those heading to prep school (grades 5 and 6 — prep because it prepared you for high school) had the rudiments.  Most of my classmates went to work the day after they finished 4th grade. And the history we got never got past about 1900.  So what did they have?

Oh, the means to inform themselves, for sure.  Newspapers and books, and radio stations devoted to history and mythology and stuff.  I know this because my mom listened to those late at night when she was working because on a deadline.

But most people don’t care.  It’s just not important for their daily life.  Which means they fall for little sobs with an sob story in the train, but also for presentism and the lies of the Marxists.  Because, really, how would they know that this thing that sounds so good has failed and filled mass graves over and over again?

Never happen here, you say? We have 12 years of education.  TWELVE.  Surely people have a common framework for the world when they leave school.  It might be tilted left, but it’s a framework.

You wish.  What they actually have is a very odd mishmash topped with bits of popular books and movies.

And I’m not talking stupid, mind you.  I’ve heard things like this from people who were smart and even gifted in their fields, except that their interests didn’t fall to either history, economics or politics.

For instance one of my art teachers (post graduate education) once told me that Anne Rice did impeccable research about how there was a peaceful matriarchy before–  Yeah.

Heard same from well spoken people in grocery store about Dan Brown’s “amazing research” and the things he’d “uncovered.”

If you pursue conversation with these people you find their idea of the past is a mishmash of confusing insanity overlaid with the ideas of the SJWs, because those are really loud and have penetrated.  For instance, the idea women were always discriminated against, because men are evil.  Or that the normal state of women throughout history was roughly Victorian England for the upper classes: not allowed to work, not allowed to go out alone, etc.  (In fact most women throughout history have worked, because they needed to, and who the hell can accompany every woman throughout.  They think all women live basically in sharia countries, always.)

Two things I overheard this weekend, by no means from people who look stupid drove this point home to me.

The first was that England has had only one Queen, Queen Charlotte, the surviving widow of Henry VIII (!).  The second was more alarming in terms of policy: Apparently, Brexit broke up the EU, so it’s o longer the United Kingdom and that’s why Britain and Ireland have different currencies.  (And that’s a bad thing.)  These people are planing a trip to England, while they still have at least one castle, because it’s important to see where we came from and all that history.

I will note my dinner companions prevented me from delivering a lecture, in withering terms on the fact that while the UK is in Europe/ish, it’s NOT all of Europe, that Brexit had nothing to do with breaking up the EU but with freeing the UK from the EU and that what they don’t know about currencies could be carried in a very large bucket.

I also wanted to beg them please, for the love of Bob, not to vote, because as far as their vote has foreign implications, they will do something horrendous.  H*ll, I wouldn’t bet their view of national politics isn’t about the same level of crazy.

And this, THIS is why people can swallow nonsense about writers (who have no power in the field) keeping women and minorities (Why do they never mention people of different orientations when talking outside the field, I wonder) out of writing sf/f.  Or why each five years women storm SF/F AGAIN for the first time.  Or why they think that STEM is conspiring to keep women out, or why they buy the idiocy that there are refugees from Central America whose problems won’t be solved by moving a 100 kilometers (other than their country sucking, but that doesn’t entitle them to come here and make ours suck) or why they’re always willing to “try” socialism again “for the first time.”

They live in an undigested soup of stuff they gleaned from entertainment, vague memories of something or other heard in school, the stories their parents/grandparents told them.

How to fix it is harder.  We can’t fix the poverty problem because some people just WON’T do a lick of work over the absolutely required.  I mean, to the point of preferring to live in trash to their knees rather then picking stuff up. (I’ve seen it.  Trust me on this.) Evolutionary when we were scavenging apes and couldn’t store food long, but impairing now.  I mean, we’re the crazy ones, but it gives us an advantage in producing and creating.

Unfortunately that laziness applies with bells on to education. People don’t WANT to learn. They will take what they can, undigested, and retain very little of even that outside their fields.

So how is a republic to survive.

First we need to teach history better.  And by this I mean throw Howard Zinn out the window (is he still alive? Because the idea of literal defenestration is kind of cute.  But I mean his books and ideas.) but beyond that, teach history in short bursts of “this is how this era was” and make sure the things are simple enough to stick.  Never mind about the dates. People are going to telescope them anyway.  Just “this happened, then this happened.”

Second, we need to teach geography better.  The UK is not the EU. The EU is a recent construction. That sort of thing.

Third, teach how we are different and how radically innovative our founding principles are.

Sure, I’m just dreaming, right now.  But things are changing.  It might happen.

On the other hand, remember they also take entertainment.  We need to write more of that and do more of that.  Make sure your history is right in romances, in light adventure, in short and amusing mysteries.  Because the SJWs no longer have the only microphone, and even the disconnected are starting to “get” that the left ideas don’t work.  So, we have a chance.

But we can’t be timid or embarrassed.  In books, in movies, in social situations, we need to be able to go “Oh, please.”  Yeah, it won’t work well with total strangers, but with work mates? Classmates?  People who know you?  It will work and chip at the invincible fog of ignorance behind which the left operates.

We are the sappers for the culture war battalions, making the ground safe for the advance of more serious education.

Go build and do and teach.

Because the clueless shall always be with us, but the republic can’t survive its being as near universal as it is.  Let the fighting back begin with you.

 

 

Happy Fourth

 

fireworks-804838

A writer’s head is a weird place in that we’re never alone.  No, not even in the bathroom when someone — glares inward “You know who you are” — takes advantage of the situation to start dictating a novel.

But they’re there even when you’re not writing.

Right now in my head there’s a massive picnic in someone’s pasture.  It’s 20 years since the events in AFGM and the first time that they DARE have a public fourth of July (high holy holiday) celebration.  There’s fireworks, and people running around.

For the centuries of no territory, the centuries when the constitution, the declaration of independence and this idea of government for the people by the people were proscribed, the occasion was celebrated with readings from the holy documents, telling stories of the heroes after whom many of the USAians were named and, if you felt safe enough, a family meal.

This is the first time they have all that, but in public, in a small community of all Usaians.  (BTW the philosophy is not covalent with a nation in their times and very certainly it doesn’t correlate with no nations and no borders (in any time, really).  First, because it would counter the idea of property rights enshrined in the founding documents.  Second, because… well, you can’t have self-government when there is only a fluid culture that keeps changing with new influxes.  Ahead of our heroes in the series lie wars between nations both majority USAian but clinging to different interpretations and different cultures.)

Yeah, the philosophy is not a panacea, only simply the best way to have the safest and most prosperous society the world has ever known.

Of course, having become a religion to survive also changes it, and leads many to expect life liberty and the pursuit of happiness AFTER death, and therefore to not like those who try to make it happen in this world.

But that lies in the future for them, as we lie in the past for them.  For the first time, they can do what we take for granted, and celebrate the USA and independence in public.  (Only right now we aren’t mythical.  Or maybe we are, who knows?)

Having this go on in my head gives me an appreciation for what we have right now. The future is perilous (but when isn’t it?) not the least because we cannot afford to have Venezuela on our borders (and the attendant border crossers, not even mentioning they’ll vote for the same crazy here too) and yeah something will have to be done (and frankly a wall is better than a war.)

But liberty is always endangered because liberty and individualism is unnatural. Natural is the chieftain and the band and absolute power of one over the lives of others and some pigs being more equal than others.

We are a highly unnatural nation whose unnaturalness was purchased with blood sweat and tears.  Which might yet be required of us, so we can pass it intact to our children.

Liberty is never more than a generation from extinction.  Our lives, our fortunes, our sacred honors, might be required of us as they were of prior generations.

You get what you pay for.

Happy fourth.  Below see cover for an anthology of stories by me and a few friends to come out in a couple of weeks. Names will appear on the cover, then.

USAianCOVER

I’m Alive and Short Liberty Con AAR

I’m alive.  Sorry I didn’t post yesterday, but part of that “new plant” for the convention thing, forced on by change of hotel is that I missed seeing a lot of my friends. So after breakfast (we get concierge because Dan used to travel for work) I packed all my stuff and went in search of friends.

It was my intention to come back to the hotel room, finish packing and put in the promo post and stuff.  (Let me know if you have something urgent, because at this point I think it will wait till Saturday.)

Next thing I know Dan is waiting with all my stuff to go to the airport.

Now, the theme (bad theme) of THIS con was footwear.  My sandal strap broke in Charlotte airport while running for a tight connection.  To keep it from tripping me, I tied it.  The problem is it rubbed the back of my foot into a blisters and — by the time we got to Chattanooga — raw.

So we stopped at wallmart on the way in to get me footwear.  Being me, I bought a pair of nice sandals.  Fortunately I had an attack of “let’s have something else in case, and bought five dollar shoes.

Even the sandals were too hard on the foot (I should have bought slippers, or flip flops or SOMETHING) which is why you saw me limping around everywhere in the no-support, still rubbing my feet raw $5 shoes.

So, if you’re worried about how much I aged in a year, that wasn’t it.  It was more walking around on feet that were skinned and by the end of the con bleeding.

Which also affected my seeing people.

But also the whole hotel/convention center thing seemed to make it harder to find people.  Not a complaint, exactly.  I’ve been through this before.  After a while the flow of the con adapts to the hotel/accommodations, and we’re okay. And anyway, we won’t be there again next year (at least we’re not supposed to.  Fingers crossed.)

It’s just that in a way between the feet and the new plant it was a very weird con, and I kept getting tired (possibly the low level pain from feet, but, yes, I’m going to go to the doctor) and having to go to the room for a little while.

I did see everyone, in the end, except Laura Montgomery (!) I think, but didn’t have much time with anyone.

Gifts (!) this year include the autobiography of an ancestor, a stuffed mammoth that’s supposed to be Robert, and a nerf gun with which I shot the penguin.  (Evil Penguin.  One of the barflies.)

Differences noted: a lot more people discussing their indie business.  A lot fewer people chasing trad.

Things I missed: two teas and a dinner and a friend’s wedding reception. (Because I’d run out of energy by then.)

Everyone seemed to talk to my younger son, instead of me.

Les Johnson and I are in the early planning stages of a novel whose working title is The Princess and the Spaceman.  (You can call us sexist later.  These are particular people, hence the title.)

Now I’m back, working on an anthology (editing) a collection (going over edits) and finishing up Guardian.  Well, notionally at least.  Actually I got up about two hours ago, having defeated Greebo’s attempt to herd me into the office at 5 am, and Greebo’s licking my feet at 7 am.

I might write another post today.  Or not.

But I’m alive, and now I’m going to shower and catch up on work.

(Pets blog readers on their little fuzzy heads, and exits pursued by a deadline.)

Gone Fishing

Guys, Gals and Dragons (the Minotaur is here), I’m at Liberty con and it’s a busy morning.  I JUST don’t have the time to do the normal vignette and promo post.

I’ll do it tomorrow, okay?

Meanwhile, here’s a picture prompt for your improve pleasure:

hewasanuppittylizard

The Church of Human Expansion by Harold Hamblet

ufo-1265186

The Church of Human Expansion by Harold Hamblet

Hale Bopp 1997. 39 cult members committed suicide believing the aliens in the comet would take them up and revive them…

People who aren’t firmly grounded in an established religion will believe anything and that’s one proof. A friend and I decided we should design a religion that wouldn’t require you to kill yourself at the cult leaders urging. In fact- suicide would be a grave sin. So if you wanted badly to believe in something we could take your money and worldly goods and do some good with it without harming you. We wanted it to be compatible with atheism. That is, an atheist could believe in Church goals and tenets without believing they were revealed by God. And- we wanted it to be compatible with most other religious beliefs, so you could join the church while not leaving your current church. Impossible! you say. We did it. You haven’t heard much about is because, well- if you’ve read some of my previous stories you’re aware my better half is a really good Catholic. Staying happily married to a good Catholic while being a prophet of a brand new religion isn’t going to happen… Now- my intro to The Church of Human Expansion™.

The Church has 3 prophets whose ideas are responsible for Church tenets and beliefs. Enrico Fermi, Robert Heinlein, and Fred Saberhagen. Robert Heinlein has a number of short sayings he wrote that are incorporated directly into Church beliefs. We’ll start with “If mankind is to survive, then for the majority of its’ existence the word “ship” must mean “spaceship””. A number of others also directly applicable. But that’s the most important one.

Enrico Fermi asked the question “Where are they?” This question was in response to the answer to a question he had asked one of his classes, “How many civilizations in this galaxy are more than a million years older than us?” Why this question? They came up with 50. Our galaxy is about 100,000 lightyears across. Once in space, travelling at 10% light speed is trivial and easily done. Generation ships for such travel are readily designable and simply an exercise in engineering. Suspended animation, well, still in the realm of science fiction. They answered 50. They wouldn’t all be on the other side of the galaxy, but randomly scattered. And some would be much, much closer. His point being, if they existed, they would be here by now and we would be them. To date, there is no evidence of their existence. And while the absence of evidence isn’t evidence- normally- think about the dogs that don’t bark in the night. After decades of searching for evidence, we have none. No radio transmissions, while ours are now more than 100 light years away. No light wakes from Bussard ramjets, which may or may not be actually buildable. Nothing.

If life naturally arises from the primordial soup, then we really should have detected it by now. There are two, and only two, universal explanation for The Fermi Paradox. The first, not even believed by most theologians of most religions, God created us and only us, and the galaxy is ours for the taking. The second universal explanation was provided by Fred Saberhagen in his writings- Berserkers are real.

Berserkers? A long long (LONG) time ago two races fought an interstellar war. Race 1 designed self replicating war machines and programmed them to destroy all life forms other than them. Race 2 designed some sort of weapon, presumably biological, that killed every last member of Race 1. After Berserkers were set loose in the galaxy. While Saberhagen was writing enjoyable and thought provoking science fiction, he was also a prophet warning us that Berserkers are coming and that we need to prepare.

So, what is required to be a member in good standing of The Church of Human Expansion?

  1. In order for mankind to survive, the human race must expand into space. This is the one essential belief. Whether you come to believe this as God’s plan or because it simply makes sense is immaterial. The belief is not antithetical to any Earth religion I’m aware of, and is compatible with atheism.
  2. Berserkers are real. When they become aware of our existence, if they aren’t already, they will head in force towards Earth to exterminate us. Not truly essential to believe in order to support the Church goal of expanding mankind into space. But a belief that can be held whether you believe Saberhagen’s stories were inspired by God, or whether he simply stumbled upon the truth while writing entertaining stories. Not antithetical to most religions.
  3. Life is sacred and must not be taken for no reason or trivial reasons or because of theological or purely political disagreements. Does this mean the Church is against capital punishment? No- because if one person kills another for selfish gain or jealousy or whatever they are a danger to all, and if society determines they should die for it, it’s not a trivial reason. Of course, if Berserkers come and a cabal shares their goal, well…

Religion is much ignored in science fiction, and in most fiction for that matter. Arthur C. Clarke was an exception who incorporated religion in many of his works. Fred Saberhagen had the Templars in his Berserker books, a religious order devoted to defeating Berserkers wherever they appear. So if you want to have religion incorporated into your works, but aren’t satisfied with existing ones, feel free to use this one. Or if you have the necessary temperament to found a Church- this is yours for the taking.

Pervasive

Yesterday while traveling, I was subjected (eh!) to my husband’s watching movies on his tablet next to me.  Because the first flight was the bumpiest thing I’ve ever been on and I couldn’t read or write, I ended up watching a lot.  And I realized how pervasive the “messages” in entertainment are.

The first movie he watched was Black Panther and very weird the serious problems I had with it are none of the ones the left would think I would have with it.

Advanced civilization in Africa which keeps itself secret?  Sure.  Why not.  It’s science fiction (or at least comic book science.)  I sniffed (momentarily) at the goddess Matt thing because it ties in with the old seventies canard that Egyptians were black.  Not only is it obvious from their writing that Egyptians were mildly racist towards Nubians, but holly hell, we do have DNA analysis and it turns out they were way paler than we thought.  But I only sniffed A LITTLE because, well, “civilization starting by Egypt which was started by Atlantis” is a trope in the field.

The things that got me pissed off?  The villain’s background.  Yeah, sure, the US military makes people crazy.  The villain’s complaints about how black people are oppressed and colonized etc, which are dropped and believed by the other characters as a matter of fact.  Yes, the history of black people is appalling (and a lot of it inflicted by other black people, particularly in Africa where the results of the Zulu conquest left so many bones that some became hills.) However, if you wand to choose a place to be black in, choose the US.

Also for the people who threw themselves over the side of slave ships because it was better to die than to live in subjection.  Oh, f*ck that.  Is this the sh*t they’re teaching black kids in the US?  I’m sure people threw themselves over the side of slave ships in terror, and I’m neither going to defend slavery (DUH.  Libertarian, remember?) nor the slave ships, about which I read when I was ten or so, and which dwarf any horror movie for sheer death toll and awfulness.

However, that bullshit about throwing themselves because it was better than to live in subjection?  THAT is bullshit.  Slavery was common in Africa back then, when you lost a tribal war, or your relatives got into debt (much like Rome, guys.  We’re all descended from slavers and slaves and not very far off either) and killing yourself to escape it was not common.  This ties in to the lies told young black people in the US that white people invented slavery to enslave the black race, when in fact slavery is an ancient ill of humanity and the only thing different about the US is that we voluntarily freed our slaves, and made laws outlawing slavery.  This nonsense myth making, casually dropped in entertainment is what divides us.

BTW they might have thrown themselves overboard in terror because they knew nothing about the US and therefore assumed the stranger would be worse than the familiar.  And the familiar included the Dahomey who killed their slaves to coat the tombs of their kings in blood when the mood struck them.

Other casual bullshit that had me foaming at the mouth: all the fighters are women.

Seriously?  The aforementioned Dahomey had a regiment of female bodyguards who guarded their king.  This is probably what this nonsense is based on.  But actually that was largely a ceremonial/ritual regiment, in that they were all female, all beautiful and all virgins.

Doesn’t make any sense even in a high tech society for a fighting force to be ALL women.  Have women, sure, because augmented strength.  Be all women?  Oh, hell no.

Also the casually dropped mentions about how this guy was trained to destabilize/bring down regimes.  Seriously? He was? By whom?

Guys, since at least the seventies, and I suppose before, we’ve been thoroughly ineffective at any regime change. We could have spared some wars had we been better.  And spared the world a great deal of trouble.

In face, unless I’m wrong, the US (sole among nations) has rules against killing foreign leaders that are in our way.  And rules against interefering in other countries politics which get ignored (mostly by democrat presidents.)  So, oh, please and also pfui.

You mean the CIA which most of us knew was swallowing whole the lies about the soviet union’s population and strength is this super effective organization?  Sure.  Pull the other one, it plays jingle bells.

Oh, yeah, and Wakanda is going to work through the UN.  Holy sh*t.  They might be an advanced civilization, but how naive are they actually?

So those were my issues with Black Panther.  On the “black thing”?  Meh.  Yeah, the movie is racialist (which is different from racist, being pride of race more than discrimination against other races.)  That’s fine.  Having pride in race is not a problem, unless it slips into racism.

Take me, I’m a mutt.  I’m immensely proud of all humans throughout history.  But seriously, being proud of your ancestors, real or imaginary, has worked throughout history to put a floor under bad behavior.

“Do you want your great ancestors to be ashamed of you?” works, which is why ancestor worship is pervasive throughout history.

Oh, one other minor nit.  Having already met a T’challa (cute little thing), I want to say “Hollywood, black people in America did NOT need your encouraged to give their kids strange hyphenated names.  But whatevs. White people in America now do too, and in fact the minority of us who give our kids normally spelled names are feeling mighty unique these days.

Good movie.  I just don’t like the stupid lies we accept as throw away lines in this kind of thing, because they sink into the subconscious and become “everybody knows.” Watch for movies to casually refer to the Russians rigging 2016 for Trump, until everybody just accepts it, even though it’s obviously false.

The second movie Dan watched, which I THINK was Justice League 1 (I’m not sure, because I didn’t see it start.  Whichever the one had Batman and Wonder Woman) was obviously markedly inferior both in production and plot and all that, but …

Casually dropped in, Batman rants about humanity melting the poles. Completely unproven. In fact chances are any melting has nothing to do with humanity, since there was no ice on the poles long before we emerged, and hell, far less than lethal. There was no ice on the poles and life flourished.

But yeah, it’s delivered like “everybody knows” and like it’s going to kill us all.  Pfui.

That’s how they do it.  That’s how it works. That’s how so many lies have become “what everybody knows.”

We should ALL be very grateful, now and forever that the crazies in science fiction have reached the point they just unabashedly preach with no shame and absolutely 0 entertainment value.  (If you were a decent writer, my loves, you’d be far more entertaining and your poison far more effective.  Thank heavens, though, you’re just blinkered partisans and political dinosaurs.)

It’s far less effective than when they make good entertainment with poison pill lies dropped in like “everybody knows this” so that people assume it’s been proven and the mushy middle moves steadily left.

Heck, maybe Hollywood has just reached that point too, judging by Star Wars.  And this is very good.  Because what is in the open can’t sink to the subconscious.

Do write “Woke” movies and books, dear left.  We like it so much when they tank, their poison undelivered.

 

 

Trekonomics – The Nightmare Ends- by Amanda S. Green

nightmare-2826890_1920

 

Trekonomics – The Nightmare Ends- by Amanda S. Green

The title of the post says it all. Perhaps, however, nightmare isn’t the correct word. Perhaps farce, or maybe even con, is more appropriate. After all, Trekonomics is a book that purports to be all about the economics of the Star Trek universe and yet the author does his best to avoid canon when it doesn’t suit his purposes and, when that fails, to pull out of thin air explanations for why what he says will happen.

I could continue looking at the book, chapter by chapter, but I’ll be honest. The author spends a lot of time saying basically the same thing. Like so many who hold out the socialist utopia, it is all hype and very little substance. So, we’ll fast-forward through most of it and hit the final “high points” of the book.

Let’s begin with this. Near the end, Saadia claims that if you believe Star Trek is about space travel, you are “taking it too literally.” Of course, he has to say that. Otherwise, none of his hand-wavium would make sense. Still, he isn’t to be deterred. He reminds us that, short of changes to the laws of nature, “highly improbable changes”, we will never have FTL travel. Nor will we have matter-antimatter reactors. Even though he doesn’t really address it, that probably means we won’t have replicators either. So how in the name of all that is holy are we supposed to reach this utopia he has painted for us?

According to him, we won’t, at least not if it is too far from our homes. He looks at history and says we are primarily a sedentary species, never travelling far from home. Exploration isn’t a “fundamental trait” of the human race. When we commute, we go the same route, rarely deviating, etc.

To say this is an oversimplification is putting it mildly. But then, what should we expect after the drivel we’ve gotten so far in the book?

If he says anything that is true, or close to it, it is the following:

Save for a few exceptions, the eccentric among us, we are stunningly incurious. As a species, we are mostly preoccupied with our day-to-day affairs, subsistence and such, and we free ride on the achievements of a few crazy ones.

The truth in the statement is that there are a number of people out there who are incurious. Others have bought into the sense of entitlement, happy to allow the state or someone else support them in the manner in which they would like to become accustomed. Yet, what Saadia doesn’t seem to realize is his own words condemn the Trek universe he has been championing for most of the book. After all, even though he says prosperity in the Trekverse is a universal sense of wanting to improve the state of life for all, aren’t they really simply happy to do whatever they want, knowing they will never need for anything? After all, there is no economy of shortcomings, of need, of limited resources. People don’t own the replicators, so they are relying on someone else – on the state – to provide them food, clothing, everything the replicators can manufacture for them.

Hmmm, has he ever heard of “the state gives and the state takes away”?

Saadia is also the master of the understatement without either recognizing or understanding the “why” of what he writes:

With development and the considerable improvements in standards of living brought on by the Industrial Revolution, the number and proportion of people involved in research and development has shot up.

My first thought as I read the above quote was “DUH”. Of course, the number and proportion of people shot up. They had more opportunities to join the research force. They weren’t having to go out and hunt for food or grow the crops. My second thought was that the nerds of the world could finally do what they wanted to do, what they were good at.

Where I really have the urge to reach through the computer screen to shake Saadia is when he climbs back on his soap box and begins his passive-aggressive bullshit about space travel and how he really doesn’t want to discourage the fanboys. But, he says, why don’t we use those resources instead to “to lift a billion people out of poverty?” Who knows how many Einsteins or other great thinkers we might have if we did. But even if we don’t find another Einstein, surely we’d get “30 or 40 million more engineers or programmers” from those we uplifted.

Riiiight.

And pigs will fly then too.

Saadia’s ability to say, on the one hand, that the vast majority of people would rather have folks do for them and then, on the other hand, tell us we should find a way to pull a billion people out of poverty so we might – MIGHT – get additional engineers, etc. blows my mind. How in the hell are we supposed to pay for this? Who decides who gets the money and how much? He never answers the question. Instead, he uses it to show that Star Trek had it all backwards.

Blink.

The Star Trek canon portrays the advent of the so-called new world economy as a consequence of the invention of the warp drive. . . I would go even further and say that faster-than-light travel and interstellar colonization are the most uneconomical of all imaginable endeavors for any civilization. You can’t finance them like the Dutch or English merchants financed ships in the seventeenth century. It won’t make you rich. There is no silver or sugar, no prized fruits from the pepper plant (Piper nigrum) to bring back from Sirius or Wolf 359 (not to mention that useless hellhole otherwise known as Mars).

My head is starting to hurt. Why would there be no “silver or sugar”, or something even more valuable to be found out in space? Why would we not be able to find resources we could use and that would propel even further innovation and invention? When the first explorers left Europe to find what existed on the other side of the sea, they didn’t know what they would discover? For all they knew, there really were dragons waiting to eat them. Saadia also assumes that the governments of the world are the only ones who would be able to fund such explorations. I look around now and see entrepreneurs like Elon Musk funding their own space programs. Who is to say there won’t be more like him in the future?

A species needs to achieve economic escape velocity first in order to spread through interstellar space.

He can almost get away with this comment. Except he overlooks the need to discover resources to replace the ones we have exhausted here on the Earth or the need for new places for humanity to expand to because we keep having babies (No, I don’t mean we are heading toward over-population anytime soon, not even in the next few generations.) It is just that Saadia makes these absolute statements and not once does he give solid arguments to support them.

Enough already with the space colonization nonsense! If anything, it is an expression of defeatism. It implies that this is not working out, “this” being Earth and the humans who live on it. It is an old pioneering fantasy. Let us build some kind of galactic Mayflower and leave this wretched and sinful place. It is as facile as it is misguided.

Now, how many of you read the above and didn’t get a little angry? In Saadia’s world, exploration is admitting defeat. He truly doesn’t take into consideration any of the very valid reasons why we might want, much less need, to expand beyond this world. Thank God, the early explorers didn’t believe as he did. Where would we be today if they had?

Here is the bottom line – or perhaps the punch line –for the book: “So no, the Vulcans are not coming. We are the Vulcans. Or rather, we must become the Vulcans—stoic, rational, altruistic. To me, that is the main lesson of Trek.”

Thank you, but no. I don’t want to become the Vulcans who turned their back on all that make humans unique. I’ll be a Ferengi or Klingon, even a Romulan or a Bajoran.

Saadia is quick, in a manner of speaking, to remind us of the Vulcan saying, “Live long and prosper”. In that greeting, “prosper” doesn’t mean gain personal wealth. The Vulcans are above all that evil capitalist schtick. To a good Vulcan, prosperity comes in the forms of accomplishments and service. It is the sort of prosperity “that arises from the cultivation of the mind rather than from greed, that antiquated and vulgar practice.”

So, if we are to go forward into the future, to head into space and to rise to the world of the oh-so-wonderful Trekverse, we must become walking, talking automatons, willing to stoically give to everyone else without expecting anything in return. Hand over your humanity, your emotion and your competitive spirit. March in lock-step with your fellow Federation citizen. The government will take care of you. It will give you a nifty replicator. You too can have everything you want, as long as it isn’t unique or too different from what your fellow citizens want or need.

Nope, if that is what being a citizen in the Federation entails, I don’t want to go there. Citizenship in Heinlein’s Starship Troopers universe is more enticing. At least the service there has a reward – citizenship. Either that or I want to live outside the Federation, a starfaring tramp steamer, a compass and the freedom to do what I want and go where I want is a lot more appealing than being part of the Stepford Federation.