An Embarrassment of Books- Freerange Oyster

An Embarrassment of Books – Freerange Oyster

 

Welcome back, Huns and Hoydens, to another fabulous weekend Promo Post! I’ve been inundated with submissions this week, mostly new names and faces. Behold, Hoyt’s Horde expands! We hope all of you newcomers will stick around: the Horde of Huns is a fun crowd, and we always like having fresh mea- er, new blo- that is, we like to meet new people. With the influx there’s quite a variety in this week’s selection, so whatever your taste it seems likely you’ll find something. What a great time to be a reader!

Since we’ve got so many new folks, a bit of housekeeping. For a book to be included, I need a link to its Amazon page. If you have it listed elsewhere (see Mary’s new collection below for an example) then send me a link to each of those pages. Links are all I need, though fervent expressions of gratitude and stacks of Federal Reserve Notes are graciously accepted. Also – for those of you inquiring about editing – since my main inbox is getting rather swollen at the moment [Aw, go put some ice on it -Ed.], please be sure to send quote requests to my editing address. Last but not least, please make sure that you leave reviews for books you read on whatever outlets you use. Reviews make a huge difference for authors, both in sales and psychology. If you liked something, let the author know! As always, future promo post entries can (and should!) be sent to my email. Happy reading!

Jason Dyck, AKA The Free Range Oyster

Minion Wrangler, Code Monkey, Word Polisher, and Chief Assistant to the Assistant Chief

Kia Heavey

Domino

Domino has always relied on tooth and claw to keep the barnyard vermin-free for his employers, the Browns. When he’s not on patrol, his main concerns are prowling with housecat friends and trying to impress the mysterious, lethal female who lives in the nearby woods.

Then a brilliant and charismatic tom moves into the neighborhood, purring strange notions and introducing new “friends,” and Domino soon learns there’s no way to bite or scratch a poisonous idea. As the evil grows, life-long friends become unrecognizable, once-proud felines renounce their very identities in fear, and the natural order is turned upside-down. Locked in a deadly rivalry, Domino must rely on his wits to save his territory, his family, and a time-honored way of life from the bloody scourge that descends.

Nitay Arbel

On Different Strings: A Musical Romance

Guitar virtuoso Amy Ziegler ekes out a precarious living as a teaching assistant in the Mays College music department. One day a mysterious older student shows up: Ian Keenan, an engineering professor and closet songwriter. Opposites attract, and music is the language of the spirit.

Each is passionate about music, and each has been deeply wounded in love. Thus a weird yet wonderful friendship grows between the reserved English academic and the outgoing small-town Texan girl who grew up in poverty. Each secretly starts yearning for more, but the world has other ideas. Soon they become caught in a maelstrom between rivals, exes, their own pasts, activists, and campus bureaucrats. Will the rapids tear them apart, or will love and sanity prevail?

Mary Catelli

Journeys And Wizardry

Drunken mermaids – a clan cursed to become crows – a magic book that even the Nameless Necromancer fears – and more in this reprint collection of thirteen stories and a poem.

Also available from these fine booksellers:

Jeff Faria

The God That Failed

The Patriots of Mars Book 1

In 2231, twenty-five billion people walk the Earth. Few lack basic food and shelter. Energy is cheap and abundant. A vast army of ‘bots serves our every need, and those who can afford to do so might live forever. To some, it is a golden age.

But Earth is devoid of resources, now harvested on or around Mars. Nations are ruled from above by governments owned by enormous transnats, and from below by powerful street gangs who have largely usurped the police.

This world is not for everyone. A fifth of the world’s population has withdrawn into the drug Nirvana, while millions more have chosen Martian exile. And a phantom group called ‘The Patriots of Mars’ has committed an act of rebellion that shocks the world.

Josh Reynolds, a Martian-born teen with a secret, is trying to change his life when he gets caught up in the wake of the Patriots’ insurrection. As he struggles to both find and save himself, Josh begins to realize that the change he had hoped for could become something more far-reaching than anyone had imagined.

Justin Robinson

The Good Fight

Toronto is a crowded place. Plenty of eyes and ears all around. Plenty of chances to be overheard. Be careful what you say…

In this spooky Canadian page turner, 16-year-old Terry Conner finds herself the target of an unspeakable evil, bent on enslaving all of humanity. Her crime? Nothing less than speaking her mind.

Marina Fontaine

Chasing Freedom

Freedom is lost, but not forgotten.

In 2040s America, civility is prized above truth, conformity above free expression, and “green” living above basic human needs. Most have given up, too busy trying to survive in a country where life is cheap and necessities are scarce. Yet even in the midst of drudgery and despair, unbroken spirits remain.

Julie is a girl who has everything, including a plan to ignite the spark of resistance.
Randy dreams of winning Julie’s love and escaping the emptiness of over-regulated life.
Joseph seeks revenge on the system for a family tragedy.
Daniel is a young artist, who can’t seem to stay out of trouble.
Chris is an orphan prepared to do the unthinkable to protect his younger sister.

Whether by choice or by accident, each will take a path on a collision course with the oppressive regime. Will they find the freedom they desire? Or will the cost of defiance prove too high to bear?

Marina Fontaine is an immigrant from the former Soviet Union. She uses personal experience to craft a novel that takes an intimate look at life in a totalitarian society and the role that individual choices play in advancing the cause of liberty.

Karina Fabian

Discovery

Sisters Ann, Tommie and Rita are part of a classified mission to explore an alien ship that has crash landed on an asteroid three billion miles from earth. Humanity’s first contact with beings from beyond the solar system is bound to unlock the mystery of life in the universe, but the crew have their own secrets; hidden fears, desires, horrible sins – and a mission to kill. Researchers discover something unique about the third arm of the ship: something wonderful, something terrifying. Something holy. This discovery challenges Rita and Ann to confront their own pasts in order to secure the safety of the mission and the very souls of the crew.

Timothy C. Ward

Revolt

Godsknife Book 1

The rift between Iowa and the Abyss is thinner than it seems. Modern society meets the power and reality of myth in the new war between Chaos, Order and Maker. A priestess of Order seeking godhood unleashes a virus to mutate and enslave the human race. Those who survive will face the height of her power, but will they bow before it?

A fleet of enlarged praying mantises has invaded Des Moines, Iowa. Swarms of cicadas are turning survivors into winged soldiers. Orchestrating the warzone is a priestess of Order, who’s pursuing godhood, and the nation of followers who’ll get her there.

Caroline’s new friendship parts the veil between reality and myth, as a recruiter of Order needs her to hide him from capture. In their escape, the boss she’s loved like a father reveals his elevator into the Abyss.

In this new world, Caroline finds a usurped god and an angry ghost eager to make her their getaway back to power. What if the person her friends will need is heartbeats away from becoming the real threat?

Karl K Gallagher

Torchship Pilot

WAR IS BAD FOR BUSINESS: The crew of the freighter Fives Full want to enjoy the profits of their dangerous voyage, but when war breaks out they’re pressed into service for missions a warship can’t do. Winning the war demands pilot Michigan Long act ruthlessly… and may cost her her conscience and her marriage.

Jason Anspach

’til Death

Rockwell Return Files Book 1

Sam Rockwell is a fledgling private investigator specializing in Returns, or, recently deceased ghosts with unfinished business. After his no-nonsense father is murdered and comes back, Sam takes the case hoping for a big break and a chance to win the heart of his Girl Friday.

Short on experience and long on the swagger of the dog-eared pulp fiction he keeps in his desk, Rockwell sets out to find his father’s killer only to find himself caught up in a deadly game of Cold War Intrigue at its most horrific as the Doomsday Clock inches closer to permanent midnight in this witty throwback to the Golden Age of Hollywood noire.

’til Death: Second Impressions

Rockwell Return Files Book 2

Wisecracking Private Detective Sam Rockwell is running for his life, but that doesn’t keep him from taking the case of a Return who’s slipped past Heaven’s radar and overstayed his time on earth. Together with his fiancé, Amelia, Sam brawls and dances his way through San Francisco to unravel a zany mystery where nothing is what it seems at first blush.

The laughs and silver screen thrills of Jason Anspach’s signature 1950s Cold War tale of Hollywood noire are back in this madcap sequel as Sam and Amelia return once again to right wrongs, solve crimes, send the dead off to their proper eternity, and maybe, set a date for their wedding! The Maltese Falcon meets It’s a Mad Mad Mad world in this smart and witty paranormal romp.

Feast of Fools

“I could not move to warn all the younger soldiers

That we had been betrayed from above” Leonard Cohen

So, I get it, I do.  I get pulling for the underdog.  I get flipping stereotypes on their head.  I even get subverting cultural assumptions.

There is something very powerful in taking a story where you least expect it.  The first time it’s done.

I even understand the attraction of “nostalgie de la boue” back in the 20s, when people ripped into the Victorian culture with a fascination for anti-heroes, for losers, for the seamy underbelly of a society that had lost self-confidence, a society whom its icons had prepared for glory and who got instead the death and the rot of world war one.

In a way too, it was the fascination of all artists for the people who DO things, even if the things their characters were doing were mostly despicable.

I confess that to me Miss Marple, based on Agatha Christie’s grandmother, always sounded more real than the jaded, underworld, seamy characters written by “serious” authors of the time.

In fact, I even get the fascination with “evil” or at least bad characters, with the idea that no one is clean, with the idea that “society is to blame for everything.”  They are ideas that seem very serious to the increasingly more adolescent artists of our society.  All adolescents think unhappiness and pouting is the most serious thing ever, and that their parents, and their parents values are “Hypocritical”.  Because they can’t live up to what they’d like to be, they assume no one does.

But here’s the problem: at this point none of those “trope exploding ideas” are actually revolutionary.  They’re not shocking.  They’re not strange.

The counterculture has become the culture.  It has lost surprise.  It has lost shock.  And it has never acquired authenticity.

Look, if any businessman in a novel turns out to be clean and honorable, I am genuinely surprised.  Ditto if any middle aged couple is faithful and NOT child molesters/murderers.  Other things that shock me are homeless people who are genuinely unpleasant, evil or who brought their situation on themselves through drug or alcohol abuse.

In science fiction I’m amazed if an alien species is not superior to humans. I’m shocked if other species aren’t destroyed by the fell hand of humanity.

You know what else surprises me?  When good wins.  When there’s a happy ending.  When characters work hard and attain their objective.  One of my favorite re-reads is Patricia Wentworth’s The Case of William Smith.  It is hokey and full of strange coincidences.  But it is also a “Cream rises” type of book.  And that’s so rare and refreshing, in anything from WWI on.

We have lived to see the strange spectacle of elites screaming against the culture they dominate, and calling it evil and marginalizing.

The very gatekeepers who control publishing and the movies tell us how racist and sexist and alienating those industries are, seemingly unable to realize that they are the ones with all the power in it.

Oh, I get it.  I understand it. In a culture that cherishes the underdog, they want to sound like they’re perpetual underdogs.  The weird thing is that they manage it.  They manage it only because they also control all newsmedia and education, but they manage it.  Most people, at least in fields they’re informed about, take what these people say for granted.  Thus they assume that yes, science fiction is a closed shop where women aren’t welcome, without ever noticing most writers and editors and agents ARE women.  Or that this complaint comes from people with all the power in the field. When I grew up reading SF authors older than I — Le Guin, MacCaffrey, and others — and when the books both by males and females often deal with definitely non-binary species.

One of the most bizarre posts on facebook, last week, on the whole situation in science fiction went on and on about the “Sad Puppies” being gatekeepers and not letting people write what they want.  Saying this about a collection of people where most are authors and about half indie is mind boggling.  Even leaving aside the fact we never said people couldn’t write whatever they wanted, or even shouldn’t writing whatever they wanted, but that the gatekeepers (and awards) tended to concentrate on a certain type of story which had less than universal appeal.

It illustrated for me what we’re faced with.

We’re faced with “cultural elites” who have got hold of the institutions, and who are merrily destroying them, convinced that the institutions are somehow “the other.”  We’re faced with people who are in charge of society saying society is to blame for everything and trying to disassemble it, in ways that only make the problems worse.  We’re faced with people who say the powerful are to blame, and then seeking to get more power for themselves, at the head of the most powerful political institutions ever created.

A society at war with itself might survive.  Some countries seem to make civil war their culture.  But a society delusional about reality will not survive.  And a society where the elites wish only to fight the shadows of a past that objectively never existed is in a state of collapse.

Western culture is a derelict, on the corner, who having snorted too much Marx, keeps stabbing itself in the face with a pen and widdling its pants.

This is not a good strategy for survival.  Sooner or later the real bad boys in the global block are going to come over, steal its money and shoot it.  In fact, the only reason this hasn’t happened yet is that the spectacle is so sickening it shocks even the truly evil.

Or put it another way: Western society right now is like a splendid banquet hall, into which the young people with bright ideas gained access in the twenties or so.  But they never adjusted their vision of the culture in relation to the rest of the world, never did anything but continue to rage.  And they hired the people who were interested in exactly the same raging, even though those people had the best the culture had to offer, and were pampered beyond belief.  This resulted in the dominance in that splendid banquet hall of people who, ignoring the food laid out for them, prefer to write obscenities on the floor with their own excrement and demolish the walls in the belief that the roof will still remain up and protect them.

I have never, ever, in history or legend, heard of an elite that so utterly HATED the culture that spawned them.  Oh, sure affecting that hatred has been fashionable before.  But not the actual hatred, nor the belief that what they’re fighting is not controlled by them and those like them.

I can’t even understand how any culture, any civilization survives that.

Except for two things: the internet which has given us the opportunity to know we’re not alone, and also to fight the massive amount of disinformation rained down on our heads every day.  And us.

Most of us don’t want to be a true counterculture.

Heavens above, most of us just want to do our thing.  I would have been perfectly happy writing of dragons and spaceships and leaving my politics only in those places where they can’t help showing, because every creator puts a bit of him/herself into the creation.

But the times are such I can’t do that.  Even if all I want is to create in peace, I found myself having to fight the calumnies, the politics of personal destruction, the attacks on friends and acquaintances.

For instance, the other day, on facebook, on a post that had nothing to do with writing, a woman whose name I did not recognize told me I was horrible for repeating things and that she was relieved she no longer had to work with me professionally.

Curious, because I’m bad with names, but not THAT bad, and assuming she’d been one of the revolving undersecretaries to one of my agents or editors and might have had to deal with a manuscript being late or something (her implication of course was that I was both political at work — I’m not — and somehow a termagant.  No, I’m also not.  Not professionally.)  So I asked.  It came out she was the typesetter for Baen, and from the period she worked for them AT MOST she could have typeset Draw One In The Dark.  (I don’t think she did.) IF she did that, I had NO contact with her.  At the time page proofs were physical copies, and I sent them back to my EDITOR marked.  (Now they are electronic, and I usually send corrections to both my editor and the typesetter.)

Meaning this woman had no opportunity to find it a great trial to work for me.  But on a thread about something else, she was willing to impugn my professionalism and make it seem like no one should work with me… for the crime of disagreeing with her.

This is what they are.  This is what they do.  If you dare voice a contrary opinion, they will come after you with the maximum force at their disposal which at this point is just career-killing.

If they do this in the light of day, what else do they do behind people’s backs.

It is fashionable to accuse people to the right of Lenin of believing in conspiracies.  But it doesn’t take a conspiracy.  It takes an ideology that has identified hatred for its own home and culture as a supreme good, and who views any attempts to stop it as evil.  Any believer in this ideology will do what it can to stop “evil” and because they believe they’re “powerless” they don’t balk at abuses of power.

You’ve heard of “practice acts of random kindness”?  This is the same but with “practice acts of random sabotage and character assassination.”  Most of them are small and stupid enough like the idiot’s attack on me on FB.  But if there is an accumulation of them, it begins to have an effect.

And it puts another layer of corrosion on the culture and society.

And this, ladies and gentlemen, is why the Culture wars are important.  And why I fight.

Because though no culture is perfect, western culture has achieved the highest standard of living for the most people in history.

And I believe that is worth preserving.

Lest darkness fall.

 

 

Solar, Space, and Geomagnetic Weather, Part V: Solar Activity and the Activity Indices By Stephanie Osborn

Solar, Space, and Geomagnetic Weather, Part V: Solar Activity and the Activity Indices

By Stephanie Osborn

http://www.stephanie-osborn.com

“Interstellar Woman of Mystery”

Rocket Scientist and Novelist

Okay, back to bar magnets again. Because the Earth has one. But of course it’s three-dimensional, not like our iron filings on paper example. Imagine picking up the bar magnet with the iron filings and paper attached, and rotating it 360º, letting the iron filings remain in the areas they move through. Now you have an image of what a three-dimensional dipolar (2-pole) magnetic field looks like — sort of like a giant pumpkin.

prettyloops

 

With the solar wind (which is probably the largest influence on the interplanetary magnetic field) pushing on it from the Sun direction, the side of the pumpkin facing the Sun tends to smush in, but the side away from the Sun tends to stretch out and form a long tail. (You can see a really good animation of how this works here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Animati3.gif) This is all to say that you HAVE to think of the geomagnetic field three-dimensionally. And if it is three-dimensional, then each part of the field has an x-, a y-, and a z-coordinate component.

Let’s simplify for a minute. Let’s say that we’re going to look at the component of the geomagnetic field that is running horizontally to the Earth’s surface at any given point. Now because the Earth is curved, this is a tangent line that is continually changing as you move around the Earth. Now let’s look at the disturbances from normal, caused by solar weather — coronal holes, CMEs, what have you.

So we have these variations that are going to be different for different parts of the Earth for the same event. How do we measure it? It’s a little like a Richter scale for geosolar storms. It runs from zero to nine, and there’s a special formula that enables it to be calculated regardless of the location of the observatory, just like the Richter magnitude of a quake can be determined from seismographs on the opposite side of the globe. This scale for solar-induced geomagnetic activity is called the K-index. Zero is essentially no activity; anything above 5 is considered a storm level of activity. The bigger the number, the greater the effects seen on the ground, and the farther south the auroral oval can be seen. At a K=9, the aurora can be seen…in the TROPICS.

space-battle

Yes, this is the Aurora Australis observed from space.

 (Just for the sake of more information, the letter K was derived from the German word “kennziffer,” which apparently means “characteristic number.” Us scientists, we love our imaginative names, you know?)

Now if we reference the Kp index, we’re talking about the interplanetary K index, not the geomagnetic K index. This is an average of all the K indices from all of the observatories, weighted as appropriate (remember, you won’t get the same measurements from the various observation sites, so you have to factor that in, as well as the fact that the geomagnetic field is constantly changing). This gives us an indication of what the interplanetary magnetic field (IMF) is doing. BUT — not all of the stations report in at the same time. So then scientists have to calculate something called the “estimated Kp” which is just what it sounds like — an estimate for those stations that haven’t reported in yet. This can sometimes be a very good predictor of what the magnetic field is going to do, and sometimes not so much. We’re still very much learning this particular science.

Most of the time, it looks kinda like this:

chart-one

 

Each vertical bar represents a 3-hour period. The bars are color-coded to show you how much effect it will have on Earth. Green means little to no effect. Yellow means the geomagnetic field will be unsettled, and you might see a few minor effects. Red means the geomagnetic field will be “storming,” and you WILL see effects. The taller the red bar, the stronger the effects.

So, occasionally, it looks more like this:

chart-two

 

If it ever looks like this, we’re probably in trouble:

chart-3

 

It actually DID look like this, though. This is from the big geomagnetic storm that occurred October 28-29, 2003. According to NASA, “During the height of the solar activity, more than half of the deep space and near-Earth space science missions experienced the effects of the Halloween storms of 2003. The Solar and Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO) satellite, a collaboration between NASA and the European Space Agency (ESA), failed temporarily. NASA’s Advanced Composition Explorer (ACE) satellite experienced damage, and instruments aboard many spacecraft had to be shut down temporarily.”

“The effects of these storms were ghoulish enough that [aircraft controllers] had to re-route aircraft, it affected satellite systems and communications, and it also caused a power outage in Sweden for about an hour,” said Dr. Holly Gilbert, a solar scientist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md. “The aurorae are normally limited to the higher latitudes, and these storms were so powerful they created aurorae that could be seen as far south as Florida.”

And here is an aurora photograph, taken during that huge geomagnetic storm…from just outside HOUSTON, TX, on October 29, 2003.

redskyandtrees

 

But we’re not done with indices. There’s also something called the a index. This is based on the amplitudes (yep, there’s the reason for using an a) of the deviations from geomagnetic normal, taken over a three-hour period. Then there’s the A index, which is an AVERAGE (yep, that’s where the A came from) of all the a-indices for a 24-hour period.

One more index we need to look at is the G scale, which is the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) way of quantifying the strength of the geomagnetic disturbance. For any K index of 4 or less, the scale shows G0. At K=5, we jump to G1 — minor storming. For K=6, we have G2. For K=7, G3. At K=8, we have a storm level of G4, and at the maximum K=9, we have maximum storming of G5. Think of it like the Earth’s solar DefCon level.

Next time we’ll go into those DefCon levels in detail.

 

~Stephanie Osborn

http://www.stephanie-osborn.com

Comet Tales blog/Osborn Cosmic Weather Report: http://stephanie-osborn.blogspot.com/

 

The Imaginary Divide by outofthedarkness

*Forgive me.  I’m working on Darkship Revenge and don’t want to take my head out of it -SAH*

The Imaginary Divide by outofthedarkness

 

I listen to a wide range of music, but I tend to circle around back to country for major events, and the anniversary of 9-11 is one of those. One of the songs on my playlist for the anniversary is “In America” by the Charlie Daniels Band. I happened to notice that the song was originally released in 1980, in response to a lot of the social unrest of the 1970s. Yet, I could swear that the song was written today. The call for American unity is every bit as solid and relevant now as it was then.  It set my mind to wandering about how much this perception that Americans have never been so divided is largely the same in every generation, and therefore how much of it is imaginary.

The founding of the country was fraught with bitter divides between schools of thought. There were those who thought that we should appoint a new king, those who thought that we needed a limited government, and those who thought that we should have no government at all. Looking though the published arguments from the time, it’s clear that there was a lot of bad blood. Insults were flung about in our early presidential races that couldn’t be said today in polite company. The Civil War had divides that led to bloodshed and families fighting on different sides of the war. The WW1 generation had very mixed feeling about the war until we were in it, leading to passionate debates and arguments. This has been going on forever here. Americans love to argue loudly about politics, maybe because we can, and we are a passionate people. Such conditions are never good for still waters and smooth sailing.

Even so, as every generation ages, people find shared experiences from their youth and decide that these are the markers of their generation. They comment on the idiocy of the youth. They raise families and complain about the conditions that they are raising a family in. Every generation of children tries to be radically different from their parents here, and every generation of parents finds their children trying beyond measure, and every generation of grandparents finds that the youth of “today” is so much worse than they were in yesteryear. People across the great divide of politics go to church together, attend the same schools, play on the same sports teams, discuss the same books. We’re alike and united in so many ways that it’s almost comical to see how divided we think we are.

The internet certainly makes it louder, by removing the expectations of “polite company” from the public sphere. There’s a false feeling of being invisible. Yet, the people who have these passionate and angry arguments can often sit in the same room together with little to no issues. It’s only the small number of extremes that need to exist in a sort of echo chamber. They drive away other viewpoints, and are almost universally considered horribly rude. As loud as that small number of people are, they aren’t the majority. The majority is going on about having kids and jobs, discussions about issues, bills to pay, and books to read. By and large, America isn’t actually more divided now than it was in the past; it’s just that the extremes now have a super loud megaphone. It’s harder to politely ignore them.

This is actually really great news. I felt much better after having thought it out. We all need to go back to looking at those loud jerks as if they’re kind of crazy and go on about our business. We need to continue to learn, build, and have discussions. At the end of the day, Americans mostly stick together in the face of crisis. We can always go back to fighting with each other tomorrow, when it’s safe to do so again. We’re a nation of adopted family, brother and sisters that loudly wish pain and dismemberment on each other in our internal fights right before we kick in the teeth of the outsider who dared to look askance at our little sister or brother. Perhaps that’s the very best thing about being an American.

You Are Not Alone

This weekend I was in NYC, at the Calliope Writers’ workshop.  The Calliope Writers’ workshop, supported by the Talliesin Nexus and Liberty Island is a writers’ workshop.

If you’re saying “what, another one?” well… yes.  But it is much more too.

For the writers’ workshop part, I would encourage any of you, even those already making a living from writing, who WISH to make a greater living and who are “liberty minded” to apply and see if you get in.  The catch there is that it’s very … exclusive.  I was going to say “demanding.”  In 18 years of teaching, judging contests, etc, it was the first time I was confronted with writers who were thoroughly professional and whom I was supposed to advise.

Was I able to help them improve?  I think so.  Mind you, one can even help one’s peers, because the blind spots are always different; that is the point of writers’ groups, after all.  But there were other things I could give them insight into.  When you’ve been 20 years in the field, you’ve been 20 years in the field.  Not only have you managed your career and seen it rise and fall, but you’ve seen freinds establish careers and come and go.  Which brings us to things like “You’re not actually writing fantasy, you’re writing alternate history” or… other things.  You can help less experienced authors focus and go where they need to be.  Hopefully.

But what floored me and to an extent confused me (besides being exhausted, yesterday) and will take me months to potentially process is this: I cam out of it with a changed perspective on the field, on my career, on the future.

One of the speakers, I don’t remember who — because I didn’t take notes, just soaked it in — said this was the beginning of creating connections and structures of mutual help for libertarians and conservatives.  (More libertarian than conservative, but none of them crazy, that I could see.)  The left has always had their structures of help, their prestigious workshops, their sympathetic agents and publishers.  And before the other side sneers “always” — yes, always, since the beginning of popular mass publishing, give or take.  Certainly all my life and I’m more than half a century old (barely) so for our purposes and for purposes of the entertainment, news, industrial complex “always” — so that they can speak power to truth and continue yelling that they’re oppressed, even as they stomp hard on any dissent.

We who disagree need parallel structures.

And they’re right.  And this workshop more than anything I’ve taken part in has convinced me we have a chance.  I’m not a betting woman.  If it weren’t for other considerations, like love of country and love of liberty, I wouldn’t have thrown my lot in with this lot publicly, years ago, not when I thought we’d less than 10% chance of taking back the culture (or at least achieving parity) in my lifetime.

I didn’t think so, at least until this weekend.  Yes, yes, guys, in the long run we win they lose.  The technology is going our way, and besides, they are like elves.  They can imitate and exploit, but not really create.  The “Mind killing” (their term) necessary to accept the shibboleths of the left leaves them unable to create even if they are creative and intelligent people (and many of them are.)  They are so scared anything they say will get them thrown out of the cult it turns all their work into pap. Grey goo, if you wish.  Which is why the new and exciting way of evaluating works as “Does this advance progressivism” was born.  But that’s a digression.

I just thought it would take too long, and there would be a dark period of sorts before creators and builders could take over.  And I also knew this might entail death to Western civ as such, because the left is a suicidal cult that destroys the culture from within, leaving us wide open to the incursions of the real barbarians.

The real barbarians can’t hold us.  No, trust me.  They can’t.  But I thought in fact that we were at best sowing the seeds of victory in a real war our children and grandchildren would have to fight, both culturally and possibly physically.

Now I believe — or perhaps I gut-feel — we have a shot.  Not a huge shot, particularly not the way the overculture (and politics) have entered their final suicidal form.  But a shot of sorts.

There will still be a very bad period. We’ve bought ourselves that with our silence and acquiescence back in the bad old days when they had the megaphone and we were afraid to be considered stupid or worse.  But I might see the other end of this before I die.

But if what kept us quiet before was the isolation, the utter isolation and thinking we were the only ones seeing the holes in ideology and news stories, if now we can communicate and organize, WHY didn’t I have hope until this weekend, not at a gut level?

One of the first answers is, I think, “Humans are social animals.”  I knew almost all the mentors, and had brushed against some of the students on line.  BUT that’s one thing.  To be in a room with sixty people and be able to speak, be able to ARGUE without fear? That brings something home.

We’re all of us, despite this tenuous connection online, far too alone. Even for those employed in other fields, keeping your head down is the only alternative to being unemployed, because the shibboleths of the enemy hold the field, and it’s permissible to call those who disagree with you all sorts of names and impugn your character, and attack your livelihood.  And we don’t realize how that takes that sense of being an outcast into our very souls.

I’ve spoken before of Lloyd Biggle Jr’s The Still Small Voice of trumpets.  Without spoilering (you should read it) when an artist displeased the king for any reason or no reason at all, their arm was cut off and they were sent away to the “camps of amputees.”  The culture was such it couldn’t stand ugliness and worshiped beauty.  And their musical instruments were… harps.  Once your arm was off, you were done.  You were isolated.  Your very “deformity” made you invisible.  Until someone invented trumpets.  Then the worship of beauty forgave the deformity.

In many ways we who are to the right of Lenin in publishing have been like that.  We were told we had “bad numbers” or simply never bought again and people were left to assume we had bad numbers.  And we disappeared.  Our only existence was as “invisible” has beens.  Our voices had no place in national dialogue.  And even as publishing runs headed for the cellar, the “king” told us it was other reasons: games, videos at home, all sorts of reasons.  Anything but the fact that science fiction and fantasy had become purulent patronizing pap.

But ah, we do have the internet.  We have indie publishing.  And now that we’ve crawled out of the basement (or left the camp of the untouchables our cloaks floating behind us, our trumpets sounding) to ground zero, other people think it is worth to establish a beach head.  A counterculture insurgency.  And they’re willing to spend time and money on changing the culture, so that in twenty years politics too will be different.

And being there, at the center of it, you could feel the currents and the energy.

We might win, or we might lose.  But life, Liberty and this constitutional Republic we inherited are worth fighting for.

I’ve got my trumpet.  I came back with endless sheet music.  Things that must be written and other things.  Things I must to do facilitate connections and ease paths as mine could not be eased.  Because now it’s different and we have a chance.

Sound the trumpets. We declare the revolution.

 

 

The Steve Jobs Myth – D. Jason Fleming

The Steve Jobs Myth – D. Jason Fleming

Steve Jobs is often held up as something of a modern hero. The man was undeniably a genius. And he did a lot of good in his quest to “change the world”.

However, he also had two problems, and one of them might do nearly as much damage to the world as he did good.

The first problem was that his genius caused people to excuse his a-hole tendencies, and he exploited that to the fullest. (He also had a massive charismatic effect on people which he used ruthlessly, the so-called “Jobs Reality Distortion Field”.)

The second problem follows from the first: People everywhere are always looking for The Easy Answer. Jobs presents two paths to worldwide fame and riches: Be a genius, or be an a-hole.

Guess which one is easier. Take as many guesses as you need. I’ll wait.

Why, yes, you’re right.

Witness, as merely the most recent and most egregious example, Miss Elizabeth Holmes.

This Vanity Fair article (archived version)lays out, in fascinating detail, how Holmes followed the Jobs “Be a jerk to everybody, all the time, and as opaque as possible” playbook virtually line by line, except that her company, Theranos, wasn’t founded on genius. It was founded on the illusion of genius. An illusion made easier to maintain by the precedent that Steve Jobs set.

She started the company as a 19-year-old college dropout, and rode her constructed legend to making it a $9 billion empire, before the curtain was pulled back and it all collapsed around her.

Holmes wore black turtlenecks every day, “a homogeneity that she had borrowed from her idol, the late Steve Jobs.”

Holmes had learned a lot from Jobs. Like Apple, Theranos was secretive, even internally. Just as Jobs had famously insisted at 1 Infinite Loop, 10 minutes away, that departments were generally siloed, Holmes largely forbade her employees from communicating with one another about what they were working on — a culture that resulted in a rare form of executive omniscience. At Theranos, Holmes was founder, C.E.O., and chairwoman. There wasn’t a decision — from the number of American flags framed in the company’s hallway (they are ubiquitous) to the compensation of each new hire — that didn’t cross her desk.

And like Jobs, crucially, Holmes also paid indefatigable attention to her company’s story, its “narrative.” Theranos was not simply endeavoring to make a product that sold off the shelves and lined investors’ pockets; rather, it was attempting something far more poignant. In interviews, Holmes reiterated that Theranos’s proprietary technology could take a pinprick’s worth of blood, extracted from the tip of a finger, instead of intravenously, and test for hundreds of diseases — a remarkable innovation that was going to save millions of lives and, in a phrase she often repeated, “change the world.”

That “change the world” riff is directly from Jobs, and if you’ve read Walter Isaacson’s bio, you know that he used it to seduce a lot of people into doing his bidding.

And the rest of it shows that she studied Jobs very carefully. And learned how to manipulate people, individually and en masse, by selling them a vision. Like any good sociopath, she learned the form in great detail, and eschewed the substance. (No, I’m not saying she is a sociopath. Only that she apparently operated like one. The whole thing was a confidence game, one way or another.)

And I’m afraid that Jobs’s malicious influence is much larger than just Miss Holmes and Theranos.

Have you noticed how programs and apps and websites have taken to “improving” by taking away functions you liked and used every day?

Now, everybody thinks they know what you want better than you do. With the extra added side benefit of “molding” your actions to conform to what they think is preferable.

Again, Jobs was very, very good at actually determining what people really wanted, versus what they held onto simply because it was familiar. He killed the floppy disk drive. He veered away from power-on buttons. He got lots of changes through that seemed huge at the time, but in hindsight are natural.

And because of his precedent, in addition to (at least) fifty-plus years of marketing “wisdom” that treats customers as mindless sheep, everybody now treats you, the user, as a “moist robot” who does not think, but merely needs the proper stimulus to behave the way they want you to.

Steve Jobs was the outlyingest outlier there is: He was a jerk, but he actually was a genius, and he actually did want to change the world, and he actually was very good at figuring out what people would want before they even knew they wanted it.

The foundation on which the Cult of Jobs was built was, wonder of wonders, actually pretty solid.

I would bet that not one single emulator of his has the same solid basis on which to stand. They all learned how to imitate him, to give the impression of integrity as it is currently misunderstood, thanks in part to Jobs’s antics. But I would be surprised if any copied his substance. Because genius cannot be faked. Only the appearance of it can.

I Probably Will Have a Guest Post Later

Dark Fate will probably not happen today.  Maybe tomorrow.

As some of you know, I spent the weekend in NYC at Calliope Workshop, a function supported by the Talliesin Nexus and Liberty Island.

I meant to write my impressions today, but the more I turn it in my head the more I’m sure my world — myself, my career, my perceptions of my career and my hopes for our field — got turned upside down (not in a bad way) yesterday.  I just can’t pin down WHY I feel that way, and until I can explain it, I can’t write about it.

My apologies to the fans in NYC, I didn’t process very well that the reception was open to anyone.  If I had, I’d have told you.  Yes, being on Friday night a lot of you wouldn’t have been able to come, but OTOH some would.

Very sorry on that.  If it happens again and I’m invited again (both of which seemed to be intimated, but by then I was very tired, so I won’t put my hands in the fire on that) I will be sure to let you know.

Right now I think I’m going to take a nap.

How We’ve Come So Far So Fast

tattered-american-flag

Over the last few months, every gathering, every cultural clash, in the crannies of science fiction culture so hidden that only we, the crazy people, care about them, or in national culture, I keep hearing “but then wasn’t like now.  Now it’s all crazy” or “Now things are so polarized” or “Now–”

Um…

Okay.  Part of the reason things are now so polarized is that before dissenting voices were isolated.  You couldn’t speak up, because there was no network of alternative news.  Say, Benghazi, for instance (yes, we still remember it on the anniversary) in the old days we’d never have known anything but that government officials had gone on all the stations and sworn that it was because of an anti-islam video.  Who is crazy enough to doubt that, when all the authorities say the same?  They should know, right?  And if we doubted that we’d say nothing, because who wants people to think they’re crazy.

So there was consensus.  A manufactured, uneasy consensus.  A consensus that the new technology started shattering.

The shattering would have happened, anyway.  But for many of us the shattering started on 9/11.  Perhaps particularly for my generation, then at the pinnacle of responsible adulthood, many of us with small children.  We grew up in an era of uniform news.  We grew up in an era of assuming that history came with an arrow, and that arrow pointed left.

I think 9/11 was the first time I realized most of the voices on the left were as friggin’ loony as a college campus.  (And that’s saying a lot.)

I think the rubble hadn’t settled before prominent I-always-thought-you-were-sane leftists started telling us it was all our fault, that we had oppressed them poor browns peoplez until they had no choice but hitting us.

And how these people thought this “oppression” took place passed by the center of their misapprehension of free minds and free markets, which they thought were “oppressive.”

If you listened carefully you could hear beneath those the foreshadowing of the present call for safe rooms and the insistence freedom was slavery.

I don’t think I was the only who stepped back and went “Wait, these people are supposed to be sane!” and then started analyzing everything they said, and discovering unpleasant things like that my generation many of us, (like the president — not me.  I’m the youngest child, my parents are older ) had this strange idea that wars stopped when the US stopped fighting and that this was a good thing, because of course there were no consequences to stopping fighting.  The other side wouldn’t take it as unconditional surrender.

What came home to roost in American consciousness watching the reactions to 9/11 was the realization that a lot of people in positions of power and influence were barking mad and had the historical understanding of a weevil. (With apologies to weevils.)  They seemed to have derived all their knowledge of history from the protest songs of the sixties and supermarket tabloids.

Fifteen years later, we face an election between typhus and smallpox, and we can’t walk into any cultural arena without starting to scream at each other.

I’m here to tell you these are the good news. No, I am serious.  Consider how barking mad the aristos have gone.  Imagine they had NO opposition.Imagine that the media and the culture were still a big megaphone and a bunch of voiceless people.  Imagine how much further from reality they’d have gone by now.

The fight isn’t easy.  Not nearly enough of us woke up to make it so.  But that we are fighting at all, those are the good news, even if some people woke up yesterday and decided that either typhus or smallpox was whom we needed for president.

That part shall pass.  Like kidney stones, it might pass bloodily and with a great deal of pain, leaving damage behind.  But it too shall pass.

The bad part is that unresolved in our national psyche is the wound in NY, now covered with a “memorial. tower” of sorts (no, I don’t agree.  We should have rebuilt the twin towers, and we should have done them higher, stronger, less likely to suffer from an attack, because engineered against it.  Yes, we can.  And if you’re a liberal and are going to tell me that that would be an insult to the world — why?  The united Arab Emirates keep building higher and higher.  Do we consider it an insult?  No?  Then why do they care if we have a pony?) remains open.  Half of America wants to cringe and apologize, because they thing everything that goes wrong in the world is America’s fault.  It’s a magnificent sort of hubris, if you think about it, that denies the underdeveloped countries they claim to care about full agency or autonomous culture.  It denies people-of-tan agency and autonomous ability to decide.  It is in fact, closely examined, exactly the opposite of what the left claims to believe.  And it would be funny if it weren’t so horribly sad.

The bad part is the people who had their lives cut short, Americans and guests who died because our elites were so out of touch with reality that they did things like erect a secrecy wall between the FBI and the CIA, because the sixties radicals couldn’t imagine those services might do anything but “conspire” against them.

The bad part is our aristos still being convinced that calling terrorism by other names (Work place violence was catchy.  As was Man made disaster.  May G-d have mercy on our souls) will make it go away.

Things are going to get weirder — in a Ripley’s believe it or not way — till this is resolved.  Not just in government, but in the culture and on the streets.

This morning finds me in NYC (Yeah, I know, I should have told you earlier, but look, this trip we REALLY could not have met with you.  I’m booked every minute of the day.  We managed a hurried lunch with one of those friends-who-are-family before the workshop started, and we haven’t yet managed to see the blood family (my husband’s) even in passing, though he spent most of yesterday on text trying to coordinate it. If there’s a next time.  If it’s in NYC.  If they invite me. If we’re better off financially (as we’ll be if I am actually working, now we’re done moving and the thyroid is being balanced) perhaps we can afford to come a few days earlier or stay a few days later, because I WOULD like to meet some of you and go to lunch or have a Huns dinner.  I promise even if there is no workshop I’ll try to have enough money for us to come up for a week.

But not this year.  This year is so bad we’re flying back on 9/11.  And you guys know I don’t engage in bravado with you. Yeah, I shouldn’t be afraid.  Yeah, I am afraid.  Because our airport kabuki fails to reassure.

However, rest assured, today I’ll make no memorial trip (no time.)  And I’m not close enough to any landmarks that anything short of an atom bomb will get me.

It’s still weird being in NYC on 9/11.   And this keeps running through my head:

A glooming peace this morning with it brings.
The sun, for sorrow, will not show his head.
Go hence, to have more talk of these sad things.
Some shall be pardoned, and some punishèd.
On September 11, 2001, did you go crazy, or did you report (for duty, for work) on that day they wounded New York?

 

 

Mine Eyes Have Seen A Promo Post – Free Range Oyster

Mine Eyes Have Seen A Promo Post – Free Range Oyster

 

JL Curtis

The Grey Man: Partners

Texas Deputy Sheriff John Cronin and his granddaughter Jesse Miller have out-stubborned, out-fought, and out-lived every challenge life’s thrown at them so far… But there are times when a little help is needed.

Slowly recovering from being stabbed, John Cronin gets a tip from inside the very cartel that’s hunted him, that plans are afoot to smuggle terrorists and missiles across the border. Meanwhile, Jesse and her husband Gunny Sgt. Miller are losing the battle with an administration and a military bureaucracy determined downsize the military by whatever means possible, and tie their hands regardless of the damage and danger to its own.

The agencies responsible don’t want to act if Cronin won’t give up his confidential informant, but when word comes that the missiles and terrorists are landing, it’s time to put a team together and handle things the old fashioned way…

Pam Uphoff

Directorate School

The Directorate Book 1

Ebsa wants to explore the Multiverse, and the place to start is The University of the Empire’s School of Directorate Studies. All he has to do is survive a tough curriculum while dealing with snobs, bullies, and murder.

A Tale of Three Interns

The Directorate Book 2

Ebsa, Paer, and Ra’d are back! After their disastrous first year, they expected their summer internship would be the dirtiest, most boring job the counselors could find. They hadn’t expected to be assisting a study of dinosaurs. Score! If, that is, they can keep a stuck up collection of impractical scientists safe.

Anthology

Visions V: Milky Way

The vast Milky Way Galaxy may allow the seeds of our future to be widely distributed, past the danger of a final extinction. Visions V: Milky Way brings together a collection of fascinating and entertaining stories by award-winning science fiction authors.

Includes Leigh Kimmel’s The Long Shadow of a Dead God.

David L Burkhead

The Hordes of Chanakra

Knights of Aerioch

Pulled into an alternate world mired in the middle ages, Kreg finds allies in Kaila, a rough swordmistress, and her wizardly father. He’s also found their foes – an unending horde pouring forth from the small nation next door.

Now, he’s in a race against time to find the true source, before everything he cares about ends in fire and death!

Kyra Halland

Chosen of Azara

A Novel of Estelend

Juzeva, a princess of Savaru vowed to the service of the magical Source Azara, sacrifices everything to try to stop a war and finds herself caught in a web of evil and deceit.

Sevry, the last king of the war-ravaged land of Savaru, is tasked by Source Azara with finding the secret that disappeared with Juzeva, the secret that can bring Savaru back to life.

Lucie, a sheltered young noblewoman, is unaware of her true heritage and the power she has to restore a lost land, until the legendary king of a long-lost mythical land steps into her life and sweeps her away to adventure, danger, and a love that will change her life and the lost land of Savaru forever.

Epic romantic fantasy for adults and older teens.

Laura Montgomery

Sleeping Duty

Waking Late Book 1

Gilead Tan and Andrea Fielding survived their stint in the military, got married, signed up to emigrate to a terraformed colony world, and went into cold sleep for the journey from Earth. While they slept, the starship got lost and settled for a different world, a wild world. Three centuries after the founding of a colony on the uncharted planet, Gilead awakens to find humanity slipped back to medieval tech and a feudal structure. Worse, the king who wants Gilead awake won’t let Gilead awaken his wife.

On sale now.

Out of the Dell

Waking Late Book 2

On the planet Nwwwlf, in the lost colony of First Landing, the original settlers carved out one sylvan valley, a lone outpost where humans flourish. But their bright hopes and best intentions devolved over centuries into a rude replica of medieval feudalism.

Gilead Tan, who had been held captive for centuries in his sleeping cell, survived treachery and pain to free a small group of sleepers. But he and his friends now face the perils of life outside First Landing’s sanctuary—without their powered armor, their tools and technology, or anything else they need save for a few chickens.

Gilead must establish a safehold for his crew, but the alien environment does not welcome them and petty bickering threatens their meager resources. He hopes that a trace of smoke – spotted above a distant ridge – beckons them to a better place.

It doesn’t.

J.M. Ney-Grimm

Serpent’s Foe

In the legendary duat – the mystical passage where the sun god Ra travels from west to east in the night, so that he rises again in the dawning – a lioness of ancient Egypt lies caged.

Once she stalked the duat by Ra’s side, carrying his light in her eyes and battling the monsters that assailed them.

Now, tormented by confusion and her own fury, she longs to regain the unique powers which – inexplicably – elude her in captivity.

Even her own name slides out of her thoughts, while the how and why of her capture escape her memory entirely.

More than she realizes rides upon reclaiming her freedom and defeating her unknown captor.

In this mythic tale of pride and revelation, a fight beyond death delivers one last chance at redemption.

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The Musketeer’s Seamstress – FREE

Aramis emerges from the water closet to find his lover, a duchess, murdered on her bed. The room is locked, and Aramis is the only one who could have entered it. He’s sure he didn’t do it, but no one else believes him. Even Monsieur de Treville, Captain of Musketeers, doubts Aramis’s word. Aramis must leave Paris and go on the run, entrusting the solving of the murder, and the defense of his honor, his freedom and his very life to Athos, Porthos and D’Artagnan. Can “one for all” carry the day when every powerful person in France believes Aramis a murderer and when powerful interests would gladly frame Aramis for it?

Free I THINK till tomorrow – SAH

ON SALE FOR A LIMITED TIME:
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From Elizabethan England to the Far Future, discover who really was Shakespeare and why Marlowe was called The Muses Darling. Discover the horrifying secret that Leonardo DaVinci found beneath a cave in his home village. In the far future, find a new way to keep Traveling, Traveling. Use cold sleep to find your love again, and join the (high tech) Magical Legion.
Seventeen short stories from Prometheus Award Winning Author, Sarah A. Hoyt. This edition features an Introduction by Dave Freer and a Bonus Short Story “With Unconfined Wings.”
Collection contains:Introduction
Titan
Traveling, Traveling
The Muses’ Darling
Stock Management
While Horse And Hero Fell
Something Worse Hereafter
Touch
For Whose Dear Sake
Wings
The Play And The thing
Sugarbush Soul
Never Look Back
What She Left Behind
But World Enough
(Also published as Sacrifice)
Super Lamb Banana
Ganymede
Waiting for Juliette
Bonus Content: With Unconfined Wings
This edition contains an introduction by Dave Freer and a bonus short story: With Unconfined Wings.

On Sale for 99c

 

Also on sale for 99c

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Death of a Musketeer:

When D’Artagnan, Athos, Porthos and Aramis discover the corpse of a beautiful woman who looks like the Queen of France, they vow to see that justice is done. They do not know that their investigation will widen from murder to intrigue to conspiracy, bring them the renewed enmity of Cardinal Richelieu and shake their fate in humanity. Through duels and doubts, they pursue the truth, even when their search brings them to the sphere of King Louis XIII himself and makes them confront secrets best forgotten

Now 99c for a limited time only.

Planning It All Out

I’m away from home at an undisclosed location (which will become disclosed in an AAR, but because of the nature of this trip I don’t have time to meet with any fans, and I don’t want to offend anyone.  Maybe another time) and as we boarded the plane yesterday I thought how impossible this type of trip — including the stuff in the airport like concession stands — would be to plan out, if you were some kind of a central planner.

We flew across the country whisked from a plane to another plane (with the second flight rebooked as the first was very late, before we even landed.)  At the end of it, there was a hotel room waiting.  We were rarely left at loose ends.

And I thought “Man this would be a b*tch to plan from the top down.” I mean, two months ago, I didn’t even know I’d be taking this trip.  Anyone planning for an “average load of passengers” wouldn’t have counted on me, yet there was a place for me when I needed it, for, you know, cold hard cash.

I have traveled in different conditions.  I’ve traveled through countries where airports are more or less run by the state.  You’ll know this, as there is only a water fountain in the entire friggin’ airport, you have to pay for bathrooms, and if there is one concessionary, it charges $20 for a bottle of water.  (Who, me?  I’m just a little bitter about having to cross some aiport in Germany with two young toddlers and no water or bathroom.)

But I haven’t traveled in conditions like what P. J. O’Rourke describes in the old soviet union, of the trans-Siberian express.  There since it was all planned from the top down, they couldn’t care less how people actually traveled, provided they could tick it off on the list as done, so there was only one bathroom and the way the trains were designed meant the floor was awash with piss and vomit.

Our current education system — yes, mine too — or maybe something in our minds leads us to believe that if everything were planned out, surely it would be more efficient.  We want there to be some super intelligence in charge of it all, making it all perfect.

Instead, the most complex things are accomplished by what has been called “the invisible hand of the market” where you want to sell something and find someone who offers it for sale, and if that fails, you start something that sells it.

I’m explaining it all very badly, and it seems impossible that the market CAN provide the most out of the way things.  Periodically I have a need of something (usually a kitchen implement) and I think “I wonder if there’s a way to juliene these vegetables faster) and look on Amazon and voila, there is a vegetable peeler Julienne thing.

Not only is the market pretty good at providing (mostly because we humans are pretty standard and if I want it someone else wants it and there is someone who thought of making money from it) but as the ability to sell at a distance and buy across the borders gets better, it becomes more efficient at providing for things that only a few people want.  Because all over the world, even those of us of odd tastes are a lot.  Enough for someone to get rich.

At one time, there might have been that Julienne peeler somewhere, but someone like me, in (then) small town Colorado wouldn’t have been able to find it.  But now I can connect even with people making stuff intended mostly for chefs and such.

Planning that kind of exchange across the world would be insane.  How would anyone know that I’d need it because — due to the low carb thing — I make fake pasta out of zuchinni a lot and chopping up zuchinni gets tedious?

No one knows, but it’s there, and I (and other odkins like me) can buy it.

So much for the efficiencies of a planned economy.

Which brings us to the book business.

You know and I now how the book publishers (except one) eventually seemed to get to a place where we just couldn’t find anything to read, even in a crowded bookstore?

Yeah, the problem is that various other trends (mergers, bookstore mergers and megastores overtaking the little local stores) overtook publishing and made them think it was not just more efficient but necessary to switch from a “pull” model to a “push” model.  I.e. instead of trying to figure out what the public wanted, they thought they could sell anything to the public, given enough push and promotion.  Instead of doing surveys or finding out what the public (or the super-readers who account for most of their business) actually wanted to read, given the power (they thought) of making people read whatever they put out, they thought they could publish whatever they wanted.

As ever in a planned system, (talk to people from the USSR sometime) this turned from producing what was needed (i.e. what readers wanted) to what would make the planner look good.  In the old USSR that meant producing 5000 baby shoes for the left foot because the bill would show 5k shoes made.  In the old publishing system it meant producing books your peers and bosses thought well of.  And given the ideological (too strong a word for it.  While they are Marxists, they’re not intellectual Marxists, but reflexive ones.  They think everyone has to make these noises about the oppressed, and injustice, to be “a good person”) trend of people mostly educated in our best universities, there was a lot signaling that they were “smart” and “with it” by buying increasingly more hectoring books about more “societal problems.”  Add in the fact most of their ultimate bosses are in Europe and view the US through the lens of Hollywood as a benighted land that needs to be preached to, and shake in the periodic crazes because, say, a mystery about shoes and sluts sold, and suddenly everyone wants their own shoe and slut book out, and you’ll realize how we got in the mess we got in. Even those of us who love to read started calling trips to the bookstore “Going to be disappointed by Barnes and Noble.”

And then ebooks happened.  And indie.

Now the question is: can traditional publishing switch from a push to a pull model, fast enough to save themselves?  Can they realize that their mass-production and mass-marketing business is not only no longer working, but counterproductive in modern times?  Can they order surveys and studies? (While they still have the money?)

The prognosis is not healthy.  Not only does it seem almost impossible for systems to switch from command and control to market (the Eastern nations are making stop and go attempts.  China just went to a different type of control) but most publishers seem to be unaware they need to TRY.  They lull themselves to sleep with fairytales about print coming back and ebooks being flat (hint, it’s a market distortion caused by traditional publishing’s unrealistic pricing of ebooks.  Even I don’t buy their ebooks.) They sing themselves to sleep with lullabies of a bookstore return.

And meanwhile they step nearer and nearer the abyss, while continuing techniques for book buying/publishing/selling that would have been fine 20 years ago but not now.

Part of it is being insulated by their own apparatus, and editors who are the ones who have most contact with the public, being approached only by people who want to sell to them: just as it was 20 years ago.

They won’t notice that the midlist they tried to get rid of is now leaving them: mostly because most of the midlist leaves before approaching them.  It just goes indie and flourishes there.  They won’t notice the numbers are falling, of if they do there’s excuses to hand, the same they used these last 20 years “People just aren’t reading anymore” is at the center of those.  It’s dead wrong, but it sounds good.  They’ll just think people really stopped reading now.

And that’s the worst part of a planned economy.  It allows the planners to fool themselves and think they’re doing the best that can be done.

And meanwhile the market passes them by, its miracles invisible and unobserved and its efficiency unnoticed.

Let us be glad that more and more the technology does allow the market to bypass the planning.  And that we can find the stuff we want to read and publish the stuff we want to write.

Yes, it’s scary, but this too shall pass.

And the free marketeers will still be here.  Long after the planners are gone.