Sunday, February 1, 2015

Polymath Now Available At Smashwords! (UPDATED)

(This post will be "sticky" until February 1, 2015. Scroll down for new material. Hey, I'm trying to sell a few books here.)

Even in his high school years, it was clear to all who knew him that Todd Iverson is special. There are no sciences, no technologies, and no arts he cannot master. There is no field of human endeavor he will leave untouched. He has the power to transform human civilization utterly, and he means to do so.

Todd does have a few little problems. For one, his mother crippled him emotionally by artificially orphaning him, abandoning him to become a nun just after his father’s death. For another, he can’t abide the idea that anyone might be better than he is—at anything. For a third, he might just be a sociopath: the most dangerous sociopath ever to be born among men.

The powers of darkness are aware of him, and they don’t plan to let him work unmolested.

But Todd will not go his way unmentored or unprotected. The most powerful creatures on Earth have resolved to complete his upbringing and bring his strength to fullness:
Malcolm Loughlin.
Christine D’Alessandro.
And Louis Redmond.

Todd will find love and deliberately forsake it.
He will know the most terrible kinds and occasions of loss.
He will enter the world of business, first as an employee, later as an entrepreneur.
And his powers will reach their zenith just as a most improbable figure takes the White House.

For Todd Evelyn Iverson has his eyes on the skies. He has resolved that Man shall leave his species’ womb at long last. As Stephen Graham Sumner and the Constitutional movement rise to prominence, Todd prepares to set his foot upon the first rung of a ladder to the stars. It’s a ladder he is uniquely qualified to design and build.

Polymath chronicles the bursting of an Onteora County giant from his chrysalis to spread his wings over the world. It’s the fourth novel of the Realm of Essences series, the beginning of the story of an American Renaissance.

UPDATE: Polymath has become available for the Kindle as well, at Amazon!

FURTHER UPDATE: Do please remember, dear readers, how important reviews are to a book's sales fortunes!

Also remember that no matter where you purchase a book, you can always post a review of it at Amazon!

Thursday, January 29, 2015

A Crisis Of Meaning

“The destroyer is not a truth-crisis, it is a meaning-crisis.” – Piers Anthony, Macroscope

Political persuasion specialist Michael Emerling has said that the meaning of a communication inheres in the reaction of the receiver. Unless you have a considerable grounding in epistemology and semantics, that statement can be somewhat difficult to decode. Yet it’s one of the most important statements ever made about political outreach. Recent developments in the strategies and tactics of the Left have made it essential for freedom lovers to grasp it and internalize it.

For openers, consider the following episode:

The Obama Administration, following in the footsteps of another noteworthy Democrat liar (“It depends what the meaning of ‘is’ is.”), has decided to defend the indefensible by arbitrarily redefining the terms of discussion. That this has been viewed – so far, at least – as merely one more outrage to add to the Obamunist ledger suggests that in political discourse words shall no longer be permitted to have enduring meanings. If this is the case, our political degeneracy has reached a terminal stage.

But pause for a moment and reflect upon:

  • What Administration spokesdroid Eric Schultz said;
  • The meaning drawn from it by those who have heard his words.

No one with three functioning brain cells could imagine that the Taliban, whose operational tactics are indistinguishable from those of other Islamic terrorists in the Middle East, is anything but a terrorist organization. It differs from the others only in once having had control of a nation-state. Calling it an “armed insurgency” cannot change the objective facts of its behavior; it can only provide a tissue-thin rhetorical cover for the Obama Administration’s actions toward it.

So what Schultz said amounted to “Don’t probe us on this or we’ll take some sort of vengeance for it later.” That’s almost certainly the meaning he wanted his audience to derive from it. However, the meaning they drew from it might have included that, but surely also included: “The Obama Administration will do what it damned well pleases when it damned well pleases, without regard for the prior policies of this or any other Administration.”

Ponder the difference for a moment before continuing on.

Man’s rational capacity requires the use of symbols. The reason is embedded in the nature of reason itself:

  • To reason is to make use of abstractions – generalizations from specific cases to general patterns – to deduce effects from causes applied to adequately specified contexts.
  • One cannot conceive a abstraction without inserting symbols – each one a placeholder for a generic member of some defined class – into one’s conception.
  • Thus, symbols with stable meanings are essential to the conception and employment of abstractions.

(A little deep for a Thursday morning? Blame my snowblower, which weighs twice what I do and was massively disinclined to deal with the load Mother Nature dropped on my driveway Monday night and Tuesday morning.)

This is so fundamental to human mentation that even mathematicians tend to be unaware of it until it’s been proposed to them explicitly. It’s too automatic – too integral to Man’s pursuit of knowledge about the world and the creatures in it. Compelling oneself to think about it involves deliberately inserting oneself into a “strange loop” of the sort Douglas Hofstadter wrote about in Godel, Escher, Bach. Such a loop has no exit point upon which we can rely.

By corollary, if one is forbidden to attribute stable meanings to certain symbols – for example, the words used in political discourse – one cannot make sense of the statements that employ them. A barrier rises between our minds and the truths of reality with which we must grapple.

This is immensely appealing to those who seek to evade the consequences appropriate to their actions.

I wrote some time ago:

In the ideological clashes of today, the attention of the greater mass of Americans is focused on secondary matters. Arguments over national defense, tax rates, social policy directions, regulatory structures, and so forth continue to rage, but with less prospect of being satisfactorily settled than ever before...because a critical pinion for all argument of any sort has been undermined near to collapse.

The pinion of which I speak is the concept of objective truth.

It's hard for most people to grasp that objective truth is a conception, rather than something self-evident. Yet furious philosophical battles have been fought over it. The negative side has never conceded defeat. They've advanced reason after reason to doubt the existence of objective reality. As each one is destroyed, they shift to another. In a sense, their proposition is its own strongest weapon, for they respond rather frequently to even the most obvious points by saying, "No, that's your truth" -- an implicit claim that it's the not the observation but the observer's willingness to accept it that really matters.

John Q. Public has heard little of this, of course; it's mostly fought in the ivory towers, and in the publications that cater to professional intellectuals. All the same, it matters to him more than he's able to appreciate.

Truth is an evaluation: a judgment that some proposition corresponds to objective reality sufficiently for men to rely upon it. The weakening of the concept of truth cuts an opening through which baldly counterfactual propositions can be thrust into serious discourse. Smith might say that proposition X is disprovable, or that it contradicts common observations of the world; Jones counters that X suits him fine, for he has dismissed the disprovers as "partisan" and prefers his own observations to those of Smith. Unless the two agree on standards for relevant evidence, pertinent reasoning, and common verification -- in other words, standards for what can be accepted as sufficiently true -- their argument over X will never end.

An interest group that has "put its back against the wall" as regards its central interest, and is unwilling to concede the battle regardless of the evidence and logic raised against its claims, will obfuscate, attack the motives of its opponents, and attempt to misdirect their attention with irrelevancies. When all of these have failed, its last-ditch defense is to attack the concept of truth. Once that has been undermined, the group can't be defeated. It can stay on the ideological battlefield indefinitely, preserving the possibility of victory through attrition or fatigue among its opponents.

As the years have flowed past, I’ve come to consider that particular essay the most important of all my emissions onto the Web. Indeed, the importance of its core thesis has risen to the point that no political statement can be assessed without evaluating whether the words it uses are being employed according to their public meanings: i.e., the meanings private persons routinely attribute to them. In other words, we must determine whether the speaker respects the truths those words are used by us common folk to express.

The effort involved in even listening to political gabble has risen proportionately to politicians’ self-defensive reinterpretations of key words and phrases. Such reinterpretations are inherently attempts to evade the facts.

If you’ve wondered why it is that no politician ever answers a yes-or-no question with a yes-or-no answer, wonder no longer. It’s utterly impossible to reinterpret “yes” and “no.” That makes them quicksand for the politician determined to retain the option to “adjust” his positions for subsequent needs.

Yesterday afternoon, the esteemed Glenn Reynolds wrote thus:

IN JOHN CARTER’S WORDS, I STILL LIVE: Andrew Sullivan is going to stop blogging. No, blogging isn’t dead. And InstaPundit gets more pageviews than pretty much everyone who’s calling blogging dead. But I can understand Andrew quitting. For me, the real strain isn’t the blogging, but having to pay close attention to the news all the time. The news is usually depressing, when it’s not angering, and that’s doubly true for the Obama years. But I’m not going anywhere anytime soon.

I’m pleased that our beloved InstaPundit has resolved to soldier on, but ponder for a moment why “The news is usually depressing, when it’s not angering.” There’s always been a large percentage of bad news in the news; after all, the major maxim of journalism has always been “if it bleeds, it leads.” In earlier decades, we were far more confident that bad news with political import – i.e., negative developments the response to which would appropriately come from an American government – would be confronted squarely and coped with properly. Public confidence in such a response ain’t what she used to be. (If that comes as news to you, congratulations on a really long nap.)

The reason is the increasing – today near to absolute – unwillingness of our political class to confront reality when doing so might make it look bad.

When reality slaps you across the face with a wet mackerel, the only imaginable evasion is rhetorical: “No, no! While it did look like a mackerel, it wasn’t an authentic mackerel, as these variances along the lateral fins and the belly scales should make obvious. Besides, I turned forty-five degrees in the instant of the first impact, so it didn’t get my right cheek, so I wasn’t really slapped across the face. Anyway, we’re still good friends.” Dealing with the evasions and their implications is what I find most wearying and most angering. I’d be surprised if that weren’t so for Reynolds and many other commentators who’ve been tempted to lay down their keyboards.

Politicians’ methods for evading reality increasingly employ redefinitions of common words and phrases, distortions of their meanings, and a refusal to use those terms whose meanings are so strongly established that they cannot be so treated. The marvel of political journalism in our time is that anyone still bothers to ask a politician a question, when we all know that the answer will be self-serving rather than honestly responsive. Why, indeed, should a reporter bother to report on political statements and orations, which are inevitably more deceitful than informative? The temptation must be strong to eschew such wastes of ink and pixels, and merely report on politicians’ deeds as recorded by cameras and microphones.

Our political destroyers – and by that term, I mean our entire political class, regardless of party affiliation – have embroiled us in a meaning-crisis whose consequence is a truth-crisis. They are resolved that we shall never be able to hold them to the least of their statements. (Their promises? Forget it, Jake.) If we can be battered out of our reliance on the meanings of common words and phrases, our yearning for truth, and our belief in objective reality, their paths to absolute power over us will be completely unobstructed at long last.

Food for thought.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

But What Are Their Tourist Attractions?

Americans desperate for a new vacation vista will be excited to learn that astronomers have discovered a really old box of rocks:

Ancient galactic civilizations have been a staple of science fiction stories for decades. Now science fiction writers can turn to an actual known star for inspiration, an old star with a system of Earth-sized planets, just announced this week. These planets are presently the oldest known to astronomers. Orbiting the old sunlike star Kepler-444, they date back to the dawn of our Milky Way galaxy itself and suggest that planets have formed throughout the history of our galaxy and universe.

The discovery, announced January 27, 2015 in the Astrophysical Journal, used observations made by NASA’s Kepler spacecraft over a period of four years.

The five planets in the Kepler-444 system are all a bit smaller than Earth, with sizes varying between those of Mercury and Venus. Kepler-444 formed 11.2 billion years ago, when the universe was less than 20% of its current age. Presumably its planets formed around the same time. The Kepler-444 system was already older than our own solar system is today when our sun and planets were born.

Reactions from across the nation:

  • Manhattan: So how far is it from midtown and how late is it open?
  • Vermont: You can’t get there from here.
  • Minnesota: How’s the fishing there?
  • Chicago: I’ll make them an offer they can’t refuse.
  • Detroit: Are they unionized?
  • Wyoming: What are their gun laws like?
  • Seattle: It probably rains just as much there, so why move?
  • San Francisco: Show me a listing of bathhouses there.
  • Los Angeles: Dude! That’s, you know, so five minutes ago.
  • Dallas: Get me a quote on oil-rights leases.
  • New Orleans: Another export market for oil, crawfish, and gumbo!

JetBlue has not yet announced a schedule of Kepler-bound flights. Southwest Airlines has hastened to assure us that bags will still fly free.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

The Culture War: A Reflection

Well, Polymath has just received its first Amazon review – those of you who purchased your copies at SmashWords can review it at both sites, you know, and I’d consider it a great favor if you’d do that – and I must say, it was far more favorable than the book (or I) deserve. But that review, plus the reactions registered in my email, plus this new emission from Larry Correia have me thinking about that struggle of insuperable viciousness that never seems to abate: the culture war.

It’s a commonplace that fish aren’t aware of water. Humans aren’t fully aware of their cultural matrix for the same reason: it’s omnipresent and unceasing. Yet there’s hardly anything more important to the national spirit or our individual tendencies when confronted by some question of significance.

When we deign to notice the fusillades in the culture war, it’s normally because some noisy interest group has made a stink about the “marginalization” of its mascots. Consider homosexuality as a case for study. Get into your DeLorean, fire up the Flux Capacitor, and go back a mere thirty years. How many openly homosexual characters were featured in prime-time television shows? The number is approximately zero. What accounts for the heavy statistical overrepresentation of homosexuals on TV in our time?

Hint: It’s not heterosexuals’ vast, previously unexpressed desire to see homosexual relationships and homosexuals’ interactions with normal people portrayed on our giant-screen HDTVs.

I could go in a myriad directions from here, but I have a specific one in mind.

Unless you’ve spent the last several weeks immured in a Turkish prison, you’re surely aware of all the Sturm und Drang that’s arisen around Clint Eastwood’s blockbuster movie American Sniper. I hardly need recap the movie for those of you who’ve seen it; it’s too powerful and memorable to need my tender mercies. (For those of you who haven’t seen it, see it. Now.) Those who hate it, and they are far more vociferous than numerous, seldom admit to their true reasons; those who love it aren’t always capable of articulating theirs.

The script does inject a few fictional motifs into this otherwise faithful biopic, drawn from Chris Kyle’s book of the same name. Whether those injections were vitally necessary to the movie’s impact is open to debate. What seems indisputable to me is that what elicits the rage of its detractors isn’t the drama but the depiction of the life of Chris Kyle himself. To the pansified cultural elite that dominates arts criticism in our media, Kyle is a major affront – an embarrassment. His patriotism, dutifulness, commitment to his undertaking, moral clarity, and absolute lack of regret or apology for his deeds – for me the most stirring line of the script was “I’m willing to stand before my Creator and answer for every shot I took” – paint him in the sort of pure masculine colors that the glitterati would prefer not to exist.

More succinctly, Chris Kyle was a man. His detractors are not.

Perhaps those detractors would have passed over Kyle’s book without comment had Eastwood not picked up the movie rights. Perhaps they would have dismissed the movie had it not shattered every box-office record for a January release. Perhaps the denunciations wouldn’t have been quite so thunderous had Eastwood and his scripting team injected some harsh statements about the “Bush wars” into the movie. We’ll never know.

What we can and do know is that Eastwood’s portrayal of Chris Kyle has upset the cultural applecart, at least for the moment. The glitterati aren’t happy for the rest of us to see fictional portrayals of unabashed patriotism, moral clarity, and courage. They’ve put too much work into their efforts at portraying whining self-nominated victims and moral deviates as the proper heroes for today.

It testifies to the ineradicability of Americans’ native moral sense that a single well-made movie could so dramatically countervail the glitterati’s counter-valorization campaigns.

One of the reasons I write fiction – indeed, perhaps the most imperative of all of them – is my desire to provide readers with heroes of the kind I favor. There aren’t a lot of heroes of that kind in the fiction coming out of Pub World; the reader pretty much has to go to the independent-writers’ movement for fare of that sort. (Back when I was fool enough to think that a conventional publishing house might take an interest in my novels, several of the rejections I received for Chosen One and On Broken Wings specifically criticized my protagonists’ moral standards.) Some does slip through, of course; the military-fiction pioneered by Tom Clancy and the espionage/special-agent-oriented books Vince Flynn wrote have too large a readership for Pub World to dismiss them. However, it’s noteworthy that Clancy couldn’t get a hearing until The Hunt for Red October was picked up by the tiny Naval Institute Press, and Flynn had to sell his books out of the trunk of his car before a Pub World house picked up Term Limits. Only the prior success of those writers as independents persuaded major New York houses to offer them a slot in their catalogs.

The dominance of Pub World by left-leaning editors began in the Sixties: a part of the cultural-colonization effort Antonio Gramsci called “a long march through the institutions.” It was contemporaneous with efforts of the same sort in cinema, the performing arts, education, and journalism. They who undertook that campaign of cultural transformation weren’t merely acting on their personal preferences; they were openly, avowedly promoting the destruction of the prior American cultural norm. The removal of the traditionally masculine, morally straight hero in favor of a variety of anti-heroes and morally ambiguous figures was central to their efforts.

I’m not prepared to say that it was a conspiracy, in the traditional sense of a coordinated effort plotted in secret and orchestrated according to a defined plan...but neither am I prepared to say that it wasn’t. It was probably more of a hive effect, in which subliminal signals and indicators effect a wide-scale coordination whose participants only recognize it consciously a posteriori.

Whatever the case, its effects have included the demonization of every traditional attribute of iconic American masculinity, with patriotism, courage, and moral clarity at the head of the list. And it was terrifyingly effective; ask any American man who came to maturity in the Seventies or afterward.

I am effectively convinced that Andrew Breitbart’s most famous observation – that “culture is upstream from politics” – is the all-important truth in the battle for the soul of these United States. Yet conservatives and libertarians, as the worthy Ace of Spades has noted, talk politics almost to the exclusion of culture. Our attention turns to the cultural matrix only when something either excites us or irritates us out of our ruts.

That inversion might cost us all possibility of success at restoring freedom and justice to America. Have a little C. S. Lewis:

[W]e continue to clamour for those very qualities we are rendering impossible. You can hardly open a periodical without coming across the statement that what our civilization needs is more 'drive', or dynamism, or self-sacrifice, or 'creativity'. In a sort of ghastly simplicity we remove the organ and demand the function. We make men without chests and expect of them virtue and enterprise. We laugh at honour and are shocked to find traitors in our midst. We castrate and bid the geldings be fruitful.

A nation whose cultural institutions make vicious slanderers such as Michael Moore rich while they sneer at Clint Eastwood could hardly have expected any other result.

The Last Graf is exactly what you’ve expected – indeed, what I and others have been telling you all along. Reclaim the culture. If you have a creative bent, use it and push the products thereof. If you consume any of the arts, especially fiction whether in prose on in the movies and on television, aggressively support those that agree with your standards and boycott, at the very least, those that diverge from them. Refuse to back down from those standards. Be aggressive about promoting those works you find most supportive of them.

The powers of darkness have all but monopolized our journalism, our entertainment, and our educational institutions. With only those bastions, they’ve managed to “de-Americanize” at least two generations of young Americans. They’ve been at it for a long time, and they aren’t about to stop now. We have a lot of catching-up to do. You have a part to play...possibly a more important part than you imagine.

Get started now.

(PS: Yes, it’s snowing heavily. We’ve already received about ten inches and are likely to get fifteen to twenty-five more. I’ll be going out to start the snowblower in a few minutes. If you pray, please pray for everyone in the Northeastern U.S. We need it.)

Monday, January 26, 2015

Decline And Fall

There’s a lot of talk these days about the decline of America, both domestically and on the world stage. I shan’t disagree too stridently, as the indicators have trended downward ever since the late 2008 mortgage crisis and the Bush the Younger Administration’s wholly incorrect response to it (compelled in part, I will allow, by hostile control of Congress.) Yet there are some hopeful signs. My colleague Dystopic highlights one in a recent essay:

Most of the time I prefer to mock Social Justice Warriors. Yes, I know, it’s probably petty, but they aren’t exactly welcoming of debate (you racist!), and so satire is the only real vehicle left to those of us who oppose them. Today, however, I will endeavor to rationally deconstruct their notion of privilege for the benefit of others.

If you read this little gem, Dear White, Straight, Cisgender, Man People: You Are Privileged, you will see the lunacy in all its obscene glory. This is a site that deliberately invokes a sort of childish air, with its hand-scrabble cartoons, preschool fonts and overall nursery-rhyme appearance appropriate for the infantile generation of coddled Social Justice advocates.

To the headline, I can only say: duh. Of course you are privileged. Anyone who is reading this is privileged. You have a computer or mobile device, you probably live in a First World country and there is a high probability you are in the upper 10% of income-earners worldwide. Your skin color and your sex are both irrelevant to that point.

Please read the whole thing. It’s a jewel of its kind.

The sign, of course, is that Dystopic’s reaction to the cited tirade has become the norm. A hefty majority of Americans have simply had it with the “social justice warriors,” their constant whining, their envy-driven demands, their inability to accept themselves as privileged, and above all their insistence on their moral superiority – a state of grace that entitles them to disrupt the lives and affairs of peaceable Americans in the name of whatever Holy Cause animates them this week.

We can’t know what the backbreaker was. It might have been the Occupy “protests.” Or the riots in Ferguson, Missouri. Maybe the crass behavior of the crowd at the first Obama inauguration had something to do with it. Perhaps there have been a few too many public celebrations of homosexuality and demands that it be viewed as “normal.” Perhaps the new trend of Y-chromosome bearers donning women’s clothes, proclaiming themselves to be women, and demanding to be treated as such – never mind the mutilations some of them accept upon their bodies – has finally opened a sufficient number of eyes. Maybe the horde marching down city streets chanting “What do we want? Dead cops! When do we want them? Now!” was simply too much for the longsuffering public and its badly tried patience. It might never become clear.

Whatever the causal tale, it appears ever more likely that the “social justice warriors” have embarked upon their final voyage: the decline and fall of their Insanity Movement. Please, God, let it be so.

Revulsion is a powerful social force. When a people finds itself appalled by some practice, it will move against it. If the practitioners are themselves peaceable and orderly, they might merely be marginalized or ostracized. If they practice their habits “in your face,” the treatment they receive from the decent public will be proportionately less gentle. If they go to the extent of disrupting the affairs of others, they’ll be lucky to escape with their lives.

The contemporary Left has composed a strategy out of inverting those responses by the invocation of two words to which it has no proper claim: “rights” and “justice.” The more repellent are some group’s actions or demands, the more likely it is that the Left will adopt them as mascots and embrace their “cause.” The next step is the claim that the group’s members are “oppressed,” with a demand for compensatory action by “society.” Once the group’s status as victims, now the most priced of all political currencies, has been accepted by a sufficient fraction of the Main Stream Media, all that remains is the shouting for insane “rights” and social “justice”...and anyone not deafened by previous episodes of this sort surely hears a lot of it.

However, the artificially inculcated guilt upon which this relies has a finite lifetime. The more frequently the “victim” button is pressed, the less powerful and less prompt is the response. In addition, significant events such as the persecutions of George Zimmerman and Darren Wilson can lower the public’s susceptibility to the stimulus in a “step function” fashion.

My estimate of current public receptivity to the Social Justice Warriors’ demands and tactics is that it won’t take more than one more provocation from them to topple them into the abyss of overwhelming popular contempt... possibly with much worse consequences for their various causes and mascot-groups.

It’s highly significant that the Social Justice Warriors, sociologically, come mainly from the most privileged stratum of American society. Their economic standing is in the top 5% to 10% of the nation. A high percentage of them have college educations. Those that work are almost unanimously in white-collar trades. They are predominantly without a care for their general well-being...even the ones who’ve never earned their own livings.

Ludwig von Mises would classify them as among “the cousins:” they whose living standards and security stem from their clever, industrious older relatives. The more common term for them today would be “limousine liberals.” However, that term also subsumes many of the “idle rich:” the millionaire stars and moguls of the entertainment class. When they make themselves conspicuous, whether in the guise of an “Occupy”-style riot or a gathering of private jets as in Davos, they elicit contempt from the alert and knowledgeable, incredulity from the undecided...and unease from fellow-travelers who sense the hazards to their Cause.

That sense of unease is quite rational, especially given the already low reputations many of the more prominent individuals among them have earned in their several ways.

Let’s publicize such events to the hilt. It’s the best service we can do for freedom in these United States. Besides, shouldn’t the public be made aware of how deplorable are the conditions black transgender lesbian Marxist enviro-nazis must endure, to say nothing of the execrable accommodations at their semi-annual conferences? Some of them have only one iPad to their name – and no private jet! The horror! I mean, what if that were you?

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have snow to shovel. (Yes, already.)

N. American bantustan.

“The America we thought we knew, ladies and gentlemen, is a mirage. It’s a memory. It’s a foreign country,” Jeff Deist, Ron Paul’s former press secretary and chief of staff, told the group. “And that’s precisely why we should take secession seriously.”

* * * *

“We don’t have true democracy,” [Ron Paul] told the Kremlin-based Russia Today network (although he said that his son was one of the forces for good in Washington). “We have a monopoly of ideas that are controlled by leaders of two parties, and though they call it two parties, it’s really one philosophy.”

"Daddy issues: Are Ron Paul’s hard-core stands a problem for son’s presidential bid? While Rand seeks donors, his father talks secession." By David A. Fahrenthold, Washington Post, 1/25/15. A cheesy title for this article but it's the Washington Post after all.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Summer Soldiers

Now and then, I become unusually irritated by persons who, for whatever reason, have decided to follow the Politician’s Principle:

“Show me which way the crowd is going,
And I will lead them.”

It’s particularly annoying when such a “summer soldier” has a significant public profile and has decided that now is the time to exploit it.

No, I’m not going to name names. This is just to blow off a little steam. After all, why not? I have plenty to spare.

Some of us have been fighting the good fight for freedom, for clarity of speech and thought, and for the fundamentals of reason – especially the concept of an objective reality from which truths can be drawn – for one hell of a long time. It’s galling to see a summer soldier suddenly leap into the fray and posture as commander.

I fight that war on two fronts: opinion-editorial and fiction. All I get for those efforts is a percentage of the purchase price of my novels, which I hope is justified by their entertainment value. I take a lot of abuse from our enemies. That’s probably 99% of why the summer soldiers irritate me so.

Some of the offenders take the institutional approach: they seek to capitalize on a trend among common citizens by creating a “front group” and soliciting donations. No doubt you can think of a couple. But the more common sort is the individual with some notoriety, who’s decided that weighing in on some subject would serve him well now. Many such individuals are contenders for high office or some other form of political access and influence...but not all of them.

There are numerous cases among entertainers. Many of these are desperate to be known for something other than their dramatic or musical skills. The mayfly ephemerality characteristic of popularity in their realm can easily give rise to such a yearning. But that’s an explanation, not a justification.

They offend me. Yes, even the few who agree with me. To borrow a phrase from Laura Ingraham, they should “shut up and sing.”

The very worst rational error one can make is to adopt a good posture for the wrong reason.

If entertainers were without large popular followings whose members are eager to ape them in every conceivable way, I daresay my ire would be an order of magnitude less. Celebritarianism has brought us so much herd-like behavior that such persons are capable of swaying the future of our whole nation. One consequence, perhaps the most deplorable of all, has been conservatives’ enthusiasm for promoting celebrities, including the most minor ones, who proclaim themselves conservatives.

To those who think that to be a good thing: What would you say should your favored celebrity change his public posture, taking his entire herd of followers with him? Alternately, imagine that those followers should some day grow up and become embarrassed about their earlier mindless adulation of said celebrity. What would be their attitude toward their earlier ethical, religious, and political attachments? Are you willing to bet on it either way?

Caution, Gentle Reader. Here be dragons.

As I said in the opening segment, I needed to blow off a little steam. This particular irritant has been on my mind for decades. It’s not the worst of the batch, merely the one that’s bubbled to the surface this morning.

I try to resist the urge to vent this way, especially on a Sunday morning before Mass. I don’t always succeed.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Assorted Fiction Natterings

1. Polymath.

My cover artist, the esteemed Donna Casey, is at work on the cover. The eBook will be released when we’ve settled on a design.

Once again, my thanks to all of you who volunteered as test readers. Your comments and observations have proved invaluable.

2. Some Urban Fantasy.

In recent months I’ve encountered a few writers previously unknown to me whose works I can heartily recommend:

  • First up is newcomer Lexie Dunne. She’s got only one novel out so far, Superheroes Anonymous, but it’s unique and refreshing.
  • Next we have Richard Roberts. Roberts’ book Please Don’t Tell My Parents I’m a Supervillain (soon to be followed by Please Don’t Tell My Parents I Blew Up The Moon) is apparently targeted at the “YA” audience, but it made delightful reading for this sexagenarian curmudgeon even so. If barely pubescent protagonist Penny, an “evil genius” who can’t quite control her gift, makes superweapons out of sugar, and desperately wants to join the good guys, doesn’t charm you out of your undies, check your pulse: you may have died and not noticed.
  • I tend to avoid anything that reeks of the “standard” motifs of urban fantasy – vampires, werewolves, and the like – but have nevertheless been charmed by Sierra Dean’s “Secret McQueen” series. Secret, Miss Dean’s “tough chick” heroine, is a strange hybrid of the supernaturals with several problems attendant thereto. Among the worst of these is that she’s being pursued by a minimum of two werewolves and one vampire: romantically pursued. And no, it shouldn’t be her worst problem.
  • I must give a qualified recommendation to Morgan Blayde. His stories of Caine Deathwalker, a human who’s been adopted into a demon clan and has become both incredibly powerful and a hopeless alcoholic, are stories. But the man desperately needs a proofreader, or at least someone to crack him over the knuckles several thousand times with a Bolo paddle for publishing his first drafts. If you can stand the plethora of low-level errors in grammar, spelling, punctuation, and homophone confusion for the sake of a good story, these books are for you.
  • Finally and with great applause, I give you Annie Bellet. I first encountered her work at Smashwords, where she’s posted several short stories. More recently I’ve been enthralled by her “Twenty-Sided Sorceress” series, which is compelling throughout, once again despite extensive use of threadbare urban fantasy motifs. Highly recommended.

Show ‘em some love, people. Indie writers need it more than you know.

3. Directions.

My readers often write to me, sometimes to ask questions about why I haven’t done this or that. Recently one asked why I’ve never attempted high (medieval-setting) fantasy, of the sort that made Tolkien and Merritt famous. I had to think extensively about my reply.

High fantasy is a heavily stylized subgenre. It demands a particular style of writing that I haven’t mastered. That’s a part of the reason the novel founded on “The Warm Lands,” a pseudo-high-fantasy, is taking me so long.

Yes, I have a somewhat archaic style. (That’s partly because so many of the books I’ve loved lifelong are old books, and partly because I’m a pompous ass.) Several readers who’ve complimented “The Warm Lands” suggested that the style I adopted for that story would be suitable. Perhaps it would be, but the problem lies in maintaining it for the length of a novel. When I write naturally, I don’t come near to the idiom required to do a convincing novel set in a pre-technological era. In particular, my scene-setting is too sparse for high fantasy, and my dialogue is too contemporary in tone. But perhaps I’ll get there in time...should the myriad of other projects I’ve been exhorted to tackle someday permit me to work on it.

4. More Directions.

Yes, there will be:

Stay tuned.