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7 Reasons Why Backstrom Is Perfect Counter-Culture Conservative TV

Wednesday, March 4th, 2015 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

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Don’t let the appearance of Rainn Wilson fool you. Everett Backstrom is no Dwight Schrute, nor is Backstrom yet another take on the Sherlock trend. This smart, funny detective series walks into dark territory to examine the human desire to look toward the light. It goes against formula and against the grain manipulating authority and questioning politically correct cultural norms in pursuit of truth, justice and even more intriguingly, redemption from evil. Here are 7 reasons why Backstrom is trendsetting, essential counter-culture conservative television that demands a place on the air.

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My Family, My Tribe

Sunday, March 1st, 2015 - by Sarah Hoyt and Charlie Martin
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Hi, this is Sarah and has been a week to remember who my family is.  No, I don’t mean I suffered sudden amnesia and stopped remembering my parents and brother.  I mean, my other family.  My spiritual family, you could say.  Or perhaps, in a Portuguese expression “my family by affinity.”

My first moment of recognition came when Rose Eveleth – Vagina Vigilante, she who makes scientists cry – went on twitter to praise one of the google plugins for changing words containing man, so that manned was now “crewed” and unmanned was “robotic.” (Don’t shout at the stupidity of the later.  I know robotic is not the same as remote controlled.  She doesn’t, though.)

I’m always more or less upset when people play stupid games with the language.  I know it will surprise you from the excitable Latina™ but I’ve been known to stop under signs in bookstores saying “Herstory, really, do you even know how ignorant it is?”  I also once picked a fight in the grocery store that had navel oranges marked as “naval oranges.”  And we will not talk about the incident of the Lady’s Department at a store.  They never could understand why I was asking them who the lady was. (Sigh.)

So as a language snob, I was offended by stupid games with the language. But normally this would have warranted an eye roll, because I know these people existed and there’s nothing you can do about her.

But instead I spent quite a while composing a sneering post for facebook.  And then I realized why.  Because Rose Eveleth – Vagina Vigilante! – is on my sh*t list for what she did.  Not just because she made a man cry.  No.  She’s on my sh*t list because she made one of my tribe cry.

Rocket scientists, science fiction geeks, writers and nerds – they’re my people.  I understand their body language, their look.  I understand their inanities, and the fact that say sartorial subtlety is beyond them.

And anyone who attacks one of us for those characteristics that are uniquely ours is the enemy.  They attack my tribe, and I bleed.

It is probably the closest to belonging that someone of my odd disposition can come.

Which is why today was a sad day. When Leonard Nimoy passed away, the ongoing, rolling fight between science fiction writers was silenced. Instead, there were tributes, remembrance, silence. For a moment we looked at the burial scene from Wrath of Kahn and we listened to “Amazing Grace,” and we mourned.

Because he was of us, our brother, our tribe.

Even I who came to Star Trek late, having been inducted into science fiction via books much earlier, felt a pang at his passing. Star Trek, the original series, will be forever mixed in my mind with my first year of marriage.  You see, my husband was media, I was literature. I gave him Heinlein, he gave me Star Trek.

I read Nimoy’s book, I Am Not Spock, and his other book, I Am Spock.

It must have been hard for him to be so totally defined by a role and a role that so many sneered at. (I’m sure we all remember the days when Star Trek fans weren’t considered “real fans” don’t we?) It must have been hard to find himself at the crest of a wave of fandom. And though I’m fairly sure he was aware of the slash websites, let’s do hope he never gave them too much thought.

And yet, he came through with grace and aplomb. Instead of running from fandom, he embraced it. His very last tweet ended with “LLAP.”

You prosper too, Leonard, beyond our reach in the undiscovered country.

In our hearts, you’ll live forever.

Amazing Grace indeed!


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Asylum (Loralynn Kennakris #3)
By Asylum (Loralynn Kennakris #3) 

First, they called her a hero. Then they called her a medical problem. Now they’re calling her a criminal. It’s been an exciting first year of active duty for Lieutenant Loralynn Kennakris.

She started by proving herself to be the League’s most promising young fighter pilot, earning decorations and gaining both admirers and enemies. But those rumors wouldn’t go away: dangerous mental instability, hostile tendencies, latent psychosis. Pushed too far, she did the unforgivable, and now her enemies have the excuse they wanted.

They’re right about one thing, though: Kris is dangerous, and now she has nothing left to lose.


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This Surprising Piece of Advice Could Save Your Life if There’s a Cataclysmic Event

Friday, February 27th, 2015 - by Paula Bolyard

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We lived in an electric world. We relied on it for everything. And then the power went out. Everything stopped working. We weren’t prepared. Fear and confusion led to panic. The lucky ones made it out of the cities. The government collapsed. Militias took over, controlling the food supply and stockpiling weapons. We still don’t know why the power went out. But we’re hopeful someone will come and light the way.

This was the intro to NBC’s post-apocalyptic series Revolution, which painted a bleak picture of how the United States might fare in the event of a massive — fifteen years in the show — power outage. After I recovered from my initial shock at an America gone so wrong that in fifteen years no one could figure out how to generate electricity (Common Core math, anyone?), I began to wonder how long it would take our country to descend into the near-anarchy portrayed in the show — where people panic and the government collapses in the wake of a nationwide emergency.

In his new e-book, Surviving the End: A Practical Guide for Everyday Americans in the Age of Terror, James Jay Carafano says there are two crucial moments that determine whether someone will survive a disaster. The first is the “golden hour,” when a seriously injured individual needs to receive emergency medical care in order to survive. The next tipping point is the 72-hour mark. Individuals who can’t get water or are exposed to harsh weather for up to three days will likely die.

But what happens if the crisis is extended and ongoing and the government is unable to provide assistance in the wake of a catastrophic event?

In his book, Carafano, the Heritage Foundation’s leading expert on national security and foreign policy challenges, gives examples of events in the United States that took a tragic turn when a disaster struck, like during a major power outage in New York in 1927 when a cascading power failure produced a blackout. Despite the fact that the blackout only lasted for a day, Carafano says, “In a city already on the edge with sky-rocketing crime, racial tension, and civic unrest, the dark unleashed a night of terror and looting unseen in New York since rioting during the Civil War.”

Other communities Carafano studied handled crises significantly better, in part because members of the church or the community pitched in to help. Carafano notes:

There is a pretty broad consensus that faith-based organizations are among the top performers during a crisis. The tasks they perform, such as supplying food, clothing, and shelter to those in need, or providing mental health responses for everything from stress and grief counseling to recovery from spousal abuse, can be immensely valuable for communities struggling to survive in the wake of a catastrophe. Being connected to a faith-based organization could well be critical for staying alive when nature or men do their worst.

Carafano is spot on with this advice.

Our family attends a church with about 500 members, representing a wide range of ages, income levels, job skills, and life experiences. We have engineers, carpenters, welders, counselors, lawyers, nurses, business owners, auto mechanics, hairstylists, teachers, farmers, computer specialists, and homemakers. We also have a collection of wise, white-haired men, who slogged through the jungles of Vietnam or marched across Europe during the time they served in World War II. No matter what the crisis, I have no doubt our tightly knit church community would rise to the occasion, beginning on Day One with an enormous pool of skills and talents from which to draw. Moreover, the extensive experience and wisdom in the group could be combined and leveraged to provide leadership and innovative solutions to problems that arise in a doomsday scenario.

According to Carafano, decision-making during a crisis is crucial:

It helps to have a strong moral core to drive that decision-making. … Ethical decision-making helps individuals during stressful situations determine the right course. Further, the more collaboration there is among the right people at the right time focusing on the right issues with the right information, the better are the decisions that get made. That kind of trusting relationship makes it a lot easier to get the right things done.

Churches are well suited to the task of producing ethical leaders with a “strong moral core” in the wake of a disaster. In most churches, the individuals best prepared for leadership in a crisis (qualified in part by their good moral reputation) have already been identified and are likely already serving in the church in some capacity.

But Carafano warns,

Sadly, America is going the way of Europe. According to surveys, the number of Americans who identify themselves as having no religious affiliation has been growing rapidly. By some estimates, the percentage has doubled since 1990. The best advice—if you want to up your odds of surviving a disaster—is don’t become a part of that statistic.

Which brings me back to Revolution. Other than a token nod to a religious relic now and then or a discussion between characters about “something out there,” no reference was made to organized religion. It left me wondering how the writers envisioned it. Did the disappearance of the churches in Revolution’s America precede the Blackout and the collapse of the government or was it the other way around? Did the churches die after everything collapsed?

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What Is the Future of Gen-X Manhood? Adam Carolla Vs Chuck Palahniuk?

Thursday, February 26th, 2015 - by Mark Ellis

See the previous installments in Mark Ellis’s exploration of Adam Carolla. From January 21, 2015: Adam Carolla: The Quintessential Counterculture Conservative?. And from February 6: President Me: Adam Carolla Vs. the Scourge of Narcissism.

Submitted again for consideration, Adam Carolla, born as his very cohort, Generation X, was beginning in 1964.

Joining him in this chapter is writer Chuck Palahniuk, born in 1962, another prominent Gen X cultural figure.

Consider now, as the swath of humanity that followed the boomers reaches full majority, in fullest possession of its powers, how variant Carolla/Palahniuk countercultures confront what we see on the horizon. How will the legacy of Generation X be written from this point forward?

How will a generation’s power-players and cultural icons impact, for example, policymaking on healthcare, strategies for dealing with the radical Islamist threat, and the social landscape that the millennials following them will inherit?

In September 2013, PJ Lifestyle editor David Swindle, riffing on Strauss and Howe’s Millennials Rising: The Next Great Generation, laid out his self-described “oddball” take on generational theory. Swindle argues for more detailed time-frame specifications in generations, recommending five year break-downs in place of the usual twenty — “boomer-leaning Gen-X-ers,” “Millennial-Gen-X blends,” “Gen-X-leaning Boomers,” “Millennial-leaning Gen-Xers” and so forth.

However you want to slice and dice the decades — for the sake of this discussion, Carolla and Palahniuk are instructive examples of the reactions, rebellions, and disillusionments of a generation shaded by oblique pathos.

On the earliest cusp of X, Carolla is part of the generation that inherited a choice between three ideological frameworks: progressivism, reactionary traditionalism, and unaffiliated rebelliousness.

Palahniuk predates the official kick-off of X, but is arguably too young for the boom. He served as a transitory figure, a harbinger of Gen X‘s devastatingly critical, tribal quest for definition.

Adam Carolla and Chuck Palahniuk, an unlikely duo but for their Gen-X lineage, hold claim to tributary subcultures that were natural responses to the boomer counterculture that rejected button-down corporatism and neo-Victorian social mores.

Where Palahniuk twists culture to his visionary fictional ends, Carolla goes hammer and tong to make sense of it.

My first adult experience with Gen X came primarily from two sources. First, when I met younger parents from across the socieo-economic spectrum in my children’s schools. Second, when I hired or began to compete with young guys coming up in the paint-contracting trade.

Something I noticed about both cohorts right off: Gen-X cynicism on the subject of national pride, a rejection of the reflexive patriotism that I had been inculcated with since birth.

We said the Pledge of Allegiance, with God and without irony, every morning at Hillview Crest Elementary School in Hayward, California. This ritual recitation was not yet under assault when Carolla and Palahniuk were schoolchildren in the late sixties and early seventies, but criticism of the Pledge on grounds of church/state separation was coming.

Another noticeable difference I discerned between my fellow boomer kids and many in the generation supplanting mine was a devolved sense of the wisdom and integrity of the elders. Though we’d rebelled against parental and societal units, they were intact units for most of us, and thus recipient of residual respect.

X was rebelling against the failure of the units. Who can blame them for skepticism about narratives handed down in the midst of social transformation?

Another striking thing about the Gen-X parents with millennial children: they were having fewer kids. At least in my neck of the woods—white suburbia around Portland, OR. Gone were the large families I remembered from the grade schools of my youth, with three, four, and even five children. There were lots of single moms in the mix, many with only one child.

Even as Gen-X emerged from the flatlands of generational history, predecessors found the crop coming up to be at a vague, not-immediately-readable disadvantage. There was the sense that despite the boomer legacy of conformity as fifties children and upheaval as sixties teens, somehow the squarely situated boomer-kids had it better than their children.

Palahniuk summed things up in Fight Club, when antagonist (if the term even applies here) Tyler Durden says,

Our Generation has had no Great war, no Great Depression. Our war is spiritual. Our depression is our lives.

Though Palahniuk’s theme of alienation and purposelessness can be extrapolated universally, Durden’s morose dictum is understood to most apply to the generation stuck between the boomers’ long fade and the heel-snapping millennials.

The Greatest Generation had Pearl, the boomers had JFK. September 11, 2001, belongs to all of us, but history bequeaths it to the millennials.

Applied mythos for Gen X doesn’t focus on any history-making date.

Their crisis moment is like Palahniuk’s depression, which moves from functioning to acute. They came from broken homes, the first, true Children of Divorce.

Tyler Durden again, “a generation raised by women.”

Divorce and the ascendancy of feminist theory combined toxically in the era’s primordial soup; norms which boomers only dipped their toes into, Gen-Xers became immersed.

As we move towards a near future as threatening as any that contemporary observers have seen, what is the result of the experiment?

Irony in Carolla’s generation has always aspired to an intellectual gravitas out of proportion to its value as an assessment mode for the human condition. Humor, in the hands of either Carolla or Palahniuk, is internally targeted, at an irremediable state of disenchantment, a diaspora of disillusionment bred by failing social institutions into their very bones.

Though boomers were concurrent in history with social upheaval and the erosion of traditionalism, such counter-ideology had not yet become ingrained into the culture. Boomer kids with positive associations to traditionalist America benefitted from a durable connection, which proved decisive for many with the Reagan Renewal.

But too many Gen X progeny approaching adolescence and young adulthood in 1980 missed the Gipper’s wave. Raised by culturally progressive parents and academic liberals, they flocked underneath the nanny state’s skirts.

Palahniuk’s associations to visceral fear–violence versus ennui, terminal support groupiedom, soap-rendering from fat, corporatism as the ultimate evil–are different from what boomer kids feared in their gut.

Nobody at Hillview Crest Elementary School got divorced. Parents stayed together, for the kids, and we liked it.  Crawling under elementary school desks and lore about Khrushchev’s hammering shoe sat heavily in our stomachs. Boomer kids inherited the potential for being incinerated thirty minutes after war broke out.

Carolla and Palahniuk were born into that, but the possibility of death from above peaked with the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962. Threats from within domestic body-politic were coming home to roost. Gen X could still be atomized by the Russians, but were more imperatively left with the fallout created by existential threats to the pillars of society: marriage, faith, the social contract, industry, and national sovereignty.

There is no generational exactitude. Generations flow; there are overlaps, demographic choke points, trail scouts, and cave fighters. The decimations of disease and war skew the transitions. But there comes a point in life when a person realizes that generational culture has overtaken them.

Songs that boomers lauded as visionary Gen-X anthems are now twenty years old.

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What Is the Future of Superheroes? Why They Need To Start Killing Super-Villains

Thursday, February 26th, 2015 - by Aaron C. Smith

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Comic books, and the pop culture that have grown around them, serve as morality plays about power and its uses. No trope is more common, and more tired, than the absurd lengths most heroes go to in order to keep from killing villains. This serves to show heroes responsibly using their power, keeping their humanity.

It’s a bunch of crap.

Batman and Spiderman, princes of the respective DC and Marvel universes, are famous for this. By keeping from killing, in their minds, they keep themselves from becoming bad guys. They go to sleep, consciences clear that they are not killers.

Tell that to the citizens of New York and Gotham who die whenever the Green Goblin, Carnage or the Joker go on a rampage.

Spiderman is famous for saying that with great power comes great responsibility. That philosophy led him to wear tights and protect the Big Apple. Bruce Wayne wanted to clean up the city to which his family dedicated their lives.

But these heroes exercise their power in half-measures.

They’re fighting villains with incredibly destructive powers, that police can’t stop and super prisons can’t contain. In letting them live to fight another day, superheroes engage in the equivalent of leaving live hand grenades in a playground.

Dead supervillains can’t kill citizens.

By choosing to let their enemies live to fight another day, the superheroes share some measure of blame for the ensuing deaths. Indulging their sentimentality is a narcissistic cowardice.

Failing to look at this guilt serves as a major flaw in the morality tales and serves a terrible lesson in the use of power, though it’s one the authors don’t intend.

Real life gives us a counter-example to the facile comic book morality in Chris Kyle. America’s most successful sniper killed in one of the most intimate ways, hunting individuals and seeing them through the scope before he pulled the trigger. A patriot and hero, Kyle used his amazing skill to protect his fellow American servicemen.

That meant killing the enemy. He had to take the shot on men, women and children.

Kyle brought the psychic scars home with him. He suffered for his efforts to protect others. And in that protection, he not only saved the lives of those to whom he acted as overwatch but the terrorists’ future victims.

And given that Al Qaeda in Iraq became ISIS, we know that there would be future victims.

Unfortunately, we have a political class that takes the Batman view of fighting rather than the Kyle method when it comes to fighting Islamic jihadists.

We are at war.

We know that because ISIS has declared its war and bragged about showing up in New York.

State Department spokesman Marie Harf talks about responding to this threat with Tweets and a jobs program. She might as well have quoted the Green Arrow, saying that we can’t win a war by killing the enemy – I think she misses the actual definition of war here – but we need jobs programs.

We’ve played by comic book rules for over a decade in the War on Terror.

Our invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan looked like they’d been planned by sophomoric moral philosophy of Peter Parker, not the hard realities of war we’ve known since Sun Tzu and Clausewitz.

President George W. Bush’s use of force showed tied hands. Just look at the looting of Baghdad in the initial days of the Iraq invasion. For all of the vaunted “shock and awe” of military planners, the failure to use necessary force presaged a war focused on winning hearts and mind. He wanted the enemy to love us and in turn created an insurgency that mocked and despised us.

A decade later, ISIS has established a caliphate, something the world had not seen in a century. The Joker and Doctor Octopus are back, cutting off heads off Christians.

Yet President Barack Obama will not even speak our enemy’s name and the upshot of his “terror summit” is that we’ll work harder to make Muslims feel better. That, along with some judicious #HashtagActivism, will make things right.

Half-measures in fighting our enemies might allow Presidents Bush and Obama to sleep easier at night, thinking that their hands are cleaner than they might otherwise be if they called for the sort of wars America saw in the past. They console themselves that they have not ordered Sherman’s March to the Sea or the burnings of Dresden and Tokyo.

They should find no consolation in these facts but condemnation. They should be Lady Macbeth, seeking to wash away the blood on their hands.

Here’s the thing. With the great power of the Presidency comes the responsibility of losing sleep.

The Civil War and Second World War share two characteristics.

One is that they were savage, bloody conflict.

The second is that America won clear and unambiguous victories. The South has not risen again. The Axis powers have spent seven decades without threatening world peace.

Our enemies knew they were beaten. The methods that brought them to that conclusion were harsh, unspeakably harsh.

But they were effective and in their effectiveness, they saved lives. In ending World War II with the atomic bombs, hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions, of lives were saved.

Our grandfathers fought a hero’s war with its attendant nightmares. We rightly look at them with gratitude for the victories they forged.

What will our grandchildren say about the Comic Book Wars?

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Join the discussion on Twitter. And submit your answer to Aaron’s question for publication at PJ Lifestyle: DaveSwindlePJM [AT] Gmail.com

The essay above is the second in volume 2 of the cultural discussions between the writers of PJ Lifestyle and Liberty Island exploring the history of counter-cultures, the future of conservatism and the role of new, emerging counter-cultures in restoring American exceptionalism.

Volume II

See the first volume of articles from 2014 and January and February 2015 below:

2014 – Starting the Discussion

January 2015 – Volume I

February 2015

Image illustrations via here and here.

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The Best Disaster Movie You’ve Never Seen

Friday, February 20th, 2015 - by Pierre Comtois

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You’re reading a post for Preparedness Week, a weeklong series of blogs about disaster and emergency preparation inspired by the launch of Freedom Academy’s newest e-book, Surviving the End: A Practical Guide for Everyday Americans in the Age of Terror by James Jay Carafano, Ph.D. You can download the e-book exclusively at the PJ Store here.

Who hasn’t fantasized about being the last man on Earth? The notion of having the whole world as your personal playground with unlimited resources and all the time you need to do whatever you want is a pretty enticing one.

At first glance anyway.

But then, as your imagination continued to explore the scenario, loneliness would enter the picture and then wild animals and pets gone feral, and physical injury that you might not be qualified to handle.

So your imaginings become broadened to include finding the last woman on Earth (beautiful naturally) and training yourself to handle weapons against both the beasts and other humans who’ve allowed their base instincts to overcome their civilized veneer.

From there, it’s a short step to fending off packs of other people eager to kill you and steal your supplies (not to mention that last beautiful woman).

Books such as M. P. Shiel’s classic Purple Cloud, movies like The World, the Flesh, and the Devil, and television episodes like the Twilight Zone‘s “Time Enough at Last” have all explored the theme of last survivors following some disaster that wipes out the human race, but few have dealt with a realistic approach to the theme: what would it be like to really live and survive in a post-disaster world?

That question is raised by terrorism expert and former Army Lt. Colonel James Jay Carafano in his new e-book Surviving the End: A Practical Guide for Everyday Americans in the Age of Terror.

In his book, Carafano provides a to-do list of items that any ordinary person can accomplish in preparation for not-too-unlikely end-times-type scenarios from cyber warfare and EMP events to terrorist-caused bio-warfare and natural disaster.

In his introduction, Carafano gets to the heart of the matter, making an argument that a logical approach based on traditional American self-reliance could go a long way in ensuring a person’s survival in a post-holocaust world, and that the shattered society can avoid the bloodletting that’s often depicted in Hollywood-style end of days epics:

The most useful steps for protecting everyday Americans against the very worst life has to has offer are about cultivating the kinds of commonsense skills, knowledge, and attributes that make for more productive, resilient and self-confident citizens…. They strengthen our faith in God, caring in our community, and love of family. They reduce stress, build confidence and inspire creativity. Every right-thinking American ought to be doing them anyway.

The author goes on to note how decades of Hollywood disaster films haven’t helped, conditioning people to think there will be no hope for the average person and that the only ones that will have a chance of surviving are the Rambo types who dispense with accepted moral conventions:

Hollywood’s message is there is no middle ground–no place for sensible, rational precautions or actions.

In general, the author’s estimation of how popular entertainment addresses post-disaster scenarios is pretty accurate —  just take a look at any episode of TV’s The Walking Dead for instance. But there’s at least one exception I’d suggest: Panic in Year Zero!, a low-budget film released in 1962 that follows an average American family as they try to stay alive in the wake of a nuclear bomb falling on Los Angeles.

If Carafano’s advice on how to prepare for such a disaster is on the money, then Panic in Year Zero!, if not a perfect film, comes the closest to a realistic depiction of how an ordinary family can survive by “cultivating commonsense skills, knowledge, and attributes” that in turn allow its members to become “productive, resilient and self-confident.”

The movie, scripted by John Morton and Jay Simms, was directed by Ray Milland, who also doubled as the head of the family. In the cast, too, were Jean Hagen as his wife, and Frankie Avalon and Mary Mitchel as his teenage children.

Throughout the course of the film, as the family makes its way to a vacation cabin in the hills, the Milland character retains a cool head and his actions in protecting his family are always relentlessly logical, from his decision to head for the hills to gathering just the right kinds of supplies at stores along their route — which they reach just ahead of the fleeing multitudes — to instructing his son how and when to use a gun when encountering strangers.

And though the film’s focus is on the little things that the family does in order to survive (such as having each family member hide their food in different places without the others knowing where in order to prevent it all being taken should any one of them be forced to tell), there are dramatic exceptions such as when the family encounters a group of hoodlums intent on taking advantage of the breakdown of order. In an initial encounter, Milland and Avalon scare them off with guns but later, they discover them squatting in a farmhouse where they’ve killed the owner and are holding the daughter for their own pleasure.

At first, Milland restrains his son’s impulse to rush in and deal with the thugs. Keeping his family safe and hidden is his overriding concern. But when his own daughter is raped by one the hoodlums, he changes his tune and seeks retribution.

The sequence is necessary in order to keep the Milland character from becoming too unemotional and to suggest that there can be real danger in a post-apocalyptic world.

As the movie progresses, Milland’s stern but clear-eyed precautions and Hagan’s brave and caring example keep the family together. Praying before their first meal in the cave where they’ve decided to hole up, they struggle to preserve a sense of order in their lives while expressing the belief that civilization will soon reassert itself and allow them to come out of hiding.

The movie ends with their faith justified as the family comes into contact with military outliers of a resurgent civilization.

An American International release made with a budget of only $225,000, Panic in Year Zero! surprises in its realistic take on one family’s struggle in a post-apocalyptic environment, an exception to the Hollywood rule that one suspects might earn a thumbs up from Carafano!

Learn more about the inspiration for Disaster Week by downloading Surviving the End on the PJ Store today, and make sure your family is prepared.

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Asking the Most Powerful Question to Protect Your Family

Thursday, February 19th, 2015 - by Roy M. Griffis

You’re reading a post for Preparedness Week, a weeklong series of blogs about disaster and emergency preparation inspired by the launch of Freedom Academy’s newest e-book, Surviving the End: A Practical Guide for Everyday Americans in the Age of Terror by James Jay Carafano, Ph.D. You can download the e-book exclusively at the PJ Store here.

The question “What if…?” is arguably one of the most important questions humans have ever asked, right up there with “How come..?”  By posing the problem “What if…” man allows himself to discover answers.  Even a failed “What if…” provides the attentive viewer with information. Early Man may have asked “What if we poke that Saber Tooth Tiger in the testicles with a stick? Go ahead, you do it.” So he asked and so he learned. But “What if…” can also provide you with unexpected solutions, such as “What if a bunch of us Australopithecines  teamed up against that mastodon,” which lead to the invention of the first all-you-can eat buffet, the benefits of which we enjoy even down to modern times.

Buffets aside, one of the problems of our modern times is the complexity and technological entanglement of the civilization we’ve built. The need to ask “What if…” is more important than ever, if for no other reason than the desire to protect family and clan. Because of the enormity of the factors to consider, the layman questioner could be overwhelmed with scenarios and data. That is where both Dr. James Jay Carafano and I (Roy M. Griffis) come riding to your rescue, albeit from opposite directions. The good Doctor hales from the direction of facts and experience, and myself from the land of fiction.

Carafano, a career Army officer who has gone onto a distinguished career writing thinking about disasters that threaten our nation, took the time to not only ask “What if…,” but he spent a lot of time answering that question. His book, Surviving the End, is exactly what its subtitle proclaims, a practical guide for everyday Americans in the age of terror. Given the various Ends he contemplates (plagues, nuclear attack, the many flavors of terrorism, the under-feared EMP attack, and even a Cyber Pearl Harbor), Carafano is remarkably even-handed, presenting facts and outcomes calmly with just an occasional bit of wry humor to let you know he knows how seriously grim most of this stuff is. He studiously provides data and incredibly useful links to education and free training, along with preparatory lists you can use immediately, all the while avoiding sensationalism (leaving that for folks like me, where I describe survivors of a coordinated series of Al Qaeda attacks that stagger and ultimately shatter the nation as “running like their ass was on fire.”)

It’s weirdly ironic I’m writing this piece, given that I’ve just returned from a book-launch party in New York City with good memories, great photos, and the flu. As such, I’m almost a lab subject for the plagues portion of his book. On a plane for six hours, where roughly 300 passengers exchanged seats, breathing the air I was likely infecting, then in two different international airports, where I was able to infect more people, and on one more plane and yet another airport. I didn’t begin to feel ill until two days later, but per his startling research, I was likely sharing the virus everywhere I went. And I was just one asymptomatic, but flu-incubating individual, unknowingly helping create additional virus factories everywhere I went. Had the virulence of this illness been bumped up to the levels of something like the Spanish Flu, we could have a real problem on our hands.

But according to Carafano’s thoughtful explication, a lot of the solution lies in our hands, as well. Again and again, he returns to the theme of taking personal responsibility (and lists a hell of lot of resources to help you do so): for our health, for having a disaster plan (and a bugout bag), for having established and practiced communication trees well before the Big One strikes.

Grim? Perhaps. Far-fetched? Not so much.

But useful, informative, and empowering? Hell, yes.

Learn more about the inspiration for Disaster Week by downloading Surviving the End on the PJ Store today, and make sure your family is prepared.

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Should We Be More Worried About Natural Disasters or Islamic Terror Attacks?

Tuesday, February 17th, 2015 - by David Solway

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You’re reading a post for Preparedness Week, a weeklong series of blogs about disaster and emergency preparation inspired by the launch of Freedom Academy’s newest e-book, Surviving the End: A Practical Guide for Everyday Americans in the Age of Terror by James Jay Carafano, Ph.D. You can download the e-book exclusively at the PJ Store here.

One of the major issues of our time has to do with the status of Islamic terror. Is it something that should fill us with fear and panic, distract us from the ordinary affairs of life and prompt us to cede extraordinary powers of preventative surveillance to government? Or, indeed, to take the concrete measures outlined in terrorism expert James Jay Carafano’s new book Surviving the End: A Practical Guide for Everyday Americans in the Age of Terror (of which, more later). Or is it merely another of those unpredictable disruptions and upheavals that happen along life’s road, deplorable, certainly, but inevitable, that we should come to terms with and go on conducting business as usual? In light of the recent murderous assault at a free speech symposium organized by Swedish artist Lars Vilks in Copenhagen, followed by an attack on a Copenhagen synagogue, we will no doubt once again hear cautions that we must not over-react to Islamic terror.

Many observers have contended that terror is insignificant compared to natural disasters. Ronald Bailey, writing in Reason.com, argues from statistics that people are “four times more likely to be struck by lightning than killed by a terrorist.” In fact, your chances of being killed by a terrorist are about one in 20 million. Conor Friedersdorf in The Atlantic develops the same notion, as have innumerable others, namely, that we should refrain from exaggerating the threat of terrorism, given the much larger and vastly more lethal number of accidents and natural calamities. Here ensues the nub of his thesis. Since, as statistics show, Acts of God and quotidian mishaps far outnumber acts of terror, and since even these general misfortunes remain statistically insignificant, Friedersdorf contends we should not trade civil liberties for (excessive) security. From this point of view, the national security state presents a greater threat to our way of life than does the spectre of jihad, creating “a permanent database that practically guarantees eventual abuse.”

Admittedly, there is considerable sense to the apprehension that the surveillance state may prove invasive, as it surely has under the reign of Barack Obama and his decadent administration. Clearly, a degree of balance between liberty and security is necessary, though especially tricky to work out in practice. That the surveillance apparatus can be abused goes without question. That it is necessary, given the number of terrorist attacks that have been thwarted in embryo, is undoubted. It’s a good bet that the matter will never be resolved to everybody’s satisfaction.

Here in Canada, prime minister Stephen Harper has come under fire for criminalizing the promotion of terrorism under Bill C-51, which enhances the powers of Canada’s national spy agency CSIS (Canadian Security Intelligence Service). As the country’s politically correct paper of record The Globe and Mail puts it, “Under the cloud of fear produced by his repeated hyperbole about the scope and nature of the threat, he now wants to turn our domestic spy agency into something that looks disturbingly like a secret police force.” The Globe, of course, like the rest of Canada’s major media outlets, relentlessly lauds the virtues of multiculturalism, which asserts the moral equivalence of all religions and cultures. This means, in practice, affirming the innocence and splendor of Islam to the detriment of Christianity and Judaism. Terror is not Islamic, but a mere excrescence of disordered minds or, alternatively, one of those incidents that may sometimes trouble the daily commute. Nothing to concern yourself about, certainly nothing to be unduly wary of or to keep under stringent observation. The attitudes of the gated community still prevail as the cultural orthodoxy of the day.

The underlying issue, however, is that those who oppose preventative measures, whether from ideological reasons or because they live sheltered and privileged lives, are reluctant to acknowledge terror—that is, Islamic terror—for the particular menace that it poses to our settled way of life or to recognize that we are in the midst of a millennial war that shows no sign of relenting. They are eager to adopt a tactic that we might, on the model of moral equivalence, call category equivalence, the attempt to neuter the unique fact of terrorism by equating it with natural contingencies and “normal” hazards of everyday existence. Once this false equivalence has been accepted as persuasive, the statistical machinery is duly wheeled in, like the eccyclemata of the Attic theatre, to confirm the hypothesis as given. But “[w]hat do we do,” asks Carafano, sensibly enough, “if the enemy isn’t Mother Nature?” Rather than conflate terrorism with nature or accident and urge us to carry on with defiant insouciance, Carafano devotes a considerable portion of the book instructing us to be—and how to be—prepared for acts of terrorist violence.

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Wouldn’t You Like To Be a Prepper Too?

Monday, February 16th, 2015 - by Chris Queen

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You’re reading a post for Preparedness Week, a weeklong series of blogs about disaster and emergency preparation inspired by the launch of Freedom Academy’s newest e-book, Surviving the End: A Practical Guide for Everyday Americans in the Age of Terror by James Jay Carafano, Ph.D. You can download the e-book exclusively at the PJ Store here.

People who go overboard to prepare for disaster scenarios are easy targets. I think back to 1999 during the whole Y2K scare, when the pastor of our church at the time held a seminar about what to stock up on when all the computers failed on New Year’s Eve at the stroke of midnight. I’ll never forget grown men arguing over who had the bigger food stash. My own personal stash consisted of two cans of green beans, and those cans helped me survive the crisis of what to serve with pork chops one day in January 2000.

National Geographic’s Doomsday Preppers series brought the eccentricities of modern disaster preppers to light in an entertaining way, showing us what some otherwise normal Americans do to prepare for “when the s*** hits the fan,” as so many of them were apt to say. These folks could have been your neighbors, except unlike you they were also worried about implausible scenarios like the super-volcano underneath Yellowstone Park erupting and throwing New York City into chaos. We’re talking about people who make plans to live off bathtub water or stockpile liquor to use as barter — people whose endearing wackiness packs a perverse fascination.

But the reality is that we do have genuine threats to worry about and ways to prepare for the worst without going off the deep end. That’s the point national that security expert and my PJ Lifestyle colleague James Jay Carafano, PhD makes in his brand new book Surviving the End: A Practical Guide for Everyday Americans in the Age Of Terror. Nowhere in this book will you find advice on how to create the ideal liquor stockpile or how to “bug out” to the wilderness, and you won’t read about an eruption at Yellowstone Park. What you will find is sober-minded advice on how to prepare for real, plausible scenarios that threaten the American way of life.

Quarantine
Carafano writes not with a Chicken Little doomsday mentality but with an eye toward clear thinking and calm judgment in a crisis (and with just the right amount of humor). His solutions are not over the top or prohibitively expensive — rather, his ideas only require reasonable amounts of time and money. Most simply put, Carafano drills down his philosophy of preparedness to health, faith, family, and education.

In Surving the End, Carafano looks at five distinct threats: epidemic disease, nuclear explosions, terrorism in its may forms, EMPs (electromagnetic pulses), and cyber attacks. While each of these scenarios carry their own scariness, they’re all quite real and carry their own far-reaching consequences. With each threat, Carafano examines the potential danger and fallout (no pun intended) and looks at practical and reasonable ways to ensure safety and long-term survival in each situation.

One theme that emerges throughout the book is that we should be proactive as families and communities to prepare for the worst, rather than relying on the federal government to help us out in a crisis. While he admits that Uncle Sam does provide some good resources and gets responses right once in a while, Carafano goes to great lengths to point out the failure of federal authorities when both sides are in charge. Glaring recent examples like Hurricane Katrina and the Fukushima nuclear disaster stand alongside historical records like the 1918 Swine Flu epidemic to warn all of us that governments rarely have the answers in a crisis.

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Carafano’s recommendations in the book are always practical and doable. Some of them require investments of time and money, of course, but so do most worthwhile pursuits. Nothing the author suggests requires the odd leaps of faith that eccentric preppers promote. The fact that Carafano recommends so many well-researched and sensible responses to worst-case scenarios lends a genuine credibility to his writing. Surviving the End is no doomsday manual — it’s a guidebook for practical preparedness.

When all is said and done, Carafano has brought a new attitude to the arena of disaster prep — neither the quasi-Biblical urgency of a Glenn Beck nor the smug fatalism of reality show preppers, but a common-sense, can-do approach to readiness. And in the end, Carafano encourages us to realize that being sensibly prepared is the American way.

This guide has given you the best there is to offer of simple, practical, useful measures you can take to keep your loved ones safe. But there is another important message in the guide as well. We all will survive better if we pull together – not as mindless lemmings following Washington, but as free Americans who fight together for the future of freedom.

As terrible as the terrors we have talked about here are, they are no worse than the suffering at Valley Forge, the slaughter of Gettysburg, the crushing Great Depression, the tragedy of Pearl Harbor, or the terror of the Cuban Missile Crisis. This generation of Americans is every bit as capable of besting the worst life has to offer. If we do that together, our odds are more than even.

You know, he’s right. I really only had to read this book for the sake of this review, but I’ve already begun making a list of things I want to do to become more prepared (including getting in shape — as if I needed another reason to remind me), and I’ll recommend that my loved ones do the same. For this kind of sober-minded preparation boils down to common sense, plain and simple.

Carafano suggests that we all become preppers, and if we take the advice we read in Surviving the End, we can do so. We won’t turn into the kind of weirdos who are ready to off the pets and high tail it out to the wilderness or move to a bunker with more canned food than a Super Walmart “when the s*** hits the fan,” but we’ll be the kind of people who embody the robust, enterprising American spirit that has made our nation so great. And we’ll do our part to help ensure that America survives just as much as our families survive.

Learn more about the inspiration for Disaster Week by downloading Surviving the End on the PJ Store today, and make sure your family is prepared.

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How to Make Yourself More Marketable

Sunday, February 15th, 2015 - by Sarah Hoyt and Charlie Martin
An idea for yet another odd story waiting in a dark alley to jump Sarah!

An idea for yet another odd story waiting in a dark alley to jump Sarah!

This is Sarah.  Last week I attended a seminar in the springs, the Superstars Writing Seminar.

And while attending it, my thoughts went again to marketability, part of it in the mournful certainty I don’t have it.

To explain: marketability is an old foe.

Back when I was trying to figure out how to market my first trilogy, what is now being called the Magical Shakespeare trilogy, I called a publicist.… Who had absolutely no idea what to do with it.

I mean, normally you market fiction by appealing to people who might be interested in the subject, but when the subject is Shakespeare, I could practically hear this poor publicist thinking “I’d have to go trolling in colleges.”

It got worse. My next books out were the Musketeer mysteries and the shifter series with Baen books.

At this point when I tried to hire publicists they just ran in circles and more often than not would tell me how to market the Shakespeare books, because it was the first thing they latched onto, even though those books were then out of print and their marketing strategy consisted of “maybe you can write scholarly articles for university presses. (No, I couldn’t. I’m good enough to make up stuff about the time period but not to argue how many times old William washed his undies on any given week which is the level of expertise required to impress academics.  Also, publishing with university presses is difficult enough that it’s almost a career on its own.)

By this I don’t mean to say that I am too “smart” for the general public, but that I am too weird. In the Venn diagram of what the most people are interested in, and what makes my heart pound faster, there is a sliver-thin area that overlaps. That’s about it.  So though people might like my stuff, running a publicity campaign that will get them to try it was always very difficult.

If you add to that that since those early days I have branched out in all directions, from contemporary mystery to science fiction (and I have plans! Plans!) the imaginary publicist becomes even more confused.

So do I when I try to figure out a way to market myself.

The ideal writer for a publicist to push is obsessed with one subject. If he or she is lucky it is a relatively popular subject, or at least one that doesn’t make people think they’re about to be lectured (and you know you aren’t, with me, right?)

There is a reason there are so many cooking mysteries, or that you hear friends tell friends, “If you like sewing, you’ll like these romances, which are about—”

So, if you can,  – I can’t,  I write whatever attacks me in a dark alley — here is how to give yourself a publicity-friendly writing profile:

  1. Write one genre or at least a type of book.  You can usually stray between fantasy and science fiction, if they’re compatible subgenres.  So, say, historical fantasy and time travel science fiction.  “You must read so and so, she does this stuff set in Crete, and it’s great.”
  2. If you can at all, do something that links, at some level with something that people who don’t read more than a book a week might be interested in.  “You must read Bob. He does these coin collecting time travel books.”  Or “Have you read Jane’s baking mysteries?  She’s outstanding, and the books come with a recipe!”
  3. Go trendy.  This one is difficult, if you’re traditional.  Indy you can jump on a trend before it’s dead.  Though frankly you can do it with traditional too, if you go with a long-lasting trend: urban fantasy; vampire books; now zombies, etc.
  4. Stick with it long enough to be noticed, and try not to wonder off into the weeds to write regency fantasy or Kit Marlowe Mysteries.

I can never do it, but I wish I could because I think it would be more lucrative than being assaulted and held hostage by random ideas, out of the blue.

(And apropos marketing me, there are two of my books and an anthology with one of my novellas up in the running for this.  If you feel inspired go on over and vote.  For me or for writers whose work you’ve enjoyed.)


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Polymath
By Francis W. Porretto 

Young Todd Iverson is special: a master of the sciences, the technologies, and the arts. But his mother crippled him emotionally by artificially orphaning him. Other losses of love and guidance have made him a borderline sociopath.

Todd knows his power. He intends to use it to build a ladder to the stars. Allies will rally to him. Adversaries will seek to thwart him. And two mighty champions will guide him.

Polymath, the fourth novel of the Realm of Essences series, chronicles the bursting of an Onteora County giant from his chrysalis to begin an American Renaissance.


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Ride The Rising Tide
By Peter Grant 

Trapped in the Dragon Tong’s search for a lost legend, Steve Maxwell finds a way out by enlisting in the Lancastrian Commonwealth Fleet.

If he survives long enough to earn a commission, he’ll be able to hunt down the pirates who killed his mentor. To get there, he’ll have to slog through rain-swollen swamps, dodge incoming fire on a ‘peacekeeping’ mission, and face down a gang of angry smugglers. Even far away from enemies, a mistake can turn a spaceship into a deathtrap.

It’ll take resourcefulness and courage to succeed… but Steve hasn’t come this far in order to fail.


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Snapshot
By Dale Cozort 

Alternate Reality You Fly To.

For eighty million years, the Tourists have taken Snapshots, living replicas of Earth continents. Snapshots diverge from the real world, allowing humans and animals from Earth’s history to fly between Snapshots where dinosaurs roam, Indians rule the New World or Nazis or Soviets control Europe.

A new Snapshot cuts Greg Dunne off from everyone he loves and thrusts him into an old feud between U.S. ranchers from a 1950s Snapshot and Germans from a 1939 one over a strategically vital Madagascar Snapshot. Greg struggles to survive in this unique new reality, remain faithful to a family he may never see again and find his way home.

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Fifty Shades of America’s New Dark Ages

Wednesday, February 11th, 2015 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

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This year you could spend your Valentine’s Day in a theater full of middle-aged women oozing over a hot-bodied twenty-something whipping his blindfolded secretary to the point of striking blood in the name of “love.” Daytime television loves to play up to the Soccer Mom demographic (a title first dubbed to describe Clinton fans, ironically) seeking fantasy fulfillment in the form of sexual fiction. It was corny enough when shirtless Fabios graced the covers. Now that the most popular sex trilogy focuses on a woman who willingly allows herself to be sexually abused, is pop culture humoring those bored housewives too much?

While the majority of Fifty Shades fans are typical middle-aged marrieds dissatisfied with their partners (or even themselves), anywhere from 5-25% of Americans “show affinity” for BDSM (Bondage/Domination-Discipline/Sadism/Masochism) in the bedroom. On an issue that poses a particular sexual threat to women, feminists are split 50-50 between being against sexual abuse and for a narcissistic “if it feels good, do it” sexual ethos. Hence, a pervert who trolls Fanfiction.net (the original home of Hobbit-inspired Elvish/Dwarf porn) can turn her twisted sexual fantasies into an overnight sensation. After all, it’s all about love in the end. Or is it?

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How Can Students Fight Back Against Oppressive Schools?

Monday, February 9th, 2015 - by Helen Smith

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I was happy and pleased to see at NetGalley that a new book focusing on how to fight back at school had been released called The Student Resistance Handbook. I was intrigued and ordered it after taking a look at the Amazon description:

The Student Resistance Handbook provides children with information on how they can effectively fight back against their school and work towards abolishing this abusive and oppressive institution. Legal non-violent tactics are presented that are designed to: disrupt the operation of school, substantially increase the costs involved in its operation, and make those who work for and support schools as miserable as they make the students who are forced to attend. The text was conceived to empower youth to struggle against the helplessness, passivity, and despair that schools were designed to instill. John F. Kennedy accurately claimed that “learning without liberty is always in vain.” This Handbook provides students with tools to fight for their liberty in order to attain a real education.

There was also an excerpt that looked good:

If you are looking to be warehoused in a more comfortable prison, this book is not for you. If you think getting a longer break for lunch or recess is a meaningful concession, this book is not for you. If you think better food in the lunchroom, more respectful teachers, and the end of standardized testing is what victory looks like, this book is not for you. There are no demands that can be issued or met short of ending the tyranny of compulsory schooling. If teachers or administrators want to reach out and negotiate with you, it will be based on a lie.They will only want to negotiate the terms of your surrender. Victory is when no one has to go to school and there are no consequences to not going. Given the rise of viable alternatives to school, this endgame is not completely far-fetched.

The book definitely looks worth a read, I look forward to getting my copy!

*****
Cross-posted from Dr. Helen

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No Olympus In Sight

Monday, February 9th, 2015 - by Sarah Hoyt and Charlie Martin
Does he look like a writer to you?

Does he look like a writer to you?

This is Sarah and this week I’ve been busy with the local (relatively) to me Superstars Writing Seminar.

During a time when I could talk to my publisher, we had a long talk about things that help writers (with plot, particularly.)  For which I want to recommend, yet again, Dwight Swain.

Another thing that works well for learning to plot is to take your favorite novels and diagram them. This consists of reading each chapter carefully and writing down which characters were introduced, and which events happened in that chapter.  At the end, go over what you’ve written, identify theme and plot, and then diagram how each chapter moved theme/plot forward. This can be very useful, as you’ll often think that a novel is introspective and doesn’t have much of action or plot, and then find, on diagraming, that you were completely wrong.

There was a time when I thought real, “pro” writers sat around in their Olympian heights and drank the ambrosia of fan adulation and enjoyed having arrived.

Now, thirteen years and 30 or so books into a writing career I have not yet glimpsed even the tippy end of mount Olympus, and as for ambrosia, it’s not on the menu.  Instead, I seem to be busy running after myself, forever conscious of what I’m lacking, what I need to improve, and the things I’d really, really would love to be able to do.

For instance, a recent re-read of Larry Correia’s Monster Hunter International series left me with an inferiority complex about my foreshadowing.

And I take at least two craft-improvement classes a year, as well as holding discussions with my sons and husband (otherwise known as the Hoyt Family Writers’ Workshop) about how to do this and how to evoke that and how to express this or that character.

It never ends. Nor does the doubt.

Once, at a panel, Connie Willis said that in the dark of night, in the secret of your own heart, you knew exactly how good or bad you were. To be fair to her, she said it mostly as a way of depressing the pretensions of newbie writers who think they are the best thing since sliced bread.

However, I hope she’s wrong.  In the dead of night, in the secret of my own heart, I know I sucketh mightily in a way not unakin to a Hoover. Which is why I keep striving to learn.

The balance between knowing where my flaws are and trying to improve is where I keep writing.  I think either certainty of eternal suckage, or certainty of having reached those ambrosia-sipping heights of writing Olympus would both guarantee I never wrote another word.

Fortunately neither seems like a likely conviction to take hold of my mind.

And so I write.  And I study.  And I write.


We’re running with some plugs for Sarah’s books again this week, as well on one new book, because Mercury is retrograde and that apparently affects people’s ability to follow guidelines.

Remember, tell all your writer friends to send the AUTHOR, TITLE, a SHORT BLURB, and an AMAZON LINK AMAZON LINK AMAZON LINK to book.plug.friday@gmail.com to be plugged here on PJ Media.

It really helps if you don’t bother with HTML magic at all, because we just have to parse it apart to put it into the template. The ideal submission is like

TITLE

My Book

AUTHOR

My name as it's on the book cover.

AMAZON LINK

http://www.amazon.com/My-Book-By-Me/dp/B00ABCDEFG/

BLURB

no more than about 100 words. 

I might fudge it a little more.  

If I'm feeling friendly. 

Which last happened in about 2004.


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Seven Days in September
By Valerie Plum and Brett Moss

“Seven Days in September” is a political satire that chronicles the seven days in Washington, around Sept. 11, 2012 – the time when the U.S. consulate in Benghazi was assaulted. It is told by Valerie “Val” Plum, from her perspective as the CIA liaison to the White House.

Readers will meet President Obama, his advisers, Secretary of State Clinton and her advisers.

We watch as the crisis arises, the characters deal with it and the aftermath – all while avoiding responsibility, culpability and poor performance reviews.

The first installment of Val Plum’s long-anticipated memoirs.


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Ill Met By Moonlight (Magical Shakespeare Book 1)
By Sarah A. Hoyt

Young Will Shakespeare is a humble school master who arrives home to find his wife and infant daughter, Susannah are missing, kidnapped by the fairies of Arden Woods, the children of Titania and Oberon. His attempts at rescue are interrupted and complicated by a feud over throne of fairyland, between Sylvanus, king regnant, and his younger brother Quicksilver who is both more and less than he seems. Amid treachery, murder, duel and seduction, Shakespeare discovers the enchantment of fairyland, which will always remain with him, for good and ill. (This book was originally published by Ace/Berkley 10/2001)


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All Night Awake (Magical Shakespeare Book 2)
By Sarah A. Hoyt

Touched by the magic of fairyland, unable to forget Lady Silver, Shakespeare goes to London to seek his fortune. But there, the elf will follow, on the trail of a creature so deadly that, unless Shakespeare and the king of Elves stop it, it might very well consume London and all of England. (This book was originally published by Ace/Berkley 10/2002)
Praise for All Night Awake:
“Ingenious… fans of the first book won’t be disappointed.” – Publishers Weekly
“Hoyt sustains her intriguing premise with a soaring, lyrical style. A most enchanting novel” – Booklist


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Any Man So Daring (Magical Shakespeare Book 3)
By Sarah A. Hoyt

William Shakespeare, successful playwright, receives word that his only son has died. Reality is far more complex. The young Hamnet is a hostage in fairyland, where a war rages, and where a young princess waits a Prince Charming who might never come.

Can an all too human playwright stop the magical war that threatens both worlds?
(This book was originally published by Ace/Berkley 10/2003)


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No Will But His
By Sarah A. Hoyt

Kathryn Howard belongs to a wealthy and powerful family, the same family that Anne Boleyn, Henry VIII’s great love originated from. From a young age, her ambitious relatives maneuver to make her queen. Brought up in a careless manner, ignorant of the ways of the court, Kathryn falls victim to her kind heart, all the while wishing she could be the wife of Thomas Culpepper.


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Witchfinder (Magical Empires Book 1)
By Sarah A. Hoyt

In Avalon, where the world runs on magic, the king of Britannia appoints a witchfinder to rescue unfortunates with magical power from lands where magic is a capital crime. Or he did. But after the royal princess was kidnapped from her cradle twenty years ago, all travel to other universes has been forbidden, and the position of witchfinder abolished. Seraphim Ainsling, Duke of Darkwater, son of the last witchfinder, breaks the edict. He can’t simply let people die for lack of rescue. His stubborn compassion will bring him trouble and disgrace, turmoil and danger — and maybe, just maybe, the greatest reward of all.

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President Me: Adam Carolla Vs. the Scourge of Narcissism

Friday, February 6th, 2015 - by Mark Ellis

In President Me, Adam Carolla takes the pulse of the social contract, a pulse that is slackening. Narcissism is the sapping beast.

Carolla sees an insidious minority that has turned out to be “assholes.” Predictably, the trait has infiltrated what is now known anachronistically as “the fabric of society.”

The death of God, absent fathers, subversive pop culture, unassimilated immigration, and infantilizing, cradle/grave government all factor as threats to destroy from within America’s exceptionalist sovereignty.

Carolla’s admonition is about a stratum of quasi-pathological narcissism breeding within our culture.

The following formulization often comes up in discussions about Islamic extremism: even if only one percent of Muslims are radicalized, that means 16 million people are in solidarity on some level with jihad.

In Carolla’s equation, even if only one per cent of our nation’s population is at least borderline pathologically narcissistic, that’s approximately three million, one hundred and sixty thousand assholes.

Unfortunately, these figures are probably low.

PJ Lifestyle’s Kathy Shaidle previously laid out Carolla’s organizational outline for the book, a collection of indictments handed down for each department of the federal government, plus random, related take-downs of entities like the United Nations. Shaidle’s mention of the explicit language that peppers the narrative will serve here as well.

President Me serves as both grand thesis and field guide. The comedian and author, who started funny and grows ever more trenchant in his observations, brings to the phenomenon of narcissism on the march a noteworthy specificity; readers will find themselves adding personal worsts to his gallery of self-centered rogues and counterintuitively manifested government entities.

Narcissism is not the only target of Carolla’s brawling cultural assessment, but it’s the metastasizing thread that holds the book together. Often laugh out loud, the larger context of the work has humorless implications for Western societies under threat from virulent ideologies and belief systems, and the madness inherent in a refracted society disassociated from rigorous self-appraisal.

In his third book, Carolla—though scarcely the first to call out cultural narcissism—makes narcissism his bitch, pardon the vernacular, roughing-up by decree everything from big-boxes to the airline industry, bumper stickers to the Department of Homeland Security.

The question becomes, how best can conservative counterculture counter the galloping solipsism of our times?

One answer may be to join the rugged individualism of American conservatism with conservative valuation of the social contract. These components of an individual and/or group ethos must oppose on all fronts an electronics-generated, nanny-statist, broken home-enabled reanimation of the “Me Decade.”

Reading Carolla suggests that contemporary narcissism’s sweep makes the ’70s Me Decade look like the “Mother Teresa Decade.”

A culture beset by multitudes afflicted with narcissistic personality disorders is weakened by over-association with the “me” orientation, and a disassociation from the “we.”  Such a flaccid culture is threatened by cultures in which the “we” construct is established, and the guiding motivation is negative.

In Islamic extremism and its terror component, ideas of self esteem and individual rights are violently abrogated.

In the United States, untrammeled immigration breeds narcissism both from the standpoint of the trespassers who think the laws don’t apply to them and come expecting to share the benefits of a nation for which they hold no modern claim, and from the standpoint of progressive segments of we the people, who are so narcissistic as to think that we can absorb the globe’s unwashed masses, that we’ve got it under control enough to pick up a gigantic tab in perpetuity. We can’t.

Country clubbers and chambers of commerce who want to open the floodgates to cheap labor out of greed are among the most virulent progenitors of the narcissism plague.

It is a counterculture’s job to be vigilant.

Narcissism reflected reveals the triumph of equalitarianism over merit, entitlement over responsibility, immigration (both cultural and quantitative) over sovereignty, and raises the chillingly retrograde specter of globally administered social justice.

Our current administration propagates the idea that America is no better or worse than any other country, a position that would seem to be the opposite of nationalized narcissism. Dig deeper and the truth is that for those who loathe our capitalist republic and everything it stands for, dismantlement becomes the ultimate objective. For any person, administration, or movement to think they have the right to transform the country by any other means than the consensus of the governed represents narcissism gone over the edge.

If traditionalists and conservatives don’t adamantly conceptualize and defend who we are as a culture, our children and grandchildren will absorb the message that narcissistic obsession, and a corollary disregard for the principle of societal cohesion—a disregard clothed in shallow adherence to political correctness and empty homilies about inclusiveness and diversity—is the stuff of post-millennial life.

However micro his targets, or amusing his characterizations, Carolla’s prognosis might best be distilled by appropriating an infamous lyric which surfaced in 1999’s debut by the heavy rock band Disturbed.

Our culture may be “Down with the Sickness,” but conservatives must not be.

It is the job of the conservative counterculture’s rugged individualists to indentify rends in a social contract that upholds freedom, independence, and personal responsibility, and ride into the breach wherever and however they appear.

To join societal critics like Carolla in calling out the corrosive influence of individuals and entities which threaten our way of life with the whirlwind of self, and the vortex of decadence.

*****

This essay is part of an ongoing dialogue between the writers of PJ Lifestyle and Liberty Island regarding the future of conservatism and the role of emerging counter-cultures in restoring American exceptionalism. See the previous installments in the series and join the discussion (email DaveSwindlePJM AT Gmail.com if you would like to respond):

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Will Legal Zoom Level the Playing Field for Men?

Wednesday, February 4th, 2015 - by Helen Smith

I thought about this question as I read an advance copy of Law Professor Ben Barton’s new book Glass Half Full: The Decline and Rebirth of the Legal Profession. The book describes how technology can help make law more accessible to middle class consumers:

Modern technology can now handle routine legal tasks like drafting incorporation papers and wills, reducing the need to hire lawyers; tort reform and other regulations on litigation have had the same effect. As in all areas of today’s economy, there are some big winners; the rest struggle to find work, or decide to leave the field altogether, which leaves fewer options for consumers who cannot afford to pay for Big Law.

It would be easy to look at these enormous challenges and see only a bleak future, but Ben Barton instead sees cause for optimism. Taking the long view, from the legal Wild West of the mid-nineteenth century to the post-lawyer bubble society of the future, he offers a close analysis of the legal market to predict how lawyerly creativity and entrepreneurialism can save the profession. In every seemingly negative development, there is an upside. The trend towards depressed wages and computerized legal work is good for middle class consumers who have not been able to afford a lawyer for years.

The book discusses how sites like Legal Zoom make law more accessible to people. At Legal Zoom, they even handle divorce, though the site mainly seems to handle those divorces that are uncontested for the low fee of $299.00 but if you have more complex questions and needs, you can get help from a lawyer for “an affordable price.” Barton noted in the book that it is not that easy for low income people to get help from Legal Aid in a divorce unless there are domestic violence issues. But face it, how many men are going to be referred to legal aid for a pro bono lawyer due to domestic violence? Very few, is the way to bet.

I wonder if technology and entrepreneurialism will help men to gain equal footing in divorce and custody proceedings as law becomes more accessible through these legal sites? Right now, men with little income have no where to turn whereas the VAWA, and legal aid through the government are more likely to help women with free legal help. Technology and some creativity may just level the playing field for men who need legal help and don’t have the means to pay a lot for it. I hope these sites continue to grow and hire the excess of lawyers who may do well serving the under-served population of men who do not have equal access under the law.

******

Cross-posted from Dr. Helen

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Chewing the Straw

Sunday, February 1st, 2015 - by Sarah Hoyt and Charlie Martin
Don't be fooled by their smiles.  Straw writers are racist, sexist, homophobic, hate kittens and puppies, and give people herpes with a glance.

Don’t be fooled by their smiles. Straw writers are racist, sexist, homophobic, hate kittens and puppies, and give people herpes with a glance.

It has become a cliché of political arguments that when someone on the conservative-libertarian axis gets even mildly heated, the call for civility goes up. It goes up not only from the left but from our fellows on the right (I still protest libertarians being on the right, but never mind) who say that we have to stay civil to be taken seriously.

Well and good, and in principle I agree. I was taught to wipe my feet before entering someone’s living room, not to talk with my mouth full and not to slander people unless I’m absolutely sure of the charges and/or the charges matter to the discussion at hand.

However there are times when the most decent and professionally-minded woman in the world [which I’m not -- I’m just Sarah] feels like hoisting down the lacy handkerchief and running the jolly roger up the mast.

There have been many of these in the last two years or so since I came out of the political closet. My kids at cons where people don’t know who they are will be told that I’m racist, homophobic, a prude, and countless other things that make them wonder about whom, exactly, these people are talking.

Larry Correia, faced with the same dichotomy, found himself talking about THAT Larry, you know, the one who is racist and sexist and hates women and gays. He calls him Straw-Larry, and we all agree that guy is a d*ck. What precisely he has to do with the gentle, mild mannered and brilliant Larry Correia, though no one knows.

I suspect straw-Sarah (who is a b*tch) hangs out with straw Larry and they go out at night and beat up on people because there’s nothing good on the telly.

I wouldn’t know. I’ve never met her.

The latest of these moments was when our piece on editing was picked up by the Passive Voice, which, for those who don’t know, is one of the best resources for indie publishing around. (I so badly want their t-shirt that says “BezelBezos is my dark god.”)

The comments immediately sprouted a bunch of people talking trash about me.

Let’s take someone on the left of whose intellect I think less than… less than of the intellect of my cat Havelock who routinely gets lost in the hallway outside my room. If one of them, say, Damien Walter who is good for pronouncing himself on things he knows little about, did an article on editing, or covers, or how to start a book.

I might make raspberry sounds and say “well, when he has a book published, I’ll pay attention.” But I wouldn’t say that he was the worst person in the world. That would just be silly. He comes in a solid thousand, two hundred and tenth among the living. (What? Little list? My dears, it ain’t little.)

However the left can invent calumnies, destroy characters, repeat baseless accusations often enough that they become “everyone knows” without the slightest shred of truth.

And there’s no calls for civility, particularly not from other people on the left.

The right doesn’t act that way (well, not usually.) Not only do I read writers who are solidly on the left and also wobbly on the left, I still have friends who are so far to the left of me that we’d best not discuss politics.  On the other hand, any number of “friends” on the left of me dropped me like a stone when I came out of the political closet. And Straw Sarah goes rampaging through gossip from con to con.

There are reasons for this imbalance, and it’s not because libertarians and conservatives are better people (in general) or possessed of the milk of human kindness. No. It’s because of the power imbalance in the field.

For my entire conscious life, let alone my entire publishing life, the power in the field has been in the hands of the people on the left. The way to get promoted and hailed as the greatest genius since Shakespeare was to parrot leftist shibboleths.

In a field where writers were treated as supplicants and had to beg hat in hand for the chance to sell their product to a limited number of markets, almost every editor and publisher was a man (or more often a woman) of the hard left.

A rumor that an author was a heretic or even (gasp) an apostate in the church of Marxism-Leninism was enough to get a promising career stalled if not outright shut down.

So, of course, the left could call names, and accusing someone of being right wing became a weapon in fights among writers.

Also, in a field where everything was controlled by a small and not very open-minded minority, it was important to be in with the right people and rumor and innuendo ran rife.

In other words, it was middle grades in the parochial school of Our Red Lady of Eternal Redistribution.  Forever.

Now… well, now it’s not like that, and I’ll note several people came to my defense when the crazy people attacked me on… a technical article about editing!

And that, my dears, is the cure to the disease of rumor and innuendo.

We can’t have all these straw writers running around. For one, I’m sure they’d write very bad straw books, which would be flammable and stuff.

If you hear rumors, innuendo and insanity spoken about a writer you know, speak up.

If you see something, say something.

Rumor has a cure and it’s the truth.  And it’s time our colleagues on the left learned some civility.  Before the field goes up in flames.


I’m starting the links this week (this is Charlie) with a special mention. Rolf Nelson’s book The Stars Came Back, plugged here a year ago, has been nominated for a Prometheus Award.

And yeah, this is late. I had a really bad hardware weekend.


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The Stars Came Back
By Rolf Nelson

THE STARS CAME BACK is part space-western, the story of folks just trying stay alive, seeking work to earn money for repairs to get to the next job, with no shortage of action and adventure along the way. It is part military sci-fi, with a company of mercenaries, spaceship combat, mortar and rifle combat, spear-and-shield battle, and PTSD. And it is part philosophical investigation, pondering the lessons of Achilles, if a computer can have a soul, what freedom means, and how one stops a bar fight with earplugs.Written in a format similar to a screenplay, the book includes various graphics, including the blueprints of the ship.


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What Consumers Need To Know About Mortgages (A Guide About What Really Happens From A Mortgage Insider)
By Dan Melson 

After funding well over a thousand loans as a loan officer, and running a consumer education website for ten years, Dan Melson has written a coherent guide that gives consumers insight into how people qualify for mortgages, how not to sabotage their application, and how to stop wasting thousands of dollars making poor choices on your mortgage.

[Ed -- Notice this is reference, not fiction. We are more than happy to get indie-published non-fiction!]


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Take The Star Road
By Peter Grant

Nineteen-year-old Steve Maxwell just wants to find a better homeworld. By facing down Lotus Tong thugs, he earns an opportunity to become a spacer apprentice on a merchant spaceship, leaving the corruption and crime of Earth behind. Sure, he needs to prove himself to an older, tight-knit crew, but how bad can it be if he keeps his head down and the decks clean?

He never counted on the interstellar trade routes having their own problems, including wars and pirates – and the jade in his luggage is hotter than a neutron star. Steve’s left a world of troubles behind, only to find a galaxy of them ahead…


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The Troll’s Belt
By J.M. Ney-Grimm

Young deceit sprouts timeless trouble.

Motherless Brys Arnsson digs himself into trouble. Bad trouble. Tricked by a troll in J.M. Ney-Grimm’s richly imagined North-lands, Brys must dig himself and his best friend back out of danger. But that requires courage . . . and self-honesty. Traits Brys lacks at depth.

A twist on a classic, THE TROLL’S BELT builds from humor-threaded conflict to white-knuckle suspense.


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Crossing the Naiad
By J.M. Ney-Grimm

Ancient, cold, and perilous.

Its truth forgotten in the mists of time, the old bridge harbors a lethal secret. Neither marble statues awakened for battle nor an ancient roadbed grown hungry, something darker and more primal haunts the stones and the wild river below.

Kimmer knows the stories, but she doesn’t know why the crumbling span feels so fraught with menace. Her way home lies across the ruin. Dare she take it? Or will horror from the lost past rise up to claim her, when she does?

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The Most Important, Visionary Science Fiction Stories of the 1930s

Saturday, January 31st, 2015 - by Pierre Comtois

The 1930s was a decade in which older, established, non-science fiction specific novelists ran neck in neck with rising young pulpsters who, for the first time, began to challenge their elders in originality and seriousness.

In past decades, writers like Jules Verne, Arthur Conan Doyle, and H.G. Wells dominated the public consciousness with their novels of science and the fantastic. They proved to others that the nascent genre of science fiction could be used to good effect both to warn against social ills and the pitfalls of a rising scientific culture.

At the same time, a completely different set of readers, mostly young and whose view of the future and science was less gloomy and more optimistic than their elders, began to coalesce around the science fiction genre.

Isolated by an ocean or by the vast landscapes of the United States, some of those young people hunkered down at typewriters working long, lonely hours writing, their imaginations fueled by the early pulp magazines of the 1920s which brought science fiction for the first time to a mass audience.

Murray Leinster, Doc Smith, Edmond Hamilton, Ray Cummings, Stanton A. Coblentz, Harl Vincent, and Jack Williamson all made their first appearances in such magazines as Amazing Stories, Argosy, Weird Tales, and Air Wonder Stories.

Clearly, like interstellar gasses concentrating into stars, the genre of science fiction was coming together with increasing rapidity with the 1930s being the decade when it all finally seemed to come together. In no other decade did so many classic tales of SF appear and so many authors make their initial debuts in print: “The Red Plague” by P. Schuyler Miller and “Marooned on Andromeda” by Clark Ashton Smith in 1930; “The First Martian” by Eando Binder in 1932; “A Matter of Size” by Harry Bates in 1934; “The Faithful” by Lester Del Rey in 1938; “Marooned off Vesta” by Isaac Asimov, “Ether Breather” by Theodore Sturgeon, and “Lifeline” by Robert Heinlein all in 1939.

In addition, readers of science fiction began to organize themselves. Letters pages in the magazines brought them together and made them realize that living in their small towns or feeling isolated in big cities, they were not alone. The first fanzines were launched right at the very start of the decade which became known as First Fandom (the first of many fan “eras”), amateur magazines publishing their own fan fiction proliferated, and fan clubs such as the Los Angeles Science Fiction League Chapter and the Futurians would become breeding grounds for some of the biggest SF authors of the 1940s.

The first SF convention between New York and New Jersey fans was held in 1936.

But most of this activity was happening “underground” so to speak. The larger world of letters still mostly ignored science fiction, only taking notice when an established author used the genre as a platform to address larger philosophical concerns. The 1930s would be the last major effort by these kinds of writers. For decades afterward, SF would retreat further underground or be considered primarily as juvenile literature until being rediscovered by the mass media following the huge success of the Star Wars films in the 1970s.

But as things stood in 1930, the field was still considered ripe for exploration by serious writers such as Olaf Stapledon, a professor of philosophy whose first book, A Modern Theory of Ethics, lacked a popular audience. Hoping to reach a wider public Stapledon decided to use science fiction as his vehicle and ended up writing Last and First Men (1930).

In it, the author tells the history of mankind extending two billion years into the future. Nothing like its terrible sweep of time and history was ever attempted before and it caused a sensation in literary circles and especially SF fans whose vistas had been broadened. Stapledon followed up that first success with a number of other groundbreaking novels including Odd John in 1936 about a super-human’s attempt to live in a world of ordinary men and Star Maker, published in 1937, that goes far beyond even the scope of Last and First Men to tell the history of the whole universe while exploring themes of life, death, eternity, and God.

By comparison, peers such as Aldous Huxley covered very limited subjects though no less important and prophetic in Brave New World, his controversial novel published in 1932. In it, the author describes a future society of 2540, one governed by a politically correct world state that strictly limits personal freedoms while keeping the masses content with recreational drug use and sex.

In response to the secular humanist values explored in the work of such contemporaries as Stapledon and H.G. Wells, C.S. Lewis wrote Out of the Silent Planet. Published in 1938, it became the first in a celebrated trilogy that posited alien worlds where original sin never took place (Mars) or was still in an Edenic state (Venus).

Contemporaneous with the British writers, American Philip Wylie anticipated the concept of the super-hero with Gladiator, a novel published in 1930. In it, the author tells the tale of Hugo Danner who’s endowed with super-strength and invulnerability. Through a number of adventures, Danner seeks a purpose in life until, asking God for help, he’s struck down by lightning and killed!

Meanwhile, the rising stars on the American pulp scene concerned themselves mostly with less weighty subjects than the novelists, although John W. Campbell made the attempt with a dramatic shift in his writing style beginning with the 1934 short story “Twilight.” Writing under the pseudonym Don A. Stuart, the author assumes a somber yet elegiac style to tell the story of an Earth where mankind is dying out with machines preparing to take over and continue his legacy.

The same year that Campbell embarked on his new literary trajectory, Stanley G. Weinbaum was revolutionizing SF with “A Martian Odyssey.” It told the story of a man lost on Mars who befriends one of the natives, a birdlike creature named Tweel whom the author creates as a fully rounded personality with a completely alien perspective. It was the beginning of the end of the stereotypical Bug Eyed Monster of the kind popularized by Edmond Hamilton.

Still riding high in the 1930s was E.E. Doc Smith who proved to fans that he still had what it took with the Galactic Patrol, published in 1937. In it, the author introduces the concept of the Lensmen, law enforcers armed with a device that gives them special powers to combat criminals who threatened the spaceways. Perhaps representative of an aspect of SF that was waning even as the story was being serialized in Astounding, it was influential on later iterations of space opera and in present day comic books.

Based on the outrageous theories of Charles Fort, Eric Frank Russell crafted the novel Sinister Barrier which first appeared in Unknown Worlds magazine in 1939. In it, Russell popularizes the concept that the Earth is the “property” of a race of beings that remain forever hidden behind a invisible, uncrossable barrier.

Taken together, the science fiction of the 1930s presented a vastly diverse field for a growing number of enthusiastic readers to explore. A field that would only grow more fantastic in the next decade, the so-called “golden age of science fiction,” when the serious novelists mostly disappeared and writers who began as fans took over, regularized the genre and matured it into a fascinating exploration of future possibilities.

****

See the previous installments in this series:

The 10 Most Influential Science Fiction Stories of the 1910s

The 10 Most Influential Science Fiction Stories of the 1920s

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A Kindle of Kittens

Saturday, January 24th, 2015 - by Sarah Hoyt and Charlie Martin
YouTube Preview Image

So it’s Book Plug Friday time (past time again, it’s Saturday, dammit! And this is Charlie btw. Sarah is having connectivity problems. And if Peyton Manning had blocking like my recent writer’s block, he wouldn’t have needed neck surgery and the Broncos would be undefeated going into the Superbowl.)

(And insert some deflated ball jokes here, I got nothing.)

In any case, I’ve been thinking about the e-Book Revolution. You all realize it’s only a few years old, right? I wrote a review of the first Kindle only about 6 years ago. And while we’ve had several generations of Kindles, what we haven’t had is any real progress in the capabilities of e-readers and associated devices.

Well, it’s time. At this point, I’ve got thousands of books in my Kindle library, and I doubt I’ve got the biggest library. But when I look at my library on my Kindle, I’ve got three choices: I can list them according to what I read most recently on that device, I can list them in alphabetical order by title, and I can list them in alphabetical order by author.

Then I can scroll through those lists. Good luck if I’m looking for books by Roger Zelazny — I can scroll for a long long time to get to the bottom of a 3000 bool long listing.

I think it’s time for the next generation of actual thought about e-books and what should be done.

To start with, we need lots better ways to manage our own collections. This ought to be easy: Amazon already has keywords, reviews, and ISBNs as well as their own numbers — not to mention the collaborative filtering algorithms that let them cluster books so they can make suggestions. And if they don’t already store Library of Congress and Dewey Decimal numbers for the books, I’m sure there are APIs that can let someone access them.

Second, the e-book standards — and e-book publishers — need to provide better typography. Computer and math books in particular suffer, with math being just about the worst — often the only way to put complicated math into an ebook is by making an image of it. They mostly manage all right with European languages — I’ve got books in German and French and Spanish that look perfectly reasonable, but the Chinese and Sanskrit doesn’t make it at all. (My Esperanto books I figure are just the usual fannish incompetence, Esperanto doesn’t use any characters French doesn’t have.)

Aside: It’s not just the readers, though. Baen Books (sorry, Toni) are my particular annoyance here. For some reason, most Baen books are set up in such a way that they have a leeeetle tiny typeface on the Kindle. I just randomly picked Beyond This Horizon. At scale 7, it’s still uncomfortably small; most every other book at scale 7 can barely fit 100 words on the screen. C’mon, folks, this was all worked out by Ben Franklin’s time.

This leads to a third point: better e-book apps. It’s not instantly obvious to the reader, but all e-book apps are basically the rendering part of a web browser: all the ebook standards are based on storing HTML with some metadata, like a table of contents.

The fourth thing to come, I think, is to be able to access all your notes in one collection. When I’m researching something, I end up resorting to handwritten notes, because while I can make notes in the book, I can’t remember which book I made the notes in.

So that’s my wish list. What’s yours?


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Troll-magic
By J.M. Ney-Grimm 

North-land spellcasters who wield excessive power transform into trolls – potent, twisted, and hungry for dominance.

Prince Kellor, cursed by a troll-witch to live as a north-bear, wrestles with the challenges of a beast’s form. He sees his childhood friend Elle as the key to his escape.

But charming Elle will be no easy task. Traversing that delicate passage between adolescence and adulthood, she struggles to balance family loyalty against her passion for music.

In this epic adventure across a stunning landscape, from cool pine forests to an icy pinnacle of basalt so real it leaves you shivering, Elle and Kellor must summon essential wisdom and grit to prevail against a troll-witch’s malice in a lethal battle of wills.

Fighting against a nightmare pales beside fighting for a dream.


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Perilous Chance
By J.M. Ney-Grimm 

If only Mama were well. If only Papa were . . . not like this.

Clary needs a miracle, but wonders rarely step forth to solve life’s problems. While her mama lies wearily abed and her papa spends the day . . . elsewhere, Clary struggles to look after her younger sister and their baby brother. And longs for more than making do. If only.

Then, one spring morning, Clary and Elspeth visit the old bramble-grown quarry to pick wild cabbage leaves. Hidden within the rock’s cleft, Clary’s miracle awaits. But this miracle sports razor-sharp talons, world-shaking power, ravenous hunger, and a troll-witch to guard its sleep. When it cracks the egg, will Clary survive?

Something wondrous this way comes!

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13 Key Ideas You Need For Defeating Marxist Evil

Saturday, January 24th, 2015 - by Ronald R. Cherry

shutterstock_233333494

Editor’s Note: This is a much longer-than-usual essay than we normally publish, but it’s a very thorough dissection of Marxist ideology well-worth your time. To make it more accessible we’ve decided to experiment with publishing it “Netflix style,” meaning as the streaming internet TV service has developed the practice of releasing whole seasons of its new shows at once, allowing viewers to consumer at their own pace, we’ll publish this first as one long article before serializing its points daily over the next 2 weeks.

1. In its essence Marxism, the core ideology of modern Socialism, is an irrational, utopian and coercive perversion of human equality.

Marxism seeks equality where equality does not exist, demanding legal enforcement of equal social outcomes, including those related to economics, higher education, athletics, religion and human sexuality. This ideology even extends to international relationships whereby no nation is allowed to excessively prosper or achieve greatness, i.e.: all nations must be “equal.” Never mind that when people are free their human nature leads to inequality of outcomes – some are hard-working and some are lazy – some are more intelligent and some are less intelligent – some are stronger and some are weaker – some are tall and some are short. Unequal results occur naturally without force when people possess rightful liberty. Based on their degree of truly Free Enterprise nations similarly divide themselves unequally into various degrees of prosperity or depravity.

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Learn These Secrets on How to Survive Aggressive People

Wednesday, January 21st, 2015 - by Helen Smith

From the description:

Whether an aggressor is a seasoned predator or an irate individual, hostility is almost always preceded by warning signs–if we know what to look for. Surviving Aggressive People dissects the psychology of aggression. It exposes the subtle cues of impending violence and offers timeless methods for transforming a potential disaster into a peaceful victory. Using time-tested methods for conflict management and crisis intervention, this book offers persuasion and peacemaking skills that historically have been reserved for law enforcement, psychologists, and other professionals working the front lines of emotionally charged situations. In today’s world, these skills are a must for everyone. Newly updated, with a special appendix for healthcare workers, the enduring knowledge in Surviving Aggressive People can help deter hostility before it spins out of control. It might even save your life.

The book has some good advice that I have used myself on occasion. For example, the golden rule of violence prevention is “an adversary is less dangerous when he perceives you as similar to himself.” Smith gives some tips on how to reduce this “psychological distance”: Use humor, and employ politeness as a preemptive strike. When I used to see clients for disability claims, some would be angry and distrustful when they walked through the door. I stocked the fridge with Pepsi, Mountain Dew and other drinks that people seemed to like and when someone got upset, I would say, “Would you like a Pepsi or Mountain Dew? Then we can talk about your concerns.” It made people feel welcome and as if they were in a safe environment. I guess the caffeine wasn’t always the best idea but “would you like bottled water or caffeine-free herbal tea?” didn’t have the same ring to it and sounded haughty.

Anyway, you get the idea. The book is full of these helpful hints that may help you to reduce your chance of being a victim of violence and provides a framework for how to avoid it. I recommend the sections for healthcare workers on how to respond to neuro-behavioral aggression. It is surprising how few of them get training on how to respond when a patient gets aggressive. This book will help.

******
Cross-posted from Dr. Helen

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What if Red Dawn Happened, But It Was Islamic Terrorists Instead of Communists?

Tuesday, January 20th, 2015 - by Frank J. Fleming

Screen Shot 2015-01-19 at 11.51.24 AM

Now, I’ll just get this out of the way: I know some of you are going to say, “Hey, Liberty Island is also publishing your first novel, Superego, so you might just be saying this to help yourself.” Well, I don’t have time for your insane conspiracy theories. Why don’t you go back to disproving the moon landing. Besides, you know you can trust me. Remember that time in 2008 when I said I thought Barack Obama might not be that great of a president? I was mainly right about that. I never lead you wrong.

Anyway, The Big Bang is about an alternate history where Islamic extremists actually take over the U.S. after 9/11. As you might imagine, we end up with a lot more problems than which cartoons we’re allowed to publish. Now, you might wonder how in the world those idiots could accomplish taking over our country, but the title of the book gives you a bit of a clue to that. Not to reveal too much, but a lot goes wrong, worldwide, all at once.

The story jumps between a number of characters at different points in time — before, during, and after the titular tragedy. I was absolutely riveted trying to find out more about what had happened and thinking about how we really would react in such a situation (it made me very thankful that our country is awash in guns).

A number of the main characters are real people. I was a little unsure how that would play out, but Griffis fleshed them out very well and didn’t turn them into caricatures. All the details in the book are really well done, and Griffis makes the devastation and invasion frighteningly real.

I’ll definitely read the next book, as it’s pretty obvious from the ending that this is the first part of a series (it’s also obvious because the subtitle of the book is “Lonesome George Chronicles Book 1″ — sort of like how you knew there’d be another war when they named the first one World War I). The Big Bang is a thrilling story, and I highly recommend it. With such a great start, I’m really excited to see what other books Liberty Island publishes… whether or not they were written by me.

******

Editor’s Note: This post is part of an ongoing dialogue between the writers of PJ Lifestyle and Liberty Island regarding the future of conservatism and the role of emerging counter-cultures in restoring American exceptionalism. See the previous installments in the series and join the discussion:

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Newsweek Throws the First Stone

Sunday, January 18th, 2015 - by Chris Queen

500-Newsweek-cover

In the Gospel of John, we read a story where a group of Jewish Torah teachers and Pharisees (members of a legalistic sect of Judaism) bring to Jesus a woman whom they caught in adultery, asking Him what punishment He thinks the woman deserves. Masterfully — as He always did — Jesus answers the scholars with a simple, yet profound statement:  “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her” (John 8:7, NIV).

Recently, Newsweek featured a cover article on the Bible in which author Kurt Eichenwald — not a Biblical scholar but a business writer with a clear agenda — lets forth on how Christians misinterpret the Bible. In his piece, Eichenwald throws the first stone, not even pretending to mask an agenda against conservative Biblical scholarship:

They wave their Bibles at passersby, screaming their condemnations of homosexuals. They fall on their knees, worshipping at the base of granite monuments to the Ten Commandments while demanding prayer in school. They appeal to God to save America from their political opponents, mostly Democrats. They gather in football stadiums by the thousands to pray for the country’s salvation.

They are God’s frauds, cafeteria Christians who pick and choose which Bible verses they heed with less care than they exercise in selecting side orders for lunch. They are joined by religious rationalizers—fundamentalists who, unable to find Scripture supporting their biases and beliefs, twist phrases and modify translations to prove they are honoring the Bible’s words.

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In Defense of Editing

Saturday, January 17th, 2015 - by Sarah Hoyt and Charlie Martin

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Hi, this is Sarah and I think I’ve covered the topic of editing before.  However, Charlie suggested it’s time to hit it again, and he’s probably right.  I know I’ve hit the topic of covers a million times give or take ten thousand, and still people who are contemplating going indie tell me they could never afford it because covers are so expensive.  The short answer to that, again, is here.

The other point is editing, as in “I can’t afford to pay an editor, and editing is so important.”  Then you talk to them and you find out what they really mean is copy editing, which, yes, is important, but it’s also cheap and that they have no clue what other kinds of editing there could be or why it’s important.

And no matter how many times I explain, they come back to the same.

I think it’s because indie publishing is so new that it’s getting infusions of new blood all the time, so that, like Young Adult literature it needs to repeat itself because no matter how often you’ve said it, it’s always brand new for a significant number of newly-interested people.

So for those who are newcomers to the field, I will explain editing once again.

First of all, the first editing, that must happen, is your own.  Yes, you’ll sometimes hear of writers who publish their first drafts.  If their books are worth spit one of two things is happening: either they are lying (not necessarily on purpose.  What I consider first draft has undergone significant editing because I back-edit while writing, even though I know I shouldn’t), or they are so experienced that the writing is almost flawless outright.

Even so, I guarantee no one publishes first drafts without copy-editing. What is copyediting?

This is where you go in and fix words and punctuation.  Most of the time it means catching typos your spellchecker won’t catch. “Ours” for “hours,” for instance.  Ears for years. But it also means catching the “word of the day” (everyone has one.  Some days you repeat a word without noticing.  Could be something simple like “extraordinary,” or a really odd one like “counterproductive.” But your brain becomes enamored of the word and goes to it by preference if even remotely applicable.  When you’re copy-editing, you’ll find these patches, and you should fix them.

So copy-editing is the minimum level of editing you should have done.  You can do it, but if you do it you have to find a way to break the eye-glaze that comes with editing your own stuff.  Reading aloud or reading backward work for some people.  [Like me. Nothing better for technical writing.--Charlie] I can’t do reading aloud, because my training was in poetry, and I become obsessed by the sound of the words, and edit in such a way that the books read artificial, as though you should be declaiming.

However, I recommend you have someone else copy-edit your manuscript.  This should be someone you know has a grasp on basic grammar and preferably on the lingo of the time-period you’re writing in. (I had a lot of readers send me in “typos” in Witchfinder, that were actually Regency lingo.)

Now copyedits are the cheapest form of editing too. I’ve paid $10 for 10k words for it, though I suspect I got a discount.  It’s still not prohibitive.

You can also swap with another writer. We have a group of us who does that.

Next level up from copy-editing, sometimes included in it but often not, is “Continuity and fact-checking editing.”  This is where your copyeditor verifies that Henry the VIII really did have six wives.  Or that your character only has two arms in that action scene, not seven.  Good ones go further than that and will verify minutia in your books.  My favorite editor whom I used for my indie novel once got up on my case because I had the wrong kind of taper in an Elizabethan tavern scene.  He’s expensive and worth every penny. (And the publishing houses are bad at this, particularly for historical, because their copyeditors think they should do this and lack the ability.  This is how I had a copy editor tell me to capitalize Terra Firma because it was a country.)

For this, expect to pay more like $40 for 10k words. Or find your most obsessive friend and rope him into doing it.  (Or my older son.  No, seriously.  He chases every rabbit down the hole and all the way to China.)

The highest level of editing is structural editing and it is almost book doctoring. The line between the two blurs. Here the editor will tell you that your story lacks a climax. That you need to rewrite the ending.  That your male character should be female to enhance the impact of chapter 27.

Most of the time my advice on that level of editing is “don’t. Just don’t.”

Why do I say that?  Is it because I think it’s not necessary?  Oh, heck no.  At least once that type of editing – from Baen – saved the book. I had two climaxes of equal weight in the same book, and so it left you feeling strangely like it hadn’t ended.

Now, for those keeping score at home that was my 22nd published book, my thirtieth written book. Which means you can make these mistakes even with a ton of experience, and that editing absolutely saved my sorry behind.  So… why do I say don’t have it done?

Because it’s a d*mn difficult skill, an art really, and most of the people willing/offering to do this aren’t any better at it than you are and might be markedly worse. I’ve seen enough books botched by this type of edit, and the poor writer paying a mint for the privilege, to say “better not do it.”

If you absolutely must do it:

Make sure the editor is someone whose work you know and admire. Whether that work is writing or editing. If it’s editing, not only talk to the client and ask what the editor had them change, but read the book with an eye for how it worked.

Make sure the editor works in your genre/subgenre. As with covers, if they don’t, they’re likely to give you something that won’t work at all. For instance, having a Romance editor do SF or vice versa will mess up the book.

Make sure the editor is experienced.  Yeah, I know.  It’s unfair.  But editing is like writing something you learn b doing.  Not enough experience means bad, no matter how much book learning you have.

Make sure your personalities are compatible.  My indie editor has a snide, acerbic sense of humor.  Before I got used to it, I thought he hated my work.  (And no, Mister, if you read this, you shall never be forgiven for that cat picture. ;))

The reason it’s so important to make sure you get what you pay for, is that Structural editing is expensive.  I would expect to pay somewhere North of 1k for a normal size novel, supposing you don’t get special-friend discounts.

However, finding a good Structural editor is almost as hard as finding a good artist. In the meantime, you can sort of roll your own with Self Editing for Fiction Writers by Renni Browne and Dave King. I recommend it in any case if you write novels.  It helped me get fluent in novel writing.

And whatever you choose to do, good luck.  Remember the goal is to create the best product you can, not to make it perfect. It will never be perfect. If you read traditionally published books, you’ll find some glitches too.  Your goal is for your indie work to be no worse.


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Quantum Zoo
Edited By J.M. Ney-Grimm

From a haunted old zoo filled with ghosts to a dying starship on its way to a new home – humanity’s final gasp, QUANTUM ZOO presents a dozen compelling stories featuring a dozen exotic and unusual menageries.

Jack the Ripper arrives for one last murder, while a dinosaur – out of place and out of time – bridges the gap between two poignant lovers in the wonderfully atmospheric England of Hugo-­ and Nebula-­nominated Bridget McKenna.

QUANTUM ZOO propels you on an enthralling journey through awe and emotion, highs and lows, with tender romance following hair-­raising action.

Join some of the hottest independent science-­fiction and fantasy authors writing today in the fascinating worlds they create from the zoo!


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Devouring Light
By J.M. Ney-Grimm

Can one good deed offset ultimate destruction?

Mercurio guards the first planet, guiding it through the perils of the void. Part messenger, part prankster, he cocks an eye for danger.

When a beautiful celestial wanderer seeks refuge at his domicile, will he recognize his role as cat’s paw? Or will a looming menace – more lethal than Mercurio imagines – threaten the solar system’s very existence?


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Peaks of Grace: Book Five in the Colplatschki Chronicles
By Alma T.C. Boykin 

A hundred fifty years after the Great Fires, only a few small enclaves west of the Triangle Mountains remain free of Frankonian control. The deSarm family’s valley is one of them. When Marta deSarm’s father makes a desperate offer to Phillip of Frankonia, his daughter must deal with the results. But the valley holds two secrets: a young woman with a terrible burden and a glorious gift, and the mountain called Godown’s Grace.

And the Sarm Valley guards its secrets.

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Legendary Batman Artist Suffers Stroke

Saturday, January 17th, 2015 - by Stephen McDonald

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Some of the happiest afternoons of my childhood were passed in the company of a guy named Norm Breyfogle.

Norm was the artist on Detective Comics back in the late ‘80s. But it might be more accurate to say he was the window through which I got to see Batman patrolling the rooftops of Gotham, beating the ever-loving hell out of drug dealers and triumphing over crazed killers.  For me and many other late-Generation Xers, Norm was the definitive Batman artist.  It was his version of the character (along with writer Alan Grant) that my generation grew up with.

It’s probably hard to appreciate now how innovative Norm’s style was at the time.  I couldn’t have explained back then, of course—I just liked the artwork’s energy and story-telling—but looking back his style was much more expressionistic than his contemporaries’.  Perspective and shadow were distorted to amplify every panel’s mood.

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But it wasn’t just a scene’s feel that he cared about.  There was so much energy in Norm’s action scenes as he showed heartbeat-by-heartbeat how Batman defeated a given bad guy:

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Long after I’d stopped reading comics, Christopher Nolan’s Batman movies would occasionally make me nostalgic for the version I grew up with.  It was a pleasant surprise to discover online that I was just one of many impressed, and grateful, for Norm’s years on the character.  It made me happy to know that, even decades later, his work on Batman was remembered as one of the best runs in comics history.

My generation’s Batman, still one of the best.  Cool.

So it came as a shock to learn that Norm Breyfogle, just 54 years old, suffered a stroke in mid-December.

He’s expected to recover eventually, but in the meantime the stroke has paralyzed his left side which is especially heartbreaking considering Norm is a left-handed artist. It’s also put him in the hole for $200K on medical expenses. His family has turned to crowdfunding to help with the costs, and has set up a contribution site here.

I gave, and have since been watching the funds-raised bar, hoping it will make it to $200K. It hovers at $70K as of this writing. There’s only 7 days left in the drive.

The comic book blogosphere has covered it, trying to spread word about the crowdfunding effort. But the guys reading those sites will probably skew younger. They’re not of the generation that grew up reading Norm’s Batman. They don’t owe childhood memories to him like I do.

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Most guys my age don’t follow comic book news anymore. I only learned about what happened to Norm myself because a friend who has kept a hand in the comics posted it on Facebook. With the clock ticking down, it’s time to get word out to other corners of the internet where his old fans may now be.

Which is why I’m here now. To get word out that a man who brought a lot of happiness to a generation of kids needs help. To let all the people that grew up enjoying Norm’s work know that he could use some of your help now.

If you’re able to, please consider contributing.

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