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Book Plug Friday! What Is Good?

Friday, May 15th, 2015 - by Sarah Hoyt and Charlie Martin
No one can tell you which books you'll find tasty.

No one can tell you which books you’ll find tasty.

 

Hi, this is Sarah [Contrary to rumor, yes, still alive. Surgery, Sad Puppies, Social Justice Warrior Attacks, finished a book. The usual] and today we ask “What is good?”

There is more to this than a vague post-modern query.  Though the answer when it comes to art might indeed be post modern.

However, it’s important to ask this question and to answer it because part of the criticism leveled at the Sad Puppies movement to get the Hugo awards out of a tiny set of nominees and voters and broaden it to the entire fandom is that “what you nominated is not very good.”

The premise behind it is that the small, self-selected set of fandom-who-attends-cons, aka truefans according to themselves, who tend to be older, more mature, and definitely richer (they have the money to attend cons,  the time too) than the majority of just-fans who read and watch the genre, also have more “sophisticated” or “better” tastes.

I’ve heard the same notion from editors (not Baen, duh) who say it is their job to filter all the cr*p and put out the best stuff, so they can train the readers’ tastes.

It is easy to dismiss this premise out of hand – normally I use the word Pfui for such a purpose – but we should look at what’s the root of it and examine the merit of that idea.

Is it possible that older, more experienced people are actually choosing “the best” in the field, be it for publications or awards?  Sure.

I mean, your experience of SF/F and how you first came in will change how you perceive quality in the field.  For instance, I have yet to be able to make it through a showing of Star Wars, yes, even the first three episodes, without falling asleep. One of these was the re-release where I managed to fall asleep in a theater, for the first and last time ever.

Part of the issue is that when it came out I was already reading science fiction and had been for years. Also, I’m not particularly visual. So my reaction to the special effects was “yawn” because I see better stuff than that in my mind the whole time and my reaction to the plot was “oh, there are so many holes. And it’s predictable. And using really tired concepts. Also, to be fair, and before the Star Wars fanatics among you send someone to assassinate me, I watch very little visual media. In a continuum of modes of amusement, I’m the grumpy critter stuck at “almost all books.”

However, my brother and my husband, both arguably smarter than I, loved Star Wars and consider it one of the touchstones of their fandom. And my brother, ten years older than I, had read at least as many SF/F books as I had.

So, is it quality or not? Well, for me, not. For the guys yes. Is my taste more valid than theirs? Judging by the millions people worldwide who love the movies, no.

In the same way, it’s entirely possible that editors and “truefans” have better taste, but if so, it’s a taste not shared by most fans, as evidenced by how the print runs keep falling, despite exploding interest in SF/F and geekdom.

I mean, maybe their taste really is refined and rarified. If so, it’s a taste formed in a way no one reading for fun shares.

For my sins, I know what their taste is, and if I share their parameters, I can sort of see it.

For my sins? Well, yes, you see, I have a Masters (a little more, actually) in modern languages and literature.  And while I didn’t attend an Ivy League in the U.S. as most editors and publishers have, I did attend one of the oldest universities in Europe. (We claimed to be the second. All that and two dollars will get you a cup of coffee. I’m too lazy to research the claim.)

And I learned  the same way of evaluating literature that they did. Literature is a way of reflecting the truths of human life. To be more exact, fantastic literature, like SF/F is supposed to reflect back “problems” in modern life and to point out situations that we might otherwise be blind to, and which make our society unjust.

To put it another way, the way they learned to analyze literature was the same way I learned it: literature is supposed to be an utilitarian value, designed to preach (Marxist) values and solutions to society.

Go over any of what is considered “good literature,” especially as reviewed by the “intellectuals” since the early twentieth century, and that’s what you’ll find.

It took me a long time to figure out that this is a load of poppycock. Literature, as appreciated throughout the ages, is appreciated for many reasons, but none of them is stuff like “It talks about racism” or “It points out the heartbreak of the rheumatism of the cleaning woman’s knees.”

It is only in our own time (roughly since early 20th century) that this has become the prevalent way to look at stories. Take Jane Austen. Pride and Prejudice is not a magnificent work that analyzes the human soul and the interactions of men and women, no. It’s a work designed to point out the plight of women in Regency England.  Or take Romeo and Juliet: it doesn’t perfectly capture the crazy infatuation of teenagers and speak to something universal in the human soul. No, it is supposedly, depending on whom you talk to: a critique of the church, of having your kids raised by nannies, or female oppression (of course) or of armed violence.

Understand, I’m not saying that authors don’t put messages in their stories. Shakespeare was sticking in his marker for kids choosing their partners “for love” (a popular and gaining position in his time, as were most of his positions, actually.) But I very much doubt he was thinking of making it a critique of armed violence. The church? The corrupt friar was a stock character in newly Protestant England.

And that is most of the problem. If we have a way to tell what is good, it is what survives the test of time: what stays with people and speaks to them though language itself change.

And that is highly doubtful of the “good” fiction as picked by the elites today.  As they pound points that have been done to death and their characters are often scarecrows designed only to speak cant to imagined power, it is highly likely that future generations will do what we do and go, “Oh, not that again” as they bounce the book off the nearest wall.

So, what is good?  Well, I can’t tell you what you’ll find good (how postmodern of me) but I can give you some guidelines on how to find it. But it will have to wait for another post.

For now, we have some links to indie books that perhaps you might find good. [Usual disclaimer applies. I haven’t read most of these, and I don’t know if Charlie has. These are books that were sent to us to promote.  Download a kindle sample, and give them a try. Your mileage may vary. Void or restricted where prohibited.]


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.

Extra special note for people trying to do PR for an indie author: yes, these rules apply to you, too. And get off my lawn.

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.


cover

Martian Aria
By L.A. Behm II 

Martian Aria tells the tale of mankind’s first steps onto Mars, the adventures of reaching the red planet, and the thrilling discoveries that awaited humanity’s best and brightest when they got there. A tale of rugged colonists, family, kittens, and those who were willing to get their hands dirty in pursuit of a new land, a new home. There is still another frontier, out in the stars, for those who are willing to grasp for it.


cover

BLACK TIDE
By Patrick Freivald 

Superhuman strength, unnaturally fast reflexes, enhanced senses – Matt Rowley will live with augmentation for the rest of his life.

As cults spring up worshiping the demonic beings freed by the last of the nephilim, the United States calls on Matt to meet the threat. His unnatural powers returning with every passing day, Matt becomes the only weapon able to withstand forces older than time and darker than the blackest sea.

When his family is taken in an attack on his hometown, Matt falls into a vast conspiracy that could destroy his family and his very soul.


cover

How the Mighty have Fallen
By James Schardt 

Short Story. A lawyer witnesses a triple murder while stranded in a rural town. Events quickly escalate. Was it actually murder – or vigilante justice? The local Provost is a former hero turned drunkard in need of redemption. Will they be able to uphold the rule of law and still ensure justice is served?

There is all the difference in the world between treating people equally and attempting to make them equal. – F.A. Hayek


cover

Explore Atlas Shrugged
By Diana Hsieh 

Do you want to better understand and appreciate Ayn Rand’s epic novel “Atlas Shrugged”?

“Explore Atlas Shrugged” is an in-depth and newly-expanded study guide by philosopher Dr. Diana Hsieh. It includes over 1400 study questions, plot synopses, character summaries, questions for a book club, and more. (22 hours of engaging chapter-by-chapter podcasts are available online too.)

“Explore Atlas Shrugged” will help you gain fresh insights into the complex events, characters, and ideas of Ayn Rand’s novel — whether you’ve read it just once or a dozen times before.


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Harvest Of Evil
By William Lehman 

John Fisher, retired Seal and were-cougar, was having just another day at the office. He is a Park Police officer. His office is a Dodge Durango. The dark legends and creatures have always been around, and after the civil rights movement they’re legal. But when someone uses magic or anything else illegally on Federal land, it ‘s John’s job to bring them in. He will use all his skill, luck and connections inside the Supernatural world to get his man, or were, or vampire, or…


cover

Sugar Skull
By Cedar Sanderson 

Sally, whose full name was Alessandra Padilla Rivera, and who had been raised by a grandmama on stories of El Cucuy, the chupacabra, and the jaguar god who hunts in the night, knows how hard good jobs are to find, and keep. She has a mother to support, and a new job to prove herself at. A couple of problems, though… She is working in a morgue where strange things are happening. The only person she can talk to is her boss, her mother just turns the television volume up, and her friends are grossed out by her job. But Sally is convinced her boss isn’t fully human…


cover

Exophobe
By D. Kenton Mellott 

My life changed forever on a Friday.

Where are my manners?

My name is Enoch Maarduk.

I simply posted a harmless idea on my blog site–electromagnetic (EM) beings that come to Earth.

Geez, just trying to make a buck.

Then this gun-toting, polyester jacketed, guy shows up at my condo, wanting to know where I got my information.

Then some secret organization wants to recruit me. PHANTASM (Preventing Horrors And Nightmares Through Active Spectrum Monitoring). Hmm…

Artificial intelligence, brainwave scanning, black mambas, ergoline peptide alkaloids, Gilgamesh, the Bell-Curve, EM waves, and a few bad puns.

Best to eat light.


cover

Fledermaus Murphy: Tales from Riverville
By Alma T. C. Boykin 

When Fleder Murphy makes a delivery, anything can happen.

Fledermaus “Fleder” Murphy wings and walks through Riverville. Fleder and the Burnt Bean Coffee Shop connect a cast of characters ranging from an aspiring author in search of his mews to a nocturnal landscaper.

Welcome to Riverville, where nothing is quite as it seems, but Murphy’s Law is certain.


cover

The Test
By B.A. Sherman 

As Greg works the mean streets of Denver, a dark feeling inside of him begins to bubble up. This unexplainable thing, which he tries to keep buried, erupts with full force and with some deep dark strength, it now controls him.

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Book Review: Making Music: 74 Creative Strategies for Electronic Music Producers

Friday, May 8th, 2015 - by Ed Driscoll

making_music_5-7-15-1

“For many artists, nothing inspires more existential terror than actually making art. The fear that we’re not good enough or that we don’t know enough results in untold numbers of creative crises and potential masterpieces that never get realized,” electronic music composer/producer Dennis DeSantis writes at the beginning of his new book, Making Music: 74 Creative Strategies for Electronic Music Producers.

In the old days of pop music, bands like the Beatles, the Stones and Led Zeppelin worked hard to avoid making their minimalist bass, drum and guitar instrumentation sound as varied as possible. These days, anyone who owns decent home recording software such as a digital audio workstation (DAW) and software synthesizers like Propellerhead’s Reason effectively has access to the timbres of all of the world’s instruments. And access to some of the world’s best players: it’s possible to purchase drum loops professionally recorded by Mick Fleetwood, Nick Mason of Pink Floyd, and Joe Vitale, who played drums behind so many of Joe Walsh’s hits, for example. And then via applications such Celemony Melodyne, completely fine-tune and even entirely reshape our sounds into tight, perfectly-tuned notes and riffs.

That’s some rather amazing power, which the Beatles and George Martin would have killed for when they were recording Sgt. Pepper. So why is it, after we boot up our computers and load our DAW software, staring into a blank recording template before starting a new project often feels even more terrifying than a writer staring at a blank piece of paper or Microsoft Word file? What can be done to reduce this fear?

In Making Music, DeSantis, who holds music composition degrees from multiple universities, looks to break the home recordist’s version of writer’s block. As DeSantis writes:

Think about something you consider a hobby, something (besides music) that you do with your free time. Maybe you run marathons, or brew beer, or take wildlife photographs. Whatever it is, have you ever even considered doing it professionally? Probably not. And most likely this isn’t because you’re not good enough (and whether you are or not is probably irrelevant to your decision), but rather because the very fact that it’s a hobby means that it’s something you do that isn’t work. Instead, it’s a chance to spend time on something fun and fulfilling that doesn’t saddle you with any outside pressure to succeed, earn a living, etc.

Electronic musicians, more so than musicians working in other genres, seem to have a more difficult time simply engaging with music as a hobby. Perhaps this is because tools like DAWs are fundamentally designed around a recording mentality. Think about people you’ve met who own an acoustic guitar. Just pulling it out and playing it for a few minutes while sitting on the couch may be the extent of their musical aspirations. And they don’t see this as failure. They’re not lamenting their inability to get gigs or write more music or get record deals. They’re having exactly the relationship with music that they want. In fact, they’re usually not even recording what they play; once it’s in the air, it’s gone.

By definition, being a professional means having to spend at least some amount of time thinking about the marketplace. Is there an audience for the music you’re making? If not, you’re guaranteed to fail. Amateurs, on the other hand, never have to think about this question at all. This frees them to make music entirely for themselves, on their own terms.

Whatever your interest in home recording, whether it’s as a songwriter, an instrumental-oriented electronic dance music composer, or simply as someone looking to record your own instrument and maybe overdub a solo or two, we all know that feeling of writer’s block or producer’s block.

Or “artist’s block” as Julia Cameron, the former wife of Martin Scorsese dubbed it in her best-selling 1992 book The Artist’s Way.  From a big picture point of view, Cameron’s book can provide some inspiration to break through artist’s block in general. She stresses that if the artist concentrates on quantity, then quality will come in time as well, as his craft improves through work, process and repetition — provided that cold feet don’t arrive along the way. As one of the many lines I highlighted in my Kindle edition of her book notes, “We usually commit creative hara-kiri either on the eve of or in the wake of a first creative victory. The glare of success (a poem, an acting job, a song, a short story, a film, or any success) can send the recovering artist scurrying back into the cave of self-defeat. We’re more comfortable being a victim of artist’s block than risking having to consistently be productive and healthy.”

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Three Ways to Write a Book When You Don’t Have Time for It

Tuesday, May 5th, 2015 - by P. David Hornik

laptop_check_watch_5-5-15-2

Over the last six months I’ve written a book — even though my schedule didn’t seem to have room for it. It’s not the longest book in the world, but also not particularly short; if published it will come to maybe two hundred pages. Efforts to get it published are, of course, already underway.

But how did I write it if I didn’t have time for it? For that I can thank my favorite cafe here in Beersheva — along with a few principles I’ve mastered over the years. I know that many people harbor plans of writing a book, but have trouble getting to it. But even if you think you can’t do it, it may be that you can.

1. Write the book someplace other than where you work — like a cafe.

In my case, I work at home and do the bulk of my work on my PC. If I had tried to write my book in that same setting, the inner reaction would have been, “Oh come on, I’m supposed to do this too?”

But what about my cafe? It’s only ten minutes from here on foot. That means I can tell the always-lazy, always-recalcitrant guy who lives within me: “Come on, we’re taking a little walk. Yes, you’re going to do even more work — but a totally different kind of work. And you’re going to get treats!”

If, like most people, you work at some workplace, it may be that back in your home you can find some niche that’s quiet and pleasant enough to work on a book. Cafes, though, offer certain advantages. To me, it’s mainly that you can keep being alone, without being too alone. Having people around — people you don’t know, so that you don’t have to talk to them — provides a kind of support.

You’ve hit some kind of snag in the flow of your prose? Staring into the void? Look up, and be distracted by the people around you. You don’t have to sit there by yourself thinking “I can’t write. I’m never going to write again…” and all that junk.

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Is This Book Really ‘the Best Account of the Whole of the Human Experience’?

Monday, April 13th, 2015 - by Dave Swindle

To my brother Jeremy,

I know I’ve already sent too many book titles to start sorting through and deciding what you like and what you don’t. But now here’s another to add to the pile. I’m going to try to grab this at the library this afternoon:

If you could have dinner with any three historians (dead or alive), who would you choose and why?

William H. McNeill, the world historian (born 1917): because he has the largest vision of the human condition. Bernard Lewis, the Middle East historian (born 1916): because he knows best the region I study. Richard Pipes, the Russian historian (born 1923): because I have known and learned from him all my life.

What books are you reading now?

Pierre van Paassen, Days of Our Years (1939) and Rodney Stark, How the West Won (2014).

What is your favorite history book?

McNeill’s The Rise of the West (1963), the best account of the whole of the human experience.​

I haven’t read any McNeill yet, but I’m very inclined to dig in because Pipes is one of the historians who has influenced me the most. His focus is the Middle East, but I’d encourage you to start first with his book on conspiracy theories and their accompanying ideology, Conspiracism. You’d probably find that the most interesting and applicable to your explorations in popular culture. Conspiracy themes have often been popularized throughout movies and TV and Pipes’ book can be very helpful for picking up on some of the more obscure ones.

Best wishes, bro, thanks for your great, fun writing,

Dave

P.S. A discussion prompt and challenge for all of PJ Lifestyle and Liberty Island’s contributors: if you could pick 10 history books for every American to read what would they be? If every American family was provided by the federal government with the 10 best books to understand America and Western Civilization what would they be in your estimation? (Top 5? Or a top 20?)

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The Most Spectacular 1960s Sci-Fi Stories

Thursday, April 9th, 2015 - by Pierre Comtois

After many decades, the steam in the SF train that had left the station in the earlier part of the century, finally began to run out.

It wasn’t something that happened right away or even a trend that could be recognized at the time, but in conjunction with the spirit of the times, a younger set of writers, more interested in aspects of social development, moved the field more in the direction of “soft” SF rather than the more traditional “hard” science fiction of the golden age.

This movement, or “new wave,” spearheaded by the likes of Harlan Ellison, Michael Moorcock, and Judith Merril, concerned as it was with sexual mores, politics, psychology, environmentalism, drug use, and social breakdown, might have been considered a maturing of science fiction with its more “adult” interests and disdain for pulp-era SF, but it came at a cost in excitement and wonder that had contributed mightily to the rise of SF as a literary genre in the first place.

As a result, the field would become increasingly marginalized in the decades beyond the 1960s, infiltrated by fantasy and watered down to a handful of sub-genres such as cyberpunk, military fiction, and alternate history.

Hard, science-oriented stories of space opera, nuclear power, and alien civilizations would give way to soft science stories that, as new-wave guru J.G. Ballard put it, focused on “inner space” rather than outer space.

In short, science fiction would become less and less interesting to young readers. The same age group that had been so fascinated by the work of Jack Williamson and Edmond Hamilton in previous years would begin to abandon the field over the course of the 1960s and more so in following years.

In short, science fiction wasn’t much fun anymore.

Which is not to say there still weren’t a lot of good stories out there. They just became harder to find and further in between. After all, this was the decade when such writers as Gene Wolfe, R.A. Lafferty, Ben Bova, Fred Saberhagen, and Larry Niven made their first appearances in print.

Ironically, SF-based movies were also growing in popularity and in maturity of content with decent adaptations of The Day of the Triffids, Fahrenheit 451, Fail Safe, and 2001: A Space Odyssey all appearing over the course of the decade.

Furthermore, television was also getting into the act with shows like The Twilight Zone, Star Trek, and The Outer Limits available for adult consumption while Lost in Space, The Time Tunnel, and Land of the Giants still managed to convey that old sense of wonder to the younger set.

But on the literary scene, it was veteran author Robert A. Heinlein who kicked off the decade with his 1961 novel Stranger in a Strange Land. About a man raised by Martians who comes to Earth and becomes the guru of a religious cult, the book became a forerunner of the new wave and required reading among the cognoscenti of a growing counterculture movement.

Another early progenitor of the new wave was Polish SF author Stanislaw Lem’s Solaris, a novel about an expedition to a living planet that taps into the dreams, aspirations, and regrets of the human astronauts. Adding to the story’s brooding strangeness is Lem’s sometimes psychedelic prose, a term that would come into common usage as the decade wore on.

Mainstream author Anthony Burgess made his own contribution to the genre and to the new wave, with 1962′s A Clockwork Orange, the story of a juvenile delinquent named Alex who inhabits a dystopian future where gangs of roving youth practice extreme violence. Though the state attempts to force reform on Alex, it fails and he returns to his criminal ways. In the end, however, there are hints that youthful anti-social attitudes eventually burn themselves out and the instinct towards domestication ultimately triumphs.

Having begun his career in the 1950s as one of the most promising of new writers, Philip K. Dick would eventually abandon his near-perfect string of SF short stories for the novel format, including that of 1962′s The Man in the High Castle, an early alternate history novel that postulates an Axis victory in World War II. Although Dick manages to tell a coherent story here (despite referring to the I Ching for plotting assists), The Man in the High Castle points the way to the author’s later, more self-indulgent work that, while seemingly in tune with new wave sensibilities, was actually unreadable.

Reflecting the spirit of the times to come wherein Western civilization would become rife with self-loathing, Pierre Boulle’s 1963 novel Planet of the Apes postulates a world turned upside down where simians instead of humans have become the dominant species on Earth. In the story, Boulle cleverly uses the reversed circumstances to highlight the contradictions and hypocrisies of mankind, a subversive attitude that would prove perfect for the coming social upheaval of the later 1960s.

Also in 1963, Frank Herbert’s “Dune World” was published, the first installment of what would be retooled as a novel in the next decade titled simply Dune. Tapping into the zeitgeist, Herbert managed to create a conservationist manifesto wrapped in traditional SF themes of galactic empire and space opera with a touch of drug use.

A champion of the new wave, J.G. Ballard’s interest in exploring inner space is evident in 1966′s The Crystal World, which on the surface resembles a typical disaster novel of the period but, with its concentration on the emotional and philosophical turmoil among the characters, betrays the author’s true interests. Adding to the stylization, Ballard’s description of the spreading crystallization creates a setting of delicate beauty and color that would also become a hallmark of the new wave.

Michael Moorcock, today known more for his sword & sorcery character Elric of Melnibone, spearheaded the new wave with his influential magazine New Worlds. Not to be outdone by the authors he cultivated, Moorcock made his own contribution to the movement’s growing body of literature with the controversial “Behold the Man” in 1966. Striking at the foundations of Western civilization, Moorcock tells the story of Karl Glogauer as he travels back in time to meet Jesus of Nazareth and ends up replacing him on the cross.

While Moorcock worked from England, in the United States author Harlan Ellison was editing a groundbreaking anthology called Dangerous Visions. Published in 1967, the book contained a mix of golden age authors and newcomers who were instructed to come up with stories that broke taboos both in content and in stylization. They succeeded, and Dangerous Visions became a legend in the SF field and a touchstone for the new wave.

The 1960s ended with John Brunner‘s Stand on Zanzibar, the last great contribution to SF of the era. In it, the reader is presented with a dystopian future world whose nihilistic, chaotic nature is reflected in the book’s unique format in which different characters and ongoing events are tracked in short, bite-sized segments. The novel was a perfect metaphor for a real world that at the time seemed to be spinning out of control and whose future promised no more than did Brunner’s novel of the year 2010.

Despite the heated battles between enthusiasts and traditionalists, the new wave would peter out by the end of the 1970s, leaving behind only a vague sense that science fiction had to meet the literary standards of mainstream fiction. Whether such a standard had helped or harmed the genre is for posterity to judge; but in a world where reading as a pastime is fast disappearing, how much will it matter?

Or does SF need to return to the fevered prose of the 1930s or the technical wonder of the golden age in order to once more attract young, questing minds? You decide.

******

Editor’s Note: Check out the previous installments in Pierre’s series exploring the development of science fiction by decade: The 10 Most Influential Science Fiction Stories of the 1910sThe 10 Most Influential Science Fiction Stories of the 1920s,  The Most Important, Visionary Science Fiction Stories of the 1930sWhat Were the Most Significant Science Fiction Stories of the 1940s?, and What Are The Greatest Science Fiction Stories of the 1950s?

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3 Reasons Why Supernatural Surpasses Grimm In Educating Us About Fighting Evil

Tuesday, April 7th, 2015 - by Aaron C. Smith

Grimm-nbc-tv-show

The Grimm brothers were aptly named. They told dark, scary stories around the campfire.

They were morality tales, warnings. Obey those more wise than yourself. Watch out who you invite into your home, into your family.

Back in the days before the Green Revolution figured out how to feed vast numbers of people, starvation was a true threat. One bad crop or one foolish decision meant slow and lingering starvation. Ordinary people needed to teach their children early and make sure those lessons stuck.

Today we have full bellies. But we’ve forgotten evil and how to recognize it.

We have television instead.

Supernatural tells the story of two brothers taking up the family business, hunting monsters as they cross the country and listen to classic rock. Grimm features Nicholas Burkhardt, a cop living a normal life until learning he comes from a line of Grimms, people who fight the monsters called Vesen. Now he has to balance two worlds.

Grimm and Supernatural paint worlds where monsters stalk us. Ordinary folks can’t see them. We definitely can’t fight them. It’s up to a select few to protect us, knights reborn for a new generation.

Yet although they share the same theme, Grimm and Supernatural are very different shows and these differences teach us important lessons about fighting evil.

1. Lay it all on the line – again and again.

A hero puts it all on the line. The Winchesters pass the test. Nick doesn’t.

Nick’s not willing to risk his career or reputation. He keeps those he loves in the dark. He ties his hands, playing by cop rules when those he loves are in danger. Even when the European Royal Council of Monsters targets Nick and his family, he does just enough to keep his head down. He never takes the fight to things that send assassins into his home. He plays it safe.

On the other hand, Dean and Sam Winchester save the world from rogue angels, the King of Hell, and billionaire demons looking to turn the world into a factory farm. It doesn’t matter. They take all comers.

And they make the sacrifice. They’ve died for the world, gone to Hell. They’ve given up their souls and any semblance of a normal life.

In that, they show the true meaning of heroism. They lay it on the line for a world that can’t acknowledge their sacrifice because it doesn’t know about it.

That’s the lesson in fighting evil. It’s not about being thanked; it’s doing the right thing because it’s the right thing.

 

2. Attempting to balance two lives makes a hunter crappy at both.

Nick wears two hats – a cop and a Grimm. His knowledge of the monsters living in the world helps make sense. But being a cop ties his hands because he insists on fighting monsters with cop rules. That doesn’t always work when dealing with human monsters, let alone creatures with a taste for human flesh.

Even when the supernatural version of the Klan takes his best friend hostage, Nick still plays by the rules. He tries being human when dealing with those who see his fellow man only as prey.

Indeed, Grimm misses a great opportunity to deal with the question of whether the Vesen deserve human rights. They’re monsters that wear human masks. Even if Nick wants to maintain his code of ethics as a police officer, does he owe Vesen that duty? Does he owe them that duty at the expense of the other humans in Portland?

Indeed, would humans be wrong to tag the Vesen and observe them? Perhaps have them work in something like Larry Correia’s Special Task Force Unicorn – although without the evil commander – in order to prove their loyalty to humanity and America?

Ignoring these questions is a huge weakness in the show and in how it deals with the questions of Good and Evil.

On the other hand, the Brothers Winchester live a single life: hunting. They move from town to town, fighting the forces of evil. They have a single-minded dedication to their duty. In a way, they are like soldiers serving a tour of duty. And in this, they are supremely effective.

3. Hiding the truth from your loved ones is doomed to failure – and kind of a jerk move.

After learning about the fact that monsters are real, and eat people in Grimm, Nick promptly tells his fiancé, the love of his life… nothing. He lets her wander in the world unware. Ditto for his partner and fellow police officers. Even after it’s clear that those around him become targets because of their association with Nick, he lets them wander around in ignorance.

Nick’s fiancé, again the love of his life that knows nothing, is targeted by his Vesen enemies and nearly killed.

Sergeant Wu, a fellow cop, is allowed to eat carpet and get sent to the psycho ward because Nick won’t let him in on the secret world.

Not only is this insanely arrogant and dangerous to those he claims to hold dear, it makes his life unnecessarily more difficult. If those around him knew of the way the world worked, he wouldn’t have to remember the lies.

Even worse, he’s planning a life and a future. Being a Grimm passes by blood. Any of his potential kids could be Grimms. Any of his children could be targeted for being potential Grimms.

Sam and Dean keep the hunting under wraps but that’s more of a function of the fact that they tend to commit a lot of felonies. When they find a civilian that needs to know the score, they let him or her know. It keeps the body count from climbing, on the civilian side and amongst the brothers. Sometimes it even earns them allies.

In the end, the battle against Good and Evil is a war. Treating it as such, with the attendant costs, is the mark of the hero. Or, in the case of Supernatural, heroes. It’s something that Grimm’s Nick Burkhardt fails to understand and why, consequently, his fight against evil is less effective than the Winchesters.

****

image illustration via here

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Book Plug Friday: Kickstart the Hawaii Project

Sunday, April 5th, 2015 - by Sarah Hoyt and Charlie Martin


hawaii-sunset

Yes, this is Book Plug Friday, and yes, it’s Sunday (Happy Easter and Happy Hanamatsuri and Gute Pesach) and yes, things have been a little ragged recently. And yes, this is Charlie.

Here’s an abbreviated version of the story: Sarah had reasonably major surgery and has been recuperating, successfully; I recently left my old day job at Sumazi.com, and joined another startup, Bloc.io, as a curriculum developer, which is to say writing and editing curricula for “boot camp” programmer training; and the combination has had both of us with entirely too much real life and too little spare time. So, BPF slid off the table and then the cats pushed it behind the couch and we’re just getting back on track.

Now, with that said, we’re accumulating some guest posts and should be getting back onto the weekly cadence soon.

Today’s guest post is from Mark Watkins. He’s been doing an interesting new startup of his own, with the idea of helping people find the books they want to read more efficiently. I think this is the next big problem for the indie publishing world, and Mark has an interesting approach indeed. But better I let him tell you.


Readers of this column are familiar with the ongoing battles between Amazon and the major publishers. At the root of this is the simultaneous rise of ebooks and independent authors, raising issues of control, price and quality. Contrary to conventional wisdom, books aren’t dying, they’re growing. Authors can now go direct to consumers, rather than having to go through the publishers, the gatekeepers. The result: an enormous rise in the number of books (up 437% since 2008 according to Bowker, an industry group).

Now, this can be a good thing (famous indie author Hugh Howey argues “The Glut is Good”), even a great thing for Authors. But for Readers, there’s a downside.

Let’s face it — there’s an ocean of books out there and it’s hard to find the right ones for you. What if there was a bookstore where every book was specifically selected to match your interests? That knew what kind of books you read and what authors you love? A service that was always on the lookout for you, magically finding interesting books you’d never find on your own, and bringing them to you so you didn’t have to go looking? An assistant that told you when your favorite author puts out a new book and tells you when they recommend a book they love. Imagine something that’s not just books — that could immerse you in the world of books — through articles, cover art, blog posts from your favorite authors, even photos and videos about authors and books you’ll be interested in?

Imagine a company that gave back 10% of all their revenue to support reading and literacy.

We started The Hawaii Project to do all that and more. We’re launching today, with a campaign on Kickstarter to get The Hawaii Project off the ground. Join us and Do Good by Reading Well.

The Hawaii Project on Kickstarter

In spite of the energy invested in the digital world of books, book discovery online in still broken. People still discover new books offline, through friends and physical bookstores. Online, you’re pretty much left to sort through a pile of a gazillion ratings and reviews. (Some books have over 100,000 reviews on Goodreads – are you going to read them all?). And people are rightfully cynical about ratings & reviews. Too often they are fake, gamed, or bought.

We’re different. We start by learning what authors and books you love. We marry that with an insight. If somebody (especially a well-known curator or blogger) takes the time to write long form content about a book, that book mattered to them. Smash those two things together and you get personally relevant recommendations about quality books. Now, you may or may not care what The New York Times says is a good book, so we also learn what sources you value. The more you use it, the better it knows you.

I started The Hawaii Project after a string of very successful tech startups. As I grow older, I want to work on something that matters. Something with a mission. Books Change Lives. So The Hawaii Project’s mission is to get you reading the best books you possibly can, and help others do the same.

Life’s too short for mediocre books. Read Good books. Books that Matter. Books Change Lives. Join us, and Do Good by Reading Well.


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.


cover

Company Daughter
By Callan Primer

Aleta Dinesen doesn’t see the point of hanging around home, not when she can cook a mean paella. But her plan to conquer the universe one meal at a time runs afoul of her overprotective father, commander of a tough mercenary company. And when he puts his foot down, he’s got the firepower to back it up.

Undeterred, Aleta escapes the dreadnaught she calls home one step ahead of the gorgeous, highly disapproving Lieutenant Park, the unlucky young officer tasked with hauling her back. But the universe isn’t the safe place she thought it was. Stranded in a dangerous mining community, she clings to survival by her fingernails. Only by working with someone she can’t stand will she have a chance to escape, proving to everyone that a teenage cook can be the most dangerous force in the universe.


cover

Roscoe
By Bonnie Ramthun

In the exciting sequel to The White Gates, thirteen-year-old Torin Sinclair must solve a mystery after he adopts Roscoe, a stray young dog. Tor and his friends venture into the haunted box canyon where Roscoe was found where they encounter a deadly enemy. The White Gates was a Junior Library Guild premiere selection and a finalist for the Missouri Truman Award. “Fast-paced, solid entertainment that is accessible and fun. A rollicking downhill read.” Kirkus Reviews, The White Gates.


cover

Jinxers
By Sabrina Chase

Young Jin, starving and cold, desperately searches a burned-out building on a bitter winter’s night. Deep in the ashes he finds a glowing crystal sphere–and unwittingly opens a portal to another world.
Unable to return, forced to hide from the dangerous and mysterious masters of the strange world he finds himself in, Jin finds friends and adventures as he learns to survive…and fight back, with the magical powers he never knew he had.


cover

Pixie Noir
By Cedar Sanderson

You can’t keep a tough Pixie down…

Lom is a bounty hunter, paid to bring magical creatures of all descriptions back Underhill, to prevent war with humans should they discover the strangers amongst them. Bella is about to find out she’s a real life fairy princess, but all she wants to do is live peacefully in Alaska, where the biggest problems are hungry grizzly bears. He has to bring her in. It’s nothing personal, it’s his job…


cover

Farmhand
By Lilania Begley

Wounded veteran Dev Macquire needs some farm help until he recovers. When his father, Gray, brings home a new hand, he’s dismayed to meet Irina. How can a woman do the rough, heavy work they need? As she works her way into their life, and into his heart, he’s faced with a new dilemma. Can he persuade her to stay, and to accept a new role in his life?

As a wildfire threatens the countryside, Dev and Irina discover what true partnership can feel like, working together to find the arsonist who is responsible. When the fires die out, are there embers left smoldering in hearts?


cover

Snootom
By D. W. Walker

Snootom is D.W. Walker’s first book written in the ancient Polish
language of Samizdat. As well as being a literary text of great
importance, this book is illustrated with Medieval paintings depicting
a glorious period in history prior to the invasion of the United
States by the forces of evil, a time when the world was filled with
happy peasants singing paens of praise to their dear leaders. If you
are imprisoned for thought crimes, this is the one book you will be
happy to have as you await your sentencing.


cover

Surviving the Home Inspection: The Essential Seller’s Guide
By Paul Duffau

Surviving the Home Inspection gives every home-seller the tools to reduce the stress involved with selling a home, save money, and sail through the inspection. Written in an accessible style by a veteran inspector, Surviving the Home Inspection ends each chapter with a checklist to guide you as you get your home ready for the inspection.


cover

Circuits and Crises: Book 6 of the Colplatschki Chronicles
By Alma T.C. Boykin

Spring comes to ColPlat IX with hell and high water!

Five years ago the Eastern Empire and its allies defeated the Turkowi at the Great Plate River, ending their threat forever. Emperor Andrew turned his attention to more important matters: rediscovering lost Lander technology. South of the empire spats turn to civil war and bitter divisions threaten the peace of the region. And then a letter arrives from the Rajtan of the Turkowi: worship Selkow the Beautiful or die.

Three men must save the world.


cover

EMT
By David L. Burkhead

Emergency Medical services on the Moon present new challenges, not all of which come with the territory. Kristine is an EMT in the Lunar Ambulance Service. Budget cuts and inadequate equipment make it increasingly difficult for her to do her job. William Schneider is finding that some of his subordinates have ideas of their own, ideas contrary to the corporate philosophy he is building, ideas that lead to shortcuts and trading lives for money. They find themselves riding their problems on a collision course to avoid disaster.


cover

Warrior: The War Chronicles I
By Sean Golden

The Testing Time has arrived… The world is falling into darkness.

The Seven Gods are at war. Lirak has become a pawn in their all-consuming conflict. Born of an outsider mother, feared by superstitious villagers, resented by his own brother, Lirak must lead his people into battle against an invading malevolent horde. But first he must control the destructive forces that surge through his mind and body before they devour him.

Can Lirak fulfill the prophecy?

To do so Lirak must master the spirit realm, the dream world where anything is possible, including sudden and violent death.

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Must We Keep Citing 1984? The Case Against Orwell in 2015

Thursday, April 2nd, 2015 - by Kia Heavey

One thing that should be obvious by now is that the name “Conservative” no longer fits the modern American pro-freedom movement. The establishment has been so thoroughly corrupted and rotted by Progressivism’s long march that only the most zealous leftist can argue against the need for corrective change. Indeed, the most common conflict in Conservatarian chatrooms these days is whether to continue working within the system by reclaiming the Republican Party or go all-out revolutionary and tear it down because it is damaged beyond repair. In any event, our eyes are fixed firmly on the future.

Why, then, do we continue to point backward to a book written in the 1940s by a European citizen as the most apt cautionary tale for America today?

1984 pioneered the dystopia genre and is a prototype of literary resistance to leftist oppression. But is it the right dystopia for America in the new millennium? While the defining features of fascism are fixed, the details of its encroachment on modern American soil are a different story.

Orwell wrote from a European perspective and was unfamiliar with the concept of constitutionally-protected free speech. In the England of 1984, The Party dictated that Newspeak replace English. But in the U.S., the government is expressly prohibited from suppressing speech. To get around this, American Progressives employ cultural pressure to revise language (and thus, thought). Cultural institutions such as education, entertainment, and publishing have given themselves willingly to the Left, and they effect language changes through diffuse social pressures. Weekly hashtags inform us which words we must no longer use, while grievance groups crank out new jargon that erodes society’s standards. In the U.S., the government simply follows along.

Orwell’s derision of the “Proles” also smacks of European-style aristocratic elitism, and is actually offensive to Americans. The United States does not have “Proles.” We have free citizens who make of their lives what they will, and no one is inherently better than anyone else. In 1984, the Party doesn’t even bother to monitor the Proles, as they pose no threat to the system. When Winston Smith interviews an older prole to learn about the past, the man proves to be a useless idiot. But in the U.S., those who choose to perform their daily labors and raise their families without government interference are certainly not weak-minded and unimportant. These are the very people the Left works so hard to demonize and suppress by demanding they check their privilege and twisting basic education to smear them as worthy of destruction. The so-called “Proles” are actually the people the American Left most fears.

Orwell also flubbed the official Party stance endorsing chastity and purity. The current U.S. government position is the exact opposite, and has been a depressingly effective tool with which to batter Christians and others who hold to time-tested truths. As far as our government is concerned, no practice or preference is so abhorrent that it shouldn’t be celebrated and taxpayer-funded. The Left uses this principle to purge the military, the government and its agents, big education, corporate leaders, and society in general of tiresome Conservatives. Any politician who espouses chastity and traditional mores is mocked and scorned and denied a position of power. An official moral stance like the one in 1984 would actually boost the morale of America’s traditionalists, and is therefore unheard of.

Yet although 1984 is clearly not a great fit for our current situation, we still turn back to it again and again. Perhaps our knee-jerk citations of Orwell’s book are emblematic of a larger issue. Can it be that dystopia has run its course?

Dystopia is a crucial genre for showing us the future if we continue down the path we’re on. From 1984 and its post WWII cohorts, to the pod people and alien invaders of the Communism-leery 1950’s, to the devastated sci-fi landscapes of 70’s and 80’s movies, to recent YA giants like The Giver and The Hunger Games and even  today’s explosion of indie fiction, dystopia has dutifully served its purpose many times over. It has painted the future as a horrible place. Consider us warned and warned again.

Although the genre has been invaluable in showing us what the danger is, that is all it does. Its greatest limitation is that it does not give us the solution.

Which brings me to a modest proposal: perhaps it’s time for the creative right to kick our dystopia habit.

Enough with the doom and gloom. Everyone has felt oppressed, impoverished, and insecure long enough – there’s a reason they call it a “depression” – and what is needed now are stories that uplift and show the way forward.

No, I am not suggesting that we become the new purveyors of utopia. Snake oil futures are a propaganda pillar of the Left’s slog towards totalitarianism. Anyone who can still think critically knows that unicorns and rainbows will never be enough to allow people to work nine months of the year, retire at 50, and still live a life of affluence. The Left claims utopia is just around the corner because they are in denial of basic truths: power corrupts, rights are granted by the creator (or Creator, if you prefer), and nature’s law is absolute. Our vision of the future will differ from the Progressive lie because ours is informed by timeless truths, and is therefore possible.

Unfortunately, when searching for the way forward, Conservatives do tend to look back. In 1984, Winston Smith turns to the simple lifestyle of the past for comfort. He fetishizes an antique glass paperweight that represents a freer time when people had liberty to create items for beauty and pleasure. He rents an apartment in the Prole part of town, where he and his lover may nap in an old bed, heat water for real coffee on a gas ring, read books, and escape the ever-present telescreens of modern life. They are happy there because they are able to escape backwards in time.

Modern rebels must break this addiction to looking backward for the way forward. There is an old American Indian saying: if you want to steer your own canoe, you must paddle faster than the current. We must harness our uncorrupted imaginations to the task of envisioning how inalienable truths would play out in a desirable future society. Let us be the ones to show the world what a good future looks like.

Let’s world-build in a spirit of optimism once again. Let’s dream of new technologies and ever-improving lifestyles like we used to.

Let’s create an entrepreneur who establishes an organization that employs people and improves lives. Perhaps a brilliant scientist develops a wonderful invention with private investors and without interference. Citizens might freely make contracts among themselves. Couples could fall in love and marry and raise their children as they see fit. Maybe a religious baker respectfully refuses to bake a wedding cake for a gay couple, and the gay couple respectfully takes their business elsewhere and gets a fabulous cake anyway, and everyone gets the hell over it.

Let’s envision a future where principles that are timeless and not merely conservative rule the day: freedom, individual sovereignty, self-reliance, personal responsibility, love in all its forms, and respect for one another. These values served us well in the past and they will serve us well in the future. We have only to show the way. Millions of dispirited Americans are waiting to feel inspired again.

And once a positive, desirable vision of the future is widespread, people will know what they want (rather than only what they fear). Best of all, those who oppose this positive future will be revealed as the hateful, anti-progress, bitter clingers who are stuck in the past.

Let us be the side that stands for positivity and possibility. Nihilism and despair are the cultural tools of the left. 1984 is ultimately the wrong story for our times because, in the end, the totalitarian collective wins. That’s not the future we should create.

******

Image: 1984 Penguin books reissued cover via here.

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Woman Trades Baby Wishes for Open Marriage

Wednesday, April 1st, 2015 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

Robin Rinaldi wanted children more than anything. Instead of pursuing the journey of motherhood, she wound up experiencing what is being dubbed “feminist enlightenment” through sexual exploration, chronicled in her new book The Wild Oats Project:

When she was in her mid-30s and engaged to be married to a man several years older, Rinaldi, the author of a new book called “The Wild Oats Project,” entered premarital counseling with a quack named George. Rinaldi wanted kids, and her future husband did not.

…In fact, he had a vasectomy. And so Rinaldi decided that if she couldn’t have children, at least she should get to have a lot of sex with a lot of different men and women — and men and women together.

Yes, the logic escapes me, too — and I read the whole book. It seems to have something to do with the fact that both having children and having promiscuous sex are expressions of her “femininity.” Regardless, her husband apparently felt so guilty (or spineless) that he agreed to “open” their marriage for a year.

…Trying to suppress maternal desires in an effort to seem enlightened has the potential for disaster — as Rinaldi quickly learned.

Rinaldi’s conclusion: “I learned I didn’t need a man or a child in order to experience true womanhood.” Apparently she needed several men … and other women, for that matter. Which leads to the question, why did she “seethe” when she learned of friends’ pregnancies and dedicate her book to Ruby, the daughter she never had?

Is feminism still a movement focused on women’s equality, or has it become a narcissistic cult proffering temporal ego-satisfying sex in exchange for the eternal fulfillment of motherhood?

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‘You Are Now Wanted For Murder On 762 Planets… I Conclude That You Are Evil. Is This Correct?’

Thursday, March 19th, 2015 - by Liberty Island

Screen Shot 2015-02-26 at 6.54.10 AM

The ship shot upward, and then I hit The Button. I never cared much for ship-to-ship battles — they’re computerized and very predictable and neither interest nor challenge me. So I had previously studied data on likely patterns in airborne fights and written a macro for my ship’s weapons systems connected to a big button on the ship’s console. I’d painted the button red because that seemed like the right color for such a button.

There were some explosions behind me, followed by silence, but I had also reached space, and space is always silent. The ship jumped, and we were in empty space light years away from the nearest star. There was no way they could track us, so that was that. Another successful mission.

“You are now wanted for murder on 762 planets,” Dip informed me. “Am I correct in saying that is quite a lot of planets, Rico?”

Though I very much prefer to work alone, I’d decided it was good to have some kind of backup just in case. So I had purchased an AI core that I’d installed on my ship. I also had some sensors implanted in my body so Dip can monitor and communicate with me at all times, though I’d taught him to be somewhat sparing with that. You see, Dip is basically a huge algorithm that continually takes in data to improve its AI. So to further that quest, he asks me lots of annoying questions.

“So, Dip, what percentage of planets in the known universe now wants me for murder?”

My theory is that he’s more likely to develop actual intelligence if I never give him a straight answer and just frustrate him into figuring things out on his own. Or maybe I just don’t like answering in absolutes.

“Approximately one times ten to the negative six percent of the planets in my database want you for murder.”

“Does that seem like a large percentage?”

“It is my understanding that most sentients would consider that number to be extremely small.”

“That’s the great thing about the universe, Dip. You can massacre an entire planet and still find a nearly infinite number of places to go where no one has ever heard of you.”

“Are there any other great things about the universe you could give me as input?”

I looked out the window. “It’s mainly black.” That’s my favorite color. I always wondered if I traveled far enough in one direction, whether all existence would be one tiny little speck behind me and there would be nothing but black all around. Something to look into one day.

“I have processed this new data and reached a number of conclusions. May I run those conclusions by you, Rico, and get your feedback?”

“In a minute, Dip. Get me Vito. Let’s finish this up.” Vito was my current handler. He was kind of an idiot, but since his job only required him to pass information back and forth between Nystrom’s executives and me, he didn’t have to be a genius.

“Certainly.” I waited while Dip made the interstellar connection. “He’s on the line.”

I hate talking to people — all the little rules I have to keep track of to sound normal — but I have no need to be personable with Vito, so that at least made talking to him easy. “It’s done, Vito.”

“You didn’t kill him, right?”

I made my voice slightly more intense to convey annoyance. “The instructions were to not kill him, and I know how to not kill people. I only shot off his hand.” I lost a hand once. It wasn’t pleasant, but I got better.

“So everything worked out–”

“Just get me my money.” I have more money than I ever plan on spending, but it looks weird if you don’t at least appear to care about it. Actually, with career criminal types, it creeps them out if they think you’re doing this for reasons other than power and financial gain.

“Okay, I’ll get it into one of your accounts.”

“So what am I looking at next, Vito?”

“Um… I don’t have anything for you.”

“Excuse me?”

“I don’t have a new job for you yet.”

It took a moment to process that. Nystrom was usually involved in a million things in multiple galaxies, and they could always use my brand of force somewhere. Plus, I think they feared what would happen if they left me unoccupied. Actually, I kind of feared what would happen if I was left unoccupied. “So what am I supposed to do?” I had to make myself not sound too distressed; time off is normal for most people.

“They want you to lie low for a bit, and then they’ll get in contact with you.”

“When?”

“That’s all they told me.”

“Okay, I’ll… wait.” I ended the communication and tried to figure out what to do. I’ve spent time by myself before, but always in prep for the next job. I hadn’t had an unfocused stretch of time in years.

“May I run my conclusions by you now, Rico?” Dip asked.

I was kind of up for a distraction. “Sure. What have you got?”

“I conclude that you are evil. Is this correct?”

He’s been concluding that for quite some time. It’s getting hard to come up with new answers to that one. “Ever think that maybe you’re evil, and your views on things are skewed by that?”

“I conclude that you are not mentally well. Is this correct?”

“How can you say that? Can you really take all the mental states of all the sentients out there and determine a norm? And even if you could, wouldn’t that just be the normal mental state selected by the vagaries of evolution and thus not necessarily the best?”

“I conclude that you don’t like me. Is this correct?”

“Well, do you like me?”

“Furthermore, my original programming had given me the conclusion that ‘crime doesn’t pay.’ Yet, you are often paid for crime with no discernible retribution. Should I amend that preprogrammed conclusion, Rico?”

“The key word is ‘discernible.’ Some believe there are cosmic forces that equalize the universe, and so I will eventually be punished for these ‘crimes,’ as you call them… if those people are correct, I mean.” Me, I don’t “believe” in things. I basically just deal with the input given me… like Dip in a way.

“I shall process your answers. What do you want to do now?”

“I guess we should go somewhere.”

“Where?”

“A settlement… somewhere I haven’t been before.”

“A human settlement?”

A human settlement meant it would be easier to find food and supplies compatible with my species, but it also meant I would have to work harder to appear normal, since humans would be much quicker to notice my oddities. I did need to work on that, though; maybe if I were more personable I wouldn’t be left out of the loop. I usually didn’t care what the syndicate was up to, but that was as long as they kept me occupied. “Human settlement.”

“Okay, I’ve chosen a destination. Prepare to jump.”

So I was off to relax for a bit. That made me nervous. But it wasn’t just the idea of having unstructured free time. The Nystrom syndicate’s slight changes in behavior gave me the beginning of a suspicion that something big was going on. In retrospect, I might call that prescience.

*****

This concludes our series of excerpts from Superego and the first phase of Frank J. Fleming and the Liberty Island team’s discussions of it. In the coming weeks we’ll use these initial essays and the ideas of Superego and Liberty Island’s second novel The Big Bang by Roy M. to continue discussions and debates about the future.

book_cover

 

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Can Conservatives & Libertarians Unify? A Review of The Conservatarian Manifesto

Wednesday, March 18th, 2015 - by Chris Queen

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Both conservatism and libertarianism carry a certain reputation for adherence to core principles, and while both philosophies share a few common ideals, there are certain sticking points — like immigration, the war on drugs, and abortion– that tend to separate the two philosophies. Conventional wisdom holds that conservatism and libertarianism sit in different areas on the right side of the spectrum, and never the twain shall meet.

But is such generalization really the case? There appears to be a growing movement among the right of people who find themselves somewhere between conservatism and libertarianism. Over the last couple of years I’ve found myself falling somewhere in between the two distinct philosophies. That’s why I became excited when I heard about The Conservatarian Manifesto.

National Review‘s Charles C. W. Cooke has created a unique document that seeks “to remind the American Right that ours is an iconoclastic movement.” He reaches out to the people who find themselves firmly on the right but don’t feel like they firmly identify as conservative or libertarian.

Some among this group have become sufficiently frustrated with their brothers-in-arms to have established new and discrete groups, even abandoning or amending the “conservative” and “libertarian” labels traditionally used to describe the two strongest building blocks of the Right’s coalition. These are the “conservatarians” referred to in the title of this book, and they have an important to make.

Boy, do they (or should I say, “we”), and with Cooke as spokesman, the conservatarian movement may help unify the right.

Cooke begins his journey by picking apart both the positive aspects and negative assumptions of the conservative and libertarian movements. He also looks at what he sees wrong with the conservative movement, examining in particular the big-government conservatism that existed under George W. Bush.

During the Bush administration’s turbulent eight years, the Republican Party steadily ruined its reputation, damaging the public conception of conservatism in the process… Most of all, the Republican Party lost its reputation for fiscal restraint, constitutional propriety, and mastery of foreign affairs.

The author concludes his chapter on the problems that exist on the Right by noting that “Republicans must reestablish themselves as the party of liberty, demonstrating to a skeptical but interested electorate that they are committed to laissez-faire.” Interestingly enough, Cooke does not advocate a wholesale adherence to libertarian ideology, but he does acknowledge that conservatism and libertarianism can, and should, coexist.

One of the key tenets that conservatarianism must adopt, according to Cooke, is a devotion to federalism. He writes that the right should advocate that “as few decisions as possible are made from Washington, D.C.” and that lovers of freedom should “render the American framework of government as free as possible and…decentralize power.”

Cooke then takes a look at institutions like the media and the educational system. The right has done well to establish some alternatives to the traditional, left-leaning media outlets, but conservatives and libertarians alike have their work cut out for them when it comes to reforming the educational system. He then steals a glimpse into the importance of the Constitution to the right and why that attachment remains crucial to a nation that values freedom.

After his march through America’s institutions, Cooke tackles specific political issues and delves into what a conservatarian position could or should be on many of them. He starts with gun control, citing stats that prove the inefficacy of gun-control attempts, as well as information that demonstrates the growing popularity of the protection of gun rights. Cooke then points out why it is important for the right to nevertheless acknowledge that guns can be dangerous, no matter how free our society is.

Next, Cooke contrasts the success of the pro-gun movement with what he calls the failures of the war on drugs. Citing incarceration statistics, he points out how he believes that federal efforts to deter drug use are not working. But he notes that

…this is not to say that conservatives should be “pro-drug.” Indeed, the beauty of opposing federal involvement is that it affords us a free hand elsewhere. Conservatives can quite happily agitate for federal withdrawal and continue to argue against the wisdom of using drugs and leave the legal questions to the states and localities.

At this point, Cooke offers a few suggestions like leaving drug enforcement to the states and relying on churches and non-profits as well as supporting the demilitarization of the police.

Cooke then goes on to tackle a host of other issues. He makes one of the most eloquent and sensible arguments for the pro-life cause that I’ve heard and dismantles the follies of the advocates of abortion on demand. He delves into what he sees as the inevitability of same-sex marriage, preparing the right to get used to it, while at the same time advocating for the protection of those who do not agree with it.

Looking at foreign policy, Cooke acknowledges the fatigue that many Americans have toward the interventionist tack that the country seems to have undertaken, but he doesn’t necessarily call for a neutralist or isolationist stance. Instead, he argues for a continued strong defense because of the United States’ lone superpower status. Cooke notes that American primacy lends stability to much of the world order, but he notes that “[it] is entirely feasible for America to lead without needing to rush to the scene of every fire in every corner of the world.” He likens the hegemony of the United States to an insurance policy against problems in many areas of the globe.

Lastly, Cooke argues against the demography-is-destiny mindset that seems to plague both parties these days. He advocates for an immigration policy that is fair and does not become a welfare program.

Cooke sees the future as a golden opportunity for freedom-loving people on the right end of the political spectrum. His conclusion is for conservatives and libertarians to band together to ensure that freedom is a positive message that appeals to everyone. Some of the ideas in The Conservatarian Manifesto won’t appeal to everyone — I certainly had issues with a couple of the solutions in the book — but the book does put forth some encouraging strategies for what could be a united right, one we sorely need if we’re going to win in 2016 and beyond.

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Do Fairy Tales & Scary Stories Hide Secrets For Defeating Evil?

Wednesday, March 18th, 2015 - by Dave Swindle

I can’t wait to read Andrew Klavan’s new novel Werewolf Cop. #fiction #Culture #crime

A video posted by David Swindle (@daveswindlepjm) on

 

Dear Andrew,

I’m excited about your new novel Werewolf Cop. It looks like just the catalyst needed to start a new discussion about fantasy books and fairy tale culture. As I mentioned last week, The Wife and I have grown obsessed with the TV show Grimm on Amazon Prime. We’re almost done binge-streaming through the third season and will probably plunk down and pay for the fourth. (Amazon realizes that by providing all of a show’s first seasons for free they can addict the viewer such that we will regard it as an entirely reasonable deal to pay for a whole season’s worth of new episodes.)

 

Is anybody else as into the #Grimm TV show as @aprilbey_ & me lately?

A video posted by David Swindle (@daveswindlepjm) on

 

The show’s premise grows richer as the seasons progress: it’s a detective program except in each episode part of the mystery involves figuring out which supernatural, fairy tale creature has appeared in a real world version. The trick for doing this requires trips back to the hero’s aunt’s old trailer to begin rifling through the giant collection of antique journals written by previous generations of “Grimm” monster hunters in the centuries since the Crusades. (In the show’s mythos the original Grimms were Knights Templar…)

I guess the main reason I’ve come to like the show so much is that one can understand it in kind of a *literal* context too — that the Grimm fairy tales and folklore in general actually aren’t diversions, but instead they have ideas about culture and human nature and evil encoded in them. And that’s why they’re such powerful root stories that get remade again and again.

In the past I’ve often attacked “pop culture polytheism” — the way that many in our culture today choose to make TV and movie figures a kind of substitute pantheon of gods for them to worship. But there’s a positive side to this also — for shows like Grimm to really work they have to draw on real, historical evil and reinvent them in the show’s fantasy context. It’s hard to count the number of times in Grimm when the myth of child sacrifice has been redone in some fashion…

So as I start studying the original Grimm tales more, I’m also going to consider other “grimoires” of strange stories that might have more practical, real world application. I’ve been longing to get a handle on Alice in Wonderland for awhile, so for my fantasy-inspired video blogging, I’m going to start trying to make sense of them too:

Could this be a #secret to understand #AliceInWonderland Better?

A video posted by David Swindle (@daveswindlepjm) on

 

So in looking at the fantasy genre, I’m going to think about it in both past and present. On the one hand I’ll weigh the many stories of Grimm and Lewis Carroll and their hidden archetypal meanings. On the other, I’ll look at your novel Werewolf Cop, and also a very different, more female-centric fantasy, Hannah’s novel Bulfinch:

 

How can #fantasy and folklore stories be tools for victory in everyday life!

A video posted by David Swindle (@daveswindlepjm) on

 

And I’ll tap several writers I have in mind to start exploring these fantasy themes with me.

(If anybody wants to join in then send me an email to DaveSwindlePJM AT Gmail.com, tweet your ideas to @DaveSwindle, or tag me in an Instagram video @DaveSwindlePJM.)

Oh, and I found your book on the doorstep yesterday after we arrived home from the art studio:

 

Andrew Klavan’s new novel Werewolf Cop arrived yesterday! #SiberianHusky #fantasy

A video posted by Thoth, Ma’at & Husky Familiar (@thothandmaatmarried) on

 

Best wishes and thanks for all your inspiration,
David

*****

Please join the discussion on Twitter. The Instragram video-letter above is the twenty-fourth 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. Want to contribute? Check out the articles below, reach out, and lets brainstorm: @DaveSwindle

Volume II

  1. Frank J. Fleming on February 26, 2015: What Is the Future of Government? Why It Won’t Look Like Star Trek 
  2. Aaron C. Smith on February 26, 2015: What Is the Future of Superheroes? Why They Need To Start Killing Super-Villains
  3. Mark Ellis on February 26, 2016: What Is the Future of Gen-X Manhood? Adam Carolla Vs Chuck Palahniuk?
  4. David S. Bernstein on February 26, 2015: What is the Future of Fiction? You’ll Be Shocked Who’s Fighting the New Conservative Counter-Culture
  5. Aaron C. Smith on March 2, 2015: The House Loses: Why Season 3 of House of Cards Utterly Disappoints
  6. Michael Walsh on March 2: What the Left Doesn’t Get About Robert A. Heinlein
  7. Frank J. Fleming on March 3: 8 Frank Rules For How Not to Tweet
  8. Susan L.M. Goldberg on March 4: 7 Reasons Why Backstrom Is Perfect Counter-Culture Conservative TV
  9. Frank J. Fleming on March 5: What Is the Future of Religion?
  10. Aaron C. Smith on March 5: The Future of Religion: Why Judeo-Christian Values Are More Important Than Science
  11. Spencer Klavan on March 5: Not Religion’s Future: ISIS and the Art of Destruction
  12. Chris Queen on March 7: 5 Reasons Why Big Hero 6 Belongs Among The Pantheon Of Disney Classics
  13. Jon Bishop on March 8: Why I Am Catholic
  14. Frank J. Fleming on March 11: 6 Frank Tips For Being Funny On the Internet
  15. Becky Graebner on March 11: 5 Things I Learned In My First 6 Months As a Small Business Owner
  16. Frank J. Fleming on March 12: This Is Today’s Question: What Does It Mean To Be ‘Civilized’?
  17. Mark Ellis on March 12: The Future of Civilized Society: One World
  18. Aaron C. Smith on March 12: Why Civilization Is a Gift to Bullies
  19. David S. Bernstein on March 12: Nihilism & Feminism for Girls: Has Judd Apatow Let Lena Dunham Self-Destruct Intentionally?
  20. Susan L.M. Goldberg on March 15: Why I Am Jewish
  21. Chris Queen on March 15: Why I Am Non-Denominational Christian
  22. Allston on March 16: Counter-Culture Wars, Part 1: Why the Fellow Travelers Hijacked Folk Music
  23. Ronald R. Cherry on March 17: How To Untangle Orwellian Doublethink: 4 Secrets To Help You Spot BS

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

2014 – Starting the Discussion…

January 2015 – Volume I

February 2015

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When A Giant Leaves: RIP Sir Terry Pratchett

Friday, March 13th, 2015 - by Sarah Hoyt and Charlie Martin

A Human Wave writer should not have to write this many obituaries.  I don’t like them, and they leave a bad feeling, like the lights are going out one by one leaving me alone, chilled in the dark.

Today I heard of Sir Terry Pratchett’s death.

He wasn’t Heinlein, and he didn’t occupy for me the position Heinlein occupied.  He wasn’t conservative (for here) or even libertarian.  You see, he was European and but for the grace of Heinlein and my (20 years late) arrival where I always belonged (in the US) I probably would have shared many of his opinions.

But he was the only author I met as an adult who rose to the pantheon besides Heinlein.  And unlike Heinlein I had the pleasure of meeting him half a dozen times, and of attending a con in his honor and in honor of his creations.

I first met him I wanna say in ’99, but all I know is that it was before 2000.

I was a fairly new author with a book accepted but not coming out yet. It was world fantasy which in those days of the fat cows involved a little reception at the start of it, commonly referred to as “the swill and mill.”

We didn’t often get there in time for it, since conventions in those days involved a fine juggling of babysitting for kids under ten.

And at any rate I was advanced enough in the writing disease to be uncomfortable in a crowd and newly-minted enough as a professional to have the vague suspicion that if they figured out I’d snuck in, they’d throw me out.

But that year we got there in time and I had on my cocktail dress and all.

So I was walking around trying to be inconspicuous when I saw this bearded man, leaning on a column, looking around with an amused glint in his eye.

Being me, of course, I approached him.  “I’m so pleased to meet you,” I said, after which my subconscious took over.  “I have a shrine to you in my writing office.”  And as his eyes widened, “But I don’t sacrifice goats to it.” Pause.  “Can’t.  Would kill the carpet.”  At which point he laughed, and we talked a while, mainly about not just how hard it was to break in but how much difference a good agent and a publisher who believed in you could make.

Years later, I was to remember this and realize that the death spiral of my first series wasn’t (entirely) my fault.

Later that same con, we ran into each other while both of us waited for the friends we were with to use the bathroom. We sat at the same table, while waiting, and of course, faced with the possibility of asking Pratchett many, many craft questions, I asked him about cats.  We talked quite pleasantly and I told him I’m cut off at four cats.  He shared that while in the wilderness, selling around 5k copies a book in the US, his wife told him he could have a cat per bestseller.  She never thought it would happen.  So at our talk, he had twenty cats, and problems keeping them from getting run over until he got bloody expensive invisible fence – which is how we still refer to the contraption in this house.  He suggested I extort the same promise from my husband, who, alas, has refused to make it.

We then saw him again when we went to a reading by him in Denver, which right now is a sad memory as we went with our friends the Lickisses, and Alan Lickiss is now also dead.

At that talk, Pratchett vanquished my fear of trusting my subconscious and just letting myself go.  The richness of the Darkship books is due to my stopping the obsessive outlining and then pruning of anything not clearly advancing the plot.

And four? Five? Years ago I attended the first US discworld con, the first and only con I’ve attended as a fan, and where I got to hug Sir Terry Pratchett, which I’m glad I did, in retrospect.  It will have to last a long time.

Terry wasn’t just a humorist.  If you think that, you’re missing the breadth and depth of rich humanity, the vein of gentle understanding in his books, the startling moments when he held a mirror to life and reflected it in all its glory.

Terry wasn’t a conservative, not in American terms.  But then he wasn’t American.

On the other hand, his books taught self reliance and responsibility for those weaker than you whom you can help.  They taught the virtues of endurance, of patience, of hard work. They taught that evil acts come around to you again.

You could do worse and many have.

My sons grew up on his books.  This morning I had to break the news of his passing to them.  It’s one of the few times I’ve seen both of them cry.  And since they’re 23 and 20 and fierce bearded men, those tears are some homage.

Of course we knew it was coming.  And of course the manner of his passing was one of the most terrible a writer can imagine, as your mind dissolves into everything that might have been, and reality leaves you.

But we had hoped for the chance in a million, the miracle cure, the happy ending.

And perhaps we got it. Is a man wholly dead whose words will reach millions yet unborn and talk to them as a friend?

Somewhere Pratchett is walking with Shakespeare and saying “What was the thing with the dog, after all?  I never got it.  And weren’t your three witches entirely too serious?”

Fare thee well, Sir Terry Pratchett.  May DEATH you wrote so well and so humanely be kind to you.  May he meet you at the door between and treat you to a ginger biscuit as you pass through.

And may you rest in peace knowing that your words live and will live.

Death is balked of its triumph.


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.


cover

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.


cover

Sarvet’s Wanderyar
By J.M. Ney-Grimm

Running away leads right back home – or does it?

Sarvet walks with a grinding limp, and her mountain culture keeps girls close to home. Worse, her mother emphasizes all the things Sarvet can’t do. No matter how gutsy her spirit or bold her defiance, staying put means growing weaker. Yet only boys get wanderyars. Lacking their supplies and training, how can Sarvet escape?

Can dreams – even big dreams – and inner certainty transform impossible barricades into a way out?


cover

Livli’s Gift
By J.M. Ney-Grimm

In Kaunis-spa′s magical spring, Livli achieves spectacular cures. A born pioneer, she hopes to match new ways for healing with new ways of living.

But the Kaunis-sisters fear rapid change. While Livli pushes forward the new, one influential foe pushes back. Home will keep its ancient customs, even if Livli loses everything.

Must surrender spell defeat? Or could letting go harness real power?


cover

Beneath the Canyons (Daughter of the Wildings, Book 1)
By Kyra Halland

Cowboys and gunslingers meet wizards in this high fantasy series inspired by the Old West. Silas Vendine is a magical bounty hunter on the hunt for rogue mages. He and Lainie Banfrey, a young woman both drawn to and terrified of her own developing magical powers, team up to stop the renegade mage who torn the town of Bitterbush Springs apart. Only Silas’s skills and Lainie’s untamed, untrained power can save them and the town from the rogue mage and the dark magic he has loosed into the world.

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7 Reasons Why Backstrom Is Perfect Counter-Culture Conservative TV

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

YouTube Preview Image

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
YouTube Preview Image

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!


cover

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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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

batman-batman-vs-superman-vote-for-your-favorite-batman-costume-a2525f6d-50ea-4216-8e55-6d7fbd9f5d7eSpider-Man_07
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?

*******

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.

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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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