Get PJ Media on your Apple

PJM Lifestyle

Marvel’s ‘Civil War’ Isn’t Pretty — But It’s Not Paranoid, Either

Tuesday, October 21st, 2014 - by Jesse Hathaway

civil-war-trade

Seven years ago, the pages of Marvel Comics’ universe were rocked by a sweeping story arc across dozens of books, culminating in the death of the iconic American hero Captain America. Recently, the popular Marvel Cinematic line of films, also produced by Marvel Studios, announced that the “Civil War” arc will be the foundation upon which the next Captain America film will be based.

“Civil War,” a “crossover” series which began in 2006 under the pen of Scottish comic book writer Mark Millar, starts with an induced public panic over the supposed unaccountability of individuals with superpowers.

In-universe, the world was just beginning to recover from the aftershocks of United States government agent Nick Fury’s actions — think of the agency he runs, Strategic Homeland Intervention, Enforcement and Logistics Division (SHIELD), as a sort of Department of Homeland Security, hopped up on the drug known as “Kick” — including sparking multiple violent intergalactic and inter-dimensional incidents such as the “Secret War.”

The American public, we’re told, has become tired of their cities being trashed by the battles between gods and demigods such as Thor, Apocalypse, or the Beyonder. The final straw, we’re told, is what is referred to as the “Stamford Incident,” in which a team of inexperienced supers, the New Warriors, are, effectively, egged on by their reality-show handlers to surprise a band of villains hiding out in a quiet New York town.

In the chaos of the televised ambush, Nitro — a villain whose exactly-what-it-says-on-the-can power is “blowing himself up” — detonates himself, taking 600 civilians with him… 60 of whom are school children.

Read bullet |

Atlas Shrugged in 7 minutes: Saving You 47 Hours, 21 Minutes, and Perhaps Your Very Soul

Tuesday, October 21st, 2014 - by Scott Ott

Atlas Shrugged, by Ayn RandI just read Atlas Shrugged. It was my third attempt in 20 years. It took me five weeks of fierce determination. If you’ve mulled reading the book, I may be able to add precious days to your span on this mortal coil. (WARNING: The rest of this little essay is pure, unalloyed, spoiler.)

Dagny Taggart runs a transcontinental railroad company. Dagny is slim, elegant, bold. In her spare time, she’s writing a 1,168-page novel in which she has sex with three different slim, elegant, bold men. She’s not a slut, mind you, nor horny as a rabbit during the rut.

No, she has sex with each man because she agrees with his philosophy, best summarized thus: I am the most important being in the universe, and my pleasure is the goal of the universe, so leave me alone.

Dagny has sex in her youth with Francisco D’Anconia, heir to an historic copper fortune and the richest man on earth, who’s also writing an 1,168-page novel.

Dagny has sex repeatedly with Hank Rearden, a rich (unhappily married) steel magnate, who, in his spare time, is writing an 1,168-page novel.

And finally, Dagny has sex with John Galt, the most interesting man in the world (who’s not pushing Dos Equis), but who IS writing an 1,168-page novel which, like the others’, contains a mix of economics, philosophy, daily news and sex. It’s basically the Huffington Post, in book form.

Galt has worked as a laborer for Dagny’s company for 12 years, in the same building as she, though Dagny doesn’t know it. In his spare time, Galt works to shut down the economy of the entire world by getting a handful of effective producers to abandon their life’s work and to defect to Galt’s Gulch, an idyllic hideaway in the mountains.

Is it just coincidence that each svelte, ingenious, wealthy member of this foursome has all of this amazing perfect sex while running his or her massive business, and writing an 1,168-page novel?

No, not coincidence: It’s Ayn Rand.

Miss Rand, (whose first name is pronounced any way you please), is the author of an 1,168-page novel called Atlas Shrugged. She’s her own inspiration for each of these characters. So, in a very real sense, Atlas Shrugged is about a svelte genius who wants to be left alone, to fantasize about an industrial Utopia while having sex with herself.

Read bullet |

The 10 Most Influential Science Fiction Stories of the 1910s

Monday, October 20th, 2014 - by Pierre Comtois

Although some have argued the case that science fiction began with stray stories about nutty inventions from ancient Greece to the time of Louis Quatorze, the truth is that real SF really got off the ground beginning with Jules Verne, who took decidedly fact-based premises upon which to build his novels of inner space, round-the-world travel, and subsea exploration. But despite the popularity of Verne’s stories, they served primarily as the buildup to the arrival of H.G. Wells, an author who was more reader friendly and who had the advantage of writing in the same language as that spoken by the huge American market.

Wells’ first foray into science fiction was with The Time Machine (1895) that was soon followed by The Island of Dr. Moreau, The Invisible Man, War of the Worlds, When the Sleeper Wakes, and First Men in the Moon among others. With each novel, he staked out new territory in the landscape of science fiction, inventing sub-categories within the genre that generations of SF writers would spend decades exploring.

But Wells wasn’t the only person writing SF at the turn of the century; so were the likes of Robert Hugh Benson, M.P. Shiel, Edwin Lester Arnold, and E. M. Forster. These authors, following the earlier impetus supplied by Jules Verne, placed science fiction firmly in the mainstream of reader interest (although to be sure, the genre wasn’t recognized as “science fiction,” in fact, it wasn’t differentiated much at all from the regular run of novels).

But then something happened on the way to public acceptance. Even as various authors continued to treat the genre seriously, the rise of the pulp magazines in the United States offered the opportunity for anyone with an active imagination and a hankering to write to enter the field. Although such magazines as Argosy and All-Story offered a venue for the occasional SF story, it wasn’t until 1926 when publisher Hugo Gernsback gave imagineers their first all science fiction outlet with Amazing Stories. By then, the field of literary SF had divided into high- and low-brow fare with authors such as Wells and later Olaf Stapledon working the more prestigious book markets and upstarts like E.E. Doc Smith, Jack Williamson, and Edmond Hamilton cranking out spacefaring fodder for a penny a word.

However, after such critically acclaimed writers as Wells and Stapledon ended their association with the genre, science fiction was left to the pulps, leading to an infantilization of the field. With the lurid covers of scantily clad females and threatening BEMs, the SF pulps did little to improve their reputation as nothing more than entertainment for young boys. But those boys would eventually grow into men even as their favorite authors improved their skills as well as their perspicacity. Thus when the day of the pulps ended and the day of the paperback dawned, science fiction writers would be poised to make the transition into a format more acceptable to mainstream adult readers.

But that would happen in the 1960s. In the second decade of the century, modern science fiction was still in its infancy, and still divided between book and magazine publishers who were just beginning to realize the saleability of science-based tales of the fantastic. And because of that, every entry in this period, it seemed, broke new ground or further popularized the genre in a way that made it more accessible to the average reader. Entries such as those collected here, in a list of the ten most influential science fiction stories of the 1910s.

AMurray_Leinster

10) The Runaway Skyscraper

Well ahead of the modern science fiction movement, Murray Leinster was in at the beginning launching his SF career in 1919 with a short story called “The Runaway Skyscraper” about a Manhattan building caught in an earth tremor that somehow drives it back in time by thousands of years. Before the hero finds a way to reverse the process, the building’s office workers must cooperate in a struggle with day-to-day survival thus finding themselves in a truly fantastic and exciting SF tale first published in Argosy magazine.

Read bullet |

The Nano Wrimo Commeth

Sunday, October 19th, 2014 - by Sarah Hoyt and Charlie Martin
As October draws to a close, the scary novel writing time is upon us!

As October draws to a close, the scary novel writing time is upon us!

It was November again, and the voice of NanoWrimo was heard in the land…

What is NanoWrimo and why am I touting it?

NanoWrimo is National Novel Writing Month. The first draft of Darkship Thieves was written during NaNoWrimo.

What you’ll hear about NanoWrimo:

  1. No professional writers take part in NanoWrimo
  2. It’s impossible to write a good novel in less than a year – or two, or according to a friend of mine, five.
  3. If you do NanoWrimo you must be involved in all the groups and all the social activities, and then you’ll have no time to write.
  4. The goal to win NanoWrimo is to have written 50 thousand words and that’s not enough for a modern novel.

The Truth:

  1. I belong to several writers lists online, all of them chockablock with professional writers.  Many of them take part in NanoWrimo every single year.
  2. Not only is it not impossible, but the history of literature is full of novels written in a month or less. On the Road, for instance, and The Prime of Miss Jane Brodey and A Study in Scarlet and almost anything Rex Stout ever wrote.

My own claim to fame in the area of fast writing is Plain Jane, written under the house name Laurien Gardner (the house owns the name. This means the other books under the name aren’t mine.) I could only write it that quickly because my name wasn’t on the cover.

I have no idea how good it is, but of all my books, despite a relatively low royalty rate (it was a work for hire) it has made me the most in royalties.

The truth is that the more you write the faster you get at writing. This is the same as any other skill. For instance, by dint of typing a lot I can type about 150 words per minute, or could the last time I was clocked ten years ago. For all I know it is faster now. Does this mean my typing is inferior to the hunt-and-pecker beginning typist who only types 20 words a minute? As someone who was once that typist, let me assure you it isn’t. I was also far more likely to typo back then.  Being slow didn’t make me better, just slower. And being faster doesn’t make me worse.  I’m simply enjoying the wages of practice.

I’ve never done what could be called “NaNo for public consumption.” Part of this is because the first year I did it, when I wrote Darkship Thieves, my husband was working out of town, and the local group met five miles away for dinner. I’m night blind, and also I had a toddler and an elementary-school-kid I couldn’t leave with anyone. So my challenge/support group was my husband and a couple of friends, who were also doing it.

It worked just fine. Having a small group, or even reporting your daily wordage on Facebook can give you as much momentum as going to dinner every night with a group of strangers. More maybe, as the people cheering you on know you better.

Eh. I wrote 120 thousand words in a month, and my husband wrote 90 thousand. We wrote in fact full functional novels in a month. Of course, they each underwent a couple of revisions afterwards, but it’s much easier to revise when you have something to revise.  At any rate, in the world of indie, fifty thousand words is a marketable novel.

So, why don’t you give NanoWrimo a try? The worst that can happen is you fail, and you know what, if you don’t try you’ll fail anyway. I belong to a group called Novel in a Week.  All professional writers. I haven’t managed to do it yet, (when I did the novel in three days I was not a member) but some of those people do.

Now, that’s crazy daredevil writing. Writing a novel in a month is tame by comparison.


[Charlie sez:] Okay, yes, Book Plug Friday is coming on Sunday this week. It’s like this: Thursday night I tried to upgrade to Mac OS/X 10.10 “Yosemite”. It did not work out. After leaving it at “2 minutes remaining” overnight, I finally interrupted and tried to restore from Time Machine.

No success: most everything from my Applications folder that started with a letter higher than “I” was gone. Including some useful things like, say, “launchpad”. And all the Apple utilities.

So I tried rebuilding again. Still no job. I tried installing 10.10 from recovery. Nope.

I finally downloaded and reinstalled OS/X 10.9 and got a marginally working system again, but all my applications were still gone.

I set up a chat with Apple Support. The guy I talked to, “Brian,” was sympathetic and honestly pretty well-informed for first-tier support. But honestly, he could offer me only two things:

    • Sympathy
    • The suggestion that I completely wipe the disk and completely reinstall.

I’ve pretty much spent the intervening weekend reloading applications, such as, for example, Sublime Text, the editor I use to do the links, and the various templates and such I use to build the links. It’s now Sunday afternoon and I’m finally able to actually work.

And that’s why Book Plug Friday came on Sunday this week.


cover

The Erl King’s Children
By Jordan Leah Hunter 

Lyllith, last of her royal line, has become the rightful war-prize of her kingdom’s ruthless conqueror. The choice she faces—being wife to the man who ruined her land and murdered her father, or death—is no choice at all. Imprisoned in a lonely tower on a deserted headland, she waits to die as though waiting for an old friend.

But when a strange young boy appears in her cell one night, Lyllith is offered the only thing still worth living for: revenge. Accepting the chance plunges her into a contest thousands of years in the making, for the boy is not what he seems, her new freedom is illusory, and she is the unwitting heir to an ancient legacy with the power to destroy the world.


cover

The Shattered Empire, Book II of The Shadow Space Chronicles
By Kal Spriggs 

Baron Lucius Giovanni has managed to buy the human race a brief reprieve from the two alien races which seek humanity’s extinction. In the process, he has become the leader of a new nation and the commander of a powerful fleet. However, victory comes with consequences. Without an imminent threat, old feuds have sparked back to life and tenuous alliances falter. There are also old enemies who cannot forget that Lucius has what they want. He must find a way to hold off scheming rivals, sociopathic psychics, and even former friends. If he can’t do all that and take the fight to humanity’s true enemies, billions may die under alien servitude.

Read bullet |

Definitely Read As You Wish: Inconceivable Tales from the Making of The Princess Bride

Friday, October 17th, 2014 - by Scott Ott

As You Wish, by Cary Elwes

We lived in a house in the woods when I unwrapped the large, flat Christmas present. I just stared, then looked up at Stephanie, her eyes twinkling to shame Santa. I cradled a copy of the screenplay for The Princess Bride, with the autographs of all the actors.

“That’s for the whole family,” she said.

At night, we’d all pile in bed — my bride, my two young boys, and Haleigh, who was perhaps 10 at the time. She read the part of Buttercup. I did all of the other characters, with appropriate voices.

“Now this did happen once upon a time
when things were not so complex.”
— Mark Knopfler, “Storybook Love” (from The Princess Bride)

Cary Elwes, the immortal Westley from the classic film, handles the story like a grandfather with a new baby — with the kind of care that inspired William Goldman to write the story for his daughters, and with the joyful love with which Rob Reiner brought it to the screen.That’s probably why I was so moved these last two days while reading As You Wish: Inconceivable Tales from the Making of The Princess Bride

There’s no good reason why a man of 53 years should puddle up every page or two when reading about movie making, but I did. It was jarring to discover how much The Princess Bride means to me. I rejoiced in the fun, and the love, and the devotion to excellence poured into this film like ingredients into a family cookie recipe.

As You Wish lets you see your favorite movie through the eyes of a then-23-year-old actor whose career, and whose life, it would change forever. But it’s also seasoned with production photos and remembrances from Reiner, Robin Wright, Mandy Patinkin, Christopher Guest, Wallace Shawn, Christopher Sarandon, Billy Crystal and Carol Kane among others. André the Giant, who played Fezzik (a giant), passed away in 1993, but his legacy lives on in every chapter of this book.

It reads like a fairy tale about the making of a fairy tale — that is to say, it’s funny, and touching, and thrilling and, yes, magical.

Read bullet |

‘They Were the Ones Who Brought the Book to Life’

Monday, October 13th, 2014 - by Dave Swindle

See more of my friend Bosch’s great art work at his blog and follow him on Twitter. Also check out my article “10 Badass Moments from Bosch Fawstin’s The Infidel #2.”

Read bullet |

Come On In, The Publishing Is Fine

Friday, October 10th, 2014 - by Sarah Hoyt and Charlie Martin
Come on in.  The publishing is fine!

Come on in. The publishing is fine!

Sometimes we need to get back to the oldies but goodies.  For me, right now, the proximate cause of this is that this week someone sent me two articles by Lawrence Block.

Combined, these articles constitute such a close mimicking of my own experience as I became aware of indie and started publishing in it that it could have been written by me three years ago.

And I don’t think you can find two writers more different than Lawrence Block and me.

In “Are you sure Knopf started this way?” he chronicles the experience of self-publishing back in the eighties, when the world was new and self publishing was not only the worst possible of all alternatives but – at least by the time I came along in the nineties – often amounted to career suicide.

From the article: For many self-publishers, the alternative is no publication at all. Writers turn to self-publishing when they’ve been unable to interest commercial publishers in their work.

But do go and read the whole thing, including the unloading and storing of trucks-full of books from the publisher.

In “All changed, changed utterly,” he describes his experiences with self-publishing after Amazon and realizing the potential out there.

To me the salient section of it is this:

3. A few years ago I led a seminar at Listowel Writers Week, in Ireland’s County Kerry. There were ten or a dozen participants, but I’ve forgotten everything about all but one of them. She was a young Englishwoman whose stories just sprang off the page at you. And she was a demon for work, too, with a trunk full of unsold novels.

After class I took her aside and told her how much I liked her work, and that she’d probably have a hell of a time getting published. Her stories were a mix of genres, all the products of a wholly original imagination that defied categorization. But if she kept at it, I said, something would resonate with the right person, and it would all Work Out Fine.

We’ve stayed in touch. A few times I’ve suggested she try this editor or that agent, and nothing’s ever quite come of it. She got a gig writing a pair of biblical romance novels, and they’re better than they have any right to be, but her own work hasn’t made anyone stand up and salute.

She emailed me last week, and here’s what I found myself writing in reply:

“Have you thought about self-publishing? It seems to me you’re a great candidate for it, with a stack of unpublished books waiting to be shared with the world. I know that you know how much the publishing world has changed, and that self-publishing does not have the odium that once attached to it. And I know you know, through personal experience, how the gateway to commercial publication keeps narrowing—and what’s on the other side of it isn’t so great, anyway.

What strikes me as wonderful about self-publishing is that it allows material to find an audience. What struck me about your work way back in Listowel was the originality of your voice and vision; I think I said then that it might be a while before you found an agent and/or an editor who shared it. (It’s taken rather longer than I thought it would!)

In fact, self publishing or indie publishing with smaller presses removes the fetters from your imagination. If you can think it, you can publish it.

Even supposing that big publishers weren’t politically motivated in what they push and what they fail to push (hey, indulge me, okay, I write fantasy!) there would still be some blinkered decisions, because you see, publishers don’t view books the way you do. They tend to shove them in categories whether they belong there or not. Say you write regency romances, with little on-screen sex (or none). You are going to get compared to Heyer, even if your work is far more introspective and contains, say, a murder mystery.  (Or a dragon – but I view being compared to Heyer as a compliment.)  If you write Mil SF then Drake or Weber will come up, no matter how differently nuanced you are.

And the problem with this is that they’ll then decide that your book will sell or not based on how those do.  Take a friend of mine who wrote a mystery with gay characters.  He couldn’t get them published even though the house loved the book because “we published a book with a cross dresser before and it didn’t sell.”  The differences between those, and the very different audiences they’d attract were completely non existent to publishers.

Or take my book Witchfinder. While it is nothing new to science fiction/fantasy readers, the book takes place mostly in a parallel world that is stuck at a regency level while the main female character was raised on our Earth and is a computer programmer. My agent (back when I had one) wouldn’t even send it out, because “we don’t know if it’s science fiction or fantasy.  It involves machines and spells.”  (No, really, mostly it involves spells and magic.  The woman is a computer programmer, that’s the extent of the tech involved.)

So after years of the proposal sitting, I finished it on my blog in weekly installments and it’s doing quite well on Amazon. (Though not this month.  Nothing is doing well for me this month. Really, guys, good escapist fun!)

Indie in fact, allows the renaissance (naissance?) of new literary movements that the publishers would stomp on pretty hard.  You heard of Human Wave, right?  It now has a sister movement called Superversive.  Read about it here.

The difference from Human Wave is pretty obvious here.

An Example:

I don’t want to give too much away about Winter’s Tale, part of the wonder of the story is that everything is so unexpected. But I think I can describe this scene without ruining too much of the joy.

Crime boss Pearly Soames approaches another man in 1915 New York, reminding the second man that he owes Pearly a favor. He asks for help in his plan to kill Beverly Penn. The second man wants nothing to do with it, but Pearly calls the debt and insists.

Then, suddenly, in the midst of this intrigue scene, Pearly says:

I’ve been wondering.

With all these trying to go up…and you come down.

Was it worth it, becoming human?  Or was it an impulse buy?

You must miss the wings, right?

Oh, come on. You must.

And in that instant, you suddenly realize that something very different is going on that you first thought, and it opens a glimpse into some greater working of the universe, a glimpse that makes you pause and think…about heaven and fallen angels and what it means to be human and whether it is a good thing or no.

And that, my friends, is Superversive.

Can you write superversive Human Wave? I don’t know. Why don’t you give it a try?  There’s an indie for that.

Of course I still (also) publish traditional and so if you like my short stories be on the look out for the Baen Big Book of Monsters, in which I not only invented a very odd monster but returned to some of my favorite obsessions. Also, consider preordering Shattered Shields, in which I also return to one of my favorite obsessions: the Red Baron. (And no, this doesn’t make the story Word War Two, no matter what a reviewer thought.)

And now I’m going to go back to writing Through Fire which is proving more difficult than any book has the right to be. Catch you next week.


cover

The Dwarf’s Dryad
By Cedar Sanderson

Free from Friday Oct 10 through Oct. 15

Short Story

Two people who share a common plight… His magic holds the key to release both of them, but first, she has to steal it back. It’s a good thing she is a professional thief, but it’s a bad thing that her target is a witch.


cover

The Speedy Journey
By Eberhard Christian Kindermann

(Edited and Translated by Dwight R. Decker)

“The Speedy Journey” adds a footnote to the history of both science fiction and astronomy by publishing the first English translation of what may be the first fictional account ever written about a trip to Mars, or at least one of its moons. A German astronomer thought he had made the discovery of a lifetime in 1744 — a previously unseen Martian moon over 130 years before any were officially discovered. Instead of announcing it the usual way, however, he wrote a pioneering science fiction story about it. This edition includes historical essays putting the story in the context of its times, including a possible solution to the mystery of what the astronomer actually did see, as well as both new and vintage artwork.


cover

The Sky Suspended
By Laura Montgomery

A generation has passed since asteroid scares led the United States to launch its first and only interstellar starship. The ship returns and announces the discovery of another Earth. People are star-struck, crowds form in Washington, DC, and a boy from Alaska and two lawyers fight for the chance for ordinary people to emigrate to the stars.

This is bourgeois, legal science fiction with a hearty helping of space policy wonkery.


cover

Superintendent
By Jeremiah Wolfe

Exiled to the far reaches of Empire, Brad Guthrie must take office as Superintendent of a backwater district to stake his last claim on a chance at redemption. He knows nothing of the oppressed natives, the failing economy or the plantation holders who cling desperately to power, willing to sell him cheap if it lets them hang on for just one more season. When the ancient past demands payment in the present, only Brad has a chance to answer for the sins of empire. Drawing strong parallels from our own history, Superintendent is science fiction, whodunit, and social commentary about the little people on whom history hinges.


cover

Portals of Infinity:
Book One: Champion for Hire

By John Van Stry

William is just your typical engineer fresh out of college with a stressful job, a boring life, and not a lot of prospects of anything better in the future.

Until one weekend while hiking in the woods he stumbles across a portal to another time, or perhaps another place. The more he investigates this new world the more he realizes that it may just be able to offer him a lot more than the one he’s been living in.

However, there are forces at work beyond anything that Will has ever come across before and the local Goddess seems to have taken a liking to him. Will may soon find himself getting an offer he cannot afford to refuse.


cover

Sci Phi Journal: Issue #1, October 2014: The Journal of Science Fiction and Philosophy
By John C. Wright et al.

Sci Phi is an online science fiction and philosophy magazine. In each issue you will find stories that explore questions of life, the universe and everything and articles that delve into the deep philosophical waters of science fiction universes.


cover

Giants (A Distant Eden Book 6)
By Lloyd Tackitt

A short story about two kinds of giants. One of stature and one of courage. Told in a steampunk setting a young boy is raised by a father with an indomitable spirit. Together they face the worst terror on the planet, a rampaging giant.


cover

COMING OF AGE, Volume 2: Endless Conflict
By Thomas T. Thomas

The Italian proverb says: “Hold your friends close, but your enemies even closer.” Sometimes you must hold family closest of all. Volume 2 of Coming of Age follows John Praxis and Antigone Wells as they benefit from regenerative medicine to enter that unknown space beyond the traditional three score and ten—only to discover that the endless conflicts of family, business, and politics still pursue them. They must cope with familial treachery, political reverberations from the Second Civil War, dislocations from a Bay Area earthquake, and societal collapse following a mid-continent volcanic eruption and foreign invasion.

Read bullet |

The Top 10 Fantasy Heroes of All Time

Thursday, October 9th, 2014 - by Pierre Comtois

shutterstock_178308452

The first thing to get straight is the definition of fantasy. It’s not science fiction whose stories are based around scientific concepts and devices; it’s not horror whose stories depend on emotion and the supernatural; and it’s not mystery whose plots demand logic and deductive reasoning. Fantasy involves ordinary people in tales that take place within an essentially irrational milieu but who manage to keep hold of their humanity even in the face of the impossible.

What modern readers take for granted as a fictional pastime however, previous generations once accepted as reality. From the pantheons of Greek, Norse, and Egyptian gods to more down to earth champions such as Gilgamesh, Hercules, or St. George, tales of larger-than-life heroes and their struggles against monsters and dragons were to different extents, believed and accepted as fact by people through most of human history.

The fact is, men needed such heroes to make them feel safe in a world that was largely inscrutable or worse, seemed to deliberately target human beings for destruction be it by flood, earthquake, disease, or frightful creatures with which imagination populated the unknown darkness beyond the campfire. More than anything else, it was man’s insecurity and helplessness against the forces of nature that compelled him to create heroes who could confront those dangers.

For centuries, the assumed existence of heroes like Beowulf comforted mankind until they were rudely taken away with the advent of the Renaissance and the subsequent rise of science. But science and reason didn’t remove the need for the heroic ideal. Where the cold logic of science failed to move the human spirit, the example of the hero who struggles against great odds and winning through still possessed its power to inspire.

Modern fantasy might be said to have its beginnings on the Continent with what are known today as “fairy tales,” frequently dark stories of trolls and witches intended mostly to frighten children into staying in bed at night. And from France in particular, were popular tales of King Arthur that gradually spread across the Channel to England. Eventually, various stories about Arthur were collected by Sir Thomas Mallory as Le Morte d’Arthur from which modern “adult” fantasy can be directly traced.

Le Morte d’Arthur‘s origins in England might explain why most modern “adult” fantasy that has been written has been a product of Great Britain where such writers as William Beckford, William Morris, and George MacDonald began to contribute to the genre in the mid to late 1800s. Through their efforts, the hero as a figure in the popular imagination, made a comeback. Embodying the qualities of courage, intelligence, morality, and charisma, heroes dominated most tales of fantasy literature. And so, the following list of the top 10 fantasy heroes of all time.

Read bullet |

A Vital Book To Understand How to Create Global Peace

Thursday, October 9th, 2014 - by David P. Goldman

Screen Shot 2014-10-09 at 7.38.19 AM

Tuesday night I had the honor of sharing the podium with Prof. Angelo Codevilla under the auspices of the Claremont Institute at New York’s Yale Club. He is one of the wisest and sharpest strategic thinkers to come out of the Reagan Revolution, and his new book, To Make and Keep Peace is a must read: if you read only one book about politics (and especially foreign policy) this year, this should be the one.

I reviewed the work in the Claremont Review of Books, and my review has been posted at the Federalist website. It is excerpted below.

To Make and Keep Peace: Among Ourselves and with All Nations by Angelo M. Codevilla. Hoover Institution Press, 248 pages, $24.95.

To lose one parent may be regarded as a misfortune, Lady Bracknell observed in “The Importance of Being Earnest,” but to lose both looks like carelessness. To have lost the peace three times in the past century suggests something worse than carelessness in American foreign policy. Woodrow Wilson set the stage for World War II by making the best the enemy of the good when negotiating the resolution of World War I. Franklin Roosevelt’s naïveté about the Soviet Union set the world adrift into the Cold War. And now a succession of mistakes following the fall of Communism has left America flailing. The overwhelming American majority that favored foreign interventions after 9/11 has melted, yielding isolationism unseen since the 1930s. How did it come to this?

One political party or the other may blunder, but disasters on this scale can be achieved only by consensus. Angelo Codevilla contends that a self-perpetuating foreign policy elite, incapable of taking in abundant evidence about all the things it neither knows nor does well, has steered American foreign policy in the wrong direction for the past century. The shrill partisan debates, he argues, obscure an underlying commonality of outlook among the “liberal progressive,” “realist,” and “neo-conservative” currents in foreign policy. All three schools of thinking derive from “turn-of-the-twentieth-century progressivism.”

All regard foreigners as yearning for American leadership. Their proponents regard foreigners as mirror images of themselves, at least potentially. Liberal internationalists see yearners for secular, technocratic development. Neoconservatives see budding democrats, while realists imagine peoples inclined to moderation…. Different emphases notwithstanding, there is solid consensus among our ruling-class factions that America’s great power requires exercising responsibility for acting as the globe’s ‘policeman,’ ‘sheriff,’ ‘umpire,’ ‘guardian of international standards,’ ‘stabilizer,’ or ‘leader’—whatever one may call it.

From Hyperpower to Hyperventilator

It isn’t just that the emperor has no clothes: the empire has no tailors. In the decade since President George W. Bush’s 2003 “Mission Accomplished” speech, America has gone from hyperpower to hyperventilater. The Obama administration and Republican leadership quibble about the modalities of an illusory two-state solution in Israel, or the best means to make democracy bloom in the Middle East’s deserts, or how vehemently to denounce Vladimir Putin. Meanwhile, everything that could go wrong, has. Europe’s frontiers are in play for the first time since the fall of Communism; Russia and China have a new rapprochement; American enemies like Iran have a free hand while traditional American allies in the Sunni world feel betrayed; and China has all but neutralized American sea power within hundreds of miles of its coast.

America’s credibility around the world is weaker than at any time since the Carter administration. American policy evokes contempt overseas, and even more at home, where the mere suggestion of intervention is ballot box poison, while the Republicans’ isolationist fringe wins straw polls among the party’s core constituents. In 2013 the Pew Survey found 53 percent of U.S. respondents considered America less important and powerful than a decade earlier, the first time a majority held that view since 1974, just before the fall of Saigon. And four-fifths of respondents told Pew that the United States should not think so much in international terms but concentrate on its own problems, the highest proportion to agree with that proposition since the survey began posing it in 1964.

How War Is Like Pregnancy

Codevilla offers a bracing antidote to stale, wishful thinking. A professor emeritus of international relations at Boston University and senior fellow of the Claremont Institute, he is one of our last sages, an actor in the great events that brought down the Soviet empire during the 1980s, as well as a distinguished scholar of political thought. Among the modern-day classics he’s authored—including “War: Ends and Means” (1988, with Paul Seabury) and “The Character of Nations” (2000)—“To Make and Keep Peace” is his “Summa,” a tour d’horizon of American and world history crammed with succinct case studies of success and failure in war and peace.

Read the whole review here.

****

cross-posted from Spengler

Read bullet |

Oscar Wilde, Superstar: The First Post-Modern Celebrity

Tuesday, October 7th, 2014 - by Kathy Shaidle

9780393063172_p0_v1_s260x420

Oscar Wilde’s 1882 journey to America continues to fascinate, and why not?

Everyone loves a fish out of water story, so the true saga of a Victorian dandy roughing it on the wild American frontier, hanging out with (and winning over) rugged coal miners and cowboys is pretty irresistible.

(That Wilde’s garish velvet get-ups clothed a beefy 6’3″ Irishman perfectly capable of beating up bullies no doubt surprised and delighted his new admirers.)

It’s a tale that’s been told many times: in books, of course, but also in plays, movies and on television shows.

Now a new book revisits Wilde’s visit to the New World, but with a twist.

David M. Friedman’s Wilde in America presents his subject as the proto-Kardashian:

That is, as the first post-modern celebrity — one who, to borrow Daniel Boorstin’s, well, famous concept, is “famous for being famous.”

If that seems unfair to the acclaimed playwright, essayist, poet, children’s author (and gay movement mascot), Friedman reminds readers that when Oscar Wilde stepped off the ship onto America’s shores, he was, in fact, none of those things.

Yet.

YouTube Preview Image

Read bullet |

The Joy of Matchmaking

Monday, October 6th, 2014 - by Helen Smith

Screen Shot 2014-10-06 at 4.33.21 AM

I don’t generally read fiction, I prefer non-fiction. However, Glenn received a book from Instapundit reader Suri Rosen who wrote a gem of a book called Playing With Matches that I couldn’t resist reading last night while everyone else in the country was watching football.

I worked as a matchmaker at a dating service for a while in graduate school and it was really a skill to figure out what people actually wanted and liked in a potential mate. Rosen’s book tells the story of a 16- year- old girl who has these skills in a close knit Jewish community where she anonymously matches up desperate singles from twenty to seventy and older. From the description:

When 16-year-old Raina Resnick is expelled from her Manhattan private school, she’s sent to live with her strict aunt — but Raina feels like she’s persona non grata no matter where she goes. Her sister, Leah, blames her for her broken engagement, and she’s a social pariah at her new school. In the tight-knit Jewish community, Raina finds she is good at one thing: matchmaking! As the anonymous “MatchMaven,” Raina sets up hopeless singles desperate to find the One. A cross between Jane Austen’s Emma, Dear Abby, and Yenta the matchmaker, Raina’s double life soon has her barely staying awake in class. Can she find the perfect match for her sister and get back on her good side, or will her tanking grades mean a second expulsion? In her debut novel, Suri Rosen creates a comic and heartwarming story of one girl trying to find happiness for others, and redemption for herself.

I found the idea of a matchmaker who acts as a coach to nervous singles kind of interesting. Nowadays with Match.com or other online dating services, no one gets much good advice in an old fashion way about how to deal realistically with another person. Dating and relationships have lost a lot of the human touch that this book brings to life. It’s a fun book and was a nice change from the political and financial books I generally read.

****

Cross-posted from Dr. Helen

Read bullet |

10 Comic Book Ads That Destroyed Your Faith in Humanity Before You Hit Puberty

Saturday, October 4th, 2014 - by Paula Bolyard

Sea Monkey Ad

Comic books that circulated from the 1950s to the 1970s were jam-packed with ads that promised everything from fame and fortune to live miniature puppies. You could buy a shrunken head, print your own money, or grow 3″ taller, all for 99 cents, C.O.D. (which meant you paid the mail carrier cash on delivery). Most of the items were junk and for many of us, it was the first buzzkill of our idyllic young lives. Millions of boys were disappointed that they didn’t end up with bodies like Charles Atlas and millions more were devastated when the x-ray specs didn’t allow them to see under the dresses of the girls at school. It was probably a good thing that the FTC eventually stepped in and put some regulations in place so kids could find more productive uses for their allowances, like Wacky Packages and Bubble Yum. Nevertheless, it was fun to dream about what might arrive in the mail after you filled out the coupon from the back of the comic book and waited 4-6 weeks for delivery. Because you never knew…

Here are 10 comic book ads that destroyed your faith in mankind before you hit puberty…

Read bullet |

Book Plug Friday! Dear Mr. Bezos

Friday, October 3rd, 2014 - by Sarah Hoyt and Charlie Martin

shutterstock_216595855

Dear Mr. Bezos,

I don’t often have the opportunity to say “you’re doing that wrong.”

To begin with let’s get something straight.  I’m not saying you’re doing wrong as in “you villain, Bezos, you, destroying publishing.”

To put it mildly, sir, I am your fan.  You have managed to free publishing from the yoke of the big traditional publishers with their clubby attitude, their “I want to impress my fellow editors more than I want to sell” and their blinkered insistence on the “correct” politics, because they want to get invited to all the good parties.

They were strangling science fiction and fantasy, and you’ve freed it.  For that alone, you have my gratitude.

The fact that you’ve also allowed me to make a considerable part of my income on my backlist through your company is just the icing on the cake.

And I confess I’ve been wrong before.  I thought KULL was a mistake, and that people would just borrow and not buy books.

I was wrong.  It doesn’t impact my sales at all, but my friends who write erotica are making huge amounts of money on the borrows.  And I’m all for that.

I still think your chart versus listing of sales is a mistake, because it often shows different numbers for hours, and that undermines confidence in the numbers.  But that’s a software issue, and that is probably being worked on as we speak.

As I said, when it comes to Amazon, I’m a fan.

In my view you’ve made only a mistake: when you had a publishing program via Amazon which operated as a traditional house. (Do you still have it?  I don’t keep up.)

Some of the other Amazon-fans were all excited.  “Now, he’ll show traditional publishing.”

I looked at whom you’d hired – most of them with “experience” in traditional publishing and I shook my head.

And in fact, last I paid attention a year or so ago, you’d failed to set the world on fire with that program.

Well, you’re a learning man. And a man who tries new things.  (I did mention I’m a fan, right?) So you’re trying something else.  A friend sent me a link tonight.

Amazon’s crowdsourced publishing platform will launch soon for mystery, romance and sci-fi authors

I read it shaking my head.

The Digital Reader first reported on the program a couple weeks ago, with Amazon confirming details. It’s somewhere between Amazon Publishing’s “traditional” imprints and self-publishing platform KDP: Authors whose books are selected get a $1,500 advance and 50 percent royalties on net ebook revenue. The contracts are for ebook and audio rights, with authors retaining print rights; initial contract terms are 5 years.

Perhaps I’m all wrong on this.  It’s quite possible I’m very very wrong.  Who knows?

But what I understood from reading around the net is that these books are submitted (with a cover image!) and the crowd votes on which ones are to be published.  Hence a “crowdsourced” publishing platform.

Mr. Bezos, can we level? Adult to adult? Free-marketeer to free-marketeer?

The only reason I don’t call this the dumbest thing I’ve ever read is that I assume you’re not a writer and have no experience of workshops, online workshops, contests and prizes.

Look, if this program is as I imagine, then people will vote on what they want to see “published” by Amazon.  That means you’ll get mostly writers who hope to be published in this program voting on other authors.  Oh, you’ll also get some friends and family.

I suppose there is some merit in picking people with the largest support community. They will talk them up.

But mostly what you’re going to get in votes is from other writers and even when they’re doing their best people are going to vote for two kinds of books: those that they think are technically good; and those that make them sound intelligent.

You see, we writers don’t read like other people.  If we’re evaluating other writers, we will judge them against our own technique.  A truly advanced performer who breaks rules will fall behind the unthreatening craftsman who does everything the how to write books advise.

So, mostly you’re going to get anodyne books that are perfectly executed and which have some element of intellectual snobbery that makes the voter feel smart.  Well-cooked oatmeal with a sprinkling of exotic fruit, say.

The only way to vote on a book we wish to see published is to pay for it.  That is the only sincere vote.

Beyond that $1500 advance?  And 50% for five years?  Why?  Why would anyone do that?  My own novel, unpushed and priced higher than it should have been, has made me more than that.  Friends have made more from their self-published books on Amazon, in the first month.  And could then make more the month after.  At a higher percentage.

$1500 is not enough of a trade off, nor does it make any of us sure you’re going to back this book with everything at your disposal. Particularly when you want us to do the cover ourselves.  I could see some people signing up just to have their covers done.  But this way?  No.

I’d like to suggest that instead of this gimmick, you ask some old pros.  They’ll tell you nothing sells like selling.

You have the heuristics behind the sales.  Look it up.  I’m sure there are writers doing surprisingly well with no push at all and often so so covers.  Several come to mind in science fiction, of all places: Chris Nuttall, Mackey Chandler, Doug Dandrige, Peter Grant.

These are all people who are performing very well, and have multiple books out.  Instead of doing the equivalent of panning for gold in your shower, put some money behind these “pretty well selling, not setting the world on fire authors.”  Give them a decent advance and then bring one of their books out and push, as I’m sure you can: top of the line cover, publicity, tour (if tours work.)

I’d bet you you’d make more money that way.  You see, they’re already doing well before they have any push. With push they could be extraordinary.

And you’d avoid the devil of the workshops.

I could be wrong. For one the program might be badly described. But if it’s not, it will be blah. And the authors who fail to take off will hold it against you.

Consider trusting the free market instead. It won’t disappoint you.


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

The Lost Book of Anggird
By Kyra Halland

Stodgy Professor Roric Rossony has been asked to find a way to stop the deterioration of the powerful magica. He hires talented translator Perarre Tabrano to translate books for his research, and finds his orderly existence turned upside down by his unexpected romance with her. Caught up in his new-found love and the most important work of his life, he goes too far in his research, delving into forbidden books hidden away for centuries. Then the most dangerous book of all falls into the Professor’s hands. Magical disaster strikes, and he and Perarre are forced to flee from the authorities in search of the secret of the magica’s origins, a journey that only their growing magical powers and their love for each other will help them survive.


cover

Working The Trenches
By Dan Melson

Graciela Juarez has been an Imperial citizen for several years. She’s got a solid marriage into one of the Empire’s most important families. The Empire has been very good to her. For her self-respect, she wants to spend some time with her shoulder to the wheels of the Empire. Pulling the cart of Civilization. Working the Trenches of Empire


cover

MUSES OF TERRA
By Rob Steiner

Marcus Antonius Cordus thought he’d left his past behind when he escaped Terra and the Roman Consulship six years ago. All he wants is to explore the universe with his adopted mercenary family and stay far away from Roman politics.

But when a new sentient Muse virus invades Roman space—one even feared by the strain infecting Cordus—he is forced to choose between the freedom he’s always wanted and stopping the apocalypse that he was born to prevent.

MUSES OF TERRA is Book Two of the Codex Antonius and sequel to the exciting sci-fi/alternate history novel MUSES OF ROMA.

Read bullet |

5 Articles That Reveal How Badass The Iliad Really Is

Wednesday, October 1st, 2014 - by Spencer Klavan

Editor’s Note: This series first ran from August 25 through September 22, 2014. It’s part of a developing body of work in which Spencer Klavan makes classical history and myth come alive with vivid descriptions based on his own translations and comparisons to modern day culture and events.

1. The 10 Goriest Deaths in the Iliad

2. The 5 Most Epic Scenes in The Iliad (And What They Say About Heroism)

3. The NFL Borrows from the Iliad’s Playbook: Ray Rice and Achilles

4. Why Everyone Isn’t Special, as Told by the Iliad

5. The 5 Most Underrated Heroes of the Iliad (and their Battle Stats)

Read bullet |

The 10 Best Science Fiction Titles in Comics

Monday, September 29th, 2014 - by Pierre Comtois

By most accounts, modern science fiction had its start with Jules Verne and H.G. Wells but didn’t really take hold in the public consciousness until it filtered down from hard cover books into more popular media affordable to a mass audience. At that point, stories by Verne and Wells, but especially Wells, began to be reprinted in cheaply produced pulp magazines until new stories by other authors inspired by their example began to explore the genre as well and eventually pushed out the reprints in favor of their own material.

The original catalyst for the rise of what was first known as “scientifiction” and then science fiction, was Amazing Stories, first published by Hugo Gernsback in 1926. Interested in invention and electronics, Gernsback conceived of the magazine as a place where inventors and what a later age would call engineers could publish fictional tales centered around a technological gadget or machine… as if today’s Popular Mechanics were to publish its articles as fiction.

Gernsback’s idea proved so successful that it inspired a host of imitators in the following decades until science fiction magazines became a staple of newsstands in years of rapid invention leading into the atomic age and the rise of transistors and integrated circuits.

But alongside the pulp magazines, beginning in the late 1930s, was the comic book which in many ways might have been considered illustrated pulp stories, as indeed many were. Magazines such as Planet Comics and Exciting Comics either took their names and subjects directly from pulp antecedents or simply transferred characters lock, stock, and barrel from the pulps.

But there began the rub.

In the pulps, science fiction didn’t stand still. It began to evolve almost from the start with space opera by the likes of Doc Smith, Jack Williamson, and Edmond Hamilton soon supplanting Verne and Wells and later, more serious hard SF replacing space opera with the Astounding Science Fiction generation of writers. Later, the Astounding writers themselves would fade to be replaced by soft SF concentrating on the social sciences, psychology, and the drug culture.

Meanwhile, many SF elements were adopted as a natural fit by the rising super-heroes of the 1940s with characters like Superman given a spacefaring background and rocket ships and death rays figuring mightily in many stories. Later, in the ’50s, such elements would prove even more integral to super-heroes as former SF fans, writers, and agents working for DC Comics used them as the basis for revamping a number of the company’s characters including Green Lantern and the Flash. In the 1960s, Marvel Comics would adapt SF elements with a vengeance in such titles as Thor and Fantastic Four.

But stories of purely a science fictional bent were often told in short 6-8 page formats usually with an unexpected or ironic twist ending. A format that fell out of favor in SF magazines but sharpened to a point by EC Comics; a format that climaxed in the justifiably famous “Judgment Day” which appeared in Weird Fantasy #18 (1956). And as fun and entertaining though the format could be, it also froze in place, with few exceptions, the presentation of science fiction in comics until the genre vanished along with westerns, romance, and funny animals in a rising tide of super-heroes.

That said, even with its failure to evolve, there was still a lot to be said about science fiction in comics as the following list will prove!

10) Magnus Robot Fighter

The twist in Gold Key’s Magnus Robot Fighter (1963) is that the people living in the year 4,000 AD think that they’re living in a paradise when they’re actually trapped in a dystopia where many of their individual freedoms have been traded away for easy living and few personal responsibilities. Ironically, the world’s only free man has been trained by a robot to swim against the tide and attack the problem at the point where reality met hardware: the millions of robots who actually run the day-to-day affairs of Earth, some of whom have begun to acquire self-awareness and a sense of superiority over their hapless human masters. Created by artist Russ Manning, the Magnus strip, like many of the publisher’s titles, moved forward in fits and starts (read: original material alternating with reprints) over many years until eventually canceled. It was licensed to Valiant Comics in the 1990s and given new life by writer Jim Shooter who pursued the themes inherent in the original comic but ended up reversing the premise with Magnus fighting instead for robot rights!

Read bullet |

10 More Movies Projecting the Jewish Experience on Film

Sunday, September 28th, 2014 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

10. Daniel Deronda

A multi-part BBC series based on the powerful English classic penned by Zionist George Eliot (Mary Ann Evans), Daniel Deronda tells the story of a young gentleman who discovers, through a series of almost mystical events, that his mother is Jewish. A fantastic examination of Jewish identity in Victorian high society, the novel was cited by the likes of Henrietta Szold and Emma Lazarus as influential on their decision to become Zionists. Wonderfully cast, the BBC version is grossly engaging and well worth a marathon viewing.

Read bullet |

Hand to Mouth Accidentally Confirms Stereotypes About Poverty

Sunday, September 28th, 2014 - by Kathy Shaidle

41SE4qcUJ8L._AA324_PIkin4,BottomRight,-54,22_AA346_SH20_OU01_

I put off writing this for as long as I could.

I told myself I still had the same headache I had yesterday.

And hey, there’s an Auction Hunter marathon on, and…

Then the irony hit me:

This had been my idea, to write a response to Hand to Mouthauthor Linda Tirado’s viral internet “Why I’m poor” post-turned-book.

And that one of the reasons I’m not poor anymore is because I work even when I don’t feel like it, and it feels like a summer day even though it’s the end of September, and…

So here goes:

Read bullet |

Book Plug Friday! Bad Romance

Friday, September 26th, 2014 - by Sarah Hoyt and Charlie Martin
YouTube Preview Image

No, this is not about Wuthering Heights which I – Hi, this is Sarah – hate with a burning passion, perhaps because I read it for the first time at thirty, when my husband found me laughing as I read it.  Because this whole dying for love thing, and the chick’s attraction for the unwashed one had to be meant as a comedy.

I still think the Brontes were trolling literature and generations of college professors have missed the point.  My husband says I’m wrong, though, and, who knows? He might be right.

Which brings us to another bad romance.  No, not my marriage.  We’re fine, thank you.  He might think I’m a little crazy, but I think I amuse him.

No, the bad romance I’m talking about is between two groups of people.  Or rather one group and each of several groups.

The first group we’ll call the Missionaries. They’ve been called Social Justice Warriors but that is a bit specific.  A lot of them wouldn’t think of themselves that way, because they don’t think they’re Warring with anything, precisely.  Instead, they think of themselves as Missionaries of civilization going among the benighted.  Just like the nineteenth century Missionaries to Africa never wondered why the natives didn’t wear pants, nor wished to acquire the native customs, so the Missionaries of enlightenment have no interest in the quaint customs and history of the groups they choose to grace with their presence.  Instead, they’re there to preach the one true way and bring the recalcitrant into civilization.

The groups they choose to embrace vary: science fiction and fantasy; gaming; hobby groups.  The Missionaries are an universalist lot.  They want to go everywhere and make everywhere conform to their ideas of good.

Of course, the funny thing is that one of the things these Missionaries preach is multiculturalism, but they have no problem at all imposing their values on various communities that had their own values before they arrived.  This is because a) like all multiculturalists they are in fact oikophobic, hating the “less enlightened” of those they live among and cleaving instead to an imaginary superior “other.” b) These are cultures and groups they perceive as low status, sometimes because (like the game community) they are weighted towards males, but mostly because they’re weighted towards geeks and people considered outliers by society.

If I had a dime for every time I’ve been at a convention and heard someone – usually female, although not necessarily – proclaim loudly they haven’t read any of the seminal works of the field I wouldn’t need to write for a living.  They will tell how racist and sexist those works are, of course.

After all, the Missionary of the superior civilization doesn’t need to read your primitive tracts to realize he or she is far superior.

In fact, that script has become a point of pride. Instead of reading the early work in the field, these people who want to totally reform your area of interest will lecture you on your evil ways, which they know about because they’ve been told about them by other people in their group.  Thus they will tell you with a straight face that science fiction had no female writers or writers of color until they came along, somehow sweeping under the rug the history of the very awards they now demand to be given as representatives of discriminated against groups.

I was reading about the various crusades online – the whole stompy foot careening into various groups and trying to shame people for not wearing pants, having the exact mix of gender/orientation and race that the Missionaries think is civilized, and then I realized this entire psychological scenario is something I remembered vividly from college.

You see, even though I was a geek girl, I can pass. Also, I was cute and enjoyed dressing up. I ran with a group of girls who were generally richer and more upper class than I was.  This being Europe, they, of course, dated within their class.  Usually.

But there came that time when they were either between boyfriends, or upset at their current boyfriend, and became aware that there was a boy not-in-their-class (either social, or academic, or of presentation) who was making eyes at them.  Most of the time, these boys were fodder for being made fun of.  But sometimes my “friend” (and by friend I mean friendly acquaintance) was bored or needed a self-esteem boost.

She would make this boy her project.  It was always the same.  “If only you dressed more like this” and “If only you bought a different car” and “If only you rented a place here” and “If only you changed your major.”  At the end of that long list of “if only” was the unspoken promise that “I, who am so superior and so much better, will DATE you.”

Except they didn’t. Not once. They would swoop onto this guy’s life as an “interested friend” and change everything about him, and then go back to their boyfriend/find a new boyfriend more of their type.

These girls were in fact, “bad girlfriends.”

Never once had they any real interest in the boy.  He was just a plaything to be molded into their image thereby giving them an ego boost.  In fact, they would loudly proclaim that they would never be seen with this boy as he was or had been, but if he “only.”

The Missionaries are exactly the same.  They are not fans of science fiction and fantasy.  They actually have no interest in the field as it is.  They have an interest in the work produced by the other Missionaries trying to enlighten the heathens, of course.  And they hold out the promise that “If only.”  If only we were more socially conscious.  If only we celebrated the Other more.  If only we were less obvious about those uncouth fantasy and science fiction elements in our stories.  If only we were more like those cool-stories-literature-professors like.  If only we did all of this, THEN, oh, then they would be fans.  They would love us!

What this means for any self-respecting field of endeavor is that we can tune them off with impunity.  They don’t love us.  They haven’t ever, and they never will.  They just want to get an Ego Boost by making us twist ourselves into pretzels, and then they’ll sail off to court the “real literature” crowd or more likely (because they’re all actually fairly low brow masquerading as intellectuals) the TV and movie crowd.

And if we play their game, they’ll leave us behind with our fun field in ruins.  In some of these fields, like science fiction and fantasy, it has almost gone too far already.  In gaming they’re being politely shown the door.

But even in science fiction and fantasy there’s hope.  You see, we had to conform to their demands because the authorities in the field (the publishers in the old system) made us. The publishers, you see, belonged to the same set as the Missionaries and had gone to the same schools. So we had to write the “right” (which mostly meant the “wrong”) stuff, even if it was driving real readers away.

Now we have indie, so we don’t have to conform to the agenda anymore.

Yeah, yeah, yeah, the Missionaries say we have to wear pants, have inconclusive endings and write according to their “enlightened” check list.

Fortunately, they’re not fans and they have no power, now we don’t need to go through their pet publishers.

We know they don’t love us and are only using us as step-stools to “greater things” and also having much fun berating us.

We all met women (and men) like them. They’re not worth the effort.

And it’s time we collectively stopped listening to them.

Nothing annoys this type of Missionary as being soundly ignored.  Let’s do it.

It’s time to put an end to this bad romance.


cover

Worlds Of Wonder – August, 1956
By AUTHOR

Do you miss the fun SF pulp magazines of yesteryear? Have you noticed a lack of enjoyable short fiction lately? Are you looking for fantasy and humor, for high adventure, drama, and hard science? Pick up ‘Worlds of Wonder’ today! Assault Normandy on D-Day with our unsung allies of the S.A.F.! Fly for your life in the clouds of Jupiter! Reclaim a ruined planet for humanity! DON’T try to trick a genie, and change everything! Pick up the latest edition of ‘Worlds of Wonder’ for your Kindle now! Only 99₵, and guaranteed in stock today!


cover

No Network Found
By Jerry Lawson

The Nevada Test Site in the summer of 1954… A hot wasteland of rock and sand – but the appearance of a small sphere carrying a cell phone from the future is about to change everything. That cell phone was a test article, loaded with data to be compared after a time travel experiment – tens of thousands of books on computers, networks, material science, medicine and history… on all aspects of Future Tech.

Now – the people of 1954 have to deal with technology from 2016… and the first integrated circuit hasn’t even been invented yet!


cover

A Patriot’s Act
By Kenneth Eade

When a naturalized American citizen turns up missing in Iraq, Brent Marks fights the Goliath U.S. government with its own Constitution. Santa Barbara accountant Ahmed Khury responds to the plea of his brother, Sabeen, a suspected money launderer in Iraq. Before Ahmed realizes what has happened to him, he is in Guantanamo Bay Detention Camp, being subjected to torture to extract information that he doesn’t have. The drama outside the courtroom explodes, and when murder, corruption and cover-up enters the picture, nobody, including Brent, is safe.


cover

Sarya’s Song
By Kyra Halland

In a world where music is magic, Sarya dyr-Rusac has risen from her destitute childhood to become a respected Arranger of musical magic rituals, until a wedding ritual she wrote results in tragedy. As unprecedented disasters follow, a beautiful, nameless man in chains begins to appear in her dreams, begging her to sing him free. With time running out, Sarya must discover the truth: is he too dangerous and powerful to deal with, a threat to the man she loves and to their world, or does he have the power to end the catastrophes that threaten to tear the world apart?


cover

Nine empathies: Apprehending love and malice
By Greg Swann

Virtually all of philosophy, not just reductionist science, labors under the delusion – an empathy for the impossible – that people can be controlled from the outside, and can thus be impelled to betray their own interests and values. My impression is that the sole interest academia takes in empathy is to try to figure out how to build a better shmoo.

How do you adore your self while your loved ones suffer? How can you be so deeply in love with them that you cannot distinguish loving from being loved? How can you plan to share a lifetime – to build a home, a family, a future – with someone you really only know by conjecture? This is why you need empathy – and why its real-life expressions are never a self-sacrifice.


cover

Shot through the Heart
By Julia Blaine

Abduction. A duel. Murder.

Since birth, Galatea was betrothed to Lord Harte Whatley. Conscientiously he visits every Tuesday and Friday. Only on Tuesdays and Fridays. Surely her up-coming, magical London Season will kindle love between them, overcoming obligation. Then Harte replaces his fickle younger brother Pierce in a fatal duel. A third shot strikes accurately. Who is the intended victim? Believing both shooters dead, Galatea and Pierce comfort each other, attempting to solve a mystery with more than one villain — in spite of meddling aunts and an important monkey. Is Harte alive? How can Galatea know who she really loves?


cover

Acts of War
By James Young

August 1942. London is in flames. Heinrich Himmler’s Germany stands triumphant in the West, its “Most Dangerous Enemy” forced to the peace table by a hailstorm of nerve gas and incendiaries. With Adolf Hitler avenged and portions of the Royal Navy seized as war prizes, Nazi Germany casts its baleful gaze across the Atlantic towards an increasingly isolationist United States. With no causus belli, President Roosevelt must convince his fellow Americans that it is better to deal with a triumphant Germany now than to curse their children with the problem of a united, fascist Europe later.

Acts of War is the continuation of the Usurper’s War series, which charts a very different World War II. As young men and women are forced to answer their nation’s call, the choices they make and risks they take will write a different song for the Greatest Generation.


cover

Suraiya Jafari: An American President
By Cindy Moy

Suraiya Jafari is an Indian-American Muslim Congresswoman who accidentally becomes the U.S. President. Suraiya, a Republican and former Marine lawyer, is serving as the House Minority Leader in 2022 when the vice president is charged with fraud and forced to step down. Suraiya is tapped to be vice president in an effort to rebrand the party. Then the president dies, and Suraiya moves into the Oval Office. Thereafter she deals with secession, distrust from her own party, sabotage from her political rivals, and even the threat of a third world war, all while coming to terms with how others try to define her and figuring out how she defines herself.

Read bullet |

The 5 Most Underrated Heroes of the Iliad (and their Battle Stats)

Monday, September 22nd, 2014 - by Spencer Klavan

I’ve been writing a lot recently about the headliners of the Iliad — star players like Achilles and Odysseus who are first off the bench and always get screen time. But I can’t let this series finish without giving a shout-out to the underdogs. These are the five top B-list team players who, in my opinion, just don’t get the street cred they deserve. This one goes out to the guys who work too hard for too little recognition: here are the most unsung heroes of Homer’s war poem, ranked from the most to the least underrated.

1. Diomedes

Handle: “The Machine”

Kills: 35

Weapon of Choice: Spear

Why He’s So Underrated: Diomedes is a no-drama kind of guy. He has no dog in any of the petty fights that make up the poem’s main plot: he doesn’t care about Agamemnon’s cheating wife or Achilles’ wounded pride. He just keeps his head down and does his job. So while the divas are bickering, Diomedes quietly schools them all, racking up the most kills of anyone in the poem. The result is thirty-five dead Trojans — the second-place Greek finisher (Patroclus) doesn’t even come close to that. But no pats on the back for Diomedes — it’s all in a day’s work.

His Fifteen Minutes of Fame:

m2reloaded-brawl12

Book five is Diomedes’ virtuoso performance. After pages and pages of total obscurity, the gentle giant gets kicked in the pants by Athena, and suddenly he cowboys up big time. From out of nowhere, the nice guy nobody’s ever heard of becomes the unbeatable machine everyone’s talking about. Diomedes rips unforgivingly through ten Trojans in a row, and as an afterthought on the way casually wounds two gods — Love and War. After humiliating an entire army singlehandedly and drawing blood from two unthinkably powerful immortal beings, he jumps back into the action like nothing ever happened. Classic Diomedes.

Read bullet |

The 10 Lamest Super-Hero Vehicles

Monday, September 22nd, 2014 - by Pierre Comtois

Like the rest of us, super-heroes have places to go, the only difference being they absolutely need to get there or the world will be destroyed, a country taken over, or women will suffer fates worse than death. For super-heroes then, it’s far more important for them to have reliable transportation than the average citizen and luckily for us, they’ve always managed to get their hands on just the vehicles they need.

Another lucky thing is that most super-heroes seem to be independently wealthy or own high tech companies or even secret treasures so they can afford “all those wonderful toys” as one of their opponents said in the first serious attempt at depicting super-heroes on film. And not coincidentally, that first Batman movie by director Tim Burton, featured just the sort of super-hero transportation devices that concerns us on this list: an up-armored batmobile and high-tech flying batplane.

But specialized super-hero transportation didn’t start with Batman (a Batmobile of sorts made its original appearance in 1939 along with Batman himself in Detective Comics #27); they can be traced at least as far back as the pulp magazine adventures of the Shadow who often used an autogyro to get around outside the confines of New York City.

Not long after, in 1933, Doc Savage debuted in a companion magazine complete with his own “batcave” so to speak in the form of a run down seeming warehouse on New York’s waterfront that contained a fleet of transportation vehicles including an armored blimp, an autogyro, speed planes, an amphibious heavy transport plane, even a mini-submarine. The only difference from Batman was that Doc never had the ego to prefix his vehicles after himself.

And if some enterprising readers wanted to go even farther back than Doc or the Shadow, they need look no farther than any number of masked western heroes with such wonder horses as Thunder, Trigger, or Silver!

So as anyone can see, transportation, specialized or not, is a must for the well-equipped hero, super or otherwise and comic book heroes have been more energetic than any other kind to fill out that line in their resumes. Almost all of them have had some kind of transportation and although many would settle for the latest automobile to get around, others couldn’t seem to do without all the bells and whistles that come with specialized equipment. That said, some of the latter could well have used better judgment in choosing their modes of transportation and it’s those choices that we’ve used to compile the following list of the worst ideas for super-hero conveyances.

treadmill

10) Flash’s Cosmic Treadmill

Who says that super-hero transportation needs to have wheels or wings? Not writer John Broome who came up with the cosmic treadmill for Flash #125 (1961). It seems just running super fast wasn’t enough to break the time barrier. A booster was needed so to speak. Enter the cosmic treadmill upon which the scarlet speedster would run, generating power to the point where he could break the time barrier and travel to the past or future. Don’t ask how, just accept it!

Read bullet |

A Long Way Down the Wrong Road

Saturday, September 20th, 2014 - by Rich Tucker

41E3L9AIE4L._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_

The modern edition of The Road to Serfdom is difficult to approach.

Not because of the subject matter; Friedrich Hayek’s work seems as applicable to today’s political environment as it was during the Second World War. It’s just that it’s literally difficult to get to Hayek’s 1940s-era opening words, which don’t actually appear until about a quarter of the way into the book. First, a reader must wade through dozens of pages, including two prefaces and two introductions penned over the years.

But a patient reader (or an impatient one who begins on page 57) is well-rewarded for the effort.

“Looking back, we can assess the significance of past occurrences and trace the consequences they have brought in their train,” Hayek begins. “But while history runs its course, it is not history to us. It leads into an unknown land, and but rarely can we get a glimpse of what lies ahead.” From that humble opening, Hayek proves himself wrong. He gives an apt description of the future. And it isn’t especially pretty.

He notes that the free market economic policies that allowed the West to thrive in the 19th and early 20th centuries were already disappearing in his day, and were likely to fade further in the years ahead. In fact, they’d been long abandoned in the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany.

And, even as the British were fighting Nazism overseas, plenty of leading British politicians were promising to create a kinder, gentler version of socialism (Nazism was officially known as “National Socialism,” after all). As indeed they would, launching the National Health Service in 1948. Other countries soon followed, expanding welfare programs at the expense of market competition.

Read bullet |

#IAmNotYourBitch

Friday, September 19th, 2014 - by Sarah Hoyt and Charlie Martin
SHE might be your b*tch.  I'm not.

SHE might be your b*tch. I’m not.

Hi, this is Sarah. One of my friends who, I think, hopes to see my head explode and my brain showered all over the walls some day (um… maybe I should revise the notion that he’s a friend) sent me this link: Authors United vs. Amazon, a primer.

Now to make things clear what I object to is not the link itself, but the site/movement it righteously mocks. Or to put it another way, I’m linking that site, because if I linked the original, there would be blood, possibly even someone else’s, as I mutated into the other form of Sarah, the one who walks around saying “Sarah smash.” (They won’t like me when I’m angry!)

Reading it once was bad enough.  (The things I do for you.)

The letter in the bad site, the one you can get to from the good site, but which I wouldn’t advise if you prize your sanity, is full of strange and wondrous claims that made me wonder what kind of world these people live in, and whether it has swiss cheese for a sky.

Take this gem for instance:

books are not mere consumer goods. Books cannot be written more cheaply, nor can authors be outsourced to another country. Books are not toasters or televisions. Each book is the unique, quirky creation of a lonely, intense, and often expensive struggle on the part of a single individual, a person whose living depends on his or her book finding readers.

First of all, there is the counterfactual: Books are not mere consumer goods. Books cannot be written more cheaply nor can authors be outsourced to another country.

Really?  Fascinating.  The first one is particularly interesting in view of the fact that just in the time I’ve been a professional – since around 1998 – the average advance on a book has gone down from five thousand to – I hear, now – two thousand. If the books are not being written more cheaply, they are certainly being bought more cheaply by traditional publishers.  And few of these books get royalties. No matter how much the statements/royalties have to be tweaked to avoid it. (Used to be that books were taken out of print on the day they earned out the advance. I know. Happened to six of mine. Now they just go into a sort of limbo, and you get zero sales reported, which considering that I sell more than that on my backlist on Amazon, I call shenanigans on.)

The second one is also fascinating, since I know people in several other countries who write, such as Dave Freer, for instance.

Then comes the tautological: Books are not toasters or televisions.  Indeed.  They’re also not peanuts, computers, wooden shelves or automobiles.  This is not an exhaustive list of what books aren’t.  I’ll leave it as an exercise for the great minds of Author’s United to provide the exhaustive list.

Then comes the interesting: Each book is the unique, quirky creation of a lonely, intense, and often expensive struggle on the part of a single individual, a person whose living depends on his or her book finding readers.

Oh…  You mean like those books that traditional publishers routinely send back with the instruction to “make this more like Fifty Shades of Grey” or whatever the latest manufactured mega-seller is?  Or, wait, wait, wait, this is why publishing executives refer to books as “widgets.”  Or it is why publishing houses routinely fail to “push” or do much of anything for midlisters, thereby leaving them to not sell at all, and thereby “firing” them after two books? (Or making them change names.)

Yes, siree, it is the way that traditional publishing respects the act of book creation and the uniqueness of the book that means we need to support traditional publishing against Amazon at all costs.

Or, this is an idea – we could stop being supine mats on the floor begging for traditional publishing to give us validation and love – and support Amazon, a company that pays authors on time, that pays any author who is willing to work hard enough a living wage, and that deals fairly and openly with its providers.

At some level, you know, I think the good folk of Author’s United is aware of this.  There are sentences in this letter that read like what we novelists call “Signal from Fred.”

From Turkey City Lexicon, one of SFWA’s decent creations:

  • Signal from Fred

A comic form of the “Dischism” in which the author’s subconscious, alarmed by the poor quality of the work, makes unwitting critical comments: “This doesn’t make sense.” “This is really boring.” “This sounds like a bad movie.” (Attr. Damon Knight)

Our position has been consistent. We have made a great effort not to take sides. We are not against Amazon.

Which given they’ve been agitating against Amazon from the beginning can only be read to mean “Help, the publisher is holding  our books hostage and demanding we come down on amazon good and hard. We have made a great effort not to take sides. We are not against Amazon.  Help! Help!

In fact this letter sounds rather familiar. Like those hostages forced to tape messages condemning their country, but signing with their blinks “I’m being coerced.”  Only, since I think these authors are also lying to themselves as hard as they can.

Which makes the situation very familiar. Look, I’ve had friends in bad relationships, before.  Arguably I was in at least one very bad relationship when I was very young.

You lie to yourself.  You tell yourself he really loves you, and he wants what’s best for you.  And you turn against friends and relatives who tell you he’s no good for you.

Only with publishing, this has been going on so long, that writers are treated like no other profession on Earth. In fact, we’re not treated like professionals at all. We’re treated like sluts. (And not the kind who hold slut walks.) “You’ll do this for near-nothing because you like it.  We’re so nice, that we’ll give you a little gift to make you happy, even though you write because you love it, you dirty girl, you!”

It’s time for those poor souls in Authors United and the others like them to realize that because you love to do something doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be paid for it. Arguably tons of people love their jobs.  But we never say “Oh, teachers love to teach, so we shouldn’t pay them.”  On the contrary, it seems the teachers Union (Teachers United!) is always agitating for higher pay.

And the publishers, do they ever say “I love publishing, I’d do it for free!”

No. They don’t.  They do it for money.  And there is money in publishing, because they have offices in Manhattan and publishers don’t have day jobs to support their publishing habit.  It’s writers who must have day jobs to support their writing habit, because they love writing, and they don’t deserve any better.

Is that what you’re thinking?

Well then come off it. You know what we call the person who takes the money someone makes by doing something they love, and then abuses that person? A pimp.  An abusive pimp at that.

Publishers like Hachette are evil pimps browbeating their authors into submission and making them give it up for next to nothing while they grow fat on the writers’ efforts.

It doesn’t have to be like that. I got rid of all my pimp-like publishers and kept only Baen books, who treat me with respect.

But what if you don’t write science fiction or fantasy, which is the only thing Baen publishes.  What if you can’t find a house that will treat you with respect?

There’s an Amazon for that.

I’m not saying you shouldn’t do the occasional freebie for a friend or a cause you love.  It’s okay to do things for free for people you like. But love it or not, your craft is worth money and you should be paid.  If other people can sell it, what makes you think you can’t? (Witchfinder has now made me my regular advance from Baen, which is far more than two thousand dollars.)

But those publishers who hold you down? Who pay you nothing and blame you for their failures?

Stop carrying water for them and writing whiny letters to Amazon.

Dear traditional evil pimps: #IAmNotYourBitch.


[Charlie here:] This is the section where I remind you to let your friends know that you can mail book.plug.friday@gmail.com for submission guidelines, which say to send me your AUTHOR’S NAME, TITLE, a BLURB of close to 100 words and no that doesn’t mean 100 words each for every story in your story collection, and an AMAZON LINK, preferably to the Kindle book although if you’re doing paper only for some reason I’ll cope, grudgingly.

I thought it might help if I were to explain how I do these. When you send me a plug, I copy and paste the pieces into an HTML template. One reason I prefer the Kindle version is that, for inscrutable reasons of their own, Amazon makes the cover of a Kindle book easily hotlinkable, but puts covers of print books into some goofy encoded form that’s a pain to cope with.

When you don’t include the author’s name, and send it from, say, Frederick Xavier Ample’s email account, I have to dig around to find out that it was published under Fred X Ample, or worse, Mary Worthy. This doesn’t help me get it right.

Similarly, when you send me a three page excerpt as the blurb — don’t laugh, it’s happened — then I end up having to edit it down, write a blurb for you, or depending on how egregious it is and how cranky and pressed for time I am, simply send you back the guidelines with “about 100 words” highlighted.

Finally, if you have a promotion coming up, remember that these things are published on Friday. That’s why it’s called Book Plug Friday. (Even on the days I’m late and it ends up on Saturday.) The theoretical deadline in the Tuesday of the preceding week to give some slack, but recently I’ve been able to get things published the week they come in. HOWEVER, it happens fairly often that I get a plug for a book with a promotion running from Monday to Thursday on the preceding Saturday or Sunday. It is a theorem in the algebra of rings on the natural numbers modulo 7 that if I get a blurb on Saturday, for a promotion running the following Monday through Thursday, and I publish on Friday, that your promotion ain’t gonna make it.

Now, on to the plugs.


cover

U.S. Army Mage Corps: SWORD
By John F. Holmes

What if … magic were part of every day US Military Operations? In a backwater Central Asian Country, a threat to Western Civilization is growing, unnoticed by the world. The men and women of the US Army Mage Corps, feared on the battlefield and despised back home, enter into a struggle which may cost them their lives and their country.


cover

Starship’s Mage
By Glynn Stewart

Starship’s Mage is a serialized adventure set in a future we would never have predicted: where humanity’s far flung interstellar colonies are tied together by the Protectorate of the Mage King of Mars and the magic of the Jump Mages.

Damien Montgomery is a newly-trained member of this elite order. Unable to find a ship to take him on, he joins the crew of a freighter as desperate as he is – without looking hard enough at why they’re desperate.
Thus begins an adventure that will take him to the edges of known space and to the limits of his own magic.

Starship’s Mage: Episode 1 is a 20,789 word novella, the first of five in a serial story.

(Charlie here: I’ve got to admit I was a little puzzled how to handle this: it’s a serial, and the author sent me links to episodes 1 and 4. So I’m linking episode 1, figuring no one wants to start a serial on episode 4.)


cover

Impossible Odds
By Jenna Vincent

Impossible Odds contains a pair of stories involving everyday people, making difficult choices in uncertain times and coming out ahead, despite the odds.


cover

Appalling Yarns
By Dutch Heckman

An anthology of truly bent surrealistic vignettes. There is the one about the bear in Yellowstone Park who wakes up one morning with human desires and tastes, playing off of both Hanna-Barbera and Franz Kafka. And then there is the one about the television broadcaster who sells his soul to the devil, with an unusual codicil . . . and then gets found out:

“The public reaction to the revelation that Apache and the rest of the entertainment industry were pawns in thrall to the Dark Master of all Evil was remarkably subdued…. It really didn’t surprise many people; they felt that unholy powers most likely held sway in the programming suites of most networks already, and clearly the basic cable channels had already fallen or verged on tumbling into their grasp. The fate of the premium channels troubled many.”

There is the one about tortoise, the ant, and the country mouse, who achieved success in the world of fables but grow into dreadful drunken bores later on in life.

The book posits a hilariously amoral universe with no happy endings, and yet places on display the brokenness of human nature, in all its warty glory, for Heckman’s readers’ amusement.


cover

Auntie Jodi’s Helpful Hints
By Jodi Adler

In a world where small children are often allowed to run wild, snatching at strangers’ phones, someone has to stand up for adulthood. Auntie Jodi’s hints are partly a life guideline for negotiating parties, partly a sendup of cosmopolitan life—and all very funny. Auntie Jodi holds the line against political correctness while fighting rudeness, all without putting on a cape.

People who live on the coasts and big cities will especially recognize the awkward and dreary social situations Auntie Jodi addresses. Some of the hints are serious, and some are comic hokum: the reader has to decide which are which.

A sample hint:

“When in public, if you should be engaged in a mad, passionate, or achingly sweet embrace or kiss, be sure to slyly check for surveillance cameras, drones, or snoopy neighbors…. However, if you should be lucky enough to observe a high-profile A-lister in such a situation it’s best to snap your photos quickly—so that you can be first in line to collect a high finder’s fee from a tabloid, website, or government agency.”

Read bullet |

Great Writing For Understanding Scary Writing

Thursday, September 18th, 2014 - by Andrew Klavan

There is precious little intelligent writing about ghost stories and horror but you know who’s doing some? My pal John J. Miller. I don’t just say this because he’s a friend, but because the last two pieces he did on the subject were absolutely terrific. The piece he wrote recently for the wonderful Claremont Review on H.P. Lovecraft — The Horror, The Horror — was so good I actually had to write the guy a fan letter. Sure, I knew he’d use it against me some day but what could I do? Reading his essay was like eating some kind of confection. Try this bit:

The biggest barrier to Lovecraft’s mainstream acceptance had been his status as a writer of horror fiction—a field of literature that suffers from the suspicion that its readers take a perverse delight in graphic descriptions of torture and murder. This is an unfortunate misunderstanding, brought on in part by the sad fact that some horror books and movies really are no better than this. In its practical application, however, the classification horror encompasses a wide range of creative expression, from lowbrow penny dreadfuls and shilling shockers to Henry James’s The Turn of the Screw. Much of the confusion is semantic. Strictly defined, horror is a blend of fear and disgust, the revulsion we feel in the face of cruelty and decay. Although Lovecraft certainly exploited this emotion—read the final paragraph of “The Rats in the Walls,” for instance—most of the time he aimed higher. The finest horror fiction is really about terror, which combines fear and awe in a powerful sensation that haunts rather than startles. Lovecraft sometimes used the term supernatural horror, but as a thoroughgoing materialist, he didn’t really believe in the supernatural. If a phenomenon appeared to violate the laws of nature, he argued, it was only because we didn’t understand the science of the laws. Much of Lovecraft’s work originally ran in a pulp magazine called Weird Tales, with weird meaning eerie or uncanny. Yet that promising word never really caught on as a label. So we’re stuck with calling it all horror, and cramming slasher flicks like Friday the 13th and its interminable sequels into the same broad category as the most refined ghost stories, such as Vladimir Nabokov’s “The Vane Sisters” and Shirley Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House.

Dude! That’s what good writing about genre fiction looks like when it’s at home. The rest is here.

John did another great one on the ghost story writer Robert Aickman — one of my favorites — for the WSJ, but it’s behind a paywall. But there’s more good stuff on his website.

*****

Cross-posted from Klavan on the Culture

Read bullet |

10 Things You Should Know About the Comics Code

Tuesday, September 16th, 2014 - by Karina Fabian

cca-seal

The Salt Lake Comic Con is more than just a chance to parade around in costumes and squeal over the chance to see your favorite star. The panels cover some interesting and serious topics. This year, Batton Lash, Steve Kent, Chad Hardin, Steven Grant and Joey Majdali discussed free speech, censorship and the Comics Code of 1954. The code for decades reinforced the impression that comics were for kids. It died a quiet death in 2011, but is an important part of the genre’s history. If you love comics, here are ten things you should know:

1. It wasn’t government censorship.

The Comics Code was developed by the major publishers of the time in response to societal — and governmental — pressure. In the 1930s, teachers claimed comic books decreased literacy. They were joined by those who worried about the morality of the illustrations. Finally, the mental health industry threw in its hat, claiming that comic books led to desensitization to violence and a desire to imitate the characters. (Sound familiar?) The comic book companies determined 41 areas, covering nudity as well as the depiction of violence and horror.

Read bullet |