Yesterday [for some value of today -- this is Charlie, and I am once again way behind, and it's not Sarah's fault] I (hi guys, this is Sarah) was looking for information on writers of SF/F. Long story short, my novels in science fiction started out having chapter titles from pulp shorts/novels I remembered reading (the trick is they’re sometimes not the English titles, as Portuguese translators changed them.) In the fourth book, now, I’ve run out of easy titles and had a choice of changing the system or finding more titles.
So I was trolling the least savory corners of the net and finding bibliographies. (Well, not the least savory. That would be Dino-on-girl or beastie-on-boy.)
I came across about 20 lists of “the best women writers” and the “best female writers” of science fiction and fantasy. Weirdly, none for men. Geesh, for an oppressed minority, female writers sure get a lot of attention.
I’m not on any of these lists – duh – which brings me to when I was asked to produce a list of “best female writers” of SF and was unable to come up with ten. It’s not that there aren’t ten good female writers, it’s that I don’t READ that way – who does? – and therefore don’t remember my authors that way. And when I asked for help, what I got was “lists of female authors I heard were important because they were the “first” – actually just “the most talked about” or “the first of the right (left) political persuasion” female writer to do/be/whatever.”
Most of the most ballyhooed first or best are demonstrably false, but beyond that this bothered me beneath the skin, as it were, because they weren’t lists of best ANYTHING. They were lists with training wheels.
For instance, my friend Kevin J. Anderson, often jokes by introducing me as “the best Portuguese-born female science fiction writer published originally in America.” (If he just threw in “libertarian” I think he’d have a list of one, if he doesn’t already.) He gets away with this because it’s obviously a joke. I know where I stand. I’m mid-mid to high mid-list. That’s where I belong for now, not in “best” anything. But see, I have plans.
If someone did this seriously it would be the equivalent of telling me “You’re pretty good for a Portuguese chick writing in English as a second language. We don’t think you’ll ever get any further, so we’re pinning a medal on you now.” Do that, in seriousness, and you’ll withdraw a bloody stump. Who are you to patronize me? I might never get any further than I am, but trying is my prerogative. (Oh, and buy my books.)
So I’ve been thinking on this concept of lists and “best” writers, and I discussed it with Charlie. As usual, we are but two minds that fester as a single one. Most of the lists of “bests” go by awards or what someone said was first or important.
That’s, pardon me, the end product of a bovine digestive tract. There’s only one real measure of what is best: “What stays with you.” And there’s only a real measure of what is classic: “What stays with a lot of people.”
So, below is a – non-gender-segregated, because no one gets prizes for having a vagina – list of writers that stayed with me or that I return to time and again. In no particular order, IMHO, YMMV, TANSTAAFL and BBQ also OIMMBLTTA*.
Robert A. Heinlein – Duh. I named my first son after him, not after any other writer. (Beyond the fact that my husband wouldn’t let me name him Clifford, and Ray wasn’t even in the running.) Widely credited as inspiring more scientists than any other science fiction writer. The opinion of which works people like varies, some people (deviationists in the Church of Heinlein, which my fans and I have – ridiculously – been accused of being) excluding the later ones, some the earlier ones. I like them all, but my favorites that get read every year are The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress, Starship Troopers, Puppet Masters and The Door Into Summer. When you talk to someone and they say they no longer read science fiction, they inevitably end with “no one writes like Heinlein anymore.” I concur, though some of us try.
Isaac Asimov – is here because he was prolific and popularized science fiction. I remember him and reading a ton of his books when I was little. What I don’t remember is the books. I remember a short story “Liar“, mostly because I was afraid I was on track to be the female character. [Charlie: I liked Asimov although a lot of his stuff hasn't worn well for me. But still, the I, Robot stories, and the Lije Bailey books, like The Caves of Steel and The Naked Sun, are worth the time.]
Ray Bradbury – Yes, I know. Possibly an acquired taste, but if so, I acquired him. Part of it is that he translates magnificently to Portuguese, but the other part is that he’s just a good writer, period. Unorthodox for Science Fiction, but very good.
The first book I read in English for Americans was Dandelion Wine. I was 14, and I still have the book, with all the difficult words with a translation penciled over it in Portuguese. Towards the end of the book, the “explanation” is in English, as I’d graduated to an English-English dictionary. I bought both my sons’ copies at 12, but they say Bradbury is depressing. Don’t care. Fahrenheit 451 remains and will always be a favorite of mine. [Charlie: Ray was pretty much the first person to encourage my own writing. I'd recommend his later novels, like Death is a Lonely Business and Green Shadows, White Whale, and of course his short stories.]
Clifford Simak – In Portugal he is considered one of the “great three” – Asimov is often dropped from the list – and I used to get up really early to snag a copy of his books when they were released in Portuguese. Portuguese books rarely go back to press, so that was my one and only chance. I love particularly Werewolf Principle and They Walked Like Men. They Walked Like Men used to bother me as I thought it was anti-money. Re-reading it, I realized it was anti-fiat-currency. Fine. I’m okay with that. [Charlie: I'm not a Simak fan for no reason I can explain. But I will note that an awful lot of Simak is now available in Kindle collections, being out of copyright.]
Anne McCaffrey – okay, fine, she’s not to everyone’s taste, and when I tried to re-read her recently, I couldn’t. But the reason I couldn’t was that so many things kept kicking me out because they’re tired tropes of fantasy. The thing to remember though was that they weren’t, until she made them so. (And also that she was writing science fiction.) I’m going to recommend all the Dragon books through White Dragon. Though my favorite when I first read them was Moretta.
Ursula LeGuin – Why is she beneath Anne McCaffrey? Don’t I know she was way more “relevant.” Well, yes, I do know that. Pfui. She was relevant because at some point she flipped over into female supremacy. She was also, more or less explicitly more left than other women writing at the time. However, recently, when introducing someone to fantasy I recommended the Tombs of Atuan [Earthsea] trilogy. (What do you mean there are four books? Pfui. I can’t hear you!) I remember that one because for a kid who read all sorts of weird religious stuff, it struck a chord.
Then there’s The Left Hand of Darkness. I tried re-reading it recently and couldn’t because the narrative technique is SO seventies. (And the best thing about getting older is that each decade takes me farther away from the seventies.) BUT for better or worse, this is the book that got me into writing. As a biology-geek (in my spare time) I was offended by the design of her hermaphrodites. As a history-geek I was offended by the society derived from it. So I said to myself, I said, “Sarah, you can write hermaphrodites better than that.” I couldn’t. But now I think I can and it’s on the slate for when the other stuff is done. (Could be twenty years, of course.)
[Charlie: I liked LHoD and The Dispossessed. On the other hand, if someone hands you LeGuin's translation of the Tao Te Ching, drop it quickly and wash your hands. And, look, Ursula, if you wanted to call it "poetry inspired by..." then I'd have no trouble, but passing this off as a translation is a travesty.]
Terry Pratchett – Appears this late only because he’s rather recent. His disk world is a creation of genius, which allows him to do anything he wants to, historical or not.
I have a little crush on Captain Vimes, which is shameful for a libertarian. And I think older son IS Captain Carrot.
If you’re reading Pratchett and you think he’s just “funny, ah ah” you’re missing layers and layers of meaning. Pratchett writes characters that LIVE which considering their background is amazing.
He also falls into the category of artists whose art can go against his own explicit beliefs to touch something eternal about the human condition. Highly recommended. I revisit him regularly. Off the top of my head: Night Watch, Witches Abroad, Thief of Time, Small Gods, Monstrous Regiment.
Diana Wynne Jones – Okay, I’m going to admit right now that the woman could never write a satisfying ending and that her last books were… uh… odd. (She died of brain cancer, so I don’t think we can hold it against her.) However, I recommend the Chrestomanci series and also The Merlin Conspiracy.)
Jerry Pournelle – why is he so far down? No reason except I only discovered him when I came to America. Also, that he is a personal friend, and one always feels a little guilty about recommending a personal friend. Read everything he ever wrote, alone or with Larry Niven. Favorites are Footfall and Lucifer’s Hammer.
Jerry has been a great influence on fans – particularly not-on-the-left fans – about ten years younger than I. As big as Heinlein for me and my generation. He was also one of Mr. Heinlein’s protégés and has some great Heinlein stories, if you can sit down with him.
BTW it has reached my ears that he had a stroke this weekend, and I’m praying, so hard. He’s one of my favorite colleagues.
There are a lot of other writers I enjoy and remember, some of them contemporary and my friends, but if I get into that, I’ll be here all day. Quickly: A. E. Van Vogt; Philip Jose Farmer, Larry Correia, Dave Freer, John Ringo, about a million and a half writers whose names refuse to come to mind right now (including some of my own) and a bunch of indies you can find if you follow my blog, or even check out the announcements here regularly.
So, go forth, happy holidays and happy reading.
*Objects in Mirror might be larger than they appear.
Running away leads right back home – or does it?
Sarvet walks with a grinding limp, and her mountain culture keeps girls close to home. Worse, her mother emphasizes all the things Sarvet can’t do. No matter how gutsy her spirit or bold her defiance, staying put means growing weaker. Yet only boys get wanderyars. Lacking their supplies and training, how can Sarvet escape?
Can dreams – even big dreams – and inner certainty transform impossible barricades into a way out?
The 10th Book in the Worlds Apart series finds the badly damaged Pathfinder Ship Pegasus limping into the Eventide system, hoping to make repairs. Instead, they find an undeveloped, backwater colony with limited technology and scant resources. And worse, Eventide has drawn the attention of the Kariad: Alien busybodies who meddle in human civilizations that fail to meet their standards. Commander Keeler has seen other colonies ruined by their misguided social engineering. He makes a wager with the Kariad; if he can fix the civilization on Eventide, the Kariad must never meddle in human affairs again.
In the second half of the twenty-first century, orbital debris takes its first large-scale human casualties from an orbiting tourist habitat. Haunted by visions of destruction, Charlotte Fisher, a young engineer, determines to win a prize offered by a consortium of satellite and orbitat operators for the first successful de-orbiting of space junk. Her employer backs these efforts until the reentry of a piece of debris kills two people, and she and her team are spun off. With limited resources and the unwanted gift of a lawyer who, regardless of his appeal, she doesn’t need, she faces daunting odds.
Major Rahoul P. Khan returns to the 58th Regiment of Foot. The holiday season calls up memories he’d rather have left in Afghanistan. Can the Cat help him keep Christmas?
The more things change, the more they stay the same.
No words have ever proven to be more true especially when applied to the world of super-heroes.
For them, death has always been at best uncertain.
But what there was in the world of super-heroes was virtually non-existent until the silver age when it was learned that Captain America’s youthful partner Bucky was killed at the end of World War II.
After that, death for super-heroes remained a rare event but when it happened, it was usually done for dramatic purposes. In more recent years, death often comes for no other reason than to replace unfashionable white males with more politically acceptable ethnic or gender specific substitutes.
But whatever the reason editors or writers might have for killing off heroes, readers themselves have always taken their demise seriously, hoping for the most part that those who have made the supreme sacrifice are not robbed of their halos.
Unfortunately, the desires of fans for the permanency of death in their favorite comic book universes have too often turned out not to be final. And so, whether it’s clones, robot duplicates, returning spirits, impersonators, stand-ins, or alternate universe versions, most super-hero deaths never seem to last.
Caveat Emptor: although the following list includes characters who have been thoroughly killed (and numbered in the order of least likely to be revived), their deaths have mostly taken place in the traditional continuity stemming from comics’ silver age of the 1960s. It does not take into account any 21st century developments in the Marvel or DC universes wherein most if not all past continuities have been scuttled or confused beyond the average reader’s ability to understand.
10) Blue Beetle
The Blue Beetle has a long history going all the way back to comics’ golden age but the Blue Beetle, whose rights were eventually acquired by DC, was the Ted Kord version first introduced by artist Steve Ditko in 1966. After DC bought the rights to the Beetle, the character was played mostly for laughs until he was executed in Countdown to Infinite Crisis (2005). Kord’s death made way for an ethnic re-do with a young Hispanic boy taking on the mantle of the Blue Beetle.
This holiday season, I know you’ve been wondering: what can I give the Southern culture lover on my gift list? Well, worry no more, because I, your intrepid Southern culture expert, have decided to swoop in like a Christmas miracle and save the day!
Here’s a list of 34 awesome gift choices that cover just about every area of the culture below the Mason-Dixon line. The best part: nearly everything on this list is eligible for Amazon Prime, for all you procrastinators. Enjoy!
5. Explore The Literary South
One of the greatest traditions in the South is storytelling, and a classic Southern story makes a wonderful gift for the bookworm on your list. Here are just a few recommendations.
William Faulkner is one of the best known and most respected authors in the South or anywhere. I’ve always had a difficult time keeping my concentration reading his novels, but I love his short stories. I highly recommend The Collected Stories of William Faulkner (also available for Kindle) as a sort of greatest hits collection and The Uncollected Stories of William Faulkner for deeper cuts (get it here for Kindle).
Georgia’s own Flannery O’Connor also made a name for herself in literary circles, and her short stories are some of the best in American literature as a whole. Check out The Complete Stories (also on Kindle) to experience her true genius in all its glory, but I also recommend the slim volume A Prayer Journal (also on Kindle) for some of the most beautiful, lyrical Christian prayers I’ve ever read.
Of course, there are plenty of great Southern novels to choose from, but here are some of my favorites. Zora Neale Hurston’s Their Eyes Were Watching God delves into the lives of black people in rural Florida with a lyrical flair. In Ellen Foster, by Kaye Gibbons, a precocious orphan tells her own story. James Dickey’s Deliverance is the same harrowing story as the movie, but with greater depth. And Family Linen by Lee Smith is my all-time favorite novel — a twisty, darkly comic family tale.
You can’t go wrong with any of these choices for literature lovers.
With the huge success of Marvel Studios, superheroes have entered the public consciousness like never before. But the film producer’s success has become a double-edged sword: its entertainment value to millions of people worldwide has drawn to it the unwanted attention of racial bean counters who have called for different colored faces under the masks.
But how is that to be accomplished? In their call to diversify representation in movies along racial lines, promoters comb each new release, counting heads, and claim there are not enough faces of color in the casts. Something has to be done, they say, raising the specter of white privilege and subtle racist attitudes that only the most arcane of arithmetical equations can balance.
In an attempt to satisfy its critics, the film industry has taken steps to right the imbalance. Superhero movies and television shows have done their share but mostly by changing the skin color of existing characters rather than inventing new ones.
On TV, Iris West in the new Flash television show was switched from white to African-American, as was Deathlok on Agents of SHIELD and Pete Ross in Smallville.
I am not going to give you a link, but that great intellect for the ages (the man who has a grant for writing a novel, but hasn’t) Damien Walter, over at Al Guardian is pronouncing again.
Apparently he was all over Twitter with a cover of Jim Baen’s Universe (now defunct) claiming that these terrible covers are the reason Science Fiction isn’t taken seriously.
It’s been a long day that involved having blood drawn for medical tests, and I am old enough and tired enough that I’m not putting up with this anymore.
There are people out there who complain about Heinlein’s end to The Number of the Beast in which critics are imprisoned in a pocket universe from which they can only escape if they ever have a single, solitary creative thought.
All I can say is that those people aren’t as tired of critics and opiners on what constitutes literature or worthy literary expression as I was even back when I first read that book and snorted with glee at the ending. I was twenty one. On the other hand I had already acquired a bachelors in literature, one of those experiences likely to rip all illusion from your eyes and all forgiveness from your heart.
So, not exactly in response to Damien Walter, (who is loonier than a moonstruck moonling dancing in the moonlight) but in response to his ilk, I feel it’s time I set the record straight on what is literature, what isn’t and what is worthy and isn’t.
I will confess that part of this is in response to many people who have asked in groups I frequent – as we’re trying to build a culture away from Marxism – for “worthy” books for themselves and their children. This always devolves into a list of “approved” books, well thought of by the talking heads who are, of course, wholly-owned subsidiaries of the establishment.
No mas. Enough is enough.
So, what is literature? Should your kids read it? Should you read it? How can it improve your life? And should you be worried if science fiction isn’t considered “real literature”?
Charlie has a definition of literature that involves Aristotle’s Poetics. That’s fine. It’s way too intellectual for me, and I’ll let him talk about it. I merely have a degree in this stuff, and most of it consisted of people blathering about things that had nothing in fact to do with literature.
For my purposes I’m going to define literature as a narrative/emotional experience packaged into words.
Is it an art?
Oh, assuredly. You can still read Shakespeare, Austen and Kipling (and Dumas and fill in your own favorites) and still understand it at an emotion-level as well as a narrative-level. Which means that there is art there, to touch something essentially human across the centuries.
The problem is judging the art. This is not a problem unique to writing. We partake the same thing with the plastic arts, with music and with practically every artistic field.
The problem is this: for the last century and a bit a self-hating, sour-faced minority of the reading public, aka critics, has installed itself as the arbiters of what is and isn’t art. And they are applying it not in terms of the emotions the story touches, or in terms of the narrative cogency, but in terms of “being socially relevant.”
In this century that has come to mean Western-hating, male-hating and most of all – and this is very important – fun-hating.
Instead of rousing tales that touch humans enough to read them for pleasure, literature has come to mean “beautiful words telling us establishment messages.”
We’ve seen this in art before. Look for instance to when French in the regency had defined what plays should be. Good plays, to be worthy, should have no blood on stage. No panic or death or anything else should happen on stage. These were decorously relayed by messengers telling us what had happened off stage.In the more eventful plays, so many messengers crossed on stage it looked like a relay race.
The critics of the time often said that upstart, Shakespeare, would be better off imitating them and showing more class and taste.
Those other playwrights are not seen or heard from anymore. For some reason, Messenger Relay Race is less stirring than Romeo and Juliet. Who would have thought it? Other than any human being with a pulse, of course.
And therein lies the rub.
Literature happens, and we can tell when it has happened, and when it’s art. But we can only tell it’s art when it’s stood the test of time. Until then we call it “rousing good stuff.” In other words, stuff people buy and read for fun.
The first indication of art, we can take it, is the pleasure of readers in reading it.
And as for being taken seriously – by the likes of little Damien – who cares? Those are social games people play to make sure they’re in with the smart set.
They’re welcome to their games.
We’re playing for the ages.
Charlie here. Yes, you’re right, Book Plug Friday is late this week. In fact, a week late. The story of how that happened is boring even to me, but it was my fault.
Second, this is a SPECIAL EDITION because we have four of Sarah’s ebooks on sale. Go check them out.
Frizzy, one of Santa’s Izzy Elves, styles Christmas dollies’ hair, but misses them when Santa takes them away for delivery. She decides to change her job so she doesn’t get so attached to the toys she works. Her plan doesn’t work out exactly as she intended, in this award-winning illustrated rhyming Christmas story for kids aged 4 and up.
“…a highly original and wonderfully developed children’s book…appeal[s] to girls and boys alike,…the rhymes…fit into the story perfectly…full color images are superbly done…with a creative and engaging story, Jensen has succeeded at crafting a memorable Christmas story for children that is so good it’s possible it will be enjoyed year round.” -Red City Review
Dizzy, one of Santa’s tech-savvy Izzy Elves, knows all about his friend Tizzy’s Great Adventure and he wants to have an adventure too! When he sneaks aboard Santa’s sleigh, Dizzy finds all the adventure he’s dreamed of, in this award-winning illustrated rhyming Christmas story for kids aged 4 and up.
“A little elf’s clandestine adventure as a stowaway on Santa’s sleigh takes an unexpected turn in an engaging contemporary spin on the classic 19th century poem, “A Visit from St. Nicholas”…The author propels her present-day take on the classic Christmas poem with gentle humor and suspense…appealing energy and colorful verbal imagery…” -Kirkus Reviews
First of all: forget everything you ever heard about him being a fat old
guy who’s never seen a razor.
I mean, think about it. Santa’s an immortal. He’s immortal. A god,
basically. And I’m telling you, he looks like a god.
The guy is gorgeous.
Those things you’ve seen about the goofy red suit and the big jiggly
belly? Most of it comes from a poem a guy wrote for his kids. “’Twas the
night before Christmas.” You know the poem I mean. And it’s a nice poem.
It’s a timeless classic.
But the guy who wrote that poem? He’d never seen Santa.
He made it all up.
Me? I have seen Santa.
Don’t get me wrong, though. I saw him — but I’m not the one who found him.
Clare found him.
She found him — then she nearly lost him again…
Set on a California college campus just a decade or two from now, the world
of Red Queen is post-terrorist disaster, repressive and censored ‹ rather
like China today, but with a stagnant economy and no jobs for young people.
In that sense it is a dystopia, though not so far from our own day and time;
only a few steps beyond where we are now. The students are cowed but not
unaware, and they seize the opportunity to make a difference when their
smarts and courage allow it. And so they change the world.
This is Book 1 of Substrate Wars, the series: A growing band of campus
freedom-fighters discover a new technology that could either destroy the
world, or save it.
A collection of short stories by Prometheus Award Winner Sarah A. Hoyt. The first edition of this collection was published by Dark Regions Press in paper, only. This updated edition contains two bonus short stories: High Stakes and Sweet Alice.
It also contains the stories: Elvis Died for Your Sins; Like Dreams Of Waking; Ariadne’s Skein;Thirst;Dear John;Trafalgar Square;The Green Bay Tree; Another George; Songs;Thy Vain Worlds;Crawling Between Heaven and Earth
Young Will Shakespeare is a humble school master who arrives home to find his wife and infant daughter, Susannah are missing, kidnapped by the fairies of Arden Woods, the children of Titania and Oberon. His attempts at rescue are interrupted and complicated by a feud over throne of fairyland, between Sylvanus, king regnant, and his younger brother Quicksilver who is both more and less than he seems. Amid treachery, murder, duel and seduction, Shakespeare discovers the enchantment of fairyland, which will always remain with him, for good and ill. (This book was originally published by Ace/Berkley 10/2001)
April in Paris 1625. D’Artagnan, and his new friends who hide their true identities under the assumed names of Athos, Porthos and Aramis, discover the corpse of a beautiful woman who looks like the Queen of France. Suspecting an intrigue of Cardinal Richelieu’s and fearing the murder will go unpunished they start investigating. But the enterprise will be fraught with danger, traps from the Cardinal, duels with guards and plotting from the king himself.
In Avalon, where the world runs on magic, the king of Britannia appoints a witchfinder to rescue unfortunates with magical power from lands where magic is a capital crime. Or he did. But after the royal princess was kidnapped from her cradle twenty years ago, all travel to other universes has been forbidden, and the position of witchfinder abolished. Seraphim Ainsling, Duke of Darkwater, son of the last witchfinder, breaks the edict. He can’t simply let people die for lack of rescue. His stubborn compassion will bring him trouble and disgrace, turmoil and danger — and maybe, just maybe, the greatest reward of all.
Now that the pixel dust has (mostly) settled, we can begin trying to glean some lessons from the sudden crack up of The New Republic.
Since its inception 100 years ago, TNR has positioned itself as the journal of American liberalism, when that word was still synonymous with patriotism, freedom and even a hawkish foreign policy.
The magazine cheer-led for Stalin longer than was seemly and opposed the Vietnam War. However, it was also critical of the New Left’s excesses and, under contentious editor Martin Peretz, became largely pro-Israel.
It may have been “the in-flight magazine of Air Force One” during the Clinton administration but that didn’t prevent TNR from being highly critical of his (and Hillary’s) policies.
So it wouldn’t be entirely fair or accurate to describe The New Republic as a “liberal” magazine, although that’s what a lot of conservative commentators have been doing since this week’s Chernobyl-level meltdown.
In a magazine landscape in which The Nation is unmistakeably far-left, and National Review and the Weekly Standard are clearly “right wing,” The New Republic sometimes seemed… confused — a reflection of the particular passions of whoever happened to be editor at the time.
And many of those editors over the years have been quite young.
That’s why it’s likely that the prospect of having a 28-year-old owner didn’t immediately strike fear into the hearts of New Republic stakeholders.
After I retired from the US Army, I wrote a book about adaptive leadership entitled Adapt or Die: Leadership Principles from an American General. I took 35 years in the Army and 4 years at West Point and condensed those down to 9 leadership principles with a focus on Faith and Family. I am convinced that we as a Nation are struggling due to ineffective leadership who can’t adapt to changing circumstances. This is occurring at all levels, from National down to local communities. We must change that.
A critical trait for effective, adaptive senior leaders is to focus on opportunities, not obstacles. In our day-to-day lives, routinely things happen that were unforeseen. Resources that we thought were going to be made available are no longer available. The time we thought we had is truncated. Events took a different turn than we expected. Effective leaders look upon these changed circumstances as an opportunity, not as an obstacle. I was taught many years ago that you can’t roll up your sleeves while you are wringing your hands. We must capitalize on opportunities as they come our way.
We as a nation now have an opportunity as a result of the mid-term elections. America has voted. We have decided who will be our leaders at all levels. We selected US Senators and Representatives, Governors, and State Legislators. Starting January 1, 2015 we will have our elected leaders in place. The question is will they, on behalf of the American public, embrace the changes and focus on the opportunity at hand. We must demand that they do.
The key element in all this will be to focus on doing what is right for America, as opposed to doing what is right for a particular political party. As a leader, I always asked three questions: (1) Are we doing the right things? (2) Are we doing things right? (3) What are we missing? These are very important questions. If we are doing the right things the right way, let’s drive on. If not, let’s stop and make the appropriate correction. That’s what needs to happen now throughout America.
I am concerned that we as Americans have lost our identity. In the past, we proudly introduced ourselves as Americans. Now the tendency is to introduce ourselves as Republicans or Democrats, Liberals or Conservatives, etc. We must regain our identity, and our leaders must focus on what is right for America. They must put aside their petty differences and work towards compromise. They cannot spend all their time focused on how to win the next election, but rather on how to enact laws and pass legislation that is in the best interests of America. We must break out of the current stalemate, and make things happen.
In a democracy, the elected officials work for us. Let’s demand that they spend time focused on opportunities for America, and then do things to make those opportunities come to life. We must demand action. Let’s not let them spend time worrying about the obstacles in their path, commiserating about who won or lost the election or how do we make the other party look bad. Let’s not accept that. Our Nation’s future depends on leaders who will take advantage of the opportunity given to them to do what is right for America.
World-building as an imaginative exercise has been with mankind almost from the time men discovered fire, but it was only relatively recently that fancy began to give way to logic. That began with the work of Jules Verne, who based his many novels on a strict application of the science of his time, an approach that can be seen most strikingly with The Mysterious Island.
The work of H.G. Wells quickly followed. Utilizing points of departure that were a bit more fanciful than those of Verne (alien invasion, invisibility, time travel), Wells kickstarted modern science fiction, which, in America, soon morphed into tales of interplanetary warfare and galactic empires. But the stories by such writers as Edmond Hamilton and Doc Smith concentrated more on action than social context. As a result, though they created elaborate worlds filled with planets populated by every kind of alien creature, they lacked the background and cohesion needed to create believable settings.
That approach had to wait another decade or so until John Campbell (editor of Astounding Science Fiction and himself a former writer of space opera in the Hamilton style) determined to raise the quality of science fiction from the slam-bang-action variety to more thoughtful fare. With that revolution, writers began to turn out stories with more fully realized futurescapes that explored every societal permutation that intelligent beings were capable of creating. Reaching its full flower in the mid-fifties, the movement eclipsed space opera with many authorial visions becoming so popular that they generated numberless sequels, affording the space needed to build complex universes for readers to explore.
With much of the genre landscape over the years blurring the line between science fiction and fantasy, any list of the most interesting SF futurescapes would have to meet certain criteria, including a strong basis in reality and science, and be made up of multiple stories or volumes enabling a full exploration of the futurescape. That said, check out the following list of the top ten most fascinating worlds in science fiction:
Beginning with City of the Chasch, Jack Vance created the world of Tschai, a planet hundreds of light years from Earth. There, spaceman Adam Reith is stranded, forcing him to deal with Tschai’s interconnected alien races. Through the course of the books, each race is thoroughly explored, making the changes brought on their societies through Reith’s influence all the more fascinating.
— David Swindle (@DaveSwindle) December 3, 2014
— David Swindle (@DaveSwindle) December 3, 2014
Editor’s Note: We’re launching some new discussions and debates this winter in dialogue with the new fiction publishing company Liberty Island. See the previous installments: David S. Bernstein on November 19: “5 Leaders of the New Conservative Counter-Culture,” Dave Swindle on November 25: “7 Reasons Why Thanksgiving Will Be My Last Day on Facebook,” this collection of discussion starters from Monday: “60 Questions to Provoke Debates About How to Fix Our Popular Culture.” Also see “My Growing List of 65 Read-ALL-Their-Books Authors” for more description of the method behind the madness of this work-in-progress book collection. The goal: 365 books total, 7 lists of 52 each, organized thematically by day. What books should make it onto the final list? How should the organization structure be revised? Your input and suggestions are most valued. Please join the discussion on Twitter (@DaveSwindle) and Instagram (@DaveSwindlePJM) and your responses might appear in future installments.
Episode 1, December 2, 2014: “I Need Your Help Assembling the Ultimate Reading List For My Brother”
Wednesday: Technology: Tools of Self-Transformation
Wednesday: How does technology transform our lives? And by “technology” I don’t just mean computers — writing is a form of technology. One’s diet is a technology. These are practical tools one should master.
Writing, Poetry, and Comics
- Strunk and White The Elements of Style
- On Writing by Stephen King
- Break, Blow, Burn by Camille Paglia
- Watchmen by Alan Moore
- Neil Gaiman’s The Sandman
- Testament by Douglas Rushkoff
- Six Walks in the Fictional Woods by Umberto Eco
Novels And Genre Fiction
- SuperEgo by Frank J. Fleming
- The Big Bang by Roy M. Griffis
- Hannah Sternberg’s Bulfinch
- Witchfinder by Sarah Hoyt
- Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll
- The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum
- And All the Saints by Michael Walsh
- Empire of Lies by Andrew Klavan
- The Identity Man by Andrew Klavan
Film and Television
- Fantasia by John Culhane
- The Birds by Camille Paglia
- Scorsese on Scorsese
- Magnolia, a screenplay, by P.T. Anderson
- Crackpot by John Waters
- Midnight Movies by Hoberman and Rosenbaum
- Hollywood Babylon by Kenneth Anger
- Hollywood Babylon II by Kenneth Anger
- Red Star Over Hollywood: The Film Colony’s Long Romance with the Left by Ron Radosh
- Primetime Propaganda: The True Hollywood Story of How the Left Took Over Your TV by Ben Shapiro
— David Swindle (@DaveSwindle) December 3, 2014
- Basic Economics by Thomas Sowell
- Economic Facts and Fallacies: Second Edition by Thomas Sowell
- Applied Economics: Thinking Beyond Stage One by Thomas Sowell
- Knowledge And Decisions by Thomas Sowell
- The Housing Boom and Bust: Revised Edition by Thomas Sowell
- Life Inc.: How the World Became a Corporation and How to Take It Back
- Get Back in the Box by Douglas Rushkoff
- Tenured Radicals: How Politics Has Corrupted Our Higher Education by Roger Kimball
- The New School by Glenn Reynolds
- Intellectuals and Society by Thomas Sowell
- Inside American Education by Thomas Sowell
Art and Media Theory
- Coercion: Why We Listen to What “They” Say by Douglas Rushkoff
- Media Virus! by Douglas Rushkoff
- Screenagers: Lessons In Chaos From Digital Kids by Douglas Rushkoff
- What Jefferson Read, Ike Watched, and Obama Tweeted: 200 Years of Popular Culture in the White House by Tevi Troy
- The Rape of the Masters: How Political Correctness Sabotages Art by Roger Kimball
- Art: A New History by Paul Johnson
Internet and Technology
- An Army of Davids by Glenn Reynolds
- Program or Be Programmed by Douglas Rushkoff
- Present Shock by Douglas Rushkoff
- The Wikipedia Revolution
- The Long Tail: Why the Future of Business Is Selling Less of More by Chris Anderson
- What’s a Dog For?: The Surprising History, Science, Philosophy, and Politics of Man’s Best Friend by John Homan
Diet and Drugs
- High Society: Mind Altering Drugs in History and Culture
- Sex, Drugs, and Magick by Robert Anton Wilson
- The Peyote Cult by Weston La Barre
- Romancing Opiates by Theodore Dalrymple
- Generations by Howe and Strauss
- The Fourth Turning by Howe and Strauss
- Generation X Reader by Douglas Roushkoff
- Millennials Rising by Howe and Strauss
- Queens of all the Earth by Hannah Sternberg
- A.D.D.: Adolescent Demo Division
- Abundance: Why the Future is Better than You Think By Diamandis and Kotler
- America 3.0: Rebooting American Prosperity in the 21st Century-Why America’s Greatest Days Are Yet to Come by James C. Bennett and Michael J. Lotus
- The Singularity is Near by Ray Kurzweil
- How to Create a Mind by Ray Kurzweil
- Radical Abundance by K. Eric Drexler
- The Diamond Age by Neal Stephenson
- Brain Gain by Marc Prensky
Marriage and Monogamy
- Men and Marriage by George Gilder
- The Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman
- Gay Marriage: Why It Is Good for Gays, Good for Straights, and Good for America by Jonathan Rauch
- What to Expect When No One’s Expecting by Jonathan V. Last
The “Christmas single” phenomenon is unknown in the U.S., unless you’ve ever watched Love, Actually.
It’s sort of the “Black Friday” of the British music industry. Since so much music is sold (or, at least, used to be) during the holiday season, having the #1 song on the charts during that time gives one lucky record company a financial boost.
After Slade took the top spot in 1973 with their “Merry Xmas Everybody” — beating out “I Wish It Could Be Christmas Everyday” by Wizzard — “an emotional attachment to the Christmas countdown has developed, and for many [in the United Kingdom], it is part of the fabric of their childhood.”
So I doubt many American readers care that there’s a campaign to get Iron Maiden’s old chestnut “The Number of the Beast” to the top of the charts in time for Christmas, “for a laugh.”
What’s really funny (sort of) is that, during the early 1970s, such a campaign would have been denounced on the front page of every British tabloid, and remarked upon within American newspapers’ “entertainment” sections, at the very least.
Because culture-watchers would see it as yet another sign of the satanic takeover of the culture, and the world — the one I wrote about last week.
Editor’s Note: We’re launching some new discussions and debates this winter in dialogue with the new fiction publishing company Liberty Island. See the previous installments: David S. Bernstein on November 19: “5 Leaders of the New Conservative Counter-Culture,” Dave Swindle on November 25: “7 Reasons Why Thanksgiving Will Be My Last Day on Facebook,” and this collection of discussion starters from yesterday: “60 Questions to Provoke Debates About How to Fix Our Popular Culture.” Today we launch the new, experimental PJ Lifestyle Book Talk, hopefully a regular (aiming for daily…) feature including Instagram videos and tweets discussing the books listed across genres, time periods, and cultures. See Dave Swindle’s open letter to his younger brother — “My Growing List of 65 Read-ALL-Their-Books Authors” — for more description of the method behind the madness of this work-in-progress book collection. The goal: 365 books total, 7 lists of 52 each, organized thematically by day. What books should make it onto the final list? Your input and suggestions are most valued. Please join the discussion on Twitter (@DaveSwindle) and Instagram (@DaveSwindlePJM) and your responses might appear in future installments.
Monday: Good Vs Evil
Monday: How can we understand Evil? I explore books about orthodox Islam, revolutionary Marxism, and antisemitism. In particular I’m going to try to explain how they’ve evolved over the centuries.
1.0 – the Koran and Mohammed
- Howard Bloom’s The Mohammed Code
- Islam Unveiled by Robert Spencer
- Did Muhammad Exist? By Robert Spencer
- The Complete Infidel’s Guide to the Koran by Robert Spencer
- What the Koran Really Says by Ibn Warraq
2.0 – Shariah slave states
- The Politically Incorrect Guide to Islam (And the Crusades) by Robert Spencer
- Not Peace But a Sword by Robert Spencer
- Shariah: The Threat To America: An Exercise In Competitive Analysis (Report of Team B II)
- Dancing with the Devil: The Perils of Engaging Rogue Regimes by Michael Rubin
- The Arab Lobby: The Invisible Alliance That Undermines America’s Interests in the Middle East by Mitchell Bard
- Accomplice to Evil by Michael Ledeen
- Slave Soldiers and Islam by Daniel Pipes
- The Tragedy of the Middle East By Barry Rubin
- Gaddafi’s Harem by Annick Cojean
- Modern Dictators by Barry Rubin
- How Civilizations Die (And Why Islam is Dying Too) by David P. Goldman
3.0 – Terrorism and Stealth Jihad
- Militant Islam Reaches America by Daniel Pipes
- The Grand Jihad: How Islam and the Left Sabotage America by Andrew C. McCarthy
- Spring Fever: The Illusion of Islamic Democracy by Andrew C. McCarthy
- Arab Winter Comes to America: The Truth About the War We’re In by Robert Spencer
- Londonistan by Melanie Phillips
1.0 – From Marx and his predecessors to the death of Stalin
- Paul Johnson’s Intellectuals
- Main Currents of Marxism by Leszek Kolakowski
- Marxism: Philosophy and Economics by Thomas Sowell
- A Conflict of Visions: Ideological Origins of Political Struggles by Thomas Sowell
- Hitler and Stalin: Parallel Lives by Alan Bullock
- The Socialist Phenomenon
- The Black Book of Communism
2.0 – the Cold War Criminal State and its Apologists and Allies
- Disinformation: Former Spy Chief Reveals Secret Strategies for Undermining Freedom, Attacking Religion, and Promoting Terrorism by Ion Mihai Pacepa and Ronald Rychlak
- Programmed to Kill: Lee Harvey Oswald, the Soviet KGB, and the Kennedy Assassination by Ion Mihai Pacepa
- The Communist: Frank Marshall Davis: The Untold Story of Barack Obama’s Mentor by Paul Kengor
3.0 – Postmodernist Community Organizing and Stealth Socialism
- Programmed to Kill: Lee Harvey Oswald, the Soviet KGB, and the Kennedy Assassination by Ion Mihai Pacepa
- Radical-in-Chief: Barack Obama and the Untold Story of American Socialism by Stanley Kurtz
- Spreading the Wealth: How Obama is Robbing the Suburbs to Pay for the Cities by Stanley Kurtz
- Subversion, Inc.: How Obama’s ACORN Red Shirts are Still Terrorizing and Ripping Off American Taxpayers by Matthew Vadum
- Leading From Behind by Richard Miniter
- The People Vs. Barack Obama: The Criminal Case Against the Obama Administration by Ben Shapiro
- Faithless Execution: Building the Political Case for Obama’s Impeachment by Andrew C. McCarthy
- Silent Revolution: How the Left Rose to Political Power and Cultural Dominance by Barry Rubin
- The First Family Detail by Ronald Kessler
- The Victims Revolution by Bruce Bawer
- Faithless Execution: Building the Political Case for Obama’s Impeachment by Andrew C. McCarthy
Antisemitism and Conspiracism
- Why the Jews? The Reason for Antisemitism by Dennis Prager and Joseph Telushkin
- Nazis, Islamists, and the Making of the Modern Middle East by Barry Rubin and Wolfgang G. Schwanitz
- Nazism: a Historical and Comparative Analysis of National Socialism, 1978.
- Stephen H. Norwood’s Antisemitism and the American Far Left
- The Wicked Son by David Mamet
- Making David Into Goliath by Joshua Muravchik
- Conspiracy by Daniel Pipes
- The Hidden Hand: Middle East Fears of Conspiracy by Daniel Pipes
- Among the Truthers: A Journey Through America’s Growing Conspiracist Underground by Jonathan Kay
- The Illuminatus! Trilogy by Robert Shea and Robert Anton Wilson
- Behold a Pale Horse by William Cooper
- Sinister Forces trilogy by Peter Levenda
- The Biggest Secret: The Book That Will Change the World by David Icke
- Counterculture Colophon: Grove Press, the Evergreen Review, and the Incorporation of the Avant-Garde by Loren Glass
- The Evergreen Review Reader
Editor’s Note: We’re launching some discussions this winter in dialogue with the new fiction publishing company Liberty Island. See the previous installments: David S. Bernstein on November 19: “5 Leaders of the New Conservative Counter-Culture,” Dave Swindle on November 25: “7 Reasons Why Thanksgiving Will Be My Last Day on Facebook,” and this collection of discussion starters from yesterday: “60 Questions to Provoke Debates About How to Fix Our Popular Culture.” To learn more about Liberty Island and their extraordinary writers see the collection “How To Join This Unique Team of 33 Creative Writers.”
Dear Jeremy Swindle,
I’d like to thank you for inspiring me with your PJ Lifestyle articles this fall. They confirmed for me something I already knew and now take extreme pleasure in bragging to others about: my younger brother has more natural writing ability than I.
You have a lot of potential, Jere, and lots of choices about where you’re going to choose to focus your creative energy and how you’ll refine your craft. In figuring that out I’m going to try to caution you against some of the mistakes that I’ve made over the last 15 years in my wanderings across culture, religion, and political ideology.
Your writing and your destiny is your own and it’s not my agenda to try to convert you to my positions. Rather, I want to try and give you a map of the territory that I’ve explored so far. Some of the books and authors I’ve gone through may be helpful to you as you continue do develop your own style and priorities.
I believe it’s important to study broadly across many subjects. Over the coming weeks and months my goal is to finish the giant-size recommended reading guide that I’m making the first part of my book. I’m planning on 365 books total, organized into 7 lists of 52 each. And as I’m writing each part in epistolary format with a specific reader in mind, for this opening section I’ve decided to write it to you, Jere. I’m trying to assemble an alternative college reading list, a Good Will Hunting, DIY, just-pay-the-late-charges-at-the-library, book-reading education. This is still the most entertaining scene of the movie, isn’t it?
At the core of the list there are several writers I’d direct more attention to than others. These authors are worth trying to take in in full. They range from famous, even legendary, long dead figures to writers only a few years older than you who I’ve worked with for years. All continually inspire me — just don’t assume that I necessarily agree with everything they write or that I’ve read all of their works yet. Here’s the list, I’ve written about most of these authors already and will be presenting the case for each of them. Some, like Aleister Crowley and Ann Coulter, are very misunderstood by many — don’t make the mistake of dismissing a writer just because some of their soundbites might throw you:
- Howard Bloom
- Robert Spencer
- Michael Ledeen
- Daniel Pipes
- Kathy Shaidle
- Barry Rubin
- David P. Goldman
- Andrew C. McCarthy
- Leszek Kolakowski
- Paul Johnson
- Thomas Sowell
- Lt. Gen. Ion Mihai Pacepa
- Stanley Kurtz
- Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
- Ben Shapiro
- Dennis Prager
- Joseph Telushkin
- David Mamet
- Robert Anton Wilson
- Camille Paglia
- Weston La Barre
- J. Christian Adams
- Shelby Steele
- Ann Coulter
- Adam Carolla
- Michael Walsh
- William F. Buckley, Jr.
- Andrew Klavan
- James Madison
- Roger Kimball
- Theodore Dalrymple
- Allan Bloom
- Roger L. Simon
- Douglas Rushkoff
- George Gilder
- Hannah Sternberg
- Frank J. Fleming
- John Waters
- Glenn Reynolds
- Helen Smith
- Ray Kurzweil
- James Wasserman
- John Whiteside Parsons
- Niccolò Machiavelli
- Benjamin Franklin
- Aleister Crowley
- Booker T. Washington
- Israel Regardie
- Thomas Jefferson
- John Adams
- Ron Radosh
- Victor Davis Hanson
- Rabbi Joseph Soloveitchik
- Franz Rosenzweig
- J.R.R. Tolkien
- Michael Barrier
- Frederick Douglass
- Alejandro Jodorowsky
- Lisa De Pasquale
- Shmuley Boteach
- Abraham Lincoln
- Gary Lachman
- Sarah Hoyt
- Ayaan Hirsi Ali
Jere, I hope to include you on a future version of this list…
My last post (“May the Farce Be With You“) drew 280 comments, most of them infuriated, and most of them ill-informed. By way of remedy, I repost below an April 4, 2007 review-essay on J.R.R. Tolkien’s novel The Children of Hurin. My literary friends point out that Tolkien’s style is turgid and his literary muse is lame. I don’t care. No writer in the English language did more to uplift popular culture. Star Wars, I observe, derives from Richard Wagner’s noxious Ring cycle by way of the odious Joseph Campbell, and had a corrupting effect on the culture. The contrast with Tolkien is instructive. Rather than remasticate the pagan idea of the hero, Tolkien created a pagan anti-hero (specifically, an anti-Beowulf and anti-Siegfried) in the tragic figure of Turin. Reconstructed from manuscripts by Tolkien’s son Christopher, the Turin story sheds light on the broader purpose of The Lord of the Rings, and illuminates the fraught relationship between the pagan and Christian worlds.
Many readers objected to the way I threw Harry Potter into the same kettle as Luke Skywalker. A qualification is in order: J.K. Rowling stole from Star Wars as well as from Tolkien (and of course from Thomas Hughes), so that one can read a variety of different standpoints into her work. They all are there, in unhappy cohabitation.
The Children of Hurin, by J R R Tolkien, edited by Christopher Tolkien
Reviewed by Spengler
J R R Tolkien was the most Christian of 20th-century writers, not because he produced Christian allegory and apologetics like his friend C S Lewis, but because he uniquely portrayed the tragic nature of what Christianity replaced. Thanks to the diligence of his son Christopher, who reconstructed the present volume from several manuscripts, we have before us a treasure that sheds light on the greater purpose of his The Lord of the Rings.
In The Children of Hurin, a tragedy set some 6,000 years before the tales recounted in The Lord of the Rings, we see clearly why it was that Tolkien sought to give the English-speaking peoples a new pre-Christian mythology. It is a commonplace of Tolkien scholarship that the writer, the leading Anglo-Saxon scholar of his generation, sought to restore to the English their lost mythology. In this respect the standard critical sources (for example Edmund Wainwright) mistake Tolkien’s profoundly Christian motive. In place of the heroes Siegfried and Beowulf, the exemplars of German and Anglo-Saxon pagan myth, we have the accursed warrior Turin, whose pride of blood and loyalty to tribe leave him vulnerable to manipulation by the forces of evil.
Tolkien’s popular Ring trilogy, I have attempted to show, sought to undermine and supplant Richard Wagner’s operatic Ring cycle, which had offered so much inspiration for Nazism.  With the reconstruction of the young Tolkien’s prehistory of Middle-earth, we discern a far broader purpose: to recast as tragedy the heroic myths of pre-Christian peoples, in which the tragic flaw is the pagan’s tribal identity. Tolkien saw his generation decimated, and his circle of friends exterminated, by the nationalist compulsions of World War I; he saw the cult of Siegfried replace the cult of Christ during World War II. His life’s work was to attack the pagan flaw at the foundation of the West.
It is too simple to consider Tolkien’s protagonist Turin as a conflation of Siegfried and Beowulf, but the defining moments in Turin’s bitter life refer clearly to the older myths, with a crucial difference: the same qualities that make Siegfried and Beowulf exemplars to the pagans instead make Turin a victim of dark forces, and a menace to all who love him. Tolkien was the anti-Wagner, and Turin is the anti-Siegfried, the anti-Beowulf. Tolkien reconstructed a mythology for the English not (as Wainwright and other suggest) because he thought it might make them proud of themselves, but rather because he believed that the actual pagan mythology was not good enough to be a predecessor to Christianity.
“Alone among 20th-century novelists, J R R Tolkien concerned himself with the mortality not of individuals but of peoples. The young soldier-scholar of World War I viewed the uncertain fate of European nations through the mirror of the Dark Ages, when the life of small peoples hung by a thread,” I wrote in an earlier essay.  Christianity demands of the Gentile that he reject his sinful flesh and be reborn into Israel; only through a new birth can the Gentile escape the death of his own body as well as the death of his hopes in the inevitable extinction of his people.
The New Republic magazine celebrates its 100th anniversary with a special section called “100 Years, 100 Thinkers.”
Unfortunately, the categories into which these “minds who’ve defined our century” are helpfully slotted are almost parodically First World, elite-uptown-liberal:
“Architecture.” “Environmentalism.” “Songwriting.” “Diplomacy.”
And of course, “American Civil Rights.” (Zzzzzzzz….)
Unless you count “Medicine,” no hard sciences were deemed worthy of consideration.
An alien browsing this section would be forgiven for assuming that man never set foot on the moon.
But who cares when someone named Alice Waters “made (local) lettuce sexy!”
(And besides, The New Republic assures us that “Martians need only watch one of [Richard Pryor's] concert films to best understand the human species in the shortest amount of time.”)
Naturally, there’s a “Sex” section, and Alfred Kinsey comes out on top (as it were.)
It seems appropriate, this being the week of thanksgiving, to make a list of everything that I – hi, I’m Sarah, and I’m a writer. I’ve tried to give it up, but … oh, heck, not very hard – am thankful for as a writer, living in this, the early decades of the twenty first century.
First, let me pile on to register my disapproval with the lack of moon colonies, spaceships to Marsh and, oh, yeah, flying cars. No, I don’t really care if they’re impractical, I want them because cool.
Turned out, though, the future didn’t look like we expected. It didn’t turn out glitzy and superabundant. Perhaps it never will, since we’re humans and the question is always “abundant with what?”
I mean, very few among us are starving (looks down at waist. We could use a little more starving around here) but very few of us in this economy are exactly well off or unworried, either.
And yet, with all this, the future also did not turn into the rusty and decaying future so beloved of seventies leftist writers and other dystopians. We’re not all sweating in factories, skulking amidst the rusting remains of the past, and living at the mercy of the state. Okay, maybe that last, but even then not the way they expected.
Because you see, on their way to taking over the institutions, the left ran into the obstacle they never saw coming: technology.
I grew up in Europe and I don’t remember a time when I didn’t know the essential industries to take over when communists (or the feared Soviet invasion) took over a country: News, entertainment, communications, education. The military, of course, would have to be co-opted or defeated. But those other industries? Once you had them you could co-opt the military, or give the impression of a “popular revolt.” You could change people’s minds, or if not, you could make everyone who opposed you feel like they were lone nuts and people of no account.
For those who are looking at that and saying “but that’s what happened here!”… Yep. The left has only one playbook, and it involved the long march through those essential industries, the ones that told people what the world was like and allowed them to create an image/ideal of how it should be.
Note technology is not among those fields. Oh, I know that a lot of computer technicians (but not all) are left. Most of all, the firms are left, since being on the left has become a way of signaling class (high class) so executives all make the appropriate noises.
But there are still no-go zones, and those are the ones where technology is created. Engineering, technical work, the harder sciences. Those were left untouched by the long march, because math and physics are immune to both bullsh*t and guilting to “give the other side a chance.” Calculations are either right or they aren’t.
And ignored by the left, the sons of Martha were building structures that replaced the ones that the left had taken over. (Something the left doesn’t seem to realize is that they have the Mierdas touch. Everything they touch turns to offal. They’ve managed to take the magic out of movies, the creativity out of books and the news out of the news business.) With official structures in crisis, the unofficial is superseding them.
I know right here, in the belly of the beast, it doesn’t look like we’re doing much. But look back just ten years, and you’ll see the difference.
So this Thanksgiving I’m thankful for the sons of Martha who created the structure that allows for blogs and communication among peers; for e-tailers; for indie publishing; for online schools.
I’m thankful that we can save ourselves from the wreck being wrought upon us by our so-called elites.
Yes, they still have some sway and some of the technology is not quite there to supersede things like Hollywood. But it will be. It’s a matter of time.
Don’t allow them to have their Brave New World. We know it’s not a how-to. Build under, build parallel. Ignore their corrupt structures and make your way.
We live in the future, and the future belongs to us.
The day John Salmon graduates from college, he thinks his turn has come to go out and conquer the world, but instead the world comes to conquer him. At the campus chapel, he encounters an attractive young woman named Jill. She warns him to walk away from a mysterious stranger who will soon arrive offering adventure and world travel. But why would he listen to her, a complete stranger herself? She exits in a hurry, frightened even, but leaves behind a curious device resembling a wristwatch.
John finds he can’t walk away from Cyrus, the mysterious stranger, and this decision casts him into the dark places of history, racing against that damnable clock.
The clock keeps ticking, counting down, running out…
Juzeva, the princess who sacrificed everything to try to stop a war, and instead found herself caught in a web of evil and deceit…
Sevry, the last king of the war-ravaged land of Savaru, tasked with finding Juzeva’s secret, the secret that can bring Savaru back to life…
Lucie, a sheltered young noblewoman, unaware of her true heritage and the power she has to restore a lost land…
Then a mystery from the past becomes real and sweeps Lucie away to adventure, danger, and a love that will change her life and the lost land of Savaru forever.
Ancient, cold, and perilous.
Its truth forgotten in the mists of time, the old bridge harbors a lethal secret. Neither marble statues awakened for battle nor an ancient roadbed grown hungry, something darker and more primal haunts the stones and the wild river below.
Kimmer knows the stories, but she doesn’t know why the crumbling span feels so fraught with menace. Her way home lies across the ruin. Dare she take it? Or will horror from the lost past rise up to claim her, when she does?
If only Mama were well. If only Papa were . . . not like this.
Clary needs a miracle, but wonders rarely step forth to solve life’s problems. While her mama lies wearily abed and her papa spends the day . . . elsewhere, Clary struggles to look after her younger sister and their baby brother. And longs for more than making do. If only.
Then, one spring morning, Clary and Elspeth visit the old bramble-grown quarry to pick wild cabbage leaves. Hidden within the rock’s cleft, Clary’s miracle awaits. But this miracle sports razor-sharp talons, world-shaking power, ravenous hunger, and a troll-witch to guard its sleep. When it cracks the egg, will Clary survive?
Something wondrous this way comes!
Christian Bale on learning that Ben Affleck would play Batman in the next Superman movie:
“I’ve got to admit initially, even though I felt that it was the right time to stop, there was always a bit of me going, ‘Oh go on … Let’s do another,’” he told Empire magazine, according to Comic Book Movie.
“So when I heard there was someone else doing it, there was a moment where I just stopped and stared into nothing for half an hour,” Bale added.
“I’m 40,” he said. “The fact that I’m jealous of someone else playing Batman … I think I should have gotten over it by now.”
I’m 45 and I’m jealous of them both.
Hell, I’m jealous of Adam West.
The Drudge Report remains one of the most accurate barometers of what’s happening right now.
But can we augur near-future trends by sifting through that site’s headlines?
Lately, Drudge has posted lots of news stories about “the devil” and “exorcism”:
Camera captures exorcism performed on shrieking woman “possessed by devil:
Church Turns to Exorcism to Combat Suicide Increase… Archbishop: “Satanism has spread among young people”
BILLY GRAHAM: In Our “Lawless and Wicked Age We’ve Taught Philosophy of Devil”
Aside from the uptick in stories like these, I’m not sensing a resurgence in interest in all things diabolical, a new version of the “occult” fad that helped make the 1970s so miserable, and led to the “satanic panic” of the 1980s that was almost as bad.
Peter Bebergal doesn’t agree.
According to him, “we’re currently experiencing ‘an Occult Revival in rock music and popular culture.’”
He’s penned one of the year’s most talked-about books, Season of the Witch: How the Occult Saved Rock and Roll.
“My argument is that the spirit of rock and roll — the essential rebellious instinct of rock and roll — is certainly social and sexual and political, but it’s also a spiritual rebellion,” Bebergal explained. “And the way in which it expressed that spiritual rebellion was through the occult imagination.”
That “occult imagination” conjures everything from Ouiji boards to Christian and Jewish symbolism to LSD trips to “alternative spiritual practices.” Bebergal says it ultimately helped rock bands like Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd and Black Sabbath save rock from sounding too poppy, sappy and mainstream.
Author and journalist Judy Bachrach started volunteering in a hospice in the late 1980s, and her real motive was to try to overcome her fear of death. About two decades later, when her mother came down with Alzheimer’s, Bachrach decided to look into the subject of near-death experiences.
So she delved into the literature, and journeyed around the United States and the world to interview near-death experiencers (NDErs or, as she calls them, “death travelers”) and leading researchers in the field. The result is her book Glimpsing Heaven. Her conclusion from her inquiries: “there are simply, as some of the doctors and scientists I’ve interviewed point out, too many experiencers and too many experiences to discount.”
How many? Dutch cardiologist and NDE researcher Pim van Lommel says that in the last 50 years over 25 million people worldwide have reported NDEs. A 1982 Gallup poll found eight million Americans reporting them. As Bachrach comments: “Not every self-proclaimed death traveler could be an arrant liar or deeply unbalanced or both.” If you want to hear accounts by “travelers” who are evidently balanced, mature, and intelligent, you can easily find them on YouTube.
But were these people really “dead”? Aren’t these experiences just hallucinations caused by oxygen deprivation? Having looked into the NDE subject myself for a few years, I believe one can only hold that view if one is ill-informed or determined.
Hi, this is Sarah, and I’m sorry we’re late again, but my eye has been doing weird stuff, so I had to have a pretty thorough exam to make sure I wasn’t going to need surgery.
This week, several people have sent me links to this Ursula Le Guin appearance.
This made me think of something. My paternal grandmother was a wonderful woman, whom I credit both with my being more or less sane, and with my storytelling. Between the ages of one and six, she told me a story every night, usually involving werewolves or magic, stories she made up herself. Until much later than that I was her shadow, following in her footsteps. In a way, I still am.
Imagine my surprise when I went back after getting married, shortly after she turned eighty and the family tried to gently give me a hint something was not right. What was not right was, in point of fact, scary.
You see, grandma grew up in very different times. So, when she passed one of the local (illegal, this is Portugal) dumps, returning from the field where she went to cut grass for the rabbits, she would notice “perfectly good, just need a little mending” baby clothes. She’d taken to rescuing them, bringing them home, washing them a million times, sewing any holes, and stacking them in her built in cabinets in the downstairs hall. The cabinets, which were floor to ceiling were almost full. No one could convince her that she wouldn’t, sooner or later, be besieged by a lot of new mothers with nothing to put on their kids. The idea that onesies and baby socks had become more or less disposable simply wouldn’t enter her head.
While visiting and talking to her, other things emerged – like she was afraid of the “wave of crime” sweeping the country. There really was no wave of crime, but she lived alone and she read the papers and watched TV news too much. Worse, for a woman who’d always been sharp enough to look behind the story she was told, she’d started giving credence to the sort of tabloids that publish stories about women the next county over giving birth to snakes.
Since then, I’ve seen other people go that way. It is a combination, I think, of aging and losing touch with the world, and of being too respected for people to actually have a word with, quietly.
I read and enjoyed the Earth Sea Trilogy. (Fourth book? What fourth book? Let’s be charitable, okay?) and The Left Hand of Darkness was a beautiful if flawed work. I can’t say I’ve liked a lot more that Le Guin has done, but then most science fiction writers didn’t even write four books that I enjoyed.
So what is one to make of such statements as:
Ursula K. Le Guin gave a scorching speech at the National Book Awards on Wednesday, calling out Amazon founder Jeff Bezos and saying of capitalism “its power seems inescapable. So did the divine right of kings.”
Surely a woman praised for her learning knows the difference between a social construct like the divine right of kings and “capitalism” which is simply a name for the barter and trade humans do to survive and which, btw, is not unfettered ANYWHERE in the universe, being hemmed in by governments and regulations everywhere.
And why on Earth she’s calling out Bezos is beyond me. For allowing writers, at long last to make a buck? Who knows?
And what about this:
“We need writers who know the difference between production of a market commodity and production of art,” Le Guin said.
We do, of course. For instance “art” is a subjective term which applies or should apply only to works that enduringly touch the emotions of humanity across the times and changes in society. Shakespeare still touches us, for instance. That’s art.
OTOH, thinking that any government, any entity, any academic can define art is to labor under the same sort of illusion as people who believe tabloids announcing women giving birth to snakes.
Art is proven in enduring. And most art – Shakespeare, Austen – was pretty commercially successful, as well. Art is what you aim for, and hopefully it happens. But there’s no guarantees. Competent and selling is the best you can be sure of.
One could make a comment about her being out of touch and believing too much of what she’s told, but we’re not the side that derides our elders for being old. People as old and older than her have embraced the digital revolution without fear and understand that while capitalism is an awful system, it’s better than any attempts at controlling it.
Instead I choose to believe this is the equivalent of her having cabinets full of baby clothes. I’m sure she still has contributions to make in areas where she doesn’t have blind spots.
For this, OTOH there is no excuse:
The Los Angeles Times thought Le Guin “stole the show” and said she accepted and shared her award with “all the writers who were excluded from literature for so long.”
Perhaps Le Guin doesn’t realize it, but The Los Angeles Times should realize that those excluded people – like say, people whose politics don’t agree with the establishment in publishing – are finding their voice and their audience with indie publishing. You know, people who can at last speak truth to the overwhelmingly leftist power in science fiction? One hesitates to ask if The Los Angeles Times believes that women give birth to snakes over in San Diego County?
Folks, remember to tell all your writer friends to send an e-mail to email@example.com for submission guidelines.
Then, please ask them to follow the guidelines. Grrrr.
Young deceit sprouts timeless trouble.
Motherless Brys Arnsson digs himself into trouble. Bad trouble. Tricked by a troll in J.M. Ney-Grimm’s richly imagined North-lands, Brys must dig himself and his best friend back out of danger. But that requires courage . . . and self-honesty. Traits Brys lacks at depth.
A twist on a classic, The Troll’s Belt builds from humor-threaded conflict to white-knuckle suspense.
North-land spellcasters who wield excessive power transform into trolls – potent, twisted, and hungry for dominance.
Prince Kellor, cursed by a troll-witch to live as a north-bear, wrestles with the challenges of a beast’s form. He sees his childhood friend Elle as the key to his escape.
But charming Elle will be no easy task. Traversing that delicate passage between adolescence and adulthood, she struggles to balance family loyalty against her passion for music.
In this epic adventure across a stunning landscape, from cool pine forests to an icy pinnacle of basalt so real it leaves you shivering, Elle and Kellor must summon essential wisdom and grit to prevail against a troll-witch’s malice in a lethal battle of wills.
Fighting against a nightmare pales beside fighting for a dream.
Imagine Keith Richards as a life insurance agent! Janis Joplin as a butcher! Mick Jagger as an anti-abortion activist! Jimi Hendrix as a youth pastor!
Karma Putz imagines characters very similar to five rock icons whose lives took a different turn. They end up living in the suburbs, battling crabgrass and watching “Pox News.” One day, they kidnap the world’s most famous pop musician, who bears a striking resemblance to Paul McCartney, and put him on trial for “crimes against humanity.”
Things don’t go as planned
Freed from a curse, Aidan finds himself at a loss in a world that he doesn’t quite recognize. When he starts dreaming of a woman also out of time, he wonders what she has to do with his future. A witch reveals that Aidan being released from his curse might have wide-ranging consequences, including costing the woman of his dreams her life and sanity.
Dawn went into a magic sleep expecting to wake up to a prince. When a fairy bent on mischief warped the spell, she found herself transported to the world of dreams while her kingdom disappeared. She begins to wonder if she’ll ever wake up when a horse gallops through her dreams and gives her hope.
With help from unexpected sources, Aidan takes off on a mission that has killed every other person who’s attempted it. Will he meet the same fate?
Will Aidan be able to find the missing kingdom in time to save the dreaming princess?
Rashali, a widowed Urdai peasant, has vowed to destroy the Sazars who conquered her land. Eruz, heir to the Sazar throne, walks the dangerous edge of treason to do what is right for all the people of Urdaisunia. When Rashali and Eruz meet by chance, the gods take notice, sending peasant and prince on intertwining paths of danger, love, and war as they fight to save the land they both love – Urdaisunia.
Throughout history man has desired to transform the world to suit himself. And though some statesmen in real life might have achieved a semblance of such, the goal has only ever been reached in story and myth. In earliest days, men told tales of such fantastic places as Atlantis, Ultima Thule, and Cathay until the rise of the scientific method put a stop to such fancies. Instead, science inspired a more logical approach to lands of never. Thus, the earliest imaginary worlds were those created by philosophers and free thinkers who dreamed of societies that operated on a more sensible basis than the pre-industrial communities they themselves inhabited. Lands such as Thomas More’s Utopia and and Francis Bacon’s New Atlantis.
But a funny thing happened even as the influence of science grew and western society became increasingly disdainful of anything that smacked of superstition: writers began to emerge who embraced fantasy as a response to logic and science, which needed the guidance of man’s imagination to give the two direction and purpose.
Enter the fantasists of the twentieth century who provided landscapes of the imagination over which their literary characters could roam, wrestling with moral questions often presented in the form of metaphor or symbol. But none of it seemed real until put on paper. As a result, venturing over the horizon of imagination to the land of “here there be dragons,” the modern fantasist has insisted on categorizing his world, giving it a cartographical pseudo-reality best represented by our 10 Most Fascinating Fantasy Worlds of All Time.
10) Phantom Tollbooth
One of the cleverest of fantasy books, The Phantom Tollbooth written by Norton Juster, came with a map detailing the Kingdom of Wisdom, something that was still unusual in 1961 when the book was first published. Filled with places and landmarks that act as metaphors and puns, the Kingdom of Wisdom is a literary puzzle box that has delighted readers of all ages for decades.
Editor’s note: see the previous installment in Pierre’s series about the history of science fiction: “The 10 Most Influential Science Fiction Stories of the 1910s“
By the end of the first decade of the twentieth century, science fiction had begun to take definite form as a distinct genre. Before that, fantastic stories with scientific premises were not treated much differently by publishers or critics from novels of gothic romance or exposes of modern life, or the trials and tribulations of small town folk. But Jules Verne and especially H.G. Wells triggered something in young people who had grown up with constant news of scientific progress and a steady stream of inventions from Thomas Edison’s laboratory.
Indeed, it was Edison’s example, as well as those by Alexander Graham Bell and Wilbur and Orville Wright, that promoted the notion that anyone might come up with the next great invention from their basement workshops. Imaginations that had been grounded by Horace Greeley’s admonition to “Go West, young man! Go West!” had slowly begun to be freed from such limited and earthbound goals and released into a universe of possibilities. Jack Williamson banged out stories of far worlds and interstellar warfare from a shed on his family’s New Mexico farmstead. H.P. Lovecraft scrawled ornate and awful visions of alien intelligences far beyond what mortal minds could comprehend all while never leaving the confines of his second story walk-up in Providence, Rhode Island. And the same thing was beginning to happen everywhere in the United States and, in some cases, elsewhere in the world.
The 1920s were an important transition period in SF from the literary tradition of Wells to the Wild West-style action of what would become known as space opera. And even as Wells’ ability to fascinate faded, new writers, championed primarily in the United States by the likes of Edmond Hamilton and Jack Williamson, pioneered a growing market for pulp magazine-based science fiction.
That movement began in 1926 with Amazing Stories, the first pulp magazine devoted completely to stories of science fiction. The magazine was published by Hugo Gernsback with the intention of using its stories to promote science and invention, but the SF movement proved more popular than the publisher anticipated and quickly escaped his control. To satisfy the demand for such stories, other magazines soon followed with editors eagerly cultivating American talent that soon enough eclipsed the few foreign writers working in the genre. Proceeding at a dizzy pace, 1920s SF quickly saw the birth of major trends that would dominate the field for decades to come including extra sensory powers, alien contact, time police, and robots. One of the most enduring was “space opera” that covered the rise and fall of star-faring empires and the fate of whole galaxies and dimensions in time and space. The form lost favor in the 1960s but made a comeback of sorts as the new century approached, spurred in part by the worldwide success of the Star Wars films proving the enduring nature of SF’s basic tropes.
The very newness of science fiction (or “scientifiction” as it was called then) invited excitement in readers primed for a literature that mixed science with romantic adventure while inspiring writers to unleash the wildest of their imaginings in stories that challenged a society whose adult population was unused to flights of fantasy. In the shadow of Edgar Rice Burroughs’ science fantasies of the 1910s, the following top 10 trend setting SF stories of the 1920s laid the groundwork for the coming golden age of science fiction.
This past week a group of scientists from the European Space Agency landed a spaceship on a comet. Contemporary feminists commented on the happening, but not for the reason you’d think. Screw science. One of the guys on the team talked about the major breakthrough in an on-the-spot interview while wearing a shirt with barely-clad, busty women brandishing guns. Social media chaos ensued. The scientist cried out an apology over the Internet. Apparently the rather clever hashtag #shirtstorm is the real reason why Obama cancelled the space program.
And you wonder why Lana Del Rey would rather spend her time talking about Space-X and Tesla instead of associating herself with the pioneering movement for women that has turned into a forum for Dunham-loving yuppie nags. Celebrities are distancing themselves from the f-word because so-called feminists think the greatest thing they can do for womankind is to complain about a scientist’s tacky shirt. I’m sure that really inspired a teenage girl out there to forego joining ISIS and join in the fight against… dudes bearing busty broads?
So I was working with someone who was really trying to tap his full potential, but his inner hippie kept pulling him down any time he tried to succeed. I think he was an accountant or something—all these people complaining about their problems just blend together. Anyway, let’s call this man “Bob,” as that’s what I called him. I told him, “Bob, if you want to get anywhere in life, you first need to defeat your inner hippie.”
“But I don’t know how,” he said. “It’s not like I can just punch myself.”
“Well, I can punch you,” I said, “and I will, because I like to help. But I won’t always be there. Instead, we need to find a way for you to really lay the smackdown on your inner hippie to silence its call to failure, and doing that will take some extreme measures. Come with me, Bob.”
“My name’s not Bob, by the way.”
“I don’t care. Come along.”
I took Bob to the zoo after hours and headed toward the gorilla pit. “See that gorilla, Bob?”
“Wow,” Bob said, “he’s massive.”
“Pretty intimidating, huh?”
“Is that gorilla anything like a hippie?”
Bob thought for a moment. “Not really . . . except he probably doesn’t bathe regularly.”
“Correct. A gorilla is nothing like a hippie,” I said, “and yet here is the thing: I want you to go punch him.”
See Part 1 in Kathy Shaidle’s series exploring punk rock here: How the Sex Pistols Made History by Lying About It
Let’s get this out of the way:
Randal Doane is an assistant dean at Oberlin.
Politics aside (and he doesn’t shove it up your nose), this means you’ll trip over academic, culture-critic jargon — “codes” and “gestures” abound; “Eros” crashes the party — while otherwise enjoying his new book, Stealing All Transmissions: A Secret History of The Clash.
And there’s a lot to enjoy.
Stealing distills one fan’s decades of wide reading, deep listening, and just plain thinking into a multi-faceted gem.
In the hands of a less skillful writer, this book would feel like an out-of-your-league sexual pass, an awkward attempt to squeeze too many topics — the evolution of punk music (along with the etymology of the word); the rise and fall of AM and FM radio; the underground scenes in New York and California, to name but three — between only two (virtual) covers.
Somehow, though, Stealing works, distinguishing itself from similar titles by piling on plenty of original insights; for one thing (a bit like the recent How the Beatles Destroyed Rock ‘n’ Roll), this book explores how the medium changes the message — that is, how the technology we employ to consume music alters music itself, along with the culture at large.
(To cite a particularly cliched example: The LP made it easier to have sex to music, as one didn’t have to leap up to change the record, or worry that a radio DJ might ruin the mood with the wrong selection. How many children were conceived as Frank Sinatra’s Songs for Swingin’ Lovers spun away on the other side of the room– besides me, that is — I couldn’t begin to guess.)
Doane also demonstrates, in pointillistic detail, how a tiny band of now-forgotten local DJs championed (today we’d say “curated”) punk, and “broke” The Clash and other English bands in America.
In doing so, he reveals what we lost when that free-form radio format was killed off.
(P.S. — A note about audio that follows throughout: These interviews with Joe Strummer were recently uploaded to YouTube by HazyRock.com. While the date is unknown, they seem to correspond roughly to the “early days” period Doane focuses on in his book.)