I Wake Up Screaming

As you know I'm not one to see the glass as half empty.  At least I hope I'm not.  But the day after Osama's death, I woke up screaming.  Before I even checked my facebook, I knew the vast majority of my friends would be going "We won, let's go home now."

Well... what do you know, they were saying exactly that.  And my fear led me to write an article for Pajamas Media: http://pajamasmedia.com/blog/do-not-go-back-to-sleep-america/2/ 

I want to be told I'm wrong.  I don't like being afraid.

posted by Sarah at 09:51 AM | Comments (7)

Blue Plate Special -- Thirst

*This was the first story I sold, and, again, one of the ones that's available for free in my collection in the Baen Free Library.  It is the one that killed several magazines and one editor -- i.e. they bought it, they died -- including one (the first, Bloodsongs) through getting its entire first print run confiscated and destroyed in Australia.  I didn't think it was that controversial, but I wrote it while recovering from complications of child birth and high on (legally obtained) morphine.  Warning, it contains vampires.  Also warning, it is set in ancient Rome and involves historical homosexuality and (though not considered that at the time) pedophilia.  Not in any way approving of it, but your mileage may vary.  I'd researched this to do a time-alternate novel.  I NEVER meant to write this short story.  But it had other ideas and wanted to be written.  Turned out to be the first I ever sold (though the second I sold that got published.) Again, as always, kindly remember this was written ...  almost twenty years ago.  I hope I've gotten better, though this story being sort of itself more than mine, I'm not sure about that.*

"Sing to me of that odorous green eve when crouching by the marge


You heard from Adrian's gilded barge the laughter of Antinous

And lapped the stream and fed your drought and watched with hot and hungry stare

The ivory body of that rare young slave with his pomegranate mouth"

(Oscar Wilde, The Sphynx)


Sarah A. Hoyt

Sometimes I wake up in the evening and think them here, immaterial wisps of dream in the cold twilight air, and yet undeniably themselves: the Emperor and the boy he loved, etched by time into heroic figures without flaw.

The Emperor wears his purple, and the boy stands in one of those sweet, head-drooping postures immortalized in his countless statues.

And sometimes, confused by a day of death-sleep and the centuries that have flown heedless by my changeless self, I reach for them, try to clutch them in my long-dead yet immortal hands.

They laugh and vanish through my fingers like smoke. As they did so many centuries ago.

In those moments, I am again a nameless thing, crouching on the muddy banks of the ancient Nile, my mind filled with hatred, my body with thirst, while I stare at the gilded Imperial barge anchored in the dark waters. And I hear again the laughter of Antinous.

Hylas is my name, or was my name, when I was a mortal among mortals, a living, breathing being in the sun's embrace. A Greek name for a Roman boy born in the Suburra, raised in that maze of smelly, noisy streets that was the pulsing heart of Rome.

My father was a Greek freedman, a grammarian who grew prematurely old teaching Greek and writing to uninterested students on the sidewalk, in front of our insula. My mother, suavely rotund, wasted her life bent over the cooking fire. Both of them were mere props in the stage of my life. I can't recall a thing they said, nor anything they taught me.

They lived in two smoky rented rooms in an insula, a vertical slum, where people crowded side by side and on top of each other, crammed together as close as possible, for the wealth of the rich landlords.

My own life was not confined to such a prison. My true teachers, my true instruction, were in the streets. From other boys, my neighbors, I learned all there was to know. Who could be safely robbed, where to buy the best wine, and just the right time to go to the entrance of the Circus and get the seats closest to the arena, from where we could scream encouragement at our favorite gladiators and hoot the cowards.

I will forever remember those afternoons as the best of my childhood: the sun-dappled, bloodstained sand, the certainty that life and death were shows played for my entertainment.

Continue reading "Blue Plate Special -- Thirst"

posted by Sarah at 10:48 AM | Comments (0)

Awesome Crazy Sauce

I know Eric periodically writes about being tired of politics, where people get inherently crazy. However, at least in politics you could argue our whole way of life - if not our civilization - might be at stake. Certainly money is, and money, ultimately is the most real thing there is, (since in our civilization money dictates where we live, what we eat, etc.)

HOWEVER I live in an even more interesting world than that of politics. In that world, being a writer is sort of like being a movie star, except with none of the high pay, fame or... well, okay, it's not at all like being a movie star.

I'm going to say several things about writers and, oh, yeah, about teachers.

Continue reading "Awesome Crazy Sauce"

posted by Sarah at 04:44 PM | Comments (8)

For I've Been A Stranger In A Strange Land

I'm sorry to have to bring up the subject of Obama's birth. I don't want to bring it up in the normal way - ie relating to whether or not he's eligible for the presidency. I don't want to do this because the resolution of that is out of our hands and because at this point you can lock two people in a room and have five different opinions.

No, my issue is much bigger. Yesterday I followed a link from Instapundit to Hot Air and found myself in violent disagreement with Allah Pundit's opinion (or rather the point on which he agreed with Jon Meacham from Newsweek.) You see, Allah Pundit agreed with the idea that we should do away with the natural-born requirement for a president. He dismisses it as antiquated and useless.

And I think he is completely, utterly, dangerously wrong.

Continue reading "For I've Been A Stranger In A Strange Land"

posted by Sarah at 12:40 AM | Comments (4)

Bee Stung

Today I was reading an interview with Thomas Sowell (via Glenn Reynolds) and it reminded me of the bee sting theory of poverty.

This is the theory that endemic poverty comes about because people are laboring under so many other crushing, egregious burdens, that they can't handle one more thing.  Say, they're discriminated against and illiterate and not allowed to own land.  Even the most trivial of bad luck will make them desperately poor.

This of course is in complete contradiction to Thomas Sowell theory that the way to avoid poverty is to finish highschool, get married and stay married.

And the truth, I'd say, lies somewhere between. Oh, of course I am in closer agreement to Thomas Sowell. And the idea that what causes poverty is "multiple societal burdens" and other poppycock is... poppycock. If being discriminated against or hated or regulated to the nth degree or what have you then all European Jews would still be crushingly poor and uneducated.

Continue reading "Bee Stung"

posted by Sarah at 09:52 PM | Comments (39)

The Sarah Doctrine

No, not THAT Sarah. Though she's welcome to swipe it. As is the White House, if they wish to give a rest to that magic eight ball they've been using for foreign policy.

What started me thinking on this was an email from my brother. My brother's political opinions are as different from mine as opinions can be. I think both of us agree that politics pertain to two-legged upright-walking mammals, but after that our thoughts are completely distinct.

My brother - with fulsome praise of it - sent me a video made by some Portuguese twit claiming that the US had been involved in wars with 200 countries in 200 years. This, of course, is supposed to prove our essential badness or perhaps the utter failure of capitalism. (Rolls eyes.) I'd like said twit - after he folds his opinions all in corners and sticks them where the sun don't shine - to consider making similar lists for France, Russia, (the Sov union, even) or any other country big enough or strategic enough to matter (like island countries on the coast of the US.)

Continue reading "The Sarah Doctrine"

posted by Sarah at 11:11 AM | Comments (16)

Welcome To The Treadmill

*And yes, I feel pretty bad posting on this while half the world is in turmoil.  However, if I can't get over this I'll be in turmoil.  So indulge me for a couple/three posts, and then I'll hopefully calm down enough to turn my attention to the more important but less personal issues.*

Of course, it immediately occurred to me last night, after I went to bed, that I shouldn't have said anything yesterday. This comes from three sources: the first is that I hate admitting being in a tough spot. I know that, you guys probably know that if you've been reading my blog. I drag on to the last possible point before going to the doctor, when I'm sick, for instance. It's all part of the same thing.

That one is easy to dismiss. Jerry Pournelle would tell me that pride is a sin, and Jerry is right. That particular failing has got me into more trouble than all my other personality defects combined. So I can tell pride to shut up and take a hike.

But there is a more material problem with what I said yesterday. Half of you will be going "ooh. Publishers are late. They're dishonest." Or something like that. Well, no.

Continue reading "Welcome To The Treadmill"

posted by Sarah at 10:25 AM | Comments (3)

The Money Matter

I hate it when it's time to get resourceful. For all my innovation in writing, my interest in the new and the different, I crave security at a very deep level. Frankly, it's a joke that someone with my need for security should be in a profession where the money comes slow and irregularly when it comes at all.

Lately a series of very bad expenses - all new appliances except for the stove which is limping (and I do mean limping, unfortunately) along and might hold another year if we're lucky, a series of car repairs, tuition for both kids an idiot cat who swallowed a bunch of thread and other sundry emergencies - have driven a knife deep into my bank account. This combines with the fact that payments that used to be almost instant in publishing are often now eight months late to bring us to a no good, very bad, rotten type of financial situation.

Of course the problem with this is that anxiety brings my writing to a grinding halt, and that in turn grinds the payments to an even slower schedule because I deliver late.

To put things bluntly, we need to make up the about 12k in unexpected expenses (yeah, the tuition was expected, but the rest wasn't) that have buffeted us since around December or things are going to go south very fast and get extremely unpleasant to the point that writing time will become iffy (as in, if we need to move).

Continue reading "The Money Matter"

posted by Sarah at 12:29 AM | Comments (7)

Popcorn and the Single Writer

Kevin J. Anderson uses a popcorn analogy to illustrate two methods that beginning writers can use to break into print.

One of them consists of writing a single novel and polishing it and perfecting it until it is the absolute best it can be. He compares this to putting a single grain in a pot with just the right amount of oil, at the right temperature and waiting till it pops to produce the perfect single kernel of popcorn.

While this can work, if the kernel you put in is a dud, or if the one novel you concentrate all your work on is unpublishable, for reasons having nothing to do with how well crafted it is (theme, market, events in the world that make your premiss untenable) you're going to fail.

Continue reading "Popcorn and the Single Writer"

posted by Sarah at 02:18 AM | Comments (15)

Magician's Throne -- Free short story

*Again, these are known in my conference (the diner, at Baen's bar) as Blue Plate Specials.  This one was published years ago in -- of all things! -- a pagan magazine.  It is a bit of fluff, spun off one Saturday morning when I had nothing better to do.  Yes, it coulda/shoulda be much longer and more involved.  Heck, it could be a novel.  But it isn't.  Just a nice pasttime.  I'm actually finishing up a short story, having got away from the novels just long enough to do this.  Maybe I can even get in some house cleaning before they drag me back, but don't bet on it.  Oh, and if I need to say this, this is fiction, the magical/mythical system is part of the world-building and do not in any way represent my beliefs.  (Yes, it should go without saying.)*

Magician's Throne

Sarah A. Hoyt

"Please," Nierne said.  "Please, Dolina.  I need your help."

His green eyes gazed earnestly into mine as his mobileface set into an intent pleading expression.

I wasn't having any.  I'd fallen for Nierne's green eyes, his straight, freckled nose, the mane of his wild red hair and beard, and his too-cute-for-words Scottish accent time and time again, and it always ended up the same way.

It always came to me doing work that I didn't want to do and pulling Nierne's fat out of the fire.  While Nierne thanked me, smiled his happiest smile and rode off into the sunset of some alternate reality, not to be heard from until he needed me again.

I tried to pull my shoulder away from the grasp of his large hand and walk away, but he stepped back just as quickly as he could, keeping his hand on my shoulder, and he said, "Dolina, come now, lass...."

Behind him shone the broad windows, the sparkling plate glass of The Magician's Throne coffee shop and espresso bar.  The sign hanging beside it, showed a man in a pointy hat sitting on a toilet.  Most people thought it was a fun, whimsical touch.

Most people didn't know that the Magician's Throne happened to be the gateway between Earth prime and all the lost worlds.  Lost to the commons, of course.

The magicians had never actually lost a world, gods forbid.  All of the worlds were tagged and itemized, classified and annotated somewhere -- somewhere in the cavernous bowels of Magic Central, on the second floor of The Magician's Throne.

Continue reading "Magician's Throne -- Free short story"

posted by Sarah at 09:39 PM | Comments (2)

Marx Is dead

And I don't feel so good myself.

When I was in highschool in the seventies (well, it couldn't be helped. It's not like I chose my date of birth. But in my defense, I delayed coming of age till 1980) in Portugal, I studied Marxism and Marxist theory in four classes a year: off the top of my head, the line up I remember is History; Economics; Portuguese; Sociology. (And if you ask why I was taking Sociology in Highschool, it's because the Portuguese system has no electives. They tell you what you're going to study. And Sociology gave them one more chance to teach Marx.)

Of course, we used "Marxist Techniques" in other courses too - anthropology; literary analysis. I seem - vaguely - to remember we used Marxist analysis in biology but I hope to all that's good and holy that I'm wrong about that. (It was a long time ago.)  It would be roughly the equivalent of using the rhythm method in literary production.  Or perhaps grammatical analysis in music.  I mean, you can bend anything in any way, but it makes no sense.

I read somewhere, written by a more literate person - I believe an economist - that the weakest point of the Marxist theories was that Marx, as an economist, was such a bizarre failure he never understood the role of resellers.

Continue reading "Marx Is dead"

posted by Sarah at 11:59 PM | Comments (63)

Day of The Squirrel

*I put this up at According To Hoyt, but was going to spare the CV readership.  Only... Eric went to racoons, sooo....  This is the incident that caused me to have a running gag about the RLF (Rodent Liberation Front) in my Shifter books.  Oh, and I can no longer spell French.  Sad, but it's been twenty some years since I had to.*

It started innocently.  At the time we were living in the small mountain town of Manitou Springs.  There were the two of us, (of course) our two sons and four cats.  So the logical thing for my younger son to ask for, for his fourth birthday, was... two hamsters.

In a sign our lunacy was too far gone, we then named them Butterscotch and Fudge.  And then - such our folly - we put them in an aquarium on the back porch.  An aquarium covered only by fine mesh net.

Oh, yeah, one more thing - these hamsters were both female.

Continue reading "Day of The Squirrel"

posted by Sarah at 10:14 PM | Comments (2)

Tingly Tribadism And Other Twisted Tales

*I meant to publish this last night, but being slap-happy completely forgot it.*

I figure I've lived a blameless life these last few weeks. The death threats and exclamations about my moral depravity and lack of social caring (read ability to toe the line) have slowed down to an almost imperceptible trickle. In other words - I iz doing it wrong.

The start of this post was something Dave put up. It's not that far away, it's not that inconceivable, and it's not at all unlikely one way or another that at some point humans will find a way to do the reproduction thing without one of the genders. I grant you this is more likely to occur with women first since babies need a leasehold in a human body while growing. However, that too might not be insurmountable with a bit more biological research. Bio-wombs of some sort might do the trick.

So, we come to... Planets where the entire population is one gender. Yes, Bujold did it, and she did it, arguably, in the difficult way. But she was published by Baen.

Unless I missed something, the flood of these stories is mostly one way - mostly we're in some idyllic future where men have been disposed of. All is peace, love and harmony. And that figure retching while reading is me.

Continue reading "Tingly Tribadism And Other Twisted Tales"

posted by Sarah at 12:45 AM | Comments (3)

It's Revolting

In the art museum, in Denver, in the portrait section, there is a painting of a Spanish grandee, ambassador to some court or other, Lord High This and That, Keeper Of The Royal Watchmacallit. (Give me a break, I barely remember names for people who are alive!)

I like to linger in front of that portrait - very well executed as far as that goes, with a sort of photo-realism that's more real than mere photographs - because it is an example of rebellion; of speaking truth to power, to repeat a very old phrase.

Because I'm that sort of mother and they're that sort of kids, I asked my sons why this portrait is highly subversive. It took them a while. Well, it would. I mean, there's the miles and miles of satin, the lace, the sparkly noblesse-oblige bling.

But the shocking part of the portrait is in the face of the gentleman painted. It's nothing overt, of course. True rocking of social conventions rarely is - think about it. But if you look in the man's eyes, you catch a glimpse of fear, a suggestion of cringing, the certainty that the man trapped within the satin, the lace and the diamonds feels less than equal to his positions, and perhaps dwarfed by his resounding titles. You expect his tongue to come out and lick his lips. You expect him to duck his head.

Continue reading "It's Revolting"

posted by Sarah at 07:42 AM | Comments (7)

Teaching and Learning

Lately I've been thinking a lot about education, something that is eventually going to find its way to my blog, though probably not at Mad Genius.

I was thinking how for the first time I disagreed with Terry Pratchett's "overt nudge" at the end of I Shall Wear Midnight. Oh, not on the idea that the formation of schools is a good thing - in general, assuming schools that actually function - but the idea that the important thing is to "teach people to think."

Over the last few years I've become convinced this doesn't work. I don't know if it's possible to teach people to think. It is an unpleasant activity that most humans would prefer not to engage. In fact, most humans are far more willing to die than to engage their brains. (Examples would stray into demagoguery, because to support all of them would take months of posts. But if you look around you, you'll find examples aplenty.) Because no one knows how to teach it, it quickly becomes "teaching how to think" which we do know how to do. It's called indoctrination.


Continue reading "Teaching and Learning"

posted by Sarah at 07:07 AM | Comments (5)

This Article Does Not Exist

* A guest post by Robert Anson Hoyt aka #1 son -- who has suspected he's an elephant since he was about two, in the same way I've often suspected I'm a cat. So excuse the pachiderm-o-centric imagery. He is what he is. :) And, oh, yeah, he does overthink it. (Wipes furtive tear.) My boy.*

Postmodern Blues

Or: This Article Does Not Exist
Also: How Not to Practice Zoology

 I'll be blunt. Postmodernism makes me itch. There are very few viewpoints on this planet that annoy me to the extent that postmodernism does. Postmodernism actually manages to be worse than Nihilism.

Oh, you think they're the same? They aren't, and I'll tell you why. Sure, a Nihilist will raise their nose and tell you that all values are subjective. But it takes a Postmodernist to look at the Nihilist and tell them that - not because of the ideas they asserted, but merely because they asserted ideas - they are wrong.

But I'm getting ahead of myself. To understand my position, let me lead you back through the mists of time to Hell, also known as my high school classroom. I am, for my sins, an IB graduate, and like all IB graduates, that meant I had to participate in a class called Theory of Knowledge. I won't lead you through the details as to what the class was supposed to teach, because no matter what it was, it didn't succeed.

Not to say the class taught me nothing, it just didn't teach me anything the prim and proper IB heads in France would dream of putting on their brochure. It took me along the bowels of the nightmare carnival from Hell known as postmodernism, showing me in loving detail its every blemish, often saying those were features rather than bugs. Then it spit me out into the world with a philosophical certainty etched in my heart that -  many demons though I might have -  I will never resort to postmodernism.

Continue reading "This Article Does Not Exist"

posted by Sarah at 12:59 AM | Comments (11)

Hoyt On Heinlein - A Forest Of Jungian* Knives

As some of you know I got to read Learning Curve by William Patterson in Advanced Reading Copy format, and I was dissatisfied - through my own fault - with my blogging about it at Tor.com. (I was NOT dissatisfied with the book, which I think every Heinlein fan should read.) Not blaming anyone save myself, because I tend to get emotional when it comes to Heinlein. Frankly more so than I would expect. And one of the ways I fit the stereotype of the Latin female is that I am... excitable. At least that's what my husband says.

I will start the serious Heinlein blogging next week, and hopefully do one post a week.

This one is sort of a general Heinlein blogging thing.

Continue reading "Hoyt On Heinlein - A Forest Of Jungian* Knives"

posted by Sarah at 12:51 AM | Comments (7)

Blue Plate Special

*There's a tradition I started over at my conference, in the baen's bar at baen.com and which I've lately let fall into disuse, which is that of posting Blue Plate Specials.  My conference is Sarah's Diner, so... you see the theme here, right?  Anyway, the BPSs are full short stories.  Of course, I still have copyright and you are not allowed to copy/distribute/claim it's yours or change it BUT otoh you do get to read it and share the link as far and wide as you wish.  I think I can do that here too, because -- frankly -- I have a lot of published short stories I can share.  I won't promise one a week, but if it's more than a week and you want one, feel free to poke me -- I'm very forgetful when I'm writing, which is practically always. 

So, below find Ariadne's Skein, set in the world of Darkship Thieves, a few centuries earlier.  [when I find and integrate my Future History, I'll blog that, too.])




Ariadne's Skein

Continue reading "Blue Plate Special"

posted by Sarah at 10:29 AM | Comments (3)

A Melodrama in Three Cats (plus one)

(The onslaught of felines on CV continues!  I have no idea how to say "felines to victory" in Latin, but consider it said anyhow.)

First there were Euclid and D'Artagnan. And Euclid and D'Artagnan were inseparable. I mean, really inseparable. Couldn't separate them with a water hose inseparable:

Miranda cat, the girl in the house, was not impressed. Good thing she didn't want to be friends with those PLEBIANS anyway!

Continue reading "A Melodrama in Three Cats (plus one)"

posted by Sarah at 06:36 AM | Comments (1)

A Wilderness Of Mirrors

First and before I go into this post, I want to make it clear that I don't believe in writing-with-a-message. I am in full agreement with whoever said "if you want to send a message, use western union." Since everything became infused with "message" which somehow always comes down to politics and since everything local became political, (it never was the other way around. Or at least they never believed it.) they've done their best to politicize that most localized of personal events - the thoughts in your head. Which are supposed to be worthwhile and useful and... socially relevant.

The obvious problem with "message literature" is that it requires the message to be open and obvious enough to satisfy even the most obtuse of readers. It also requires it to be in full accord with the visions of the gatekeepers. In fact, message-literature only invaded the field when the publishers and editors themselves started believing literature should send messages. Since, of course, most of the artists doing message-art nowadays view themselves as counter cultural, there's a delicious irony there. It's just that it hurts when I laugh.

Continue reading "A Wilderness Of Mirrors"

posted by Sarah at 11:45 PM | Comments (4)

Hostile Working Conditions

See, I don't think we've seen enough cute doggie -- or fish -- pictures lately, so I thought I'd pick up on Eric's slack. (grin)  Of course, this means CV, a staunch dog blog, is being taken over by the cat-blogging side.

Frankly, the internet consists of fifty percent cute kitteh pictures and fifty percent Heinlein flame wars.  I serve you up the cute kitteh pics today, on the promise of Heinlein flame wars tomorrow.

Hostile working conditions

Help, help, I'm being oppressed!

(Yes, those are little platforms that pull out on either side of the desk.  Yes, D'Artagnan [left] and Havelock [right] think they're there so they can supervise me.  No, I can't argue with them.  They're CATS.)

Update: my older son pointed out that's only the part of the internet that you can read while retaining the use of both hands -- i.e. no porn or onanism-inducing politics. :)

*cross posted at According to Hoyt*


posted by Sarah at 11:46 AM | Comments (8)

Days Of Future Past

Sometimes I get nostalgic for the future - a future in which people have flying cars and flying houses; where diners were run by sentient bots embedded in the walls; where there are colonies in other planets.

You see, I read Clifford Simak when I was very young, and that was the future I'd thought we have.  I understand there are many reasons - many of them having to do with regulation more than with anything else - why we don't.  (For instance, I suspect that the main reason we don't have space colonies is the treaty that says no one can own a piece of space.  It's unnatural, unrealistic, and it stops exploration - but not a subject for this post.)  I also understand in some instances that future might have been impractical.  Flying cars seem a particularly quixotic idea.  But that world had a dreamy, rosy glow about it, being invested with the dreams of childhood.

I'm not displeased with the world we do have, mind you.  For one, our computers are better than theirs.  But I am forever enthralled of the idea that there is some other universe where this future of gadgets and regular moon flights is true.

This story below, Wait Until The War Is Over is based on the idea that the real world is that future, and that some people can perceive it/cross over.  It was published in Gateways (a DAW anthology.)

Needless to say, this is in its unproofed state.  The one published was properly copyedited, but not this one.


 Wait Until The War Is Over


 Sarah A. Hoyt

"And then the aliens came," My father said.

Continue reading "Days Of Future Past"

posted by Sarah at 11:07 AM | Comments (1)

Pushing Humpty Dumpty

Back when I was eight I read Alvin Toffler's Future Shock.  I've since heard it has a globalist sub-text, or whatever.  I don't know.  I haven't re-read it since I was eight.

At eight, what I took away from it was the mechanics of change in society and how people react to change.  Also, that things would change REALLY fast.  And so far what I took away from it has served me very well.

Change came at me at a higher speed and in scarier aspects than it did at most of you.  Portugal in the sixties and early seventies - due to stupid government tricks, like a mercantilist philosophy (among other issues) - in the place where I lived (it varied greatly by region) was stuck somewhere in the early twentieth century.

When I grew up - seems like a vanished country - there were two private-home televisions in the entire village.  Most nights, people got all dressed up and went to the coffee shop to watch TV, which had two channels, showed in black and white, and would run to soap operas and recycled American shows as well as to recordings of the symphony and/or lectures on various subjects.  Other people stayed home and listened to programs on the radio

Continue reading "Pushing Humpty Dumpty"

posted by Sarah at 12:07 AM | Comments (5)

The Tight Rope Over The Lion Pit

Today at the breakfast table, the entire e-publishing thing flipped on me. It started with nothing more significant than a flutter, a feeling of excitement.

Now, you know - if you've read me - that when it comes to technology and how it affects our lives, I'm a "the glass is brimming full" kind of girl. In fact, I have to stop and make myself THINK of the drawbacks of any technology that makes my life easier or safer or more interesting.

But I confess that lately, with the doom and gloom climate prevailing everywhere in publishing, with the confusion of non-paying bookstore chains and sinking numbers and the editorial houses seeming to scramble in the darkness, I've been having the sinking feeling that the entire field that I spent two decades breaking in/working in was turning to ashes and nothing under me and that, a couple of birthdays from 50 I'd find myself with no significant professional experience to do anything at all. Yeah, I used to be a multilingual translator, but like music languages are something that must be either practiced or lost. And I haven't practiced in twenty years.

UPDATE: In light of Sarah's marvelous InstaVision interview,Eric decided to bump this post to increase its visibility.

By the way, readers who want to see all of Sarah's posts can simply click on this category link.

Update -- by Sarah -- I was unavoidably away from the computer all day.  Thank you to Instapundit for the link!  Welcome instapundit readers!

Continue reading "The Tight Rope Over The Lion Pit"

posted by Sarah at 11:41 PM | Comments (28)

Vee Hav Vays Und Means

So, ebooks throw the publishing field wide, but have some drawbacks.

The first drawback is giving readers a way to weed out the truly awful. Not that readers can't weed out the truly awful themselves. Of course they can. I weed out bad books by the score any day of the week. I read two pages and put them down. Or download the preview from Amazon, then erase it.

The problem is even getting to the point you know the book exists - the equivalent of browsing your favorite brick-and-mortar bookshelf and finding new books. Amazon "people who bought this also bought" does that, if you make it a regular practice of browsing those - I do - and of downloading the free samples for the kindle. I think - it's been a few weeks since I bought from them, and the holidays and my anniversary happened in between, so it feels like years - fiction wise allows you to download free samples as well. However the "people also bought" is limited.

What we need in that respect are the equivalent of the books they used to publish, called "what do I read next". I understand the kindle boards do some of this. That's a beginning to the solution.

Continue reading "Vee Hav Vays Und Means"

posted by Sarah at 01:12 AM | Comments (15)

We've Got Trouble, Right Here In Ebook City

Okay, so - as a commenter told me yesterday - why do writers still need publishers? What is the point? Why can't writers self-publish on the web and be done with it?

Let's dispose of the silly stuff, first. I have had people tell me they could never self-publish because they need "editors" by which they invariably mean copy-editors, btw; or because they need a cover; or even because they need to format it.

These are ridiculous objections because there are free-lance copy-editors. If you can't afford that, find a friend who will do it for a dinner. If what you need is a REAL editor, you can hire those too. Ask friends or look through the adds in writers' publications. Ditto for covers. Believe it or not most artists are not that expensive when it comes to using their illustration for a cover. Look over at deviant art or another place where artists post their work, hoping to be noticed. As for formatting, you can usually find instructions on line. (It has occurred to me that if I were unemployed right now and were marginally more tech inclined than I am, I'd start a business formatting books for writers, and arranging them to fit the various publishers/services.)

Now, the real objections

Continue reading "We've Got Trouble, Right Here In Ebook City"

posted by Sarah at 01:46 AM | Comments (11)

The Still Small Voice Of Writers

Continuing my view of the coming of ebooks, I'd like to go into the good things brought by ebooks first.

This is important. There's a feeling of doom and gloom in the air. Publishers tell us daily they're on the verge of collapse *because* of ebooks. (This is not exactly true, in my opinion. Look both at yesterday's post here and at my Mad Genius Club Post on 1/5 for reasons that are pushing the collapse of publishing, reasons that are ushering in ebooks.)

This makes both readers and writers feel odd and insecure. We have people vowing never to read in electronic format, never, never, never, and others reading in electronic format only. We have strange movements in the used-book-sales field. We have people debating anew concepts of copyright and fair use.

For writers it is still more anxiety-making. Our publishers are convinced ebooks are bankrupting them, which has turned their publishing routines upside down and made our careers very precarious.

So, it's good to remind oneself the coming change has many good features. Perhaps the most important is letting an author take charge of his/her career.

Continue reading "The Still Small Voice Of Writers"

posted by Sarah at 06:05 AM | Comments (4)

There's No Business Like Book Business Like Any Business...

I promised sometime ago to do a series on my views on ebooks - where I think all this is going, and what it means for the future.


First, though, I need to set up the stage - as it were - and explain what, from my perspective, is wrong with the current system of publishing and distributing books. Not my point of view as a writer, so much, though some of the "features" of the current system make any writer except the lucky top 1% want to scream with rage at times.

The thing about being a writer is that you can't evaluate your own work. You just can't. It's entirely possible my work - for instance - gets kicked around by the current model because in some way - quality, thrust, execution - it deserves it. I'm not going to - cannot - dispute that. It is what it is.

However, as a reader, I can complain about the deficiencies I see in connecting with the books I would love, if only I knew they existed. As a consumer, I can complain about the inefficiency of the supply system.

And, because I'm a writer, and know some of the processes behind the scenes, I can hazard some guesses as to why the system is falling short.

Now, like a foot soldier in a corner of the battle field, it's unlikely I'll see everything. It's also likely much of what I see will be inaccurate. I'm not averse to being told I'm full of it. I can only be sure of the results and guess at the causes.

Continue reading "There's No Business Like Book Business Like Any Business..."

posted by Sarah at 02:25 AM | Comments (13)

Three Matches

*If it's okay, I'll put up another free short story.  I put it up on my blog at According To Hoyt and Mad Genius Club also.  It's often easier for me to write a story than an article though there will be some of those once I recover from three days of remodelling the master bathroom (It was accidental, I swear.  I mean, I didn't mean to do it just then, only I set out to clean and next thing you know I'm peeling the awful mildewy paper off the walls and sanding them.  And now I'm exhausted and have a cold.)  It's set in the world of my Shifter series which is my interpretation of urban fantasy and probably a "uh?" for everyone else.  Draw One In The Dark, the first book, is out of print but available in electronic format from Baen.com.   The publisher says she'll reprint whent he third one comes out (in 12!)  Gentleman Takes A Chance, the second book, is around.  Oh, and the story was written because Knight Agency, which represents me, asked me to write something about my favorite holiday short story.  Insofar as I have one, it's The Little Match Girl because it's "real" -- i.e. as Pratchett would say, in the end it all comes down to the blood and the death which is where the real stories are.  Unfortunately, being tired, I found it easier to write a short than an article.  And being too tired for the blood and the death made it whimsical.*

Three Matches

You shouldn't cry when it's snowing.  Besides, crying wasn't going to do me a bit of good.  Not on New Year's Night with a blizzard blowing in low and tight over the city of Goldport, Colorado and turning everything further than two inches from my nose into vague shapes that I no more than suspected might exist.

I abandoned my car on Fairfax Avenue.  People say Fairfax is the longest straight street in the western states.  Perhaps it is, since it runs from one end of Goldport to the other and clean out of town on the other side.  Which makes it a very easy street to follow, even in pitch dark night and under the snow.  But not when your car was low on gas and the street was coated in ice.

As I got out of the car, pulling my gloves on and wishing I were wearing my snowboots and not the tennis shoes, I thought mom might have been right at that, when she said dad hadn't left her so much as he'd left Colorado.  You see, my father was a meteorologist, and mom said the Colorado weather had driven him insane being completely unpredictable.  You could start the day with eighty degrees and bright sunshine and end up at noon in a hard frost and subzero temperatures.  I'd always suspected dad had other reasons for leaving, but now I wasn't so sure.

I'd left Denver, three hours ago, in eighty degree weather and bright sunshine and look at me now.

Blinking, because it felt like my eyes would be frozen in their sockets, I walked carefully along the street, heading for the sidewalk.  There should be a space near the buildings where it was relatively warmer and perhaps not quite so icy.  Also there was a chance - okay, a chance in Hades - that a coffee shop or restaurant or something had left its door unlocked.  And that would be good, even if no one where there, because then there was the chance I wouldn't die.

The thought surprised me, because I had been thinking of it in terms of stupidity and annoyance.  Stupid, stupid Rya had left home without her snow boots, or her emergency kit in the car.  Stupid, stupid Rya had blown past the small towns on the way here without thinking to get her tank filled up.  Now the thought came, stark and naked.  Stupid, stupid Rya is going to die.

Which stopped my mind from spinning on the track it had been playing since I'd left Denver - how to tell one's mom and step dad about one's little embarrassing problem.  Particularly when said embarrassing problem is of a bizarre enough nature they'll consider having one committed?

In the sudden blankness of thought, I patted my pockets, suddenly wondering if I had what it took to survive this, if perhaps there would be a reprieve from my fatal idiocy.  This was when I realized my stupidity was greater than it seemed.  I'd brought my mom's jacket instead of my own.  Which meant I didn't have my cell phone, or my lip balm - so I'd die with cracked lips - or the mini candy bar I'd put there after grandma's holiday party.  On the other hand, I had a matchbook, that mom must have picked up somewhere and put in there.  I brought the matchbook out, wondering why people even gave them out considering that there was no smoking in bars or restaurants in Colorado anymore.  It was black, with a name and address printed on it.

I blinked.  The George.  On Fairfax Avenue.  In Goldport.  That didn't even make any sense.  I'd come to Goldport to University, but I didn't think my mom had even bothered to visit since the first weekend of my freshman year.  It was all "Rya, won't you come home."  And "Rya, darling, grandma is having a party."

Grandma wasn't really.  She was my stepdad's mom.  Not that there was anything wrong with her.  Or with Mark, my stepdad, except I always got the impression that they were more interested in having me there so they could show what a great family we were than in me, as such.

How long had mom been carting this around?  On the one hand the matchbook looked barely creased.  On the other hand, there were only three matches in it.  Right.  Three matches.

I found the edge of the sidewalk next to the buildings.  I was right there was less ice there, except for little patches there the water had melted and run or perhaps run before it froze.  I could watch for those, as I moved along, looking at the numbers.  From the numbers, the George was about eighteen blocks that way which, of course, gave me plenty of time to freeze to death.

Continue reading "Three Matches"

posted by Sarah at 09:54 AM | Comments (0)

Shamelessly Giving It Away

*I was not going to crosspost this here, but a friend said you guys might enjoy it also, so here it is. Hopefully Eric won't mind. It is a free short story. *This story was written for a steam punk extravaganza on a website. The location was dictated. The story had to be in the voice of the main character of Heart Of Light the first of my Magical British Empire Trilogy. It is a world in which magic is the basis of civilization, but shape shifters are outlawed and condemned to instant death throughout most of the civilized world. (For fun, a friend and I wrote what Pride and Prejudice would be like in this world. The story A Touch Of Night is for sale at Naked Reader Press.) I don't know if this short story stands up on its on, but I hope so. Enjoy!*

Continue reading "Shamelessly Giving It Away"

posted by Sarah at 12:03 PM | Comments (9)

Don't Hate Me 'Cause I'm Human

There's this disturbing trend I've observed recently - okay, the last thirty years.

It's part of what I was talking about yesterday, in a way. For a book to be considered serious, or introspective or relevant, it has to attack the past or western culture or civilization or tech or... humanity.

Continue reading "Don't Hate Me 'Cause I'm Human"

posted by Sarah at 01:34 AM | Comments (13)

The Sharp Edge Of Guilt

Yesterday I was hanging around in the kitchen with my older son, waiting for the coffee to brew, and he made some joking comment about my being oppressed when I was growing up.

I told him I was oppressed enough, or at least women were, in that time and in that place - as they still are in many times and in many places.

Yes, I like to point out and do - often - that it wasn't a gigantic conspiracy of men against women that kept women down for six thousand years because frankly most men can't conspire their way out of a paperbag. (I suspect women are naturally better at it. No, don't hurt me. Just women seem to be naturally more socially adept. But even women couldn't manage a conspiracy of that magnitude.) And I like to point out - and do - it wasn't shoulder to shoulder but the pill and changes in technology that liberated women or at least that made attempts at liberation reasonable instead of insane. (Of course, shoulder to shoulder makes for better movies and books, which is why everyone believes it.)

Continue reading "The Sharp Edge Of Guilt"

posted by Sarah at 09:49 AM | Comments (1)

Eric Told me I Could Do Shameless Self Promotion

So, blame this on him.

The paperback of Darkship Thieves is out. I'm buried in the next Elise Hyatt mystery -- A Fatal Stain -- which was due a month ago. I will do more Heinlein posts and others as soon as I get this written.

Meanwhile, I have put up -- again -- the recording of my reading the first chapter of Darkship Thieves. (Yes (rolls eyes) I REALLY sound like that. It's not a put on. I'd pay money to get rid of the stupid accent.) I'm also doing a giveaway. And a colleague of mine was kind enough to post a review of DST.

So, if you find yourself at odds and ends or trying to avoid work this morning, shashay (amble, walk, leap, lope -- whatever you prefer) on over to According To Hoyt and poke around. :)

MORE: This is Eric, and yes it is my fault! Not only did I tell Sarah that she could do shameless promotion, but I will shamelessly assist her in doing so, by bumping this post to increase its visibility!

posted by Sarah at 08:07 PM | Comments (6)

The A'tist and the Businessman

Periodically people - on facebook, via email, through my site - try to get me to read their manuscripts. Unless they are friends or I know that what they really want is an honest critique, I do not read it. This is difficult, because some of these people are quite, quite, quite persistent and keep coming back with "but I'm sure you'll love it if you just read it."

Continue reading "The A'tist and the Businessman"

posted by Sarah at 11:26 AM | Comments (20)

You're not special, but WE are -- an open letter to President Obama

Dear President Obama,

I know there has been a lot of discussion on your remarks that American exceptionalism is the same as Greek exceptionalism or any other nation's "exceptionalism."

I don't mean to pile on and I hate to be rude, and I know I'm more than a day late to this and far more than a dollar short, but all the same what you said was bullshit.

Continue reading "You're not special, but WE are -- an open letter to President Obama"

posted by Sarah at 12:24 AM | Comments (13)

True Fiction

I've been thinking about fiction versus reality, recently. It's Leonard Cohen's fault. I was listening to his songs while working, and the song Everybody Knows caused a random firing of neurons that led to fiction and reality.

For those who haven't heard the song - it is about a lot of things that "everybody knows" which just ain't so. In case you miss the point he drives it home with everybody knows that you've been faithful, give or take a night or two.

For now we'll leave alone things that are narrativium (Terry Pratchett's word for the force that binds his Discworld... and all stories) - like all the problems getting fixed at the last minute; like the brave little guy always winning; like our sympathy for the plucky comic relief character. We'll leave those alone because, frankly, my life seems to obey these rules. Also because then we get into art imitating life imitating art. But MOST of all because I hate the feeling that I might just be someone's fictional character.

Instead, let's get into facts of life, history, society that everybody knows and which are, on their face, so totally absurd that you wonder how so many people could believe them. And then you realize they are the background of ALMOST every novel published in the second half of the twentieth century.

Continue reading "True Fiction"

posted by Sarah at 08:51 PM | Comments (12)

The Devil Made Me Do It

A few weeks ago, I attended Fencon, a science fiction convention in Dallas. I was hoping to get some pictures of it and do a post about the ethos of Science Fiction cons (as opposed to the Athos of Science Fiction cons, which involves swords and quantities of wine.)

However, for various reasons, I ended up not taking pictures. (Okay, okay, it started with a white shirt and a cup of starbucks coffee. I should know better than wearing white and having coffee. I washed the shirt in the bathroom, but that left it semi-transparent. I really didn't feel equal to playing photographer while walking around in a peek-a-boob shirt. But also, I was feeling a bit under the weather, so I only went for my appearances and didn't hang around.

All the same, one of my panels made me uneasy. One of my co-panelists was Robert Sawyer, author of Flashforward and he was pushing, rather hard as in "Scientists think that...." the idea that animated the novel (which was made, I understand, into a now-cancelled TV show.) The central idea of his book is that the future is as hard set as the past and individual will is an illusion.

Continue reading "The Devil Made Me Do It"

posted by Sarah at 11:37 PM | Comments (16)

Gipsies, tramps and... socialists????

Hi. My name is Sarah and I'm (strongly inclined towards being) a libertarian. The last time I ate a baby for breakfast was yesterday (eggs count, right?) and I spend my days oppressing the poor and persecuting minorities (imaginary characters are minorities, right?) when I'm not off stomping on the downtrodden (how in heck could they be downtrodden if no one treads down on them? I'm just holding up the side) when I'm not committing acts of unimaginable depravity, laughing as the helpless sink into hopelessness or greedily refusing to share any of the money I earn.

Right. Now that we've disposed of the stereotype, let's get serious. At least as serious as I'm capable of being, since -- paraphrasing Heinlein in Stranger in a Strange Land -- laughter is what happens when a situation is too tragic to cry over.

One of the most tragic alignments of the last two centuries is the lockstep unity between the oddballs, outliers and creative minorities and the most oppressive statist regimens (or, when that choice is not available, the more oppressive of two regimens). Mind you, this alignment usually lasts only till the statists achieve their goals. The oddballs, weirdos and misfits - my people, broadly speaking - are inevitably the first ones against the wall in the regrettable and always unexpected purges needed to achieve the glorious utopian future.

Continue reading "Gipsies, tramps and... socialists????"

posted by Sarah at 02:09 PM | Comments (11)

Hoyt On Heinlein - My Heart Belongs to Daddy

In July Tor.com invited me to participate in a blog event to launch the first volume - Learning Curve - of William Patterson's Heinlein biography.

(For those who aren't science fiction fans, this sporadic and irregular series of posts will all be called "Hoyt on Heinlein" with the added subtitle. So if you wish to scroll on past, that's fine.)

After hesitating for a long time because the man's influence in my life made this seem akin to reading about your father when he was young and stupid, I read the book through twice and marked all the interesting places I'd like to talk about. In a way Heinlein's history was the history of the 20th century in America, at least for that subset of the population that was interested in speculation and intellectual work. In a more precise way, it was the history of science fiction at the time. And because science fiction is the way we think about the future, it provides fascinating material for exploration.

Continue reading "Hoyt On Heinlein - My Heart Belongs to Daddy"

posted by Sarah at 11:11 PM | Comments (15)

Long Ago, It Must be, I Have the Photograph

I am a big fan of British fantasy writer Terry Pratchett and my favorite of his works is Night Watch. In it the main character goes back and meets his own younger self. There is a moment - over a political discussion when the older version of the character hears the younger give his opinions and thinks, "Was I ever that young?" and also that if there were something he could tell his younger self he wouldn't, because the younger self wouldn't "get" it. He had to go through years of experiences and kicks in the teeth, till the twerpitude of youth burned away and he became the older character.

I could say the same, looking back on my younger self. How brash, how foolish, and what strange opinions I held.

Only there's a hinge that divides the me then and the me now, and the hinge swings around 9/11/2001. There was a me before then. There is a me after then.

Continue reading "Long Ago, It Must be, I Have the Photograph"

posted by Sarah at 09:34 PM | Comments (9)

The Happy Now

Instapundit called this "a disturbing photo essay" when linking to it a couple of weeks back.

It did disturb me, but perhaps not in the way me he meant it to. (No, I'm not sure. It never does to second guess Glenn Reynold's intentions.)

What disturbed me more than the pictures was the tone of the post which seemed to - universally - assume that "then" was better than now.

This romantic fallacy, the idea that the past was "simpler" or somehow "cleaner" or "nicer" seems to be part of how humans are built. And it is almost always a hundred percent wrong.

Let me start at the top. First, the "then" pictures are not the same as the "now" pictures. No, not in the obvious way, but in the nature of the shots. The "then" pictures are all, without exception, posed, even those that don't look it. Trust me on this. I grew up in the sixties and seventies, in a society where few people owned a camera, film was expensive and developing film even more expensive. There is a reason why I - a tomboy in t-shirt and shorts - only have childhood pictures in pretty dresses and holding dolls. This was my mother's idea of what I should wear and how I should spend my time, and by gum, that's what we'd show the camera.

Need I tell you that nowadays you can use your phone and take pictures when people aren't even aware of it? I hope not. At least not if you're living in the same universe.

So, what is being compared is the "image" someone wanted to project to candid shots. That's the first issue - and let us pause and be grateful for the material wealth and tech progress that allows us to capture candid shots of men outside Walmart, before we move on.

Let's move right on to the picture of the people saying grace before the barbecue dinner. Do you see how all the men are dressed more or less alike? All the women are in their Sunday best? This while they're having fun, mind. And they're ALL saying grace. (read more...)

Continue reading "The Happy Now"

posted by Sarah at 09:01 PM | Comments (18)

You Are NOT my Mother

I must first confess that I find picture books, of the sort foisted on kids in their earliest years, inherently creepy. The concepts are boiled to the sort of level where they raise more questions than they answer.

Of these books - rivaling with the seriously disturbing Animal Kisses - possibly the creepiest is "Are you my mother?" where some exceedingly stupid little animal (is it a duck?) goes from unlikely creature to unlikely creature and asks "Are you my mother?" When forced to read picture books to the boys (being young gentlemen of taste, they preferred Ray Bradbury, even at six months of age) I used to insert my own commentary into the performance, including but not limited to, "Oh, for heavens sake, we're not even in the same Phylum." (Okay, there were wittier comments, but my husband forbade me from saying anything even vaguely related to sexual innuendo or that implied/asserted these characters were on various drugs.)

The sheer stupidity of this defenseless small creature going around to carnivores who could devour it in a single bite asking if this might be his mother seemed to betray something wrong with the author of the book.

Little did I know this was considered a blueprint for society.

I was going along in the blissful belief that while our government has got bloated and overstretched and sticks its nose into everything it possibly can, at least in our every day contacts in society we were ... well, normal people. Normal people who are NOT the old ladies in the village where I grew up. In fact, ever since leaving the village I have stayed as far away as possible from the kind of small community that might encourage neighborhood busybodies.

I find it very amusing that a certain type of mind romanticizes villages and the "closeness" therein, because to me - a mildly strange young person of artistic disposition - this translated into having busybodies creating the most interesting rumors about me and/or telling my mom their interpretation of things I'd done.

Little did I know that this sort of mind had now taken charge of our society.

What do I mean by that? Oh... Let me tell it as a tale. It was Friday afternoon. My husband had just got home from work and my younger son - the only one at home, this summer - came into the my office to tweak my husband and I about something or other. Don't remember what, but it might have been the music I was listening to at the time - no, don't ask. Current novel demands eighties dance tunes. - Kid is sprawled in my research chair, laughing. My husband is leaning against the door. I'm at my desk, and we're in three-way banter. I LIVE for these moments. Even the kid's eyes are laughing.

And then we get a phone call.

Continue reading "You Are NOT my Mother"

posted by Sarah at 08:19 AM | Comments (13)

It Would Take A Miracle

Friends, Americans, countrymen, I bring you tidings of great joy - contrary to everything you hear in the media, to the cries of racism from the usual, loud quarters - we do not have an illegal immigration problem. Much less do we have a racism-against-hispanic-immigrants problem.

No, I'm not saying that there are no illegal immigrants in the country or that some people don't feel uppitty about brown-skinned folk who speak Spanish - or even those like me, olive skinned with a Portuguese accent. More on this later. I'm simply saying that this is not our main, or even an auxiliary problem.

Our problem is very simple. We have legislators who do not understand the nature or the limits of their power. Like King Canute commanding the sea, (only he was brighter and did it for a lesson in limits - his imitators are NOT that bright) they have tried to legislate over natural law. Whenever this happens the result is an ugly distortion and in this case one that is - if not killing this country - making everything - even the cherished welfare-state of our liberal friends - much more difficult.

Continue reading "It Would Take A Miracle"

posted by Sarah at 04:14 PM | Comments (7)

Dancing On the High Wire

I have no idea if anyone not a writer has an interest in this http://madgeniusclub.blogspot.com/ but many of you are readers, and perhaps it would be of interest to take a look at my road to publication. It is neither unusual nor unusually difficult. It would, however, have been a total shock to me when I started out. It would have been an even greater shock to me when I was "just" a reader.

Writing is part obsession -- possibly mental illness -- and part vocation. A writing career is part persistence, part luck and part -- I hope -- craft and art. I blog on Wednesdays (after recent adjustments) and my mind -- you'll be shocked -- often runs to strange things. My co-bloggers are usually saner, more reliable and always interesting.

Anyway, if anyone is interested, there is a peek behind the curtain of the few, the proud, the almost completely insane.

posted by Sarah at 11:24 AM | Comments (3)

Under The Spreading Chestnut Tree

My friend Kate Paulk, blogging at our group blog (Mad Genius Club, Writers' Division http://madgeniusclub.blogspot.com/2010/03/overthrowing-evil-tyrant.html) has gone after one of the cliches of science fiction and fantasy. The evil overlord.

Perhaps this hit me at a vulnerable time, as I'm waiting for an answer to my proposals for sequels to Darkship Thieves - all three of which deal with evil regimes of different stripes and at least one of which centers around a revolution against said regime.

After thinking about it for a while, I decided that Kate has it exactly right and that most science fiction and fantasy novels serve us very badly indeed. They show the toppling of the regime as being relatively easy and with little push back - and the victims of the regime as being happy they were freed. (How to correct that dissonance in my chosen field and why we should is a post in itself, one I owe to sf signal this week.)

I blame the WWII movies so many of us grew up with. You knew, sure as shooting, that if the allied aviator got shot behind the lines in Germany but especially in France, except for a few officers, he would find the mass of the people on his side and ready to help him/smuggle him behind the lines/do whatever they had to do to save him. Because the mass of the people (TM) were all against the evil regime, of course.

Need I tell you that in real life it doesn't work like that?

Continue reading "Under The Spreading Chestnut Tree"

posted by Sarah at 11:59 PM | Comments (11)

Let's Talk About Political Correctness!

*Note that though this post was prompted by a bad review on one of my books, it's not about the bad review. I've had many and mostly they don't bother me. Besides which, it's the job of readers to like or dislike books. It's about the "reasoning" or lack thereof behind it, including the mental binds of political correctness or its reverse.*

I confess of all my various sins - extremist positions, hot-headed eruptions, inability to understand other people's qualms... I'm sure there are more, beyond my loving-kindness and giving disposition, of course ;-) - the only thing I've never been accused of, or never credibly, was political correctness.

The reviews seem to be mostly based on race. This obsession is something I don't understand. Yeah, I realize there are all kinds of issues and abilities that are hereditary (though I'm getting a little tired of psychologists coming out with 'it's all hereditary' books. This will probably be the subject of another rant, later.) Some of them might or might not correlate to skin color. (I rather doubt they do.) They might - and often do - correlate to specific populations that have interbred for a long time. Thus nationalities and subgroups within nationalities might have a character. They might have some characteristics, as a whole. I'm fond of saying "Stereotypes exist for a reason" when I fly off in a rage or when I'm extremely late for anything.

However, human beings are not the average of their group. They are individuals and fall along a continuum. Race means very little to any given individual. Culture does. (And no, don't confuse the two, or I will be angry and you don't want that.) Racial characteristics are inherited genetically. Culture is passed on by learning. Dysfunctional cultures are perpetuated by being taught to each and every new generation. They are extremely hard to break because to do so requires that adults change their minds and let go of national/tribal pride.

Continue reading "Let's Talk About Political Correctness!"

posted by Sarah at 02:33 PM | Comments (43)

I know! Let's Talk About Sex!

I've been meaning to post for about a week, but unable to figure out quite how to make my first appearance at Classical Values. This is the equivalent of what I did when I was very young and spent several hours agonizing between two virtually identical outfits before a party.

And then, yesterday, on this post I did about Robert A. Heinlein and what he meant to me, some woman (I'm being complimentary here. She's probably an academic!) came out to prove my point - which was that some people would like to prevent everyone from reading that which they disapprove of, and if their only weapon is social shunning, then they'll use that.

In the meantime, as a sort of side benefit, she proved that she had problems with the idea of women enjoying sex. Oh, I'm sure she didn't mean it that way. Or she didn't think she meant it that way. Or something. But that's how it came across, as "All you women who are out there enjoying sex, stop it. You're letting the side down."

I've had this argument so many times, at so many different conferences, when I was put on the obligatory Heinlein panel - see the four armed dwarf! The dragon of the Indies! The woman who will admit she likes Heinlein! Yep - that it was the REASON I posted.

Since writing that post, I've been defriended by one tenth my list on Face Book, my followers on twitter stalled, my group blog comments went dead and my conference has had almost no traffic. AND that was before I was the rudest I've ever been on line to a commenter. Being myself, I can't resist the chance to double down. Proving, I suppose that while our current president and I might look at life in completely different ways there are some similarities between people of our age group.

This is not a new experience for me. Thirst, my first short story ever sold (which is online, for free, in this collection) was published in an Australian magazine called Blood Songs, which managed to send a copy out to get it nominated as an honorable mention in 1994's Year's Best Fantasy and Horror before its entire print run was confiscated and destroyed. The report on what caused it - my story, or the illustration on it - varies, but the illustration was on theme, so... And the last story I wrote that was published in a major magazine - What She Left Behind in Asimov's - got letters asking the publication be banned from school libraries. So, you see, I have a tendency to dance where angels fear to tread.

Since sex is squarely at the center of both the culture war and of my variously socially unacceptable forays, let's go into the - pardon my French - thick of it, with hip waders.

Continue reading "I know! Let's Talk About Sex!"

posted by Sarah at 11:59 PM | Comments (50)

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