Monthly Archives: February 2014

On the Fringes of The Fringe

Humanity is fickle, wayward, self-serving.  It is also “best” when it is vibrantly alive, growing, positive.

I stumbled across a formal statement of optimism to guide my writing this week.  “The Human Wave of Science Fiction” (re-blogged yesterday – the original blog entry by Sarah Hoyt is nearly two years old, relevant as ever, and well worth gaining a new round of “eyes” PLUS continuing commentary).  I’m not only on-board with the concepts, I’m reviewing my overall writing output from the last four decades (oh, yes, I have been writing since I was in high school, even before it was “cool”).  I’ve been surfing the Human Wave since before it was formally described, with very few exceptions released to the attention of anyone else.

The choices made have put me in the position of being even more on the fringe of The Fringe than I had fully realized before.

Out here on the fringe of The Fringe, life can be hard and the challenges border upon the overwhelming BUT that does not mean that we humans are going to curl up and lie down to quietly accept the worst.  There is far too much of the BEST yet ahead of us.  Out here, we may not be on the edge of the world, quite, but we can see it from here.  On the better days, we can even see beyond the edge and speculate just what those visions may bring for our future.

The past of humanity has given us tools.  How we apply those tools to create our futures says a great deal about us as a species.  How WE apply the tools our tools create on our individual scale can make or break our individual destinies.  Those applications can also influence the efforts of others around us.

Small-scale case in point:  Internet “cute” animal videos and the directly-related Stupid Human Trick accounts.  I can choose to ignore both categories — they will still be there, and people will still seek them out, create new examples, and make themselves some tinier bit happy.  I can share the links or direct copies to a carefully selected circle of friends and acquaintances, with or maybe without additional commentary.  I can comment on their existence WITHOUT actually linking or forwarding (hello?  doing so Right Now).

I can and have done all of those things in some measure even without the Interwebz to use as a tool, since well back in school (early book report on a Walter Farley title, If I Recall Correctly – IIRC).

As long as I refrain from obsessing on the darn things, I enjoy them well enough.  Both categories bring a smile, a laugh, an outrage, or perhaps some moment of contemplation from time to time.  Stupid Human Trick examples occasionally reinforce thoughts that the gene pool needs more bleach, but can also lead me to think seriously about the role of common sense, reconsider safety factors, or ponder the possible when creating the next “impossible” obstacle for the characters in my fiction.  My Curmudgeon-in-Training status also needs occasional weed-and-feed, of course…

Ten thousand.  A recurring figure in my thoughts over the years has been the consideration of that figure in various combinations and as applied to planning an assortment of story concepts.  Right now, expressed as dollars, a figure not immediately obtainable.  Expressed as mileage, more than I have driven an automobile in the last year AND approximately how far I would like to journey on my next “real” vacation.  Stated as a target, the number of book copies under my name where I will perhaps completely believe that I have “made it” as an author.  (Hey, I have a start already … hmmm, where did I stash that last statement from www.lulu.com?)

I’m pretty certain where I first derived the number from.  Ten thousand adult humans of child-rearing age has been at one time or another used as the “minimum” human population to sustain a colony without further contact by the originating civilization, given certain other factors.  No, I can’t be certain where I first found the concept.  Probably a good bet to blame Robert A. Heinlein or some other of his contemporaries.  Could have as easily been something out of Shute’s thoroughly NON-HumanWave novel (and movie adaptation) ON THE BEACH.

Without regard to the actual source, the figure of 10,000 has become part and parcel of the poems and stories that I have and continue to create.  Applying it to these current thoughts, out here on The Fringe trying to keep ten thousand of anything can be a challenge.  As of last night’s 10PM news local news broadcast, 10,000 rounds of .22 ammunition might just be worth their weight in gold to the right buyer (empty shelves in the local big-box retail outlets).  In a mega-disaster scenario, that same amount — gold or ammo — might become a death sentence OR it could be the seed of salvation for a person, a family, a community struggling to survive.

I prefer to explore the potential of the seeds and grow the community.

Humanity as a collective entity is straining at the boundaries of this birth-place.  A few of us have managed to step outside the boundaries for a few moments, only to return because of limitations and frailties.  Frailty of physical survival, first-generation equipment, national economics and resolve all contributed to our failure — so far — to follow through on the promises our fiction had provided.

We never completely abandoned our collective dreams, however, at least not out here on The Fringe.  We still write our stories, our poetry, our songs.  We share what we write with others, of our own and our future generations.  We struggle on, doing what we can to keep the fires burning even while the barbarians outside the gates of our sanctuaries seek to deny us fuel to burn or the energy to tend the lamps and braziers.

We also cheer every time a new player succeeds in joining the growing “club” of those with proven equipment for reaching orbit, or surviving extended periods of time in isolation, or even getting us one step closer to making impossible technology an everyday tool.  Consider 3D printing for a moment:  mayhap still primitive, but the process sure looks a  LOT  like Star Trek — and similar other SF thinking — predicted the possible, with “the replicator”.  Still in early prototype testing for something like pizza in space, specialty companies are already applying 3D print tech to produce chocolate confections practically impossible to create using older (manual) methods.

Ten thousand.  Expressed as hours, using the currently-“standard” 40-hour working week, that’s right at five YEARS on-the-job for most workers.  (Two-and-a-half for crazy writer-types on a mission…)  All too many of the best and brightest currently working have no way to be certain they will even have the same employer in five years.  It is a dead-even bet at best that they will not have the same duties and expectations within their job as they do today, with the primary exclusion of those on the more “menial” end of the scale (and even the janitor and waitstaff are finding the technology explosion changing the way they work).

A common employment interview question these past twenty years or so has been “Where do you see yourself in our company in five years?”  There are suggested ways to answer the question provided by employment counselors.  I submit that most of those ways no longer have relevancy to the real world.  I would like to propose a Human Wave answer:

I don’t know, but I intend to make the most of whatever I’m given to do in the course of that time.  I have the skills and experience the company is looking for now.  I have the will and the knowledge to build upon those and build toward that future, and the flexibility to adapt when the tools and expectations change.

Don’t know about all of you who may read these words, but I will close today’s examination with a request.  Go find a copy of the last Calvin & Hobbes comic strip.  Doesn’t matter if you have never read one before, and I don’t care if you don’t like comics.  The words are what matter most on this one.  I’ll expand by at least partial paraphrase.  It is a great big UNIVERSE out there.

Watterson got it right.

“Let’s go exploring!”

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What is Human Wave Science Fiction

OK, so I am (officially/openly) coming late to the party with this re-blog, but I fully intend to catch The Human Wave with my fiction whenever possible!

According To Hoyt

This is a manifesto.  I’m not sure what we’re manifesting, but it’s probably destiny.  Or density.  When you’re dyslexic, it can get confusing.  But in any case we’re manifesting something and it’s a patent manifestation.

The proximate reason for this is my post – here.  Or in other words, it’s another fine mess my mouth got us into.  (Okay, my typing fingers.  If you’re going to be nitpicky, you’re right out of the club.)

The purpose of this is to create a new “idea” in science fiction, a new way to look at the genre.  Properly observed (and I’ve observed it) I think the genre should be a way to play with possible futures, with possible outcomes, with possible ideas.  The wonder of science fiction lays in the open possibility.

When we have the list of what we’re sort of aiming for, we can start getting people who “subscribe”…

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Art & Craft of Writing: Using Maps And Games

(A prior, simpler version of this article appeared as a reply to a thread [on using maps in the writing / marketing process] in the writer’s forums on How To Think Sideways)

I’ve been a wargamer almost as long as I have been a writer, and have been creating scenarios or adapting published material to game systems pretty much since Day One. Ergo, I have quite a number of odd bits available when I want to haul in a working-space for my story characters — and have dealt with some really creative game rules for approximating 3-D line-of-sight using a 2-D map for the playing surface (the FASA BATTLETECH system has been my fall-back there, although the earlier methods of the Avalon Hill SQUAD LEADER game system appeal to others of my acquaintance). This can be a real help when checking LOS (line-of-sight) for story continuity and visualization.

I find that it helps some people to use hexagonal grids instead of the commonly-available square-grid graph paper when creating or interpreting maps, but that may be an anomalous personal bias of mine showing. With either of those aids, or several other possibilities, it can help to find or make a (semi-)transparent overlay that can be laid on top of any printed or created map. This provides an immediate visual scale that can be simpler to read than measurements acquired by repeatedly moving a ruler. Transparency sheets (like those used with overhead projectors) allow for marking up a map without damaging the original; with a little practice, this concept can be used to show damage effects, terrain additions (where DID that parking garage go up?), temporary structures / “placed” equipment, etc.

The concepts of Frontage, Depth-of-Ranks, and March Times I learned in gaming translated well to my own writing, and may help in “feeling” / visualizing the relationship of map to real- / created- world:

Frontage:
Frontage is not just how wide a person or vehicle or critter is, but how much width of passage they need to function at a given rate of effectiveness for a desired activity — movement, hold-the-line defense, active fighting, et cetera. Frex, that five-foot hallway can be run through if “empty”, but add just one console table and a big guy may have to slow and sidle past (or smash the furniture accidentally while fighting).

Depth-of-Ranks or alternately Formations:
People and objects are three-dimensional at the least, and that includes length as well as width! A covey of quail, a homecoming parade, or an army on the march all take an amount of time to pass by any given reference point. If for some reason the moving group stops, it still has an area-of-coverage greater than the sum of the individuals making up the group. Think for a moment about a marching band. Unless there are VERY careful rehearsals and practice involved, each band member is separated from all those nearest by a minimum of an arm’s-length, or (roughly) one pace.

To further complicate our writing and gaming lives, movement is required — both physically and in terms of position-over-time — to shift from normal marching into any selected formation, either for static (“motion-less”) position or relative to allies, enemies, and features yet still in motion.

One Special-Case class of examples in military formations is any infantry unit maximizing defense through use of shields. “Special” here also involves nomenclature: a Testudo is not a Schiltron, and neither of those is a simple Shield-Wall… and all three have cultural variations. These (and most other) formations require varying amounts of acreage depending upon current circumstances as well. Each has benefits, each has limitations, and each has failed spectacularly when faced with advances in tactics or technology. (Massed archery or gunnery, and area-effect weaponry, being the death of most close-quarter formations at one time or another…)

The classical Phalanx is a fourth often-used description for shield- and spear- / pike- intensive infantry formations, and is perhaps the one most often MIS-used or simply misunderstood. Any discussion of the phalanx is further complicated by placement in history: a phalanx in the army of Alexander the Great at the time of his death was different in composition from that of the Athenians a mere three or four generations earlier, and both were different still from the Greek phalanx that would face Roman legions a few generations afterward, and NONE of those really relate to any modern (20th-century or later) military unit, although usage might make us want to believe otherwise.

The basic phalanx CONCEPT was little changed for at least two millennia, however: a mass of men arranged in a rectangular formation, all carrying a spear or spear-like primary weapon and usually also armed with a secondary (dagger / knife / short sword / etc.). Later descriptions indicate some specialization in the ranks: first rank shield, spear, and short secondary weapon; second rank shield and medium-length weapons (or “choked-up” longer ones), third and fourth ranks pike or other long weapons, sometimes without shields. Additional ranks were usually added up to a depth of eight or more, and a minimum front of ten men, usually more. A “true” Phalanx was seldom less than a hundred soldiers in number, although the more common camp & march unit was based upon the file (column or sometimes pair of columns within the deployed phalanx). Some of my sources are loathe to give the title of Phalanx to any formation of less than five hundred or so…

A convoy of vehicles has a minimum-safe separation distance that increases with speed (if you have been through Driver’s Ed or similar learning experience, remember the discussions about reaction time required to brake to a complete stop?), but ALSO typically has a minimum separation distance when parked in a line. That separation should be enough for crew and passengers to move between convoy elements without crawling through / over / under. There may be special circumstances where the minimum separation is reduced or eliminated due to any of several factors. These include but are not limited to providing cover to dismounted forces (use of vehicles as a temporary fortification, a la “Circle The Wagons!”, whether stationary or on-the-move), reducing threat from dismounted opposition, temporary fencing for herds, etc.

March Times: individual or group, living or mechanical (or other), humans assume that it takes some amount of time to move from Point A to Destination B. (Even with teleportation, Glinda – havta at least think about destination / initiate the transfer, after all!) In the simplest cases, this is a straightforward calculation. At a slightly more complex level, add in meal-times / fuel stops / potty-breaks. For any journey requiring more than the normal amount of time between two meals, it is best to include deliberately-scheduled rest time(s) and other possible fatigue factors.

The astute writer also does a little research into the perils of forced-march and subsequent effects upon performance of not only people and animals but also machinery not given extra maintenance attention.

* = * = * = *

(YES, I do happen to also design or expand / correct the rules for games in an attempt to make the experience more realistic. There is a balancing act involved quite simple to exposition in a given story, where too much detail detracts from enjoyment of the experience. I also happen to sharpen knives, swords – and wits…)

Five Rules For Internet War — if you absolutely must

Sarah Hoyt can be a hoot-and-a-half. She can also be astute, serious, and well-worthwhile to read as a blogger. (With apologies to the lady, I am far less familiar with her actual fiction output – a situation I fully intend to rectify as soon as funds allow, I assure every one of you!)

I will add somewhat to the sub-rules for InternetWar orbital strikes: apply so much of Baker’s Drugs as you have at your disposal when needed. (Ah, you don’t know about Baker’s Drugs? Those are the tactical decisions that, when made at just the right time, absolutely astound your opponents and may or may not actually accomplish the intended result — but whatever they do accomplish will be notable for style, lack of style, or absoposilutely one-hundred-percent panache.)

According To Hoyt

Now, I’ll admit that I have rarely felt a need to go to war with someone on the internet personally – at least unprovoked.  I have once started a war unwittingly, by linking someone who was being as Georgette Heyer would say “foolish beyond permission.”  This is known around here I think as “the incident of the very pampered non-fic writer and her insane groupies.”

Most of the time, though, when I have something to say, I have something to say about ideas, not the person in particular.  And since the ideas are usually stupid enough on their own, I don’t link the source – though I or my fans have been known to clue others on how to find it.  This usually avoids counterstrikes, because the originators of the annoying ideas either don’t feel a personal incentive to counter attack, or they don’t recognize the ideas as their own. …

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The Semantics of Naming Genres For Books (and other things)

A Curmudgeon-In-Training Rant: cf. http://curtisagency.com/blog/about#comment-9784

INCOMPLETE / WORK-IN-PROGRESS

OK, so Richard J. Wilson asked on a publisher’s WordPress-maintained blog (and had received no visible response after MONTHS…):

Can someone please define these terms: “commercial” fiction; “mainstream” fiction; “upscale” fiction; “literary” fiction; “steam punk” fiction. Thank you!

 My immediate reply said in part:

The first four genre-indicators you list are essentially variations upon the same theme, and may apply at one point or another in the lifespan of any given book with equal degree of squishiness / accuracy (or failure to achieve direct semantic meaning when examined in isolation).  The first three in particular are more-or-less semantically null: a book falls into those because the publisher or a critic says that it does.  “Literary” is a bit more of a stretch, and often indicates something with a high degree of acceptance by critics and perhaps academia, but often lacks true market penetration with the majority of readers (at least within the year or two after initial release).  _Valley of the Dolls_ might be one example of a novel spanning all four categories within my lifetime (and I’m still short of six full decades as I write this).

Steampunk is actually the most descriptive out of the five, and also perhaps simultaneously restrictive and free-wheeling.  The most simplistic definition of steampunk is as a subgenre of science fiction (and fantasy) where technology has advanced or otherwise exists in combinations not seen in the “real” world.  From TV and film, approachable examples can be “Wild Wild West”, “Briscoe County Junior”, and “Back to the Future III”.  In books and derived works, the ancestors of steampunk include Captain Nemo (Jules Verne), the Traveller (H.G. Wells “Time Machine”), and Anthony “Buck” Rogers (Nowlan – yes, a novel came before the film serials, comic strips, and more recent TV series).

So here, in an initial form, is the Curmudgeon-In-Training’s long-form response defining some uses of “genre” in categorizing literary works:

Ground rules up front – what follows is MY opinion.  That opinion is based upon more than a half-century as a reader, and may in some ways contradict your own.  Almost certainly things I opine here will be at odds with one publisher, or academic, or critic, or any other individual who reads.  However, my blog = my rules.  (Grumpiness number one established.  Yay.)

OK, with that basic precept / (hopeful) understanding established, here’s the next biggie:  as long as my stories are getting sold, I don’t give much of a rat’s behind what some scholar in academia or critic hiding behind their position’s title might say, at least as far as I am accorded the right of defense AND (gosh-darn-it-all-to-heck) real and intelligent debate upon our differences.

Going for the third leg of the tripod:  genre definitions inherently begin with a value judgment as to the veracity of the work being defined by the genre. Is it a work of fiction? Is it a poetic examination? Is it NON-fiction? (Yes, there are cross-overs and cross-pollinations and cross-ups out there in the wilds of the “real” world. Live with them. I will attempt to recognize them in the chart/outline when we get there, but remember always that I never claim this to be THE definitive work on this subject. It will go further than the most simplistic basics, however.)

Batter up!  OK, yet, mixed metaphor alert should also be issued.  If I am going to batter at the gates of the literary castles out there, I’m bringing siege equipment to bear upon the task, including shovels to clear away the batter. (Some research may be needed on your part to follow portions of the preceding sentence — have fun storming the castle!…)

Definitions Before Definitions:  Topicality versus “True” Genre

Publishers have traditionally (mis-)used genre to such an extent that the term is indeed rather fuzzy around the edges.  My working Rule of Thumb is to differentiate Genre from Topic.  Genre is hereby decreed to cover a range of topics that have some (RATIONAL) commonality.  Sub-genre is often determined as restrictive to a narrow range of topics.

By way of example, consider the Fiction:Young Adult genre.  One traditional sub-genre of Young Adult popular in my own youth  was Animal Stories, which were further distinguished by topic as Horse Stories, Dog Stories, and the like.  In more recent years, a substantial subgenre of Fiction:Mystery has grown up around Cat Mysteries.

Generally recognized sub-genre in Fiction:Romance may be complicated about as far as any other of the top-tier genre can be.  Consider for the moment a romance set on an alien planet among the survivors of a crashed starship, who have the uncomfortable additional complication of developing psychic abilities due to contamination of the water supply.  Is it Science Fiction, Paranormal, Survival, or Eco-Disaster – or simply Romance in a strange setting?  Pity the traditional publishing assistant trying to market this one!

Genre:  The Essential short-List

  • Fiction
  • NON-Fiction
  • Poetry
  • Games/Simulations AKA Participative / Interactive Entertainment

That’s it.  Oh, you wanted more?  Therein lieth the rub.  You get as much out as you put in, and in this case that REALLY requires some skull-sweat on both our parts.

Also, here is as good a place as any to handle “and other things” from the title of this blog entry. “Media” has become another of those over-used conflated words that it really does yield results for us to peel back a few layers from every now and then. Every form of information presentation in a recorded and reproducible form goes into making up “THE MEDIA” — at least when it comes time to try and define genre. Whether a given tale is being related by written words or full-immersion VR, the story will at some point be categorized as existing within the context of one or more genre. I can read an adaptation of any entry in the Indiana Jones movie franchise or I can watch the films. I can do the opposite with Harry Potter, where the books existed first and independently of the cinematic productions. Likewise for The Avengers, or Superman, or One Piece (the last is anime-related, just in case your personal viewing habits aren’t the same as mine).

To maintain our rationality, and occasionally to challenge it, humans tend to categorize the disparate elements of the world we live in as we build up our cognitive understanding of that world. This happens on both individual and group levels, At the least, perhaps at the best, the practice tends to improve not only understanding but the communication of our individual understanding to others we come in contact with. Categorization reduced to memes begets genre. Or such is MY understanding.

Genre Within Super-Categories

I like outlines when dealing with multiple levels of description.  Blame my high school teachers who taught me how to use The Outline as a tool and not something to be feared.  Therefore, we are going to extend the definitions above as bullets-in-outline warrant doing so.  (I’ll keep these as visually consistent as I can, within the limitations of the HTML implementation I’m using to generate this blogpost.)

  • Semantic-Null Market Definition (Publishers / Critics) Gradations

See above, in my initial response to Richard.   “commercial”, “mainstream”, “upscale”, “literary” and – sometimes – “non-genre” all tend to blend in and out, mutable marketing terms in the main.  “Literary” is perhaps the one item in the list that is most often MIS-used, particularly when applied to works that haven’t yet been released to the general reading public. In my most curmudgeonly moments, I would advocate reserving Fiction:Literary to works that have remained in print (or return to print regularly) for at least 25 years, or whose authors are deceased and still continue to be reprinted, and / or can truly be described as “timeless”. Note further that I am very well aware that this definition is in serious need of refinement for the new reality of electronically-published works.

  1. Fiction (general catch-all heading)
  2. Fiction:Children’s
  3. Topics and sub-topics within Children’s Fiction generally are over-shadowed by intended age of the reader and intent of the writer. Much that is written for children has a substantial educational purpose above and beyond entertainment for entertainment’s sake, but not all. Bless Dr. Seuss for now and forever! Theodore Geisl got it right, and brought back silly for the child in all of us…

  4. Fiction:Young Adult
  5. Fiction:Young Adult:By SubGenre/Topic
    • Fiction:YoungAdult:Adventure
    • Fiction:YoungAdult:Animal (may be better described as Animal-Centric: Lassie, Flicka, Black Beauty, Flipper, etc.)
    • Fiction:YoungAdult:Teen Angst (High School / College Life)
    • Fiction:YoungAdult:Mystery/Thriller (including series such as Nancy Drew, Hardy Boys, Rick Brandt, etc.)
    • Fiction:YoungAdult:Vocational (a [dated] series example is Cherry Ames: [whatever] Nurse)
    • Fiction:YoungAdult:Fantasy (e.g. Harry Potter, )
    • Fiction:YoungAdult:Science Fiction ([dated] example Have Spacesuit, Will Travel)
    • Fiction:YoungAdult:Paranormal
  6. Fiction:Young Adult:Media-Driven
  7. Fiction:Science Fiction
    • Fiction:Science Fiction:Space Opera
    • Fiction:Science Fiction:Alternate Reality
    • Fiction:Science Fiction:Apocalyptic
    • Fiction:Science Fiction:Post-Apocalyptic
    • Fiction:Science Fiction:Media-Driven
    • Fiction:Science Fiction:Military
    • Fiction:Science Fiction:Science Fantasy
    • Fiction:Science Fiction:Slipstream
    • Fiction:Science Fiction:Steampunk
    • Fiction:Science Fiction:Sociological/Political

    and so forth… Science Fiction as a genre has been under attack of one form or another since the genre was developed.  Often conflated with “pure” Fantasy even by the practitioners in the field, there has been some push from time to time to use “Speculative” fiction to describe the combination — a somewhat misleading term, as ALL fiction is in some fashion speculative.

  8. Fiction:Adventure AKA Men’s Adventure (significant subgenre by topic exist)
  9. Fiction:Mystery
  10. Fiction:Nautical
  11. Fiction:Nautical:Pre-Napoleonic
  12. Fiction:Nautical:Napoleonic
  13. Fiction:Nautical:Other Historical
  14. Fiction:Alternate History
  15. Fiction:Western (“Horse Opera”)
  16. Fiction:Romance
  17. Fiction:Horror
  18. Fiction:Fantasy
  19. Fiction:Thriller
  20. Fiction:Thriller:Techno-thriller
  21. NON-Fiction
  22. NON-Fiction:Journals, Memoirs,  and Auto-biography
  23. NON-Fiction:Biography
  24. NON-Fiction:Erotica
  25. NON-Fiction:History
  26. NON-Fiction:Science
  27. NON-Fiction:Religion
  28. NON-Fiction:Textbooks and Instructional Materials
  29. NON-Fiction:Commentary And Criticism
  30. Poetry
  31. Poetry:Lyrics
  32. Poetry:Epic
  33. Poetry:NonRhyming

Emerging Trends In Writing — The Downside Of Drivel

I’ll probably be strung up by my thumbs, figuratively, if Certain People ever actually read this particular rant.  However, I have opinions.  Strong ones.  Sometimes I even express them in written form, as opposed to simply shouting them into an empty well…

I don’t like bullies.  Never have, never will.  Does not matter one bit in the slightest whether it is a matter of brute force physicality or sharp-witted intellectualism.  Bullying is bullying, regardless.  Along the way, this attitude gets me in trouble.  That falls into place along with my other sterling quality of an inability to resist pointing out that the truth is other than some nitwit might be claiming.  “Flamewars”, “Blog Battles”, and the not-so-honorable art of “Trolling” in forums, boards, or newsgroups all — I repeat with emphasis ALL — deserve to be held up to the real light of honest truth and discarded as “not worth my time”.  Will they be?  Unfortunately for all of us online, not very damn likely.  Among other reasons that I propose they must continue is that we must each and separately aggressively preserve our rights to freedom of expression.  Ignoring the ignorant and the deliberately, willfully erroneous just is not where my heart lies in the fight for Truth.

Hmmmm.  Truth.  Sticky concept there.  There are self-evident Truths out there.  Trust me that this is indeed so.  Whether they are necessarily the same for you, me, or any other individual remains an unprovable position as long as we continue to operate under our current universe’s rules for proof and refutation.  What is preference for me and others born into my birth-culture may be utterly foreign to others of my species and race born into a different culture, sometimes even though both may express adherence to the same standards of morality and (substantially) similar religious teachings.  A third culture on the same spectrum may take those preferences and make them essentials of civilized behavior, treat them as self-evident law, and severely punish any who would choose a different manner of expressing the tenets.  Horrid and reprehensible wars have been fought for all of recorded history over just such differences.  We should expect more of modern human society, warts-and-all interconnected as we may be on some frighteningly final levels?  (Nuclear Armageddon is NOT anyone’s friend.  Global Winter may play favorites, but it still kinda ruins the day of the vast majority of the planet’s currently viable biomes.)

“Politically Correct” had a time and a place in polite conversation.  The egregious overuse of the term, the certitudes, and the mindset have all contributed to a distinct and urgent need to kick all three to the curb with vim, vigor, and carefully-applied velocity.  YES, with politeness too.  Politically Correct changes to the way we write have taken hold, whether good, bad, or indifferent.  Those changes should not necessarily be abandoned utterly.  It is the combative attitude of “Politically Correct” that has become less than truly polite and has edged far too closely into the thought-policed fringe leading toward Orwellian or Huxleyian dystopias.

There comes a time in the writing of fiction when the writer must choose the degree of verisimilitude to be applied to the “world” being created by the words being set forth to bring the story to life.  (Yes, Virgil and Virginia, this also applies to non-fiction writing of most coherent types I’m ever likely to put my own attentions to…)  For the best of the authors out there, now and in the illustrious (HAH!) past of human literature, the STORY came first, the “real” and desired systems of the non-story world that we live in have nearly always been secondary.  (Yes, even in the midst of a rant I can demonstrate tempering consideration.  Wouldn’t do to ignore Ayn Rand or that Sinclair fellow, among other counter-examples.)  I am encouraged by the extent to which most of my peers seem to understand this.

I am discouraged by the extent to which some of those willing to rant AGAINST the practice have apparently been gaining traction and radicalizing otherwise sane and sober folk through various means.

I write on both sides of the fiction divide for a number of reasons.  Some of those reasons directly relate to my desire to make fiction “better” in some way.  I’ve written about the history of weapons, the historical Bard (and modern descendants of the type), and about how to create more-believable corporeal undead.  My article on the last has even been reprinted (in a paying market, no less!), so at least one editor out there seems to think I can get an idea across.  I also wrote a column on grass-roots activism for a size-rights magazine a decade ago.

Does any of that make a difference when I sit down to write a fictional account of the next apocalypse to threaten human extinction?  Well, maybe a little — my zombioid critters may not have active mentality, but they also Make A MESS as they thrash across the story-scape, and the human survivors facing them don’t suddenly all have swords available to lop off the squishy bits.  Does my understanding and background mean that any of the human survivors will be anguishing over whether or not their gender/sex role choices are the “right” ones?  Not likely, unless / until they have some time to relax and think about anything beyond personal and perhaps racial survival.

Does my emerging culture of survivors care (much) what the remaining technologically-blessed enclaves are opining about politics in blogs written on the pitiful remnants of the Interwebsnet they have managed to keep running while the rest of the civilized world collapses into howling chaos?  Not likely, at least not until it makes a difference to  personal / species survival for the band of “winners” who crawl out of the chaos into the too-temporary safety of an enclave.

Does religion make a difference to any of the survivors?  Probably, but I haven’t gotten that far in the creation of the alternate universe this set of stories will occupy.  Hey, wow, I only started writing this particular storyline three days ago.  Give me SOME time to consider what the stories need, what I need for the stories, and what my erstwhile readership wants.  Will the type of post-apocalypse government forms make a difference?  Far more likely, BUT the functions and types of government the survivors will tolerate are going to be driven by the needs of my story.  They will not be bent to the expectations of any external body.  There may be some consideration of outsider opinion on the way to publication, but that consideration will be separate from the form and choices of MY ORIGINAL story.

I’m betting on more physical and immediate survival as driving the characters that will be most interesting here, those who will be living through their unexpected descent into nightmarish conditions.  The “Politically Correct” elements will go hang on a meat-hook in the corner for now.  They don’t contribute to surviving the next night’s challenges.

Does that make me less of a (insert genre tag here) writer?  Well, as long as the genre isn’t “Women’s Fiction”, “Politically Correct”, or “Message Fiction”, I Do Not Think So.

February 11, 2014CE – Implications of Fighting Back

There is an organized movement opposing mass surveillance of Internet and other electronically-exchanged information sources.  The organizers have chosen 11FEB2014CE as the day for a mass observance and general resistance point.  (Link follows, after some commentary on my part.)

I’ve yet to decide a more formal stance for myself – I tend toward “Not on your tintype!”, but there is such a thing as too little regard for evil in the world.  Be very very certain that I class terrorism as evil, be it on the scale of bullying one person or forcing a commercial jet to impact an occupied skyscraper.

Fighting back for me takes nearly as many forms in the long run.  “Fat jokes” aren’t a safe refuge for bullying if I’m in the neighborhood.  Neither are gay jokes, Scouting jokes, ethnic jokes, or geek jokes.  Plenty more “target” jokes that will get me riled up, and some of those even if the joke-spouter is targeting themselves.   I may laugh.  I may cry.  I may even repeat the joke later (AdAPOLOGIESvance, not perfect here) – but only after re-consideration.  Is the joke a deliberate attack?  Is it mean-ness for the sake of being mean?

OR is the joke a sharing, a commiseration with the human plight we share with the target?  Deprecative humor does have a role in establishing community.  My contention here is that it should not be used to tear apart what is still being built.

Government agencies by their past actions very seldom receive the same level of defense from me.  There are good men and women working to keep us safe however, yet all too often they find themselves at odds with the procedures and policies of the agencies which employ them.

In the interest of fairness, I’ll make this declaration —  NSA / FBI / CIA / whatever other alphabet-soup agency is out there from whichever government, group, or corporation:  you have full permission to kiss my rear repeatedly and with relish.  When/if you choose to try and do more than that, or your assorted lackeys seek to make a profit off the act, remember my words and the actions I have used in the past and hereby pledge to use in the future.

To paraphrase a few recent cultural icons, you really do not want to make me angry.  I bite back when bitten.  As the little guy in the fight, I’m also likely to show only as much restraint as it seems to take so I won’t inadvertently damage bystanders (and even then, I’ll weigh the cost of collateral damage as much after the fact as before, particularly if you rush my thinking too much).

And for all of that and quite a solid bit more I will make NO apology.

https://thedaywefightback.org/