These past few months I have said, as bad as he is, Donald Trump would probably make a less worse President than Ted Cruz. But given the events of this weekend, I don’t think that anymore.

Donald Trump is genuinely dangerous. He is emotionally unstable. He feeds on this violence and chaos like a vampire, and then bald-facedly denies it when he is pressed on it. He will actually sit there on television and say he does not condone violence, when he has said at his rallies that he would like to “punch [a protestor] in the face.” That he would like to see them “taken out on stretchers.” He has offered to pay the legal bills of any of his supporters who are charged with assaulting protestors. (Of course, he actually won’t if it comes to it, because he is a coward and a liar.) And then he has the nerve to be interviewed on live TV and say he disavows violence. It’s one of two things — either he is so emotionally erratic he doesn’t realize what he is saying when he makes these threats, and so denies them with a clear conscience, because his hold on reality is so slim. Or else he is a stone-cold pathological liar.

Doanld Trump has no character. He has no internal moral compass. He says or does whatever will make him look good or feel good or aggrandize himself at any given moment. This has been obvious to me from the start. He doesn’t have any grand scheme. He’s just playing things along. He responds to stimuli directly in front of him, like an amoeba.

Ted Cruz, as creepy and awful as he is, at least is not emotionally unstable. We know what he is, a Christian Dominionist. We know what he wants to do, turn the US into a theocracy, with a Christian version of sharia law. At least he is predictable. We have an idea of how he will govern, and can plan accordingly.

Ted Cruz also, as far as I know, is the only other Republican candidate who has chastised Trump for fomenting violence. This doesn’t happen at any one else’s rallies, he said, not mine, not Marco’s, not Hillary’s or Bernie’s. So some props to him. He isn’t a complete psycho after all. Maybe only 90 percent psycho. Or at least, he knows if you play with fire you are going to get burned.

There is no telling what Trump will do if he gains the Oval Office. Can you imagine this thin-skinned bully with the nuclear launch codes? He’ll be like General Bat Guano in the movie Dr. Strangelove. If Kim Jong Un makes fun of his short fingers, he is liable to start World War Three. He is a danger to the country and the world.

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“Dances with Noble Savages” and the Origin of this Hoary Old Meme.

So I was hanging out at my friend Dennis’s and we were watching some old movie on TCM, something about the Boxer Rebellion in China I think, one of those crappy movies from before the era of political correctness (or even common sense) full of white people playing fake Asians.  Yellowface.  Ugh, that’s the worst.  So we were talking about Asian themed films and Dennis asked us, “Did you see THE LAST SAMURAI?”

Yes, we’ve seen it (my husband and I, not the royal we here).  It was a beautiful movie — every scene was perfectly composed and gorgeous.  “But,” I said, “it was that same old story, the civilized white man goes and lives with the native people and absorbs their simple native wisdom and becomes their hero.  DANCES WITH SAMURAI.  God, why do we keep telling that story?  The ancient Romans probably had stories about centurions going over the wall and becoming one with the Gauls. That story is decrepit!  Why do we keep telling it?”

Well, I think I’ve figured it out.  Maybe this was obvious to everyone and I was just being monumentally obtuse, but I think I figured it out, on Saturday night when I was watching another movie: EXODUS: GODS AND KINGS.

Yeah, Moses.  Moses is the archetype of this story.

You know the story I’m talking about.  It has shown up endlessly in big-budget Hollywood films in the last couple decades — most notably, DANCES WITH WOLVES and AVATAR, but also THE LAST SAMURAI and a horde of lesser imitators.  I haven’t seen it, but people tell me Disney’s POCAHONTAS is the same story.

A disenchanted white man leaves civilization and goes into the wilderness, hoping to find .. something  — peace or surcease or a way to forget his troubles.  Sam Worthington in AVATAR is literally trying to leave his crippled body behind with a Na’vi avatar.  Same idea though.

And in the wilderness, he discovers the native people, and becomes enamored of them.  He lives among them and studies their ways, which are so much more authentic and meaningful than those of his own decadent civilization.  He falls in love with a native woman – usually the chief’s daughter, of course.  He becomes one of them, these noble savages.  But more than that, the becomes the best of them, their leader, their prophet, because of the synthesis of his civilized sensibility with the humble wisdom of the natives.  Toruk Makto.  The chosen one.  (Can you tell how fucking sick I am of this storyline?)

So, Moses.  Think about it.  Moses was a prince of Egypt, the most civilized, the greatest nation on earth at that time (and for thousands of years.)  But he renounced his princedom and went to live with the desert nomads, the Hebrews, the slaves.  The noble primitives.  He lives as one of them, takes a wife from among them, has children that he raises as Hebrew.  But, with this “Mighty Whitey” trope as they call it on TV Tropes, he is, as described, the best of them, the very Prophet of God.

And he leads his people against impossible odds into battle with their enemies, the Egyptians, who hold the Hebrews in slavery.  This time it’s mostly a spiritual battle, with the plagues and all, but it’s still a battle.  And wonder of wonders, he wins, and leads his people to the Promised Land.

Do you see it?  It’s so obvious to me now, I can’t believe I never noticed it before.

So clearly, this is one of the root stories in Western civilization.  No wonder we keep retelling it.

But in the modern telling, we have subverted this trope, and not necessarily in a good way.  In the Moses story, the tale is really about the Hebrews; it is their origin story.  Moses comes to deliver them.  The slaves are freed from Egypt and given the Law and the covenant at Mount Sinai.

But in the modern American versions of this story, the people come to save the hero.  The civilized man is purified and uplifted by his adoption by the natives.  Kevin Costner escapes the trauma of the Civil War among the Lakota.  Sam Worthington’s consciousness is actually transferred into a Na’vi body in AVATAR.  The story is about his salvation, not the people’s.  Kevin Costner can’t save the Lakota in DANCES WITH WOLVES.  No one can.  But they save him.  Tom Cruise resolves his alcoholism and his PTSD while living with Japanese samurai — it”s he who is the Last Samurai, not Ken Watanabe or any, you know, actual Japanese person.

The protagonists of these movies undertake the Hero’s Journey into the “special world” of the native people, and they do the usual Hero’s Journey things, overcoming challenges, acquiring allies, facing their great ordeal.  But at the end, they don’t go back to their “ordinary world” (Western culture)  with the wisdom and the skills they have learned.  No, instead they stay chilling with the native people and their required native honey in the Special World, having abandoned their home, and thus failing in the whole basic task of the Hero’s Journey.

It’s the same story as the Moses narrative, but the emphasis is changed.  The emphasis is on the individual, not the people, on his personal salvation, not the benefit of the community.

So it becomes a tale of self-indulgence and white privilege, not heroic sacrifice, and that is probably why I dislike it so much.  That people in Hollywood feel the need to compulsively retell this bastardized version of this story is not a good thing.  I suppose you could just attribute it to laziness and sloppy storytelling, but I think it’s deeper than that.  Obviously we feel the need to purge ourselves of the corruptions of modern, Western, industrialized society.  And rightly so.  But we’re doing it in these stories by co-opting the lifeways of indigenous, often oppressed people — even if they are imaginary ones, like the Na’vi in AVATAR.  That is wrong, and it won’t give us what we need.  No hero lives forever in his private Idaho.  The hero has to come back, else the quest has failed.

I guess modern culture is what you get when the hero fails in his quest.  That would explain a lot.

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What To Write Next?

I’m wondering what course I should take next to advance my writing, hm, project? I can’t really call it a career, as I don’t work at it full time and it earns me little money.  Maybe one day.  But the question now is, which of the several things in front of me should I do?  Well, of course, I need to do them all, but which should I do first?  Which would most benefit me at this time?

Here they are:

  • Atlantis novel — publish.  My Atlantis novel is complete and I have done my own editing of it.  I’d say it’s on the fourth draft by now.  I would like to indie-publish it as an ebook, just to have done it.  It needs a copy-edit, a cover, formatting, etc.  This would be the obvious next step, but as written I find myself strangely afraid of it.
  • Write some short stories — selling the first Steve McCray story to Dirty Magick: New Orleans has interested me in writing short fiction again.  Urban fantasy was not previously my thing, but that story practically wrote itself.  I already have a second — no, a third! — one in the works.  And I have a few partial stories from before Katrina that I should complete.
  • Grandmother Theory for Baen Books — I have a hard science fiction story, “The Grandmother Theory,” that would be a good fit for the Baen Books Jim Baen Memorial Award.  It needs to be shortened slightly and could use a polish. The contest opens on October 1st.
  • Get back to Lion of the Dawn — I could get back into writing the first draft of my follow-on to my Atlantis novel, which I am calling The Lion of the Dawn for now.  This was my Nanowrimo effort two years ago and I’ve got about 60,000 words.  It has a LONG way to go, though.  Really epic.  I may split it up into two books in the end.
  • Prep for Nanowrimo — I could spend the next month getting ready to participate in National Novel Writing Month again this year.  Doing Nanowrimo is fun, it’s a special time, and it also gets easier each year — unless something happens like a bad bout of the flu, or your cat’s fatal illness, which are the things that have torpedoed my efforts in the past.  Also a lot of the local genre writer’s community does it every year, so there’s a good hangout scene during the month.  This could either be a continuation of The Lion of the Dawn, or a new effort.  These evening my husband gave me an idea for a Steve McCray novel.  I could write that.

Any of these would be good.  I should do them all, but in what order?

What, in your experience, would be your suggestion?  What should I write next?

UPDATE: I forgot that life has a way of often resolving these questions without your input.  I received an invitation to submit to an anthology with a two-month deadline.  So, that pushes the third Steve McCray story to the top of the list, because it would be a perfect fit for this anthology.  It is started but not yet completed.  Have to finish writing it.  So thus my dilemma is resolved.

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THE CASQUETTE GIRLS by Alys Arden Cover Reveal

Hi, today I’m helping out my local writer buddy Alys Arden by sharing in teh reveal of the new cover to the revised edition of her book, THE CASQUETTE GIRLS.

Here’s the cover, ta-da!

The Casquette Girls

And here’s the dope on the book:

The Casquette Girls by Alys Arden
Published by: Skyscape
Publication date: November 17th 2015
Genres: Paranormal, Young Adult

Synopsis:

After the storm of the century rips apart New Orleans, sixteen-year-old Adele Le Moyne and her father are among the first to return. Adele wants nothing more than to resume her normal life, but with the silent city resembling a war zone, a parish-wide curfew, and mysterious new faces lurking in the abandoned French Quarter, normal needs a new definition.

Strange events—even for New Orleans—lead Adele to an attic that has been sealed for three hundred years. The chaos she accidentally unleashes threatens not only her but also everyone she knows.

Caught in a hurricane of myths and monsters, Adele must untangle a web of magic that weaves the climbing murder rate back to her own ancestors. But who can you trust in a city where everyone has secrets and keeping them can mean life or death? Unless…you’re immortal.

Revised edition: This edition of The Casquette Girls includes editorial revisions.

I’m reading the book now.  It’s hard reading about the aftermath of Katrina (just called “the Storm” in the book) but it’s certainly a dramatic milieu in which to set a story.  You can tell Alys really lived it.  Or, we survivors can.
Here’s Alys:
Alys Arden
AUTHOR BIO:
ALYS ARDEN grew up in the Vieux Carré, cut her teeth on the streets of New York, and has worked all around the world since. She still plans to run away with the circus one day.

www.facebook.com/TheCasquetteGirls
www.thecasquettegirls.com
www.alysarden.com

Hey, if you happen to be attending the Writers for New Orleans Conference this weekend, sat hello to Alys and myself.  We are both attending.  I’ll write more about that later.
Congratulations, Alys, on the new edition of the book, and good luck!

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My Thoughts on the Hugo Puppies Fiasco

I was delighted when I first heard about the results of the Hugo Awards, last Sunday.  But after a several days of reading the reactions within fandom on Twitter and blogs, I just feel kind of sad and tainted.  There’s so much bad blood on both sides.  And the Puppies/Gamergate people tend to be such tiresome, grandiose blowhards, it’s really hard to slog through their shit.  I suppose there could maybe, possibly be something to their view that withholding so many awards is like destroying the Hugos to save them, but I still think this was the best possible outcome of the whole sad affair.

Briefly, if you’re not aware, there were two groups of people, called the Sad Puppies and the Rabid Puppies, who rallied movements to get slates of works that meet their aesthetic and ideological preferences onto the Hugo Award nominating ballot.  The Hugo Award is nominated and voted on by the members of the World Science Fiction Convention, so it is a very inside-baseball, old-school fandom thing, a very small voting group, and it takes a very small number of votes indeed to get nominated, a couple hundred.  The Sad Puppies, led by authors Larry Correia and Brad Torgerson, had the putative stated goal of returning tales that were fun and pulpy to the Hugo ballot — spaceships, lasers, dragonslayers and derring-do.  They felt the Hugos had been “hijacked” in recent years by “the left,” and only rewarded works that were literary, excessively stylistic, and politically correct.

The Sad Puppies have fielded slates for the past couple of years, but only this year were they successful — helped it seems in large part by splinter group the Rabid Puppies, led by absolute piece of human garbage Theodore Beale AKA “Vox Day,” who fielded a slate with a more explicitly racist and chauvinist purpose — to return the White Man to his place of honor on the Hugo award stage.  So, together, the Puppies, campaigning by web and social media, managed to ram their slates of chosen nominees through the balloting process of the Hugos, leading to nominee rosters that were dominated, or in some cases, completely composed of the Puppies nominees.

IO9.com has a pretty good overview of the controversy here.

Leaving the quality of the Puppies’ arguments aside, the real problem I saw here, as a marginal writer and member of fandom, was the process of slate voting.  It is explicitly not against the rules of the Hugo nominations process, but it is certainly against the spirit of them, for the Hugo awards are supposed to represent the critical acclaim of best work by fandom as a whole, not the opinion of a vocal minority.  (The Nebula Awards, by contrast, are voted on by the members of the Science Fiction Writers of America.)  If you can’t win on your own merits, trying to win by rigging the elections is a douchebag move.  It totally corrupts the whole process.  To counter your slate, fans of other writers will have to organize slates of their own, and then the awards would just become another tiresome arena in the “culture wars,” or worse, some kind of high school student body popularity contest.

The Puppies have always vigorously maintained that there already were secret, left-wing cabals drawing up secret slates of nominees and shutting “their” type of authors out of the awards.  But there has never been any real evidence that that is the case.  And even if it were, two wrongs don’t make a right, now do they?  If the Puppies think the “SJWs” (Social Justice Warriors, a charmless term they seem to have co-opted from Gamergate) are so evil and corrupt, how does it behoove them to adopt their tactics?

No, slate voting is bogus and done in bad faith.  And really, anything that follows the lead of Vox Day is nothing I can support.  (The guy wants to strip women of the right to vote.  How could I put any truck in someone who wants to disenfranchise me?)  So in my own mind, I’ve been against the Puppies from the get-go.

That’s why I think the results of the Hugo vote are the best outcome of this whole wretched affair.  The Puppies were soundly thwacked with a rolled-up newspaper.  Far more fans bought a membership in Worldcon than ever had before, and more chose to vote in the Hugos, by a factor of 65 percent.  Any category of award that was wholly dominated by the Puppies slate nominees presented No Award (which has always been a viable Hugo option, by the rules.)  The only real exceptions were the Best Dramatic Presentation awards (film and TV, mostly) — where it was understood by all that the Puppies could have no real influence over the powerful Hollywood types who create those things, and where the winners, Guardians of the Galaxy and Orphan Black, were popular enough and good enough to have been nominated, and won, even without the Puppies.

Awards that had one non-slate nominee went to that work.  Any award that did not have a clearly Puppy-rigged slate seems to have been judged on its own merits.  The Best Novel Award went to The Three-Body Problem, written by Cixin Liu and translated from the Chinese by Ken Liu — the first time a translated work has won that award.  Take that, Puppies!

The Puppies’ gambit was a total failure.  With the increased membership and attention, fandom as a whole stepped up and said, No, you’re not going to game this award.  This is ours and we won’t allow it.  

Recriminations by the Puppies across social media have been intense.  They’re claiming now that this was their plan all along, that this was their victory condition, that No Award proves that the SJWs are totalitarian and McCarthyist.  But I don’t think even they really believe that.  No, this was a defeat, and they have to choke it down.

Efforts are in place to rewrite the Hugo rules to circumvent slate voting.  But any such rules changes have to be ratified by the memberships of two Worldcons, meaning this year and next year.  So the Puppies have a whole ‘nother year to continue their mischief.  But I think they will be able to inflict much less damage.  People are on to them now.  Authors who might have this year idly rode the slates to nomination will probably recuse themselves next year, knowing that the slate nominees will be forever tainted.  Who wants to be forever allied with the people who tried to burn down the Hugo Awards?  And fandom is much more aware now, and will be watching, and reading, and nominating the books, comics, and movies they love.

TL; DR — trying to rig the Hugo nominations was a stupid, counterproductive move.  The Puppies, are a tiny, reactionary, and not well liked subculture within science fiction fandom.  And fandom will work to protect that which it loves — SF, and the Hugos — from being destroyed by haters.

Thank the gods.  And thank you, fandom.

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Infographic: How we’ll live on Mars

 

Not sure how this WordPress Sharing thing works.  But this is cool.  I’d love to wrote a book about Mars colonization one day.

Infographic: How we’ll live on Mars.

via Infographic: How we’ll live on Mars.

 

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Fear

So I have a problem.  Fear of success I think it is.  My novel is complete, ready to be prepared for publication.  There’s no reason I couldn’t throw it up on Amazon as an e-book next week.  But I find myself procrastinating.  As much as I want to write, there is a part of me, equally as large — perhaps larger  — that doesn’t want to. After everything I’ve done, I’m scared to take that last step. Actually publish it.  I don’t really know why, but I am.

So I have conceived the idea of serializing my novel on one of those amateur writer websites, Wattpad or Jukepop or such, as an intermediate step between  … nothing …  and fully, publicly publishing..  It’s complete, so I would be able to upload chapters rapidly, and maintain interest among the readership.  I’ve long since given up any idea of earning a living by writing.  I just want people to read what I write. On one of these sites, I could get some feedback, have some interaction with the reading public, maybe get over some of my fear.  Gain some experience, however half-assed, at publishing and being in the public eye.

What would be better would be for me to bite the bullet, and just publish it.  But for whatever reason, I can’t bring myself to do this right now.  So, going the website route—would this be a productive recognition of my limitations and an attempt to work within them, or a bullshit, craven move that is really just procrastinating?

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