Friday, June 26, 2015

Forge A New Blade, by Peter Grant

I want SO bad to do an imitation of the introduction to 'Huckleberry Finn' in this opening. As a matter of fact, if you haven't read 'Tom Sawyer' and 'Huckleberry Finn,' you shouldn't be wasting your time on THIS bit of drivel (and I refer to this review, not the book. The book is not drivel), you should read those. Mark Twain INVENTED American literature, and dang near invented the best of American morality at the same time. Before him, American writers (maybe a few exceptions) wrote in this hoity-toity literature-snob kind of way, because they were ashamed of not being Yurrupean.
Here's the link to Gutenberg for Tom Sawyer, and here's the link to Huckleberry Finn. Go on, if you haven't read them, read them NOW. This will wait. It's not THAT important. But do try to return, because Peter's second book in the Laredo Trilogy is cheery, clever, congenial, darling, gratifying, ineffable, lush, pleasurable, rapturous, ravishing, scrumptious, and yummy, along with other synonyms for delightful found at
Okay, if you are reading THIS, I assume you have either read the two works mentioned above, plus "War To The Knife," or that you are disobedient and contentious, not to mention a time waster. But, I prefer to think the best of my readers. so, here goes.
Meanwhile, on St Helvetica....
Dave Carson, through doing his duty, has become the both the head of Laredo's military forces as well as the head of government. He does not feel prepared for either job ( and he's right) but he has surrounded himself with the best advisors available, and handed off just as much authority as he can. His crew has managed to make contact with the remaining military forces on Laredo, and they are in communication with the imprisoned former leaders, Dave's father, the senior surviving military officer, who was blinded during the attack on the Satrap and Crown Prince, and Gloria Aldred, who was Chairperson of the now-defunct Council of Resistance, and thus former head civilian authority. The resistance, and Dave's father, accept his authority, as legitimately granted under the orders given him before he went off planet and by the transmission of civilian authority by the dying words of the off-planet Vice-President, but Dr. Aldred does not.  Hmmm. Potential for conflict exists. Wonder what will happen with THAT?
Meanwhile, on St Helvetica....
( I just like saying that)
Steve Maxwell, central character and hero of the Maxwell Saga series, meets with Dave and arranges, with the covert agreement of Lancastrian Fleet Intelligence, for Dave to procure ships and crews which will give Laredo the space force they lost in the Bactrian invasion. It seems nobody likes a bully, and in addition, there's one of those situations where if you have multiple problems, they tend to solve themselves.
Like criminals, hired by the Bactrians to assault Laredo personnel. Heh. Heh.
The Satrap of Bactria has his own problems. Here is a clue: if it's called a Satrap, it's got problems. Like 'People's Republic.' Or even worse, Democratic People's Republic.' In this case, the Satrap happens to be a pretty good guy, who has inherited a bunch of ....advisors. Who are nasty. However, he is aware of that, and he ALSO recognizes and rewards competent people. One of those was a certain Lt. Zeba Yazata, a young woman who has served with distinction and saves his life during the attack on the Satrap. He admires her competence so much that he promoted her on the spot, and had her assigned to his guard, and then marries her, which aggravates a LOT of the old fossils in his government, but is a bodaciously good move for him. And THAT, internet friends, is ALL I'm gonna tell you about THAT, or in fact, about anything else.
Meanwhile, on St Helvetica....

War to The Knife, by Peter Grant, with a little extra


Okay, the little extra is this: I've got to toss in a quick review of 'War To The Knife," which is the first book in the Laredo trilogy. I reviewed the work on Amazon on November 13, 2014, but at that time I was not cross-posting Amazon reviews to my then-moribund blog.
Furthermore, my review was really a non-review. I knew that I wanted to read a book by Peter Grant, but as it turns out, there are AT LEAST two Peter Grants who publish books in the Amazon KU program, and I inadvertently got the other one.  I figured it out when I got to the first explicit gay porn scene; I stopped with the mention of the zipper, so I don't know HOW explicit it was, but I knew that I had the wrong Peter Grant. (The other Peter Grant was done no harm by my error, as I read at least 10% of the book by that point, and under the provisions of KULL at the time, he received full payment.) But then, it turned out to be beneficial to me, because I titled my review "This is not gay porn," and then went with the explanation I just gave, and you know what? I got 16 'Likes' on that review. I don't think ANY of my other reviews has ever gotten as many as three 'Likes', although I could be mistaken. Up until this review gets posted on Amazon, I've written 109 reviews and have 93 likes; so that one little review accounts for 17.02 %. My reviewer rank is 43,087, up from 14, 360, 604, so just think where I would be if I DID review gay porn....
At any rate, here is a REAL review of "War to the Knife, followed by a real review of "Forge a New Blade." NO, THE SECOND REVIEW IS IN A SEPARATE BLOG POST.
After this small observation on the titles.
"War To The Knife" is a phrase at least 200 years old. It was a response from the officer commanding the defense of Zaragoza, Spain against the French demand for surrender in 1809. It's brief, and memorable; it falls in with responses like "Come and Get Them" and "Nuts." What it means, in this context is that the defenders are not about to surrender to a superior force as long as they have ANY means to resist, even if that means death. Now, given that context, "Forge A New Blade" means that
you KEEP fighting, even after your knife is gone, as long as you have the means to produce new knives (figuratively speaking).
And here's the situation: the lightly colonized planet of Laredo has been invaded and occupied by the forces of Bactria. The invasion is unprovoked, and is illegal under the provisions of the only multi-world authority, United Planets, BUT in order to appeal to them for help, the Laredo government has to come up with cash. And, the cash is held secure on the planet of New Helvetica (I don't have to explain the names, do I?) and in order to release the funds the bank requires three bearer keys. The only member of the Laredo government off planet has only two keys, and the Bactrians control all access to space.
Most, but not all, of the Bactrian forces occupying the planet are thugs. There is the usual tension between regular army and security services, so there is not total unity among commanders as to the best way of dealing with the people of Laredo and with the Laredo resistance. Currently, the leaders of the planetary administration advocate harsh treatment to anyone suspected of involvement with the resistance, which has been interpreted to mean no prisoners.
Leaders of the resistance are at the point of disbanding, since reprisals against civilians are the consequence of their actions; they also have no heavy weapons, or off-planet support to speak of. However, a raid made possible by the arrogant incompetence of one of the SS Colonels provides them with Bactrian equipment, and intelligence that the Satrap of Bactria and his son, the Crown Prince, will be visiting Laredo. They bet everything they have that an attack on the Bactrian leadership will create enough confusion to give them some breathing space, and get the remaining bearer keys off planet, along with conclusive proof of Bactrian atrocities.
Okay, here's the tough part. I have to END the review now, so as not to create spoilers, but I also have to review "Forge A New Blade." I don't know how to do that!
Well, heck. This is MY blog, after all, and I can change my mind. So, after initially planning to do ONE review of BOTH books, I'm not going to.
Cooperate with me. If you haven't read "War To The Knife," go read it. It's a Kindle Unlimited selection (as is Forge a New Blade), and if you don't have that, you ought to. It's $9.99 a month and you get FREE BOOKS.
Cooperate with me! I'm about to write the review of "Forge A New Blade," and if you haven't read "War" then DON'T READ MY REVIEW UNTIL YOU HAVE!!!!.
See, I'm an easy guy to get along with. Don't anticipate, Just participate.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Big Boys Don't Cry, Hugo Nominated Work by Tom Kratman

I've been a fan of Tom Kratman since around 2003, I believe, beginning with "A State of Disobedience," and a fan of Keith Laumer's Bolos for even longer.
I love the power of the Bolo. I love their affection for their people, and their devotion to duty. I love reading that they do an internal system diagnostic that takes exactly .00000036 seconds. But what I really love about the Bolo is not their strength; what I really love about them is their weakness.
You simply can't have a story about an invulnerable hero, or even an invulnerable villain. That's why Superman has to have Kryptonite and Lois Lane. they provide the means by which he may be attacked, and so the stories become cliffhangers: how will he get out of THIS one? There's always one thing about a Bolo story you can count on: someone is going to become more human. Sometimes it's a Bolo, sometimes it's a person, maybe even an alien, but there will ALWAYS be a point at which the invincible machine produces an effect that you recognize as duty, compassion, sadness, or joy. So, I love Bolos.
And Kratman. Yeah, he's just mean as a damn snake. His Army experience and mine are very different. I was an enlisted medic in Germany right at the tail end of Viet Nam (72-75). He did a hitch as an enlisted man in the 101st and 193rd (and hey, I just looked up his terms of service. Turns out he went in in 1974 as a 17 year old. That's about the time I made E-5 at age 21, so I can boast that I once outranked the little snot-nose), and upon discharge, went to college on the Army's dime, being commissioned as an officer upon graduation in 1980. After doing lots of nasty, dirty, essential stuff in the field and in (shudder) headquarters, he retired as a light colonel in 2006. We both saw some of the same idiocy; I was just immune to most of it, being a low-ranking enlisted man. I only HAD to do stupid tasks. Kratman had to deal with stupid policy. No wonder he's bonkers.
But, in his writing, he expresses it all. It's a wonderful cathartic experience to read a Kratman series, or a stand alone books, like State of Disobedience. Good guys are GONNA win, but they are going to pay a frakken price for the victory. That's pretty much the way it goes, too; if you don't have some tough, determined hardcases, willing to do hard things, then pretty soon you have to say goodbye to sleeping peacefully in your soft bed.
And so, when I heard he had written this Bolo work, I was at first pleased, but then, a little nervous.Why? Well,,,I really didn't WANT a Bolo to crucify the bad guys. And I couldn't see how a Bolos personality could ever bring that about; but, I knew the kind of books Kratman writes.
Leave it to Kratman. He gets the job done.
Look, I CAN'T tell you what happens without busting out with spoilers. What I CAN do is assure you that Col Tom treats the franchise with respect. He makes you believe in the person of Maggie, the Bolo. And he provides, through Maggie's glimpses into her days of programming, the proper motivation for a Bolo story ONLY Kratman could write.
Look, I'm guid an bluidy sorry tha' I can tell you na more. It's just the way it is. Get the book, either through "Ride The Red Horse" by Castalia Press, or the story by itself, on Amazon; it's in the KU program. And ye might not cry, though if ye do, it'll be no bad thing. I can assure ye, though, ye'll from time ta time be findin a lump in tha throat.
Ye ha been warned.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

The God's Wolfling, by Cedar Sanderson

Under normal circumstances, I would not blog two reviews in one day. HOWEVER, for circumstances discussed earlier ad nauseum, I have experienced nothing like normal circumstances for about a month or more. I have owed Cedar this review since (gulp) May 19.
Cedar, by the way, is on her way to LibertyCon, and will be getting married tomorrow. I wish her and First Reader Sanford Begley a most wonderful celebration of their life, and hope the thunderstorm that's ripping through north Georgia at the moment will suck all the bad weather out of Chattanooga. In any event, I am assured that she will show her shoulders, and that sight alone will disperse rainclouds, or at least shame them into compliance.

5.0 out of 5 stars The Young Lady Grows Into Her Power, June 24, 2015
By Amazon Customer (Woodstock, Georgia, USA)
This review is from: The God's Wolfling (Children of Myth Book 2) (Kindle Edition)
Vulcan's Kittens was a great beginning, and God's Wolfling is a great book 2. There had BETTER be a book 3, at least, or I will know the reason WHY, and I ain't playin'! Well, maybe I am, just a little.
Linnea is the grand-daughter of Haephestus and Pele, on her mom's side. That makes her half human, and half whatever-they-are. Some of the more whack individuals like to be referred to as gods, and want to squish the humans back to worshippers, but the nicer sort don't want to do that, which is the source of war.
Linn is sheltered in Hawaii, being taught by a slightly insane Hypatia (yeah, the one who was stoned to death) and has nobody her own age. While that may be the ideal dream location for every parent of a teenage girl, it isn't something she cares for and she wants ADVENTURES!!!!
And she gets them.
I'm just going to tell you about my favorite, without doing any spoilers.
The Mac'Lir is one of the ancients, and somebody, one of his extended family, has been calling on him for help. He can't show up himself, because reasons, and so he asks Linn to go take care of this thing. What 'this thing' turns out to be is some meth cookers, one with enough family history to know certain words to say, but with no freepen idea of what the words mean. He just thinks they are some sort of good luck charm that will help cooking meth. What a butthead, right? Takes the name of his own clan and treats it as if it were some sort of rabbit's foot.
Okay, that ought to have your appetite whetted. More good stuff happens, some with old friends from Vulcan's Kittens, some with new characters. But you'll NOT get a further word out of ME about that, y'hear? Get the book!

Just FUN: Two by Alma Boykin, get 'em before July 1!

Alma Boykin, that richly rewarding delightful writer from Texas, has a couple on KU that you need to get borrow now, because if you wait until then, her income drops a bit. That's ME talking there, not her; it's because Amazon is rationalizing the payout under the KU program. That's a good thing, but it's also a good thing to send Alma some extra dough while you can. If you wait until July 1, then she won't get more money by loaning the book than she would get by selling it.
Both of these a sweet satires on the foolishness of politics, or at least, American style politics. They are short stories, and rather than belabor the point, I'm just going to quote my Amazon reviews:
5.0 out of 5 stars A tasty watermelon, chunked at the heads of those who presume power, June 24, 2015
By Amazon Customer (Woodstock, Georgia, USA)

This review is from: Mammals and Amends: or Bad Politician, No, No! (Kindle Edition)
Sometimes, idiocy is its' own reward. At other times, the idiocy is so blatant that a call goes out for every sapient in the universe to reach for the nearest watermelon and throw it, and then call for mosquito attacks.
And here's what a watermelon looks like in the hands of Alma Boykin:

“And I’m sorry my mammal ancestors ate the eggs of the dinosaurs, some of whom looked a lot like your ancestors who weren’t sapient.”
Boykin, Alma (2013-09-06). Mammals and Amends: or Bad Politician, No, No! (Kindle Locations 183-184). . Kindle Edition.

5.0 out of 5 stars Sometimes it takes a dinosaur to raze a village., June 24, 2015
By Amazon Customer (Woodstock, Georgia, USA)
This review is from: When Fossils Meet (Kindle Edition)
Oh, if only we could count on dinosaurs to solve the problems when bad science and political ambitions mix!
Check this out: completely dishonesty doesn't happen all at once. At one point, the scientist was actually interested in science; then she gets pulled into the nasty cxvfffffffffhbg caused by a basset pup walking across the keyboard but before that she's gradually corrupted by grants and access. It takes a concerted effort to resist such things, and unfortunately, when resources are scarce...well, you know.
And really: her projections aren't THAT outrageous, are they? I mean, it's only 20% of the country's GDP over the next 10 years. It's not like the money will be thrown away, or anything, right? It's going to go into Huxley industrial processes, where nothing is authorized unless it's demonstrated to consume more resources than a game of Centrifugal Bumble Puppy.
Actually we could solve this, in a much easier fashion. We just add an extra day to the weekend, and nobody gets paid for that day, even if they have to work. We already have a solid precedent established: the Beatles' song "Eight Days A Week." I'd be willing to bet that if we implement such a plan, the GDP would fall 20% on it's own, and nobody would have to pretend to do anything.
But, alas.
Sometimes it takes a dinosaur to raze a village.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

John C. Wright, Hugo Nominee, Three Novellas

I am very grateful to Castalia House for providing me with review copies of Mr. Wright's work. Their kindness to me exceeds the minimum a reviewer might expect from a publisher; I was also supplied with non-Hugo nominated work, simply because the publisher loved the work and wanted to share it with me.
I'm gonna ramble, because at the end, I'm going to say something I don't want to say. Forgive my pedantry, it's just a cover for cowardice.
John C. Wright is a master at an art form that seems to have fallen into disfavor, the novella. The word length for the categories go as follows: novel, 40K+; novella, 17.5k - 40K; novelette, 7.5K - 17.5 K; short story, less than 7.5K. Wiser heads than mine can explain the rationale for the divisions; until you come up with a better source, I suggest you take a look at the Mad Genius Club and use the search function. Here's a basic definitions page, it will work until you have a blues man in the back and a beautician at the wheel, and are cruising down the road in your cold blue steel.

Now, I'm going to talk about something on which I'm not an expert, but only because I don't think there ARE any experts out there on this topic. What I believe to be true is that story length has largely been a function of physical media, in almost EXACTLY the way that song length used to be. If you were recording a 45 rpm record, you could only put around 2 minutes and 30 seconds on each side. Those same limitations were carried over to the large LP records; you just could get more songs on an LP. There were exceptions on the LP usage; for example, 'Alice's Restaurant' by Arlo Guthrie and "Inna-Gadda-Da-Vida" by Iron Butterfly both took up an entire side of the LP.
Now, with print media, there wasn't the TECHNICAL limitation found on a vinyl disk, but with rare exceptions, short stories weren't published as stand-alones, just because of the economies of scale in binding. A bunch of short stories were accumulated, and published in magazines. Magazines could also support the novella (never heard of novelette, so sorry), and even novels, which were chopped up into sections and released monthly. Jim Baen tried to re-create this experience with releasing books in three sections in Baen Monthly Bundles, but I don't know how successful that's been. They are innovative, and that's an appreciated quality.

A number of writers have discussed the fact that some stories simply don't work in the novel form. The solution? Well, with the decline of the magazine greats, sometimes novellas were bundled with other short stories sharing a similar theme or written in the same universe; I know "The Patchwork Girl" was published as a stand-alone with beautiful graphics because Niven didn't want readers to feel short-changed.

And here is my non-expert opinion: I think the revolution in epub is going to bring the short forms back. It costs a trad pub the same to set up covers, art, layout for 80 pages as it does for 350 pages, but unless there is something else going on (like being "The Prophet" by Kahlil Gibran ) an 80 page book isn't going to bring in the same dough as a 350 page book. That matters, a LOT, when you have monster set-up costs. However, the set-up costs for an e-pub are negligible, compared to a dead tree version. The trads are struggling, ferociously, with the new business model, but I think in the long run, it's going to shake out so that a lot more short works are offered to the public. They can be priced reasonably, and won't HAVE to be bundled with other works so that the consumer gets his money's worth.

Okay, that's all the dithering I can do; I now have to get down to my review of John C Wright's novellas, two of them Hugo nominees: "One Bright Star to Guide Them" and "The Plural of Helen of Troy", and the non-Hugo "Awake in the Night."
"One Bright Star To Guide Them" is a fascinating read. It would be impossible, I think, to read it and not draw parallels to the last book in CS Lewis' Space Trilogy, "That Hideous Strength," and that is a good enough recommendation in itself.
I here confess my utter ignorance: I am new to John C Wright's work, and the book references events that took place thirty years before; I do not know whether those events are recorded in an earlier book. There is no reference to an earlier publication in the data pages of Bright Star, and there is quite enough information given so that we don't NEED the earlier book to understand what is going on. If no earlier work exists, then we have an excellent class in how to write a prequel-requiring work without the prequel, and that's a rather nice side benefit.
The story encounters the adult Thomas, on the near edge of middle age, and draws him back to his youth in which he encountered and defeated monsters. He is drawn into a quest by his old cat, Tybalt, and with the power of a silver key is able to see things not visible to the eye. He encounters old comrades in arms, some who have fallen, others who have essentially retired. Ultimately, he finds that his mission is not fulfilled by returning to the adventures he had as a young boy, but by growing into his new role. It's quite a great read, and I heartily recommend it.
I cannot recommend either "The Plural of Helen of Troy" or "Awake in the Night." The Helen story is contained in "The City Beyond Time," and perhaps if I had read it as a stand-alone, I would have enjoyed it more. I rather like the noir-detective feel about parts of it, but that was almost entirely masked for me by the tossed-salad chronology; it's rather like the scenes in Pulp Fiction, without the soundtrack. Go with this as a matter of personal preference, PLEASE, and give him your own evaluation. I found the entire "City Beyond Time" to be creepy and scary. That may come as a shock to those of you who know that I love the works of Ringo, Correia, Williamson, Kratman, and Drake, but it is the case.

And Awake, was, for me, more like a nightmare than it was anything else. I made it through the entire novella, but I was graciously presented with the entire four novella collection "Awake In The Night Land." Frankly, I am unable to repay that courtesy, at this time, by reading it, because I was never so glad to exit a book in my life. NOTE: I have ABSOLUTELY dumped books before, without finishing them. By 'exit,' I mean exit in the normal way, by beginning at the beginning and going on to the end.
Now, to be entirely fair, it's not likely that any book set in the context of the extinction of man could be treated as a picnic without ants. It is the story of a man who sets out, at great peril, to rescue a friend who was drawn from the safety of home. He faces difficulty exiting his refuge, and several near death experiences on the outside.  Perhaps this is the merriest of dystopian works EVER, and I should treat it better. I have to be clear: I don't LIKE morbid fantasy, I don't LIKE reading sentences like this one:
The last remnant of mankind endures, besieged, in our invulnerable redoubt, a pyramid of gray metal rising seven miles high above the volcano-lit gloom, venom-dripping ice-flows, and the cold mud-deserts of the Night Lands. Our buried grain fields and gardenlands delve another one hundred miles into the bedrock.
Wright, John C. (2014-05-03). Awake in the Night (Kindle Locations 106-108). Castalia House. Kindle Edition. 
But this is strictly a matter of taste. It's just not my taste, and I most humbly apologize for my shortcomings as a reviewer. I must point out that I am enjoying, TREMENDOUSLY, John C Wrights's essays "Transhuman and Subhuman," and I plan to purchase dead tree copies for myself and for my two most philosophical children, Jordan and Jennifer. This is the kind of writing they will get their teeth into. However, I won't go further, because I plan to review that work in a separate post.

Friday, June 19, 2015

The Brilliant Jeffro Johnson, Hugo Nominee

This is SUCH a long overdue blog post, and there are multiple reasons for it. I'm going to toss out quickly that I had a series of hardware failures, followed immediately by pneumonia. And then I'm going to confess that it goes much deeper than that.
See, I'm a BOOK reviewer. I review BOOKS. And other written things, like novellas and short stories. I don't review PEOPLE. I review BOOKS.
Now, it is ABSOLUTELY and wonderfully the case that my book reviews have given me the chance to interact with people, lovely people, people who write books, and people who read books, and, oh, just LOTS of wonderful people with whom I carry on snerky little conversations about life, the universe, and everything. But mostly, I review books.
Then, the Hugo Nominations come out, and to my delight, THREE of my friends are in the running for Best Fan Writer: Dave Freer, Amanda Green, and Cedar Sanderson. I know them in their fan writer identity, because I follow their blogs, individually as well as their posts at the Mad Genius Club. I also know them in their pro-writer identity. Dave Freer has been a favorite for years, ever since I stumbled across "Bats, Rats, and Vats." It's great stuff, great stuff, even better than organic superlube.
It was an easy step to decide to review their works on my blog; and I did. Then I read Laura Mixon's contribution, which has come to be known as the Mixon Report, and I was flabbergasted at the amount of good research technique she threw into that thing. Had I known in advance that she was an engineer, it's likely I would have expected the degree of precision, because engineers HAVE to get it right, or people die, dams collapse, and other double plus ungood things happen. It's a dynamite bit of writing; since then, I've read some of her other stuff just for fun.
BUT: who the heck is Jeffro Johnson? I never HEARD of this guy. Fortunately, my friends had, and they directed me to his work at Appendix N. And, they told me: he reviews games.
REVIEWS GAMES? What...who...HOW am I going to review a reviewer who reviews GAMES? I don't know SQUAT about games. I've got an ancient copy of Sid Meier's Alpha Centauri that I crank up and play from time to time, and long, long ago in the days of dial-up I pooted around with something that involved killing tigers and pigs and then monsters, but that is IT. I had to watch Jeopardy to find out who Leroy Jenkins was and why he was famous.
At first, I didn't think I was up to it. But with a little bit of encouragement from my friends, I gave it a whack. I went to Appendix N, and I read some of his work, and...
...and I was dead in the water. I did not understand a single thing he said. It was as if I was having my own personal Tower of Babel experience. This happened to me once before, in some classroom at UNC-CH in 1987, and that's when I decided I was going to drop out of the Ph.D. program in Organizational Behavior.
So, I did what I could: I emailed Jeffro, and explained my problem. He very patiently and kindly gave me a list of articles that even a non-gamer could appreciate. Here's one:
Screamin Addictive Insanity

And he was RIGHT! I COULD understand it (although I did have to consult the web for a Neal Postman reference he made to me in private), and not only could I understand it, I had actually witnessed it. Some 30+ years ago, I started to worship at a Mennonite Church in my area, and got invited to their homes after church, and there I saw those card games he described. He points out that the games serve the purpose of allowing the unmarried males and females to interact under supervision, and that exactly fits with my experience.

He gave me another look at the gaming world, which really reached way beyond gaming, in his article Are you the author ? Here, he dissects the interactions on a forum, and shows how mealy-mouth trolling works, and once again, this is consistent with my experience.

Some of his articles required more background. However this one doesn't at all. It's a very incisive analysis of what condescending outsiders do when they are trying to be nice, sort of. As in, good boy, go lie down and I'll give you a cookie.

And now we come to the end of this blog, and I have to fully 'fess up. You know how Larry Niven describes the hyper-space travel experience? If you look up, the gray spot expands until it takes over, and then you have no idea, AT ALL, of what you have been looking at? Well...
...I still don't understand WHAT the HECK he is talking about, five minutes after I read the article. I TOTALLY get it while I'm reading it, I really do. He is a HECK of a good writer. He tosses in classical references, he gives citations and then expounds on them, and all the while I'm reading, I'm going, yeah, yeah, I get it, I get it...
And right now, at this very INSTANT, I could not tell you what ANY of the articles is talking about (MILD exaggeration for impact, okay?). I retain the memory that I have been somewhere, with a great and competent guide, congenial and accommodating, but  I just don't have enough hooks to hang things on.
Look, I'm 62 years old. I missed the whole D&D thing. I was in the Army or pre-med and working or WHATEVER and I only saw a board ONE time, when my brother, Dr. Steve Patterson of the Gophers, showed me the layout. It's rather a shame; I loved playing Alpha Centauri (still do on occasion) and it MAY be that gaming would give me that same thrill. I'm going to claim that I just never had the time or opportunity. And maybe there is a certain window I missed.
Don't take my word for it, but Jeffro Johnson is a freken genius. For a moment, he took this blind, deaf, dumb, anosmic cripple, and he let me see the most beautiful mountains and hear Debussy and smell roses while I ate turtle cheesecake. It is no fault of his if I return to an isolation tank, with respect to games.
Don't take my word for it; read his stuff.
This is about something

And this is about something else

And this is about Lovecraft. I DID get that much....never read Lovecraft though; I scare too easily. Maybe that's the problem: I scare too easily. I was terrified by the Banshee in Walt Disney's "Darby O'Gill and the Little People " when it came out in 1959, and never, ever, ever wanted to get into spooky stuff. Which probably saved me from doing a lot of dope in 1970, because the crowd like to smoke dope and tell ghost stories. Me? I'm a 17 year old running home screaming for mama, and making the dog sleep in my room that night.

Well, what you loose on the merry-go-round, you pick up on the swings. I have no idea what that means or if it applies, but I had to end this somehow.

Sorry, Jeffro. I did the best I could.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Thoughts on Tolerance, Part 3: Murder after Bible study

I don't jam my beliefs or practices down the throats of others, but those beliefs and practices are literally a matter of life or death for me.
And that's how I ended Part1, and started Part 2. And it's the theme of the whole series.
I have to start by telling you I'm sick about the murders last night at the Emanuel AME Church Wednesday night Bible study in Charleston, SC. You all know that I refer to my wife by her extended title, which includes the phrase 'praying black grandmother.' That is a title with MEANING; I believe I am alive today because I had a praying grandmother. And last night, after Bible study, in addition to the pastor, six women and two men were murdered. I know the names or ages of none, but there is a quote from a family member that his Granny was among those killed. Was it six praying grandmothers and two praying grandfathers? I don't know, but I DO know that none of those present at Wednesday night Bible study  last night were a threat to anyone, except to the forces of evil.

Why were they there? It's a hot Wednesday night. Why not be at home, resting from the heat and watching TV? They were there because their beliefs and practices were a matter of life or death to them. No, they never considered that a deranged person might shoot them last night, but when you reach a certain age, you KNOW you are going to die within the foreseeable future, and so you abandon those things that are no longer important, and keep the things that are.

And now we get to the guts of my thoughts on tolerance:

Brad Torgersen, Larry Correia, and John C. Wright have been castigated because of their religious beliefs. Those beliefs are not a suit of clothes that they can wear when they choose; they are an essential part of who they are. They don't all believe exactly the same things, but they do their very best to try to live their lives in accordance to what they believe, in the teachings of their church.

We take for granted that we have the right to do so in America, because it's codified in the first amendment that
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof;
and I rather think that Americans have the belief that government should be similarly limited all over the world. That's not the case, but from what I understand of the American people, we believe it should be. And, we also appear, mostly, to want to apply that same restriction to ourselves as individuals; we certainly want it applied to others. We don't want anyone telling us that we have to worship, or how to do it.

So: HOW in the HELL has it come to the place where men and women who are privately practicing their own religion, and NOT violating any laws, are labelled as racist, misogynistic homophobes, JUST because they are members of a church someone else doesn't like? OUR BELIEFS ARE NOT SUBJECT TO PUBLIC SCRUTINY.

Our BEHAVIOR, on the other hand, IS subject to public scrutiny. If, outside of my own private space, I walk around naked, that is not speech; that's behavior. If I use words to incite violence, that's not speech, that's behavior. The term 'fighting words' means, in the original context, words that have the functional equivalency of striking a blow. What those particular words are is subject to change, based on context, but the fact that such a class of words exists is not a matter of debate.

And, to be just as specific as I can be without citing instances, if I say that I agree on my church's stance on an issue, NO ONE should attack ME for that. EVERYONE is perfectly free to disagree, but my beliefs remain INVIOLABLE.
Now, if I act on my beliefs, and in so doing commit a crime, I am certainly culpable. If I express my beliefs in such a way that produces a specific danger to public peace, I should be held accountable. But if you just happen not to like the stand my church takes on an issue, then LEAVE ME ALONE. I am not fair game. Feel free to blog to your heart's content about how crazy the neo-orthodox neo-evangelical neo-Pentecostal church doctrine is, and if people want to read that drivel, then, hey, you have readers. Good for you.
But if you call someone a racist because you don't like their church, and not because of their behavior, then you are doing an evil thing. You have no right to call yourself tolerant. A person who is tolerant allows others to believe what they want to, does not deny a person the right to behave in a particular way unless it injures others. And to continue to do so when corrected is irresponsible, and should be in no way supported.

Look, I THINK I said this right. I THINK I got out everything I needed to say. If I've been confusing, forgive me; I do still have pneumonia, and I'm afraid my best thinking may be difficult to reach.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Thoughts on Tolerance, Part 2: About getting drunk

I don't jam my beliefs or practices down the throats of others, but those beliefs and practices are literally a matter of life or death for me.

That's how I ended part 1, more or less. It's important enough that I repeat it here, and expand and extend.

There are some things I believe that aren't really a big deal. I believe my decision to ride Honda motorcycles instead of some other brand has been a good one. Am I right, or wrong? Even I don't care very much about that. It mattered more, back in the day when I was riding with a club, because everybody thought their own motor was the best. Now, doesn't matter much. In fact, a little while ago, I told my gift-from-God, happily-ever-after trophy wife Vanessa, the elegant foxy praying black grandmother of Woodstock, GA, that I was going to sell the house and buy a Harley, with a nice heated back seat for her comfort, and we were gonna hit the road. Never gonna happen, but it shows that my belief about Honda motorcycles isn't that big of a deal.

With some other beliefs, though, I'm rather difficult to move. I'm a Southerner of Scottish heritage, and that appears to include a strong genetic tendency toward the importance of military service. My grandfather, father & uncles, cousins & brother-in-law and myself, and now my son and his cousins; every generation has included military service. A belief in the importance of military service seems to be one of my core beliefs. I don't know how or what would make me disregard that; I suspect it would be impossible.

More vitally, there are some beliefs and practices that keep me breathing, day by day.
As I mentioned earlier, one of them is my commitment to continued sobriety,
through maintaining a program of recovery,
one that demands rigorous honesty,
and an affirmative commitment not to harm others by my actions,
but if I do, to make immediate amends to them,
except when to do so would injure them or others.

I'm 62 years old now, and took my last drink on January 1, 1988. When I was 34, I could not go more than two days in a row without drinking.
What drove me to drink was
anger at harm others had done me, and
guilt at harm I had done to others, and
fear of who I was, what I had become, and what I was becoming.
I wasn't sleeping face down in the gutters; in fact, I was Marketing Vice-President of a small computer company, had a M.Ed. in counselling, and was married with a beautiful young son. That didn't mean $#!+, though, because I drowned myself every single night in a pool of Jack Daniels. I'd never been fired from a job because of drinking, had no DUI or any other kinds of legal trouble, but that was just waiting for me. It hadn't happened YET (and that is an acronym for You're Eligible Too).
When the program of recovery was offered to me, I grabbed it like a drowning man grabs a life buoy; in fact, at that point, I really didn't care if it was a life buoy or an anchor, because I had to either get better or go ahead and die.
Well, I got better. To make that happen, I had to confess lies I had told, return tools I had stolen, and work to repair relationships that were catastrophically damaged by my deceit. It took three years before I was able to say that I had honestly done everything possible to make amends to those I had harmed. And I have to live my life that way today, every single day. It ain't been no bed 'a roses, I can tell you that. BUT: in the face of a lot of adversity, I held to the course, because I had to do that, or return to the despair of drink, and drink was going to kill me in the end.
Here's one of the FIRST things I learned: not everyone is an alcoholic, just because I am. That should have been pretty apparent to me already, mostly because it was rare that I could find someone who could keep up with me drinking. Even the friends that I drank with, talked to me about how much I drank; so, once I stopped drinking, it was pretty easy for me to accept that this was MY problem, and not my wife's problem or my friends' problem. Being around people who drink has never bothered me. There is some behavior I've seen in others who over-indulged that I found distasteful, but I actually believe that alcohol is one of the great gifts that God has given us, to allow us to enjoy life and have some good moments of relaxation and cheer with our friends and family. But I'll pass, thank you, and toast you with some lemon-flavored water.

I added that as an aside, but it is really not an aside. It's half of my main point, I think.
I THINK my main point is this: It is a matter of life and death if I drink, but I could not care in the slightest about whether anyone else drinks.
And thus, I find that I am returned to the point made by the young man in the Army 42 years ago: I appear to be a tolerant bigot. I hold it to be an absolute TRUTH that I cannot drink alcohol unless I want to destroy myself, and I will not deviate from that belief; so I guess that makes me a bigot. On the other hand, I do not care IN THE SLIGHTEST about whether or not someone else drinks, so I guess that makes me tolerant. Over the past 27 1/2 years, I have been approached by some people who ask me about drinking or drugging, and with THEM I am happy to share what it was like, what happened, and what it's like now. Some of them sought additional support from me, others didn't, and that's okay. My program of recovery is based on attraction, rather than promotion, and it is not my business to try to run someone else's life.

I thought I might be able to finish this tonight, Internet friends, but I can't. I've got one and a half more things to say, and the pitiful little lung I have remaining is telling me it's time to stop. So, until tomorrow, love & kisses,
Papa Pat

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Liar, liar, pants on fire...BUT I DIDN'T LIE!

Y'all. this ain't fair! I was downstairs in my man cave when I started hurting, so my gift-from-God, happily-ever-after trophy wife Vanessa Patterson​, the elegant, foxy, praying black grandmother of Woodstock, GA, decided to move me upstairs to the bedroom, where there is air conditioning. She helped me carry stuff upstairs, specifically, she carried my pinto beans and corn bread. I grabbed the laptop & keyboard and WIRED mouse, and then she made a return trip to get my water and medicine.
SO: I set the laptop down on our twin recliner (where I sleep), and then sat down on the bed (where she sleeps & me too when I can), only to discover that my pants were on fire.
Not really, but it felt like it. She had set my pinto beans and corn bread on the BED!!! and I SAT in the PINTO BEANS!!! And it was HOT!!! And then she LAUGHED at me as I'm ripping off my boxers to separate my pristine flesh from boiling pinto bean juice!!!
See, I don't really object to having my rear end scalded so much as I do having to eat the corn bread without pinto bean broth. It was good cornbread, though. And there is more pinto beans, but she wouldn't bring me any because ....well, I don't know WHY she wouldn't bring me any. She said it was because I couldn't be trusted with food, but I think she just forgot.
I'm gonna eat pinto beans and eggs and corn bread for breakfast, though.

Thoughts on Tolerance, Part 1

While I was in the Army, 42 years ago (that's pretty freaky, actually), I was told that because I was a Christian, I was a tolerant bigot. It bothered me. A lot. I was cool with the tolerant part, but I sure didn't like the bigot label. The young man who gave me that label was a bit of an authority figure to me. In his mid 20s, he was MUCH older than I was at 19;, he was a Spec-4 or Spec-5, and I was but a PFC; he had served a tour in Viet Nam, and I was at my first duty station there in Germany. All that conspired to put me a bit in awe of him. That was likely evident, and it gave him license to play with my head a little.
When I spluttered, he explained: I was a bigot, because I regarded my beliefs as being correct, and others as being incorrect; I was tolerant, because I did not attempt to force anyone to believe the things that I did.
"Oh," I thought. "That seems true to me. I must be a tolerant bigot." After a minor (very minor) bit of mulling the thought over, I decided to incorporate that as a part of my identity. Fortunately, after I'd raised the concept in conversation, a dear friend had the extreme kindness to tell me to shut up. And I did, and then pretty much forgot about it, until very recently.
This really isn't about books, but it's books that have raised the issue with me again. There are some authors I have really taken to who have been repeatedly labelled as racist, misogynist, and homophobic. In none of their works have I seen any evidence of that, but in three cases, those claims appear to be based on their religion; two of them are Mormon, and the third Roman Catholic. While I haven't read every word they have written, I've not seen anything by the two Mormon authors that ever initiates a discussion of religion; the Roman Catholic author, in response to a specific, personal accusation of being a homophobe, identifies his beliefs as being consistent with Roman Catholic doctrine. (A side note: these three are not the only authors who have been labelled as RMHers, to coin a phrase, but they are the only ones who I have any indication of flavor of religious belief, if any.)
I think almost everything I say or do is colored by the fact that I am a recovering alcoholic. I've got over 27 years of sobriety now, and I paid for every minute of that with sweat and blood. The intensive self-inventory I had to take to identify my character defects, and to make amends with others, gave me much needed humility, and that in turn has granted me resilience to adversity. The entire program of recovery is based on attraction, rather than promotion, and thus, I have learned how to get along and go along with others. I don't jam my beliefs or practices down the throats of others, but those beliefs and practices are literally a matter of life or death for me. If I do not maintain conscious contact with God, I will sooner or later lose it, and then drink and then die.
Okay, Internet friends, at this point, I have to close Part 1. The reason there is a part 1 and later parts is because I have pneumonia, and the weakness comes upon me and beats my butt. I decided I really need the discipline, now that I have a keyboard again, of publishing daily, but I just can't WRITE long enough. So, stay tuned to this station, and I will take it up again tomorrow. Keep your inhalers at hand ! (umm, no, wait, that's for me, not you. sorry)

Sunday, June 14, 2015

This Hugo Thing is SO not settled!

Internet friends, I want you to know that I am writing this blog post with a disabled keyboard, supplemented by the 'on-screen keyboard' app-thing for when some of the letters go away. It's become that important to me. I AM going to check this for errors, but if you see that a letter is missing, that's the reason. Note: t, p, and 1 are the most likely to go. In fact, I'm amazed that sentence just worked...
Here's the precipitating issue: I started to write Hugo run-up reviews several weeks ago, right after the nominations were announced, in fact. MOST, not all, of my reviews were Hugo related, although not necessarily of current 2015 nominated works. In some cases, and in one particular case (Tour of Duty, by Michael Z. Williamson) there were other factors involved in making my selections. I was cranking right along when I started having computer malfs. First one laptop died, then another, and I simply CANNOT articulate well using the painfully slow keyboard on my book reader. As a result, I have a HORRID backlog of unwritten reviews, including at least one Hugo-nominated work, Tom Kratman's "Big Boys Don't Cry."
For me, the big issue was NOT going to be the Novel category. Bizarrely, all of my interest is centered in who is going to bring home the Hugo in the Best Fan Writer category. REASON: Dave Freer, Amanda Green, and Cedar Sanderson are all on my list of People I Love To Have In The World With Me, and although all of them are published authors, their fan writing definitely qualifies them for this award. I've been a Dave Freer fan for years, and when I started to follow the Mad Genius Club, I quickly added Cedar and Amanda to my list of 'must reads.' In fact. the FIRST review I ever wrote was for a short story Cedar gave away as a freebie one week last year.
So, when the nominations were announced, I was pretty sure where my vote was going. It wasn't a function of Sad Puppies, it was just based on my personal reading experience.


During that interlude, I've gotten a new wireless Logitech keyboard and mouse, and that's the best news. The only downside is that I remember why I don't like wireless mice; they scurry away when you drop them. I also procured two other things: a back spasm that had me flat on my back for a few days, and then: PNEUMONIA!!!
Yahoo! I am writing this in the brief interlude that comes once in a while, when I am somewhat alert and can somewhat focus. It's a small window, so I'm going to be terribly brief.
Here's the deal, I went after the Best Fan Writer category first because I knew three of the five contenders, and their stuff is BRILLIANT.
Then I read The Mixon Report, and it was BRILLIANT!
And then it came down the the last entry, Jeffro Johnson. I did not know him, and had to ask my buddies where to look for him. This is NOT my review of Jeffro; I am no where NEAR able to give him the review that is in my head to give, because the cat is sitting on me and my nose is running, and my gift-from-God, happily-ever-after trophy wife Vanessa, the elegant foxy praying black grandmother of Woodstock, GA is humming "Great is Thy Faithfulness," and I am just out of energy.
But let me say this:
Jeffro is BRILLIANT!
This Hugo Thing is SO not settled!