Just a geek who lives in Olympia, WA with my wife, son, and animals, writing fiction that he hopes will make the world a better place someday.
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Refuse to Be Terrorized

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Paul Krugman has written a really good update of my 2006 esssay.

Krugman:

So what can we say about how to respond to terrorism? Before the atrocities in Paris, the West's general response involved a mix of policing, precaution, and military action. All involved difficult tradeoffs: surveillance versus privacy, protection versus freedom of movement, denying terrorists safe havens versus the costs and dangers of waging war abroad. And it was always obvious that sometimes a terrorist attack would slip through.

Paris may have changed that calculus a bit, especially when it comes to Europe's handling of refugees, an agonizing issue that has now gotten even more fraught. And there will have to be a post-mortem on why such an elaborate plot wasn't spotted. But do you remember all the pronouncements that 9/11 would change everything? Well, it didn't -- and neither will this atrocity.

Again, the goal of terrorists is to inspire terror, because that's all they're capable of. And the most important thing our societies can do in response is to refuse to give in to fear.

Me:

But our job is to remain steadfast in the face of terror, to refuse to be terrorized. Our job is to not panic every time two Muslims stand together checking their watches. There are approximately 1 billion Muslims in the world, a large percentage of them not Arab, and about 320 million Arabs in the Middle East, the overwhelming majority of them not terrorists. Our job is to think critically and rationally, and to ignore the cacophony of other interests trying to use terrorism to advance political careers or increase a television show's viewership.

The surest defense against terrorism is to refuse to be terrorized. Our job is to recognize that terrorism is just one of the risks we face, and not a particularly common one at that. And our job is to fight those politicians who use fear as an excuse to take away our liberties and promote security theater that wastes money and doesn't make us any safer.

This crass and irreverent essay was written after January's Paris terrorist attack, but is very relevant right now.

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cdupree
81 days ago
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"The surest defense against terrorism is to refuse to be terrorized." !!

Travel Ghost

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And a different ghost has replaced me in the bedroom.
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jefron
141 days ago
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Giving "spooky at a distance" a whole new meaning
Chicago
pawnstorm
141 days ago
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Way to go, bike ghost!
Olympia, WA

Board Game

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Yes, it took a lot of work to make the cards and pieces, but it's worth it--the players are way more thorough than the tax prep people ever were.
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pawnstorm
172 days ago
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Best one in a long time.
Olympia, WA

Thorn of Emberlain Schedule Shift

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Dear readers and fans of the Gentlemen Bastards—

I’ll lay it out as plainly as I can.

With the utmost regret, we have been compelled to move The Thorn of Emberlain from its expected autumn 2015 release date to a 2016 date. I requested an opportunity to write this note so I could emphasize how little this is the fault of anyone but myself. My publishers around the world have, in fact, held the door open for a length of time that is somewhere between heroic and insane. The fault is mine; the severity of my ongoing anxiety attacks has simply made it impossible to turn the manuscript in and commit to the accelerated production process our original release date would have required.

While this is not the outcome we’d hoped for, we have every expectation that this will ultimately do more good than harm. I will continue to try to keep you more closely informed of Thorn’s progress, and I don’t think it will be long before we’ll be able to announce that the manuscript is secure and the production process has begun. We’re very close.

Although I withdrew from several public appearances in early July on account of those same anxiety issues, I am now fairly confident that I’ll be able to maintain the rest of my planned public appearances for 2015, including WorldCon, World Fantasy, and a few others yet to be announced.

Cheers, and many thanks for your continued patience and support.

SL

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pawnstorm
188 days ago
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Although I don't really want to have to wait longer for this, it is a) a valid reason for a delay, and b) I'd rather him get better than finish the book.
Olympia, WA
mjmillar
186 days ago
Yea, just hope he is OK...

James Bond lives ... in Canada

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License ExpiredA funny thing happened in 2015. James Bond came out of copyright... in Canada.  Everywhere else in the world, as far as I know, you still have to deal with the estate of Ian Fleming to clear any new Bond books or movies--but not here.  So, in an incredibly gutsy move, writers Madeline Ashby and David Nickle decided to edit together and publish an anthology of brand new James Bond stories... which they have done.  The anthology is coming from the ballsiest publisher on the planet, Chizine Publications, and is called License Expired:  The Unauthorized James Bond.  You'll be able to buy and read it in November... if you're in Canada.

This is going to be one of the most talked about anthologies of the year.  --Not because it's about Bond, but because the stories are good.  Great, some of them.  I have one, "Mosaic," and I'll make no claims for its quality, but with authors like Charles Stross contributing, and completely new and daring takes on Bond, his exploits and foibles, this is collection is huge fun.  I'm proud to be a part of it.

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In defence of Traditional (Eurocentric Quasi-Medieval) Fantasy: #1 I'll read what I like

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My name is M Harold Page and I recently sold a short story with a dragon in it.

As I wrote the story, I could hear the voices of snarky snobbery in the back of my head:

"Oh look, LOL, you could reduce all Fantasy maps to a blotchy version of Europe but swap in Orks for Mongols.... OMG another book about E'lves and D'warves... (chortle) Historical fiction for authors too lazy to do research."

And:

"Sigh. Isn't it time to explore other cultures?"

Yes it's pretty easy to snark at -- call it - Traditional Fantasy, and also to give it a political kicking critique. It is, after all, a genre in which everything is possible, and yet where it usually delivers European-style secondary worlds and archetypes.

I think the snarks and critiques rather miss the point. However that's for a different blog post. Instead let's consider the short defence of Traditional Fantasy, which is the starkly simple...

My name is M Harold Page and I recently sold a short story with a dragon in it.

As I wrote the story, I could hear the voices of snarky snobbery in the back of my head:

"Oh look, LOL, you could reduce all Fantasy maps to a blotchy version of Europe but swap in Orks for Mongols.... OMG another book about E'lves and D'warves... (chortle) Historical fiction for authors too lazy to do research."

And:

"Sigh. Isn't it time to explore other cultures?"

Yes it's pretty easy to snark at -- call it - Traditional Fantasy, and also to give it a political kicking critique. It is, after all, a genre in which everything is possible, and yet where it usually delivers European-style secondary worlds and archetypes.

I think the snarks and critiques rather miss the point. However that's for a different blog post. Instead let's consider the short defence of Traditional Fantasy, which is the starkly simple:

"Go [redacted] a [redacted]! My reading time is my own."

To me that's a pretty unassailable position.

Clever people with loud views on genre often forget that most of us consume books in the ragged gaps in our lives - on a train or bus to work, while watching over a sleepless baby, or just before keeling over exhausted at night. Nobody is entitledto our reading time.

They also forget that it's not a zero sum game with other literature, writers, or sources of information. Having Traditional Fantasy as a go-to precludes neither reading other kinds of books by other kinds of people, nor engaging with the political world through other means; Sometimes I put down my Conan to read the Guardian. Nor does a love of Traditional Fantasy necessarily imply any sense of entitlement that might, just for hypothetical example, manifest in wanting to hijack a popular speculative fiction award. (Blackgate Magazine, for whom I blog, likes its Traditional Fantasy, but spurned its puppy-soiled Hugo nomination just as soon as the editor could find a big enough poop-a-scoop.)

However, as I said, the clever people forget, and in forgetting feed a casual snobbery against Traditional Fantasy.

This matters because snobbery against a genre really means snobbery against actual people; those who create and consume the genre in question.

Sure, who cares if you tease my wife for binge-reading almost the entire Wheel of Time while on maternity leave?

But stop and think about the result when a High School English teacher slaps down a teenager who writes a book report on the latest Joe Abercrombie. And, consider the practical professional implications when those in charge of the various literary pork barrels - festivals, grants, residencies, teaching gigs - exclude Fantasy writers because what we write doesn't really count as literature

The snobbery against Traditional Fantasy also matters because it feeds a more general snobbery against Speculative Fiction, that snobbery really being part of a nasty little power struggle between the old and the new middle class tribes.

The old tribe gets its culture from the private ("independent" as in "posh") school system, from certain sorts of degrees from certain kinds of institutions. Its members often come from established middle class families, passing privilege down the generations via contacts and inside knowledge as much as actual resources.

Members of the old tribe like smart clothes and typically get their spirituality from expensive yoga retreats. They are suspicious of intellectuals, but aspire to refined tastes and defer to a tribal intelligentsia that likes post modernism, "serious" literature, and opera, that dabbles with champagne socialism, and claims to enjoy "crucial" plays about the underprivileged in which nothing much happens.

The new tribe are the Geeks. Us.

At our best we're as meritocratic as we are inclusive. We come from all backgrounds. Our sense of style veers wildly between practical and playful, and is always more semiotic than fashionable. We get our spirituality from fire festivals and Yoda memes. We aspire to being an intelligentsia. Many of us are hands on activists. We prefer screen to stage, and insist on stories where things happen (like that bit in Fireflywhere Mal...). We like all sorts of books, but, historically at least, have a soft spot for those with rockets and elves on the covers.

And we are the new technocrats. Not a lot goes on in business or academia without a card-carrying geek making the computer side of things work, or handling the bewildering maths or abstract concepts. We may not have taken over the world yet, and we're certainly not overrepresented in the 1%, but our rise is as inevitable as that of the 19th century factory owners and industrialists.

Normally, the old tribe would just absorb or overawe us - hand out knighthoods and teach us to eat with a knife and fork. However, we see mainstream culture as just another set of options, and we play very different games of social dominance:

"You do improv theatre? That's cool! Did you know I'm a GM?"

It's like watching Sparta and Athens come to grips... infantry versus navy.

A good way to win a war is to move it onto a battleground of your choosing and then define the interaction so yours is the most powerful side - our King Robert did that to the English back in 1314. And that's how I see what's happening: By a sort of collective unconscious reflex, the old tribe pushes back, dismissing geek culture, ignoring it in their arts columns and literary festivals, writing grant rules to exclude it, putting down the things that give us pleasure: "You may be clever, but your tastes are childish. Get back to work, techno-peasant!"

And we often buy into it enough to say;

"Oh no, not MY tastes. I read [Your Genres Here]. But those tastes over there? Those arechildish."

Oh that was the other good way to win a war; Divide and Rule.

This is why Traditional Fantasy deserves a more systematic defence than just that of mere personal preference, which is what I'll get to in my next blog entry.

Oh, and that dragon story?

I told those voices to go to hell, and for good measure put in skeletons, elves and dwarves. When I settled to my next gig - a franchise short story about battling wizards in a ruined city- the snarking snobbish voices in my head had stilled forever.

Or.. (shameless plug)... perhaps I just can't hear them over the remembered sound of Jutes and Ostrogoths clashing in the breach at Orleans while Attila's archers storm the parapet and bring down an arrowstorm on the mercenary shieldwall...

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