What He Taught

I was having lunch with a Jewish friend of mine the other day, a man whose personal integrity and ethics I highly respect. We argue all the time. He asked a question that threw into sharp relief what my faith often looks like from the outside. As best I can reproduce it, the conversation went like this. “I have never understood why you [Christians] make the cross the center of your faith.” I replied, “And what should we make the center of our faith?” Without hesitation, he answered, “What Jesus taught while he was alive.” He went on to contrast this Christian attitude that he perceived toward the moment of Christ’s death with his observation that in the Jewish tradition it is actions, and only actions, that matter as far as a person’s righteousness is concerned.

I do not know if my friend realized that I had heard this before, from non-Christians, prominently atheists, who will very often say that Jesus was a good man, whose teachings should be followed. This is always followed up by the observation that Christians in particular do a very poor job of following His commandments.

I would like to start my response to this by admitting that I believe one of the greatest failures of the Church, both as an institution and as a fellowship — more, as a matter of my own personal conduct — is our failure to follow Christ as he taught us to live. I am not going to waste time with excuses, but speak plainly: In the 19th and 20th centuries, the Church visibly choked on its own success. Its cultural dominance tempted it quite successfully to condemn unpopular sins and refuse to forgive such sinners, while at the same time ignoring unpopular sins and concealing them, or what was worse: preaching that they were no sin at all. The Church will therefore have to answer for all those who rejected Christ, not because they were offended by His teachings, but because they were offended by the Church’s refusal to obey them, and with Thomas Jefferson, “I shudder when I think that God is just; that His justice cannot sleep forever.”

However, that historical fact has no bearing on another historical fact, and that is the matter of what Jesus actually did teach. And while Jesus taught us many hard lessons in personal conduct in the parable of the Good Samaritan and the parable of the Sheep and the Goats, his teachings also include the following:

“And he began to teach them that the Son of Man must… be killed and after three days rise again. And He said this plainly.” Mark 8:31-32.

“The Son of Man is going to be delivered into the hands of men, and they will kill him. And when he is killed, after three days he will rise.” Mark 9:31.

“And I tell you, everyone who acknowledges me before men, the Son of Man also will acknowledge before the angels of God, but the one who denies me before men will be denied before the angels of God.” Luke 12:8-9.

“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent His Son not into the world to condemn the world, but that through Him the world might be saved.” John 3:16-17

“Verily, verily I say unto you, before Abraham was, I AM,” John 8:58

“I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” John 14:6.

The problem that Christians have is that we focus, perhaps, too much on the identity of Christ, and we forget that surrounding His identity, and pointing us toward Him are all Jesus’ commandments to us. We want a relationship with Jesus the man, and with Jesus the God, but we wish to ignore the commands of Jesus the Lord, with the authority to demand we change our behavior.

Non-Christians who criticize Christians for this, on the other hand, have both the opposite and the same problem. They acknowledge the authority of Christ when he preaches commandments to do righteousness, but they ignore that alongside those teachings, and intimately bound up in them are the commands to follow him and trust in His sacrifice. They ignore that the commands to change our behavior all come from and point to Christ’s mission to save humanity by His death and resurrection. And of course, as C. S. Lewis was famous for pointing out, either Christ is who He said He was, and we must all follow all of what he said, or he is a lunatic, on the level with the man who says he is a poached egg, and we need not trouble ourselves about any of what He said. And on a personal level, while I am aware of many other men who claimed identity with God, I know of no other who has gone on to be a great moral teacher. On the contrary, they were eccentric at best, and most often genuine monsters.

Jesus always knew that Christians would do badly in following him, and complained about it to His disciples: “Why do you call me Lord, Lord, and do not follow my teachings?” The question to non-Christians would perhaps be better phrased, “Why do you insist my disciples follow my teachings when you deny the ones you don’t like?”
If there is anything that the two groups have in common, it is that the Gospel of Half of Christ is very attractive to them: Christians want to get to the center without troubling themselves about the commands that surround it. Non-Christians want to stay at the edge and ignore the teachings at the center. Both are wrong.

If the New Testament documents are worthy of any respect, then the same man who said “whatsoever you do unto the least of these, you do also to me” also said “I am the resurrection and the life.” The problem with both Christians and non-Christian admirers of Jesus is that both of them want only a part of what Jesus taught, but Jesus himself demands a wholehearted following. And since none of us is capable of such a wholehearted following, the true Gospel of Christ is this: that the Father stands ready to welcome the Prodigal Son because He loves him. That the Son poured out His life for His weaker brothers and sisters that they, too, may stand in the Father’s embrace. But to turn away from the Son is to turn away from the Father, and walk away from the embrace. And this a Christian cannot do. We must indeed, as my friend said, follow what Jesus taught. But following it leads us, step by step, to the Cross.

 

 

Screwtape’s Toast: A Retrospective, Part II

For those of you just joining us, I would encourage a reading of Part I of the Retrospective on the Toast of Screwtape, found here.

But now comes the point. Gastronomically, all this is deplorable. But I hope none of us puts gastronomy first. Is it not, in another and far more serious way, full of hope and promise?

The best use of the squabble between the Corporatist and the Activist leaders is the fact that instead of either working against us, they work primarily against each other, while the masses of humans debate about which is “better.” We, of course, do not care. The important thing is that the real leaders of humanity, the ones with real drive and moral force, will be sucked up into the endless war and co-opted. Even more advantageously for us, the ones who are actually strong in the virtue they call humility will conclude that they are in error and will eventually imitate their fellows out of pride, despair, or cowardice. The few courageous enough to follow their moral convictions will be labeled as cranks and silenced, or better, ignored.

Consider, first, the mere quantity. The quality may be wretched; but we never had souls (of a sort) in more abundance.

And then the triumph. We are tempted to say that such souls — or such residual puddles of what once was soul — are hardly worth damning. Yes, but the Enemy (for whatever inscrutable and perverse reason) thought them worth trying to save. Believe me, He did. You youngsters who have not yet been on active duty have no idea with what labour, with what delicate skill, each of these miserable creatures was finally captured.

The difficulty lay in their very smallness and flabbiness. Here were vermin so muddled in mind, so passively responsive to environment, that it was very hard to raise them to that level of clarity and deliberateness at which mortal sin becomes possible. To raise them just enough; but not that fatal millimetre of “too much.” For then, of course, all would possibly have been lost. They might have seen; they might have repented. On the other hand, if they had been raised too little, they would very possibly have qualified for Limbo, as creatures suitable neither for Heaven nor for Hell; things that, having failed to make the grade, are allowed to sink into a more or less contented subhumanity forever.

This problem is one which we have finally surmounted, through a process Screwtape only dimly, if at all, foresaw, and which is worth some discussion. We have at last succeeded in teaching vice as though it was virtue. Not through argumentation, of course, but by encouraging the most glamorous and loudest platforms to those who practice the vices, and by encouraging acceptable lying. In America, we have taught them this very well. Cowardice is now called “pacifism.” Lust and adultery are called “love” and “self-discovery.” Betrayal and disloyalty are called “honesty” and envy is called “justice.” In this way the humans cannot “see and repent” as Screwtape feared. Who can repent of a virtue? And the more they are assailed, the more fiercely they defend it, seeing themselves as martyrs to their chosen vices. And the fact that all of those can be actually virtues only determines the humans to defend them more fiercely. All we need do is to make sure that they never ask themselves WHY doing what they like should be considered virtuous.

In each individual choice of what the Enemy would call the “wrong” turning, such creatures are at first hardly, if at all, in a state of full spiritual responsibility. They do not understand either the source or the real character of the prohibitions they are breaking. Their consciousness hardly exists apart from the social atmosphere that surrounds them. And of course we have contrived that their very language should be all smudge and blur; what would be a bribe in someone else’s profession is a tip or a present in theirs.

Here Screwtape was more prescient. For as we noted, we no longer simply blur the words of their language. We hardly need to. Their own knowledge of it has been so far degraded that they can hardly use it as a tool, anymore than they can use tools. Those whose lifespans are approaching their natural end in their most powerful nation can remember a time when it was a point of pride among men and women to use tools with their hands: to make and repair things because they understood them. Such people were very hard to fool, when Screwtape wrote. But their grandchildren are a different matter. Their machines are now so complex that most of them cannot be understood, let alone repaired, by a single human. We have replaced young men spending their leisure hours working on the engines of cars with frustrated children hanging on the line to tech support. And faced with  problem they turn helpless to the “experts” to replace them. Therefore they are unused to struggle and mastery of their bodies or their minds. Which is exactly where we want them.

The job of their Tempters was first, or course, to harden these choices of the Hellward roads into a habit by steady repetition. But then (and this was all-important) to turn the habit into a principle — a principle the creature is prepared to defend. After that, all will go well. Conformity to the social environment, at first merely instinctive or even mechanical — how should a jelly not conform? — now becomes an unacknowledged creed or ideal of Togetherness or Being Like Folks. Mere ignorance of the law they break now turns into a vague theory about it — remember, they know no history — a theory expressed by calling it conventional or Puritan or bourgeois “morality.”

Again, our task is much easier now. Rather than reject morality for even the slightest of reasons, the children are now taught, and by the time they are adults believe reflexively, that morality is a wardrobe, which can be assembled and worn to suit them, depending on how it makes them feel, and that anyone who says differently is simply out to control them.

Thus gradually there comes to exist at the center of the creature a hard, tight, settled core of resolution to go on being what it is, and even to resist moods that might tend to alter it. It is a very small core; not at all reflective (they are too ignorant) nor defiant (their emotional and imaginative poverty excludes that); almost, in its own way, prim and demure; like a pebble, or a very young cancer. But it will serve our turn. Here at last is a real and deliberate, though not fully articulate, rejection of what the Enemy calls Grace.

This rejection is now automatic. Grace and sin are two concepts that they do not even understand. But they can avoid the first by doing the second in selfish abandon.

These, then, are two welcome phenomena. First, the abundance of our captures: however tasteless our fare, we are in no danger of famine. And secondly, the triumph: the skill of our Tempters has never stood higher. But the third moral, which I have not yet drawn, is the most important of all.

The sort of souls on whose despair and ruin we have — well, I won’t say feasted, but at any rate subsisted — tonight are increasing in numbers and will continue to increase. Our advices from Lower Command assure us that this is so; our directives warn us to orient all our tactics in view of this situation. The “great” sinners, those in whom vivid and genial passions have been pushed beyond the bounds and in whom an immense concentration of will has been devoted to objects which the Enemy abhors, will not disappear. But they will grow rarer. Our catches will be ever more numerous; but they will consist increasingly of trash — trash which we should once have thrown to Cerberus and the hellhounds as unfit for diabolical consumption. And there are two things I want you to understand about this: First, that however depressing it might seem, it is really a change for the better. And secondly, I would draw your attention to the means by which it has been brought about.

It is a change for the better. The great (and toothsome) sinners are made out of the very same material as those horrible phenomena the great Saints. The virtual disappearance of such material may mean insipid meals for us. But is it not utter frustration and famine for the Enemy? He did not create the humans — He did not become one of them and die among them by torture — in order to produce candidates for Limbo, “failed” humans. He wanted to make them Saints; gods; things like Himself. Is the dullness of your present fare not a very small price to pay for the delicious knowledge that His whole great experiment is petering out? But not only that. As the great sinners grow fewer, and the majority lose all individuality, the great sinners become far more effective agents for us. Every dictator or even demagogue — almost every film star or [rock star] — can now draw tens of thousands of the human sheep with him. They give themselves (what there is of them) to him; in him, to us. There may come a time when we shall have no need to bother about individual temptation at all, except for the few. Catch the bellwether, and his whole flock comes after him.

It should hardly be necessary to state that this happy state of affairs has long since been realized on Earth. By rejecting the Enemy, the humans have filled their need for Him with a desire to fling themselves at whatever leader makes them feel closest to that now-unattainable ideal. If they will not worship that which is greater than themselves, they can now be drawn to what looks greater. And we have even regained a great advantage of polytheism, the ability to fling humans at each others’ throats in the names of their little gods, all of them false.

 

 

 

 

The Cold Iron Towers: An Alternate History

This idea grew out of a thread on another author’s page, and got enough likes that I want to seriously talk about the possibility of doing it. Bear with me, because this is really thinking aloud, and there’s a LOT of room for filling in details. Jump on board in the comments if you’re into that sort of thing.

My alternate history begins in June 1942: Hitler decides that because of flooding, reports on Soviet tank strength, and the delay caused by conquering Greece, Barbarossa can wait until Summer of 1942. As a result, the European theater enters a lull. Knowing that they will not be needed in the East, Hitler orders the reinforcement of Rommel’s Afrika Korps, which succeeds in taking Tobruk, and begins pushing into Egypt. Britain is unable to reinforce due to Luftwaffe air superiority.
In December, Japan bombs Pearl Harbor, but realizing that Barbarossa is more important, Hitler does not declare war on the United States.

Josef Stalin, having had six months to prepare and reasoning that Germany is too occupied in Africa, invades German-occupied Poland over the frozen ground of winter. With sympathetic Communist partisans all over the Balkan peninsula ready to strike, Stalin’s war quickly becomes acknowledged as a war of global liberation from capitalism and fascism. Communist cells all over Europe begin guerrilla warfare. With the Wehrmacht facing defeat, Germany hastily offers Britain any number of concessions to end their war. Churchill’s price for peace is the surrender of all captured colonies and massive post-war reparations, including the evacuation of France. Germany agrees, on the condition that Britain and Germany join in creating a neutral French Republic that will be kept out of any war with Germany. Hitler also begins courting Roosevelt, emphasizing the similarities between the New Deal and Hitler’s own “economic miracle.” “American Socialist” and “British Socialist” unions begin to form. While they are decidedly minority factions and disliked by the populace as a whole, they are more popular than the Communists.

Fighting Japan on its own, Roosevelt is forced to bow to Republican pressure to end Lend-Lease to the British and Russians. Japan, for its part, joins the Soviet Union, citing “Western Imperialist perfidy” on the part of the Nazi regime. The Soviets and Japanese Army agree to divide the tottering Republic of China between them after the war, and with the fall of Berlin apparently weeks away, the Soviet Far Eastern Army is assigned to invade China from the north.

However, free to fight the Russians alone, Germany begins to stabilize its Eastern Front just short of Berlin. For most of 1942, the Soviets and the Germans fight it out in East Prussia, while the US duels Japan. As Germany recalls its troops from the Balkans, Stalin seizes Istanbul and the Dardanelles, freeing the Black Sea Fleet to raid into the Eastern Med, after which, the Soviets seize the Suez Canal. Forced into the realization that the Soviets mean what they say, the Commons reluctantly support Churchill’s call for a “Devil’s Alliance” with the Nazis in winter of 1943. The United States joins the alliance by summer with Roosevelt’s reluctant approval, and Stalin’s forces are pushed back. The Britisha and American navies force the Med and land in Greece and the Balkans, using friendly Italian bases as their jumping-off points. As the Wehrmacht advances and the Anglo-Americans liberate Soviet-conquered Norway and Finland, the horror of the gulags shock the civilized world. The tide has turned, and Moscow and Stalingrad fall before Hitler’s Tiger tanks and jet fighters and the British and American blockades. Roosevelt barely scrapes an electoral win in 1944. After the American Manhattan project results in the bombing of Hiroshima and Vladivostok, the Soviets and Japanese surrender. Stalin commits suicide before he can be tried for war crimes.

The United Nations is formed with the United States, Britain, China, Greater Germany and Italy as permanent members of the Security Council. Italy retains Libya. Britain keeps Egypt and the Suez Canal, and liberated Greece reclaims Istanbul, again renamed Constantinople. A Jewish state is proposed, but Nazi-leaning Arab governments make it clear that no such thing will be tolerated. The few Jewish refugees to escape to Palestine ask the British and Russian governments for help, and the Russian Republic agrees to accept the Jewish population in its Jewish Autonomous Oblast on the Chinese border. It achieves independence and UN recognition in 1949.

After the war, Nazi agents reveal how thoroughly the Soviets had planted spies in the Manhattan Project, naturally taking the stolen knowledge for themselves. Nazi Germany detonates its first weapon in 1947. After Hitler reneges on his promise to evacuate the Low Countries, the Western Allies and Germany nearly come to war over the “Brussels Blockade.” A state of Cold War is recognized.

A wave of fear sweeps the United States over the fear of Nazi infiltration, and fueled by the awareness of Hitler’s air and rocket superiority. Only infusions of British jet technology keep the USAF competitive, and Churchill is voted down in disgrace after Hitler annexes all the West Russian territories.

The Marshall Plan manages to revitalize the Russian Republic, Finland, Norway, France, and Britain. Hitler copies the plan for Italy and Spain. The MacArthur Constitution is approved in Japan. Without support, Mao Zedong is hunted down and killed by Chiang Kai-shek, armed by both the United States and Germany. Chiang quickly copies the German model, proclaiming the “Chinese Socialist Republic. He quickly brings Vietnam and Korea under Chinese suzerainty.” Blamed for “losing China” and the German ascendance by the Republicans, Truman is defeated by Dewey in 1948. Greater Germany demonstrates long-range missiles and orbits a satellite by 1952. The United States cannot follow suit until 1958.

The “Swastika Scare” drives many former pro-German propaganda writers and converts to Naziism underground. The HUAC investigates, and jails those who refuse to testify about others with pro-Nazi leanings. At the highest levels of society and academia, however, Naziism is often secretly admired for its scientific achievements and its promise of eugenic improvement of humankind.

Hitler dies in 1947, and is laid to rest with honor. His death triggers a quiet purge by the Army of some of the more radical Nazi elements, but a more-or-less clean succession is engineered, with “de-Hitlerization” accomplished and the release of many surviving POWs and political prisoners. Jews are allowed to identify themselves and emigrate. Only a few thousand survive. Returning to Russia, they bring stories of Nazi concentration camps, but these are not widely talked about since there is no hard proof. Many believe the stories are simply anti-Nazi propaganda. After Eugene McCarthy’s “witch-hunt” for Nazis implicates the Army, he falls from power. Only Richard Nixon, with his arrest of former Bund Leader and State Department employee Francis (Fritz) Kuhn, gets a boost.

In 1952, charismatic young politician and war-hero Joe Kennedy, Jr. challenges Dewey and wins. Elected on the twin platforms of challenging Nazi dominance in space and revitalizing the economy. The US quickly achieves dominance on the world stage as an industrial power, outstripping recovering Nazi Germany by a fair margin. However, growing Nazi sentiment in Central and South America and Africa tarnish his legacy. Although Kennedy is re-elected in 1956, the fall of Cuba in 1959 to openly-Nazi Fidel Castro shakes public confidence. The German moon-landing in 1960 seals the Democrats’ Fate, and California Governor Richard Nixon is elected President by a landslide over the much-derided candidacy of John F. Kennedy.

Pro-Nazi elements support de-colonization worldwide (against formerly British and French colonies only, naturally). Naziism is “recast” as a struggle for national identity and support of the poor throughout the world. German propaganda spins into high gear throughout this time, emphasizing the unity of the German people and the prosperity of their lower classes as they homestead through the Ostmarks of the Greater German Reich. Protests that this is only possible because of the extermination of the Russian population and the occupation of the Soviet cities is largely ignored as Greater Germany begins to challenge American economic dominance in the 1960s.

However, the Nixon years are also a period of some foreign-policy successes for the United States. Under Nixon, the United States’ Aries Program lands Grissom and Chaffee on the moon in 1965. Nixon improves relations with China by exploiting racial tensions between it and its German ally. Nixon also has success with his “Southern Strategy” of reaching out to Black Americans and using the power of the federal government to enforce their right to vote. He is criticized for abrogating States Rights and increasing racial tensions.
Also, Nixon’s insistence on opposing Naziism in Central America leads to a number of low-level wars in which American troops are dragged in. Growing hostility to “American chauvinism” grows on campus as more and more lives are lost in Guatemala and Honduras. Opposition to Naziism is increasingly questioned, and a rift opens in American life, with a counterculture that resists capitalism and American interventionism. The “Peace movement” urges the United States to leave other countries alone to work out their own destinies, and finds support on college campuses across the nation. Among some political thinkers, distinction is made between “Naziism” as a legitimate political system, and the excesses of “Hitlerism.”

That’s as far as I can take it right now.  What do you think? Bear in mind this is VERY rough and obviously open to all sorts of criticism. Let me know.

I shouldn’t have to say this, but I will: this is (I hope obviously) NOT a pro-Nazi world. Naziism is evil. But it is one in which Naziism is strongly PERCEIVED to be the lesser of two evils because of a different set of circumstances. I reject Naziism in all its forms as an odious and terrible political and social philosophy. But there was a time, historically, in which it was seen by many as a potential and desirable future. Many good people died to see that this future did not occur. This universe asks the question: “What if they had not fully succeeded? What if the issue had remained — in the public mind — in doubt?” If you find this horrifying, good. It IS horrifying.

 

 

 

 

A Memory of Jerry

The worlds of Science Fiction today are mourning the loss of one of the best of us. Dr. Jerry Pournelle has passed. For those of my readers who do not know, Dr. Pournelle was one of the great pioneers of both science and science-fiction. He was consulted by NASA and the Reagan Administration on matters of space exploration and defense. He wrote several novels I loved, especially High Justice. But my favorites were his collaborations with his partner, Larry Niven. Together they wrote two of my favorite SF novels ever, and one of my favorite fantasy works: Footfall and The Mote In God’s Eye, which to me deserve a place in the eternal canon of SF for being, respectively, the greatest alien invasion and first contact novels of the latter 20th century, and Inferno, a rewrite of Dante, in which a science-fiction writer travels through hell.

I was reminded of how privileged I am to have spent even one evening in Jerry’s company when I saw so many of my Facebook friends, most of whom are more accomplished authors than I am myself, saying that they had only met Jerry last week at DragonCon for the first time, or never.

I met Jerry eighteen years ago, at Writers’ Of The Future. I’d won 2nd place in the 1999 contest, and I still remember it as one of the proudest moments of my life that he and Mr. Niven handed me — ME! — my first ever science-fiction writing award. That I promptly made an ass of myself with my thank-you speech, which I had not rehearsed, is a somewhat less-proud moment, but that’s life.

But I will always treasure the memory of the after-party, when I got to speak with Jerry and many other writers.  I’ll always remember that he came up with the best explanation I’ve ever heard of for the infamous Roswell  Incident, which I will recall here. I’m going to emphasize that this was Jerry speculating, NOT releasing actual knowledge. Obviously, what follows is not an exact transcript, but I’m going to reproduce it as best I can recall from eighteen years ago:

“You got to remember that this was the old Air Force, with all the pilots still veterans of World War II. And those pilots were pretty much drunk as their ground state of being. On top of that, this was 1947, when the entire nuclear arsenal of the world was approximately eight weapons, all of them bombs, and all of them owned by the United States of America.

“Well, what it seems to me is that at some point, the Air Force wanted to move a bomb. Naturally, you’d keep that as secret as you can; why would you tell even the pilots? And so, two pilots, enjoying the long and boring flight over the New Mexico desert as best they could, climbed into the night sky, and never arrived at their destination.

“Now a nuclear weapon, of course, has safeties to prevent a mushroom going off in case the plane carrying it crashes, but crashed planes tend to burn, and the chemical explosive wrapped around the plutonium can certainly catch fire. So you have the Air Force looking for a missing plane, carrying an atomic bomb, and suddenly reports from Roswell of a a burning wreck in the middle of the desert. It doesn’t take the Air Force long to put those two facts together, but by the time they arrive, several VERY unauthorized persons have seen the wreck and the burned bodies (Author’s Note: Ever seen a photo of a very badly burned body? They do tend to shrink and attenuate. So they look very thin, with disproportionately-sized heads. Funny, that.) and strange fragments of highly-classified equipment.

What the Air Force very much wants to do is to make all this go away, so they whisk away all that they can, but they can’t disappear U.S. citizens, and they very definitely do not want it getting out that a couple of idiots managed to destroy by incompetence an eighth of the world’s nuclear arsenal. So they make up the story of a crashed weather balloon, which is an obvious fabrication, and pray. Sure enough, people disbelieve this and their theory about what the Air Force is covering up is… aliens. Alien spacecraft, crashed in the desert, whisked away by the Air Force.

The Air Force, of course, with its competent people on the job, send up praises to heaven and immediately refuse all comment on such things, pointing with increased energy to the “weather balloon,” and looking as stupid as they can. Because the more they do, the more people think “Ah-HAH! So it IS aliens,” and the less they think, “I wonder whether the Air Force might have lost a nuclear bomb.”

I remember thinking. My gods, of course. That makes absolutely perfect sense, and no matter how high up the chain of command you go, all the way up to President Truman, absolutely NO ONE in the government is going to have an interest in coming clean on that story, and neither would anyone in Eisenhower’s administration after that. How simple and brilliant.

Well, we all laughed, and whether it’s true or not, it’s a good story. And then Jerry talked to me. He asked about my story, and said he remembered it, and that it was a good story. And that’s something I will always remember when I feel that I can’t hack it as a writer. More than anything else, I remember that Jerry made me feel included, and truly part of this wonderful thing that I had always imagined fandom to be. And you know what? I think he did that with everyone. While I have talked to people who hated Jerry’s politics (and hated his fiction) and said he could be an ass when he was arguing, I never heard anyone who said that Jerry snubbed them or made them feel unwelcome.

There’s been a lot of — shall we say, discord — in fandom lately. A lot of exclusivity. I’ve seen friends made to feel unwelcome and friends threatened and excoriated and called liars and slanderers and worse. I’ve experienced some of it myself, as people made it clear that for one reason or another, I was not good enough or important enough to be worth their respect or time. For the purposes of this piece, though, I am not interested in the rights or the wrongs of any of it. All I would like to say is, that I would like all of us to remember Jerry, and how he took the time to befriend and welcome a newbie author. I never had the privilege of truly working with him, but I will always be grateful that for that evening, and that the man I met was as gracious and entertaining as the worlds he had brought to life for me. Thank you Jerry. And I hope to meet you again, in the worlds beyond the sky.

Starting With Shakespeare: Tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow…

One of the hardest things about writing — and also, life itself — is trying again after you have failed. Writers are champion failers. Even the brilliant ones. Frank Herbert, whose work I am parodizing on this site, is one of the greatest failers ever. After selling Dune to Analog magazine as a serial, he failed thirteen times to find a publisher for one of the most iconic novels in science-fiction, mostly because a lot of them thought that a novel that needed a glossary was simply unreadable. And yet, aren’t we glad that he kept on with it. Trying the same thing over and over again even though it doesn’t work is a kind of madness, perhaps, but it is the kind of madness that is sometimes vitally necessary to realize a dream.

And so, once again, I am going to try to blog regularly. (It has to work this time: the website has pretty pictures on it!) I can’t promise I’ll really be any more consistent this time, but I’ve been making some changes in the way I do things, and my writing practices have dramatically improved over the last three years, so hope is high.

First, I’d like to thank all my friends who have been following and commenting on this blog since it was a blog and nothing else. You’ve been here for the long haul, and I do appreciate that.

Second, I’ve put up a lot of new content here, and more is coming. I’d like to encourage everyone to check out the Sample Snippets page, which will only be getting bigger. I think I can promise that whole stories will be coming soon, and they will be announced here.

Finally, I’d like to link you to my ongoing free project, William Shakespeare’s Dune, which I am doing just for fun. Today’s addition is Act I, Scene ii, which is the real point of this post. Enjoy!