You so _can_ do it.

Ok, moderate rant warning. I’ve just read another editor telling me how we poor little inferior authors can’t do it without them. Only they can save us from big bad Amazon, only they can tell readers we’re worth reading, only they can find and nurture us.

Huh.

I came into this world at a very young age (and not writing at all), as a tiny rag of humanity that no-one really expected to live, with a mother whose breast-milk lasted days, and an allergy to cow’s milk. This in days before formula or goats milk being available or breast milk-banks, meant I was dead, barring a wet nurse… which they couldn’t find.

Only my mum, bless her, didn’t know what give up meant, didn’t accept that, and fed me on carrot juice… Grated by hand and wrung out in muslin. Everything I know about nutrition says I should be dead and have spared you my blatherings, but my mother once accepted a limitation, regretted it and decided thenceforth she’d do whatever it was anyway… which made growing up… interesting. As a kid you would SO like your parents to conform. It’s only when you get a little older that you realize that a mother who cut gemstones as a hobby and did woodwork was as much of a gift as father who went commercial fishing and kept bees, whereas other kids’ parents were housewives or drove desks. I survived the bizarre diet, a kid weighing half what his peers did by the time I was five. I had severe asthma at a time when that killed a lot of kids too. One my earliest memories is being so exhausted from trying to breathe, all I wanted to do was stop, and my mother saying ‘just five deep breaths. You can do it.’ And then there would be another five…

I was nurtured, I suppose, on an iron will, and ‘You can do it.’

Human behavior is shaped by a cocktail of nature and nurture, and as far as I can work out I got a double ration of bloody-minded obstinacy from long generations of both sides genetically, and three times that in nurture. So: I’m 5’6” and I have been told a stiff breeze will blow me away (No it bloody well won’t. I will wear a weight-belt if need be.). I ended up with a sports bursary paying for some of my college education, and I still take part in what (for reasons unknown) people call extreme sports.

And you know what? There was so often someone saying ‘you can’t do that, Dave.’ until they eventually gave up in disgust, because I never did listen. Eventually I suppose it will kill me. Shrug. I would rather die as I have lived, and in the meanwhile enjoy myself, especially proving them wrong.

We shape the way we see the world through our own experience, and what expect others to do and think through our own perception. It takes a rare honest man who can really get into the head of a thief for example. When I hear publishing executives whine about how people will steal everything if they don’t DRM it to the hilt… and I wonder if it says more about them and their morality, than about their customers. My own point of view is well, _you_ CAN do it. If you can’t get there by the straightforward brawn, you can get there by brain, and if you can’t do it by simple intellectual bludgeoning, you can do it by finding away around. Whether you’re talking about exceeding lightspeed, overcoming ecological disaster, or publishing… you can. Human’s have, over and over and over again. The only thing that stops them is other humans.

Where you end up may not be where you planned to go, but you won’t be sitting around on your hands waiting to die.

Which I guess brings me around to publishing. For the last twenty years at least, that has been the land of ‘can’t’. It’s the favorite tune of the legacy gatekeepers, particularly those who want me to fit their mold and sing their song. I know that song. It’s lyrics go ‘people like you, we’d be better off without’, which from their point of view, may well be true. I found it very odd, and of course being a good little sheep who always likes others to think and decide for him, I listened to every word, and gave up any interest in writing.

Or not. I always listen to people who say that, don’t I?

I’ve always avoided bringing politics into my posts, but it seems to me that publishing went wrong when they brought political philosophy into their strategy. The strategy essentially boils down to : You’re inferior. We know what is good for you. Trust us, we (the government) will look after you. Oddly enough every good communist or socialist I ever met (and yes, I have met some earnest good people believing in these philosophies), wanted to _help_ people, but assumed they’d be ones deciding what was good for those (inferior) people. Not them, of course. The first part of the philosophy is often left unstated but, hell, if I’m not inferior, why would ‘we’ know better than ‘me’ what is good for me?

And out of this Nanny-state-in-publishing spilled into a sequence of pro-their-political-outlook (because it is good for you) and anti anything that actually smelled of the individual triumphing, especially without authority helping. The core message, the mantra of ‘nanny’ is just “You CAN’T. We know what is best for you (and for readers) and you CAN’T DO THAT. If you try, it’ll all end in tears. And thus a lot of what they brought out was predictions of the misery those who didn’t sing their song (and march in time to their music) would bring. The BAD people, who weren’t good (the correct kind of) government…

Which, in a nutshell is why books with “Can-do” attitude are out of fashion. (which – as a South African, I was raised to believe was an intrinsic American value. My Dad picked it up from his dealing with ‘Yanks’ in the war. Do you know how weird I found the shattering of this illusion? It’s certainly still true of some… but there is an awful lot of ‘I can’t, nanny must. I’ll be good so she will’, which makes me want to puke in my breakfast.).

The trouble with this is that an endless diet of ‘can’t, need nanny,’ eventually has the effect of stopping many people even thinking of trying ‘can’. Yes, it does make them more governable, I suppose. But if the world — and the US — needs anything right now it’s ‘Can do’. The hell with nanny – whether she’s your big corporate (who mostly evolve to follow this trend) or a publisher, or the government… decisions they make for you are still made by individuals, and, let’s be real here, most corporate execs, editors and politicians haven’t got a lot of space (or evidence) to tell anyone they’re superior in their judgement of what’s good for them.

So: the hell with the lot of them. Trust me, not because I’m superior, but because I’ve got the evidence and experience on my side to show I am right. I can do it. So Can You. And with writing… with independent publishing, we DON’T need nanny.

If Amazon stiffs us, just like legacy publishing did, somehow the can do’s will find another way. And the CAN DO will come out in their writing.

And if I go down fighting, I’ll go down fighting believing there are readers with whom that resonates.

DOG AND DRAGON (the amazon link picture below pays me a few cents extra) officially comes out on the 4th, but I believe it’s out on the shelves at B&N (and hopefully independents, who are good to buy from if you can) is Dave writing ‘can do’. Somehow. If they put universes in your way. We can or we go down fighting.

And sometimes I will succeed.
And sometimes I won’t.
But at least I’ll have pride in myself, and not be a puling infant waiting for a nappy change.

Welcome Instapundit readers.  You might want to check Dave’s other posts.  He’s always worthwhile.  And if you have the time, you can check out the rest of us too

97 comments

  1. I got a high compliment yesterday. I’d gone to pick up a couch, a sleeper, which is very heavy. I walked up and the guy asks me very concerned, if I’m sure I can get it off the truck and into my house. I’m a little thing, I guess, although I don’t think of myself that way. After a few minutes of taking this couch apart to move it, he turns to me and says “I think you could wrestle anything into submission you wanted to.”
    That’s how I feel about my writing. If it’s not good enough, I’ll make it that way, but it’s never about the story, just the execution. I want to tell my stories, and I think someone out there wants to read them, so I’m going to keep writing, and trying, and in time it will succeed. Because I can do this, despite everything people keep telling me will hold me back.

    1. Whether you can do it or not, you have the right to be left alone if you choose. At least, we all USED to have that right.

      1. There is no greater encouragement to exercise of intelligence than allowing folk to suffer from their stupidity. It is best done when their ability to exercise stupidity is limited.

  2. It’s probably a very good thing for us that we get along Dave, if we didn’t we’d probably end in a shouting match that stopped 15 or twenty minutes after the heat death of the universe.

    1. (wry smile) Now Mike, you don’t think I’d have wanted you as my agent if you had a can’t do attitude? Or if you didn’t believe in individuals? Anyway any shouting match with me tends to be a really vicious snark, and then I ignore the shouter and set about doing whatever it is to prove them wrong.

      1. Dave, You sound dangerous. Glad I’m not living in the US. What do you write? Anything published I might be able to buy in Paris?

        1. Sf and Fantasy – if you’re buying e-books they’re on webscriptions (novels) or Amazon or smashwords. The paper novels – I lose count – but I think 14, are published in US but my son in England and my French cousins managed to find them. I have a YA steampunk coming in june? and even a couple of romance shorts available though

        2. Dave is not living in the US either. This is by agreement with the Powers That Be TM who have ensured he and I are always in separate continents, lest we start a revolution.

          1. Sarah, you and Dave have to be on separate continents, in separate *hemispheres*! If one of you even crosses the equator, alarms start going off all over the world!

  3. WOOT! Yeah! ::stands on a chair and cheers:: Excellent! You are so *right*, Dave! “Can do” is *very* frowned upon, nowadays – nearly everywhere. People are not encouraged to find solutions, resolve issues, repair things on their own. We need warning labels not to put electric hair dryers in the bath water – what?

    I prefer *your* sort of world. Guess because it’s *my* sort of world, too. PLEASE keep writing!

      1. More than one! I’ve given birth to two more, and one of them is dating a “converted” third 🙂 Not to mention the people that I’ve *told* 🙂

    1. “Can do” is *very* frowned upon, nowadays – nearly everywhere.

      Have you considered moving to IT teaching? Our managers are too busy to manage us, so as long as we fix problems they let us do whatever it takes.

      1. I’m thinking of more basic things: getting shoes repaired (I can vividly remember taking my family’s shoes to the shoe repair shop a few blocks away – now you’re lucky to find one!); being able to repair a car (takes a whole suite of super-expensive equipment. My Dad and uncles once rebuilt a Ford in our driveway, another uncle repainted it when the fenders from the junk yard didn’t match the rest. Nobody could tell *anything* had happened to it when they were done); and so forth. The “gee, this doesn’t work, guess we’ll have to buy a new one” thing just irritates me, sometimes. My mom used to have a huge box of buttons she’d cut from worn-out (and I mean, can’t be mended any more worn out) shirts and blouses and dresses. If a button popped off of something, chances are you could either find a look-alike replacement, or enough that matched to change out the set (in which the survivors would go in the box). My uncle next door had a pedal operated sharpening wheel for sharpening tools – I think it’s one my grandfather bought when he first got married in 1881 – it still worked, still shaprened tools and lawnmower blades until he died any my cousins did Lord knows what with it. That sort of thing would get you mumbled about now in almost any neighborhood (except, maybe, Dave’s — which does sound like a slice of heaven to me, quite often).

        1. Lin,
          I must object here. It’s NOT “no can do” that drives things like the disappearance of shoe repair shops. I grew up with those. I also used to repair clothes, etc. I have one answer for you: price point. My mom still darns socks. I KNOW perfectly well how to do it, but I can buy a pack of 12 at Walmart for under $6 and why spend that time to save a single sock. I do have buttons, but depends on the garment. If it’s a pair of pants I usually put a button on — most people do — but if it’s an older shirt, it just graduates to “gardening clothes.” A lot of it is price-point. We’re unimaginably richer than our forebears, and doing those things is simply NOT efficient. Ditto shoes. Yeah, they’re expensive for my sons (size 50 1/2 or so — yes, I’m joking) but they last the best part of a year, and then we replace them. Mine are usually under $30, bought on sale. Who can afford to spend their day putting on soles (or half soles, as we did back when) for what would be worth it to save a pair of $30 shoes?

          Cars are a different matter, and yes, computers have complicated that. But then, Lin, honestly, you aren’t remembering what cars used to be like when anyone could repair their own. They were uncomfortable, had no air-conditioning or heating, or even defrost. Yeah, they went forever, but at a much different level from now.

          I say those differences are actually for the best. Your comment reminded me a lot of all my friends on the left who moan and groan over the decline of US Steel. (I suppose because it’s an industry from the heyday of unionism.) Most of what we used to use steel for is now done with fiberglass. For us to produce the same quantities of steel would be insane. The fact that we don’t just means the world has changed.

          I fully expect someone in twenty years to say “see how our skills have declined. No one knows how to bind books anymore.”

          1. Granted the no air conditioning in the car. But ours had defrost, and a *great* heater. It also totally protected my un-seatbelted brothers (none in existence, then, outside of airplanes or the X-test planes) from a head-on collision that demolished the entire front end.

            I do replace buttons, mend shirts. Socks are cheap, granted. I’drather pay more for an appliance that can be repaired and last than throw it out and buy a new one every couple of years. But I was raised “frugally” 🙂 *And* I’m older than dirt 🙂

            1. Lin,

              I’m tired and cranky and working on the only computer that is operational right now, so I’m going to be brief. The cars you are talking about also weighed much more than they do now, burned a hell of a lot more gas and oil and would be prohibitive to operate for most of us today. As for buying a new appliance every few years, if you take care of them as you should, you don’t have to. It has nothing to do with being raised frugally. It has to do with using some common sense in the every day operation of your life.

              1. Amanda:

                The car’s she’s talking about weighed about as much as they do now, and burned about as much fuel–when you compare cars of equivalent size. Over the years as material science has increased engines have gotten more efficient safety and emissions regulations have made cars heavier and reduced efficiency.

                However:
                1) Cars today are incredibly safer and more comfortable than cars of yesteryear. I have a 2004 Subaru and a 1984 Toyota Land Cruiser. NO COMPARISON in comfort. But I’m a bit of a masochist and frankly the Subaru goes moderately fast while the Toyota pretty much goes anywhere.
                2) Cars today stay useful a LOT longer. “They don’t build them like they used to” is a GOOD thing. My previous Subaru had 435 thousand miles on it before it completely died. And it didn’t leak ANY oil. That Ford Lin’s family built, rebuilt and fixed again? Those reason motorcyclists didn’t and many still don’t drive in the middle of a lane. Because Oil and transmission fluid is slippery.
                3) Cars today are incredibly more competent than in the 60s and 70s. This competence requires complexity.

            2. Frankly the idea that cars were better back when they were large and simple is a myth. The vast majority of those cars barely lasted 60,000 miles when well maintained (which required a lot more work than today), were significantly more dangerous in an accident (when compared to modern full-sized sedans, modern crumple zones significantly reduce the accelleration felt by passengers in an accident) and rusted out if you looked at them wrong. They also got horrible mileage, ran through wear items like distributors or spark plugs in 10-15,000 miles, handled poorly, and were unsafe at modern highway speeds (bias-ply tires and overdamped suspensions are downright unsafe at 65+mph). Modern cars will normally go 60,000 miles with next to no maintenance and are near-immortal with regular maintenance. There’s good reasons why the average age of vehicles on the road has been steadily climbing for decades (it’s now 10 years in the US). As long as you skip the super-compacts (which lose to physics in accidents) modern car designs are superior in essentially every aspect to older designs.

              1. Grumble. The trouble with you guys is you’re arguing apples and pears, and you’re both half right. planned obsolecence exists, cheap labor and parts with short lifespans that are hell to replace and very complex to make make some things cheaper in time and labor to just to replace. The trouble with buying stuff that is repairable is it tends to cost likewise… however, the use junk and replace doesn’t spread across everything. Old Furniture and looked after gun being good examples of things worth repairing. And as a champion junk man, people do throw out good stuff.

                1. I just bought a 1984 Land Cruiser with ~200 thousand miles on the clock. It’s diesel, and it’s almost infinitely repairable (It was designed, at least in part, for the less developed parts of the world where it can be a good distance between repair shops).

                  But the cost of repairing some things is more than just the reach-into-your-pocket value. It’s the cost of the *breakdown* to begin with. That truck will probably never be my “go to” vehicle for commuting to work, because it’s not very good on fuel and it’s OLD. I had to leave work early today to go get it from the Mechanic (Service, no major repairs).

                  If I’m on my way to a work site and I break down, I might lose a days work ON TOP of having to pay to get the car fixed. And there’s the stress of a breakdown etc.

                  Many modern cars to 100k miles without a breakdown if you service them (change the fluids and filters) regularly.

                  I love my truck and I’m going to bring it back with me if I can, but I’ll always have another vehicle just in case. Something modern and common as.

              2. Part of it is the cars have gotten better (electronic ignition, fuel injection, radial tires, etc), but often overlooked is that motor oil has gotten much, much better. Multi-viscosity is now the norm, and the higest available grade in 1960, API-SC, would void your warranty if you used it today.

          2. over the decline of US Steel

            I believe that part of the problem in America is the regulatory restrictions. The EPA effectively decided that if any part of a factory was updated the entire factory would have to be brought into full compliance. Meanwhile Poland and other nations were opened and they fully willing to invest in modernization.

            1. Nah, the Japanese micro-mills kicked our hinders about the time manufacturing started to spin up in China and Taiwan. It was timing and hidebound management.

  4. Yeah, “you can’t do it” is what all his friends told the first fish to climb up on the shore, and the first micro-organism who grabbed an oxygen molecule and said “wonder what I can do with this.”

    1. yep, can’t do… it’s the road to nowhere, and that as surely as any ‘disaster’ caused by can do will destroy us all. Or at least it will until someone says ‘sod that for a game of skittles,’ and ignores/bypasses the ‘noooooo!’ chorus.

  5. What is amazing is the resemblance in our births/childhoods. Not that I was allergic to cow-juice. It’s about the only thing that DIDN’T go wrong, after being born premature in the middle of winter in an unheated farmhouse. And I too remember wanting to stop breathing because it was so hard (I was lucky the asthma left off by twelve.) Knowing that’s all that’s between you and death does put a certain perspective on life, I think.
    As for the rest of the post, I’m standing up and cheering. I’ve often thought ALL this country needs is for Americans to get off their duff and get busy. The spirit is still there, you know? I see it every day. It’s just that the busies have made it so hard to do anything in certain arenas that people think it’s easier to stop — like stopping breathing. And I’m with you. Screw them. These are my middle fingers. I’m holding both of them out to the “knows best” around.

    1. Sarah, I know you didn’t get to these shores until circa 1980. Dave, I don’t know when you arrived from S. Africa but I’m guessing it wasn’t long, if at all, before – right?

      I arrived here in 1953, grew up watching Leave It To Beaver (yeah, I was a lot like the Beav except smarter and able to get into higher quality trouble) and Ozzie & Harriet and liking Ike. I started noticing politics around the time of the New Frontier and saw the hippies, yippies and fellow-travelers protesting LBJ & Tricky Dick. Walter told us how is was while Chet & Dave bade each other Good-night. Gerald Ford tripped over his own feet and Jimmah fought off attack bunnies. The Russians were coming to bury us and the nation’s savants declared, asfter LBJ, Nixon, Ford & Carter that the nation had grown ungovernable, we probably wouldn’t ever see another two-term president, the job was just too hard (heck, if a nuclear scientist braniac like Carter couldn’t govern the country, what chance did we have with a dunce, however amiable, at the helm?)

      America is a land blessed with wonderful people, yet we pay the dim and pessimistic to “guide” us — I think this country LIKES being scared (where was the Haunted House invented? If not in America I bet we were the first to think of building amusement parks around the concept.) America is an inherently optimistic nation. We’ve let the weeds of government grow because as a people we rather like orderliness and approve of the idea of government, and we tend to get distracted from the need to trim it back regularly.

      I’m not saying the America you came looking for is still here — in California they may have defeated it entirely. But a soundly based appreciation of this nation’s history shows that we LIKE to worry at problems and we will magnify little ones if we haven’t any big ones. But look past the noise and distractions and you will find plenty of communities of people quietly and actively addressing problems and “can doing” up the wazoo.

      1. Resamson – I moved to Australia from South Africa 28 months ago. Don’t live in the US. I am willing to believe you that there wonderful people in the US – I am proud to call some of them my friends. I am just saying I grew up on my old man’s view of the US – garnered from his contact with American servicemen in WW2. I found the reality, when I first started dealing – largely via the internet (not a fair sample) and later by cons – a shock. As i say to people who start going on about America this and that, it is a vast country, which is not all the same and most of what you see and hear is probably not popular/true with at least half of the people at any time. But I was still very taken aback by the unquestioning acceptance of authority, to be honest. I suppose my expectation was of people whose attitudes were more like Louis L’amour than what I found, particularly in NY publishing.

        1. How to put this … NY is mainly populated (this is especially true of the “Arts” industries: publishing, theatre, fashion) of people who moved there to get away from the rest of America (or, as they refer to it: Flyover.) These are the folk embarrassed by their redneck roots and impressed by the faux sophistication of their clique. The guys your da met in WWII were mostly NOT New Yorkers, and those that were almost certainly came from the blue collar ranks.

          And one thing to keep in mind about the folks comprising the “Arts community”: since actual measurement of the quality of their product is so entirely subjective, they are the most likely to tug the forelock toward “authority.”

          I DO regret mu inability to find either lyric or Youtube performance of the Kurt Weill/Maxwell Anderson song: How Can You Tell An American, but the answer given is that an American can be recognized by his refusal to follow orders from the government. Possibly much truer when written than today.

          1. YES! That streak has been growing. Colleges are complaining about kids coming in imbued with “a streak of libertarianism.” And after all their efforts at indoctrination too. The poor lambkins. I could have told them. My generation which was pounded several times of day with Marxism in Portugal and told it couldn’t believe anything else, was possibly the most conservative in the country’s history.

        2. This is also an attitude of SF/F fans. Yes, I know not all. Baen fans are very different for one — but most fans are so desperate to fit in ANYWHERE that they seem a lot more compliant at cons. They might not actually be so in their “real” lives. Also, the West and East of the US and the North and South are VASTLY different. I love the west, though I could live in TN — they look like indomitable cusses to me, too.

          1. For some people the con world is the closest they manage to fitting in. Family members are wont to note that they do not have to carefully limit their vocabulary, or hide their preference in reading materials when they are at a con. They will limit other differences in order to enjoy these particular freedoms.

            As to East, West, North, South — Central areas have their own peculiarities. And I have lived in Tennessee. I would recommend the eastern mountains or the Cumberlands. According to people I respect, including my sister-in-law, avoid Memphis at all costs.

          2. We went to WorldCon last year. After spending a considerable amount of money (for us, family of four) to get there, pay for membership, pay for the hotel, etc, etc, etc — I wouldn’t have wanted to be the target of the poo flingers! And, face it, who are the most liable to make your life an utter misery if you say the “wrong” thing in front of them? Hint: who rings cowbells at speeches, throws poo around online, and follows people from post to post simply to harrass them?

            At Cons, I take on protective coloration as much as possible (which usually involves the insides of my cheeks bleeding from biting on them). We missed the Baen part at WorldCon because the kids were starting their college classes on Monday, and we had to leave at 5am to get them back. So I didn’t get to see most of the Baen folk, whom I *knew* I could at least be me around. ::sigh:: So looking forward to LibertyCon this year! I’ve heard it’s great!

    2. We had this theory that we must very least be cousins :-). Look, I believe the spirit is there — pioneering people are selected for it. And then along comes massive urbanization, where not only is can’t easier (but worse) than can for governance but also feeds into election-by-counting-heads, and money-as-a-measure-of-status (because people no longer knows (or knows someone who knows) who to like and respect because of what they are and do).

  6. I’ve been very lucky in that all my life I’ve lived in places where everyone else assumes that you help yourself, you help your neighbor, and the state (in whatever form it takes) is nice to have around on occasion but won’t be there when you really need a hand. For example, very few of the folks around here that I’ve talked to were surprised when the feds refused to assist Illinois and Indiana after last month’s tornadoes. We’d tasted that cup with our wildfires last year. I’ve also noticed that in the local bookstores, the “can-do” books tend to outnumber the “oh save me, save me!” titles. So I’ll argue that a core of American “can-do” still exists in places, perhaps enough to re-start more of the rest of the country.

    Now, we just need to get those folks to start buying more Human Wave books . . . 😉

    1. The problem with bookstores is of course when buying is centralized and does not reflect local interest. For example I’ve been told of stores in places which are staunchly republican… with book dumps and displays of Michael Moore books. There will be buyers of these, and they should be on the shelf… but front and center?

      My island and its people largely fit the mold you speak of. But even here government interferes without any justification for local conditions , and tries to introduce dependency.

      1. Once upon a time in America the “sales” reports of a few record stores (in places like NY & LA) were the basis for the Billboard record charts. Sometime around the 1980s they finally expanded their sampling area and gosh all golly suddenly Country music was MUCH more popular than it had been. Bookstores that are stocked from central planning work about as well as any other instance of central planning. Those failure of locals to buy Michael Moore and the like is simply proof of their lowbrows and probably reflects their inability to read without moving their lips. meanwhile, Louis L’Amour’s work could be bought at any truck stop in the land.

  7. Maybe I just have an odd attitude to authority (for this crowd, anyway) but I tend to simply ignore the “you can’t do that!” and find a way to do it. Then go find a way to demonstrate that it was actually in the rules in the first place.

    It could be the Aussie style of subversive that does that (I haven’t seen anyone white-ant something more effectively than a pissed off Australian). It might not be as spectacular as the metaphorical nuclear warhead, but oh it’s a nice warm fuzzy feeling when the whole thing falls over because it’s rotten all the way through (and usually all that was done was to expose the rot just enough to tip things).

    Oh, and Dave? You are absolutely awesome. I keep wanting to reply to these with “you go, Dave!” or “What Dave said”.

    1. You know Kate, I’ve certainly met this streak in a lot of rural Australians. But damned if I don’t think that some of the city types need to get out there and remember just what Australia is and what makes it a great country. The level of beaurocracy (you must have a plumber to fit an outdoor rainwater tank in Melbourne. yes, really. And no one turns around and says ‘sod off.’?) that the cities are breeding – and of course they have the numbers and the rules then get applied to country districts… where a lot of people just quietly say ‘sod off’ – but no one actually dunks said politico in a rainwater tank until they grow up?

      1. I think because it’s easier to ignore the bastards until they go away – my experience with the cities is a kind of undeclared war where people do just enough to keep the authorities off their back and go on thinking whatever they want thank you very much – much to the disgust of the self-proclaimed elites.

        It’s one of the reasons the elites and – sadly – some immigrants get the idea Australians are horribly racist. Aussies have been taking derogatory terms and using them as compliments since the first convicts got shipped there. If they called their best mate a “right arse” they could call the prison commandants right arses without repercussions… (Yes, that one is historical record. Apparently the commandant in question was quite pleased that he was held in such high regard)

        1. I should add that the phrase “Bloody Ned Kelly lives on,” gets a lot of use – or used to in my experience – when dealing with idiotic and expensive government demands.

          Australian governments are very, very lucky that Aussies ignore them as much as possible.

          1. Can’t. Stand. It. Kate, *please* – what does “Bloody Ned Kelly lives on” mean? Who was Ned Kelly?

            1. Lin,

              Ned Kelly was a mix of armed robber and revolutionary. In the late 1800s he, his brother and two close friends went on a rampage that included holding up an entire TOWN. The gang was taken down in a firefight followed by a fire that killed the other three, and Ned Kelly took multiple shots before he was stopped – he was wearing home-made armor. He survived that and was hanged – but not before writing a scathing indictment of the corruption of the police and judiciary.

              He’s regarded with a mix of fondness – for his audacity and his courage to the end (his last words are reputedly “Such is life”) – but gets invoked as a bad thing when someone/something is robbing you blind.

              Oh, yes, there are persistent legends that one of the gang survived the firefight and the fire. Accounts vary – I’ve heard tales for Dan Kelly, Steve Hart and Joe Byrne. The only one who definitely died was Ned, and that was because the colonial government got him.

              1. Thank you, Kate. Vaguely familiar, now. As was the name, if not the expression. But I couldn’t place it, and my google-fu is very weak today 😦 Sounds a *bit* like Jesse James and his gang – they became folk heroes, too.

          2. Some in this group might enjoy the following:
            A Hero’s Legend and a Stolen Skull Rustle Up a DNA Drama

            1. They’re SO right about not being able to simply bury him. It would be like the stones on the Rockhampton statues.

              (For those wondering, Rockhampton is a beef town, and each major road entering the town is graced by a large statue of a bullock, one for each of the four breeds of cattle grazed in the area. The statues didn’t START as bullocks. The last attempt to make the bull un-castratable involved a solid cast reinforced with rebar. Someone took an oxy-torch to the statue and souvenired the balls. Again. After that, the town decided their statues would all be bullocks. It saved them constantly enhancing SOMEONE’S collection).

              1. Actually, it’s kinda nice just to see someone who knows the difference. Having grown up on a cattle ranch, I sometimes get a little cranky as some city dweller calls a herd of pretty squared up beef cattle “cows”.

                1. I imagine it would be! I might have been raised suburban brat, but I can tell the difference between a cow, a bull, and a bullock. One of the old Aussie stories is of the kid whose city-bred Sunday School teacher took the class to his dad’s station (it was near the town). Teacher looks at the herd and asks the class who made those “cows”. Kid replies that his Dad made them. Teacher very earnestly says no, God made them. Kid comes back with “No, God made them bulls. Dad made them bullocks”

                  1. Another “separated by a common language” thing. In the US, at least, a bullock can also be a *young* bull. But a castrated one is a ‘steer’.

                    I figured out what you meant by context, then looked it up because I thought I’d lost my mind, or had been misinterpreting the word my whole life. Probably another instance of corn/maize 🙂

                    1. Lin,

                      Exactly. I’m still getting caught by those, usually the ones that don’t show up in everyday life – like bullock/steer.

                    2. Just be aware that if you try telling a Brit about your fanny back they are liable to fall all over themselves in laughter. I once watched Kenneth Branagh & Craig Ferguson all but rolling on the floor over the fact that they can say “fanny” on American TV.

                    3. resamsamson,

                      Aussies will do the same thing. It took me a while to work out that the US usage of “fanny” refers to a different part of the anatomy!

                2. Heh. I was watching a live video bull sale once in the old Ft. Worth, TX stockyards. A pair of tourists stopped beside me as watched for a while, then asked what it was. “Bull sale,” I explained.
                  “How can you tell they are bulls?”
                  I decided to be nice. “Bulls have heavier shoulders and thicker necks.”
                  Satisfied, the couple thanked me and went to do something more interesting.

  8. This leads right to my rant about gun control, which I believe is all about control, not guns.
    The person who decides that they are their own first line of defense and gets a gun may then decide to look around. After doing that they may realize there are many other things they can do for themselves, without waiting for the government to do it.
    When too many people do this modern liberalism is toast.

    1. heh. You want me to write a whole book in reply? (And yes, I am a gun owner. They’re tools, and like any tool they themselves are not dangerous. It is what you do with them that is). Look suffice to say that the South African government (rapidly heading for the most corrupt and inefficient in the world, with some of the worlds highest murder, rape, car-jacking, armed robbery figures) is virulently anti the private ownership of guns and have made it almost impossible to legally buy a firearm – with the increase in crime almost in direct inverse correlation with the reduction in LEGAL firearms (however politicians from the ruling party will have anything from 3-20+ armed state-paid bodyguards, who have no trouble in getting their licenses – and have a track record of being unfit to carry). The country is literally awash with illegal firearms, so it’s been really effective. Not.

  9. I loved your post, and I congratulate your independence. Bravo!

    RE: “. The strategy essentially boils down to : You’re inferior. We know what is good for you. Trust us, we (the government) will look after you. …”

    “The urge to save humanity is almost always only a false-face for the urge to rule it.” — H.L.Mencken

    1. It’s the ‘you’re inferior’ part that gets up my nose. Not that I have to be the boss/best. I know a fair number of guys who are better writers, divers, shots etc than me. They have proved it and I’ll give them respect for it, even if I still do it my way sometimes. I can learn from them. But if you want my respect, you need to earn it.

  10. Do not let your fire go out, spark by irreplacable spark. In the hopeless swamps of the not quite, the not yet, and the not at all, do not let the hero in your soul perish and leave only frustration for the life you deserved, but never have been able to reach. The world you desire can be won, it exists, it is real, it is possible, it is yours.

    Ayn Rand, Atlas Shrugged

  11. I loved your post. And your spirit. I’m so embarrassed by the helplessness and obsequiousness to authority in in this country. And I have no objection to buying books through Amazon that a publisher has never blessed, so Dog and Dragon is getting added to my reading list.

    1. Good on you. It’s poison to their system, you know. it’s damned rules that make no sense that get me, made to protect idiots in specific circumstances who are looking to show us evolution in action. Tasmania – the state where live has a bunch of ‘inner city rules’ which make nearly as much sense as an emu on acid where I live – on a remote island with 700 people on it… and you know what: there are people here who slavishly obey these laws. (The one I am thinking about specifically says you may not leave your car unlocked) Hell, people leave the keys in the ignition. It’s an island with a once a week ferry. Or the you must wear a life-jacket, a rule passed because a bunch of drunken idiots went to sea in bad weather in an over-loaded boat in dangerous waters. I wear and own a selection of lifejackets. I’ve never needed anyone to TELL me it’s a good idea. I also go to sea to dive in an 8mm hooded wetsuit – 16 mm on the chest. Without adding a shedload of lead, I can’t GET underwater. It’s more buoyant than the legal lifejacket. It’s hi-vis colors… but I must wear life jacket too.

  12. Wow.
    Read an excerpt @ Instapundit and then the whole thing.
    Do you know how much this applies to the world beyond writing. It is what I deal with everyday at my office and hospital. I am too dumb, need lots of government regulation to do things right. My kid goes to school where teachers are stuck with education overseers making sure the bubbles are filled in right.
    The impulse of the elite to tell us dummies what to do because they know best is ingrained in just about everything in America.

    I will no longer comply.

    1. I noticed this in how-to-write books in the eighties. How to write mysteries advised us not to have amateur detectives because “in real life, the police always know best. They’re trained professionals.” I know many good and dedicated policemen, but no one is perfect, and when the “establishment” tries to sell the notion we shouldn’t even imagine an amateur might be better than a professional, you know things have gone seriously wrong, and they’re trying to indoctrinate, not entertain.

      1. The problem with trusting the experts is this: “ex” means past it, and a spurt is a drip under pressure. I don’t trust an obsolete, stressed out drip as far as I can spit him.

        1. An expert is someone who has mastered the conventional wisdom — and is correspondingly invested therein.

  13. Ok, so how’s this for can do?
    Mom stays home with the kids, now 19 and 16, homeschooled them. Dad taught them to fix cars, appliances, houses. Both know which end of a gun is the business end. I restore cars, to the point of making my own parts from scratch. I’m not to the point of making my own electricity, but I could if the gubmint or nature says I can’t have any.
    Older heir is now at one of the toughest electrical engineering schools in the country, and he’s doing it without government loans and maintaining a 3.96 GPA.
    Can do? sure. Write? well, not too badly if you like stream of consciousness.

  14. Dave, this has been an extremely enjoyable read. The commentary has been exceedingly intelligent, thoughtful and CAN do. I am a Yank, a child of the fifies and yes, it was a different country back them.

    There is still a “core” of CAN DOers in the United States. They are the ones holding it all together.

    1. John, one of my politically incorrect philosophies is that colonists -( the ones who came looking for opportunity, not the part of current influx of those who hope to live on the dole in the UK or here – dunno about the US, don’t live there) – in other words the rootstock of the people my dad met during WW2 are the very best of humanity, at least from a ‘can do, solve it, no problem is going to stop us’ point of view. Because if you didn’t have that attitude, you died, and you didn’t have kids. And that, I would argue gave the US a huge genetic and social advantage which the ‘cant, need nanny’ are busy squandering and destroying.

  15. Dave,

    Thank you for this, I’ve only occasionally had bouts of self-inflicted “can’t do” but even then I never expected anyone to pull me out of it. Of course there was the one time I nearly bought it from a ruptured appendix because I thought “I can work through the pain myself” but for the most part the times I’ve succeeded have been the times I don’t give up. In my profession I’ve become fairly expert at software maintenance, where tracking down the problem is my job and my pride won’t let me say “I can’t,” except to say “I can’t give up, dammit!” (grin) The best thing is that there aren’t any people telling me I can’t, unless it’s to tell me to work on a higher priority problem.

    I believe it’s a generational thing, and possibly an age thing. Like you I inherited two sets of stubborness genes but I’m a lot more obstinate now in my 50’s than in my 20’s. My siblings and their kids are also very much unwilling to give in to others’ “can’t do” attitudes. There is also a core of Americans (and Brits, Aussies and other “anglos”) of like mind, and we will out.

    1. I’ve got this theory that by protecting people all the time – when they hit a point (like, you know, with a dodgy appendix :-)- my dive buddy was in navy divers and did this and nearly killed himself too) when nanny can’t help, they just don’t know how to deal with it themselves.

      And yes. I agree particularly about Americans and other ‘colonials’ – it’s now a bad word, but the people are descended from those who came through living on tough remote frontiers… have to be the descendants of can do people. Those who waited for nanny, died.

  16. The success of Baen books is only a surprise to those other major publishing houses. The general reading public just says, “Finally!” and buys nearly everything Baen publishes.
    I am a voracious SF reader, myself, and I rarely buy anything not published by Baen any more.

  17. Mr. Freer:
    First of all excuse me if I am missing some of the sematics here. Each profession has it’s on patois, and what someone like me thinks the term “editor” means may be very different from what a newpaper man or someone in the book publishing industry uses the term to mean.

    However, I don’t think so.

    In the article you link to the author isn’t talking about *editors*, but what I would consider to be a “publisher”.

    If those mean the same thing to you, then I have no argument. If OTOH there is a difference between an “editor” and a “publisher’, then I have to disagree.

    I think many writers can, in the modern era, get by without a publisher in the traditional sense, but I’ve purchased quite a few .99 and 2.99 books from Amazon where a decent editor would have been very useful.

    I’m reading one now where a publisher would have been useful because they would have killed the book. It’s that bad. An editor wouldn’t be able to help because there’s so little RIGHT to work with. Although a high school dropout could have been useful to do some basic spelling and punctuation checks and to *maybe* cut some of the insanity out.

    So while I agree that a writer *can* it themselves w/out a publisher, having an editor is like a Neurosurgeon having a Nurse or another Doctor with him during surgery–it puts a second set of eyes on the process and helps reduce errors.

    1. Yes editor is completely different in fiction! I have friends in newspaper. Your editors edit. Our editors are mostly agents of the publisher. “Editor” is just a title. I’ve had editors who never finished reading my book, after buying it on the first three chapters. The only people who read are copy editors. You’re talking about structural edits, and that makes me want to laugh. I’ve had those in TWO of my twenty one books out — and they were relatively minor. To get those the “editor” needs to be really interested in (or irked by) you. Mostly they just assume you can write.

      As for what you saw on Amazon, of COURSE people should have an editor, even if a free-lance best buddy however they’re publishing — indie or traditional. I and Dave and most professionals have a circle of first readers for that “the story didn’t gel” thing. And we have either free-lance or paid copy-editors, aka typo hunters.

      I’ve said in the past I’d kill for an editor with the talent of the early science fiction editors, which were closer to your journalism editors. Unfortunately there are none working today. There is one I work with who is good, the others frankly don’t have what it takes and would do better to sit on their hands.

      Dave isn’t complaining about being edited. He’s complaining about what the traditional houses do.

    2. In this case the article that inspired the rant was written by an editor employed by a traditional publisher, and afraid of losing his job, and trying therefore to put the frighteners on authors not going via traditional publishing. They have something called an ‘acquiring editor’, who decises if they will buy the book. At most fiction publishing houses the work of ‘editing’ has become a minor part of the job – something I know irritates the hell out of a few good editors (who are rare birds, particularly structural editors). Editors (both structural and copy) and proof readers are something I’ve advised (repeatedly) independents to hire the services of, or at the very least get help with (copy editing is something a dedicated amateur can do to an adequate level IMO. Most English teachers can copy edit, at least adequately for most readers. Structural edit is harder, but fortunately also something that only some people need badly. Everyone SHOULD have their work copy edited. Most people would benefit from a structural edit, but if a book need serious structural edit, you need to go back to the drawing board and try again.

      I have never published anything without several sets of eyes first :-). There are still mistakes.

      The point I made in my comment on the article is that at the moment the traditional publisher e-book payment rates (where all the work is intellectual and of a similar type with similar necessary expenses, and there are such minor physical costs (no paper, no distribution, no returns) as to make them irrelevant) the share earned by editing and proofing and covers cannot be > 55%, and the writer gets <15%. If you look up editing and proofing services, the cost of hiring Rolls-Royce work for hire is very rapidly covered.

  18. Dave,
    I have never heard of you before today but I have just resolved to buy all your books.

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