“Human wave” writing and being human

Many of us belong to or identify with what Sarah Hoyt has described as the “human wave” school of science fiction and fantasy.  I’d like to highlight a couple of her bullet points describing it.

4 – Your writing shouldn’t be all about the message.  You can, of course, have a message.  But the message should not be the be-all end-all of the novel.  If it is, perhaps you should be writing pamphlets.

5 – You shall not commit grey goo.  Grey goo, in which characters of indeterminate moral status move in a landscape of indeterminate importance towards goals that will leave no one better or worse off is not entertaining.

I can’t help agreeing with her in general terms . . . but the recent terrorist attacks in Paris, France and San Bernardino, California, have given me pause.  You see, there’s been an awful lot of ‘message’ and ‘grey goo’ in the responses to those attacks (at least, the ones I’ve seen).  In particular, there’s a big problem with those who see things in terms of black and white, but exclude shades of grey (and I don’t mean fifty of them, either).

I tried to sum up the problem in a blog post after the Paris attacks.  I’d like to quote from it at some length to illustrate my point – and yes, I’m speaking from all-too-extensive experience.  Frankly, I wish I wasn’t.  That sort of experience I could well have done without.

To me, the worst [thing about violent conflict] is what it does to the human psyche.  You become dehumanized.  Your enemies are no longer people – they’re objects, things, targets.  You aren’t shooting at John, whose mother is ill, and who’s missing his girlfriend terribly, and who wants to marry her as soon as he can get home to do so.  You’re shooting at that enemy over there, the one who’ll surely ‘do unto you’ unless you ‘do unto him’ first.  He’s not a human being.  He’s a ‘gook’.  He’s ‘the enemy’.  He’s a thing rather than a person.  It’s easier to shoot a thing than it is a person.  So, right now, our boys are ‘in the sandbox’ shooting ‘ragheads’.  Their boys – those in Paris yesterday – were ‘in the land of the infidels’.  Those in this country on 9/11/2001 were ‘in the land of the Great Satan’.  They were – and still are – killing ‘kaffirs’, unbelievers . . . not human beings.

. . .

I’ve written before about how blaming all Muslims for the actions of a few is disingenuous and inexcusable.  I still believe that . . . but events have overtaken rationality.  People are going to start relating to ‘Muslims’ rather than to ‘human beings’, just as the extremists label all non-Muslims as ‘kaffirs’ or ‘kufars’ – unbelievers – rather than as human beings.  For the average man in a European street, a Muslim will no longer be a ‘person’.  He’s simply a Muslim, a label, a ‘thing’.  He’s no longer French, or American, or British, no matter what his passport says.  He’s an ‘other’.  He’s ‘one of them’ . . . and because of that, he’s no longer ‘one of us’.  He’s automatically defined – no, let’s rather say (because it’s easier to blame him) that he’s defined himself – as a potential threat, merely by the religion he espouses.  He may have been born into it, and raised in a family and society and culture so saturated with it as to make it literally impossible, inconceivable, for him to be anything else . . . but that doesn’t matter.  It’s his choice to be Muslim, therefore he must take the consequences.  We’re going to treat him with the same suspicion and exaggerated caution that we would a live, possibly armed hand-grenade.  He’s asked for it, so we’re going to give it to him.

That’s the bitter fruit that extremism always produces.  It’s done so throughout history.  There are innumerable examples of how enemies have become ‘things’.  It’s Crusaders versus Saracens, Cavaliers versus Roundheads, Yankees versus Rebels, doughboys versus Krauts . . . us versus them, for varying values of ‘us’ and ‘them’.

I meant every word I wrote, and I stand by them still . . . but it aroused a certain amount of discontent among my readers.  I’ll let one response speak for all of those opposed to my views.  I won’t quote it here – the language is somewhat intemperate – but you’re welcome to read it for yourselves.

This sort of reaction has forced me to re-examine my own motivation and way of expressing myself.  Am I writing to be true to myself in all respects, or am I writing to/for the widest possible market?  If the former, I can continue to express my opinions through my plots, characters and dialog.  If the latter, I need to be careful to ‘sanitize’ those elements of my writing, taking out any personal views that might be controversial so as not to offend the readers whom I need to buy my books if I’m to make a living as a writer.

That question arose earlier, when I called for a boycott of Tor Books over scurrilous allegations circulated by a senior member of their staff.  That gained me a certain amount of support from pro-‘Puppy’ circles, but also a certain amount of notoriety from more politically correct writers and their readers.  Frankly, I wish Tor had had the sense to do the right thing and act to rectify the situation.  Because they wouldn’t or couldn’t do so, the problem has become ‘just another brick in the wall’ dividing the science fiction and fantasy community, instead of an opportunity to begin breaking down that wall and reaching toward at least a modicum of mutual understanding.

Speaking as a retired pastor, you’ll understand that my inclination is to work to the best of my ability towards reconciliation rather than further conflict . . . provided that reconciliation is based upon truth and reality.  If the truth is ‘shaded’ or even abandoned in the interests of political correctness and/or the prevailing narrative, fuggeddabahtit! (as my New York friends would say).

That brings us to the nub of this article.  Who are you writing for?  Are you writing primarily for those who view life, the universe and everything as you do – “preaching to the choir”, in other words?  Or are you writing for as wide an audience as possible, hopefully seeking to broaden their horizons with new concepts, but being careful not to offend their sensibilities?

I made my decision long ago.  I’m writing about humanity as I see and have experienced it, and my books reflect that lived reality.  I think there are enough people who are empathetic towards those experiences that I’ll be able to make a living selling my books to them;  and so far, that’s proved to be the case.  I may well be giving up the possibility of greater sales to a wider audience by not pandering to wider tastes, but if I were to do that, I think I’d be unfaithful to myself.  However, there are other authors who’ve built very successful careers by deliberately steering clear of controversial opinions and writing for the broader market.  If that’s worked for them, none of us have the right to accuse them of any sort of intellectual cowardice or mental reservation.

I guess I’m struggling to express myself in this article, and I apologize for any vagueness that you may have noted.  What I’m trying to get at is simply this.  Whatever our individual choices, how do we reconcile them with not ‘preaching to the choir’ via ‘message fiction’, yet at the same time not being guilty of ‘grey goo’ in our writing?  The two aspects appear to be mutually contradictory, at least to some extent.

Over to you, dear readers.  Let’s hear from you in Comments.

91 thoughts on ““Human wave” writing and being human

  1. My problem is that your reaction to atrocities by the foe was to agonize about possible atrocities by our own side. In case you haven’t noticed, the war’s been going on 14 years now, and all the major atrocities have been committed by them. This is a war in which the enemy LITERALLY forces women to eat their own babies, and we agonize about mistreatment of prisoners in which, out of thousands of prisoners, one was killed.

    This deliberate holding back is going to accomplish one of two ends, neither of which you will like:

    (1) It will build up the pressure on our side until some event — probably the nuclear destruction of a Western city — causes us to go “Heck, no! We’re not putting up with this any more!” At which case we will seriously start trying to kill them all, and if we do so even for a few weeks, the death toll among those “others” you want to protect will be in the tens, maybe hundreds of millions, or

    (2) We will put up with it for so long that we take it as just the way things are, and we will give way. And your grand-daughters will pull trains on Muslim rape gangs, and then thank the Muslims for having the mercy not to kill them as well. And if you complain about it on your blog, that will be Act One of a drama that will end with you having your head cut off in public, and your family enslaved.

    I much prefer that we “other” them a bit right now, and apply enough force that they beg to be allowed to surrender, and are ALLOWED TO SURRENDER. Because, really, alternative “1” seems more likely to me, and when things go that far, it won’t be an issue of Muslim immigrants being admitted to the West, it’ll be an issue of them being sent to the airport versus being sent to the deathcamp.

    1. “This is a war in which the enemy LITERALLY forces women to eat their own babies,”

      Link, please?

      Also, define the enemy. No, seriously. Define him. Who is the enemy?
      Well, obviously Achmed with the AK who joined ISIS to get a “wife” is an enemy.
      How about Rashid the shopkeeper who wants some stability? Is he an enemy because he turned to the people who control his territory?

      The “enemy” is any and all who would wantonly bring death and destruction, sowing the seeds of chaos wherever they go. It’s fairly all-inclusive, and deals with most of the issues you describe.

      1. He who stands against the constitution must be cut down.

        Enemies foreign might include Europeans who want to bring gun control to the United States, Muslims who want to bring Sharia to the United States, and regimes that cannot be coerced into keeping their communist and terrorist populations under enough control that they don’t attack the United States.

      2. Your Rashid isn’t an evil person; he doesn’t “deserve” to die, and depending on the politics of the future he may not always be an enemy. He may well be a saint whom we should be sorry to have killed. But today, will he or nill he, he is the enemy. And if his death is a cost of killing Daȝesh soldiery, so be it.

      3. Rashid the shopkeeper either is, or is not, the enemy, according to whether he supports enemy action or resists it.

        And his priority-level as a legitimate target is to be judged as to whether he (a.) takes part in enemy action, (b.) actively supports enemy action, (c.) actively advocates enemy action, (d.) passively supports enemy action, or merely (e.) passively and tacitly advocates enemy action.

        He is only NOT an enemy if he actually opposes enemy action, even if only passively and tacitly.

        So let’s look at Rashid. Does Rashid support compelling non-Muslims to pay the jizya if/when Muslims have the political upper-hand in a society?

        If so, he’s one of the “bad Muslims” and ought to be treated as an enemy, and his priority as a target is determined as described above.

        Does Rashid support killing, fining, or imprisoning former Muslims who convert to another faith? If so, he’s one of the “bad Muslims,” an enemy, …et cetera.

        Does Rashid believe that it is sometimes justified to commit acts of terrorism against civilians in support of the formation of a caliphate, or to achieve Muslim political dominance in a society, or to punish a society for drawing cartoons of Mohammed? If so, he’s one of the “bad Muslims,” et alia.

        Does Rashid believe that the state of Israel has no right to exist, and that terrorist attacks on Israeli busses and schoolchildren are a morally legitimate way of opposing its existence? If so, he’s one of…aw, heck, you know the rest.

        Now here’s the tricky bit:

        A majority, or else a large minority, of self-identified Muslims worldwide believe/support a majority of the items identified above.

        It’s only 1%, perhaps, who actually take part in violence. But it’s something much greater than that, a percentage well into the double-digits, who are more-or-less okay with the violence, with the religious compulsion, with the antisemitism.

        And that double-digits percentage of the Muslim population: They are the enemy, because they are the ones who pay for and promote and encourage and celebrate the violence of the 1%. They are, to the terrorists, what Goebbel’s organization was to the stormtroopers.

    2. Why do you say the war’s been going on for 14 years?

      Isn’t this, realistically, a war that’s been going on for 1400 years?

  2. “Love your neighbor” can be a hard pill to swallow, let alone “love your enemy.” They sound great when your neighbors are nice and your enemy lies low. And while I’ve never thought of myself as a Liberation theologist (theologian?), there’s a lot to be said for forcefully laying hold of the kingdom that forcefully advances.
    The world situation nowadays doesn’t just threaten our American comfort and luxury. There are so many people bound by the brokenness not only of soul but of society. Those who bear the torch of hope and help should be ashamed to hold back out of political correctness or fear of misstep.
    When I stand before that White Throne, I won’t want to admit that I cared more about what people thought of me (measured by book sales?) than about the weak and voiceless oppressed.
    Thank you, Peter, for engaging this topic. People so often fear to voice their opinions because opponents (on both sides) intimidate and belittle. But only through dialogue is anyone going to find the courage to step up and do what they know to be right.

  3. I’ve heard that letting Hatred get ahold of you destroys/damages your own soul.

    Sadly, too many people on all sides have let hatred get ahold of themselves.

    I don’t have any real answers about how to oppose evil without letting hatred in. [Sad Smile]

    1. To put bluntly, you can’t, so far as I know.
      However, you can channel it. Don’t hate people, hate their actions. Do that, and you will not target the innocent, and you will not target the group.

  4. I note in this morning’s New York Times an article quoting several US servicemen who are also Muslims. The money quote, for me, was this one from a former Bosnian refugee, now a USMC Gunnery Sergeant:

    ““We used to be a balanced people. We used to be true to our values, but now we’re willing to betray our values because of a sense of fear? That’s not American. What the hell happened to that America I immigrated to?”

    I can’t help but agree with him. I used to be an active member of a very informative and interesting e-mail list, until the anti-Muslim sentiments of some of its members became actively insulting to another member, also a USMC Gunnery Sergeant. I couldn’t reconcile that with his service to his country, and withdrew in protest (not that the hard-liners cared about that, of course).

    I think the situation was put in a nutshell in the film ‘Gettysburg’, based on the novel ‘The Killer Angels’ by Michael Shaara. Character Buster Kilrain comments: “”Any man who judges by the group is a pea-wit. You take men one at a time.”

    That says it all, right there.

    1. Yet this enemy hides in civilian clothes, and targets non-combatants.
      It would sure be nice if the murderous bastards wore obvious signs to identify themselves.
      It would also be nice if the Big Rock Candy Mountains existed.

      But that’s not the world we live in.
      We live in a world where people hide their intentions and where most information is unavailable.
      In this case, a large majority of muslims wish to subjugate the world to their evil religion, and a sizable percentage of those believe that atrocity is an acceptable means of bringing this about.
      If ignoring these uncomfortable facts merely placed you at risk, I would have no brief against your stance.
      But it doesn’t.

    2. It is frustration, not fear.

      We are told that Americans are more of a danger than foreign Muslims, but when we try to arm to insure against internal massacre, we are called paranoid, and told that it can not happen here because of the government.

      Destroying every air and sea port in majority Muslim territory is simpler and easier than the amount of persuasion it would take to shut down the gaslighting in America.

    3. “What the hell happened to that America I immigrated to?”

      The people in charge decided they didn’t like that America very much, and so they threw open the borders of the nation to people who are not American, who don’t understand American principles, who don’t care about learning what it means to be American, and who are perfectly willing to spend their time in America demanding preference for their own non-American cultures. A good chunk of whom don’t even intend to remain in America permanently – they dream of going home and living well on the wealth they acquired while working in America. Sometimes they even send their children – “native born Americans” – back to the mother country to find spouses.

      And so the America that your friend valued is destroyed, because the leadership, despising America themselves, have deliberately brought in immigrants who do not care one whit for America, except for what they can get out of her for themselves. Complaining about the entirely predictable results of a feckless open door policy combined with rampant identity politics is about as intelligent as whining that Newton’s Third Law is unfair, or blaming the fever for causing the infection.

      1. “A good chunk of whom don’t even intend to remain in America permanently ”

        Which hardly makes them unique. Italians were particularly noted for making their money in America and then moving back to Italy, but there have always been people who came for that purpose.

        And they have always been a point of contention, so discussing them now is hardly worse than then.

      1. Glen, I’ve left a reply at the link you posted above. I’ll let that speak for itself. However, for the record here, I don’t consider you either an idiot or a coward. I, too, know who my enemies are; but I also know who my enemies are not. I can’t look at an entire religion and declare every member of it to be my enemy, when my life has been saved on more than one occasion by members of that religion. I know better than to condemn them all.

        1. Begging your pardon, Pastor – but in the matter of knowing who your enemies are – I don’t think you do.

          Consider if the shoe were on the other foot: if as a Christian, or a gunny or even a white man – I started preparing to commit terror crimes among the moslems – the first thing you would do is sound the alarm, and rightfully so. Even at the risk of great personal injury or even death at the hands of my conspirators – you would still probably sound that alarm and save as many of my would-be victims as you could. You would probably die rather than let us take shelter in your churches, or use them as bases of operations for further attacks. In fact, if the law weren’t able to put a stop to us, men like you probably would.

          Moslems don’t work that way. When confronted by overwhelming force the buckle. They take their spiritual guidance from violent, dangerous men that will gladly expend their lives to make a political point. Dissenters are commonly intimidated into silence and those that rebel are killed. That is why their nations are hell holes Peter. Moslems do not stand up to tyranny or oppression – and THAT is un-American. Americans don’t circle around such men to protect them – they reject them and bring them to honest justice. There is no justice in letting them hide behind their women and children when they deliberately strike at ours.

          You tell me they aren’t all bad. Fair enough. But they sure as hell aren’t all good. Show me just ONE Islamic nation that is a true ally of the US like say, Canada or Britain? I have one message for our ‘good’ Moslems: either YOU control your radicals and leave us alone – or by God Almighty, we will. And – if you force me to get off this couch I’m warming, I won’t give you a jihad – I will give you a crusade.

          In WW2 Germans that ‘were just following orders’ or ‘going along to get along’ were not spared from justice. Nor should your moslems.

          1. Jordan is a close ally, and has been for some time. King Abdullah II received his secondary school education at Deerfield Academy in Massachusetts, and his father married Queen Noor, an American by birth. Jordan has been at peace with Israel for more than twenty years and have been actively fighting ISIS since the beginning of the war, with tremendous popular support.

            1. My neighbor back in Michigan was a Jordanian Christian. Part of the Christian Diaspora from Jordan, because, while Christians in Jordan are treated better than anywhere in the Middle east outside of Israel, that’s not saying a lot.

              Best of a bad lot, the outlier on the positive end of the distribution, that’s Jordan. But, still, not a fraction of the religious liberty you’d expect in any normal country.

          2. Consider if the shoe were on the other foot: if as a Christian, or a gunny or even a white man – I started preparing to commit terror crimes among the moslems – the first thing you would do is sound the alarm, and rightfully so. […] Moslems don’t work that way.

            In addition to Joe’s example, consider that Israel routinely foils Hamas terror attacks based on intelligence given by Muslims who are under threat of very bad deaths if they are caught.

  5. I think I can identify the root of the problem here.

    Only Westerners (and even then, not all of us) take people as individuals. Every other culture in the world takes people as members of their family/clan/tribe/nation. Only members of the same group consider each other as individual people.

    Yes, this is horribly generalized. That’s sort of the point. When revolutions and upheavals happen, people who have been friendly neighbors for years suddenly see each other as ‘members of that other tribe’, and start killing each other.

    There is absolutely no good reason to import hostile aliens with a completely different culture, religion, and mindset into our midst. For reference, please see all of human history.

    And Islam hasn’t been at war with us for 14 years, but 1400 years.

    1. Consider that the basic survival unit isn’t the individual; it is the tribe.

      Also consider just who is teaching young Muslims to consider us ‘kaffir’.

      As to your last point, see this video; I found the difference in scale both alarming and enlightening.

  6. For the writing … be true to yourself.

    For the politics, I had started writing a long response, and decided it would be simpler to just copy straight from a thoughtful post.

    Scott Adams (blog.dilbert.com) had an interesting post on Dec 8 [“Risk Management – (Trump Persuasion Series)], where he tries to wrap his head around the risk of terrorists in a Muslim population, and he makes some very good points.

    “Suppose you knew that 90% of Elbonians were in favor of killing U.S. citizens and they had plans to do so upon entering the country. Would you accept the bad ones to avoid discriminating against the good ones?

    “If you said you would let all Elbonians into the country and accept the certainty of more terror attacks, congratulations, you are not a racist. But if that risk seems too high, your only option is to go full-Hitler and ban people based on their Elbonian ethnicity. … But what if only 1% of Elbonians are terrorists? If you let in a million Elbonians, that gives you 10,000 terrorists. Are you good with that risk in return for maintaining the ideal of equal treatment for all?

    “The odds of a Muslim immigrant being a terrorist or a terrorist sympathizer is probably far lower than 1%, assuming we’re good at screening. I don’t know the exact odds, and neither do you …

    “I propose that instead of calling fellow citizens racists or idiots we do a deeper dive into the risks and put a price tag on our preference for religious intolerance. If the risk of future terror attacks is tiny, most of us would prefer maintaining our respect for religious differences.

    “But if the risk is more than tiny, can you put a price on your love of religious tolerance? In other words, how many dead Americans are you willing to accept? I’ll go first.

    “Personally, I would accept up to 1,000 dead Americans, over a ten-year period, to allow Muslim non-citizens to enter this country. My calculation assumes we are better off accepting some degree of tragedy in the name of freedom. That is often the case with freedom. …

    “And if you believe there is some risk of a Muslim terrorist slipping through our current system of screening, what level of American deaths do you consider an acceptable tradeoff?

    “And keep in mind that you are not offering to die for freedom, since your personal odds of dying in a terror attack are negligible. What you are offering is a higher risk that other people will die so you can live in a country with uncontested religious freedom.”

    {all quoted material from Scott Adams, blog.dilbert.com, “Risk Management – (Trump Persuasion Series)]”}

    1. It is very simple. This is our country. We don’t have to let anybody in. Not white, black or anything else. Look at Japan.

  7. Loving your enemy as well as your friends and family is certainly a noble, morally worthy goal to aspire to. I’ll cheerfully pray for the enemy, but I’ll do it while I’m passing the ammunition.

    As for messages and grey goo (or word wooze, as I’ve heard it described elsewhere), remember why you write. Keep writing, and if your sales are consistent then you’re doing the right thing.

  8. What ruffled my feathers was your claim that killing alone can never be a solution to problems with another people. This is contrary to the American experience. If I were in a joking mood, I would call such a lack of appreciation for the American cultural heritage racist.

    The Indian Wars were not solved only with extermination, but extermination would have been a viable alternative to some of the other choices. We got peace by finding the compassion and cruelty for the reservations and the BIA. The circumstances with the Mid East are different from the circumstances with the Indians, so we cannot expect the same actions to have the same results. Even if instinct tells us that that if we don’t have peace, we simply have not killed enough of them, and hence are bad Americans.

    Yes, three to one is steep odds to casually provoke into an unrelenting fight to the death. Those aren’t odds we should let terrify us into indecision. Us versus the rest of the world is about twenty to one odds. We’ve already antagonized the rest of the world. When we declared ourselves a nation, we told the rest of the world to go fuck itself.

    I was more irritated by your later endorsement of a saner, more reasonable, less offensive version of Harf’s ‘jobs and money will fix it’. Harf was incorrect and insulting.

    1. Here here. And speaking from the side of my ancestry that’s Amerind, I really don’t have a problem with that concept.

      I know enough about the history of my ancestors on that side of my family to state that if they had had industry, cannon, manufacturing, firearms, and sailing ships prior to 1500 – Europe would be speaking T’salagi right now. 🙂

      My Cherokee ancestors were not nice people. There’s a reason why the bulk of the Carolinas and Tennessee didn’t belong to the Choctaw when the Europeans arrived… I come from a long line of barbarians on all sides of my heritage, and I’m kinda proud of that fact.

      Speaking to the Muslim/Islam thing…

      It’s not necessary for me to hate my enemy in order for me to kill him. All that’s required is that I make it too expensive for him to continue fighting me and mine.

  9. It is amazing to me that we can still be hung up on this one point.

    It is a -deliberate- mis-framing of the debate, and we’ve had -decades- of talking heads derail the debate with it at this point.

    If you start any conversation with some variation of “Militant extremist Islamic terrorists”, the entirety of the rest of what is being said is jettisoned for an interminable hand-wringing over pointing out “Not -all- followers of Islam….” The retort “Well, duh. I wouldn’t have needed -adjectives- to limit the pool if I was talking -all-.” is lost in the noise.

    Screw that. Accept their own badges of honor and use them as the label simply so we can get off the obvious point.

    Jihadists exist.
    Jihadists are (mostly) quite proud to be considered a Jihadist. (Think of it as a title like “Knight Templar”.)
    Jihadists are at war with us.

    I’m at war with Jihadists. I can be intemperate with my language with respect to Jihadists. Since their religion can be called “Jihadism”, and is supposed to be distinct from “mainstream Islam”, it can also be impugned.

    If you frame the debate with the word ‘Jihadism’, at the very least we can get off this single feckless point. Because anyone continuing to argue that “No, it is too intemperate to be at war with -all- Jihadists” is on very shaky debating territory. It also happens to set up the “debate” between the Jihadists and organizations like CAIR as a wedge issue. Let -them- debate who is “Islamic” or not – taking on -just- the self-declared Jihadists is a lifetime of war as it is.

    1. I cannot help but observe that it would appear to me that while the Jihadists are most certainly a minority faction within Islam, a majority of Moslems either secretly approve of their actions or are so fearful of retribution that they refuse to speak out against them.
      Peter, I know and respect you, you are a very nice man and speak from experience. And if anyone has a right to be war weary it would be you. But we find ourselves in a situation where we really have little if any choice. Jihadis exist, our western culture is their Great Satan, their primary goal is to destroy us and create a world wide caliphate. Our only options are to kill them, contain them, or submit.
      Peaceful Islam could of course undergo a reformation of sorts, deny any association with Jihad, and actively drive the radicals from their midst. Until that happens, and there is currently precious little if any sign that such is even contemplated, they will simply have to endure a hightened level of scrutiny.

      1. This. And everything freddie_mac, WL Emery, Alan S. , BobtheRegisterredFool, McChuck, Kevin J. Cheek, and Uncle Lar have said.
        With reference to what freddie_mac said, personally, my number is zero. I’d say higher, but for the fact that “freedom of religion” has become a sad, depressing joke in the nation that I love. If cheerleaders praying, or a valedictorian mentioning God in his speech, are not “protected” (a qualifier that should not exist) speech, then freedom of religion is a dead, rotted farce, and I’ll be damned before I see one man, woman, or child die as a consequence of “respecting” the religious “freedom” of non-citizens more than I/we respect the religious freedoms/speech rights of citizens.

        I love America. I love her constitution. I tolerate her courts and legislatures. I love her spirit, the spirit of her people. If barring or sharply restricting the immigration of Muslims would destroy that spirit then it’s a weaker spirit than I would have believed. I am one of her people, and I am heartbroken to see my nation, and my fellow citizens, brought to a place where the only choices are one’s with tears and blood at the end. That said, I am cruel and monstrous enough to admit that I’d rather the blood come in larger portion from those who are not my brothers and sisters, and the tears be our tears of sorrow for what we had to do to save our nation and families.

        My great grandparents faced discrimination during (and before) WWII as immigrants from Italy, despite the fact that their son (my maternal grandfather) was serving in the Army at the time. My father is an immigrant to this nation (also from Italy, funnily enough. I’m third gen American on my mom’s side, first gen on my dad’s, and all my ancestors were Romans or Sicilians) who was (and sometimes still is) treated differently because of his (much faded) accent. I hate the idea of blood being shed, or abuse being perpetrated against my brothers and sisters in citizenship just because of the faith they adhere to, the clothes they wear, or the tint of their skin. The thought is repulsive to me. But those things are not what we’re discussing. We’re discussing things that might (probably…inevitably) have those terrible things as *side effects* however awful they might be. You don’t decide to refuse chemotherapy or radiation treatments because they’ll make your hair fall out. You refuse them when they would make no difference in the end, and as such the suffering would not be worth undergoing the treatment.

        So the question is, what is the treatment that would/might/could be successful enough to make the side effects worth enduring? And how many innocents must die before we decide to utilize that treatment? (Yes, I realize describing such things as “side effects” makes me sound like an awful person. I’m not, really, but I understand if you think otherwise.)

        I apologize for the wall of text, and the lack of paragraph breaks…I’m writing this on a phone, and my thumbs are clumsy as it is. I recommend Lt. Col. Tom Kratman’s columns about Islam, because he says more than I have the expertise to, and he says it well.

        With regards to writing, I think it depends on what you can personally tolerate without getting sick of writing. In other words, if you can stomach writing in a way that would appeal to a broad audience (and if you figure out that formula, please share it! Heh.) despite the content/ideology being disagreeable to you, that’s great! If, however, writing a book with a central ideology/worldview that disagrees with your own is repugnant or intolerable for you…don’t do it. (Except maybe as a learning exercise in forcing yourself to write when you reeeealy don’t want to, I suppose) The important thing (I think) is that you don’t stop writing because whatever your writing is just repulsive to you. If that makes sense. 🙂

        God bless you all, and sorry (again) for the long, paragraph-challenged post! 🙂

        1. What I find annoying in this debate are a lot of folks who cite freedom of religion to protect Islam don’t extend that protection to Christians, whom they consider a blight on the country and we’d all be better off being those ever-so-smart atheists.

      2. Good points. Kill the jihadist leaders, contain the spread of their ideology, isolate their followers and let them eat each other alive. And when it’s done, let our allies in the Muslim world claim the credit for defeating them. That is the way to defeat radical Islam.

    2. You can also square the circle another way.

      Muslims are all peaceful if you define violent murderers who would otherwise be considered Muslim, and who identify as Muslim as Mohammedean Satanists. So Saladin, Tamerlane, and the California couple would Mohammedean Satanists.

  10. On some Pacific island in World War II, my uncle and his unit, still green, lay in position and talked about what they would do when they saw a Jap. Then they heard a jingling sound, and an unarmed Japanese soldier, laden with strings of canteens, stood in front of them. They stared at each other a few moments, then the Japanese soldier smiled, slowly lowered the canteens to the ground, patted his shirt pockets, then smiled, bowed, back away a step, smiled, bowed, and backed away another step, until he was safely in the jungle.

    Then my uncle and his unit started saying things like “Why didn’t you shoot him?” and “I thought you were going to shoot him.” At that point they realized it was not going to be like they thought.

    From the stories of those who’ve been in combat, that sounds common. A friend who was in Vietnam told of his reluctance when he arrive that lasted until that night, when he had to roll for cover as a mortar hit where he’d been sitting. Yes, Charlie was human, who had family and friends and hopes and dreams – but he was also trying to take you out. Just as my uncles knew the Japs and Huns were as human as they were, but would take them out if they didn’t first. And had Hiroshima and Nagasaki never happened, my father and about half my uncles and most of their friends would have landed on a beach and faced the Japanese equivalent of average Joes charging their positions with bamboo spears.

    Reb, Yank, Jap, Huns, Krauts, Gook, Rag-Head, and other terms aren’t to make the enemy less than human, it’s identifying humans who are your enemy. Vannevar Bush, who developed the M-69 incendiary device, may have called the enemy “Japs,” but for years he’d awake screaming because “he burned Tokyo.”

    Nor is the term “Muslim” used to dehumanize, but as an accurate assessment of a very nasty problem. Not all Muslims want us dead, but how can we tell the difference?

    Does this make all Muslims enemies? No, and I feel for Muslims in this country, particularly those in our armed services, who endure the same suspicion once cast on Americans from Japan and Germany, and, during the Civil War, on our own kin. And yet how do you tell the difference?

    I really fear we are on the cusp of hearing the traditional reply to Allah akbar: Deus vult. I’m surprised the French didn’t utter it after Paris. I fear those words, for after “Deus vult” comes words even more terrible: “Let God sort them out.”

    The dark truth is that when those words were said before, no “dehumanizing” was necessary. Whenever the black flag was hoisted as the trumpets call El Degullero, it was done against those recognized as men. Hated men, but still men.

    1. Early on in the Pacific theater American GIs were willing to play by the understood rules of warfare, fight hard, but respect such things as medical personnel and the treatment of surrendering soldiers. As the war went on and we learned more and more of the atrocities committed by the Japanese against captured soldiers and even civilians along with a regrettable frequency of surrendering Japanese who actually were suicide bombers, it became increasingly rare for our soldiers to take any prisoners.
      There was simply a real and obvious disconnect between the two cultures. Each side acted in concordance with their own beliefs, yet the two were totally incompatible.

      1. One uncle vividly remembered specific orders given his unit. The part I remember was “If a naked Jap runs toward you waving, you are to assume that he is signalling your position to artillery, and kill him.” Yet they never stopped seeing them as people.

        The best description might come from an ancestor’s observation in the ACW. His assessment was people “got meaner and meaner.” We might think of it as hardened. That hardening only went so far, but it was still hardening. Both sides never stopped seeing the other as human, but that didn’t matter.

        One example that sticks out in my mind was an uncle in the Philippines, who, in his first hot meal in a long time, said they found a Japanese soldier in the chow line. There he stood, tray in hand, waiting like the rest of them. A couple of Filipinos worked him over and tossed his body into the bushes, He told it as one of the “light moment” stories he shared, but even after all those years I could tell it bothered him.

    2. When 9/11 happened, the Muslims of the world had the chance to come to us, apologize, and accept that their future social status would be lower in consequence of their crimes. Instead, they came to us, made demands, and declared that their future social status would be higher in consequence of their victories. Any and all Muslims who signed onto this assuption are fair game.

      9-11 Quarter to the Foe!

  11. As a fellow indie writer, I understand exactly what you’re going through. Sad Puppies 3 introduced me to some new circles where the readers tend to have much more conservative political views, which align more closely with my own. Because I tend to write the world the way I see it, topedoes be damned, that’s been really great in some ways. At the same time, given the rising anti-Muslim sentiment among these circles, it’s also led to some tension.

    I have a Syrian friend currently living in Lebanon whom I chat with on Thursdays to help him practice English. He was a pro-democracy protester in 2013 and his family lost everything in the war. His sister is now living in Free Syrian Army territory that is being shelled by Assad loyalists, with ISIS not very far away. He is Muslim, but let me tell you, he and his family have no love for ISIS.

    His two brothers are refugees in Germany. They are learning German right now and hope to study mechanical engineering in the near future. They are not lazy bums seeking handouts from European milquetoasts, they are genuine refugees seeking to work hard to make a better life for themselves and their families.

    His take on the war in Syria is very interesting. He tells me that it isn’t a civil war at all, but a proxy war between Russia, Iran, Turkey, and Saudi Arabia. ISIS became a player because of massive outside support: when they roll into a town, they offer to pay young unemployed farmboys $800 a year (in cash USD) to fight for them—this at a time when a government employee is lucky to get paid $100.

    According to him, bombing these guys is not very effective because they control too much territory. Every time we make a bombing raid, the civilians get hit harder than ISIS. The only way to uproot them is to put boots on the ground, or to cut off their funding by bombing the oil trucks and freezing the assets of their international supporters. Instead, we’re shipping weapons and supplies that end up in the hands of our enemies. Most of the weapons that ISIS uses are made in the US.

    Things aren’t going to quiet down any time soon because Russia and Turkey aren’t going to back down. The Turks and the Saudis want to build a pipeline through Syria in order to sell gas to Europe, but Russia is not going to allow that, which is why they’ve put troops in Latakia. They aren’t there to fight ISIS, they’re there to prop up Bashir Al-Assad, and a US military intervention would put us into direct confrontation with the Russians—as in US planes shooting down Russian planes, and vice versa.

    Putin has already made it clear that his military doctrine calls for using tactical nuclear weapons as a first resort in order to “de-escalate” a conflict. They have unmanned drone submarines capable of delivering 100 megaton warheads to coastal targets. Is getting into a proxy war with Russia really in our best interest right now?

    In short, the conflict is far more complex than “us vs. them” or “Muslims vs. the Free World.” Radical Islam is certainly a dimension to the conflict, but it is not the only or even the most important dimension. Will suspending the religious freedoms of Muslims in this country really make us safer? At best, it’s only a palliative treatment, and at worst it plays into our enemies’ hands.

    1. Sorry, this is not really directed at you. It’s been building for a while, you’re just the trigger.

      I am so tired of hearing “it plays into our enemies’ hands.” It literally doesn’t matter what we do. They hate us. They want to destroy us. Utterly. They’ve been fighting us for 1,400 years. They consider all non-Muslim territory in the entire world to be “The House of War.” The more devout they are, the more likely they are to attack us, or at least support the attackers. (World-wide polls show something like 1-2% would fight, 20-30% would actively support, and 70% at least passively support jihad.)

      Saying that “it plays into our enemies’ hands” whenever you mention some means of fighting back is defeatist talk originated by those who want us to be destroyed. It’s how to know that what you’re talking about might work.

      1. Frankly, that just isn’t true. I studied Arabic, lived in Jordan, and traveled to Egypt, Israel, Palestine, and Turkey. I’ve been the guest of Bedouin sheikhs, Palestinian refugees, and Felaheen east-bankers. I’ve been through the slums of Cairo, Jerusalem, and Amman, and talked at length with the native people in their own language.

        They don’t hate us. If anything, they admire us.

        One day when I was at the bus stop at the University of Jordan, a man walked up to me, his eyes glowing. He saw that I was an American and wanted more than anything just to shake my hand. “You America?” he said in broken English. “Good morning, good morning!” Those were the only English words that he knew.

        If they really did hate us, then trust me, I would know. I’m pasty white with dirty blond hair and a bright red beard—wherever I go, I am always the ugly American. Instead, there is nowhere else in the world where I found it easier to make friends with complete and total strangers than among the Arab people.

        How is it defeatist to say that we should uphold our Constitution, which extends religious liberty to all people regardless of their faith? Yes, there are Muslim extremists who want to destroy our way of life—and according to law enforcement, some of our best allies are the Muslim moderates who don’t want their communities to be radicalized.

        I’m not saying we should be soft against radical Islam. By all means, we need to fight and destroy it. But even in the Cold War, Reagan was willing to talk with the Soviets. He called them evil, because they were, but he was smart in how he fought them. We need to be smart in how we fight the terrorists.

        Painting all Muslims with the same broad brush is not going to defeat radical Islamic terrorism. When you say that this is a 1,400 year old conflict, you play directly into the radical narrative. You enable it, just like giving cash to an alcoholic.

        Every single enemy we have fought in the Middle East is an enemy of our own creation. Every single one. We enabled Khomenei to take over Iran by bringing the Shah to power in the 1950s, and abandoning him in turn during the Carter administration. We brought Saddam Hussein to power in order to contain the Iranians. We paved the way for Osama Bin Laden and Al Qaeda when we backed the Mujahideen against the Soviets in Afghanistan, and we gave rise to ISIS with our invasion and mismanaged occupation of Iraq.

        Which future enemies are we grooming right now by our involvement in Syria?

        Unless your Plan A is to hole in a bunker stocked with beans and bullets, your rhetoric is totally counterproductive. I also have a plan that involves beans and bullets, but it’s more like Plan H or Plan I.

        Which one of us is more “defeatist”?

        1. Wait…so Saddam, Khomeini, Osama bin Laden, and all the members of Hamas, Hezbollah, and ISIS were imaginary before the almighty United States of America spoke them into existence? What drug…never mind. The maniacs existed before we ever got there. Russia played a hand, also. Islam, too, believe it or not. But whether the almighty USA crafted all middle eastern extremists out of sand and spit and then breathed the breath of life into them it/herself, or Islam is a religion in which God himself dictates global domination, is irrelevant. The fact is, jihadists exist. They want to rule the world. They expect to have to kill lots of people in the process. A significant number of those people are/will be American citizens. How can we make it harder for those jihadists to end those American lives? Assuming there is more than one answer to that question, which is the answer with the highest probability of success coupled to the least unacceptable secondary results, aka side effects? Those are the only important questions. Argue about who started what *after* the bleeding is stopped. If I may be so bold. Also, if a certain course of action is *successful* at stopping more American citizens from dying, I don’t give a DAMN if that course of action is “playing into their hands”. Oh, and stripping American citizens of their civil rights (what few still exist) is NOT a plan with a high likelihood of success coupled to the least unacceptable side effects. Americans already have fewer rights than they’re/we’re told we have; taking more of them won’t keep jihadists from carrying out their jihad. Quarantine, however, might help. If the only assets the jihadists have are the ones already here, or ones they have to smuggle in with great difficulty…I suspect it’ll be a bit easier to contain and eliminate the problem, and no one has to surrender the few constitutional rights they/we still have. Now, it’s late, I’m exhausted, and I’m signing off for now. God bless, and good night.

          1. We both want to defeat the jihadists. In order to defeat them, we have to understand them. As Sun Tzu said, if you know your enemy and you know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles.

            Any action that plays into the jihadists hands is only going to make them stronger. This is not only a war of bombs and bullets: it is a war of ideas, and ideas are bullet-proof.

            Radical Islam stems from an undercurrent of Islamic thought that has been present since the days of the Rightly Guided Caliphs. It was radicalism that led to the Battle of Karbala and the Sunni/Shia split. But it is not the only strain of Islamic thought, or the most dominant. It has risen to the surface many times throughout history, but like a fire that burns too hot, if left alone it ultimately burns itself out.

            That is why the jihadists always fail: if your interpretation of Islam is so strict that your fellow Muslims become the infidels, then it’s only a matter of time before there’s no one you can trust and all of your friends are dead. Isolate the radicals, cut off their support, and sooner or later they will eat each other alive.

            I don’t claim to have the answers. However, I have made an extensive study of the culture, language, and history of the Middle East, and I know enough to know what won’t work. The Muslim populations with the highest support of ISIS are all in places where American interventionism has created deep resentment. Blowback is real, and if we truly want to know our enemy, we have to acknowledge our own hand in that.

            I’m not against closing the borders. There’s nothing in the Constitution that says we have to take migrants and refugees. But American Muslims are still American. If we forget that, then the war of ideas is lost.

            1. I’m not against closing the borders. There’s nothing in the Constitution that says we have to take migrants and refugees. But American Muslims are still American. If we forget that, then the war of ideas is lost.

              Does that mean we lost the war of ideas in World War I and World War II?

              It’s all well and good to talk about “acknowledging our own hand in it,” but it brings to mind that when you hit a rattlesnake with a stick, if it strikes back at you, some say you should have left the rattlesnake alone. Others will say you should have used a bigger stick.

              1. One may associate the ‘it is complicated’, and ‘acknowledge our hand in it’ with foreign policies that have thrown away opportunities to settle things with fewer dead.

                One may question a mindset that acknowledges that problematic situation M, argues that M is a result of a proxy war with N, O, P, and Q, and overlooks the possibility of expanding the objectives to exterminating the populations of N, O, P, and Q. (One may be a monster.)

                If I’ve got the oral history right, I know of at least one German-American boy of 14 who lied in order to serve in WWI. This despite that the Democratic Party was using the war to oppressively suppress the speaking of the German language. (I would guess that he may have been a Democrat.)

                In our current conflict, we are already having issues with cross cultural communication. The Mid East generally mistakes our failure to wholly erase all peoples for weakness. It doesn’t help that we have genuinely weak people championing the same course of action. We are not sending the right signals for them to notice, and choose more wisely. (Assuming that I’m right to think that Americans could get angry enough to cause foreign powers to really regret it.)

                It may be that there is a breakdown in intercultural communications going the other way. Because as others have noted, we don’t see the same signs of fear that we saw with, say, the shut down of the German American Bund with the outbreak of WWII.

                1. Have you been to the Middle East? Have you lived among the people who live there? Broken bread with them? Speak their language? Or when you say things like “We are not sending the right signals for them to notice,” are you pontificating from the comfort of your armchair?

                  Speaking as someone who HAS lived among them, who HAS broken bread with them, and who DOES speak their language, I think the main reason they admire us here in America (and they genuinely do admire us, make no mistake of that) is precisely because we DON’T behave like every tinpot dictator they’ve ever known.

                  1. Agreed. I, too, have been to Muslim countries, eaten with them, worked alongside them, and (on more than one occasion) had my life saved by them, and vice versa. I speak from experience, not out of abstract theory. Unfortunately, many of the “kill-them-all-and-let-God-sort-them-out” persuasion don’t have that experience . . . and it shows.

                  2. Nope, and maybe I am as you and Grant say.

                    I’ve heard pro Daesh type propaganda that they are going to win because we are weak.

                    I’ve heard pro Daesh type propaganda that they are going to win because everything we do just brings more recruits to their side.

                    Why should I keep one and throw the other away?

                    The terrorist leadership does seem to genuinely think we are weak, in the same way that a gangster probably thinks I am weak. (Conflating that with the ‘The Mid East’ is my error.) If I injure someone, they will want revenge.

                    America right now cannot pull off what Rome or Tamerlane did, because we are not yet vicious and bloodthirsty enough. If an external stimulus can change us that way, it is not strong enough now.

                    We had someone run on a platform of ‘It is complicated, I am smarter, more educated, and do not need to pay you any mind.’ The results seem to have moved us in the direction of a more powerful external stimulus.

                    Naively, it would seem that going the other way and electing a ‘rape the earth, loot the intel, burn the rubble’ President would have the opposite effect. One man could not utterly transform the military in just four years without the society changing first. I do not think someone who is willing to hurt people and honest about it is going to be worse in practice than the sophisticate has been at creating ruins with our foreign policy.

                    1. Yeah, I think we can all agree that Our Glorious Leader’s “strategy” to combat ISIS (if he even has one) has been worse than incompetent.

                    2. If we get an outspoken liar in 2016, whatever the flavor, we will not see much improvement over the status quo. I’m tempted to say as bad or worse, but I really do not think much of the status quo.

                      There are good and sound reasons to hope that we do not become like Rome in violent mores.

    2. I’m not sure why killing Caliphate civilians implies that our bombardment of the troops is ineffective. You’re assuming that we must avoid killing Caliphate civilians. I look at it as destroying the civilian infrastructure on which any military rests.

      Worked in World War II. And, if we engaged in this as deliberate policy, it would give Muslim civilians an incentive to oppose the Caliphate, since otherwise they would be fair game for our bombing raids.

      1. More likely, it would give ISIS fodder for their propaganda machine. Understand, the people of Syria didn’t spontaneously rise up and demand a caliphate: some very well funded extremists stepped in after the country collapsed and offered a bunch of unemployed, single young men more money than they had ever seen in their lives.

        I’m not saying we shouldn’t bomb them, I’m saying we should bomb them where it hurts: their oil infrastructure and supply lines. We should also root out and destroy the people who are supporting them financially abroad. Mossad-style assassinations of the secret financial backers of ISIS would do far more to stop the organization than carpet bombing a bunch of poor rural villages in Syria.

        1. Dead men do not respond to any motivations — ideological, monetary or otherwise. Yes, bomb the oil infrastructure and supply lines. But thinking we can fight a war purely with precision air attacks leads to technical brilliance which goes nowhere because the enemy can and will make use of assets dispersed among the civilian population and hiding BEHIND them.

          Assassinating important figures in third-party nations is a good way to wind up with more enemies who are of rather greater capability than angry rural Arab clans. We need instead ot put pressure on those countries, most of them cruel dictatorships who would do worse than kill anyone in their territory who was troublesome to them, to clean up that problem for us, or risk having their major cities added to the target list.

          No, the idea isn’t to bomb the third-pary nations. The idea is to get them to kill the ISIS backers for us, out of fear of being drawn into the war on the wrong side.

          1. I agree, it’s going to take more than precision air attacks and covert assassinations to defeat ISIS. But ultimately, the only lasting victory against ISIS is one that is won by the Arabs themselves. Going in without a strong coalition of regional forces, an exit strategy, and clearly defined victory conditions is a recipe for failure. The fact that Syria has become a proxy war for the Russians and the Turks (who appear to be tacitly aligned with ISIS) cannot be ignored.

        2. Wait…so those single young men are slaughtering, raping and enslaving countless people, not because they’re radical, fundamentalist Muslim monsters, but because they are being paid well? Damn, money really IS the root of all evil today! (Pink Floyd) No. They are being paid. In child sex slaves. They are not innocent, misguided little boys whose actions are the fault of western civilization for failing to sufficiently undertake the “white man’s burden” and elevate them above…blah blah insulting nonsense suggesting that middle eastern Muslims aren’t grown human beings with minds and wills of their own, blah blah’s. No. They are just as capable of discerning right from wrong as you or I. They just know that the rules don’t apply to unbelievers and heretics. God (not a prophet. God himself. Read Lt. Col. Kratman’s everyjoe columns) himself has told them so. Damn it…I said I was signing off…now I mean it. Again, God bless, and good night.

          1. They certainly aren’t innocent. But they aren’t especially pious either. There is an undercurrent of evil in every human society that can be exploited, given the right incentives. That’s exactly what’s happening here.

            Before these kids were radicalized, I doubt that any of them were especially devout practitioners of their own religion. You’d be surprised at how little it takes to buy someone’s soul, especially if they’re a deadbeat slacker who would probably end up in prison anyway.

            It’s wrong to say that ISIS has nothing to do with Islam, but it’s also wrong to say that ISIS has everything to do with Islam. Know your enemy.

        3. Knowing Arabic gives you definite insight, but it also may blind you to the unavoidable supremacist nature of Islam. Yes, many, many Middle Easterners admire the US and Americans. They admire our money, the cleanliness of our cities, and our general tolerance of the Other, but that admiration and desire to settle among us doesn’t mean they themselves will adopt our core values. They don’t see any contradiction between freedom of religion and not allowing someone to criticize Muhammad. They don’t see any contradiction between equal rights for all but death for apostates. They love America but still hate the Jews. They love America but see women as inferior to men.

          I can see where your insight would be helpful when deciding American strategy abroad. But it is naive of you to believe (if you do) that we should welcome Shariah supporters into the US, and that they and their families will accept American values such as freedom of religion, equality of all before the law, and freedom of speech. Maybe, maybe not. And if they do, they will be breaking Islamic law. We’ve reached the point where Muslims should expect their neighbors to take their expressed beliefs seriously. If they don’t hold those beliefs, they should openly give up Islam.

  12. Have recent (as in since 1979) events changed how I write? Once, perhaps twice. I did consider taking a certain chapter out of _A Cat at Bay_ because I did not want to risk running afoul of British laws about defamation of religion, then changed my mind. I also changed the religion in the Colplatschki books, although it is pretty obvious to anyone familiar with Central European history what it stands in place of. Why? In part because the muse ordered me to, in part because I needed more room to play and to make it absolutely clear who the bad guys were and why Elizabeth von Sarmas had no compunction or reservations about what she did.

    As for the other . . . yeah, the sight of a hijib raises my eyebrows. Young (under 40) guys acting twitchy or being a little too interested in certain things set off alarm bells. Are they harmless? Most likely, but I’m going to be suspicious until proven otherwise. Not overtly hostile, or rude, but politely wary.

  13. The truth is not a message. (Unless you’re writing inside the 1984 setting. That may just explain some things.) Human nature hasn’t changed much in a very long time. Those who write stories about humans who don’t act like humans don’t tend to sell well. Stories about humans doing human things are the stories people want to read. It’s what we can relate to.

    It’s even better when the people in the story actually do something – overcome some obstacle, solve some puzzle, achieve some goal, or simply survive a challenge.

    Monsters and aliens are, of course, not human, and thus are expected to act differently.

  14. The Left has done it’s best to stifle any sort of debate or criticism of Islamic fundamentalist terror. Is it any wonder that people are starting to turn to idiot demagogues like Trump? When the Establishment fails, the Fringe takes over.

  15. There’s an excellent article by Andrew C McCarthy over at the National Review about the problem of the degree to which jihadists can be separated from ordinary people who are Muslims because that’s what they grew up with, but just want to live their lives and be good people.

    Last year, as I was finishing A Separate War, I put in a bit at the end in which one of the characters commented that three centuries earlier, Catholic and Lutheran were willing to go to war to the knife over religion, but now a Catholic and a Lutheran could work together on an EVA without a second thought, and that she hoped that the time would come when Christian and Muslim could do likewise. I still stand by that sentiment, but I keep thinking about what it took to end the Wars of Religion: the Thirty Years’ War laid all of Central Europe to waste, and Western Christendom came to the realization as a culture that using military force to compel other people to worship a certain way would only lead to total destruction. And I’m thinking that the current conflict may well have to become the event that convinces mainstream Muslims that jihadism = destruction.

  16. One other thought that just came to me — we as Odds often have a very fraught relationship with group punishment. Part of it was lazy and/or incompetent teachers who found it easier to punish the whole class than figure out who was actually misbehaving, but I had a few teachers who actually believed that group punishment was beneficial and educational, that it taught us to take responsibility for our community and restrain the troublemakers before it reached the point that authority had to take formal action.

    Except that for someone like me it was just a trap. None of the troublemakers were going to respect me, so any effort I made to get them to behave would receive mockery, and probably increased determination to make trouble so they could enjoy my distress when I still got stuck with the same punishment in spite of having tried to do what I was told I was supposed to. And worse, I was now seen as a suck-up, and thus fair game, which made it even worse, because now they deliberately targeted me.

    So I know I have a reflexive tendency to identify with someone who’s catching crap simply because they are lumped into a group with the people who are actually causing trouble, especially when that group is based on something arbitrary like proximity of physical presence rather than actual affiliation. But there really are times when it’s not just difficult but impossible to distinguish between the actual offenders and the people who are stuck being around them, and it may be a necessary evil to use a scattershot approach to dealing with the problem.

  17. I’m an interesting (at least to myself) corner case. I’m gay and I want to write books with gay characters in them. You’d think that would be at least a foot in the door with the prog crowd. Sigh. It’s not. Unless victimization is the central point, it apparently doesn’t count.

    I want to write rousing space opera where the protagonist happens to be gay because there just isn’t much (A Few Good Men comes to mind) of it. I’m writing to fill a hole that I, just me, see. I don’t need anyone’s disapproval for seeing that hole or anyone’s approval for filling it (assuming I ever get writing again).

    So, I will be in one sense preaching to the choir because I don’t imagine the mass market (e.g. most of you) will enjoy that much “inside information” on a relationship type that doesn’t apply. On the other hand, the choir is/would be expecting a book about how oppressed and grey-gooey that world is, which is not going to be the case, at all.

    I guess I’m writing for myself 😉 That’s fine, for now. I have a day job. If I crank out my first million words on a series that only six gay men in the world enjoy, that’s OK. Practice out of the way, I can write my good novels, which will be the ones people will pay for, anyway, for a more mainstream audience.

    On the gripping hand, there is Valdemar…

    1. As long as your characters don’t whine. I could not stand Vanyel’s descents into whining, and I’d like to pretend the second book in that set didn’t happen. There’s a way to handle what she was trying to convey, but (at least for me) she didn’t manage it.

      Hmm, maybe there’s a slogan. “Human Wave: Where only the Equipment Whines.”

    2. Ah, man, haven’t you got the memo? We’re supposed to be racist, sexist AND homophobic. If we have a gay hanging around, you’re going to ruin our street cred with the Usual Suspects. 😉

      And since I haven’t seen you post before, welcome. 🙂

      1. Our credit on that is secure as long as the notorious misogynist K. Paulk posts here.

      2. Ah, Christopher, hate to break it to you, man, but he’s hardly the only not-straight person in these parts. Don’t worry about our street cred; they called Sarah Hoyt & Kate Paulk White Male Mormons. Clearly, they’re gonna slander us with the wildly inappropriate brush no matter what we do! 😛

        I’d jokingly cry here that my every-other-week posting slot means I’m being discriminated against compared to…. nope, can’t even finish that sentence, much less with a straight face. Especially because certain quarters might take it on themselves to think this means I want more work!

      3. Well, I am white, so racist by definition (despite the half-black SO). I could be sexist. Groups of giggling women hurt my ears. Does that count? Since I vote Republican (usually), I can be self-hating instead of homophobic. Close enough, I hope.

    3. If you write a good story, and a rousing space opera, then you’ll be filling the demand in the market for a good story. I’m willing to bet most of the people who enjoyed Sarah’s A Few Good Men or Mike Kupari’s Her Brother’s Keeper were straight. (Most of the population is straight, so it’s a pretty safe bet.) So don’t count those readers out just yet. 🙂

      On the other paw, if you write for the need you see, I’m willing to bet you’re not only filling the need you see, but the need that others see. And therein lies the route to making fans! There are a lot more of us not-straight people out there, who don’t believe in puritanical scolds of GLAAD and their agendas, than certain quarters would ever like to admit.

      On the gripping paw, if you market the books as “Buy this; It has gay characters!” I’m likely to avoid it – because I find that people who want to tell me it has (insert agenda checkbox here), think that’s more important than story. And nothing’s more important, for entertaining, than the story.

    4. Anna Butler is writing the Taking Shield series (5-6 books total, IIRC), and the first two are available on Amazon. She’s described this as “space opera with a protagonist who happens to be gay.”

  18. I am a student of history, and I remember noting to my wife at the start of the last Iraq war that we were trying to do something unprecedented in history–fight a war without dehumanizing our enemies. I think it spoke well of us that we would attempt such a thing, but I was dubious about the results. If you’ve seen and read the WWII newspapers, comic strips, comic books, and other popular media, you know what I’m talking about. It’s a terrible thing to kill a man, and a decent human being has to have a certain mindset to do it. In the instant of danger, one may well react lethally to save the innocent, but a war is not fought all in the heat of the moment. Dehumanizing the enemy is War 101, and has always been practiced. Read the lyrics to “The Marsellaise.” You know what the Jihadists are told to think of us “infidels”.

    Your argument that not all Muslims are our enemy is of course true, but the assertion of “our betters” that all Jihadists are somehow Muslim apostates is ridiculous on its face. The Pew international poll http://www.pewforum.org/2013/04/30/the-worlds-muslims-religion-politics-society-beliefs-about-sharia/ shows a frighteningly large percentage of Muslims world-wide and a vast majority of those in the Middle East, support making Sharia the law of the land. Sharia is antithetical to our Constitution. Now I have no problem with Hassidic Jews, the Amish, or anybody else who thinks their religion instructs them to cling to an archaic way of dress and social practice, but this not what the Muslim world is confronting us with. I am tired of our Realpolitik practitioners in DC allowing the barbarian kingdom of Saudi Arabia to funnel its oil billions into Mosques and Muslim organizations that preach death to the infidel, and that women have essentially no rights–read what Pam Grier said about Kareem Abdul Jabbar, not where he is now, but what he was taught and believed about Islam when he converted.

    To kill to protect innocent life may be horrible and traumatic for men of good will, but sometimes it is necessary for the protection of the innocent. Frodo may not have been able to go back to the innocence of the Shire, but his actions, and those of the warriors that supported him made it possible for others to live there in peace.

  19. I’m going to avoid the whole “Dehumanizing the enemy” thing, mostly because I’ve been arguing the question enough over at InstaPundit, and I’m bored with it for the moment.

    I’ll stick to the character and story thing:

    I write characters who are busy doing things. Those characters have various opinions on things, many of which aren’t mine. If I’m doing my job right, those opinions may or may not be those of any of my readers, even if there’s some similarities. And again, if I’m doing my job right, then even the characters who have opinions and attitudes that are widely divergent from my own are going to be sympathetic.

    If I *can’t* treat all of my characters as sympathetic, even the ones I disagree with – then I really need to be doing something other than writing fiction.

    Note: “sympathetic” and “likable” are *not* synonyms.

    As far as whether readers conflate the character’s views with mine or not: I’ll just pass this on to the Master to sum up my opinion on it –

    “There is a technical, literary term for those who mistake the opinions and beliefs of characters in a novel for those of the author. The term is ‘idiot’.” – Niven’s Laws, Larry Niven as related by S.M. Stirling

  20. “There is a technical, literary term for those who mistake the opinions and beliefs of characters in a novel for those of the author. The term is ‘idiot’.” – Niven’s Laws, Larry Niven as related by S.M. Stirling

    Yes indeed! Those who say, “Shakespeare said…” are wrong. We have very little of what Shakespeare actually said. What we have is what his characters said, frequently contradicting each other in brilliant, insightful ways. Similarly even Aaron Sorkin, reliable leftist that he is, couldn’t help himself but write an anthem to the other side as spoken by Jack Nicholson https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hopNAI8Pefg.

    1. * slow clap *
      Nobody likes to hear this, and it is generally anathema to say it, but PC not worked on me, so here goes. In the greater scheme of events, 99% of people are irrelevant. It’s the leaders, the firebrands, the opinion shapers, the 1% who matter. Because the views, opinions, and actions of the passive 99% are guided and directed by the active 1%, and reinforced by groupthink and the need to belong and fit in to the crowd.

      It literally does not matter what the “moderates” think or say – because they will do as they are told by the people in charge, whomever they might be.

      How does this tie in to stories? Who are the main characters in the stories you like? The active 1%, or the passive 99%? Was the Lord of the Rings a story about the Hobbits who stayed home and tilled their fields and bowed down when Sharkey and his men came to town? The active people are the stars of high fantasy and space opera. Daniel Leary, James Kirk, Honor Harrington, Joachim Steuben, Saruman, Thomas Covenant, Allanon. These are the active 1%, the people who help decide the fates of nations or worlds, for good or ill.

      Can a story be told about the passive people? Yes, of course it can. It will be a story about the little things in life, the minor triumphs. Does Lloyd Dobler get the girl? Can Lane Myer get over his girlfriend dumping him and win the downhill ski race? Can Adrian Monk get over his various neuroses and put the clues together to solve the case? Comedies, dramas, mysteries – these characters are seldom the movers and shakers. They may occasionally walk the same halls, but they don’t live in the halls of power.

      Then there was that one humble Hobbit, who dared to go on an adventure. The crews of Colonel Hammer’s hovertanks. The little people, who by being active take their role in larger events. They may not be the decision makers, but the people who implement those decisions on the sharp end have their stories to be told as well.

  21. It matters what people believe. It matters ultimately. However, the modern affluent cosmological culture is rife with “display religiosity” that isn’t a belief system, but a collection of habits.

    That is to say that well-off and sophisticated all share virtually the same belief system. “We are basically good people and we deserve a comfortable life. Violence is something that happens to other people who are strange to us and live far away, and should be condemned in a vague sort of way. It’s important to be nice to people when it’s convenient, or at least to be seen as being nice to people.”

    The ways in which religion–in the sense of an extant body of theological thought–intrudes upon their lives is limited to the occasional holiday observance and perhaps matters of diet. A movie star can go from Scientology to Catholicism to Buddhism to Judaism as quickly and easily as changing a shirt. Like a shirt, their display religion is all on the surface.

    And so for such people the idea that my religion, for example, teaches that the human race is of essence wicked and is sorely in need of redemption through supernatural means, means nothing because they are sure that what I “really” believe is that we are all basically good and deserve a comfortable life. The idea that I might base my actions on what my theology teaches rather than what they are sure everyone “really” believes comes as a shock.

    Living ones life in accordance with the worldview that one claims to accept then makes one an extremist.

    Islam teaches that the conquest of all nations by force of arms is not simply praiseworthy, it is inevitable. Jihad is not an optional extra, it is one of the Five Pillars, as central to Islam as the doctrine of substitutionary atonement is to Christianity. For the affluent sophisticate, of course, this means nothing, because they assume that everyone believes the same thing deep inside and the choice between Church and Mosque means nothing more than the choice between Macy’s and Gimbals’s.

    From that perspective, Islamic violence has to be minimized and relegated to those few believers who are “extreme” enough to allow their faith to influence their lives.

  22. One comment I want to make as I haven’t seen it above. I think that much of what is fueling the backlash against Muslims in general is the feeling in both Europe and the US that the governments aren’t even trying to fight effectively. One example is refusing to bomb the oil infrastructure that is so profitable for ISIS. Another is belittling people or calling them racist over concerns that terrorists could enter the country mingled with real refugees.
    The perception that I keep running across is that the governments are more concerned with keeping Muslims happy than with protecting the general populace.
    BTW, I have previously lived in the Middle East. (My experience was starkly different from Joe’s.) And I have relatives that could be / have been mistaken for Arabs.

    1. I think you’re absolutely right about the backlash against Muslims being tied to piss-poor leadership in the face of the terrorist threat. According to the Pew Research Center (in a study from the past week that strangely seems to have been taken down), only about 50% of Americans trust the federal government to protect them, the lowest that number has been since 2001.

      I swear, sometimes it feels like I’m living in a John Ringo novel. When that’s the case you KNOW your country is screwed up.

      1. Or a Kratman. I know I am all ‘Friends of Pat Buckman for President, 2016’, but I don’t actually want him or the prophesied prerequisite Republican squish in office. Caliphate was a cautionary tale.

        The actual Federal counter terrorism programs may be adequate. The only way I’ll know any time soon is if follow up strikes get through.

        If this doesn’t sound like what Kratman says about Islamic Terrorists always picking the worst time, I don’t know what does. There was a messaging sweet spot for discrediting a certain flavor of narrative that they couldn’t have planned to hit.

  23. One of the reasons (well, one of several hundred other reasons) why I stopped visiting Tor_dot_com was a screeching, insanely long column about how the show STAR TREK: TNG was one of the most evil series ever because Data the android character wanted to be human and non of his co-workers ever encouraged him to be a non-human instead.

    ….so, a being built by a human (or humans, as was later retconned) in the image of humanity, who thinks of his creator as his parent, who was educated by and works with humans and sees them as his friends and family, really wants to BE human. And this is evil because….well, just BECAUSE. To Tor_dot_com, to be human is to be automatically and innately worthless and evil. Only by denying human traits can “goodness” be found.

    (The fact that in series, the android Doctor Soong made who wasn’t programmed to love humanity ended up a murderous super-villain didn’t seem to matter. Because at least Lore wasn’t NORMATIVE, hmph!)

    …it was an eye-opening moment for me. That as silly and left-leaning a show as TNG could be demonized, just because it thinks humans are kind of neat let me know just how far from the SF fiction of my youth the current Elite have drifted.

Comments are closed.

Up ↑

%d bloggers like this: