‘Of Independent Mind’

There are people who really don’t like being independent. They want someone else to do it for them. Whether it’s their thinking or their protection, much better if it is left to someone else, in their opinion. Nanny state, or nanny publisher.

Let’s face it. Being independent is not for woosies. It’s scary, it’s hard, it’s risky, although potentially more rewarding. If things go according to normal battle protocol – in other words, to do exactly what you least expect, at the worst time possible, the independent man is in for a very rough ride. Still, there are people who take that on, by choice, knowing that full well. They tend to be the role models for heroes in my novels. Australians love a battler. (A battler is inevitably a solitary guy, with not a lot going for him, in terms of money or power, who takes on the odds, probably gets the stuffing knocked out of him, gets up again, grits his teeth and does it again – as many times as need be. It’s not the actual physical winning that’s needed – the man has won just by being what he is.)

Out of this, harsh environments that today’s urban metrosexual can’t even imagine were tamed. You can, from the safe confines of a warm dry comfortable apartment, with lots of food available from a well-stocked supermarket half a block away, and the security of modern communications, the formal law and the state… point all sorts of fingers back at those battlers. The truth is most of the those urban dwellers would have a lifespan of hours, even now, if it wasn’t for men like that (and yes, there are women, but most are men.) and back when that was a frontier, a colony, less than that. (And EVERYWHERE, bar some little valley in Africa was a frontier and colony once). The urban vegan would either rapidly become a very different human, or die. It was only those independent battlers that moved life out of that little valley, that kept humanity from joining the Flores hobbits as ‘extinct’. And yes I DO know that there are some SJW who consider this a tragedy. Oddly none them seem keen to lead the way, to show by example how to make the earth a better place, with less (or no) humans.

It should be Independence Day in the US by the time this comes out. I’m not American, I’m not going to talk about that – but those must have been men with balls the size of watermelons, because they were going not just against the situation, but against the perceived wisdom of the time. And they were battlers, they made it work, against all expectations. They must have done a good job, to make it work and last, worth taking seriously. Have a great celebration, with considerable gratitude too, from other independent states and cultures that were able to survive because of that.

Being independent is probably a good thing for authors – especially considered in the light of this ‘wondrous’ pronouncement from Random Penguin’s CEO. I do love the fact that the Passive Voice points out… “except authors”. I might also point out that, from Attila the Hun to Joseph Stalin there have been no shortage of people in positions of power who told us they were ‘a force for good’. A dispassionate look later in history says the case was actually quite otherwise, every time. Only the sad and rabid puppies have proclaimed their mission as ‘evil’. So, on the basis of track records, I’d personally say you were better off to look for a publisher who merely sold books – or to go independent. I’m certainly looking at following up on TOM  – as an independent. It’s not just money, it’s also being able to decide on what I want to do, and how I believe I should respond to that audience.

Of course I AM able to be independent right now. (lofty sniff) A ‘generous lawyer’ has sent me this confidential letter which starts with this delightful sentence.

‘Contacting you through this letter is not with the intention to delve into your privacy without caution or distract you with my intense and purposeful endeavor.’

The poor man has the sum of $29 634 128 deposit in his bank that belongs to the late oil magnet (sic) – yes an oil magnet. No wonder he was so rich. And so dead, attracting all the oil to him. That probably caused that oil magnet’s fatal crash in Kowloon… The oil magnet just happened to have the same surname as me. Poor Mr Arlo Freer. And if it is not claimed by his next of kin (which Burton Chi-shan Cheng (as he claims he is called) tells me I not related to, the money will be forfeited to the state. A law, which according to ‘Burton’ is “unjust and inhuman”. Instead we can share this fortune left by the magnet ‘without any breach of law’ and generously setting aside 5% for charitable purposes!

Heh. No wonder some people NEED nanny. I wonder if ‘Burton’ hired Markus Dohle’s script writer, or wrote his own spam? There’s an award winning feminist who writes copy for a living… something about the turn of phrase… Or perhaps ‘Burton’ should think about offering his considerable talents to Randy Penguin’s Author contracts department.

I was very amused by the ‘Nigerian’ scam letter, addressed to my residential address, and posted in the UK. Like most scams its success depends heavily on the lack of integrity and honesty of the mark. I wrote back and suggested he might look into the tragic death of Mr Arlo Glyer instead, who was also very magnetic to oil.

It is, for a writer, a great window into the human psyche. ‘Burton’ set up considerable grounds for the less-than-honest to rationalize their behavior and introduced all sorts of emotive language and false sympathy — ‘tragic accident’ and that the law is ‘unjust and inhuman’ and allows top officials to divert the funds for their own selfish use – and of course that some of the benefit (a generous 5%! )will go to un-named ‘charitable works’.

I can (because this is my job – putting myself into characters shoes and heads), imagine the mark, letting his greed or desire overwhelm any honesty he may have had and seize on the excuses to create a self-righteous rationalization of what he knew was dishonest. It’s a bit like the puppy kickers (especially those given handouts for membership) voting ‘no award’ for work they hadn’t even read, last year. They knew their actions were dishonest, but they rationalized and eagerly ‘believed’ the excuses they’d been handed – because they wanted to believe.

It’s a powerful force… but not for those of independent mind. I may be poor, but I’ll leave you with something from the serious Burns unit.

What though on hamely fare we dine,
Wear hoddin grey, an’ a that;
Gie fools their silks, and knaves their wine;
A Man’s a Man for a’ that:
For a’ that, and a’ that,
Their tinsel show, an’ a’ that;
The honest man, tho’ e’er sae poor,
Is king o’ men for a’ that.

Ye see yon birkie, ca’d a lord,
Wha struts, an’ stares, an’ a’ that;
Tho’ hundreds worship at his word,
He’s but a coof for a’ that:
For a’ that, an’ a’ that,
His ribband, star, an’ a’ that:
The man o’ independent mind
He looks an’ laughs at a’ that.

A Man’s a Man – Robert Burns 1795

30 Comments

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30 responses to “‘Of Independent Mind’

  1. Draven

    I especially wonder what those handed the memberships told them- true stories of being poor, or just promising not to let those filthy puppies win.

    • I’d like to say it was 50/50 true need/greed, but, well, I’m not as charitable as I once was.

      • BobtheRegisterredFool

        Suppose forty dollars is very dear for a person. As someone who really does not have that sort of money to spend on something that is neither essential nor an investment, I’ve got to wonder about the time sinks associated with membership. Okay, not making good use of time is an effective way to not have forty dollars a year to throw away.

        I guess it is plausible that by focusing on one or a few categories, a voter might be able to form an informed opinion in a time smaller than one with a forty dollar opportunity cost.

        • Max

          Forty dollars is, for me, a valuable grocery bill—and a large one at that! That money goes a long ways, and can be used for a lot, especially when I don’t have much of it.

    • I gather ideology was important.

  2. I can only think of one rancher in the Texas Panhandle/eastern New Mexico who didn’t go broke at some point, either from larger economic woes (the financial panics of the late 1800s), blizzard, drought, grassfire, or state or federal stuff. OK, make that two, but the second case is a little odd because they were a Hispanic family that established a latifundia.

    • Well, my family was more “gentleman ranchers” – bought a ranch SE of Roswell for investment and a “cheap” vacation spot. Working ranch in any case, but with a manager.

      They managed to not go broke anyway; they unloaded it on some New Yorker with visions of becoming a cattle baron… (There was some trouble with the last couple of payments, but he did eventually manage to cough up the money.)

    • (wry smile) Someone really has to look into the optimism of farmers, one day. It could be that infinite resource people look for :-/. Farming is the natural breeding ground for battlers
      .

      • “Next year country” describes a lot of the US.Next year we’ll get in a great crop. Next year cattle prices will go up. Next year the rains will come back.

  3. My father made it a point to work every Independence Day. Living on a farm that wasn’t hard, and since sweet corn was coming in about that time, our Fourth of July usually involved shucking corn under the huge blackjack oak. He said “That’s how I celebrate my independence.” A few Independence Days would find us in a hardware store or building supply, and the owners would say the same thing.

    Today I went to town to get a washer for the lawn mower, only to find the hardware store closed. And I thought “Times have changed.” Ended up making do by wrapping synthetic twine behind a cotter key (not recommended) and skipping cutting the ditch.

    • I worked almost every Fourth of July, too – but for the holiday. Dad was a member of the volunteers that ran the local Community Center, so all of us kids (myself included after I was maybe eight or so) were running potato salad and stuff out of the refrigerators to the satellite concession stands, making sure they had buns, etc. Or my sisters were lifeguarding the pool. Took off only the time of the fireworks display, then back to work cleaning up.

      Actually, I think I enjoyed those Fourths more than I do now.

  4. We all have, I believe, a healthy anxiety regarding the consequences of our choices. Life is full of risk, and often we must decide on a course of action without knowing in advance what events will unfold from each of our possible actions.

    What you are calling “independence” is an acceptance that we have individual responsibility for making those choices. “If I eat, it’s because I made better choices than the deer. If I am eaten, it is because the tiger made better choices than I.” (Obviously there are always going to be events outside of the control of all three of us, but we have to work within the larger context of an uncertain cosmos.)

    There is a prevalent myth that if one abdicates choice to another than one in so doing obligates the other to take responsibility for those choices. Sadly, this is not true. The excuse “I was only following orders” does not work in a court of law and it works even less in the natural world.

    To give a fairly trivial example, I worked for much of my adult life as a locksmith. The dispatchers wanted, naturally, to clear as many calls as possible during a shift and hence were continually enjoining the techs on the road to get from one call to the next as rapidly as possible. I quickly learned, however, that while they advised haste they would not take any responsibility for traffic tickets that the techs received while driving.

  5. Uncle Lar

    Wrote this a while back and felt it still holds true:[
    Ah, the death throws of a once vital and necessary industry now rendered superfluous by technology.
    Pity is that the publishing business, and I include agents in that mix, might have and still could with a minimum of effort adjust and adapt to the new paradigm. Baen certainly did, and is doing exceptionally well as far as I can tell.
    There are any number of services necessary to ensure a successful rollout of an author’s work, writing the damn thing is the very necessary first step and rests solely on an author’s shoulders. Proofing, editing, formatting, cover art, promotion, distribution, all enhance the process of getting a work from the author’s brain into the reader’s hands. And all can be provided by an involved and supportive publisher, or each can be bought by the yard by an independent writer.
    Those of us paying attention, whether writers ourselves or merely attentive readers interested in the process, are in the position of watching while an industry implodes through greed and a steadfast refusal to accept a new reality. Tain’t pretty, but most certainly entertaining in a terrible train wreck sort of way.

    • TRX

      I’ve read a couple of MASSIVELY promoted, fawningly-reviewed, and multiple prize winning novels that… frankly, it looked like they spent all their effort on the promotion, then grabbed whatever was on top of the slushpile at the moment and sent it to the printer without bothering to read it.

      Even before all the tickbox writing, way too many novels made it into print that had no plot, no story, or simply made no sense. They’re all exposition and back story; there’s no front story.

      Hello? WTF? Apparently I lack the sensibility to properly appreciate such high-quality prose.

  6. Mark

    Guid luck w’TOM. I loved it!

  7. I’m delighted to live in a complex society. But I’m not ignorant of what goes into it, and what hardship I’d face without it. Thirty-five years ago I suspect I’d have done quite well. But that was before I had kids. Now that they’re grown, I’m a lot more independent again. And I know I could, barely, survive the zombie apocalypse alone. But there was a period, with two young children . . .

    But side-by-side with physical ability to do whatever work is needed, is the mental state of independence. Which allows one to change and adjust to a changing world. Those who are inflexible, or dependent on a stable unchanging world are at risk. And I think they realize this. I think they are floundering and starting to panic. Over the top emotional reactions do not enhance survival chances.

    Even if the downside is only bankruptcy. A whole lot of companies are not adapting to the changing markets. Company or individual, if they don’t hustle they won’t thrive. If they can break away from what everyone knows and act independently, they’re going to fail.

    • TRX

      In general, corporate entities *don’t* adapt well to changing markets. Bureaucratic inertia makes them prone to ride the organization down to the bitter end, then jump ship for some other organization.

      I’ve worked for a couple of those. Everyone knew what the problems were, and everyone knew how to fix them. But ever got fixed because most of the people with power were too wedded to The Way Things Have Always Been Done to allow any changes.

    • This. This is I think behind some of the sheer nastiness. Panic that their predicted and assumed course… is changing. They’re lashing out and making things worse.

  8. The Big Five can’t die soon enough.
    But what scares me is that the day is going to come when Jeff Bezos either dies or flies off to Mars, the same kind of limousine lefty business geniuses will be running Amazon and deciding they haven’t made nearly enough progressive editorial decisions…A

  9. I suspect a large part of the problem is modern education, which seems designed not so much to help kids mature, but to delay the maturation process as long as possible, ideally until people are sufficiently set in their ways they won’t truly mature.

  10. The Puppy Kickers are the kind of people I most detest. They had a nice, cozy arrangement, and they are using any and all means to protect that arrangement. It was never about SF/F or fandom. They just said it was, until that charade became inconvenient.

    They do not appear to have moral values as such, particularly not the ones they love to tout when they’re kickin’ the Puppies. Voting Noah Ward without reading is one of the canards they love to cast at us, but they did it without hesitation or shame, because to them morals are strictly tactical. Used and discarded at need. They see no contradiction in doing what they accused us of.

    The genius of the Sad Puppies campaigns has been to force them to follow their own rules, or break them publicly. It has been a great success in that regard.

    This year I believe they are well matched with Mr. Beale, who has declared no tactic or strategy off the table, and pursues them with vigor. Fandom and love of stories has no place in this year’s Hugo lineup, it’s all down to who’s going to No Award what for purely political reasons.

    In the Rabids vs. CHORFs war, I don’t pick a side. I pray for an asteroid to come.

  11. Side note about “Nigerian scam letters”—they’re apparently misspelled by design, because the sort of person who overlooks that is more often the gullible sort they’re looking for.