Mercedes Benz

Oh Lord, won’t you buy me a Mercedes Benz,

My friends all drive Porsches, I must make amends…

Janis Joplin

Ahem. I’ve spent a good few hours today, swanning about in the Mercedes Benz, looking down on the pheasants (We don’t have peasants around here. I had to make do with pheasants. One adapts to circumstances.) from my lofty place in the world, through the windscreen of the Mercedes Benz (just repeating that, in case you didn’t get the first time). I’d like to set something straight though. I have had lots of help from my friends.

Yes, the world is different from inside a Mercedes Benz. More… Lofty. And the feeling of power in one’s field is most delightful. I revel the thought of crushing some of the clods that have annoyed me. They are mud beneath my treads. I won’t let myself get bogged down in that though. I’ve still got a long row to hoe, so to speak.

Still, people don’t drive Porsches in my field much. Oh yes, there are a few successful writers out there who could afford them, and I’m sure that New York Editors, Publishers, and even the distributors are in utter penury to give the poor old working writer a better deal, or they could. I hear Jeff Bezos leads by example at Amazon, going to the back of the queue of his executives at the soup kitchen… heh. I suppose you’ll say ‘those are not your friends, Monkey.’ And you’d be right. It’s business, at least as far as I am concerned.

Which of course is why you should be surprised about me swanking about the Mercedes. Well, you know, quality will out. And there is nothing like a Mercedes to tell people you’ve made it, you’re great.

Mind you it would have been some fun to drive over a few Porsches, after they got bogged down in my field. Porsches, generally, don’t do that kind of mud. I have 32 gears, 4 wheel drive, and diff-lock, and bigger wheels than most Porsches. This Mercedes Benz was built for mud…


And yes, it is a Mercedes Benz – an MB Trac 440 of some vintage, and lots of rust. The mud inside the cab was growing moss. It still is a Mercedes Benz. It’s just also a tractor with four large wheels and a lot of height. And, yes it is out, standing in my field right now. Mercedes IIRC took over the company that made Unimogs –and built a tractor on the same technology. It actually belongs to one of those good friends who has given me a lot of help, and I’m using it on the little farm we bought. Without peasants, a tractor does a great deal of the work we need to get done.

So why did I write this, besides for my – and hopefully your – amusement? This is after all a writing blog, not an agricultural one, despite the level of bullsh!t you get out of me. You see, one of the problems I see in modern writing – particularly the kind favored by the modern literary wing of sf and likely to be awarded a Chavez or three, is that they’ve forgotten ‘show don’t tell’ – Which is why you end up with boring social justice sermons, which are as subtle as a brick, and about as much fun as one thrown through your front window.

I’m an odd individual for the anti-traditional publishing establishment side of the writing world, in that many of my books are about social issues. That’s normally the other side’s bragging point and raison d’etre. Mine, admittedly, are NOT fashionable or popular or politically correct ones, and I don’t lecture on the rightness of any of them, but leave the reader to make up their own mind, if they notice or care. It would be fair to say it’s a fairly major part of everything I’ve written. (For example RATS, BATS & VATS is about a clash of Fabian Socialism, Communism, hierarchical crony capitalism, and about what actually defines ‘human’, for a start. Yet I have never had a soul comment on this. They all say ‘funny’ – which suits me down to the ground.)

To the contrary to the literary establishment I find this an irrelevant and personal choice. I am quite outspoken about the idea that books need to be fun, entertaining to read, and that ‘social justice’ is an un-necessary addendum. I’ve nothing against it being there, just as I have nothing against some people writing turgid PC sermons. I am sure there are people who want that. It’s a numbers game, however. Despite the fact that New York’s Liberal Arts literary and publishing elite think it is what people ought to read, it sells badly: If you don’t chase populist reading tastes, then there is no money left for idealism.

Which is why idealism, or, if you like ‘Social Justice’ issues, if you’re going to write it and sell to lots of eager willing customers… either needs to sell to a large audience who wants sermons (which is pretty pointless evangelism of an issue or cause) OR need to masquerade as other things. (And this, BTW is not confined to the left. Writers of other political leanings do, or want to do, this too.) A tractor as a Mercedes Benz for example. This quite a lot of writers get. The problem is they don’t get that the tractor actually needs to BE a Mercedes Benz to do this successfully. The old tractor is old, it’s a tractor, but by Heavens, it is quality. And everything I said about it was true – and in the process I said a great deal more, mocked a lot of things and I amused my readers.

Plough a straight furrow, not a furrowed brow.


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83 responses to “Mercedes Benz

  1. paladin3001

    Decades ago now, friend of mine was trying to build a game system. He needed little vignettes to fill in chapters and I was practicing my chops even then. He kept hammering me over the head about “Show, don’t tell” until I got it I think. Wish I had them still, some would probably make good stories.

    • It’s a vital skill. There are places for ‘tell; but they are very specific and limited.

      • I write non-fiction(1). It’s difficult to apply this rule, but I try. Anything I can show people in the product (by having them do labs), rather than tell them, is a lot more likely to be remembered.

        (1) Well, I try. A lot of my writing is halfway between training and marketing, but it’s technical marketing so it needs to be honest. If you tell people “x” works, and it doesn’t, they tend not to get the product.

  2. Talking Rats, Bats & Vats, I can’t help thinking that your Mercedes Benz fits right into that world. Though it might not fit the alien tunnels….

  3. Mercedes IIRC took over the company that made Unimogs –and built a tractor on the same technology.

    Heh. This was what was going through my mind. They weren’t Unimogs, but some years back there were a number of Mercedes large trucks on the road locally. Never saw one made into a pulpwood truck, but it was still a kick to see that Mercedes logo on the front.

    Given the price of agricultural equipment, Mercedes Benz the car might be cheaper. Of course, you can’t make back your investment with the car.

  4. What, nobody had a Lamborghini? (supposed to be pretty good tractors)
    I was guessing the Ambo folks got a MB van based ambulance and let you drive, or maybe someone lent you an old Unimog.
    Forgot about the Trac tractorish things.

    • TRX

      Yep. Feruccio Lamborhini made tractors and other farm equipment. Legend had it that he got the cold shoulder when he tried to get his local Ferrari dealership to fix some problem with his new Ferrari, so he went back to the factory and told his engineers to make him a better car.

      The story might even be true; it’s certainly no stranger than how the Sunbeam Tiger came to be, or the 427 Cobras, or…

      • The last Lambo not-a-car I saw was a late 90’s model, though not a “real Lambo”(part of a different ownership company), they use all the same branding (the bull being prominent) and it was one of the biggest with 4 wheel drive. I did see an old Fordson looking model once too. It was a pre-Enzo maddening model from early 60’s.

    • Yes actually our 2×4 Ambulance is based on Mercedes Benz ‘sprinter’ (IIRC). While the engine may be a thing of joy, and the road handling is reasonable, its traction sucks on wet or frosty surfaces. We nearly got stuck on a call-out last Friday night.

      • I’ve seen a few Sprinters looking a bit lively during snow storms (we got them as Dodges for a bit as well, now Dodge sells the Fiat vans). Times like then, I’m glad to have my blue beast 4×4 Nissan p/u.

  5. Draven

    The only Porsche I want at this point, there is only one of, it gets really poor gas mileage, hasn’t run since the 40s, and is in a museum in Russia.

  6. Overheard some years ago in Germany: “Europeans must all be rich! Everyone’s driving a Mercedes or an Audi or a VW sports-car.”

    I’m drawing a blank at the moment, but was Theodore Sturgeon who said that a fellow writer had “Sold his birthright for a pot of message?” I collided with that in an otherwise wonderful non-fiction book I was reading. The author tossed in a few gratuitous comments about political figures that didn’t seem to fit the rest of the book, and I got knocked out for a few paragraphs before I decided to keep reading. She’s from NYC so I’m certain she didn’t even think about how the comments would come across outside the Five Boroughs.

    • RCPete

      Amazing how a full-line automotive company actually makes trucks and buses. 🙂 Can’t recall if I’ve seen a Mercedes bus outside of Germany, but I wouldn’t be surprised. I would be surprised to see MAN vehicles. Oh, the triggering that would cause!

      • The horror. Even worse, the pyschology and gender-studies papers that would be written about the symbolism and coding of MAN trucks on the highways! Even Freud would throw in the towel.

      • Carrington Dixon

        Can’t recall if I’ve seen a Mercedes bus outside of Germany, but I wouldn’t be surprised.
        I was on a Holy Land tour last year. Our tour bus was a Mercedes. It was a very nice bus, but this was not a country where I should have expected to find one.
        (Have you noticed how often on TV the baddy is the one driving an M-B? Castle is just about the only counter example that comes to mind.)

    • ‘She’s from NYC so I’m certain she didn’t even think about how the comments would come across outside the Five Boroughs.’ and in this you may well have pin-pointed something. People inside a bubble are so often either deluded or ignorant about how others see what they take as commonplace and acceptable.

    • Carrington Dixon

      I’m drawing a blank at the moment, but was Theodore Sturgeon who said that a fellow writer had “Sold his birthright for a pot of message?”

      IIRC, Ted was talking about H. G. Wells.

  7. I knew it had to be a tractor, Dave. ~:D

  8. Quality is always nice to have. We were usually a Ford family, but there were the few years my dad bought us a Mercedes Benz 240D that our family of five used to go all the way to Nova Scotia and back to Corning, NY, among other vacation trips. That diesel worked well with our farm, but had to have an extra tank in the back for trips, just in case we couldn’t find it in the way
    out places we went.

    I like your main point, and thank you for, without any relationship to it, reminding me of my fun times it my family’s Mercedes Benz

    • That’s one of the time/place differences that can trip an author like me, writing from foreign parts. Diesel at every ‘gas station’ was pretty much a fact of my life. It never occurred to me that that was not universally true.

    • Xenophon

      Back in the mid-70s when I was in my early teens, I spent a week with my Uncle’s family in Palo Alto, CA. At the time, Uncle Bert was driving a diesel Mercedes sedan (model unknown). On Saturday, while we were stopped at a traffic light in downtown Palo Alto one of his colleagues from work pulled up in the next lane, driving HIS diesel Mercedes. The light was long, so they rolled down the windows and started joking around. Pretty soon, they were revving the engines. Then one said “Hey! Let’s drag!” There was a pause for a moment, then the other responded “Sure. No one will know!”

      It was a hilariously accurate conclusion given the total lack of acceleration available from those particular cars…

  9. Congrats! You’ve really arrived when you can afford products that are out standing in the field. 😛

  10. Jay Maynard

    I learned something today. I had thought Unimog was Mercedes’s brand name for their all-terrain trucks, but turns out there was a separate company founded (by a couple of former Daimler-Benz engineers) in 1945. Daimler-Benz didn’t take it over until 1950.

    And yes, quality is a real plus in a vehicle. I’m typing this while I wait for the shop to do a transmission and differential service on my 2008 ML320 diesel SUV. That thing is a fantastic highway cruiser, and diesel is a lot easier to find now than it was in the late 1970s…

    • TRX

      Diesel seems to be available at every station now. 20 years ago I went to Colorado with a friend in his Ford Powerstroke diesel truck. I tossed a couple of 5-gallon cans in back when he picked me up. He laughed. He laughed again when I filled them up at the first fuel stop. He wasn’t laughing when we decanted the first one into the tank on the shoulder of I-40 in the hinterlands of Oklahoma.

      Yeah, every truck stop had Diesel. But they were a lot farther apart than he expected…

      • Carrington Dixon

        Back in the day, a diesel passenger car was a win/win proposition. You got better mileage that the comparable gas car and the fuel was cheaper. Nowadays not so much a win in either category.

        • Jay Maynard

          Well, I get 26-28 MPG on the highway out of my ML320; the ML350 gasoline version does good to make 24 or so. And I won’t mention the ML63 AMG’s fuel “economy” rating…

      • I too learned something new today. I think it was because designated truck stops are fairly new to South Africa, that diesel was more common at gas stations.

        • Jay Maynard

          Diesel powered passenger vehicles are much more common in Europe than the US, as well. For many years, the only one selling passenger diesels in the US was Mercedes; when GM introduced them in the US in 1979, they had troubles with them for several years, and really damaged their reputation. (My dad had a diesel-powered 1981 Buick Riviera that they couldn’t keep head gaskets in.) By the time they figured out what they were doing, they couldn’t sell them. The American automakers still won’t sell diesel-powered passenger cars, although they’re selling diesel pickup trucks steadily – all of them using engines sourced from commercial diesel engine makers. (GM uses Detroit Diesel; Ford’s Powerstroke engines were until pretty recently sourced from International; and Dodge slaps the Cummins label on the side of the truck prominently.)

          The Volkswagen/Audi diesel fiasco will probably relegate diesel power to niche status for passenger cars for the foreseeable future.

          • In the late 1970s, GM had the bright idea of retooling gasoline engine blocks for diesel. That failed so spectacularly that some US diesels boast they have a Cummins engine in part to remind customers it’s not a repeat of that fiasco.

            Growing up and working around diesels, I go “Eh.” We’re not in the upper latitude states, but we still have to connect the engine block heaters during winter. I hope they have glow plugs on tractors and bulldozers now, because have spent many a cold morning with a can of starting fluid and choice words.

            A new problem with US diesel is the requirement to add a fluid to control emissions. That’s been just lovely. Maybe they got the wrinkles worked out, but that led to emergency vehicles limited in speed at the worst possible moment. We also have dyed diesel to indicate it’s for off-road use and not taxed. Finding dyed diesel in a standard diesel highway vehicle is a Bad Thing.

            • Jay Maynard

              My ML320 doesn’t even have a block heater. I’ve never had trouble starting it even in the depths of a Minnesota winter. I do wait for the glow plug light to turn off, though.

              Mine’s a 2008, the last year before they added the DEF tank. Me, I’ll avoid the 2009-2012 M-class diesels: they only place they could put the DEF tank was where the spare tire used to go, so they went to run-flat tires. The heaters are also prone to failure after 8 or 9 years, and there’s no replacement: you have to replace the entire tank. (And DEF freezes at +10 F.)

      • Jay Maynard

        That’s a problem I haven’t had…I plan trips at 600 miles between fuel stops.

  11. I like to define a show-v-tell violation as a place where the author tries to tell readers what to think rather than letting them draw their own conclusions. In the SFF short fiction I read and review for Rocket Stack Rank (~900 stories per year, 5.5 million words) I almost never see a direct political “tell.” It’s almost always an emotional one. e.g. “The passengers respected the captain for being honest with them.”

    The message is more commonly embodied in a cardboard villain. I like to talk about EvilCorp (which is so cheap that it cuts corners on products that kill its own customers and yet can afford a private army to kill anyone who complains and has bought off the government so no one investigates) and EvilGov (which kills its own citizens out of pure meanness and then kills anyone else who complains about it). These entities are incompetent at everything they do except for hunting down the protagonist, a task they perform so well you’d think they were made for it.

    You sometimes see what I call a “cardboard idiot.” This is someone who holds a political view the author wants to criticize, but this person is too stupid to live, and keeps making bad choices that put the protagonist in peril.

    A much more subtle way to deliver a message is through a setting. If the story happens in the flooded ruins of New York City, or the drought-devastated American Southwest, then there’s a message about global warming hidden in there. Occasionally a writer will spoil it by having a character (or, worse, the narrator) give a speech about how we could have avoided this, but that’s pretty rare. (I suspect editors delete those.)

    • The fictional speeches get snipped out and slipped into history books where they really do not belong.

    • TRX

      > EvilGov

      [searches… there it is] “Brainstorm” from 1983, with Christopher Walken. Some scientists are doing cutting-edge research into recording memories onto tape. And one day the Army takes all their stuff, because the Army does that to academics all the time. Brave Researcher hacks his way into the Army’s computers a few days later, because academics do that to the Army all the time. Stuff happens, but what I’m noticing is that in just a few days the Army has figured it all out, set up a complete lab of their own, extended and productionized the hardware, and even had time to make training videos of how to run it.

      We’re obviously supposed to be rooting for the Brave Academics, but what I was thinking was, “dude, the Army *rocks!*”

      • When something like that happens in a short story that I’m reviewing, it generally can’t get more than two stars owing to suspension-of-disbelief issues. Only 18% of stories get 2 stars or fewer, though, so this sort of crap isn’t as common as you might think, although I agree it’s annoying.

        • Um… you do realize the Dinosaur story you liked breaks suspension of disbelief that badly for anyone who knows working class people and the bars they frequent? I’m not sure if you’re just that out of touch or trying to make excuses for what’s out there.

          • When a story isn’t genre, I mark it “Mainstream, Not Reviewed” rather than giving it a rating.

            As for working-class bars, all I know is that when I was a teenager I was constantly warned to stay away from such places, since people get beaten up and robbed all the time. We were Southern Baptists, so drinking wasn’t exactly well-thought-of. (It can lead to dancing.) 🙂

          • I went ahead and reread “If You Were a Dinosaur My Love” just now.

            I’m not sure why so many people think there’s a gay angle to this story. Look at these two lines “How reporters adore my face, the face of the paleontologist’s fiancée with her half-planned wedding, bouquets of hydrangeas already ordered, green chiffon bridesmaid dresses already picked out. The paleontologist’s fiancée who waits by the bedside of a man who will probably never wake.”

            I have to say I don’t see anything in the story that looks like blasphemy either. Did you have something specific in mind? Any preacher I ever met would be very, very gentle with a woman who just lost her fiancee like that–at least she’s not fantasizing about taking a shotgun and shooting up the pool hall.

            Nor do I see it as an attack on working-class people in general. It attacks intolerance by highlighting the pain felt by a survivor who lost a loved one, but that message would work for any sort of violent intolerance. If anything, the man seems to have been beaten up because he was a nerd and they just thought he was gay. Anyway, I don’t think of working-class people as hanging out in pool halls and getting drunk and violent.

            Anyway, as I said elsewhere, my problem with this story was that it just wasn’t SFF, and I felt people were nominating it because it made them cry. There’s a big temptation to think a story is great if it makes you cry, but it’s not actually that hard to write one that does. Making people cry tears of joy is what’s really exceptional.

            • Let me lay this out for you in case you are not being deliberatly dense.

              The sequence of events (summarized): Smallish, prettyish man walks into a bar (with pool tables). Gets jumped out of no where for no reason at all, called a bunch of names that make no sense and beaten to death, just because… and no one else lifts a finger? And this is some how not insulting to the working class who have been portrayed as perfectly okay with someone being beaten to death in front of them because… Reasons. Or being willing to beat someone to death on sight for no particular reason.

              The Blasphemy bit was about the portrayal and, with a touch of tongue in cheek about working class men at a bar drinking gin. That one’s small but shows how little the author knows about the culture from which she is trying to draw her cardboard cut out villains. The analogy was an attempt to put it into terms you would find as ridiculous as the working class find the entire premise of that story.

              Bare minimum there would have been calls of ‘hey assholes, pick on someone your OWN size.’

              Given that you find zero issues with the premise of the story, I have to doubt your veracity that you don’t see working class people as drunk and violent.

              No, the issue isn’t that it ‘just wasn’t SFF’. It was that it was an angry little revenge fantasy made entirely out of cardboard cut outs rather than bothering to put in the effort to create characters that behaved in a manner that was appropriate to her setting and how such people actually act. Then it was plastered over with a cute little literary technique for obfuscation and extra preening.

    • Actually Greg, the problem is more subtle than you think. The reason is thus: those who live in a bubble tend to think everyone thinks, talks and behaves like they do. Even their villains are _their_ villains – or cardboard cut outs of the generic villain (evilGov, or evilCorp, standard heterosexual white male businessman, sexist and racist because that is the standard issue villain. Or thuggish rednecks with the sexist racist homophobe etc tacked on) with _their_ tastes, their dialogue and their thought-processes and their worldview. Which is how you end up with stories like that dinosaur thing everyone IN the bubble adored, and everyone outside the bubble laughed at as appallingly bad.

      Yet those inside the bubble could see nothing wrong in it. As the editors ALSO come from inside the bubble, they don’t either. It isn’t confined to villains – the worst example I can think of is where a wealthy, upper-middle-class woman author writes a poor young male character as becoming ‘a hero’ (for her value of hero). She got lashings of adoration from the literary establishment for the wonderful message. She also got almost nothing about the background or what effect that has on the character and his thoughts, mannerisms, or behavior right (he behaved and thought like a girl of her own social and political order) – so to the people outside her bubble hated it.

      Now, I’m going to throw you a curve ball, that I’d like you to think about. Most of the problem with ‘message fiction’ – almost all the award winning work of the last decade, almost every critically acclaimed story or novel…
      is that they’re NOT message fiction.
      After all, giving someone a message they’ve already heard isn’t a message. Setting a story in the flooded ruins of NYC isn’t sending a message to those who haven’t heard it, to those who haven’t believed it about catastrophic man-made global warming. Neither is the speech (which is in rather more often than not) about how bad the evilGov was that caused it. To do that you’d actually have to want to get the message to those who hadn’t heard or believed- which would mean using their language, their worldview, and engaging their sympathies.
      No. It’s just virtue signalling. Preaching to the converted to say how good they are. How they are flag-bearers for their ‘tribe’.
      Actual ‘message’ fiction is a lot harder and quite unlike this, and takes far more skill.

      • People generally write what they know. I wouldn’t call it virtue signalling if a lesbian author wrote a story about two lesbians. Virtue signalling is when a straight author writes about two gay men, but the only reason we ever know that they’re gay is that the author tells us.

        I see that as pretty harmless, though, since it doesn’t damage the story. I reviewed one story by a well-known author in which the entire plot was that someone tried to get a bird out of a tree but ended up getting pecked. That’s it. (Really.) The bulk of the “story” (over 5,000 words) was a long diatribe against developers who destroyed the environment and the government that let them do it. This was a case where the message devoured the story totally and yet it somehow got into print.

        But that’s so rare, I have a hard time thinking of another like that in the past three years.

        I worry a bit about anyone who really does believe in EvilGov, though, since only North Korean really comes close to it today.

        It’s worth pointing out that SF readers really do need to be able to suspend disbelief or else they’re reading the wrong genre. If a story has FTL or it has humanoid aliens, or mind transfer even readers who think those things unlikely should be able to suspend disbelief and enjoy the story. That applies to people who don’t believe in climate change and encounter a story in a flooded NYC. Just as long as the author doesn’t start preaching. (And I say this as someone who accepts that the science of climate change is accurate; preaching a message is bad even for people who agree.)

        My problem with “If You Were a Dinosaur” was that it wasn’t genre. I thought it was very touching (although I thought it was about a woman whose husband/boyfriend was in the wrong place at the wrong time), but it had no business being nominated for an SFF award, much less winning one. Stories that are really moving–ones that make you cry–seem to be the ones most likely to get people to do that. I don’t think it’s a diversity thing, but, again, it’s so rare that it’s hard to draw a firm conclusion.

        • Sigh. Greg, you seem set on missing the point and proving my point thereby. If people are not virtue signalling and just writing about what are and know -then the proportions of people writing on those issues would closely match the demographic proportions of those people in the population, and would have a proportionate representation of villains which of course they don’t at all. Unless, of course you agree that discrimination in favor of selected privileged groups in traditional publishing is endemic and enormous – which of course doesn’t help as the audience or possible readers closely match that demographic too. Both look terrible. Choose. Or is it both?

          I’m amused by your ‘It’s worth pointing out that SF readers really do need to be able to suspend disbelief or else they’re reading the wrong genre’ and you proceed to give this example . ‘That applies to people who don’t believe in climate change and encounter a story in a flooded NYC.’ and inform us that the statement that this concurs with own beliefs. Lets follow your logic to the obvious conclusion. You expect people to suspend disbelief and just enjoy the story if they do not share your beliefs. Therefore, logically (unless you hold that you and your bubble are innately superior and should have different rules), you and your bubble-friends should be leading by example, correct? Or you’re reading the wrong genre. You – and they – would for example be happy to enjoy a book which had Climate Scientists proved frauds. Delighted with a book that had homosexuality as a curable psychological illness. Happy with a book that no Native Americans in America (oh wait, that one already had mob of your friends demanding the author get pilloried and a witch-hunt of anyone who supported her.).

          Here’s the thing, Greg. You want the other 75 % of the population to suspend dislike and disbelief of things you believe in. But it’s a one way street -only your way. You insist that – for example – an atheist communist’s work should be taken on its merits by all, regardless of their viewpoints – but won’t extend the same to a Roman Catholic who doesn’t support gay marriage. So: don’t tell us what we should do. Show us how you and your bubble do it. So far – based on your actions not talk, I’m getting that the 75% (and yes, that is the reality) should discriminate against the 25% -which would put traditional publishing (almost entirely from the 25% and yet selling to everyone) out of business, and see most of your favorite authors vanish.

          You can go on with denial until the music stops- when the big 4 (who were once the vast 5) become the medium-size three – those authors are going to be frantically scrabbling for chairs. Or you can start pushing in your own bubble for change. I don’t really care. 75% of the pie is big enough for the 5% of authors who don’t come from the US left.

          As for your reaction to the dinosaur – that just shows how isolated in your bubble you lot really are. You liked it, found it non-problematic and not at all ridiculous. Found it ‘touching’. I’ve spent most of my life with the real ‘straw villains’ of that piece – one of the worst examples of cardboard cutout discrimination (and it’s up against steep competition) I’ve come across. I know real working-class men, I’ve spent time in the real (not straw) bar/poolroom environment. Test your response. Make the working class thugs… gays, or Black and the ‘heroine’ and her partner, conservative white working-class heterosexuals. You’d have pilloried the author as a bigot. But they were people you don’t like, don’t know and don’t understand. They behaved as you would like to imagine they do (which is nothing like reality) And they’re acceptable villains.

          • I grew up in Chattanooga, Tennessee in the 1960s and 1970s. My family has been in rural North Georgia just south of Chattanooga since the 1830s. I actually know quite a bit about working-class values.

            I’m actually doing a demographic analysis of age, race, gender, orientation, and aspect among protagonists in short SFF. The biggest surprise so far is that there are an awful lot of lesbians and very few gay men. I’ll get back to you when I’ve got more data. As for traditional vs. independent publishing, remember that my focus is very strongly on short fiction, so I really don’t have a clear idea of what’s happening at novel length.

            As far as suspension of disbelief goes, I agree it won’t work for something you powerfully believe is false, but most folks who deny the science of climate change insist that no one knows for sure–very few are absolutely sure that nothing is happening. Or so they claim.

            Not sure where you came up with 75%, but, as of June, only 12% of Americans don’t believe climate change is happening. Of those who do believe, only 15% think humans have little to do with it.

            A story where climate change doesn’t end up happening could be fine, as long as there’s some reasonable explanation for it. (E.g. algae rose to the challenge and consumed unexpected amounts of CO2.) Something that just said all the scientists turned out to be frauds would fail suspension of disbelief, although the story itself might be okay if that was the only problem with it. (Most stories break suspension of disbelief at least once or twice.) I’ve read one story where a character throws out the line “that was back when people thought climate change was real” at single point in a 20,000-word novella. It didn’t ruin the story for me, but it was certainly an error on the author’s part, since that information had no bearing on his tale.

            I really enjoyed The Lost Child of Lychford, by Paul Cornell, even though a key element of the story is that the priest can invoke the power of God against the demons who’re trying to take over the town.

            I’ve played around with the elements of a story in which someone develops a method to change sexual orientation. To be fun, though, it has to have unexpected consequences.

            Obviously everyone has limits on what they can suspend disbelief for, but I think those are broader than you imagine. It has to be earned, though, and not all authors are skillful enough to do that.

            • Greg: I have removed your links. You are not free to post them without permission.

              The 75% referred to – as I am pretty sure you well knew – refers to the support for political groups not of the US left wing. That left sits at somewhere between 25-26%, with a rusted on hard left core – which is where US Traditional publishing overwhelmingly draws its authorship, and fits itself of around 7-9% -in which the I suspect you may well find the lesbian and gay component are in fact closer to representative in authorship. That’s just not true of the entire population. The problem you face is a baby-with-the-bathwater one. Speaking as an outside observer the US political wings have undergone a swap of position over the last half century or so: Once the right meant doctrinal purity and accepting all tenets if you accepted one or were not welcome. That seems to have vanished into a range of points where some may agree with you on global warming, but disagree on gay marriage and so on. They tolerate that. The US left appears to have gone the other way, with relatively popular positions being irrevocably tied to supporting very unpopular ones. They tolerate no dissent from the total doctrine. Which is going to mean the popular is going to get dragged down by the unpopular. Not my problem, fortunately.
              For the record I worked on the statistical modelling of multispecies fisheries – the most complex form of fisheries management. It was piss-poor inexact science, because of the many variables and the quality of data. By comparison the variables in ‘climate science’ are at least an order of magnitude more complex and deal with chaotic systems we really don’t even start to understand, and the quality of data is worse – I’ll leave people like you to be certain. I actually live my ecological beliefs and believe alarmism and trying to make it a global issue instead of fixing local problems locally has been very damaging to the world. Like the little boy who cried wolf the alarmism has undermined the value and credibility of scientists – I’ve been following this since the 70s and the number missed end-of-the-worlds is large. New York is already underwater and has been for seven years, and UK children have had no idea what snow is for five years -despite record snows last winter (both predictions by leading ‘climate scientists’ still active in the field).
              And that’s enough drift from the business of writing. The subject is now closed.

          • I do have a good example of an author who writes a lot of same-sex pairings that feels natural instead of signaling—Seanan McGuire. While she has a greater-than-average proportion of such things in her work, it feels more like the water she swims in, as in “she hangs out with a lot of people like that.”

            More to the point, when she has those characters in her work, they’re individuals rather than cookie-cutter virtue-bots. And there’s usually in-universe reasons, such as having one group being made up of societal misfits, of which there might be expected to be a greater proportion.

            • Yes, I agree. It helps a lot that Seanan McGuire is an excellent writer in general, of course, but I think the biggest factor is that she simply puts in the work. For some stories I read, I’d swear the author originally wrote it with a man and a woman but then changed one at the last minute.

              • People who write ciphers instead of characters won’t keep my attention. People who write characters have held me in genres I usually avoid.

  12. Uncle Lar

    Being an, ahem, seasoned fellow, and knowing a bit about you friend Dave, as soon as I saw Mercedes I immediately thought truck. An as it’s a loaner I won’t chastise you for getting your posh on, but really, an enclosed cab.
    Actually, grew up in midwestern farm country and you would not believe how some of those worthies tricked out the cabs of their tractors and combines. AC, stereo systems, CB radios, and more.
    Given that it’s high winter at your place can we assume that you are busily clearing land and preparing it for a spring planting?
    Here’s hoping all the birds of the air and beasts of the earth poop on your land leaving it fertile and ready to render a bumper crop.
    Grand dad used to work cow manure and fish guts into his garden. Made for some funny smells, but bountiful veg and the best roses in the county.

    • RCPete

      An acquaintance at the local (rural) store was lamenting that his swather isn’t air conditioned. Right now, I’d like a sun shade on the compact Deere I use…

    • Eh. A huge field tilled slowly is boring job that needs you to be there – for a LOT of hours. Perfect place to sell audio-books.

      Yeah, some house-site clearing, some track work, some fire-prevention clearing, and preparing the orchard. The major land-working, fencing and vineyard and olive plantation and the chestnuts – have to wait until I can afford it.

    • Jay Maynard

      A co-worker and I had the conversation abotu funny smells on farms. His dad’s reply to complaints? “That’s the smell of money.”

  13. I still feel nostalgic for the VEV (my 1970s Volvo sedan that I bought in Greece from a fellow AF member,) which I drove all over Europe and half the states in the US West. I finally had to sell it after 25 years because it needed too much expert maintenance, which I couldn’t do my self or afford to pay for. Lovely car, built like a tank, accelerated like a rocket.

  14. ThomasW

    My parents (having been to Europe) always said they’d never get a Mercedes — who wants to drive a taxi?

    I also once saw an 80 year old man in a Speedo. Speedo makes quite normal looking baggy swim trunks and he had a pair on.

    • TRX

      Market has a lot to do with that sort of thing. I used to come across 1960s and 1970s Cadillacs with crank-up windows, rubber floor mats, and no air conditioning. They were apparently made as “funeral cars.”

      Given how Detroit production lines worked back then, it probably cost more for the equipment deletions than it would have to just leave them in. Sure, window mechanisms and mats from some other GM carline would probably fit, but they had to be acquired and inventoried, and the dashboard block-off plates would have been custom for the application.

    • Jay Maynard

      There’s a reason European taxi companies (and taxis in a lot of the rest of the world, too) use Mercedes: give them the proper maintenance, and they’ll run for 500,000 miles. Taxi companies over there know about maintenance.

      Before the ML320, I had a 2001 E320 4Matic wagon. I posted a picture to G+ one day, and a European friend replied “I see that front end and think “taxi”. Maybe so, but it’s still a great highway cruiser, which is what I bought it to be.

      The other thing to know is that the Mercedes we get here in the US are the top-of-the-line versions. Meredes-Benz USA deliberately does that to maintain their cachet as upmarket cars. You can get them in Europe and the rest of the world with a lot more basic equipment.

  15. sabrinachase

    About the best example of a message getting to the intended recipients is Twain’s Huckleberry Finn. A Southern man explaining to other Southerners in terms they used themselves and cultural elements they valued, “This is what slavery is. Still think it is a good idea? You are betraying your own honor.” But it sure isn’t a heavy-handed sermon like Uncle Tom’s Cabin was. (And the SJWs *still* get hung up on the language and completely miss the message, bless their hearts…)

  16. Brian

    Porsche did make tractors as well. Do not see many in the US though.

  17. TRX

    I worked in the high school library in the mid-1970s. One day we all got lists of “bad” books that had to be pulled from the shelves. Everything by Mark Twain, Harriet Beecher Stowe, and a few other authors. And the majority of the Revolutionary War history books, including everything by Tom Paine and John Jay, who I’d never heard of at the time.

  18. Not to veer too far off topic, but I see nothing remarkable about a Mercedes tractor. On the other hand, I was stationed a couple times in Europe, and the first time I saw a Mercedes garbage truck, I must have laughed for 10 minutes.

    About tractors. Having grown up surrounded by, and working on, dairy farms, I got used to seeing a lot of very old, working tractors. You don’t get very old working tractors unless they’re high quality. Ford, International Harvester/ Farmall/ McCormick, and of course, John Deere are our domestic tractor heritage here in the U.S. The quality built models are still running 50+ years later. The not-so-quality models? Heh. Good luck finding any, unless you go to a defunct farm and look in the woods that used to be their south forty.

    Social Justice, to actually BE social justice, has to have quality visible to the majority. It has to be rugged enough to stand on its own, and do more than the work expected of it. Like a well designed tractor, it has to do work that nobody ever thought it could do. No ivory tower elitist ever designed, much less built, a quality tractor; although some elitists got that way FROM building a quality product. And I certainly don’t expect any ivory tower elitists to come up with a quality social justice system.

  19. Michael Brazier

    I find myself imagining a typical luxury car commercial, where the car’s driving along wooded roads and long highways above cliffs until it comes to a stop outside a mansion, you know the type … except with that tractor in the starring role. Complete with bulldozer attachment for extra cachet. And with the Janis Joplin song running in the background.

  20. Approaching the bubble with caution and a sharp pin…

    Dave, I thoroughly enjoyed Rats. But for the subtle weaving of the “messages” into it, not the humor. I’m more of a visual kind of guy for your particular kind of humor – give me Jerry Lewis, or Larry, Moe, and Curly, or Mork from Ork…

    • Jay Maynard

      It could be argued that the SJW is merely slavishly following the one unbreakable convention of mystery writing: the reader must be able to beat the protagonist to the conclusion.

  21. It’s not just that they’re preaching. Badly. It’s that quite a lot of what they’re preaching is runs from merely damned foolishness to wicked evil.

    And yes, I think a large helping of gander-sauce is fair. A reviews of say, Count to the Eschaton, could rave about the world-building, over-the-top plot, cool characters, magnificent language and sly humor but also point out that, as it appeared to glorify the Catholic Church and normal sexual relationships. And since these latter two are a source of cis-white-heteronormitve-racists-sexist evil, the reviewer cannot, personally recommend the book.

    That’d be fair. That would be helpful

    • I can’t speak for novel-length works, but the Catholic Church simply doesn’t come up in short fiction. I can only find two mentions in the past three years, both neutral.

      Various sorts of sex do happen in many stories, although virtually never “on stage.” It’s usually more of a fade-to-black kind of thing. I’d be hard pressed to find a short story in the past three years that “glorified” any particular brand of sex, nor do I think such a story would be of much interest even to people who liked that brand.

      It’s also very rare for the antagonist in a story to be a garden-variety bigot–of any kind. It does happen, just not very often. Far more often, the antagonist is someone trying to make money underhandedly, or someone who’s just inconsiderate, or it’s a force of nature. Or a monster.