How little one knows oneself

As John has talked about it on FB, I’m going to break my tradition of not talking about books until the contracts are signed. I’ll be writing a novel in the BLACK TIDE RISING universe with John Ringo.

About maybe 10 years back John said that the Hugo Awards were systemically biased against conservative authors. I was one of the people who said ‘Oh bullshit’, on the assumption that no one would be that petty – or that stupid. Of course, later, when I actually looked at the figures, I found out he was completely right, and I had been completely wrong. I apologized. I was wrong. John was a gentleman about it, and somewhat later I got an invitation to submit a story for an anthology set in that universe. Now, the BTR universe was a big departure for me from my normal sf of fantasy, which are not what one could call ‘near future’ or ‘really plausible’ – but it was something I enjoyed, felt at home with so I wrote with the I hope I could manage to suspend disbelief and take readers along for a ride. I can’t be total failure at it because despite zero marketing and people David Gerrold advocating boycotts, I’ve sold a reasonably large number of books. But… this is near future and IMO dangerously plausible for some form of biological terrorism/warfare. The nearest I had ever come to it was CHANGELING’S ISLAND (which has a substantial fantasy element set in the ‘real’ world).

It’s not my kind of thing, right? I have enough to do without going off on a short-story tangent. I would have politely declined… BUT I thought it was generous gesture, I appreciated that, and what the hell – I’m a hack. I can write anything…

Well, maybe. Within limits.

When I set out to write a first person ‘Cozy’ Murder-mystery from a timid urban female priest’s POV (which is about far as you could get from me) with absolutely no violence on scene… I did it. But it stretched and challenged me. It was HARD.

So there were doubts, real ones. I’ve tried hard to shift my envelope, to keep learning and growing as a writer. But all of us do have limits.

Of course (and probably unsurprisingly to most of you. It’s what I do best and have a natural talent for. My métier, you might say) I was being a fool. I  actually loved doing it, and – unlike my female priest – I was writing right in my comfort zone. I’m not a super-skilled veteran like the sekrit squirrel (insider joke. He writes ‘Military SF’ and not for Baen) but I’ve kicked around in a few wild and lonely spots, often exercising my métier. If you live through that often enough, you have stuff to write from experience.

So the take-away from this: if you think something is outside your comfort zone: you need to try it. Maybe you’re as rotten a judge as I am.

One of my ‘bad judgements – which a lifetime of being involved in various forms of volunteer (and less-than-volunteer – as a conscript) rescue/ search things has always proved true is that it takes extraordinary circumstances to show that someone who looks and seems ordinary, isn’t. ‘The good guy with a gun’ who ran TOWARDS the shooting and saved a lot more lives at the Texas church massacre, and the guy who drove the good guy chasing after the murderer, showed that in spades. There are some pretty good humans out there, to balance things out a bit. We tend to hear about the various Hollywood celebrities, and other nasties, but I can tell you from first-hand experience, there plenty of real heroes who are unsung. You know, I’d rather read stories about those ordinary folk who aren’t ordinary when the chips are down than about superheroes.

That was the appeal of ‘Mouse’ Padway in Sprague de Camp’s LEST DARKNESS FALL and Billy Danger in Keith Laumer’s GALACTIC ODYSSEY. Those are old books… but a great, still resonating concept. Some things change in sf/fantasy, but not that. Our ideas of the future have changed a great deal, and sf/fanatsy has changed with it… pushing the limits of what is different and daring.

Or has it?

I don’t think so. I think it’s stuck – principally for political reasons – in what was exciting and daring back in 1960. When I start seeing books that have the ideals of the modern US left (who got all their idea from new ones back then) as a utopia, and the inverse as the villains, the one thing I sure of – they’ll be as wrong about the future as everyone else, and possibly more so. And when you strip all the bull out of it, their demands for more navel-gazing amount to an attack what they fear most: a level playing field where readers decide what they’d like to read, and may the best writers win.

Here’s Dr Mauser’s take it. A good read.


  1. “no one would be that petty – or that stupid”

    One thing the last few years has taught me is not to underestimate petty and stupid people.

  2. Since you mention the Texas church thing, I will note at this time that the Lefties were all screaming GUN CONTROL!!!11! before the ambulances were done carting away the wounded, quite literally this time. As soon as the news hit the wire, the Dems were out there shrieking. But it seems the shooter was stopped by not one but two -civilians-, and early news from the Texas Rangers indicates it would have been so much worse had those men not stepped up and shot this guy.

    Other early news indicates this shooter was some kind of atheist Christian hater, or as I’m sure many will scream when reading, an SJW.

    Of course we won’t know the story for a while, so all this preliminary news is just that. Preliminary. The cops still haven’t figured out the Las Vegas shooter.

    1. This is Texas, and how we roll. We’ve traveled through that part of Texas often enough – and likely drove through Sunderland Springs at least once, but there are hundreds of small towns on back roads just like it.
      As for always being prepared with the personal armaments – from Luna City 3.1

      “… the front door opened and shut, admitting the chief of Luna City’s police department, panting only slightly. “You catch ‘em, Joe?”
      “No,” Joe Vaughn limped into the room – most uncharacteristically sweating and disheveled. “But I put the fear of God into them before they got away. Last I saw, they were beating feet on 123, heading south. Bastards should be half-way to Karnesville. I’ll send Milo with the patrol car, after a while, if I’m feeling generous. Is Ricardo gonna be OK?”
      “Pretty certain,” Chris looked thoughtful for a moment, “I wish he’d agree to going into Karnesville to see a for-real doctor …”
      “You’ll do, Squid, you’ll do. Damn – I never thought civilians got PTSD. Gimme back the Kel-Tek, Jess – I guess no one tried to come through the door?”
      “Yep, they sure can,” Chris replied, “It all depends on the degree of initial trauma.”
      Jess silently handed Joe a small, evil-looking pistol. Before Richard’s horrified gaze, Joe casually hiked up his pants leg and replaced the pistol in an ankle-holster.
      “You don’t need to talk about me as if I’m not here.” Richard demanded. “Are you always armed while attending to your social obligations?”
      “Sure, Ricardo – I’m never really off-duty; Colt in a shoulder harness, Kel-Tec in my sock, Ka-Bar in my other sock, switchblade in one pocket and a multi-tool in the other. And those are just my social-occasion arms. The professional gear is locked in the station gun-safe safe.” “

      1. As a Subject of the Queen, I am reduced to tiny knife, tiny knife, multi-tool, tactical pen, and my evil mind.

        The official working theory is that losing a few civilians now and again is much better than having civilians doing work that should be done by licensed, unionized police officials. Totally worth it.

        Also, it is an opportunity for the Liberals to stick it to the Conservative voting hicks. Class warfare, in all its glory.

        1. My sympathies, Phantom182. If you ever wanna transport your evil mind to Texas, let me know — I can hook you up.
          On the other hand, this walking arsenal is the chief of police in a tiny rural town – but no one other than Richard (the expatriate Subject of Her Maj) turns a hair at his social-occasion arms.

    2. And I have literally seen people criticizing the heroes as dangerous maniacs; they should have just called the cops.

      1. Where they aren’t characterizing them as murderers, because they shot the guy as he was coming out of the church rather than letting him go.

      2. “…they should have just called the cops.”

        Yes, because we -must- put our faith only in unionized public employees.

        Sorry if the sarcasm dripped off that on anyone’s screen…

  3. Yeah, BTR strikes me as something that would fit your strengths. And maybe I don’t know you very well.

    1. I disagree.
      Your nautical background gives you a natural tie to the source material. There are few people better suited to describing a fishing boat or oceanic research vessel surviving the initial pandemic.
      At issue are theme and tone being outside your normal fare. The concrete particulars, you’ve got locked down, better than just about anyone else.

  4. Well done, Dave. I find your stories entertaining, so I think you’ll do fine with the BTR story. Honestly, I don’t see that as outside your strength at all, since you did The Forlorn.

    And I think Dr. Mauser nailed that one.

  5. I’m wondering about your metier (sorry, don’t know how to put the mark above the e): is it a milli-metier, a centi-metier, or a full metier? (Silly minds want to be silly.)

  6. Looking forward to the BTR story, and yes, Texans DO tend to take care of business themselves. One ‘theory’ if you will, is the hispanic reverence for churches (the farther south you get in Texas), might have been a reason no one was armed. I know for a fact, numerous people up in our neck of the woods DO carry, even in church.

    1. Too early to tell if anyone in the church returned fire. Body armor. They might have scored on him and it didn’t make an impression. Or it did, and that’s why he left.

      Carrying in church around here would get you more jail time than murder.

    2. We have armed parishioners, armed choristers, and a plain-clothes (but not plain-car) deputy. And that’s not counting the “coffee left on high heat for three hours with the grounds still in” chemical weapon from the third-floor classroom. Or what might be lurking in the Youth Department ‘fridge…

        1. 😦 This is my understanding as well. And looking at the building from the outside it’s standard… one main room without even a foyer to speak of and everyone’s back to the door…

      1. If another Chtorr book ever comes out, I am going to find myself in a painful ethical bind.

        However, he seems to be sticking to passive-aggressive snarkery and selfrighteousness these days, so I doubt I have much to worry about.

    1. Already in place. I haven’t read Gerrold since forever. Pre-Sasquan, it was because I didn’t like his stuff. Post-Sasquan, I still don’t like his stuff and now I know he’s a schmuck as well. Its a two-fer!

  7. That’s super great news about the Black Tide Rising book Dave!
    Also, your urban pastor lady mystery was fabulous.

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