Can I talk you about our Lord Chthulhu…?

“Excuse me, Sir. Do you have a minute to talk to me about our Lord Cthulhu?” I’ve always been vaguely sorry for missionaries, never more than the couple working in Malawi who got sent a box (at considerable postage expense) of used, dried tea bags – in an apparent genuine gesture of support. Malawi, of course, is a tea producer (good tea, actually). But seriously even if you feel your life’s work is to make all chant “Ph’nglui Mglw’nafh Cthulhu R’lyeh wgah’nagl fhtagn” the problem all ‘missionaries’ with a message for the ‘heathen’ is it’s not much good sticking to saying it in your misshapen temple of black porphyry hidden in some miasmous Louisiana swamp.

You have to actually reach the un-converted. As anyone who has ever tried the actual mission bit will tell you, standing in a park yelling it or even going door-knocking are marginally effective. Law (convert or be prosecuted) or conquest (convert or die) both have a history of some success. But neither are voluntary processes – worth keeping in mind as this is a writing blog – and if they don’t work out, there’s a better than average chance of a severe backlash, as Vlad Tepes displayed so well.

Social pressure works to some extent. “You weren’t in the swamp yesterday, sacrificing babies to our Lord Cthulhu, Dave. What will people think? You’re a Cthulhuophobe! You need to educate yourself!”… has some impact, IF Dave cares what ‘people’ think (those people have to be important to him. For some of us, that’s anyone. For most of us, that’s our monkey-sphere), or is afraid of them – they have to proximally powerful and/or be a large group – so they can be a powerful mob, even if weak, individually. Of course, if Dave is not afraid of them, and regards them as something not safe to wipe his butt on, in case he caught something… it doesn’t work.

The somewhat more effective method is to set out an attractive ‘stall’ and be the kind of people that seem to be happy, comfortable, successful (at least in the pursuit of personal satisfaction, but yes, doing well is a powerful argument), nice people, kindly and generous, and doing your ‘outreach’ by helping those in less fortunate circumstances – both psychological and physical. Persuading people that the message of Lord Cthulhu might help them enjoy these things is easier, if they see these things. IF they come to you, you’re a long way towards winning.

So: why in a writing blog am I talking about carrying the ‘message to the heathen’? Well, partly because as my friend Amanda Green pointed out: I write ‘message’ fiction. It’s a fair comment. And, yes, I endorsed and supported the Sad Puppies Movement – where my friend Brad Torgersen opposed endless ‘message’ fiction and called for a return to broad-appeal ‘adventure’ sf/fantasy.

The short version: I am long-sighted enough to look past my own short-term benefit. The longer version: I feel that there’s a place for ‘message’ in fiction. There’s just not a lot of demand from the wider public for boring sermons, particularly if they are not of your faith – or find your faith obnoxious. The converted might like them, but… unless the converted are a large enough group to keep publishing going, well, as things fall apart, so too will the money to pay for publishing sermons. Now: as I like reading sf/fantasy, even if I don’t agree with the author about many things – I’ll tolerate a bit of ‘message’ with a lot of story. When it goes the other way… (even if the message is something I agree with, personally) I can see this affecting not just those authors, but the reputation of the genre. SF/fantasy – particularly award winning sf had been hijacked from a broad church with authors as far apart as John Norman and Joanna Russ competing for eyeballs, to a narrow, modern US left-wing sect about as tolerant and pleasant as the Westboro Baptists. That seemed like a bad long-term choice for the survival of a genre I enjoy reading. Buying books is voluntary behavior, and the income that supports my profession is dependent of people volunteering for it.

Which brings us back to my ‘missionaries’. Look, IF your ‘message’ was one that enough converted loved reading a sermon about… you’re, personally, golden. People identify with it, with your characters, buy it. The ‘heathen’ hate it, but that’s Okay, IF your subsection of the market is big enough and there is not a lot of competition. You, personally, Jack, are all right. Which is cool, and the industry can survive and thrive if the ‘heathen’ in various subsections are big enough to carry authors who write there for their ‘faithful’.

Where it all starts to go wrong is when the Industry only has ONE sect, and many, many authors trying to scrape a living writing for it, and the sect is a shrinking one. Basically, they have to sell to the ‘heathen’ or die.

So far I’m seeing law, conquest and social pressure – none of which have worked as planned. Let’s face it, when you start to try and social pressure me into reading your sermon, which delights less than a couple of percent of the population – which does not include me, in fact actively hates my type of person, you’d have more luck selling me on a midnight black mass in your temple in the swamp – which is to say: less than none at all.

On the other hand, message fiction can be done well by using the ‘attractive stall’ method. Look, it’s much harder than just writing for your true believers. I’m not sure it can be done for the opposite extreme either: If an individual likes and identifies with the queersex-all-white-heterosexual-men-must-die Hugo nominee, they’re either not going to grasp the message in THE LION, THE WITCH AND THE WARDROBE, or they’ll hate it. But that’s an extreme – a tiny outlier in the human norm: the target, frankly, is the ordinary blokes in the middle. If you’re a genius – like CS Lewis or Madeleine L’Engel you can wrap your message well, dressing it in attractive, believable characters your reader (even if they care not at all for your message) want to like, and to care about.

So: I’m no CS Lewis, or Madelaine L’Engel. But I do write about issues. Issues I know, issues I care about. And of course those are colored by experiences and my own philosophy. At the moment I’m dealing with hidden post-traumatic stress in the current book. You’ve probably met or know a man with this. (It’s not only men, just mostly men. Because men get all these ‘advantages’ most women don’t – like dying or being injured on the job – or ending up in jail, at about an order of magnitude higher rate. So yes, there are women in there, but mostly, it is men.) I wrote about the men who crack in LUCKY NUMBER 7 (A RATS BATS AND VATS story). lucky number 7This time I’m writing about what we don’t see: the men who don’t quite crack. The men who live on the edge of that. It’s a thin edge, and I’m not pointing fingers at those who do or don’t. It’s not a ‘crime’ one way or the other. It’s just different, different people, different circumstances. And, dear God, it is hard. Harder than those who have not seen what they have seen, been where they have been, can ever know.

As a young medic I met them, knew them, shared some small part of what they went through. The guy with seventy percent body burns who had walked 6 miles to get help for his fellows. A man of great courage and determination – who held up so well… until his wife came in, saw his ruined face and screamed and ran away. Others – men and women, who taught me, the hard way, that it’s not what the world sees that shapes the quality of that beneath it. You only get to see that when the masks are gone and times extreme. It’s not just physical strength or intellect. I’ve met up with a couple of them since then, and I know what is beneath the smile, the handshakes, the hugs, the beers we’ve had togther, or in one case just a hard squeeze of my hand and turning away wordless, before I saw him cry. Yet, you have probably met one of these people – or are one of these people. The world has little idea how strong and yet how fragile they are – some of the best and finest men I have known. And yet… unknown. Which is why I write about it, which hurts and tears the hell out of me, but I think it well worth doing. But if you were to put it in SJW terms, you’d say I was ‘raising awareness.’

A book is seldom a ‘single issue’ thing for me – as I will explain. CHANGELING’S ISLAND – which Damian Walter informed the Guardian’s readers was just rubbish (a book he’s never read more than paragraph of –but hey, libel is just fine, when they do it), was a book, to put in SJW terms again, about one of the most marginalized, ignored and disrespected groups in the western world (particularly by SJWs, despite the problem being obvious in the statistics. I wasn’t writing about the usual suspects of SJW literature though (these kids are the scapegoats in that). I was writing about a rural, heterosexual boy, who loves the land and sea of his heritage, and –as so many of these boys do – carries a man’s portion in it. There’s a lot more to it of course, there always is. Adventure, drama, romance, magic. And choices and responsibilities.

Hell’s teeth. I don’t know if I do it even half-way well, I just know I sell Okay. I have none of the establishment and its web of patronage for my ‘messages’ – whereas theirs get as much push as they can. I have the opposite: many of them campaign overtly -Gerrold, Scalzi, Damian and Foz and Hinesy to name a few try and badmouth me and trivialize my work, my popularity and my ability, and thereby stop people reading my books, let alone allowing them to be judged on merit. Of course, as far as I’ve been able to establish, none of them have ever read my books. It wouldn’t matter anyway: their grasp on what they read is so colored by what they wish to believe, that if you stuck my name on a copy of Dune or LotR, they’d tell you it was trash. Fortunately, our audiences don’t cross much, and their credibility outside their converted is rather tepid.

I still make a living. Which means I’m outselling a lot of SJW sermons – even, having looked at some of the figures, some the Hugo winners, who got advances they will never earn out, and translation rights I will never see. So my method can’t be all wrong – it is pretty much based on the ‘set out a nice stall’ principle, and don’t demand they worship Cthulhu on page one paragraph one. In fact don’t demand anything at all. Oh and remember I’m trying to suspend disbelief, which means be credible. Which is why you’ll search my books in vain for the typical SJW checklist of ‘victims’ front and center. The key here is credibility – if you’re populating your character-list, and you’ve got 2 main characters and 6 supporters – by the time you’ve got the required ‘tokens’… Who represent micro-demographic groups… you’ve got no characters left to be 95% of the typical human demographic. That rings incredibly false from the get go. It’s like starting the suspension of disbelief race in hobbles. You’d have to be a hell of a horse to win from that – and thus as mostly you have to lose, you’re actually doing no-one an iota of good.

changeling's Island cover

So: for instance, CHANGELINGS ISLAND –which has two main characters and six supporters – and is based on the Island I live on, where I volunteer for the Ambulance Service, meaning I know even more of the people than most, and most people know everyone. I know the island demographics (and yes, a selling group have been these people and their web of friends and contacts – it HAD to be real enough for them.). I know, pretty much, the race and at least the public sexual orientation of the huge majority of people. It’s not a big deal, we had two elected gay councilors and at least a couple of Aboriginal ones. You don’t get that if everyone hates you and you need to keep it a secret. There is, I’m sure, some level of discrimination, but I know the numbers and, for the size of the main character group, to make it real, there isn’t space for every minority. Putting them in – especially as 4 characters out of 8 belong to one family (and therefore one race – about 20-25% of the population) stretches credibility.  In effect I have 5 character types and about 20% representation, for a group that is about that proportion, and about 80% for a group that is that proportion, and as they have no plot driven role in the story, no place for the 2% or 0.1% minorities. If this story was about them, that would be different. But it is not.  Adding a checklist of ‘favored minorities’ in is just about tokenism, if their status as that adds nothing to the story. And that is how you lose readers, and fail to ‘preach to the heathen’. And yes, I heartily recommend anyone wanting lots of evidence of homophobia from Dave to read SLOW TRAIN TO ARCTURUS. I’m sure you could find transphobia to accuse me of, even. (It’s a joke, but as the SWJ contingent have low reading comprehension and not much wit, they’d probably find an alien species that naturally changes sex, ‘transphobic’.)

I also know some of the islanders with the unmasked intimacy that you only get when you are in a situation when all pretense goes out the window. My dive partners – in a situation where absolute trust and absolute reliability are all that keeps us a alive – it’s not a job for fainting violets, are of a couple of guys of different racial backgrounds (so as you see I’m obviously a racist, because you always absolutely trust and are trusted by people who think you hate them. /s (sarc tag inserted seeing as it was forcibly borne on me that not all – or any — of sf fandom supply of SJWs understand sarcasm. Or Monty Python. ). I used that to write people – not skin colors with stereotypes no-one believes, but people. And I wrote the people to be as real, as fragile, as conflicted and complex as I could. Even if they’re NOT the actual people, I tried to make them real enough to believe in – which means there is no space for tokens doing the token politically correct behavior.

The hero is –for plot reasons – of both Aboriginal and fay blood. Which means his grandmother (one of the other principle supporting characters) is too. But first and foremost I work on getting you to see them as PEOPLE. It’s about traits that you would see in any many a boy or many a grandmother. Onto that easily believed and easily liked framework, I build. Their identity is important, and I still think the floundering scene I wrote captures the essence of what it means to be one of the hunting people, and what the hunt and kill means to such people. It’s something I feel and understand – but for Joe Urban-dweller it’s probably as alien as Mars. So I use the framework of thing that can relate to, to try and get him to accept this window. (yeah, very un-PC I know. But men hunt, and have for millennia. The hunt and kill and bringing home of food are holy things in primitive cultures. To me too.)

And because I am dealing with one family – both the heroes and villains – while their race is unimportant to WHY the villains do what they do, we escape the other perpetually unbelievable trap of modern message fiction – that one sex (or various Xirs), and races and cultures are good and can do NO evil, and while heterosexual males of one race and culture are evil. Trust me: it’s a lot easier to believe some people who happen to be quite like you in many other ways can be good guys even if they’re XYZ, than ALL XYZs are always good guys. Because they’re XYZ. Don’t do it, if you want to be read by the ‘heathen.’

It’s common ground that wins. You cannot force people to like your group, or to accept them, or think they’re normal. But you can make them realize you are individuals, and that those individuals are not that alien, and therefore labeling by group, rather than as individuals can make you wrong about an individual. CHANGELING’S ISLAND is about a place, a people and a culture that is which 99.5% or more of readers will never experience, and, at one level, have little in common with. What I tried to show was just how much they did have in common, at a deeper level. That, in a nutshell, is my schtick.

But you can do all of this, and still fail… if there is no story.

And that is why story should always come first.


  1. Dave’s books are some of my favorites and are often the ones I go to when I want an example of how you can have a “message” but not beat the reader over the head with it. He writes rip-roaring stories that will leave you thinking. I’ll plug his Amazon author page since he didn’t:

  2. That’s really the crux of their problem, though, isn’t it?

    They’re too solipsistic to see other people as anything but an extension of themselves.

    What you tried to do is not just something they’re incapable of doing, it’s something they’re unable to conceive of doing.

  3. Hell’s teeth. I don’t know if I do it even half-way well, I just know I sell Okay.

    For what it’s worth, my kids will be required to read Changeling’s Island before they start dating.

  4. Dave said: “I have the opposite: many of them campaign overtly -Gerrold, Scalzi, Damian and Foz and Hinesy to name a few try and badmouth me and trivialize my work, my popularity and my ability, and thereby stop people reading my books, let alone allowing them to be judged on merit.”

    Just think of them as your cheerleading squad, Dave. The more they shriek and pout, the more guys like me see them and say to themselves: “Well, well. There must be something to this Freer guy, if Scalzi hates him. Think I’ll pick up one of those island books.”

    Look what they’re doing for Jordan Peterson. If they keep denouncing him the way they are now, the guy’s going to be a billionaire.

    I’m actively seeking SJW hatred as an advertising gimmick when I finally publish. If I can get a nice SJW Shirtstorm going against my first book, half the USA will buy it just to piss them off. I don’t know what they’ll find to complain about, but I’m sure they’ll either find or make something up for the occasion.

      1. Or they won’t keep the jobs they have, without the massive virtue signalling.

        Anybody think Johnny would have got a $3megabuck deal without the SJW act all day, every day? Nuh uh. Never happen.

        Anybody think Johnny’s going to earn out that deal with just the SJWs behind him?

        1. Phantom, the last Scalzi book was on the deep discount tables in large numbers. The man’s between the devil and the deep blue sea, I suspect. His ability to sell to the un-converted drops steadily as he works harder to please the bishop of his church with extra public zealotry and in the content of what he writes. If the Bishop drops him, he’s in dire trouble, so he dare not even tone it down. The bishop and the elders love him for it. But the bishop also needs him to sell to the un-converted to keep the church afloat…

          1. I suspect that in the long run, Scalzi has driven away more readers than he’s brought on board.
            And that was before he turned into the 21st Century version of Jenny’s boyfriend…

          2. As I said, I used to read him. But then I found out who he is and what he’s about, so not reading him anymore. Also, that Little Fuzzy episode left me seeing red.

            The new book is on the remainder table? So surprising, right?

            It’s a -collapsing- empire, and I’m already out by sentence two of the blurb. Horrible people doing horrible things in a horrible world, one more time!

            Plus no Hugo nomination, so the Prolapsing Empire isn’t even -deliciously- horrible as the freaks seem to like, its just average horrible.

            He’s not earning out $3megs on “average horrible.”

            1. Old Man’s War was pretty good. The first sequel was so-so. Whichever subsequent book (can’t recall which one I read) was scattered and boring. The two-paragraph clip I read from Prolapsing Empire (that’s brilliant!) was true and total suck (not even well-crafted, never mind the “I don’t like any of these people” factor). From this progression I concluded that early on he had a very good and strict editor, but now we’re seeing the real Scalzi.

  5. I am put in mind of a few stories from my missionary ancestors (I come from a long line on both sides and the result? South Korea, so they got something right.)

    The one that seems to stick for this analogy is why South Korea is dominantly Protestant rather than Catholic. It goes right back to the beginning when they were translating the name of God. The Catholics used ‘Hanchonim’, the God of Heaven with strong Buddhist association. The Protestants used Hananim “The God who made Everything”. While there were more Pagan associations, one of the Korean foundational myths involved Tan Kun, son of Hananim leading the people out of durance vile in China to a new land. This resonated with the Christian message more strongly than the distant Buddhist connection so the people LISTENED to the Protestants more.

    There’s a lot to be learned from that in writing as well. If there’s a theme (what you seem to be talking about falls more into ‘theme’ than ‘message’ for me) putting it in terms your audience will understand just seems like good communication. And if you can’t communicate with your audience where does that leave your story much less anything ELSE you want to say?

    1. Theme? well, at times. My goal is not to tell people, or to push people or drag people. It’s simply to quietly put a concept up there, not ever to _dictate_ its rightness or wrongness. Perhaps to SHOW it working (or not, as in Shavian Socialism in RBV). Some of them will find themselves thinking about it later. Others will at least accept the existence of a possibility they didn’t ever consider before. If at the end of book, they say ‘entertaining popcorn’ but I have introduced a new idea or view to them, in such a way that they did not find it annoying, or noticeable, or overtly offensive, then I’ve won. (I suspect that’s one of my biggest crimes in SJW turf. They detest the very ideas I put up. But it’s relatively hard to even vaguely justify (not that they need much) any plausible one of their usual shrieks for ostracism. The best they can do is dismiss it as popcorn entertainment because it failed to bludgeon ;-/. Oddly that’s a backhanded compliment.)

    2. Um…. Actually, the chief reason there are more Protestant Koreans than Catholic Koreans was the savage persecution of Catholics. The Koreans famously missionized themselves after meeting Catholics in China, including translating the Bible from Chinese (Mandarin, I think, but don’t quote me) into Korean themselves.

      After more than a hundred years of savage persecution, the Korean royalty/bureaucracy got a new idea. They decided to invite Protestant and Orthodox missionaries to Korea of as many different churches as possible, in the hope that infighting among Christian sects would slow down the growth of Christianity, as well as their awkward insistence on breaking down Confucian hierarchies, etc. It also helped the monarchy suck up to Russia, England, the US, and Germany. (Although it didn’t ultimately save them from the Japanese, who were closer.)

      Eventually they slowed down on the savage persecution of Catholics, but about that time, the Korean monarchy ceased to exist and Japan took over. (Not that they didn’t persecute people; they just persecuted everybody who wasn’t Japanese and few who were.)

      The North Koreans spent a great deal of their time in now-South Korea executing Catholics, Orthodox, and Protestants, to the point that they were neglecting other important war goals. Unfortunately, Catholic and Orthodox monks, priests and nuns tended to be a little bit more conspicuous, so they made a fairly high percentage of those martyred. There were a few exciting escapes, but a lot of large-scale massacres. (And obviously, anybody Christian who got stuck in North Korea is dead, imprisoned, a hunted person, or really good at hiding.)

      Now, after North Korea retreated, it’s possible that your explanation for South Korean demographics is quite valid. But although martyrdom does produce conversion, it also produces a lot of dead converts, or Koreans from centuries-old Catholic families, who aren’t available to be counted.

      1. and your ‘very good at hiding’ phrase made me think of a Christian version of Sarah’s Usaian Christmas story.

      2. Given my version is from the people who were there (my grandmother on Mom’s side was born outside of Pyongyang, grandfather on Dad’s side was born in Seoul as was his father.) Dad’s grandmother was assassinated as late as the opening stages of the Korean War, though that was more political. (I’m an Underwood).

        1. Well, people see different stuff, based on what is happening where they are. I am not saying you can’t be right, either, because there is no denying that some Protestant groups made a lot of headway in a short time. But every time you go on a Korean Catholic website, it’s hundreds of years of martyrs.

          What is shocking is how little the Olympics coverage is talking about any Korean history of anything.

      3. Maybe so. Don’t know. In the US, the spread of various denominations is interesting and influenced by the oddest things. The spread of Baptists and Methodists in the early days of the US frontier seems to be related to music and something that wasn’t dry (and please, I’m not bashing any other denomination here – all denominations can get dry as alum in the Sahara). That music may be a reflection of energy. Yes, I know that different groups of immigrants brought their denominations with them, which is why there’s some areas that are heavily Lutheran and others Roman Catholic, and so on and so forth. Yet I’m reminded how some ancestors left the Quakers, and some French Huguenots went to different denominations. Some of it may have been a matter of a “close enough” church both location and denominational-wise. But whatever the reason, out on the frontier membership in denominations seems to have been in flux.

        Locally, it’s the Baptists that seem to be going through a dry spell, and I have strong opinions there. But when your own denomination seems indifferent in times of trouble while others take an interest, that reveals deeper issues.

  6. Honestly, I don’t associate you with message fiction, because the story is always front and center. Any message is something extra.

    This post reminds me of two things. One is that C.S. Lewis said “The world doesn’t need more Christian literature. What it needs more Christians writing good literature.”

    The other is that actions speak louder than words. I’m a Baptist, but couldn’t help to notice I’ve seen more Catholics and Methodists in time of need than I have Baptists. I’m also reminded that at Camp Sumter there was only one area minister who went there to do what he could for the POWs. He was a Roman Catholic. It should come as no surprise that several prisoners converted to Catholicism.

    1. In the biography of Chesty Puller I read he mentioned that many of the combat soldiers were turning to the Catholic priest rather than the protestant ministers, and the protestants were a little perturbed. When he pointed out the priests were out on the front lines and in the fox holes with the soldiers instead of hanging around in the rear it seems he got less pushback from the protestants.

    2. Ditto. Frankly, I liked how ‘the reveal’ for Changeling’s Island was hidden until the last chapters, because it changed so much of the perspective – and a lot of things that I kind of accepted as ‘troubled teen’ had an added “ooooh, that makes so much more sense now!”

  7. I notice you mentioned Gerrold. I remember him from Sasquan and the asterisks. Well he doesn’t let his values interfere with his life. It seems in November he is guest of honor at SphinxCon in Atlanta. Funny thing is that convention is sponsored by The Royal Manticoran Navy: The Official Honor Harrington Fan Association. I wonder if Gerrold will be as forthright about his views their.

      1. Our Stephanie is going to be there, too, so it’s obviously not a matter of ideological takeover.

        (I assume he got invited because of Tribbles, and/or the Unfinished Series What Is Military SF. Most likely, by some enthusiastic young concom that knows nothing of his embarrassing lack of professionalism at Sasquan.)

      2. A piss-poor one – no matter what your stance on anything is. He has displayed that he’s a seriously un-professional liability. And for that group: At least a part of the audience really detest the man… I don’t know what they were thinking. It’s a serious ‘don’t attend’ flag for a lot of people. I hope – for their sake – he behaves slightly better than his last tantrum.

        1. Let’s not forget that Mr Weber was part of the Tor stable….. and possibly wants to be again.

  8. I’ve done the missionary bit, and you are dead on that knocking on doors is by far one of the ‘less effective’ tools.

    However, it does make for the most entertaining stories, such as the 400 lb man who answers the door in a speedo and nothing else, then simpers and lisps “What can I do for you girls?” (Cue us trying withdraw politely without shrieking with laughter…) Or the people who come to the door, peer through the hole, and then say…”I’m in the shower.” (Then why did you get out and come to the door, you silly person???) Or the extremely drunk man who is horrified when you wish him a good evening, because he thought it was morning (and he’s supposed to be at work…driving a taxicab…). There were several not-so-funny (or not funny at the time) incidents, but overall, it was rather entertaining overall. Just, y’know, not terribly effective.

    But drawing people’s interest works far better, just as Dave said. In story and in missionary work. 😀

      1. A Facebook friend was joking the other day that she liked to answer the door when it was Mormon missionaries with a gas can in one hand and golf balls in the other and ask if they were burning the witches or stoning the gays that day.

        I told her (I’m Mormon myself, see) that while I might have been shocked as a young 21-year old missionary, nowadays I’d probably laugh and say we only burn witches every other Tuesday and the scheduling for stoning the gays is borked, and we’re not sure when it’ll get fit in.

        (She was, I think, initially concerned–not having known I was LDS–but finally laughed as well and we came up with some increasingly silly ways to bother door-to-door people.)

        I always horrify the Jehovah’s Witnesses by agreeing to buy their pamphlets if they’ll let me give them a Book of Mormon. And I had an unknown denomination show up last spring to tell me all about how evil scifi and fantasy fiction is, and were horrified when I informed them that yes, I *am* a devout Christian, and I just love scifi/fantasy, and did they want any recommendations.

        1. 2nd Attempt:

          SF & F evil? And nobody told C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien? For shame.

          That said, there is a persistent anti-religious streak in SF and somewhat in F, so much so that even in the ancient days of my youth, I was shocked to read The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe by the SF & F writer C.S. Lewis. An SF & F writer who’s a Christian? Christians can do that? Wow. Tolkien isn’t quite as overt, but the only thing we had by him was the first chapter of The Hobbit, found in an anthology of stories.

          Yet, if no one had placed the first part of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe into my hands, would I have known? As a fan of Asimov, the author’s religion (or lack of it) never concerned me. But it was the strong anti-religious message in most of SF that had me thinking “Okay, so Christians don’t write SF.”

          That still persists to this day. Editors think that’s “edgy” and “daring.” But there’s nothing edgy about telling a racial joke at a meeting of bigots, and if you think most of your audience thinks the same way, it’s about as daring as saying “dang.” If they really wanted to be edgy, they’d run something that challenged what they think the “right” people believe. If they don’t think that’s daring, let them check their mail after running it. Ah, but I think they know, and that’s why they don’t.

          1. For me, actually, it was Babylon 5 that was the religious eye-opener. The producer himself may have been an atheist, but he was willing to admit that religion wasn’t going anywhere, so he wrote about the first officer lighting a menorah, Catholics setting up a monastery on the station, and a security officer talking about his belief in Heaven.

            Lewis was wonderful, but it was self-consciously Christian fiction. B5 was the same sort of adventures that enjoyed watching on Star Trek and other sci-fi shows but without suggesting that I needed to leave my belief in God at the door.

            1. That is, hands down, one of the things I love most about Babylon 5. And it was something I could respect about Firefly, though it wasn’t as clear (and even though Whedon has turned out to be a typically vile little prog): even though the creators were atheist, they respected that a.) not everyone was, and b.) religious folk were not automatically nuts/evil/to be made fun of.

              I found Shepherd Book to be one of the best characters in Firefly, as a fairly well written man of faith who fell into neither caricature or Mary Sue territory.

              And although season 1 of Babylon 5 is not my favorite of the series, I love the episode where Sinclair introduces all the many and varied faiths of humanity. And later in the series, when it is several religious leaders (a Baptist Christian, a Jewish rabbi, and a Muslim imam, specifically) who help smuggle information to B5 in defiance of the increasingly communist/fascist EarthGov.

              1. You can see Whedon’s hatred for Christianity whenever he depicts rural Christians. The folks who tried to burn River at the stake, for one . . .

                . . . but also the not!Amish who were sheltering Saffron. In fact in the original script (trimmed for time) it explicitly mentions that the community elder was in on her infiltrate-and-hijack scheme. So he set the Serenity’s crew up to be killed as thanks for disposing of the bandits that had been preying on his community.

                IIRC, Book’s actor said that he let his performance of the character be influenced by his Buddhist faith. Wouldn’t surprise me if that’s why it took Whedon so long to kill the character off.


              2. I can still love the works in the Whedonverse for two reasons: 1. Whedon didn’t let his views get in the way of how the story wanted to go, and 2. There were lots of people working on those stories, so a lot of perspectives were involved other than him.

                It honestly didn’t surprise me much when he turned out to be sleeping around, though, because any man who is a self-proclaimed feminist is either trying to convince everybody—or convince himself.

                1. ^ This. And although I heard all the talk about him being a feminist, I never bought it. I mean, c’mon, his ‘highest status’ female character in Firefly was…a prostitute? Seriously? Because sex is all women are good for, eh?

                  All the same, I still thoroughly love Firefly, I enjoy Buffy and Angel, and it is because, a few stumbles aside, his views usually didn’t get in the way of the story.

                  I did not find that the case in Dollhouse, which I did not enjoy.

                  1. Tantric-style priestess, officially. But away from the Core Worlds, the difference between that and ‘very high-class prostitute’ shrinks to nothing. And Inara didn’t seem to take any charity cases, so Mal’s crack about a client’s wallet influencing his ‘aura’ was spot-on.

                    The actress is undeniably beautiful, but as characters go Kaylee was clearly Best Girl. Capable, nurturing enough to be backup caretaker for River, _and she doesn’t play mindgames_!

                    I don’t know if the concept had staying power, but I really wish it’d gotten at least three seasons. I can roll my eyes at the mediocre episodes if there are enough good ones to drown them out.


                    1. Oh yes, Kaylee is the one that all the geeks fell in love with. Including the in-universe ones, too:

                      Note: if WordPress screws up the timestamp on that link and starts the playback from the beginning, it’s supposed to start at 24:14 (24 minutes 14 seconds) to get the scene I’m linking to. It’s the scene where Kaylee, in her “store-bought dress” that the Popular Girls were being catty about earlier, is attracting the attention of all the guys in the room with her enthusiastic discussion of the merits of various brands of starship engines.

                    2. I really loved Zoe and Wash, as well–it was a rare case of an on screen marriage that was healthy, loving, and happy, but also not perfect either. And for all that it might have been set up as “alpha woman and beta male”, Wash was not spineless or trampled on, and stood up for himself in his marriage.

                  2. I mean, c’mon, his ‘highest status’ female character in Firefly was…a prostitute? Seriously? Because sex is all women are good for, eh?

                    Well, from the feminist angle, it would be showing that she’s not someone to be denigrated for her choice in careers, not that it’s the only thing women are good for.

                    1. Eh. Considering that it seemed to be on screen for the sole purpose of titillation (particularly the female client scene), I still never bought it. 😀

                      But I also don’t consider myself a feminist, either. (At least, not anymore…)

              3. I liked Shepherd Book until I read Whedon’s (official, canon) origin for him, depicted in a graphic novel published by Dark Horse. Mostly, the way it depicted his conversion to Christianity. It became clear neither of the Whedon siblings had any actual idea of the reasons why someone becomes a convert. It deeply disappointed me.

                1. Yeah, I own it and read it…once. And I do agree, they haven’t got a clue about how conversion works (though I also acknowledge that conversion is individual and intensely unique to each person who undergoes it), so I opt to pretty much ignore it. Book worked better as a cipher to the other characters, anyway.

                  1. Oh, definitely! There is no “One True Conversion Story”…I just don’t think what they wrote for the GN in any way resembled a conversion story. And, yeah…sometimes a character works best as a figure of mystery.

          2. Oh, and as to your last paragraph: it probably goes without saying, but we all know that the editors don’t want to be edgy and daring: they want to think of themselves as edgy and daring but not suffer the social stigma that comes with going against their herd.

        2. I always invite the Mormons in and offer lemonade because I knew a really kind Mormon guy once. And I tell them that’s why I do it.

          On the other hand the JWs once offered me a pamphlet that quoted a famous NASA scientist about Creation, who happened to be my father. They were not actually happy when I suddenly wanted a copy.

        3. I’ve said this before, and I’ll say it again – Much as I don’t like dealing with door-to-door missionary types (mostly because I don’t like being ambushed), I have to respect the two LDS boys who came to my door out in the country.

          You see, we lived back a one-and-a-half lane road through the woods, had a 600ft driveway to a house that could not be seen from the road except in winter, and our original bridge was out, and I had built a wooden foot bridge without rails (it WAS 4ft wide, though) to get across the 30ft valley the creek had carved out when it took out the culvert, and they parked down there and walked up to the house. Even the sheriff, when he came to serve a paper on something I had forgotten to deal with, wasn’t comfortable doing that, and called me to come down to him, instead.

    1. These days I just get Witnesses at my door, who are inevitably attractive young women with friendly smiles, who politely take their leave when they see my face and realize I probably don’t speak Spanish.


      1. No fair! All I get are gnarly old men who spend their visit talking about my truck project, then sheepishly slip me a Watchtower as they take their leave.

        1. *chuckle* I’ve had to patiently explain to my (agnostic) husband, who was trying to be helpful, the difference between a Protestant Christian and a Catholic, after some of the Jehovah’s Witnesses came to the door and had a nice long chat with us.

          Rhys was vaguely aware that I was wishing I could find a nice Catholic community, so I could have somewhere to help with the kids’ religious education (I’m not really solidly grounded on cathechism, so was hoping to find a Sunday school.) But I’m not very happy with the soc-justicey-pseudo-Socialist message in the local Church so I haven’t joined the community, and he knew that I was frustrated, so he was trying to help.

          1. So for Shadowdancer. Try John Chapter 6 especially near the end, on any JW who gets too pushy about the Bible. And, either get yourself the Catholic Catechism that came out in the 1990s, or find it online. It really answers questions and is very readable. And books by Father Lovasik are great for little ones. Hope I’m not over the line…

            1. Oh, no, I don’t think you’re over the line! And yeah, I’d agree on finding Cathecism from the 90s – thank you for the recs for Father Lovasik (I really don’t know where to start)

              Fortunately for us, the JWs who came by weren’t super pushy at all; friendly in fact, even after we declined.

          2. Well, most of the mainstream Protestant denominations *do* agree on the Nicene Creed . . . (though I don’t know about JWs).

            Back in my teens, I studied for Methodist confirmation (never went through with it, but I did study). 40+ years later, I came across a “how conventional are your doctrinal views” online quiz, sponsored by the Jesuits.

            I was surprised to find that I got a very high score on my orthodoxy. Despite the many areas of doctrine where they differ, the view-from-10,000-feet is that the Roman Catholics, Orthodox, and most mainstream Protestant denominations agree more than they disagree on everything except church governance.

              1. I recently shared a meme about what angels really look like, as based on their Biblical descriptions, and it has a text passage with Jesus saying something like “now that I know what it’s like to be human, those angels are kinda freaky, why don’t we just send Mom?”

                There’s also the thing during the brief time there were kings for the Jews, where the wife of the king was the wife of the king, but the king’s mom got the title of Queen, which puts the whole “Mary, Queen of Heaven” business into perspective. (One of the Queen Mother’s jobs was to screen petitions for her son, too—so asking Mary for help has some historical precedence.)

    2. OK, I admit, I did answer the door in a towel one AM, because the Witnesses kept ringing the bell and ringing the bell. As in for over a minute, and I was worried it might be a neighbor in distress. Since I was post-shower, I went to the door and peered around it. They apologized profusely and backed away so fast I thought I saw cartoon-style dust puffs.

    3. My late father, of blessed memory, who was a confirmed agnostic (but agreeably married to a staunch Lutheran) used to tease any wandering missionaries who happened to catch him at home, by insisting that he was a an old-style pagan, and would create stories about midnight pagan rituals, bonfires, dancing skyclad … Dad was very convincing, and threw in a lot of detail, trying to convince them to join his pagan congregation. The missionaries would usually start backing away, very slowly…

      1. There was a story I read on Pinterest once, where a person was relating how he or she was having a pleasant conversation (in the house) with a couple of young missionary lads (I think they were Mormon?) and the person telling the story was chatting about how ‘Jedi’ is now a religion. One of the young men was like, “Oooh, ooh, I wanna join!” clapping his hands like an excited little boy.

        IMMEDIATELY after he said that, there was a crack of lightning, and it began to hail.

        The other missionary turned to glare at his companion and said “Look at what you’ve done!”

        1. Ha! At a district meeting (a time when missionaries who share adjacent areas gather to fellowship and trade notes), one of the missionaries was asked to give the invocation. He was a bit of a prankster. He pulled a table to the middle of the room, climbed up on top, spread his hands wide and said “Oh, Satan-”

          Instantly, outside thunder and lightning. Loud. Close. He jumped off the table, knelt, and meekly said “Sorry.”


          1. I had a class with a REALLY fun teacher in college (still one of the most memorable in my mind) and the shit he got away with to emphasize lessons he wouldn’t get away with now. He was explaining how the Friars got such control over the Filipinos back in the day, and opened it with ‘how many of you want to go to heaven?’ Everyone except me raised their hands. Teach noticed of course, and he being a bit of a showman (and trusting that I could pick up on it and play ball) went “Oho, Modena! Don’t you want to go to heaven?” and half sat on the corner of my desk.

            I looked resigned. “Sir, I know I won’t. I’ve got reservations to a view over the fiery pit – well, seven deadly sins and all that. I’m pretty sure I’m guilty of wrath, pride, sloth, and lust.” pause. “At least. Maybe gluttony too.”

            He loomed over me as if to make one of his grand declarations… then pulled back and smiled with approval. “You know your religion.” He hopped off my desk, gloating “Ahhh, lust… my favorite sin!”

            My classmates leaned in close to me and asked if I wasn’t scared. They were sincere so I didn’t laugh; and talked to them later on about how the doctrine has changed, so I didn’t really think I was going to hell.

    4. I have good reason to be thankful that some still do all that door knocking (the LDS ones, in particular). They happened to glance through an open blind and saw my mother-in-law’s body lying on the living room floor – she had at least five more years to make people’s lives miserable thanks to their calling 911… (grin)

      I’ve never had a really impolite one, of any sect. Some that won’t take “sorry” for the last answer, in which case I take their literature and recycle it. Magazine and candy sellers, on the other hand… Feh.

      1. I respect the LDS missionaries because, several years ago, I used to run into this “Elder” (19yo initially, I asked) every few months (8-9 times in 2 years IIRC, no idea if he had the same offsider every time), because even though I’d made it, politely, clear that I wasn’t in the market for a new religion/doctrine, he remembered me, & always wanted to spend a few minutes catching up.

        The main thing that worked for me (as in what translated to “respect”) was that he took “no” for an answer, sure he asked if I’d considered changing my mind every time we met, but after that he was just polite & personable.

        The other thing would be that he came across as sincere, selling me on joining his faith didn’t come across as self-aggrandizement or puffing up his Church, but rather seemed to stem from his belief that it was the best option _for me_.

        1. I got the same vibe from the kids who did a missionary call on me, about three weeks after I moved into a snug little house in South Ogden, Utah. They were so sincere and earnest – and good sports about me being a die-hard Lutheran, and quasi-feminist.
          They even offered to come and do yard work for me – which I absolutely refused. There was no absolute way that I could ever consider becoming a Mormon. From my POV, the theology was ridiculous – but they and my neighbors all were so supportive of families. That counted for a lot, with me.

          1. IIRC, they do have a saying something like “If words do not work, deeds may.”

            We had an LDS neighbor when I was growing up; each of us had keys to the other’s houses (water plants, feed cats, etc.). One time when my mother came back from a visit to one of my sisters, she noticed that someone had been into her cigarettes. Asked the neighbor lady – she was the guilty one…

            Poultice for a scorpion sting, of course. We twitted her about getting into our booze next, though. She promptly went over to her recipe shelf and pulled out one for a liniment. Fortunately, it called for gin. We breathed a sigh of relief; our Wild Turkey was safe from her, anyway!

    1. Fthagen!

      Hey, anybody want to read an excerpt of a werewolf stomping a shoggoth? There’s lippy robot spiders too. ~:D

          1. Yay! Werewolf vs. shoggoth! With lippy robots! 🙂

            The fall from 10,000 feet took a surprisingly long time, Guruh noted. After a good 30 seconds, Nike eased up next to her, holding on to a drone.
            “Fancy meeting you here,” she shouted, grasping the wolf by the arm. “What was your plan for the landing?”
            “I was leaving that up to you,” Guruh shouted back. “I can survive this fall if your plan meets with failure.”
            “Why aren’t you staying in the aircraft like I told you?” wondered Nike.
            “Wolves are not good at following orders,” she shouted. “You need a caretaker because you are still an infant! I said I would guard you, and so I shall.”
            Nike rolled her eyes at that. She made quite a picture, hair and silky dress streaming straight up in the wind, her expression like that of a put-upon teenager.
            By then they were nearing the ground. Nike tightened her grip on Guruh as the drone decelerated. A few seconds more and they landed lightly in the great empty square in front of the ziggurat. Guruh took a moment to limber up with her two hammers and look around the place. Nike waited for her with a slightly impatient look on her face.
            “I can’t believe you came down here to protect me,” she finally said, clearly struggling to control her exasperation. “There’s nothing here that can hurt me. I’m an invincible war machine.”
            “You are a tiny baby,” said Guruh, leaving off her swinging the hammers about to come next to Nike and grasp her shoulders firmly. “There is something that can harm you here. Not physically perhaps, but you will feel it all the same. They seek to tempt you into hatred with their vile acts. They did it to me, I know what will happen. Did not the wise one Bob tell you the same thing? Proud girl, pay attention to your elders!”
            “You’re picking a hell of a time to have teenage angst,” commented Alice over the radio. “Do what the nice wolf says.”
            “I’m afraid you’ll get killed,” said Nike, looking down at the ground.
            “I have no fear of that,” said Guruh, putting a calloused black finger under Nike’s chin and lifting it gently to look into her eyes. “I have seen death, remember? I have seen the Dark itself. I don’t want you to be lured there. I know you are strong, but I was also strong. I fell. I will not have you fall, beautiful sister. You will shine like the sun, all the days of your life. Now, shall we get on with it, or would you like to argue more?”
            “Don’t you dare die on me!” shouted Nike, shaking her hard. “If you die on me, I’ll kick your ass!”
            “That does not make any sense,” said Erwin on the radio. “Also, there are people approaching you, and something that is not human. Perhaps more fighting and less arguing would be a better tactic.”
            “Damn it!” shouted Nike in exasperation. “I’m trying to have a conversation here! What the hell do you want?!”
            That was directed at a group of soldiers in light armor, like that of ancient Mesopotamia. Most were armed with long-handled stone axes. Some few had javelins with beaten bronze heads, the leader had a bronze sword and helmet. Before them, driven forward by blows and foul language, was an ogre.
            He was ten feet tall, grossly fat and bald. Hairless, in fact. His skin lay in rolls on his limbs and belly. The skin itself looked like the hard, boiled leather of the soldier’s armor. Tough and greasy. Five men dragged a huge club, banded and studded with bronze. They dropped it at the feet of the ogre and ran back behind him, shouting orders at him to fight.
            The ogre ignored the soldiers and the blows they struck on his legs and feet, studying the beautiful woman and the wolf instead. He picked up the huge club one handed and slapped it into the other palm. “Hur hur!” he said in a voice so deep it shook the timbers of the surrounding buildings. “Pretty! Morg likes the pretty one! Take her, eat her!”
            “Shove it, fat boy!” Nike shouted at the ogre. “You and your little friends better get lost! I’m busy!” She turned back to Guruh, who was looking at her with her ears cocked in a quizzical and faintly silly position. “The nerve of these guys!”
            “Are you going to hit him, or shall I?” asked Guruh, as the affronted ogre strode forward, swinging his tree-sized club.
            “Oh, for…!” huffed Nike. She turned around and shot the ogre in the knee with her rail gun. It was shockingly loud, as the bullet was traveling about five times the speed of sound. The limb essentially exploded, the foot and calf spinning off and striking down some of the soldiers. The rest were showered in gore and bone chips. They turned and fled as the ogre overbalanced and fell to the ground with a heavy thud.
            Nike pulled the huge club out of his grasp and hurled it across the square, where it ended sticking halfway through a mud-brick wall. She walked right up to his head and glared into his eyes. “Listen, Morg. You are getting on my last nerve. If you don’t get out of my face, I’ll bust you up. Understand?”
            “Girl hurt Morg!” he roared, swinging at her. “Morg kill you!”
            Nike ducked gracefully under the ogre’s blow and punched him in the face. Once. The demon’s skull shattered like a crystal decanter. What brains that didn’t splash across the square oozed out around it in an oily puddle. He twitched briefly with galvanic action, then lay still.
            “Still think I need a babysitter?” demanded Nike, walking back to where Guruh stood.
            “Now, more than ever,” said Guruh. Then she gave Nike a comradely nudge. “Come, Fluffy. Let us seek the book within this temple. Once we have it, Erwin will work his magic upon it. I await the arrival of your true self.”
            “I suppose,” Nike assented reluctantly, looking over at the felled ogre. Already its brains were beginning to gather, its skull re-growing. “If we hurry, Fat Boy will be still getting his head together when we come back.”
            “Send the spiders first, and let them make their own way, if you will,” said Guruh. “Thus we will have warning of any horrid scenes below, that we may avoid seeing. It is as Alice says,” she began.
            “You can’t un-see shit,” finished Nike. “Okay, autonomous mode, forward spider cavalry and all that. Thanks, Grandma, can we go now?”
            “Cheeky!” exclaimed Guruh, giving her hair a friendly flick. She turned and ran up the stairs after a spider, disappearing into the large door in the side of the ziggurat.
            Immediately Nike heard a rail gun fire on full automatic, and a hammer crashed through the wall to land at her feet. She picked it up, hefting her own railgun one handed, and ran for the door. Before she got there, a ZAP!! was heard as one of the spiders blasted something with a plasma gun. A carbonized sphere hurtled out and splatted wetly on the ground. The crusty exterior flaked off to reveal a black substance within, scabby with burnt protoplasm. “Tekeli-li, tekeli-li,” the thing wheezed faintly, as it collapsed into a rapidly spreading puddle.
            “WHERE IS MY HAMMER?!!” roared Guruh bursting through the door. “Pestiferous dung eater! By the Gods, if you scratched it, I’ll have your heart for a hat!”
            Nike, taken aback by the transformation of her friend, kept quiet and extended the hammer carefully at arm’s length.
            “Oh, there it is,” said Guruh, calming immediately. “Thank you, bunnykins. You are most thoughtful.” She reclaimed the hammer gratefully and examined it closely. “You are in luck, purulent one,” she addressed the puddle, kicking away a bit of burnt crust to reveal an eye that looked at her with alarm. “My pretty hammer is unharmed. Anything to say, before I send you back to the eternal darkness?”
            “Tekeli-li?” it assayed in a squeak.
            “Indeed. Less amusing when your quarry turns on you, isn’t it?” said Guruh, knocking aside another crusty piece. “How do you like my sister Nike’s little spiders, eh? More of a kick than you bargained for, I’ll wager.”
            “Ph’nglui mglw’nafh Cthulhu R’lyeh wgah’nagl,” it answered threateningly, eye rolling. “Fhtagn!”
            “I know,” said Guruh conversationally, calmly examining her claws. “I put him there, the miserable squid. If he ever awakens, tell him Guruh the Vengeful Wolf sends her regards.”
            The eye bugged out in terror, the thing’s gooey substance began quaking.
            “Oh, you have heard of me?” inquired Guruh with mock sweetness. “How flattering. Tell me, my fine pestilential excrescence, would you like to carry a message back to your disgusting masters for me, instead of going directly to the shadow?”
            The quaking increased, but the thing nodded its eye in assent.
            “Verrry good,” purred Guruh, leaning down to show the puddle her teeth. “Tell them I, the Vengeful One, am coming. Tell them I am accompanied by a Valkyrie, descended from the very heavens to rain down fire, ruin and death upon them. She struck off the head of an ogre with one hand just now, did you know? Oh yes, she did,” she assured the thing as the eye widened further in disbelief, flicking to blonde, silk-clad Nike, then back to the dire wolf and her shiny teeth. “Tell them if they run away, right now, I will give them a ten-minute head start, to make it more sporting. When I catch them, I shall spread out their bowels for the carrion eaters, while they yet live. But if they stay here? That I will regard as disrespect. I will become irritated. Can you remember all that, dung-stain?”
            The thing nodded its eye frantically, saying “Iä Iä, Guruh aiee!” It oozed rapidly away, shedding chunks of burnt matter. It reached a crack in the side of the ziggurat and flowed inside like an obscene oil spill, vanishing from the late afternoon sunlight.
            “You’re scary,” said Nike to Guruh. “And famous.”
            “Very,” said Guruh, with considerable pride. “Some Dark Ones were offended that I had killed their minions when I was alive and sought to chastise me there in the dark places after my death. That one’s master among them. Woe unto them.”

  9. Darn it, now I’ve got a couple of Sleeper-Cult missionaries in college stuck in my head…

    “Isn’t it true you guys perform human sacrifices?”

    “Well, yeah, but only in the same way Catholics perform cannibalism. Heck, I was the human sacrifice three times growing up. It’s not about hurting people, it’s about a spiritual commitment to do what it takes to ward off and survive disasters.”

    “Like the ‘Sleeper’ waking up?”

    “Sure, but that’s just one possibility. Earthquakes. Floods. Disease. Hurricanes. Zombie apocalypse. Having a month’s supply of food and clean water stashed away is just good sense.”

    “But tentacled horrors from beyond reality?”

    “Hey, if you’re prepared for that, you’re prepared for anything.”

    1. If you’ve never read it, find a copy of The Shunned Trailer. by Friesner. Highly recommended. Can’t recall who wrote Pickman’s Modem, but it does explain certain places on the Internet.

  10. Speaking of Puppies, I saw over the comments at Cammy’s blog* Aaron Pound saying we Puppies lack “any real knowledge concerning the history of science fiction fandom in general and the Hugo Award specifically, and seems to have had an educational background that focused heavily on getting professional credentials rather than getting immersed in literature and history.”

    Pound also says: “That seems to line up with the apparent reality that the Pups don’t really do much reading. I remember back during the height of the Puppy kerfuffle, several people tried to engage Pups who popped up on comment sections of articles by asking them what they liked about the stories they nominated, and almost none of them gave anything beyond vague, monosyllabic responses. The Pups don’t believe other people are reading and enjoying books because they are projecting their own lack of interest in books onto others.”

    I am deeply amused by the notion we lack interest in books. I mean, it’s not like the guy who started Sad Puppies was a writer, or anything . . .

    *Hey, if he can quote our comments on his blog, I can do the same here. Or maybe I’m “mainly about trying to ingratiate themselves with Dave et al”, as Cammy says.

    1. Well, see, it all started back when the barbiturate class of drugs was discovered. While for many purposes they’ve been superseded by the benzodiazepines, they are still around. The perhaps more common or at least more known include amobarbital, pentobarbital, phenobarbital, and secobarbital. And yet, by simple observation, the one most used (though perhaps least prescribed) must be… cenosensital. And administering the supposed antidote, dopeslappamine, has… issues.

    2. Huh. At my age, I’ve lived through most of the history of fandom. Claiming Sad Puppies don’t know SF is like those students who told Bradbury he didn’t know the meaning of Fahrenheit 451.

        1. I also remember an incident Asimov wrote about (where to find it, among his hundreds of published books, Ghu alone knows) – a professor of literature was doing an analysis of what he “really” meant to say in one of his stories.

          And when he protested that no, that was not what he meant at all he was told, paraphrasing “What would *you* know – you’re only the author!”

          I find that story entirely believable.

          1. “Don’t you know that the audience owns and transforms your work!?!”

            While I know of many cases where an author misjudges whether or not someone will like and enjoy their work, it seems a leap too far to say they don’t understand the meaning of their work.

    3. “…seems to have had an educational background that focused heavily on getting professional credentials rather than getting immersed in literature and history.”

      Meaning we’re accomplished professionals, not unemployable English majors?

      Sick burn, dude.

    4. I reread the books I like. I seldom review them. If find I’m talking to people who claim that because I don’t like dystopian goo in which amoral characters celebrate lifestyles I find despicable, that I’m therefore an ignorant, racist, sexist, homophobic uncultured Neanderthal trying to force my plebian tastes upon connoisseurs, I’m mostly inclined to find someone else to talk to.

      1. Don’t reviews of things we like usually go: “Wow, nice book! Hurry up and write the next one! Here, take my money!!!”

        Reviews of Lefty books are more meandering recaps where they try to find an excuse to like the virtue signaling caught in the goo.

        Lela Buis just reviewed “The Shape of Water” movie, and had some pretty pointed things to say about it. She gave it a solid 2 out of 5. Even the dumbest shit usually gets a 3 from her based on readability/watchability. 2 means she nearly got up and left in the middle of it.

        Fortunately for me, her review means I can comfortably wait for it to come out on Netflix, where I can fast-forward through the crappy parts.

        Quick Phantom review of Altered Carbon: Horrible people doing horrible things to each other in nicely detailed futuristic landscape with flying cars. Reasonably watchable if you f-f past all the torture parts, of which there are many. Don’t watch it in front of the kids, graphic sex scenes and lots of entirely gratuitous nudity. Skipping past all the gross shit cuts the runtime by about half, do your thumb exercises first.

        I read the book ages ago, it was just as ugly as the TV show. The ending was a bit more pointless in the book, the MC kind of wandered off into the slums.

    5. Admittedly I don’t know what specific comments that were being referred to, but I wonder if this is a case of the Puppies and the Kickers just not being able to understand each other. It might be that a comment such as “I like the characters. Harry Dresden is awesome!” would be interpreted as a “vague, monosyllabic response.” An answer that would demonstrated you were a frequent reader would be something like, “I liked how the author’s use of non-specific pronouns in reference to the Xbbplt aliens clearly marks this story as taking place in a gender fluidic future.”

      1. Zsuzsa said: “I wonder if this is a case of the Puppies and the Kickers just not being able to understand each other.”

        No, this is very much not a misunderstanding. They’re dehumanizing us. What the Lefties love to call “othering” when they see it in history or literature. Hilariously they don’t seem to recognize it for what it is, and they can’t connect what they’re doing to the inevitable consequences. Because when -they- do it, it’s different.

        Fortunately they’re a pack of friggin’ English majors, and therefore not much of a problem.

        1. The bizarre thing is I tend to refer to old sf books (some common, some obscure) in far too many posts. I’ve had many non-puppy kickers pick up on them. I’ve yet to have a single recognition of the origin from the puppy kickers. The kindest interpretation is ‘skim until you’re offended’ doesn’t really allow for much comprehension. But based on the fact that they keep claiming x is so new, so daring, so unique… which it was when it was published in 1954 (On this the 200th-2000th iteration it’s limp, tired and been done to death – but it’s on narrative) my suspicion is older books they haven’t read many of.

          1. I don’t think they read books or watch anything that haven’t been pre-vetted by others as acceptable for the goodthink crowd. It’s easily provable given how so many people say something is bad, but when confronted flat out, don’t even know why they’re against it other than “Because my friend said this person is badevilbigothater.”

              1. or make vague plucking movements at the table-top. I’m trying to remember (without getting up and looking for the book) just who would love the character with the reduced nose…

          2. Don’t worry. If you leave a comment that is full of references to older books or older fandom, you get accused of namedropping. Or cut and paste. Or reading racist sexist books. Or you just get ignored.

            Personally, I had read most of the Appendix N books before I graduated from high school, I went to a high school that had a copy of The Immortal Storm, I read back issues of old fanzines in archival libraries when I was in college, and I was always more familiar with fandom from before the 1980’s than with my own era of fandom (except in filk). When I first got into fandom, I was always running into old guys whom I already “knew.”

            But yeah, Sad Puppies are all ignorant and stuff. Garsh, let me bow down before the wisdom of Muh Betters, pulling my forelock and covering my eyes before their Bright-ness.

      2. That’s part of it. The other part is that if I am put on the spot about a book, I completely forget what I meant to say (this happens on panels ALL the time.) But if you’re friends, sitting around discussing books? I can go all day.
        Actually the funniest part of this is that when I was trying to break in I decided writers didn’t read Sf/F. Everywhere I look the (mostly leftist) forums had NO discussion of what they loved about book. Even award discussions were “Well, so and so is a good writer, and it’s HER turn.” (I usually overheard this at cons, but I was in a mail list or ten.) I started thinking the only reason people read was to decide what to write for which house.
        And then I found Baen’s bar and found people who read ALL THE TIME. FOR FUN and could tell me which scene in my book they liked best.
        That is how I read, when I’m not writing and how/why when I meet authors I read/love I become a little incoherent.

        1. Stories filtering to me from FOSS channels has been having this happening a lot lately. Someone will come in, demand that the people there suddenly name x amount of female programmers or FOSS people – and they’ll struggle, because the sex of the person contributing code or shown as highly competent is not something they regularly think about -y’know, meritocracy and all. The person who demanded this then starts screeching about misogyny and such (Then Housemate rattled off a bunch of names without really thinking about it, because he’s like that, when asked, causing the idiot doing this to leave.)

          Other general thing has been to demand that FOSS do this impossible thing (usually involving closed source proprietary code) or impossible thing because that’s not how code works, and when told this doesn’t work (and an escalation of ‘no, that won’t work’ because the idiot keeps demanding) get a huffy “Typical man, yelling at a woman to shut her up.” There’s been a number of women in these help places giving help, and the person being an ass is a guy pretending to be a woman.

          I’m honestly wondering what the hell is going on. There seems to be a concerted effort to discredit and dismiss going on, across several different venues. It’s really hard to not buy the conspiracy theories that Soros is paying people to do this, there’s just so many – SFF/publishing, comics, movies – it’s everywhere practically.

          I mean, we’re more aware of it now because of Sad Puppies and GamerGate basically tearing the masks off… but still.

          1. I’m getting a similar vibe on some history sites, so I think there is a concerted push, perhaps because it is an election year in the US. Different loosely-linked groups may be getting ready before outdoor protest season starts in the northern hemisphere.

          2. Don’t get me started. There are professionals in the U.S. comics industry…high up people, some of them with a ton of projects non comics readers might actually have -heard- of…crying for the blood of a small group of people with cellphones who post videos on Youtube about how much of the modern output from the “mainstream” companies 1) Isn’t very good and 2) Is filled with bizarre, off-putting messages and 3) Have editors, writers, and illustrators that actively attack and revile the core fanbase on social media. This small but dedicated group of Youtube video makers decided to boycott the books they don’t like and to hype up the books they do. The “pros” have completely lost their crud, many of them going into full blown witch hunt mode. The fact is this: The fan-bashing, political message forcing, virtue signaling comics have driven the industry into the lowest sales it’s seen in 4 DECADES. Direct market comic stores are dying in droves and the fans who support them are (naturally) trying to fight the decline. But, apparently, this makes them RACIST SEXIST ALT RIGHT HOMOPHOBIC MANSPLAINING EVUL EVUL EVUL…even the ones who are black, female, gay, and liberal. It’s crazy. I’m scared the hobby I love is going to go from niche fandom to footnote. 😦

            1. A business opportunity is a problem that somebody else has that they’ll pay you to solve.

              In this case, what would it take to compete as indie with Marvel and DC? Assuming the stories are written by somebody competent, who do you know that can draw them? How many people would buy an e-copy?

              I for one would love to read the comics version of Save the Dragons. I’m sure Dave Freer wouldn’t mind as long as he was paid enough per copy.

              1. I’m currently following The Ancient Magus Bride, The Girl From the Other Side, My Hero Academia, Usagi Yojimbo, and BeaStars. 😀

                1. *glances at shelf closest to me* Skip Beat, Shokugeki no Soma (cooking manga) Gate 7, Black Butler, Card Captor Sakura: Clear Card, Otoyomegatari, XXXHolic, Sword Art Online in its various iterations, Domestic Lover… I recently got the all-in-one volume of Death Note, and my son got Card Captor Sakura and Magic Knight Rayearth as birthday presents (along with a full scale replica of Frostmourne.)

        2. I got into the Honors Program at my college—the process involves test scores, an application, recommendation letters, and a phone interview, part of which was about a book I loved. I found out later (by means that were not strictly honorable, but I only read *my* sheet) that I was probably nudged in by the head of the program because my brother was in it, simply because most of the team on the interview did not rate me well. I suspect it was because of this problem; they asked me about my favorite book, my brain locked up on “which one?” and I most likely did not present well to the other students.

          1. “What’s your favorite book?” is definitely a question where the answer depends greatly on what day you’ve caught me and what I’ve read (or re-read) most recently. LoTR is probably the most likely answer, but it could be anything from Jane Austen to a dog-themed mystery novel.

    6. Holy crap! 😀

      I guess for all his big talk last week about leaving Dave Freer alone, he’s still combing through the comments. And yes, I guess I did leave off the bit where Pound began the first quoted comment talking about Brad, but his other comment was about us in general. It’s still a damned ignorant statement for Pound to have made (and you can quote me on that).

      To this Pound replied: “Gee, a Scrappy Puppy misquoting someone and not knowing what they are talking about? That’s unprecedented!”

      And I’m pretty sure I got that one right, didn’t I Cammy?

      1. And Cammy approved my comment. Him and Pound are responding with all the grace and dignity you’d expect.

        I mean, I could respond over there, but why bother? They obsessively read my every comment here already.

      2. Christopher Chupik said: “I guess for all his big talk last week about leaving Dave Freer alone, he’s still combing through the comments.”

        Of course he is. What else does he have to talk about?

        1. Not much, judging by his blog.

          Strange how you and me got singled out. I mean, we’re pretty minor players in all this. Is it just because we quoted them?

    7. And now he’s responding to my comments on his blog without quoting what he’s replying to.

      And no, I guess won’t quote him either.

          1. But he can misspell my last name. Not sure if that’s intentional or not, but you’d expect more from a guy with about 50 Hugo nominations, right?

            1. Because someone Important As Him, who Reports Sci-Fi News doesn’t need to worry about piddling things like spelling the Little People’s last names.

  11. I did what I could, but the cover Baen gave Changeling’s Island, while an excellent piece of art, is selling the illustrator, not Mr. Freer’s book.

    I did my best, I really tried (and I’m rather good at it: that book deserved to be personally advertised to 300+ young un’s) but this cover is hand-sell only to teens who already trust you.

    You know who the target audience Is for Changeling’s Island, besides us weirdos?

    Readers who liked Gary Paulsen’s Hatchet
    Or Flanagan’s Ruins of Gorlan
    Or Michael Vey’s Prisoner of Cell wossname
    Or even The Lightning Thief.

    Which ought to be 75% of teens age 13 and up. Even without as much humor, it ought to have been a breakout book.

    But these are the covers that the Riordan got.

    Go Google the others. Most won’t win art prizes, but they also won’t get that “broccoli look” response after you sell the premise and the kid sees the actual book.

    Children’s librarians have been fighting this battle with publishers (who are selling to teachers and grandparents) for decades, so this isn’t an Indie thing.

    I can’t swear to the grown-up effect (although I have my suspicions) but the kid/teen reaction is real.

    1. I like the artists work, but I must admit I was a bit disappointed in that cover.I lack the expertise to know what a good selling cover is! (sigh) I have – according to one of my readers who is something of an expert – written about 4 books which could have gone big, with the right covers, right push. Her opinion – RBV – terrible cover. Needed a Josh Kirby type cover. Slowtrain – terrible cover. Dragon’s ring – lovely picture, mediocre cover design with it, lousy title and as near invisible as a book has ever been, and CI – which was de facto also so badly distributed – maybe because no-one liked the cover and maybe because YA is just not Baen’s strength.

      1. Baen decided to follow Tor’s lead a few years ago viz YA (and I’m a former HUGE Tor fan:Tom Doherty was brilliant. I wish to God, he’d lived longer and wossname, the idiot who decided to play “Let’s get an SJW scalp w/Vox Day”) had died too young instead)

        I contacted… Jim Mintz? I’ll have to check my e-mails, offering my support. Lord love a duck. But… at the time I contacted him I had Teen Librarian CRED up the wazoo. (Contact me off line and I’ll confirm. I’m breaking out in Lutheran hives just typing this)


        I swear on my towel, I am more than happy to help ANY of you, (or any Baen rep) work on their covers, blurbs, etc. to make them more appealing to the library / teen market. I want you to win. Really.

  12. You can take a lot of comfort knowing that Damien’s career is going nowhere slowly, but you’re still here, still working and still getting published.

  13. I have only one complaint about Changeling Island. There’s, IIRC, this timeskip around the point where Tim starts to go out on the water, and then we cut to the point where he’s taken to it like he’s been doing it his whole life.

    That’s the part that I most wanted to spend ‘in his shoes’, as it were. The process of him learning the nuts and bolts of his vocation (albeit faster than the protagonist of My Side of the Mountain, due to having adults to get guidance from).

  14. The story of the man with the burns all over and his wife screaming and running away hits home in a kind of stupid way for me. There’s a man at the local Lowe’s who looks like he had bad facial burns at some time in the past. They’re well-healed now, but the scars are pretty horrific.

    What bothers me is that (based on the testimony of many friends), I am utterly incapable of controlling my face, no matter how hard I try, so I assume that every time I see this guy, he can see my reaction, and bothers the hell out of me that I must be hurting him every time that happens. I guess he’s used to it by now, but still…

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