Driving To Deliver Your Business


The Good, The Bad and the Evil

Yesterday night I was talking to a friend about a book everyone and their parents has been recommending to him, and which he is now, finally, reading. I asked how it was and he said execution wise, it is quite good, and the reasons it was recommended are all true, but he feels like it s a big, dark oil slick attaching to his mind, and he has to read it in small doses and shower afterwards. Now, one of the things recommending this book is the story, and the outlook, as described, should mesh pretty well with my friend s, so the only thing I can figure out is something in the book. I d think my friend had gone nuts, I would, except that I ve experienced this myself. It s one of the reasons I don t read horror: because you find the feeling more often there. Though honestly I ve found it in Urban Fantasy and even in straight Fantasy, too, and no, I m not giving you any names.

The first time I encountered it incontrovertibly, and I mean at a point I couldn t imagine it, is when a friend gave me two books by Robert Aickman. Maybe it was because I read the books back to back. Look, there is no particularly evil outlook about the books they re books. Yes, they re horror, so there s a dark twist in every story, but there is something more, something almost independent that seems to come off the books and attach to you. The phrase I want to scrub with steel wool comes to mind. Anne Rice didn t have that effect on me till Queen of the Damned. It was a comulative thing. Maybe I was insulated from it because I was reading her to study description, my mind was on that and perhaps immune from the emotion. And it s the emotion that brings it in. And I can t describe how it gets in.

All I know is that years ago, when I was applying to the American consulate to establish pen pals, I got a sheet of recommendations and they said Never write when you re upset, even if you don t think you re showing it, it will communicate itself in your word choice. I later found out this was true, even if I wasn t upset at my pen pal, and thought I d said nothing that could give them a hint. I d get the are you upset at me? Which brings us to messages in fiction. (Fiction in messages is a completely different topic.)

I don t look for messages, and I don t look to put messages in my fiction. Usually, when asked what a book I m writing is saying I say I have no idea. Towards the end, I might have a pretty clear idea, but I m always surprised when readers find things that while entirely consonant with my outlook, I didn t put in consciously.

Are there messages there? Yeah, pretty sure. Are they consonant with how I see the world? I d hope so. Otherwise someone else wrote the book. Have I read books that pretty clearly came from a completely different outlook? Of course I have. For most of my life, if I didn t I wouldn t read ANYTHING. The gatekeepers had a different outlook from my own, and that came through in the books they chose. A story can be good while I utterly reject the premises and outlook of the writer, in the same way I can be friends with someone who has completely different views from me, provided we connect on other things. I love Pratchett s humanity which comes through richly in his characters, even if we have/had some philosophical disagreements. Do I stop reading because the outlook is different from mine? I ll be honest, a book has to be pretty bad to make me stop reading, and most of those are non-fiction books where I spot where the writer lost track, but he just goes on. Fiction I only put down if I get that feeling like I need to scrub with steel wool. (And I often find myself in the shower midday when reading one of these books.) I ve thrown three fiction books away over that, I couldn t see passing them on.

The thing I don t do either in writing or reading is counting heads or coloring by the numbers. I don t go into writing a book with some sort of agenda and have to put in five marbles of each color or something. You see, fiction isn t so many of these, so many of that, and message wrapped in a thin veil of story. Fiction are chunks of raw emotion, torn bleeding from the author s mind, (or soul, if you believe in those) and flung onto the page still squirming, with everything that made it happen and come into being, some of that subconscious. This is how it can come with a freight of evil or depressed or even happy. (Look, a story in which several people get killed with a hat pin shouldn t leave me feeling happy and bouncy, but it did.)

Because in the things not fully under our control, in every word choice, in every little thing we highlight or ignore, we re conveying a bit of that which is the author. This is both for good and ill, but it is what it is, and it is what makes books different from tv or movies. Someone once said when you read a book, because of the breath necessary for speaking, you re breathing the same way the author was when he/she wrote it. I m not sure that s necessarily true, but it echoes of something.

Most of us go through life prisoners of the space behind our eyes. It s part of being human. Reading is the closest you get to being in someone else s head, because other stuff comes with it. And that means writing isn t done by give me two brown ones, two purple ones, and a polkadot one. People who read (let alone write) like that are denying themselves one of the most glorious experiences of being human, and the closest we can come to telepathy in this life. And btw, there s people who do that on both sides of the political divide. I don t read x because it has gay characters. (Ask me where I heard that. Or rather don t, I m not even getting into it.)

Unless you know the book has a never ending stretch of stuff that treats you like an idiot or exposes you to stuff you don t want to see (gay characters in question never even kiss on stage) or unless it gives you that feeling of something black and oily crawling out of the book and all over you (and weirdly this is not as personal as you d think. I find the books that do this to me usually do it to a significant portion of the population. Maybe to all of it and a large number like it) let it go and get in the story. At the end you can say oh, that premise was crazy cakes. BUT refusing to read a book at all, sight unseen because it has the wrong markers? Not only could you be missing out on a great experience, but it is part of the great divide that seems to be cracking the country in two (or more) groups that can t even talk to each other.

Like the Kaleidoscopes in Clifford D. Simak s City, which change minds out of habits that otherwise can t be broken, books, if written by someone who feels them (and is not painting by the numbers) and read for the story and the emotion can change minds that couldn t be changed otherwise. Because they let you experience being someone else a little while. They can at least allow you to UNDERSTAND the other side. Writing by the numbers and reading by counting heads? Well, I suppose it s a good exercise in letter recognition. But in the end it diminishes your humanity. And although those books don t rise to the level of evil miasma they often DO put me to sleep.

And that s even sadder than having to give up on a book because there isn t enough steel wool and no one has invented a soul-scrubber.


*I didn t mean to post this today, but since everyone is posting this[1] (it would help if stupid blogger remembered to link. Have pity on me. The day has included everything but a plague of locusts.) and asking my opinion, I think it s a good time to do so. First, remember that international news are about as accurate about Portugal as about the US. Second, remember that Portugal doesn t have two parties, it has fifty so every government is coalition. This means the right might have associated with lower-voting right wing parties instead of going to the higher ranked left. It doesn t mean a fascist take over. SECOND and very important, remember right and left is not right and left in the US. One of the right-most parties in Portugal is Popular Social Democrats. The other (anti-EU btws) is the Christian Social Democrats. There ARE NO PARTIES THAT DON T HAVE SOCIAL on the program. If my reading of the current spectrum there is right, Bernie would be dead center. Hilary would probably be right of center. So, when the press reports these things, remember that it s not the US and what is going on might be a little harder ball than is normally played there, but it s NOT a totalitarian take over (The Brits probably know this, but hate to ruin a good story/want to sound like there s great alarm. Whatevs. If the anti EU left had won they d have reported it as Nationalist fascist take over. The weird part is in a way they d have been right, just not the way it reads here.) BUT most all of all remember right and left are not what they are here, and if there were a way they could BOTH lose, I d consider moving back.*

Someone asked me to write this a while back, and I d completely spaced it until he reminded me on Facebook. But sometimes, particularly when dealing with multinational twitter mobs, I feel like we re speaking different languages and terms like right and left wing get wildly misinterpreted, leading to a certain twit(teriac) for instance saying I hated everyone to the left of Jeb Bush (Hate, no. Despise their politics, yes. And I include Jeb Bush and quite a few people nominally to the right of him in that.) while others claimed I was a big Jeb Bush fan because they think that s what right wing means and they ve self-obviously decided I m right wing since I hate Marxists. First, right-left have almost no meaning to where I stand. I define myself in the authoritarian/non authoritarian axis, which is completely separate, and where I m just a little shy of the no government nutters (I can call them that because, you know, they differ far less from me than the government in your face weasels, so I can say they re totally crazy.) Round about where the founding fathers were. Government is a good servant but a bad master, and all that.

Of course, in the American spectrum, uninfected by the European Spectrum, that is indeed what should be called right wing. The problem of course is that the spectrum is NOT uninfected, since we re in an era of global communications and the meaning of Right Wing in Europe has started to seep in over here, both in leftists minds and in the minds of those who are self-defining as the right. The other problem is that technically, if you go by the original meaning, the sides should be flipped.

Clear as mud? Don t worry, I can confuse it more. Let s start with the ever-reliable wikipedia[2]: In France, where the terms originated, the Left has been called the party of movement and the Right the party of order. [1][2][3][4] The intermediate stance is called centrism[3] and a person with such a position is a moderate.

Let s first correct the obvious problem. If you re precisely in the center, the position is called dunderhead and this applies to anything, not just politics. That out of the way, if center is defined by not following an exact party line I think most of us would be. OTOH look at that definition again. The party of movement and the Party of order. First of all impossible, since life is movement. This is where I think the left gets their bright idea reality is leftist, except they re missing the point of where these definitions originated and what movement and order really mean.

This was of course in revolutionary France. Movement had a very specific meaning mostly towards Madame Guillotine, obviously in terms of you wanted to change everything, the hours of the day and the names of the days of the week included. Order, meanwhile was the not so fast, this structure works. So, what that actually means is that left is the side of let s change everything and the right the side of let s keep everything as it is. If you apply that to the current spectrum in the US (and most of the west) where socialist-like-structures and leftist ideas have permeated the political lives of the citizens for far longer than anyone reading this has been alive, the spectrum does a tilt-whirl and suddenly we who are don t tread on me libertarians and who think the cause of liberty could be justly served by taking everyone from office and putting them in jail become left wingers, in the mold of the ones who shouted Aristo, aristo, to the lamppost. (And since I ve often felt like shouting that, I empathize.)

BUT that is not really a good picture. We know how the French revolution ended. Having dived down that rabbit hole in order to write Through Fire, it became obvious that the French Revolution, the leftist movement of our time par excellence, the grandmother of the Russian Revolution and of every other movement that has fed the graveyards of the 20th century was very much a STATIST revolution. If you ask yourself what the difference between the American and the French revolution was, it would be that in the American revolution the people were set free to pursue happiness and equality before the law, while in the French revolution, both happiness and absolute equality were ENFORCED. (If you think happiness wasn t enforced, read some of the trials of people who declared themselves less than ecstatic in post revolutionary times.)

So, left would be best defined as movement towards an imaginary utopia in which the government grants all sorts of happiness, equality and other boons.

And the right? Ah, there we hit on the crux of the problem. While we re fairly sure what the left is (and btw, the definition above is why they believe they are the party of the future and they will inevitably win, because in their scatology any progress ends one way, with the government as a sort of smiling goddling dispensing benes to the happy people of Brutopia.) right can mean many things. First let s dispense with the left-enforced definition of right which ends in Hitler. To quote a public figure that s just retarded, sir. Just because Hitler and Stalin had a big tiff and pulled each other s hair, it doesn t mean they weren t both leftist, socialist bastards. They were just arguing whether socialism that utopian final stage of the revolution where the state looks after everyone like a mother or a father, depending on your language of origin should be national or international. And in this case international meant Russian or at least it did in the seventies, and I have no reason to think it changed while national meant of the genetically related people.

(For instance when Bernie Sanders announces he s a socialist but a nationalist then says he s not a communist, I believe him. The appropriate name for his announced ideology is Fascist.)

That fascination of the fascists with nationalism, btw, explains why the left can t seem to accept national love/pride (i.e. they re not NATIONAL socialists) and why so much of Europe thinks patriotism is a precursor to war. Europeans are taught that in school too. I was. Okay, so that s disposed of, now if the right isn t National Socialism, what is the right? If I had to hazard a definition that would fit both Europe and the US I d say the right wing meant a clinging to the essence of what the nation means and to the nation s original idea , as it were.

In Europe, of necessity, right wing means a lot of our people, our land and really in its ultimate expression our king. Right wing parties in Europe are often associated with keeping or reviving ancient traditions, with the country s state-religion and with the way things have always been done. There will almost always be a reflexive xenophobia, for instance, which is not necessarily a bad thing. It is not racist to say our land, our customs. You want to live here, you conform to us. (The left s reflexive oikophobia tends to chew the ground out from what people know they can count on, from language in everyday interactions to things like protection of children and women. It is time the European right learns to say No, not all cultures are alike. ) If you re thinking that this is the same as us saying if you want to live here, speak English and conform to our laws not quite. In Europe an immigrant will never be of the land, the people, the traditions. You could be Yoless from Pratchett s Johnny Maxwell, and learn Morris dance, and you d still not be quite British. Assimilation takes generations, and sometimes not even that. Other things come with that definition as freight. The right will still prefer to keep women and men in traditional roles, and they re often shocked half to death by differing sexual personas. Now if that description sounds familiar, it is because it is what the left assumes the right here is. And some right wing people, reflexively, will embrace it and claim it. Just because the left hates it. But by and large, as someone who has cruised right of center blogs in this country for a very long time, no. That s not what right means in the US.

This is why when the leftists (who true to their origins only understand themselves as in opposition to the European right) come cruising in, they re always shocked when we don t rise to the bait of racist, sexist, homophobic. They re always terribly confused a lot of people here in fact are of non conforming religions (or none at all) and non-conforming sexual habits, and varying shades of tan. And the only explanation they can find is self-hating. That is because the left (worldwide, really) since the collapse of their model, the Soviet Union, has gone a little loony and fallen down a time-space-funnel, in which they re fighting right wing in Europe (and probably circa the eighteen hundreds, but never mind that) not in the States. The right in the US is the side that clings to the origins and the founding. This is the side that believes ultimately sovereignty rests in the individual and the government should bow and doff its hat to us. We re the side that believes that no matter what color, size, sex or whomever you decide to sleep with, you re still an individual, entitled to equal protection under the law.

We believe in life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Which means in many ways we re the horror of the European right. If it weren t for the fact that both rights are fighting the much greater evil of the Marxist theology unleashed upon the world (and yes, it is more evil than even the European right) we d be going at it like two equal weight boxers in a ring. My dad, who is Europe-right (mom weirdly is MOSTLY American-right. Not fully, because she still thinks morality, etc. should be enforced, but I think that s a generational thing. And no, I don t know how she ended up don t-tread-on-me in Europe. She didn t even read Heinlein) for instance believes it is not only the government s right but the government s duty to look after things like health care. Oh, and if the government periodically shoots the wrong guy, well, that s the cost of keeping other people safe. He s not a bad man, understand but he s a man of his time and place. He draws the line at communism, not just because it s evil, but because it s a stranger to his country and enforced from outside.

We ve gone the full rounds (one of the few times we ve yelled at each other) because he can t understand that I don t view the government as some thing that should look after me, but as something that should do the minimum possible to ensure I have the space to look after myself, and anything more than that is a violation of my rights and a thwarting of my duties as a free human being. And that s the difference between our right and their right. I ve found it easier and far more conducive to familial harmony to pretend there is no difference, and to nod along with their serene belief that right wing in America means the same it does there. Since our left doesn t see the dividing chasm, they often refer to the right as monolithic and what they get in their press (which is to the left of ours) is convenient in obscuring the differences.

No reason to shock mom and dad by letting them know their daughter has become a USAian radical, after all. BUT the actual meaning is radically different (quite literally RADICALLY different. We are the radicals who turned the world upside down by believing authority flows from the individual up, not from the state down.) As I hope it shows above. Though being a word more often defined by opponents and people with the feels it has the imprecise quality of a mirage rising from asphalt on a hot day. One caveat is that the American right wing might never make any sense in Europe. Culture is something that changes very slowly and often doubles back. So I restrain my evangelizing impulses there. They might come to be like us, but it won t be in my life time.

And the right in Europe only makes upside-down sense in America. It would be impossible to create a right-wing-in-European-terms country out of the US. Our multi-cultural, multi-religious and multi-racial country couldn t turn into an European traditional country. Not for a few hundred years at least. Which is why all movies that do that are profoundly unconvincing. And why it s so weird that the left doesn t see the difference between the two rights. It is also, unfortunately, why the sf books from the fifties or so, particularly the ones by Heinlein, which show the whole world unified under the American system are such a pipe dream. It might have seemed logical and even attainable after WWII but as he himself seems to have realized in Tramp Royale, the real world is too diverse and culture and cultural differences too real for that utopia ever to have been possible.

America is a place in the heart, and as such it can only be won one heart at a time.


  1. ^ posting this (www.telegraph.co.uk)
  2. ^ wikipedia (en.wikipedia.org)
  3. ^ Centrism (en.wikipedia.org)

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