Archive | December, 2013

Merry Christmas

25 Dec

I’d just like to wish my fans a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year … and to remind you all about the Free Book Promotion.

Chris

The Thought (and Speech) Police Strike Again

23 Dec

Of all the forms of censorship, self-censorship is the most insidious and the most dangerous. It is insidious purely because it can be justified – because the self-censor can and does justify it to himself – and because those justifications are often valid. It is dangerous because it is often unnoticeable. Maybe you disapprove of your daughter’s black boyfriend. That isn’t an excuse to call him racist names to his face – or even use them when trying to talk your daughter out of seeing him.

But while there is such a thing as common politeness, it is possible to take it too far. Political correctness is so dangerous precisely because it seeks to humiliate and punish people for using politically incorrect terms, which seems reasonable enough until you realise that those terms are not always very well defined. Or, for that matter, that political correctness will be invoked as a bludgeon to hammer someone into submission, even when said person was not actually being politically incorrect. In the example I mentioned above, the boyfriend might be a drug addict or a serial womaniser, hardly problems restricted to young black men. But I’d bet good money that the poor father will be accused of being racist purely for daring to disapprove of the boyfriend.

I mention all this because of the recent issue with Duck Dynasty. I have never watched an episode in my life. About the only television I watch on a regular basis is Doctor Who, so from what I’ve read I rather doubt I’d enjoy watching it. But I don’t have to approve of the show to realise that NBC’s treatment of its star was completely and totally beyond the pale.

Let me put this in context. Phil Robertson was asked for his opinion on homosexuality. He gave it. NBC promptly removed him from the show on the grounds that his opinions were homophobic … why, precisely?

Opinions are like assholes, if I can borrow a phrase; everyone has one. Phil Robertson’s opinion may or may not be valid and, frankly, I don’t care if it is or isn’t. No one is asking him to take part in homosexual acts and, at least to the best of my knowledge, he isn’t trying to stop homosexuals from engaging in homosexual acts. He isn’t required, as far as I can tell, to toe NBC’s party line on anything and I would be surprised to discover that his contract with them has a provision for penalties if he says something unfortunate.

The problem here is simple. Phil Robertson is being penalised for daring to utter a non-PC opinion. He was hammered for his imprudence, which will have a dampening effect on any future public discourse. Who will dare to utter an opinion if they fear for their jobs or reputations? What will be left, but pandering to the group-think laid out by pressure groups that claim to fight on behalf of threatened minorities? And, with opinions constantly changing, who will even be able to follow the ‘right’ course of thinking?

You may not approve of his opinions on homosexuality, although I would advise you to make sure that you know what he actually said before reacting. However, even if you don’t, I invite you to think about the long term effects of penalising someone – anyone – for daring to express a honest opinion. Can you honestly say that you will be safe in a world where one word out of place could destroy your life?

The pressure groups that claim to defend homosexuals may also want to think about their actions. They come across as bullies – and they may not always hold the whip hand. In the future, groupthink may become far less ‘liberal’ and homosexual groups may wind up banned. The problem with any sort of pressure is that it can provoke a very angry reaction.

And, while you’re at it, you might want to ask why GLAAD is wasting time attacking Phil Robertson while homosexuals in places like Saudi Arabia, Iran and Uganda face the very real danger of death for daring to express their love. A misplaced sense of priorities, anyone?

Free Books for Christmas!

13 Dec

As a Christmas gift to my fans, the following books will be available for free from Amazon Kindle on 25th – 26th December 2013. (Note; US time.)  Information and free samples can be downloaded from the links below. Please review if you like them!

Outside Context Problem

Science and Sorcery

The Black Knife

Storming Heaven

Please share this post <grin>

Merry Christmas!

Chris

Nelson Mandela and the Real World

10 Dec

The real world is a messy place.

One funny example of that comes, if I recall correctly, from a newspaper article comparing two bosses; one caring and sensitive to his people, the other outrageously domineering and bossy. The article closed by asking which one the reader would prefer to work for – and then noted that the former was Hitler and the latter was Churchill. It’s horrifying to realise, somehow, that Hitler was perfectly capable of petting the dog. It certainly doesn’t jibe with our conception of Hitler as ultimate evil.

I mention this because, in the days since Nelson Mandela passed away, there have been two streams of thought on the internet. One says that Mandela was a saint, to all intents and purposes, the man who liberated millions from the tyranny of apartheid. The other says that Mandela was a communist, a terrorist, a fool and worse. These streams of thought seem mutually contradictory. How can a terrorist be a saint?

But I look at them and wonder … why can’t they both be true?

I have yet to hear about an icon who didn’t have feet of clay. Take a look at history’s heroes and heroines, or the men and women elevated to sainthood by the MSM, and ask yourself – do these people have feet of clay? JFK was a womaniser, Princess Diana was a prima donna, Ghandi was a hopeless dreamer, Lincoln a micromanager, George Washington kept slaves … I honestly doubt that there is a single icon who doesn’t have feet of clay.

These people are human. They are not gods or demons. They are as flawed and vulnerable as everyone else. Their successes come in spite of their problems, not because those problems don’t exist.

Frankly, the MSM does no one any favours by elevating certain people to sainthood and slamming others, based on political judgements. Obama, for example, was lauded by the media, which chose to largely overlook most of his flaws. The net result of this failure is to create greater disappointment and disillusionment when the facade finally falls apart.

This also leads to poor understanding of real world limitations. Mandela, for better or worse, fought against a tyranny that oppressed people based on the colour of their skin. By any standards, apartheid South Africa was a thoroughly unpleasant place to live. Can black South Africans be reasonably blamed for fighting a system that left them unable to climb to the top? Does that make them terrorists because innocent people were caught up in the fighting? Or are they communists because the Communist Bloc was often the only power willing to support the blacks?

Communism – certainly Russian/Chinese Communism – does not spread to stable and prosperous countries that offer opportunities to their citizens. It spreads to countries where there is no hope for the downtrodden, save through violent revolt, and provides an ideological framework for resistance against the authorities. Communism’s spread through Africa and Latin America was greatly abetted by the simple fact that most regimes were thoroughly unpleasant. The fact that these regimes were often American allies merely added anti-Americanism to a poisonous stew. Outside support for dictatorships often resulted in the dictators being replaced by leaders who were passionately anti-American. This pattern, to some extent, repeats itself with Islamism. Drowning men will clutch at any straws. Communism and Islamism are lethal – but, to the people on the ground, they may seem better than the alternative.

Like I said, the real world is a messy place.

Nelson Mandela, like all of us, is a mixed bag. He successfully negotiated an end to the Apartheid regime, then prevented mass reprisals afterwards that would have provoked a bloody civil war and destroyed South Africa’s chances of rebuilding itself. On the other hand, he was tainted by bloodshed in the struggle and was unable to prevent the ANC’s progress towards a monolith party. South Africa’s future remains undetermined.

He was human. Not a god or a demon. We should not expect the superhuman – or be disappointed when we don’t receive it.

Next Books, General Updates, Etc.

5 Dec

Hi, everyone

I’m currently 3/4ths of the way through Work Experience (Schooled In Magic IV). After that, I’m leaning towards several different possibilities. As always, comments are welcome.

Ark Royal features the crew of an old interstellar carrier as they find themselves on the frontlines against an enigmatic alien foe.

Learning Experience (may be renamed) starts when a group of aliens decide that abducted humans will make good slaves. They very rapidly learn the error of their ways, starting humanity’s expansion into the galaxy.

The Resistance (a rewrite of an older novel) features an alien race invading Earth, only to lose a handful of starships to humanity. It sounds similar to the book above, but it isn’t the same at all. Probably.

Thunder and Lightning is another rewrite; basically, in 2100, humanity has spread through the solar system and is building the first STL interstellar starship. But a fleet of STL alien ships is heading towards Earth with bad intentions … Generally, I want this to be hard-SF, rather than soft-SF.

Please cast a vote for which one you’d like to see first.

I’m also working out the plot for Retreat Hell (The Empire’s Corps VIII) and Necropolis (The Royal Sorceress III).

To some extent, I’m having problems thinking of suitable topics for Leo’s lectures and the afterwords. Any suggestions would be more than welcome.

I’m also planning some Christmas promotions so watch this space.

In other news, The Very Ugly Duckling (Bookworm II) will be out January 3rd.

Thanks for reading.

Chris

Story Background: The Union of Thule

4 Dec

Background for Retreat Hell.  Comments welcome.

The Union of Thule

It is somewhat ironic that Thule, which played a major role in the opening moves of the Commonwealth-Wolfbane War, would actually – in a kinder era – be considered one of the Empire’s success stories. Years of successful development was only brought to an end by outside events, rather than internal failures. In effect, Thule serves as a lesson in the dangers of depending too much on external help.

Thule was settled roughly 400 years prior to the Fall of Earth, mainly by German-ethnic settlers from New Berlin, Bohemia and Dresden. There were a smaller number of settlers from Kinabalu (Malay-ethnic) and Earth (multi-ethnic) but the development corporation and then the government instituted policies intended to break down ethnic barriers at breakneck speeds. It is a tribute to their success that neither ethnic nor religious conflict played any role in Thule’s collapse into anarchy.

The settlement of Thule was originally conducted by the Thule Development Corporation (TDC). By 105PS (Post-Settlement), the loan had been paid off and a duly-elected government of the planet’s taxpayers took power. This, combined with additional off-world investment, a bludgeoning local birth-rate and a steady rate of controlled immigration boosted Thule’s economy to the point that it was supplying starship components and HE3 to other worlds in the sector by 300PS. Settlements were established on other worlds in the system, hundreds of asteroids were turned into small colonies and construction even started on additional cloudscoops. It should have gone on forever.

It did not. The sweeping series of disasters that led inevitably to the Fall of Earth hampered off-world investment, which the government tried to conceal by allocating public funds to keep the workers employed and civil unrest from taking place. Eventually, the government’s methods started to fail, provoking local economic problems that merged with the interstellar issues. As outside investment came to an end, local corporations were forced to lay off thousands of workers … which led to major problems as the government was trying to prevent layoffs and raise taxes, at the same time. Large parts of the economy simply collapsed into ruins.

The government declared martial law, only to discover that there was no money left to pay the troops. Luckily, the government was not deeply corrupted and (once aware that the problem was not a local hiccup) managed to arrange food deliveries from the farms and outer islands. However, as the population was too large for the surviving economy, the government was faced with a seemingly-permanent unemployment crisis. Matters were not helped by out-world settlements and asteroids declaring independence, believing that the system government was not considering their interests.

Perversely, the next social disaster to hit Thule came from a helping hand. Trade Federation starships, reminded of the growing pre-collapse economy, entered the system two years after the Empire withdrew. They offered to bring Thule back into the post-Empire system, which would revitalise the moribund economy. Several months later, starships from Avalon offered Thule the chance to join the growing Confederation. On the face of it, Thule was well-positioned to take advantage of the reshaped galaxy.

However, the surviving corporations on Thule had survived by devouring their weaker rivals and cutting costs to the bone. Worse, as the only large-scale sources of employment and taxes on the planet, the corporations were politically untouchable. They, not the planet as a whole, were the ones positioned to benefit from the change in circumstances. And while they did, the remainder of the planet remained seething with unrest. The issue of joining the Commonwealth became politically explosive.

The Commonwealth and Trade Federation both made matters worse. The Trade Federation had no interest in local governments and made deals with the corporations, deals which benefited the corporations, but not the population as a whole. Meanwhile, the Commonwealth took no overt interest in the form of government, but was widely blamed for pressing Thule to abandon the social welfare state.

Thule’s galactic position made a bad situation worse. The planet sat on the edge of core-ward space, brushing up against the border between the Commonwealth and Wolfbane. Unsurprisingly, the planet became a battleground in a growing cold war.

***

Thule has three main continents; Wilhelm, Eva and Gina (named for the children of the first TDC President.) Wilhelm and Eva are both heavily developed, while Gina is largely untouched and serves as a sanctuary for the planet’s native wildlife. The capital city of Thule, Asgard, rests on the northernmost coastline of Wilhelm.

Officially, Thule is a democracy, but with a very restricted suffrage. Put simply, a person who earned money was entitled to a vote. The founders believed that this would encourage people to work, rather than merely collect benefits (a major problem with Earth and many other Core Worlds prior to the Fall.) However, the system was always open to abuse, which became a great deal worse when mass unemployment spread rapidly, accidentally creating an elite composed of employed and unemployed.

The franchised elect Speakers, which move amongst themselves to elect the First Speaker, who is the Head of State. Each Speaker remains in office until the completion of a ten-year term, whereupon they are prohibited from re-entering politics.

Despite its economic troubles, Thule is quite heavily defended, as the local government threw money at the defence industry in the hopes of covering up the true scope of the economic crisis. However, political unrest, rather than outside attack, may prove the true danger to Thule’s security.