Forward to May, 2003...
Comments: SFF Net newsgroup | Rumor Mill Topic | Night Shade Books Topic |
Busy as all madness here, trying to do all the regular stuff plus attempting to finish up the novella for a certain market that will be disclosed later.
Meanwhile, thanks to Jenn Reese, found out that Strange Horizons reviewed my Buffy-like mayhem novelette "Hell Week at Grant-Williams High" that appeared in the original Fictionwise e-anthology switch.blade: School's Out. Qool! :-)
In other news, there have been too many wonderful achievements and sales around the Not-A-Webring and WebRats, including sales to a premiere issue of a major new horror magazine, jumps from an airplane, marathon 24-hour story writing to sale turnarounds, new novel dares, novel completions, Charles de Lint reviews, and just too much good stuff to mention. Can you say, Tim, Heather, Greg, Jenn, Mike, Jon, Jim, Trey and and and... just go and see for yourself, okay? :-)
And in the small press PacMan round, there is Wildside Press chomping up other small presses and acquiring publications and publishers right and left. Go Wildside, yeah! See the Locus article.
First, a note on faulty logic.
The following example illustrates how some people interpret a certain kind of statement scenario:
A: "Would you like fries or mashed potatoes?"
B: "I want the fries, please."
A: "Oh, I am so sorry that you hate mashed potatoes!?"
B: "Huh? How did you get that from me saying I want fries? I just want fries right now, it is my choice, has nothing to do with how I feel about mashed potatoes -- which I happen to love very much, thank you."
See the logical fallacy of inference here, illustrated by A?
Which brings us right back to our favorite Baby vs. Museum topic du jour.
A: "Who would you save, the baby or the museum?"
B: "I'll probably run to save the museum."
A: "Oh, you must be a baby-hating people-despising misanthrope."
B: "Huh? How did you get that from my saying this? I love human beings and value lives. But I also love the wondrous product of human civilization and value the creation of our higher selves a bit more. One has nothing to do with the other. My feelings for both are on two separate parallel graphs."
And so it goes. What is it with some people? Can they read? Seems like not really. They skim and then infer whatever the hell they want. Faulty logic. Annoyingly so.
Faulty logic is the cause of most of our communication woes. Another is our common inability to break out of our tunnel vision mindset and the bad habit of putting an internal spin or bias on every bit of incoming sensory data that our mind processes.
Just because person A chooses to save the baby, does not mean that on a relative scale of how much they love humanity they may not score lower than a person B who might chose to save the museum, and yet is willing to give their life for both the baby and the museum much more willingly than person A.
Let's have fun with another exercise: introducing a fun Imaginary Capacity to Love Score which can be measured by a number of factors including the ability to sacrifice one's life for someone or something. Let's assign Imaginary Love Units to be the measure of one's Love Score. Thus, 100 Imaginary Love Units is Perfect Love. On this scale, sacrificing one's life for the object of your love is going to be worth an arbitrary 80 Imaginary Love Units.
Theoretically, person B's position (chose Museum) may be measured at the strength of 95 Imaginary Love Units for the museum and 90 Imaginary Love Units fo the baby. Notice how high both those scores are.
Person A's position (chose Baby) on the other hand may be measured only in 75 Imaginary Love Units for the Baby and 15 Imaginary Love Units for the Museum. Sure, Person A scores higher on the Baby choice, but the intensity of their love is so much lower in general.
So, which one of these people loves the baby more ("in general" is logically implied in this sentence)? Which of these scores higher on the Love Scale in general? Read this slowly, and use a calculator, if needed. *grin*
Now, to go even farther out on a Museum vs. Baby limb, let us plunge head-first into the David Letterman Zone.
*** IRONY ALERT!*** ***SARCASM ALERT!*** (for the reading comprehension impaired)
Top Ten Reasons Why a Museum is Better than a Baby
10. A Museum does not soil its diapers and regularly stink up your living space.
9. A Museum will not wake you up in the middle of the night and keep you up for hours with its primal screaming.
8. A Museum does not need to be spoon-fed every half an hour and then regurgitates half of what goes in, all over its bib.
7. A Museum is reliably consistent -- unless mishandled by other grown babies during times of war or chaotic social unrest, it (together with its regular contents) will likely be there many years from now, while the Baby would have grown and changed and moved out.
6. You are guaranteed to find greatness in a Museum; to find greatness in a Baby you'll just have to wait and see during the formative years, and even then the Baby may disappoint you.
5. There is only a small number of Museums in the world, while there are lots and lots and lots and lots and lots of Babies.
4. Museums can be very quiet for more than 15 minutes at a time.
3. A Museum is filled with wonderful treasures, ancient artifacts, and historical wonders of cumulative human achievement, while a Baby is filled with drool and poop and may or may not amount to something one day. Can you say, not a sure thing?
2. A Museum will help you with your personal growth while you have to help the Baby with its personal growth first before you can expect any kind of reciprocal usefullness.
And finally, *drumroll* . . .
The Number One reason why a Museum is Better than a Baby: you can have as much sex as you like without worrying that an unplanned or unwanted Museum will spring up somewhere nine months from now.
The mail just came, and I got a tiny Spring Royalties check for $4.02 from MZB Royalties Trust, but it's the thought that counts. *grin* Looking at the statement, it was comprised of royalties for three volumes -- ancient SWORD AND SORCERESS #15 in which I had a story, and #18 and #19 in which I didn't.
Much lively and intelligent discussion is taking place, including fellow WebRat Jim C. Hines's journal post of 4-21-03 and responses in his comments area.
There is also this amusing bit from Andrea Harris, and I am referred to as "some wankstress" in the Trackback next to that entry. LOL! Thanks, friend, you are... uhm, sweet.
In contrast, for a bit more intelligent and open-minded level of discourse, take a look at the conversations going on in my newsgroup.
This is going to be a very peculiar, tangental, general moral "what if" kind of discussion. Yes, Andrea, I have left the Iraqui museum discussion some time ago, and that was never the whole of my rant (I am sorry that you chose to read it in that limited sense related only to the specific current political events in Iraq).
This is now a purely theoretical zone. With plenty of tangents. :-)
Abraham and Isaac and the Museum and the Child -- an Insight
It occurred to me after the recent discussion about "what to save" that there is a parallel in or a certain moral ambiguity -- at least for me -- in the Biblical story of Abraham who is told by God to sacrifice his son Isaac. I know that this is supposed to be in part an illustration of unquestioning faith in the will of God, and that although Abraham weeps, he raises the knife, about to strike his son, until God himself intervenes to stop him and tell him that his faith was being tested and he does not have to do it. (And before anyone makes any assumptions about me, I am not a member of any Judeo-Christian religion, though I have studied the Bible with immense respect and interest.)
I know that the story has always bothered me, and I could never put my finger on why. How could a father be expected to kill his child, no matter if even God tells him to do it?
And now suddenly it occurred to me what's really being illustrated in this story. There's that matter of faith, true. But also, there is this weird tangental example of one's true fate.
What do I mean by that?
I mean, that everyone has a one true fate -- not in the sense of silly predetermined you-must-get-hit-by-a-bus-on-May-3rd kind of fate but in the sense of one fate that is right for us. In other words, whatever happens to each one of us is the culmination of a long subtle progression of logical events of our lives that necessarily must happpen to us ("us" being that entity that occupies our bit of space and our moment of time), and if it happens to someone else, that would be the wrong thing.
Yes, it's a strange nebulous concept, and at the same time an almost "duh" kind of common-sense thing -- that what happens to you and me is the right thing for this moment in space and time for you and me. But the story of Abraham is now to me an illustration of that right thing at the right time. Abraham's son was not meant to die by his hand because that would be a ridiculous unimaginable atrocity for both Abraham and for Isaac. As portrayed, Abraham himself was not the kind of criminally-depraved person who could have done or even imagined doing such a thing. If Abraham was someone else, maybe, but not this Abraham. This specific construct called "Abraham" in this place and time having killed his son would have been wrong. God's instructions merely served to show an example of swaying the hand of fate and how wrong that would be if our fate were not ours. What God gave Abraham is the gift of knowing how right his fate was for him and his child, and in doing thus also illustrated the strength of faith in one's own fate.
And yes, there is that whole can of worms where we can ask in all validity, "What about all those innocent people who suffer in this life? Victims of random crimes on the street, etc?" To this I say, that is a discussion for another day, and we can certainly get into the analysis of randomness and innocence at that point.
Getting back to the argument at hand:
Let me for an odd moment quote myself here -- in my novel DREAMS OF THE COMPASS ROSE, a character (a god, actually), says on page 220 (yes, I had to look this up like a moron -- I have the memory of a Drosophila fruit fly and I cannot even remember my own words exactly):
"Then at last you learn the other great secret -- there is no better place to be, nor is there a better time to exist, than the time and place that defines you."
So where am I going with this argument, then?
Here is where:
The whole issue of who to save -- the baby, or the museum, or the parent, or the family photograph, or the work of art, or the rare sheet of music -- is irrelevant. The reason thinking about such choices gives all of us such immense agony, and makes us angrily lash out at other people who speak differently, is because we are imagining a theoretical scenario of all possibilities including those that are wrong for us, whereas there is only one possibility that will fit us, or define us, or shape us. For many people that possibility is the saving of the life of a child, and yes, thank goodness it is so. It is your possibility, your right choice, your fate, so embrace it. Because that is what you will do. And that would be the right thing for you (or me maybe -- I don't know -- not until I am faced with such a situation (never, hopefully), in which case I will make that right choice that will fit me).
However, the set of universal possibilities (or choices) is greater than that one choice -- and that seems to be the hard thing for many people to swallow. There are many possibilities, and because they are present, someone somewhere will make that other choice. It is also, in a weird way, going to tie into that parallel multi-universes notion from physics (thanks for the link, Scott!).
So, after all this long convoluted blather, what I am trying to say is, there has to be cultivated a rational acceptance in all of us that no matter how atrocious we might think some behavior and other people's reactions to that behavior is, it is someone's valid culmination in their own life's logical progression. If we are self-moving chess pieces, then this is a notion of how we end up in a certain square of the great gameboard. It is a choice, a possibility; it is out there. It may be morally bancrupt or terribly cruel, or just plain amoral to your own worldview or mine, but it is a choice someone will make, with all the internal justification that person can muster. So my point is that we need to accept the fact that someone will make that choice. We don't need to accept the validity of their choice, only that there are choices other than ours. And it is a remarkable thing how difficult this is proving to be for so many of us.
For that reason, if you suddenly found yourself on death row -- exactly with the mindset that you have now -- that would be a terrible crime against you, for you would be innocent. You would be in the wrong place at the wrong time. But if a murderer is on death row, their mind set might be on that strange other wavelength after the fact of having committed the crime, a mindset where they have done the murder, lived thorugh the experience, and now live through the consequences. They may be hardened to the point of accepting their fate, whereas you are screaming in agony just thinking of such injustice if it were happening to you.
Yes, this has passed the discussion of the plunder of the Iraqi museum a long time ago, but then, it was always a jump point for a general moral dilemma, at least in my case. :-)
What I have just talked about is the understanding and acceptance of our own place, our own choices, and hence -- by extrapolation -- the understanding and acceptance (but not necessarily the approval!) of the moral and life choices of others.
*cue in Twilight Zone music here* :-)
Take a seat and hold on to something around you while I rant.
It looks like the blogosphere picked up the comments I made in Teresa Nielsen Hayden's blog comments area about the destruction of the Iraqi museum and ancient historical artifacts versus saving a baby's life.
In the comments for April 12, 2003 "Loss" entry, I said:
"This may sound horrible, but given a choice between saving a museum and saving a baby, I would probably run and save the museum. Better yet, I would probably offer them a choice of shooting *me* if that means the historical artifacts remain unharmed.
"I strongly agree with what Jo Walton said upstream. Yes, the destruction of one human life is a tragedy, but the destruction of a historical memory is an unforgivable crime against all of humanity.
"One person dies and the tragedy affects those who are near and dear and those who are aware of the loss. One historical treasure is lost, and it affects all of us, unto the future generations."
And then, in response to this:
From Andrea Harris,
posted on April 14, 2003 03:05 PM:
"Well, Vera, now we know where you stand. What if it was your own baby vs. the historical treasures? Oops -- sorry, that was terribly unfair."
"I don't have a baby, but if I did, I admit this is a tough question. Nothing unfair about it, though, you raise a good point.
"My answer is, I don't know what I would do. But whatever it is, it would equally break my heart."
Well, it looks like a bunch of people read that and interpreted what I said as an atrocity, here and here.
I was labeled as "that Vera woman is the worst" and "Vera you make me sick" and "that moral wasteland."
And as I read through their angry fuming comments, I was amazed more and more at one thing I saw over and over -- the complete disregard on many individuals' part of the value of cultural history, cultural memory, of symbols and of principles -- not objects of great monetary value but objects of great meaning.
Is it not worth to give one's life for something other than another human life?
How about abstract concepts? Has no one ever thought to give one's life for one's country, one's religion, one's convictions? How about -- without trying to be trite -- "Truth, Justice, and the American Way?"
What about your own ethnic heritage? Why is it not thinkable to value Hammurabi's Code of Laws or the Parthenon or the Great Pyramid of Giza or Stonehenge or the Notre Dame Cathedral over your own sorry ass?
What about scientific discoveries? What if you were to chose between the cure for cancer or AIDS versus one child's life?
And, then, how about great music? Would it not agonize you if you had a choice to rescue the only sheet music and the last recordings of the complete works of Mozart (or any other great musical genius, insert your favorite here) or a child from a burning building?
The point is, these are not just "material things." These are symbols of what is best in humanity, symbols of enlightenment, of human effort and striving, the culmination of our combined achievement.
Someone in those fuming blogs mentioned the United States Constitution, and whether or not it would give you pause if you were faced with saving the life of a child or saving that old symbol of the way of life of millions.
And someone immediately replied -- without the slightest pause! -- that no, he or she would of course save the child and let the Constitution burn.
And here is where my greatest amazement comes in.
No matter what your actual ultimate decision to act is, whether it is to save the baby or the cultural artifact, how in the world can this NOT be a difficult decision? How CAN it be such a flippant no-brainer to immediately save a human life over a cultural memory of many generations?
Let me repeat that, how can it not be a difficult question?
I venture, not only is it one of the most difficult questions of all, but consider another: what if you were faced with saving your father or your mother? Assuming you love and care for both equally, would it not be an agonizing thing to chose between them?
Aha, some might say here, but you are talking about two human lives here. Well, yes I am, but I do this because I want it to be understood that cultural heritage is our father and our mother. It is what came before us and what shapes us. And the cultural heritage of other ethnicities also comes into play, also shapes us indirectly.
If we only valued ourselves and our physical offspring but not our psychological and emotional and artistic and intellectual offspring -- which all of our culture fundamentally is, the children of our higher selves, our spirit -- then what would be the point of living?
Can you and I live in a world where every baby is perfectly safe but where there is no great art, music, literature, thought, truth or meaning?
Now, is that not the most morally bancrupt notion of all?
Oh, and by the way, if I were that kid who was saved and as a result they let the United States Constitution or the Bill of Rights burn, I wouldn't be able to live with myself.
Again, so much has happened that I got too behind to even update the journal, sorry... :-)
The Wal-Mart Literacy Day last Saturday went as expected, pretty much. I went in with no expectations, and yes they did not have their act together (though, one store was better than the other), but the Andersen News reps assigned to me were wonderful and one of the store managers was a real sweetie. I ended up giving out a lot of flyers of my own books in addition to the provided bookmarks. All in all, good things happened, so I declare it a rueful success for literacy. :-)
Meanwhile, I got a friendly rejection from Tim and Heather's Flytrap which brings my yearly rejection count up to four (see the Rejectometer on the sidebar go up *grin*). Since I wrote that story in two days, I think I am gonna put it aside for now and spiff it up a bit after I am done with the novella (which I had no chance to work on at all, unfortunately -- this must be remedied this weekend since the editor asked me for a status update, eeek!).
The free excerpt of DREAMS OF THE COMPASS ROSE has now reached 2113 downloads! Wowza!!! :-) Go and get it while it's still up there!
Oh, and before I forget, here is something you can do for me -- tell your local library to order a copy or two of my novel LORDS OF RAINBOW. It has gotten some really nice reviews on Amazon... and though it is not cheap, it really is not too outrageous for such a long fat book, and this way if your library gets it, you can read it for free! (See, how sneaky I am!)
Have a wonderful holiday weekend, everyone! :-) Happy Easter, Passover, and the Nebulas!
Doing promo is arduous work. Insane, in fact. You gotta be a little crazy to dare to do it. You also gotta believe in your book 100%. It's a good thing I believe in LORDS OF RAINBOW 1,000%. :-)
Last week I was an author guest doing a reading at a local high school event called "Melody of Words" where I got to experience what someone like Neil Gaiman goes through every time they do a public event -- I got mobbed!!!!
It was amazing. The two sessions were both packed, with over 60 people total, and they bought all the copies of DREAMS OF THE COMPASS ROSE that I happened to have on me -- which was only two -- within five minutes, and a SWORD AND SORCERESS #16, and wanted more. I signed promo flyers like crazy, and discovered that when excited and autographing fast, my signature deteriorates into an etch-o-sketch monstrosity.
Damn, but I could live like this! Bring it on!
My next author event is the Wal-Mart Literacy Day this coming Saturday the 12th.
LORDS OF RAINBOW
DREAMS OF THE COMPASS ROSE
STRANGE PLEASURES #2
BEYOND THE LAST STAR
OUTSIDE THE BOX
SWORD AND SORCERESS #17
SWORD AND SORCERESS #16
THE AGE OF REASON