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June 28, 2015

Sunday Morning Book Thread 06-28-2015: The World Turned Upside Down [OregonMuse]


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Progress


Good morning to all of you morons and moronettes and bartenders everywhere and all the ships at sea. Welcome to AoSHQ's stately, prestigious, internationally acclaimed and high-class Sunday Morning Book Thread. The only AoSHQ thread that is so hoity-toity, pants are required. Or kilts. Serious you guys. Kilts are OK, too. But not tutus. Unless you're a girl.


Book thread TRIGGER WARNINGS for holding that Hillary! Clinton is the most corrupt politician since LBJ and the only thing keeping her from being laughed out of politics is an equally corrupt MSM, that government employees should not be allowed to vote due to the obvious conflict of interest, and the near absolute risibility of feminism.


Books are like mirrors: if a fool looks in, you cannot expect a genius to look out.
-J.K. Rowling


Yesterday, A Spooky Day

And not because of anything the Supreme Court did. No, June 27th is the date a very famous short story takes place. It starts out like this:

The morning of June 27th was clear and sunny, with the fresh warmth of a full-summer day; the flowers were blossoming profusely and the grass was richly green. The people of the village began to gather in the square, between the post office and the bank, around ten o’clock; in some towns there were so many people that [it] took two days and had to be started on June 26th ....”

Can you guess the story? I'll have the answer way down at the bottom of the thread. Note that the word in bracket is my replacement, the original words are a dead giveaway.


Someone Is Going To Have To Be A Hero

Here's a story that, in light of recent events, should be very familiar to us:

1. Church gets planted in San Francisco
2. Church hires musician to do the church music
3. Subsequently, it comes to light that said musician is a practicing homosexual
4. Musician is informed by the church that his lifestyle is not in accord with church doctrine
5. Musician tells church that he is not going to change
6. Musician is dismissed by church
7. Church gets sued for violation of local "gay rights" ordinance.

This might have happened just last week, but the series of events I'm referring to took place in 1978, nearly 40 years ago. It's detailed in the book
When the Wicked Seize A City written by the minister and his wife, Charles and Donna McIlhenny

WORLD magazine has excerpted an early chapter that you can read here. I read it back in the early days of the internet, and I'm talking sometime around 1997-1998, when it used to be available for free for online reading on the old iUniverse site (before that self-publishing company had been bought out by Author Solutions), and the McIlhennys ordeal made for frightening reading: vandalism, threatening phone calls, violent protests complete with property damage while officers from the SFPD stood around like potted plants, etc.

The pastor did not ask for this fight. Rather, it was thrust upon him as he was trying to follow the dictates of his conscience, informed by the Bible. And not only did he have to fight the homosexual activists in San Francisco who had sworn to destroy his church, but his decision to stand up placed him at odds with some members of his own congregation and denominational leaders who were frightened because of what might happen. I want to sympathize with them, but sometimes, someone has to step up and be a hero, because heroism is what the situation absolutely requires.

And, not a very long time from now, in according with a plan arranged by homosexual activists, predominantly, a white, evangelical church (note: it will not be a black church or a mosque) that refuses to marry homosexual couples will have its tax-exempt status threatened, citing this week's Obergefell decision as precedent. What is happening in that day is that that pastor, that church, whoever it is who is being bludgeoned by the lawfare while the MSM and the rest of the culture applauds, is being called upon to be heroes.

Of course, many don't want to be heroes. Fighting is hard and dangerous. And what's even worse, we have guys on our side who are telling us, once again, that this is not the hill to die on, that we just need to move on. To the next defeat.

SPOILER ALERT: there's good news and bad news here. The good news is that McIlhenny actually won his case, on 1st Amendment grounds. But the bad news is that the main reason for this is perhaps, uncharacteristically for the progressive strategy of endless lawfare, the musician dropped the subsequent appeal. So the usual outcome, i.e. the Kabuki theater of a more liberal appellate court pretending to uphold the law while sticking it to the wrongthinking defendant, never played out.


We're Doooomed!

You've got to like a review that starts out like this:

In the realm of science fiction, few things are as much fun to read about as the near extinction of the human race.

(Before I go on, I need to point out that the linked review contains a number of spoilers).

He's talking about the new one by Neal Stephenson, Seveneves, which you can purchase on Kindle for a whopping $16.99. The author of this review, John Derbyshire, late of NRO and now with Takimag, is certainly no stranger to doom, if his other book We Are Doomed: Reclaiming Conservative Pessimism is any indication.

I liked this bit:

So this first two-thirds of the book is in fact not so much science fiction as engineering fiction. There are no just-barely-imaginable scientific possibilities in play here, only Newtonian mechanics and a relentless press of technical problems large and small.

...because it touches on one of my pet peeves. What Derbyshire means by "engineering fiction" used to be called, before the popularity of Star Wars confused matters, simply "science fiction" and pretty much everyone knew what that meant. Science fiction used to have a precise meaning: when you take a social trend, or a piece of technology, or some other aspect or condition of our present time, and extend it out into the future, however long you wish, and then write about what that might look like, that is science fiction, in the strict and narrow sense.

This is the definition I first heard many years ago, and it stuck with me ever since.

Later on, this kind of got broadened out to, any novel or movie that takes place in the future is science fiction. I don't normally think of Ayn Rand's We The Living Anthem as science fiction, but I guess it kind of is, under either the narrow or broadened definition.

And then when Star Wars came out, it was anything with space ships and ray guns. But just because you have space ships and ray guns doesn't make it science fiction. And remember the classic Star Wars intro: "A long, long, time ago in a galaxy far, far aaway". So unlike actual science fiction with roots in the present, Star Wars, at the very outset, tells you it is completely divorced from everything you've ever known or experienced.

"Science fantasy" would be a better definition for this sort of thing. Not to be confused with the other kind of fantasy, the kind with hobbits, dragons, and swords. But in either case, you might as well be in a different universe for all that it matters. Of course, many fantasy stories actually do take place in alternate universes.

Personally, I like the so-called "engineering fiction", so described by Derbyshire. That's why I liked John Ringo's Hot Gate series, because he made the process of capturing an asteroid and turning it into an armored battle-station sound almost plausible, including how it all was going to be paid for. And this is my beef with the J.J. Abrams Star Trek reboots. The old series, particularly the original series, was good old-school science fiction. The guy who does the RedLetterMedia.com movie critiques pointed out (and demonstrated with TOS video clips) how all the scenes shot on the Enterprise conform to the ship's design that was determined in advance, so, for example, for Kirk and Spock to get from the shuttle bay to the bridge, the elevator they're in has to go sideways for awhile, and then up. But in the reboot, the elevator doors close, and then instantaneously open again at the bridge, and virtually no time has elapsed. Abrams wanted them on the bridge right then, and thus it happened, so shut up and no backtalk.

What has happened is that Abrams has made Star Trek a lot more like Star Wars. Doesn't mean they're bad movies, but I miss the old style.

And speaking of hard science, Derbyshire is a bit of an amateur mathematician, and has written a couple of books on the subject, Prime Obsession: Bernhard Riemann and the Greatest Unsolved Problem in Mathematics which he followed up with Unknown Quantity: A Real and Imaginary History of Algebra.

Thanks to longtime moron 'Hrothgar' for the Derbyshire review tip


And Speaking of Reviews

This is how is an English prof who does not like Kahlil Gibran but nevertheless had to write a review of the recently released Collected Works of Kahlil Gibran started out his review:

Expansive and yet vacuous is the prose of Kahlil Gibran,
And weary grows the mind doomed to read it.
The hours of my penance lengthen,
The penance established for me by the editor of this magazine,
And those hours may be numbered as the sands of the desert.
And for each of them Kahlil Gibran has prepared
Another ornamental phrase,
Another faux-Biblical cadence,
Another affirmation proverbial in its intent
But alas! lacking the moral substance,
The peasant shrewdness, of the true proverb.

Yeah, I was never much of a fan of Gibran, either, whose writings always had this kitschy, cheesy feel, like one of those black velvet Elvis paintings. but apparently he was quite an accomplished artist, especially in watercolor, and even studied in art schools in Paris. I never knew that.


Amazon Royalties: Tempest In Teacup?

It has been said, and I think this is an old wives' tale, that Russian authors used to be paid by the word, which is why Russian novels are so freakin' huge.

But, according to Reuters, Amazon is doing something similar:

Starting next month, the e-commerce giant will pay independent authors based on the number of pages read, rather than the number of times their book has been borrowed.

The move is aimed at authors enrolled in Kindle Direct Publishing platform - which lets authors set list prices, decide rights and edit the book at any time - and is applicable to ebooks made available via the Kindle Unlimited and Kindle Owners' Lending Library programs.

When I first heard about this, I thought this was for Kindle books purchased. But I was wrong:

The new method of payment doesn't apply to books that have been purchased but to those that are borrowed as part of Kindle Unlimited, which allows for - you guessed it - unlimited reading of KU books in exchange for a subscription fee...Amazon used to start paying royalties on the borrowed book once a reader got to 10% of the way through, but this was proving unfair to authors who wrote longer books. A reader perusing a short book reaches the trigger point for payment much faster than one reading an 800-page tome. The result was a flood of very short reads as authors spread their writing over as many books as possible.

The writer of the Guardian piece is afraid of how this will change the way authors write books, but from what she just said in the bit I quoted, writers are doing that already, i.e. making adjustments to maximize their income. What's wrong with that? If they're going to game the system under the new scheme, it will only be in a different way than they're gaming the system now.

So what do you moron authors think about this? Good? Bad? Meh? It seems to me these changes may mean that the myriad 99-cent Kindle short novels and novelettes out there may be go away soon.

And is that such a big deal?

Thanks you moron "mindful webworker" for the tip.


The WNBA Comes To Book Publishing

So, a few weeks ago, I snickered a bit at the progressive butthurt going on across the pond because of alleged "gender bias".

But there's not a progressive idea that some pinheads won't immediately run with:

Small press And Other Stories has answered author Kamila Shamsie’s provocative call for a year of publishing women to redress “gender bias” in the literary world.

So, their brilliant plan is, in 2018, they're not going to publish any books by men.

Tobler’s colleague Sophie Lewis, a senior editor at And Other Stories, said she expected the team would be “rescheduling male writers’ books for other years [and] digging harder and further than usual, in order to find the really good women’s writing that we want to publish” in 2018.

So the men will just have to wait until 2019. That'll show 'em. By the way, ladies, if this is truly a "gender bias" issue, you shouldn't have to look "harder and further than usual" to find quality women authors, they should be right there in front of you.

Now this is absolutely hilarious;

A small publisher, And Other Stories releases 10 to 12 new titles a year. “We’ve realised for a while that we’ve published more men than women,” said Tobler. “This year we’ve done seven books by men and four by women ... We have a wide range of people helping us with our choices, and our editors are women ... and yet somehow we still publish more books by men than women.

I can't stop laughing. This is an admission that women, or at least women in the publishing industry, desperately need to be saved from themselves. So rather than honestly ask themselves the obvious question 'why do we women prefer male authors?' they instead, being good progressives, immediately blame something else, someone else, anybody but them. And then they follow it up with an completely stupid and pointless gesture that solves nothing, and may even hurt them (lost profits).

It's kind of like those idiots who staged naked protests against the Iraq War. What was the point? Nobody was interested, nobody cared, nobody said, "OMG, look at all those naked protestors, let's stop the war right now." The war kept right on going.

Bless their hearts.

Thanks to the Political Hat for the tip.


Books By Morons

Another light week for e-mail, so here's a repeat:

Longtime lurker and infrequent commenter 'Farmer Bob' has written and published two mystery novels. The books follow the exploits of Fiddler O'Connell and his Uncle Emmett. Fiddler is a New Orleans defense attorney and Emmett is a hard boiled PI.

The first one is Termite Takedown. Here's a piece of the action:

Everybody knows Fiddler O'Connell doesn't do divorces, so of course he turns beautiful Trixi Vaughn away when the sugar baron's wife attempts to enlist him for the same, even with termites eating him out of house and home. But will he take her on as a client when later that night she is accused of murdering her soon-to-be ex...with his Uncle Emmett as her accomplice?

The adventures of Fiddler and Emmett continue in Flea Flicker:

Earvin San Miguel could catch a football like an all-pro. Now, courtesy of a killer, he's caught a bullet, and he's all-dead, Can Fiddler and Emmett catch the killer in time, or will their client, Carlos Menendez, catch a deadly hypodermic needle on death row?

Both are available on Kindle for $2.99.


___________

So that's all for this week. As always, book thread tips, suggestions, bribes, rumors, threats, and insults may be sent to OregonMuse, Proprietor, AoSHQ Book Thread, at the book thread e-mail address: aoshqbookthread, followed by the 'at' sign, and then 'G' mail, and then dot cee oh emm.

What have you all been reading this week? Hopefully something good, because, as you all know, life is too short to be reading lousy books.

(Answer: The story is, of course, The Lottery, by Shirley Jackson. A little background here)

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