Stories, History, and Takeshi Kovacs

This piece on the original Star Wars contains an interesting snippet:

When it was released, it wasn’t labelled Episode IV – that tag was added for the 1981 reissue – but it did give the impression that its story was already well underway. Nodding to the Saturday morning science-fiction serials that inspired him, Lucas included a so-called “opening crawl” of introductory text which explained what went on in the previous notional episodes: “Rebel spaceships, striking from a hidden base, have won their first victory against the evil Galactic Empire.” And from then on the film maintains the mischievous illusion that, if we’d come to the cinema a week earlier, we might have seen those Rebel spaceships striking from that hidden base. We hear that Obi-Wan Kenobi served Princess Leia’s father in something called the Clone Wars, that Darth Vader was Obi-Wan’s pupil, and that Han Solo has fallen out with a gangster named Jabba the Hutt. There are references to an “ancient religion” and an “Imperial Senate”. And, of course, there is the declaration that all of this happened “a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away”. These allusions heighten the wondrous sense that the adventure we’re watching, as amazing as it is, is just one of the many which have taken place in this particular far, far away galaxy.

Providing a deep sense of history to a story can make all the difference, and this is something JRR Tolkien obviously knew. There are scenes in The Lord of the Rings where characters come across colossal statues of long-dead kings who ruled over empires which vanished eons before. Throughout the book there remains an enormous weight of history, much of it only hinted at or – like real history – incomplete, with the connection between the past and present not fully understood or explained.

Star Wars doesn’t quite do that, but it achieves the same effect of making the audience believe that the action on the screen is part of a much larger storyline that has been running for centuries. This makes the audience invest more in the outcome than if it were taking place in isolation, as so many films are.

However, referring to previous events carries a certain risk:

…tantalising cases which are mentioned but not described in Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes books (“The politician, the lighthouse, and the trained cormorant”; “Ricoletti of the club foot and his abominable wife”). We know that the texts being cited aren’t real, but it’s intoxicating to imagine that they were.

I haven’t read the stories in question, but I am reminded of the smart-arses who produce the Cinema Sins series when they covered Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (3:07 and 16:13):

Indy makes a casual reference to an adventure that would easily have made a better movie than this one.

This was precisely my thought when I read Broken Angels Richard Morgan’s second Takeshi Kovacs novel. Readers may recall that I thought the first novel, Altered Carbon, was superb and I couldn’t recommend it highly enough. Alas, the follow-up doesn’t even come close.

It started well, with Kovacs recovering on a hospital ship orbiting over a planet ravaged by a war between government-hired mercenaries (of which he is one) and a brutal revolutionary. After reading Altered Carbon I was hoping the sequels would focus on military campaigns, similar to what Heinlein did so well with Starship Troopers, and when Broken Angels opened in the middle of a war I thought that’s what we’d get. But instead we end up going on an archaeological dig which takes far too long and when they find what they’re looking for Morgan’s storytelling – and even his descriptions – go rapidly downhill. In the middle of it all the hero decides to tell us about adventures past:

Envoy conditioning gives you a handle on most kinds of fear, but you’re still aware of what scares you because you feel the weight of the conditioning coming online. I’ve felt that weight every single time. In high orbit over Loyko during the Pilots’ Revolt, deploying with Randall’s vacuum commandos around Adoracion’s outer moon, and once, in the depths of interstellar space, playing a murderous game of tag with members of the Real Estate Crew around the hull of the hijacked colony barge Mivtsemdi, falling endlessly along her trajectory, light years from the nearest sun. The Mivtsemdi firefight was the worst. It still gives me the occasional nightmare.

At which point I dearly wished I could read about these rather than the convoluted tale I was wading through at the time.

There were some good moments: Takeshi Kovacs is still an awesome character, even if he engages in far too much white-knighting over a woman he doesn’t know and who hasn’t done anything to earn his obsessions. The technological aspects are good too, and most of these are retained from Altered Carbon. And there are a few scenes which stand out, not least their first encounter with one of the feared Corporations which are bankrolling the war.

It would be unfair to say that the Corporations are depicted in cartoonish fashion in Broken Angels, but the overall message is clear: corporations and governments are bad, m’kay. By the end I had gotten a little fed up of the moralistic posturing of Kovacs who has carried the worst elements of his character over from the first novel along with the best. When he fights the main villain at the end, I’m not even sure what his beef is: he sounds like a confused teenager.

But all is explained at the end when we get this note from the author:

This is a work of science fiction, but many of the books that influenced it are not. In particular, I’d like to express my deepest respect … to John Pilger for Heroes, Distant Voices and Hidden Agendas, which together provide an untiring and brutally honest indictment of the inhumanities perpetrated around the globe by those who claim to be our leaders. These writers did not invent their subject matter as I did, because they did not need to. They have seen and experienced it for themselves at first hand, and we should be listening to them.

If you’re using John Pilger’s writings as the basis for a story, it’s not going to be very good.

Nevertheless I stuck it out for the third Takeshi Kovacs novel, Woken Furies. Like the second one it started well, and then got very good as Kovacs found himself attached to a bad-ass group of mercenaries who make their living decommissioning rogue war machines out in a wasteland somewhere. I was just looking forward to another few hundred pages of these adventures when the lead female tech takes a funny turn along with the plot and Kovacs goes white-knighting for the rest of the book. Once again there are some good scenes but the story is all over the place and by the time the ending came I didn’t really care about any of it.

Richard Morgan has created a very good central character built around intriguing technology, but in attempt to make him more complex he’s added shallow traits which seem bolted on. I think he’d have been better off making Kovacs extremely one-dimensional and making everyone else more complex. This can work with bad-ass characters: look at Judge Dredd, for example. I think Morgan is a good sci-fi writer and can write some very good scenes, but his storytelling is poor. Altered Carbon was a sound enough story, but its real pull was the atmospheric descriptions and the central character. He didn’t come close to recreating the atmosphere in the follow-up novels and Kovacs alone was not enough to carry very weak and badly-paced storylines. I still enjoyed them, but I can’t help thinking that Kovacs, once established in Altered Carbon, would have been better off in the hands of a different author.

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Bad Hair

There’s something I find rather annoying about certain British women, an example of which is below:

Look at the state of her hair: it looks as though she’s just got out of bed, yet she’s happy to have this picture at the masthead of her opinion pieces in a national newspaper.

You see this a lot with British women. Watch the evening news and stick around until they interview a council spokeswoman, or a university lecturer, or some other “modern” woman of leftist bent and you’ll see the same thing: hair all over the place.

They do this deliberately, believing it displays casual indifference to their appearance which implies they instead express themselves with intellect, compassion, and other non-physical traits. Only to me it makes them seem slovenly.

This isn’t about looks – I don’t care whether the women are young or pretty – it is about effort. If I were asked to come on TV, or to provide a photo for a column, I would make damned sure I had shaved that morning and I’d probably be in a suit and tie. Anything else and I’d not be taken seriously, and rightly so.

British women, alas, have somewhat of a reputation among foreigners. One phrase I hear often is “they don’t know how to take care of themselves”. Is it true? I don’t know. But one thing is for sure: you’d not see a French, Italian, or Russian woman appearing in a national newspaper with hair like that.

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Dirty Hands

Every normal man must be tempted at times to spit on his hands, hoist the black flag, and begin to slit throats.

H. L. Mencken

Indeed, and such tempting times are coming around rather too often these days.

A couple of weeks ago The ZMan put up a post on the subject of Venezuela, in which he observed:

The other thing worth mentioning is Venezuelans are not campus snowflakes. The murder rate is twice that of our worst cities. It’s hard to know the exact figures. The government is so corrupt, no one can trust their numbers. Even so, it is one of the most dangerous countries on earth. It is safe to assume that the people are willing to employ rough justice, but somehow they are unable to do anything about their government. There are protests and minor street rebellions, but not at a level high enough to destabilize the government.

I thought about this for a few days and eventually took it up with a Venezuelan colleague, who reckoned the middle classes are the ones protesting and the violent underclasses have yet to be completely hacked off with the government. This makes as much sense as any other explanation. Of course, even the violent underclasses are not suicidal and won’t attack the government head-on. Trying to climb the palace gates or charge a tank is stupid, and will get you killed. But perhaps they may not have to.

In looking at the footage of the protests in Venezuela, I wondered how the police were staying loyal and firing on the protesters. Presumably they are being paid, and the pay is worth it. Thus far, nobody has made them rethink this position. It appears that the police (and judges, and other agents of the government) can do their job and then go home at night without being too worried that their house has been burned down with their wife and kids inside. But if you look at Colombia in the 1980s or swathes of present-day Mexico, you can see that forcing people to rethink their day-jobs is quite possible.

However, in both Colombia and Mexico it took the opposition moving beyond mere protests and criminality into forming paramilitaries. Moving things closer to home, this is exactly what the IRA (or more accurately, the PIRA) did in Northern Ireland: formed a paramilitary and started picking off soldiers, policemen, judges, lawyers, and others who they believed were representatives of the government. They even attacked their families, thus raising the stakes even higher.

Unlike the Venezuelans, the IRA weren’t afraid to get their hands dirty and resort to murder and intimidation. Perhaps we’re dealing with different cultures or a different situation, or perhaps – as my Venezuelan mate suggested – a different class of people. I didn’t know any IRA paramilitaries, but I can’t imagine they were middle class. One of the more minor reasons they lost their grip on the place was that the province got wealthier and the middle class grew: it’s easier for paramilitaries to recruit hordes of young men with no prospects, less so if they’re going off to university and into engineering jobs immediately after.

Clearly a lot of people are upset by the terrorist atrocity in Manchester, just as they were by the other dozen or so massacres that Islamists have carried out in Europe in the last few years. Nobody expects anything to change, and they won’t until the population has had enough. The government isn’t going to change anything, and – as Brendon O’Neill’s piece implied – their chief concern is the masses getting so angry that they start demanding something be done. So far the government has managed to keep a lid on things, but as these terrorist attacks keep mounting up and the same meaningless platitudes are mumbled by police and politicians after each atrocity, the harder this will be.

At this point, the British government will be hoping that the outrage over Islamic terrorism doesn’t get taken up by those who are willing to get their hands dirty and are competent. So far it is a section of the middle classes and a handful of rather dense skinheads who are the most upset, and neither poses much threat to a policeman smashing in somebody’s door for posting something nasty about Muslims on Twitter.

I noticed this morning that the army is being deployed around the country at “sensitive sites”, which I expect means places where politicians hang out. When the British first sent the army into Northern Ireland it was ostensibly to protect Catholics from Protestant violence, and they were welcomed by the Catholic communities. This didn’t last long, and soon British soldiers were seen as very much the enemy. The Royal Ulster Constabulary was ostensibly neutral but the IRA – perhaps with some justification – believed they were firmly on the side of the Protestants, who enjoyed the backing of the mainland government. This meant that The Troubles were as much about the maiming and murder of policemen and soldiers as unionist Protestants. It will be interesting to see what the army’s mission is, and whether this will evolve in a worrying manner, e.g. British soldiers being asked to “protect” hotbeds of Islamic extremism.

I think we’re about to enter into what will prove to be a rather interesting period of British history, in which two questions will be answered:

1) Are there enough people in Britain willing to get their hands dirty, as the IRA were?

2) Will they make policemen, politicians, and possibly even soldiers pay a heavy price for doing their jobs?

I am unsure about 1), but I suspect the answer is no. The middle classes are too large, their lives too comfortable, and they have little experience of violence. The criminal classes are happy to dish out the violence, but as in Venezuela they are not much interested in politics and aren’t going to take up the cudgels on behalf of anyone else.

But if the answer to 1) is yes, then I suspect the answer to 2) will also be yes. The first sign of things going badly wrong in Britain might not be a mob firebombing a mosque but a policeman or judge winding up in a ditch, throat cut, with a note stuffed in his pocket.

Either way, this isn’t going to end well.

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The Post-Terror Narrative

I didn’t bother to comment on the terror attack in Manchester because I said everything after the last one, and I know what is coming next (nothing). This Jihad Fatigue is a bugger to shake.

However, this article by Brendan O’Neill in Spiked is worth reading:

It is becoming clear that the top-down promotion of a hollow ‘togetherness’ in response to terrorism is about cultivating passivity. It is about suppressing strong public feeling. It’s about reducing us to a line of mourners whose only job is to weep for our fellow citizens, not ask why they died, or rage against their dying. The great fear of both officialdom and the media class in the wake of terror attacks is that the volatile masses will turn wild and hateful. This is why every attack is followed by warnings of an ‘Islamophobic backlash’ and heightened policing of speech on Twitter and gatherings in public: because what they fundamentally fear is public passion, our passion. They want us passive, empathetic, upset, not angry, active, questioning. They prefer us as a lonely crowd of dutiful, disconnected mourners rather than a real collective of citizens demanding to know why our fellow citizens died and how we might prevent others from dying. We should stop playing the role they’ve allotted us.

Go read the whole thing.

 

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Poisoning Minds

Laurie Penny, the radical feminist and polyamorist, caught hold of the developments surrounding Julian Assange last week and decided to make them all about her. Her article starts off with a warning:

This post comes with a trigger warning for rape and sexual assault that should be visible from space.

I don’t know about trigger warnings, but a Martian would have certainly caught the wokeness.

Some of them are just everyday internet idiots who happen to believe that if a man who you have previously consented to sex with holds you down and fucks you, that isn’t rape. If you were wearing a short skirt and flirting, that isn’t rape. If a man penetrates you without a condom while you’re asleep, against your will, that isn’t rape, not, in Akin’s words, “legitimate rape”.

Or, if it’s Roman Polanski we’re talking about, it’s not “rape-rape“.

Old, white, powerful men know what rape is, much better, it seems, than rape victims.

Whoopi Goldberg aside, it’s old white men to blame. Who else?

As a culture, we still refuse collectively to accept that most rapes are committed by ordinary men, men who have friends and families, men who may even have done great or admirable things with their lives. We refuse to accept that nice guys rape, and they do it often.

We do? Actually, normal people believe most rapes are carried out by sickened individuals who inhabit the criminal fringes of society with the remainder falling to men who otherwise appear ordinary and whom you’d never suspect of such a crime. I’m sure Penny knows this, but:

This is not an article about Julian Assange.

No, it’s an article about Penny:

The man who raped me wasn’t a bad guy.

He was one of the good rapists?

He was in his early thirties, a well-liked and well-respected member of a social circle of which I am no longer a part,  a fun-loving, left-leaning chap who was friends with a number of strong, feminist women I admired.  I was nineteen. I admired him too.

Note the importance of his political orientation in Penny’s explanation as to why she ended up in bed with a rapist. Had he been a paid-up Republican I somehow think Penny would not be using sentences such as “the man who raped me wasn’t a bad guy”. Her judgement was found wanting then, and I’m wondering whether it’s any better now.

One night, a group of my friends held a big party in a hotel. Afterwards, a few of the older guests, including this man, invited me up to the room they had rented. I knew that some drinking and kissing and groping might happen. I started to feel ill, and asked if It would be alright if I went to sleep in the room – and I felt safe, because other people were still there. I wasn’t planning to have sex with this man or with anyone else that night, but if I had been, that wouldn’t have made it okay for him to push his penis inside me without a condom or my consent.

The next thing I remember is waking up to find myself being penetrated, and realising that my body wasn’t doing what I told it to. Either I was being held down or – more likely – I was too sick to move. I’ve never been great at drinking, which is why I don’t really do it any more, but this feeling was more profound, and to this day I don’t know if somebody put something in my drink that night. I was horrified at the way his face looked, fucking me, contorted and sweating. My head span. I couldn’t move. I was frightened, but he was already inside me, and I decided it was simplest to turn my face away and let him finish. When he did, I crawled to the corner of the enormous bed and lay there until the sun came up.

In the morning I got up, feeling sick and hurting inside, and took a long, long shower in the hotel’s fancy bathroom. The man who had fucked me without my consent was awake when I came out. He tried to push me down on the bed for oral, but I stood up quickly and put on my dress and shoes. I asked him if he had used a condom. He told me that he ‘wasn’t into latex’, and asked if I was on the pill.

I’m going to take Penny’s word for it that this actually happened. Granted she has made stuff up before, but the purpose of this post is not to cast doubt on her version of events. As she describes above, she was raped. Which is a pretty shit thing to happen.

I don’t remember thinking ‘I have just been raped’. After all, this guy wasn’t behaving in the manner I had learned to associate with rapists. Rapists are evil people.

So who taught you, at age 19, what rapists were like? I’ll hazard a guess that the “number of strong, feminist women” she admired who were friends with this rapist made the same political points you did, i.e. that old, powerful white men are largely are the ones to look out for and that being left-leaning automatically made him “decent”. Thus leaving you hopelessly ill-equipped to deal with a real-life rapist.

They’re not nice blokes who everybody respects who simply happen to think it’s ok to stick your dick in a teenager who’s sleeping in the same bed as you, without a condom. This guy seemed, if anything, confused as to why I was scrabbling for my things and bolting out the door. He even sent me an email a few days later, chiding me for being rude.

The point of Penny’s post appears to be that her rapist appeared nice but turned out not to be, on the assumption that it was an easy mistake to make. But what exactly was this social-circle of which she is no longer a part, and who the hell were these friends? This man appears to be engaging in behaviour deemed acceptable to the group: where is their culpability in all of this? Did he treat others in the same way? Note that the age gap is at least 12 years, which at the respective ages speaks volumes.

I had to wait two weeks for test results which showed that the man who raped me had given me a curable infection.

Why do I get the impression that this individual is not half as normal and decent as Penny is letting us believe. At a guess, I would say he is a slimy fucker of the first water who hangs around lefty circles hoping to get into the knickers of women, usually much younger and with low self-esteem and few morals, throwing out leftist and feminist platitudes to get himself accepted with no further scrutiny. Penny, at nineteen years of age, ought to have stayed well away from him even if she didn’t think he was a rapist.

I told my friend that I felt dirty and ashamed of myself. She said she was sorry I felt that way. Everybody else in that social circle seemed to agree that by going to that hotel room and taking off my nice lace dress I had asked for whatever happened next, and so I dropped the issue. They were right and I was wrong.

Some friends. Who, let’s not forget, were feminists.

It’s so common that – sorry if this hurts to hear – there’s a good chance you know somebody who might have raped someone else.

I can believe this, but it is more a reflection of Penny’s social circles and readership than the presence of rapists among menfolk in general.

I didn’t report my rape. It took me months even to understand it as rape. I stopped talking about it, because I was sick of being called a liar, and I got the shut-up message fairly fast. I tried to stop thinking about it.

By whom? Your family? Friends?

But this week brought it all up again.

That was yesterday. And that’s why I’m writing this post now. I’ve actually written it three times, and deleted it twice, and I’ve decided to bite my lip and click ‘publish’, because this vicious drift towards victim-blaming must stop. It’s not about Julian Assange, not really, not any more.

No Penny, it’s about you. Only it’s inadvertently about your appalling judgement, both then and now. Not in a way that implies you shouldn’t have gone to bed with him or led him on or that you deserved it. Not at all. Just that you should never have even met him in the first place, let alone admired him, and nor should you have entered a social circle of people who allow this sort of thing to happen and then blame you afterwards.

Had Penny wanted to write an article about her experiences, she could have listed the reasons why she, being young an impressionable, fell into this circle and made contact with these people and how she could have done with some sensible advice at the time. That may have been of some use to any young woman – and there will be many – who finds themselves in a similar situation of falling in with rather unpleasant older women who appear to share their values yet who consort with rapists. But that would require challenging her deep beliefs surrounding the nature of modern-day feminism and wouldn’t supply an opportunity to score political points and insinuate that every third male is a rapist.

I write this partly because the damage these so-called feminists do to impressionable young women is shameful, and twofold: firstly they encourage women to make extremely poor decisions which are very difficult to reverse, and then they deny them the ability to deal with what has happened and move on. Instead they fill their heads with the same garbage that got them into the mess in the first place and encourage them to preach the same poison to the younger generation – as Penny is now doing. Her brand of politically-charged feminism is going to make it more likely impressionable young women get raped because she is presenting ordinary, decent men as rapists and encouraging them to adopt the same misguided attitudes towards sex, friendship, and social interaction that landed her in such trouble. She’s learned something from her experience, but alas she ought to have learned a lot more.

The other reason I write this is because it aligns closely with the main character in my book, based on somebody I knew, who made some appalling decisions as a young and impressionable young woman in the absence of a decent set of friends and competent family members, and – almost a decade later – utterly failed to deal with any of it thanks to surrounding herself with older, radical feminists that encouraged her to embrace the lifestyle further, avoid any self-reflection, and angrily reject criticism.

These people have a lot to answer for.

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Travels

I’m in London until Monday, so posting might be light or non-existent. No particular reason for me visiting other than it’s been a while and it would be nice to see some folk. I’ll be meeting some of the Samizdata lot on Saturday evening, which promises to induce a ferocious hangover on Sunday.

Highlight of my journey was feeding my outdated fiver into the change machine in the cross-channel ferry and getting coins in return. That’s saved me a trip to the Bank of England, having missed the cut-off date by a week or two.

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A tragic end to a polyamorous relationship

I am indebted to commenter Nikw211 in this thread at David Thompson’s for this story:

A member of YouTube’s skeptic community has been arrested in the fatal shooting of a woman, who has since been identified as his female YouTube co-host. Better known as “RDP” or Skeptic Feminist on social media, 29-year-old Aleksandr Kolpakov was arrested by police and is currently being held in Mesa County, Colorado jail on suspicion of second-degree murder.

The victim was identified this Monday afternoon as 31-year-old Heather Anable, a co-streamer in Kolpakov’s videos who viewers knew as “Ivy.” The coroner’s office ruled her death a homicide. Anable was shot multiple times in the neck and chest.

I saw something breaking on Twitter last night about this and couldn’t work out what was going on, so I lost interest. Or rather, I did until I found that Kolpakov and his victim were in a polyamorous relationship with another of their co-hosts of the Skeptic Feminist channel. Here is a video of Anable spelling out the virtues of ‘committed polyamory’ while Kolpakov sits beside her.

According to Twitter, Kolpakov is a US Army veteran and suffers from PTSD as a result of his service in Iraq. As Nikw211 remarks:

I find it quite hard to imagine how the particular stresses and strains involved in living in a polyamorous relationship would have been helpful for the stress levels of someone with an already imbalanced mental state.

Whether Kolpakov has PTSD or not will no doubt be confirmed or otherwise in his trial, but it seems almost certain that he did shoot and kill his lover. For a trio that made themselves vaguely famous by telling everyone that their polyamorous setup was full of advantages and based firmly in love this is a rather ironic ending, albeit tragic.

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Traditional versus Self-Publishing

dearieme points me towards this illuminating post on the subject of authors getting published. It makes for grim reading if what you expected was something different:

As you might imagine, I often hear from wannabe professional writers who have finished a book-length project and are horrified to discover that getting it published is harder than writing the damn thing. I offer them the sagest bit of wisdom I possess, which is that perseverance counts more than talent. A harsh message perhaps, but essential to incorporate in your world-view if you want to take up the vocation.

It only gets worse from here.

It’s especially troublesome if you produce something original, something that doesn’t fit into a tried-and-true marketing template.

Uh-huh.

I came by this knowledge the hard way, having been fucked around by morons in the publishing industry my whole career — not to put too fine a point on it.

The truth is, you are producing work that nobody asked for and that no one especially cares about.

That last part is particularly important.

You have to grind away at this lonely business day-after-day to get the job done. The only thing that avails to keep you going is your own conviction that it is worth doing.

Which to be fair is the case for anything. From memory, nobody paid me to learn Russian.

Thus, the second morsel of wisdom I offer wannabes is to give up seeking validation from friends and relatives. I never ask friends to read my works-in-progress.

I quit doing this early on because, frankly, only one person was interested. Which only goes to amplify the point that nobody asked for it and nobody especially cares about it. That said, the one person’s feedback has been extremely helpful. Plus all of your comments on the excerpt, of course.

I sent the manuscript out to two editors who had expressed some interest in my work over the years. The first guy, Daniel Menaker at Harper Collins, had a snit when he learned I’d made a multiple submission — a no-no for authors in those days — and told me to get lost.

Publishers really are arrogant shits, aren’t they? They turn people down by the million but get all snotty if you submit your proposal to anyone other than them.

I finished my latest “book” project last year around Halloween. In late December, my publisher turned it down. I’d been with The Atlantic Monthly Press, part of the Grove-Atlantic group, for seven books, starting with The Long Emergency.

They eventually published my four-book World Made By Hand series of novels about life in a small New England town after the sort of economic collapse I described in The Long Emergency, a natural progression for me. I sensed they were none too happy about the project, but perhaps the chance that the series might be picked up by a cable network kept them on the line. My advances sank with each book. In any case, they never offered a kind word (e.g. “Hey, nice job… I enjoyed it….”). They did absolutely nothing in the way of marketing the books.

If an established publisher isn’t going to bother marketing your book, what is the point of using them in the modern era? To get it on a shelf for a week before pulping the lot? And being dropped like a stone without warning appears to be a part of life in the writing world.

So, when I handed in A Safe and Happy Place last year, they dumped me just in time for Christmas. My current agent didn’t want to try to sell it elsewhere, either. He said it was “off my brand” of hard-hitting polemical non-fiction and no other publisher would want it.

Like a lot of so-called professions – recruiters, letting agents – literary agents seem to be very much fair-weather friends, happy take their cut when things are going well of their own accord, but unwilling to put in any effort when things get more difficult.

If his publishers won’t market books and agents refuse to do their job, it’s hard to see why anyone would choose to go the traditional route over self-publishing these days. I suspect in the coming years we’ll see more and more examples like Andy Weir’s The Martian, which was self-published and then snapped up by a traditional publisher when they realised it was doing exceptionally well (it is worth reading, miles better than the film). As I said, fair-weather friends.

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Are the German Greens suffering the same fate as UKIP?

Staying on the subject of lunatic Greens, they are facing electoral gloom in Germany:

Germany’s once high-flying Green Party is foundering in many states. After a disastrous election result in North Rhine-Westphalia, the party is promising change, but it may come too late for September’s national poll.

The whole article is worth reading and gives some idea as to why the Greens, who were once a powerful political force in Germany’s coalition governments, are now in trouble:

Following the widely publicized incidents on New Year’s Eve 2015 in Cologne, which saw widespread sexual assaults committed largely by asylum seekers, the party struggled to come up with a clear position on its refugee and security policies (they still aren’t even clear today).

It seems the Germans haven’t quite rejected populism, either.

The party successfully helped block deportations of Afghan nationals whose asylum applications had been rejected, but it did little to communicate what the rest of its asylum policies might look like.

Quite how deluded one would need to be to do something like this and expect electoral success, even in Germany, is difficult to imagine.

Furthermore, in a state that has undergone deep structural changes, with the end of coal mining and much heavy industry, the party could have benefited by positioning itself more strongly as an environmentalist party. Instead, the party placed its focus almost entirely on education — despite the fact that only 4 percent of voters in the state consider the Greens to be truly competent in this policy area.

I think that paragraph offers the best explanation, although the author doesn’t quite say it. The fact is, all mainstream political parties adopted the Greens’ more sensible environmental policies years ago, as well as too many of their idiotic ones. Germany has already agreed to close its nuclear power plants and impose the strictest environmental legislation in Europe on its industries and households. The same pattern is repeated across most of the developed world now: every major political party has signed up to the hysteria on climate change (even Trump has yet to withdraw from the Paris Agreement, as he promised he would), air pollution is a permanent hot-topic particularly now the results of pushing everyone to switch to diesel engines is becoming clear, recycling has been firmly adopted as the new religion in the west, and useless windmills are being built at an ever-increasing pace to meet ludicrous renewable energy targets.

This has left the Greens outflanked on most environmental subjects. In order to differentiate themselves they’ve been forced to propose utterly insane policies (ban motor cars, stop eating meat, etc.) and to venture into other areas (e.g. education) where they are useless or social matters (e.g. immigration) where they are out of whack with the majority of the population. The mainstream parties have stolen their popular policies leaving them looking like a bunch of nutjobs on the fringe. Which they are, of course.

A reasonable similarity may be drawn between the fate of the Greens in Germany and that of UKIP in Britain. UKIP have found their defining policy – Britain leaving the EU – adopted by the Conservatives, leaving little reason for voters to stick with them. Whenever UKIP have tried to branch out from their main policy into other areas they’ve proved themselves to be an incoherent, squabbling mess which no sensible voter would go anywhere near. With Brexit underway, their raison d’être has vanished and they lack the competence to transform themselves into a serious party. Perhaps the Greens in Germany and elsewhere are treading the same path. I certainly hope so.

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Populism not as rejected as previously thought

Anyone remember the election in The Netherlands last March, after which we were told the Dutch people rejected “the wrong kind of populism”? Here’s what I said afterwards:

For sure, Geert Wilders didn’t win outright, and nor did his Freedom Party even come close to doing so, but they came second with a seat count of 20 up from 15, which is an increase of a third. The mistake I think people like Hollande and Merkel, and possibly even Rutte, are making is believing the policies of the Freedom Party have been overwhelmingly rejected and can safely be ignored from hereon.

Well, whaddya know?

Negotiations to form the next Dutch government have collapsed as the four parties involved were unable to decide what to do about migration.

Prime Minister Mark Rutte’s centre-right VVD party had sought to strike a deal with the liberal D66, the Christian Democrats and the Green-Left.

The talks had been ongoing for 61 days since an election in March.

The Green-Left support open borders, while the other three want stricter controls.

That would be the Green-Left who came 5th in the election and who secured some percentage of their votes because their leader, Jesse Klaver, is good looking. Therein lies the problem of coalition governments, the lunatics on the fringe get to play kingmaker.

The minister who had been tasked with forming the new government will submit a report to parliament before the members discuss how to proceed.

Geert Wilders, the leader of the anti-EU, anti-Islam Freedom Party, welcomed the news, saying he was ready to talk.

His party came second in the polls.

Angela Merkel was unavailable for comment, possibly because Macron won’t let her out of his sight.

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