Fiction On-Line?

So the new novel is finished and in the mail.  My agent has it now.  From there, who knows?

Anyone who has kept up with me here knows that the last five years have been, well, dismal publishing-wise.  The situation became even more complicated in 2008 when the global economy fell into the toilet and publishing began to look like a front-line regiment in WWI.  Everyone in the field watched in horror at the casualty figures as an industry that had seemed to be doing pretty well began hemorrhaging at the pores.

Naturally, I’ve been trying to think of What To Do Next in order to stave off professional oblivion.  Writing one more novel that will likely end up sitting on someone’s desk for X number of years, unread, unrejected, and unbought (obviously) seems silly, unless I write it for pure love.

One notion is to do what a few others have done to some success.  Put up a novel here, on my website, for free.


I need readers.  I need a fan base.  I need to get my work in front of people who might really like it.

So I’d like to hear what everyone thinks.  (Yes, I actually have such a beast, about two-thirds completed.  With enough interest, I would certainly finish the book sooner than later.)

I’ve never gotten a lot of commenter feedback here, so I don’t even know how many of you read me on any kind of regular basis.  This might be a good time to make yourselves known and tell me what you think.

Ada Lovelace Day

I just discovered that there is a day for this brilliant woman.

Ada Lovelace was the daughter of Lord Byron, a scholar, and wrote what is arguably the very first computer program in an essay about Charles Babbage.  Of course, since she was a woman at a time when women were considered not to have either brains or rights, she would have been seen as an anomaly at best, a monster at worst.  Since she had some position, however, she has not been forgotten or dismissed.

Warning: personal opinion follows.

Women who denigrate the idea of Feminism and fail to understand how tenuous their position is vis-a-vis  history cause me heartburn.  If they think about it at all, they seem to believe Woman As Property happens in the Third World and nothing like that can happen here (wherever the particular Here happens to be).

But then you run into something like this.  One paragraph from this report says it all:

Females do not have voting privileges, but are generally allowed to speak at meetings, according to Klaetsch. Sunday’s meeting was the first time in recent history that St. John’s Council President Don Finseth exercised his authority to prevent females from speaking, church members say.

This is in Wisconsin.  Recently.  I grant you, this is not a state practice, but in these times when so many people seem to feel that religion trumps civic law, it’s a disturbing thing to behold.  The question in my mind is, why don’t all the women there pick up their marbles and leave?

Because they either buy into the second class status accorded them or they like something about the condition they inhabit.  Western women have it easy in such matters—no one will stone them if they get a little uppity.  For them, this is a “lifestyle” choice, at least functionally.  In parts of the Middle East and Africa it’s life or death.

Back when I was in high school, in the supposedly enlightened United States of America, in 1971, I took an architectural drawing class.  The room was filled with boys.  All boys.

One girl was taking the class.  Where was she?  The teacher put her in a separate room, the supply room at the back, with her own drafting table and tools.  Why?  Because the morons inhabiting the rest of the class wouldn’t leave her alone, wouldn’t let her do her work, teased her, ridiculed her, abused her, told her she was weird, unnatural, a lesbian, that she wanted to be a man, that all she needed was a good screwing and she’d get this crazy notion of being an architect right out her system.  I heard this, witnessed some of it.  It made me profoundly uncomfortable at the time, but I didn’t understand it other than as the same run-of-the-mill bullying that I myself had been subjected to all through grade school.

But it went beyond that, I now see, because what was doing ran counter to some idea of what the relative roles of men and women are “supposed” to be.  Did the boys indulging the abuse understand that?  No, of course not.  They were parroting what they’d grown up seeing at home and elsewhere, with no more reflection or self-awareness than the hardwired belief that Real Americans all love baseball that Communism was automatically evil and John Wayne was just shy of the second coming.  Analysis would be the natural enemy to a traditional view that maintained an absurd status quo and should therefore be resisted, hence anyone among their peers that preferred reading to sports was also an enemy.

So celebrate Ada Lovelace Day.  No one, male or female, should accept restrictions imposed by cant and tradition and national dogma.  But until it is entirely recognized that we are all of us People first, male and female next, and that equal rights accrue to people, not types, none of us are safe in our predilections and ambitions.

Remains Still Available

A couple days ago I received my royalty statement on my last novel, Remains.  There are still copies available and if you go directly to the publisher’s site here you can pick one up at a discount.

One of the things I’ve gotten very little of is feedback on my work.  At conventions I’ve spoken to readers about one or another, but aside from the Robot novels, very few people have let me know how they felt about either the Secantis books or this one.

I’m still looking for a new publisher for my work and at present feel pretty cut off.  I thought I’d put it out there that new copies of this book can still be had and eventually I will put up a link here for people to buy what stock I have of the others.

But let me know what you think.

In Charge and At Large!

Over this past weekend I had a couple of conversations with some people about the whole prom night controversy and one of the things that got said, which I’ve heard many times before in other contexts, was that, “don’t you think the people in authority know what they’re doing?”

As if that is any answer when they demonstrate that, clearly, whatever they’re doing it has nothing to do with common sense, ethics, or any kind of honesty.

I’ve  been hearing that rejoinder for decades, ever since Vietnam, and I keep coming back to that scene in All The President’s Men when Deep Throat lectures Robert Redford about the nature of the administration and he tells him, really, these are not very smart guys.  It was a revelatory moment for me, way back then, and ever since I have had a difficult time accepting any kind of authority Just Because.

Because no, I don’t think many of these folks who are In Charge know very well what they’re doing.  They got these jobs on some kind of popularity contest basis and as long as nothing requiring a great deal of thought comes before them, it’s just administrative blank-filling.  But when they actually have to make a decision about something for which there is no line on the form…

The school board—and maybe some of the parents as well—in Itawamba County, Mississippi, reacted from personal revulsion.  They looked at Constance McMillen and thought  “Oh, that’s not right!” and gave it no more thought, because, hey, who’d gainsay them?  The Students?  Big deal.

But when Constance sued their asses, it changed to a “who the hell do you think you are?” affair and those In Charge, in a fit of pique, demonstrated even more clearly that, regardless of right or wrong, no  student was going to dictate to them, nosirree Bob, and most especially not some tuxedo-wearin’ dyke…I can picture the seething, redfaced rage at the presumption of that girl, tellin’ us we can’t bar anybody we damn please from the prom, like she has rights…

They reverted to the school yard and turned it into a pissing contest.  Do I think they know what they’re doing?

No, I don’t think such people are very smart or have good reasons for what they do and I think people who defend their actions on that assumptions themselves don’t give these matters much thought and would likely do as bad if not worse a job.  And that seems fairly consistent with what I see as a given in this country, that, when people get together in a large enough bunch, I.Q. is the first casualty.  No one wants to rock the boat, no one wants their sacred cows slaughtered, and no one wants to offend their neighbors.

Is it any wonder things are a mess?

Just askin’…

Prom Night, America

Constance McMillen wanted to go to her high school prom.  Like most students in the United States, she doubtless saw the event as the capstone of four years of effort, a gala event for students that represents a reward for getting to the end of their senior year and, presumably, graduating not only from high school but into adulthood.  One night of glamor and revelry, dressed at a level of style and affluence many might never indulge again, to celebrate the matriculation into the next level of independence.  A party where students can show themselves—to their peers and to themselves—as adults.

It has become something more, probably, than it was ever intended to be.  Patterned after high society “debuts” at which young ladies of good breeding (and potential wealth) are introduced to Society (with a capital “S”) in a manner that, when stripped of its finery and fashionable gloss, is really a very expensive dating service, with the idea of creating future matches between “suitable” couples, the high school prom is a showcase, a public demonstration of, presumably, the virtues of a graduating class.  Over the last few decades, even the less well-off schools strive to shine in what a prom achieves.  Instead of a local band in the high school gym, with bunting and streamers and colored lights to “hide” the fact that normally gym class and basketball are performed in this room, the prom has become elevated to a decent hotel with a ball room, a better-priced band (or a DJ), and all the attributes of a night on the town in Hollywood.  Tuxedos and gowns are de rigueur and students’ families spare no expense to deck their children out in clothes they really often can’t afford.  Limousines transport the budding fashionistas and their knights errant to the evening’s festivities and you know this cost a fortune.

Students may be forgiven for believing that it’s for them.

In its crudest terms, the prom is for the community, a self-congratulatory demonstration of how well the community believes it has done by its youth.  It is a statement about what that community would like to see itself as.  It is—still—a match game, from which future marriages may derive.  It is a staged exhibition of affirmation that the students have come out the end of twelve years of “schooling” the way the community wants them to.  It is, in short, less about the students, and mostly about the school and the community that pays for it.

(Match game?  Certainly.  And in this, the students play the game.  Truth in advertising requires that I make a disclaimer here.  I did not attend my high school prom.  It was 1973, a time of volcanic social upheaval, and for years I used the excuse that I didn’t go because I didn’t want to participate in an antiquated, farcical, “establishment” exercise in peurile stagecraft.  The truth was, however, I didn’t go because I couldn’t get a date, and without a date, what’s the point?  Part of the shine of prom night is to demonstrate your suitability as a future spouse, your “eligibility”, and showing up solo would be a clear statement that you’re unwanted goods, rejected.  Why couldn’t I get a date?  Ultimately, I’ll never know, but after asking 86 girls and getting a consistent NO, I gave up.)

So when someone—anyone—wants to attend the prom in a way that violates those community expectations, you may be assured there will be a negative reaction.

The last time we saw this sort of reaction was—probably—when blacks and whites started going to the prom as couples.  (Especially a black male with a white female, and if the female was blonde, oh my the reaction increased, because there has always been something particularly provocative about the idea of black males touching white females in this country.  This has largely passed now in this country, but when I was a teenager it was guaranteed to cause a fight, certainly an uproar, and many a racist conversation over dinner.)  I personally recall an instance in which a couple of males with LONG HAIR were forbidden to attend the prom unless they got their hair cut to a “proper” length.

Clothing is a big deal.  Jeans are probably frowned upon, certainly t-shirts.  Another instance I recall was a prom queen who showed up in a dress with a neckline that descended to her navel.  She was already there.  The guardians at the gate quickly assembled a bouquet of flowers three times the normal size and instructed her to hold it up to cover her skin, at least until all the photographs had been taken.

So we now see a lesbian wishing to bring her date to the prom, dressed in a tuxedo.

How many violations can we count!  Sexual orientation, dress code, and—probably the most innocent yet deadliest of them all—an expectation that the evening was for her.

She sued.  The court said her rights had been violated.  She gets to attend.  What does the school do?  What, in effect, does the community do?

Cancels the prom.

Now everyone is angry at the lesbian.  It’s her fault.  She took their evening away.

Really?  As I said, students can be forgiven for believing that prom night is for them.  Maybe it would be fairer to tell them when they’re freshmen that, in fact, no, prom night is not for you, it’s for US.  It’s to make US feel good, feel secure, feel justified, feel vindicated, validated, and reaffirmed that the vision we have for our kids and the community we wish to live in will not soon perish from the Earth.  How dare a single student presume to change the rules of the game and assume that this is somehow her night, as if, somehow, she had any rights at all?

Because she is, still, a student.  She doesn’t have her diploma yet, only the promise of one, and until she has that piece of paper in hand, she’s a Child.  Prom night is only so she can get a taste of what it could be like to be an adult.

The hypocrisy is profound.  All the accoutrements of the modern prom clearly—CLEARLY—reveal that among the other expectations students have for the night, many of them, is that at the end of the dancing and the lights and the pretty clothes and the fake debuts and the pretending at a class status most of them will never have they will get laid.  I say hypocrisy because no school official or community leader would ever admit that, yet they accede to the use of privately-leased limos and the holding of proms in hotels, exercising no control whatsoever on the after-hour activities.  Not, I hasten to add, that they could keep students from indulging themselves anyway, but by relinquishing their traditional roles of control of an ostensibly school activity they tacitly approve that activity on that night.  Which makes perfect sense, since, as I said, part of the ritual is matchmaking.

How could they control it?  Simple.  Put the event back in the high school gym, forbid limousines, require parents to escort their kids to and from the prom.

Oh, but the local business community would suffer!  All that money!


And it gets pointed up by a young woman who wishes to show up as herself, flaunting the fact that her sexual proclivities run counter to the norm—because whatever the reality is between individuals about their relationships, to the public at large homosexuality is inevitably, inextricably tangled up with sex.  People can wink and squint and avert their gaze at what most 17 and 18 year-olds are doing and pretend that, really, maybe they’re not, but Constance McMillen put it right out there.  Showing up at the prom underlined so many of the realities of that night that it made people squirm.

But rather than deny the hypocrisy, the school canceled the prom, thereby proving that prom night is about their expectations, not about the students.

Now Constance has engaged on another suit, this one to force the school to hold the prom.  I hope she wins.  Because for four years, high school students are allowed to assume that prom night is their night, and to have it revealed in such a blatant and spineless way that, no, it’s not, requires an answer.  If you advertise something in a particular way, you should deliver.  As for Itawamba County, Mississippi?  Suck it up and live with it.