The Dream Café

Steven Brust: “A masterful storyteller of contagious glee and self-deprecating badassery” —Skyler White

All Right, Yeah, I’m a Conservative

| 23 Comments

I really am.  Those who know me well already know that, but for the rest of you, let me explain.

There is what one believes, and then there are one’s natural inclinations.  And all of my inclinations are suspicious of change. Not against change; suspicious of it.  I scowl when new words are coined, and demand that they justify themselves.  In music, I grimace and tap my foot impatiently at drum machines and atonality.

In Texas Hold ’em, I still call the fourth community card “fourth street” and the fifth one “fifth street” instead of “the turn” and the “the river” respectively. Why? Because I do, that’s why.

In politics, yeah, I’m a Red, but I’m an old-school Red: an orthodox Trotskyist, a traditional Marxist. I believe that the proletariat is the revolutionary class, that the falling rate of profit causes market crashes, that history is best understood as the struggle to wrest human wants from nature, that the materialist dialectic is the best general explanation we have for matter in motion, and that explanations for social phenomena that don’t start with the class struggle are liable to be vacuous. I disliked the New Left when it was New; and I still dislike it now that it’s no longer Left.  Post-modernism and identity politics I find easy to hate, because both my inclination and my reasoned beliefs line up (as opposed to language and music, where, really, I wish I were more comfortable with change).

And in fiction, I am quite fine with both reading and telling stories. I feel like all fiction ought be stories. I do not believe that; I believe that there is room  for all sorts of experimenting and wild, weird stuff. But what I want are stories. I want to write them and then see them published in books.  You know, the kind people hold, and turn the pages, and read? And I want them sold in book stores where people browse; and I want them in libraries where people can pull them off the shelves and consider checking them out; and I want them in used book stores where people who can’t afford new books can try new authors without going broke.

I approve of the new stuff, of e-books, of certain alternate publishing strategies. I think, long-term, they will probably have a positive effect on the quality of stories; but I’m not comfortable with them.

Because, at heart, however much I wish I weren’t, I’m a conservative.

 

skzb

Author: skzb

I play the drum.

23 Comments

  1. ;
    ;
    (Giving your semicolons back. I know you miss them.)

  2. skzb

    Aww…thanks; that was sweet. I’m glad I have them; I’m not sure what to do with them. Oh, and thanks for the edit; it helped.

  3. I always try and support my favorite authors by buying hardcovers, where available. I will be devastated if it all goes ebook. I have a story for you though. Some years ago I took my parents on a trip to Nova Scotia. We took the ferry from Maine, and thus had the car there. On a wild, unplanned drive through extremely desolate landscape for some hours, we came across, in the middle of absolutely nothing but scrub for miles; a used bookstore cafe. It was wonderful. Of course we went in, and browsing through the titles (about 70% of which were specular fiction!)…I came across the one title of yours I didn’t have. The whole episode was surreal, and was my favorite moment of the trip, lobster dinner notwithstanding.

  4. The problem with Marx’s theory on the falling rate of profits is that the financial markets were insignificant in his day; now they vastly outweigh all other markets combined. Financial instruments do not give rise to a profit or loss in any way that Marx understood. For example, the record for the largest loss on a single trade stands at $250,000,000; it took 30 minutes to lose a quarter of a billion dollars. The counter party to the trade made a modest profit.

    Conservatism is all very well, but ignoring the underlying facts is not a good way of setting about trying to understand how the global financial markets came very close to causing the ultimate economic death spiral.

    Particularly since it may have only been deferred in the short term, not avoided.

    On the other hand I regard Texas Hold ’em as a new fangled notion which took all the fun out of playing poker…

  5. Speaking of ebooks… are you SURE your publishers are still cranking out the older Vlad books (esp on Kindle)? Because they’re takin’ their bloody time about it… 🙁

    Tell ’em there’s folks waiting in line to give them money out here!

    Thanks…

    [A Marxist Conservative… does that make you a CommieCon?]

  6. Congradulations, admitting the problem is the first step to solving it (just kidding). I’m also privately conservative. I don’t dare wish to force my choices, beliefs, or views on anyone else, and I like to hope that I don’t judge others for being different than I am, but I’m very against my wife getting an abortion, myself marrying a man, and the government controlling my ability to get a really cool gun just because I want to shoot something (not someone).

  7. I’ve had the same realization, with the corollary that it is only getting worse as I get older. I salve my ego with this thought; while I may be inclined to be a stick in the mud, as long as I remember that others’ excitement about change is as valid as my fear, I’m not quite ready for the dustbin of history.

  8. Chris F

    Well, at the very least I would expect a conservative to divorce his wife before he married again, regardless of the gender of the new spouse…

  9. You say your are an orthodox Trotskyist. But would you also consider yourself a left wing liberatarian? I don’t know if I just made your gag your coffee or not when asking this. I’m serious though. Your comments things such as gambling, smoking and censorship, as well as your enthusiasm to debate with others of differing views but yet sticking to your guns would suggest you are.

  10. My parents always used to identify themselves as “conservatives” despite their (far less formal, probably not-quite-as-left) socialist leanings. Mostly for similar reasons.

    Music, I don’t know. I could tell you just give it some time, give it some space–you’d be surprised. My dad swore since I was able to understand it that he hated punk rock. I mean, he owned albums by The Clash, and he owned albums by The Ramones since forever–but he thought the Sex Pistols were terrible, and all sorts of other stuff.

    I started playing him Bad Brains and Dead Kennedys and Buzzcocks and and and–now, well, thanks to my blog¹ he’s actually been ordering things like Burning Airlines and Buzzcocks and some other things outside his musical comfort zones. I myself long since determinedly abandoned mine. Some of it is helped by knowing a lot of people who had sincere appreciation for the odd (including the atonal and the dissonant), some of it by just…sitting down and listening to things I didn’t necessarily expect or intend to. I can’t explain that one too well, but it’s sort of like a really willful mind-opening (without the reverse/passive implication of alternate closed-mindedness, barring the inevitable portion we all suffer from and shouldn’t be TOO offended by, since we all share it).

    I can’t speak much to reading, but I had both CDs and vinyl come in the mail today, and have download codes amongst them, so I’ve always favoured mixed media anyway. I think some things would work nicely in digital form, but would always like the physical option. Five and a half years in a bookstore means I have more books than ebooks (ebooks: zero, but that *could* change…eventually…I guess…)

    ¹Not intended as a plug, just a reality. Though, in truth, the object behind it is to encourage just that kind of exposure, so, maybe that is the point? I don’t know.

  11. skzb

    Scmwarf: I’d never describe myself that way. It might be accurate, depending on what it means, but if so, it’s a rather recent term, and I’m a conservative.

  12. I can never get into e-books. Reading things electronically just increases my natural urge to skip over half of the words. Plus (as far as I’m aware) e-book readers don’t come with ‘new book smell’, or ‘used book store smell’. And how can I feel smug and intelligent unless I have wall to ceiling stacks of books in my house?!

    That and I don’t trust technology. I think I could watch a child play with a scorpion and not feel the same level of panic as watching my computer eat 5,000 words I just spent hours laboring over (What do you mean they’re gone?! GIVE ME BACK MY WORDS!!). What happens if my hypothetical e-reader eats a novel I’m enjoying? Or if it takes a tumble down the stairs? Or if I fall asleep reading in the bathtub? If it runs out of memory do I have to tearfully delete books? Must I buy a new reader? And if I forget the 700th incarnation of my password? Do I lose everything I’ve bought electronically?

    Nope. I can’t do e-books. I’ll be a tree murderer for life.

  13. @Nicky, all your ebooks are likely to be in the magical amazon (or google or whoever) cloud so you don’t have to worry about deletion or damage to the device.

    What you *do* have to worry about is amazon (or google or whoever) deciding that you don’t deserve to read that book anymore, or worse, that you don’t deserve access to your account anymore…. There is very little legal protection against that kind of thing happening, even if it is admittedly extremely unlikely — there have been a couple of such cases in the news.

    Anyway, I like ebooks for casual stuff, because I can’t carry my library around with me, but if I have any device online I have all these myriad myriads of books to choose from at any moment. For a serious novel, though, it has to be paper. The quality of the reading experience is still considerably lower on any tablet or computer. This does mean I have to get rid of a lot of physical books from time to time when my house starts filling up. Probably have another 300-400 or so to donate to the library right now.

    Returning to conservatism as a general mind-set for life, pretty much everyone is really conservative in that way: even kids, or perhaps I should say, especially kids, since they haven’t lived long enough to understand that living conditions do change out from under them. Of course you can always deliberately break your mold if you want to, and if there is no grievous addiction or habit retarding your choice; but in any given situation, it’s not necessarily the case that it’s a good idea to do so….

  14. The mind is a conservative thing, changing only when the objective conditions force it to change. – Trotsky.

    I hated ebooks until I lost my hardcopy and only had an ebook copy to read. – Christie.

    True story.

  15. skzb

    Jesus. And now you’re quoting Trotsky. Who ARE you?

  16. skzb

    Well, fellow-worker, you’re welcome here any time.

  17. I use an e-book with the books stored on internal memory so they cant decide to steal them from me. I use my e-reader to replace a forth floor to ceiling book-shelf that would cover the wall containing my door. They can be very convienient that way.

  18. Seriously? They can just arbitrarily take your book away?

    Though I suppose I can believe it. A similar thing happened to my girlfriend a while back when we moved to Japan. Suddenly a huge chunk of the music she had legally purchased through iTunes was ‘restricted’ and she can’t listen to it anymore.

  19. E-book readers are the only piece of new technology I truly lust for.

    The last e-reader I drooled over had a memory capacity of 16,000 books. SIXTEEN THOUSAND. If I read a book *every single day*, that would still likely last me for the rest of my life, and if not, I can expand the memory.

    I can back up and *entire library* on a thumb drive that I can wear like a charm on a necklace or bracelet. If I am worried about loosing my books, I can back them up on three or four different thumb drives and hide them all in different places….or have a thumbdrive charm bracelet and carry copies with me everywhere, just in case.

    No, it is not the same as reading a book (although with the new touch screens, they are trying to imitate turning pages. I think some of the newest ones have a speaker that gives a “weesh” sound when you do so.), but I think about my 9 floor-to-ceiling bookcases, and how I could have ALL of them with me in a form that fits in my purse?

    Ooooohhhhh….geekgasm!

    The other day, I was in Guitar Center (I was buying medium picks…because a certain someone I know never seems to have one when he needs it……….) and saw a nearly paper-thin, electronic drum set. A gentleman there was having a grand time with it and thoroughly enjoying himself, and I was thinking, “Wow. Steve could pack that ENTIRE SET into a briefcase! How cool is that?” Because honestly, one of the major problems drummers have is space to set up their set, and space to store it when it is not in use. The entire thing could be set up in 10 minutes and torn down in five….and stored on a shelf in the coat closet.

    My, my, my.

    But I think “conservative” is open to interpretation. What some people consider “conservative”, I do not. Some issues people claim as “new”, I do not. In language, the use of the plural pronouns (they, them) to denote a single person of unknown sex has been in use by respected writers since *at least* the 1300’s. Seven centuries. 700 years. Yet I still hear people complaining that it is not “proper”, or that it is “newfangled”.

    ~chuckles~ Seriously? The practice has been around longer than modern English. Can we get over it yet?

    When it comes to technology, I look at each thing individually. I tend to be FOR most advances in electronics. I tend to be suspicious of most releases of GMOs, and wish they would test them a lot more (In INDEPENDENT peer review, thank you!) before releasing them. However, I think that is because the consequences of bad technology are so much greater when releasing new organisms into the environment than it is when releasing advanced electronics. Hard-drives going from Gigs to Teras having bad technology are unlikely to have the same impact as, say, crops that kill insects having bad technology. The former means my computer might die a horrid death; the latter could effect entire ecosystems.

    So SOME things I am slow to accept, and I could rightly consider myself a conservative. Other things, however, gimme, gimme, gimme that change!

  20. I’ll admit that much of my disinterest in a lot of modern technology (aside from my deep rooted trust issues) comes from the frustration of, after having learned how to use one piece, a new piece comes out that I must own/update/become proficient in. A frustration which is further compounded by each new item having a shorter and shorter life span.

    Not that I can’t appreciate the convenience of it at all; I love being able to Skype with my family across the world, use an iPhone for everything but making phone calls and having omnipresent internet access. Reading a book electronically though is not something that I can accept for myself as really changing anything so far as convenience is concerned. I don’t have a need to hold that many books on my person at any one time (my need to be surrounded by books in my own home notwithstanding).

    I suppose that a large part of my enjoyment of books comes from their physical aesthetic. Look, smell, feel, sound -maybe baby me gummed a few books in her time, but I can’t remember any of it to actually comment on the pleasure of the taste. No e-book will be able to simulate that for me.

  21. Nothing beats walking into a Mom-and-Pop Used Bookstore (i.e., Non-Corporate), and having the SMELL hit you. You know the one I am talking about, the one where you can tell how many inventory turns they have a year by how strong that smell is. A place with a cat lounging somewhere, a coffeepot on the counter, where the paperbacks are all dog-eared, and the book you are looking for is always on the next shelf over from where it is supposed to be. I love those places, even though they are much harder to find now than before.

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