All Right, Yeah, I’m a Conservative

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.


The Catmobile vs the Snowplows

The following happened back in 1991. I thought it lost forever until my friend D.W.James let me know that, in fact, he had saved it as it happened (then posted on the old bulletin board system GEnie).

So, without even fixing typos, here, as it unfolded at the time, is the saga of the Catmobile vs the Snowplows

Category 8, Topic 17
Message 483 Thu Dec 05, 1991

Bill, it was *great* doing tunes with you. More! More!

So, for those of you who like stories, a funny thing happened today. Or, actually, is happening now (pause to go look out the window), yes. Well, you see, when I got home from Silicon, I found about fifteen or twenty more inches of snow than there’d been when I left. The Catmobile (the ambulence pictured on the cover of ANOTHER WAY TO TRAVEL) was burried. Not only that, but it needed a jump-start (I left the headlights on last time I drove it). Not only *that* but it was parked on what we Minnesotans call a “Snow Emergency Route”– the first areas plowed during a snow emergency, and you’d bloody well better not leave your car there.

So, there’s the Catmobile, dead, burried, and in the wrong place, with a nice ticket sticking out of the snow mound. Not much I could do about it right away, but I figured I’d try to get some help and move the thing this weekend.

Too late. About 10:00 this evening, the city towing service arrived, dug her out enough to attach chains and stuff, and started pulling. The Catmobile didn’t want to go. They argued. The towtruck lost. I looked out the window about 11:00 and saw the poor man standing out there, scratching his head. I went out to talk to him, and found out that his truck had burned out. No engine, no power, nothing. I invited him in. He came in and used the phone. Seemed like a nice guy.

The second tow truck arrived about midnight.

The third tow truck arrived about 1:00.

They retreated in confusion about 1:30, leaving behind the first truck, which was still disabled–in front of my driveway. Now, you can’t go and block someone’s driveway, can you? ‘Course not. I called the police, and explained that their was a towtruck blocking my driveway. They came by about ten minutes ago (as I was starting to type this message) and looked at it. I don’t know what they’ll do. They’ll probably get my car eventually, but she sure hasn’t made it easy for the bastards.

Category 8, Topic 17
Message 484 Thu Dec 05, 1991

As of now (03:31 zulu) the 4th tow truck has come…and gone. Heh heh heh.

Category 8, Topic 17
Message 485 Thu Dec 05, 1991

03:55 and tow-trucks number 5, 6, and 7 are there. Number 1 is too, still being attached to the Catmobile. Truch number 6 is a big flatbed–they’re pulling out the heavy artillery now.

This is all fun, but I hope they don’t hurt the car, or I will be seriously bummed.

Category 8, Topic 17
Message 486 Thu Dec 05, 1991

04:03 Truck *NINE* showed up–another flatbed, and they’ve finally managed to get truck number 1 out of there. Now there are two flatbeds and a regular truck standing around out there. Presumably they’re finally going to take the Catmobile away, but I don’t see them actually doing anything yet.

Category 8, Topic 17
Message 487 Thu Dec 05, 1991

4:15 Truck *ten* just showed up. Another flatbed. The last regular tow-truck has split. People, I’m not making this up. Now they look serious about towing her. *Sigh*

Category 8, Topic 17
Message 488 Thu Dec 05, 1991

4:31 Yep. Number 10 finally got her. I’ll probably go in on Friday and bail her out.


Afterword added 2/12/2013: One thing I didn’t mention at the time, but clearly remember: As they were towing her away going north on Portland (which is a one-way street going south, incidentally), a bit of snow fell off the left front headlight. I swear to God, it looked at though she were winking at me.

I retrieved her the next day, and I’ll bet to this day those people have never seen anyone grinning as much when retrieving a towed-away car.

Another Way to Travel Cover


So, I’m still in Austin.  I’ve been swimming every day because if you’re a Minnesotan and you’re someplace where you can swim in December, you do.

I’ve been working a short story for this project as well as getting some stuff done on Hawk.  The latter, by the way, took an interesting turn.  I was sitting around with Skyler White (the Whites have graciously put me up while I’m here), and we were talking about how stories work, and she said, “I love it when a story does this.”  And I said, “Yeah, me too….hey!”  So most of what I’ve already written has been moved to later in the book, and I’m kind of excited about the new approach.  We’ll see.  As part of working on the short story, I just reread Zelazny’s Isle of the Dead.  Jesus, he was good.  I miss him painfully.

Spent a lot of yesterday going over the new home page, and making notes about it.  Kudos to Corwin and Felix.  I like it a lot; though we’re still working out some details.  Also, thanks to everyone who commented on it.

Saw “Lincoln” for the second time, and was blown away again.  I’m not a huge Spielberg fan, but this was a lovely bit of work.

And I guess that’s about it for now.

Lincoln, travel, new home page

Saw “Lincoln” today with Jenphalian, Will Shetterly, and Emma Bull.  I can’t recommend it highly enough.  The acting was universally brilliant.  Sally Field as Mary Todd Lincoln and Danial Day Lewis as Lincoln were amazing, James Spader was a delight, and Hal Holbrook was, as always, perfect.  Tommy Lee Jones stole the show.  The few minor historical liberties they took all seemed reasonable.  A truly splendid movie.  I want to see it again when it comes out on DVD, so I can catch things I missed the first time.

ETA: Okay, if I want to be really persnickety, I’ll say that in the one battle scene in the movie, there were too many bayonet wounds to be authentic.   Whatev.

I’m about to be traveling again–Texas once more to pick up my bird and visit friends.  I expect to be back a few days before Christmas.

My new home page should be up soon, thanks to Corwin and Felix.  I imagine there will be some glitches at first.  But if all goes well, it’ll be pretty cool.