Some Things I’ve Learned in 50 Years of Politics

I mentioned on Twitter and Facebook that this year marks 50 years since I began my political activity and study. Steven Patten on Facebook asked what I’ve learned in that time, which is a fascinating question that’s been buzzing around in my head ever since. Here are some answers:
  • To study nuance, to go after detail, to dig deeper, to be suspicious when I think I finally understand something complex.
  • How impossible it is to the separate the pieces: philosophy, economics, history, news, politics. Every time I try to focus on one, it keeps leading me into another.
  • To look critically at the SEP’s positions rather than accepting them blindly, and yet, after doing so, I nearly always end up agreeing. (It took a year of beating my head against the wall attending protests to come around on #BLM, and I’m still not quite 100% about their position on trade unionism in the abstract, but they’re certainly right in the specifics of unions today).
  • I’m still learning to avoid the glib in favor of serious analysis; I screw that one up more than I should.
  • I’ve learned I’ll never make a really good communist because I have too much Kamenev and too little Trotsky in me, and, above all, because I’m lazy–the hard part involves detailed study and research, rather than repetition of abstractions and slogans. I do that when I’m writing and can only rarely get myself to do that kind of work politically.
  • I’ve learned that it is utterly pointless to argue with hardened reactionaries, unless there is a good opportunity to use the argument to advance my own positions in a positive way for lurkers.
  • I’ve learned that discussions on Facebook and on my blog are not, in fact, the waste of time I’d once considered them. There are people here searching for answers, and there is additional value in sharpening my own understanding.
  • Marxists are very good at Who, What, How, and Why, but really suck at When (at least, when talking about the future).
  • I’m still learning to patiently explain rather than letting myself get frustrated, and that anyone genuinely looking for a way forward is deserving of the time it takes to explain. Working on that one.

Anyway, that’s some of it.  And that is certainly enough time spent on personal reflection.  Back to the fight!

Official Biography

Every time I agree to attend a convention I’m asked to send along a biography, which would require writing one.  I figure, now that I’ve been in this business for 35 years, I ought to consider taking it seriously and actually have a bio I can send them.  I’ve written one up, and I reproduce it here so I can find it easily.


Steven Brust was born late in the Cenozoic Era at a place a mere 238,900 miles from the lonely, harsh desolation of the moon. From the moment of his birth, he launched a study of language, facial recognition, and tool using, while simultaneously beginning an intense regime of physical fitness.  He fell into a life of crime under the influence of Tuli, the Evil Dog of Evilness, a life which continued for many years.  At one point, aided by Captain Blondbeard the Space Pirate Kitty, he nearly succeeded in either taking over the world or destroying the universe, the record is unclear. The plot, which featured a machine (built by a mysterious parrot known only as “Doc”) that could predict the future, failed when the machine turned out to be only able to predict the plot of action movies. This led Brust to abandon his criminal activities and begin writing science fiction and fantasy novels. Only time will tell how much lower he’ll sink.

skzb Fourth Street 2012 by DDB #2

Contest for Artists

ETA: I’ve learned that contests like this are frowned on by artists.  Ooops.  Sorry.  I’ll just let this run out and not do it again.

Okay, here’s the contest:

To create a logo for The Incrementalists.  I need, in fact, two pieces of art related to this:

1. The constellation Crater using a style similar to the book cover.  See here.

2. An hourglass logo (possibly with an “i” in it, if that looks good; not necessary).

At some point in the future, it would be cool to do some animation of those lines and stars from the cover forming into the constellation, then forming the hourglass; but that’s up the road. For now, we just need those two things.

Winner gets an autographed copy of The Incrementalists, or, if preferred, an advanced reader copy.

Contest runs from now until 6PM Central Time Wednesday.

ETA: Okay, I’m an idiot. That was Wednesday the 27th, which I ought to have made clear from the beginning.  Sorry!

Post entries, or links to entries, here.

Those not submitting (or even those who are) are welcome to make comments about the various pieces, but there won’t be a vote. Skyler White and I will choose, possibly with input from Adam Stemple, Felix Straits, or a few others.


New on the Site: Books!

Jen has just finished updating the “Books” section of the blog, so now I provide links to various places to buy them.  It’s pleasant to see all the various links–ebook, audible, all that stuff.  I’m still hoping to get the earlier Vlad novels out as ebooks; but we’ll have to see what happens.  Meanwhile, thanks Jen.  Have a cookie.


Jerry: Why don’t we insert links for some classics?  Hawthorne, Dostoevsky, maybe some Dickens.

Ms. Pennyworth: Jerry, does that sound like something that will help the client?  This client?  Does he even fucking read Hawthorne, Jerry?

Jerry: I like Hawthorne.

Ms. Pennyworth: Is anyone asking what you like, Jerry?  Do you know what classic unemployment is, Jerry?  Would you like to be limiting your reading to want-ads, Jerry?

[Enter squirrel]

Squirrel: I could have done those links.

Ms. Pennyworth: No, you fucking couldn’t have done those links.  You’re a fucking squirrel.

[Exit squirrel]