Forthcoming new Dream Cafe

Corwin and his friend Felix are putting together a new home page for me.  Something I want to ask about it:

What we want to do is, for each book, link it to a discussion here on the blog.  Or, rather, two discussions: spoilers and non-spoilers.  The question is, how much further than that should we go?  I mean, two more discussions: All Vlad Spoilers, All Vlad Non-Spoilers?  Okay, that last would be silly; can’t really talk about the whole series without spoilers, I think.  How about one for all Dragaera books?  For the Khaavren Romances, should there be a discussion of all of them?


On Winning Arguments

There’s been some recent discussion–most of it, I believe, ironic–about winning arguments.  It got me to thinking.  Those of us who pride ourselves on logic and rationality hate losing an argument; it damages our self-respect.  But that aside, none of us expect to actually win an argument of the sort we’re having here.  In fact, I can only remember winning an argument once in my life, when a better man than I said, “You haven’t convinced me, but I can’t answer you.”  I didn’t gloat about winning; rather my jaw dropped at his honesty.

But, you see, convincing someone isn’t the point of arguing.  At least, for me.  For me, the point is to sharpen and clarify my own ideas by testing them against others.  Sometimes, in fact, I only learn what I think about something when I hear myself making an argument.  When someone is so far from my position that arguing would be absurd; or says something so preposterous that nothing can be gained or clarified from the discussion, I will usually opt out.  Case in point: the discussion of Capital that was going on until I lost my copy: I was reading it to help me understand what are to me difficult concepts; and people who hold positions far, far from mine sometimes said things that were helpful in clarifying things.  There was no point in arguing with them.  If someone believes that the exchange of commodities is determined by pure ideas, I’m not going to change his mind, and he isn’t going to change mine.  Why argue?  But nevertheless, some of the “value is all the in the head” people said very, very useful things that helped me piece together concept I was having trouble with.

Another use of a good argument is to make subtle distinctions sharper and clearer.  If someone starts out saying, “We should do more to prevent voter fraud,” and, through the course of an argument, it becomes clear that his attitude is, “the poor should be disenfranchised,” then that argument was useful in showing anyone listening the basis of his original position.

To summarize: I will engage in argument to help me clarify my positions; to expose the logical conclusions of another’s positions, and that’s about it.

Well, no.  I’ll also do it because I’m pissed off, or because I thought of a clever way to trash someone who annoys me.  But I shouldn’t do that, and I try not to.


I was half an hour outside of Minneapolis last Thursday when I got a call from my youngest daughter saying that her mother, my estranged wife,  had died.  None of us had expected this.   She died of congestive heart failure.  She would have been delighted, because this meant breast cancer didn’t get her.

Her mother died of breast cancer when she was 11, which left  Reen to support her father emotionally, logistically, and often financially.  When I met her she was 16 years old and was holding a full-time job as well as managing the household accounts and seeing to her father’s medical care.  When we married, I was 18 and she was 17.  Looking back, I believe I wanted someone to take care of me the way Reen was taking care of her father–I’d been on my own for about a year, and I wasn’t especially good at it.  I believe Reen, on the other hand, wanted someone to finally take the burden off her and let her relax a bit.

Not such a good start.  All she knew of love came from “I Love Lucy” and Carrie Grant movies–and I didn’t know nearly enough to contend with that.  But we were together for 10 years, and produced four amazing children.

She created the character of Aliera, and you can still see her in it.  When I was laid off from a programming job in 1980, she told me to take six months off and write a book, so I did; that’s why Jhereg exists.  We met Bob Weir of the Grateful Dead, and Reen gave him a tarot reading, while I stood there with my mouth open.  She found my old high school manuscript of my first attempt at To Reign In Hell and made me actually write the thing.  When I became interested in music, she got behind it and pushed.  How much of what I’ve accomplished came from her?  There’s no way to know.  A lot, though.

The Reen I married was like no one else I’ve met.  Together with the solid, down-to-earth sense of responsibility, was a sense of fun, a sense of enthusiasm that I found irresistible–as did others who crossed her path.  She found people–Martin, John, Mark–and pulled them into her world because her world was so attractive, so bright, so full of profound wonder.  As she changed, and that part of her was gradually buried under health problems, pot smoke,and borderline schizophrenia, still, every once in a while it would show up and amaze anyone who was around.

We live in a world where, in addition to wonder, there are also mortgage payments, and car insurance, and medical bills, and food costs.  Over the years, she went from the one who could handle all of that, to the one who needed it handled.  I don’t understand how that happened, and I probably never will; but Martin was there, and so she and the children got what they needed.  And because of that, I was able to focus on telling stories.  Those of you reading this who enjoy my work should say, “Thank you, Martin.”  Because, without him, at best there wouldn’t be as much of it.

When we learned from the autopsy that her heart was twice the normal size, everyone had the same reaction: That’s about right. Everything about her changed over the years, often becoming its opposite.  Everything, that is, but this: she inspired love, because she gave it so willingly.  And I think, even with all that went wrong, and even with all the could-have-beens, she made those in her life better people.  At the end of the day, that’s not so little.

Capital Volume 1 Part 1 Chapter 1 Section 3A

This subsection is called, “Elementary or Accidental form of Value”

Page 48:  “x commodity A=y commodity B, or
x commodity A is worth y commodity B, or
20 yards of linen= 1 coat, or
20 yards of linen is worth 1 coat.”

Subsection 1: The two poles of the expression of value: Relative form and Equivalent form
“The whole mystery of the form of value lies hidden in this elementary form. It’s analysis, therefore, is our real difficulty.”

Intuitively, this makes sense. That is, if we say 20 yards of linen = 1 coat, we’re saying 20 yards of linen can be exchanged for one coat.  It makes sense that we can get from there to money.

“Here two kinds of commodities (in our example the linen and the coat), evidently play two different parts.  The linen expresses its value in the coat; the coat serves as the material in which that value is expressed.  The former plays an active, the latter a passive part.”

Right.  By saying 20 years of linen = 1 coat, then we are defining the linen in terms of the coat, or, we’re saying, “How much coat is needed to express the value of 20 yards of linen.”

“The value of the linen is represented as relative value, or appears in relative form.  The coat officiates as equivalent, or appears in equivalent form.”

The value of the linen is relative to the coat.

“The relative form and the equivalent form are two intimately connected, mutually dependent and inseparable elements of the expression of value; but, at the same time, are mutually exclusive, antagonistic extremes–i.e., poles of the same expression.  They are allotted respectively to the two different commodities brought into relation by that expression.”

Mutually dependent opposites, like positive and negative poles of a magnet.

“It is not possible to express the value of linen in linen.  20 yards of linen = 20 yards of linen is no expression of value.  On the contrary, such an equation merely says that 20 yards of linen or nothing else than 20 yards of linen, a definite quantity of the use-value linen.  The value of the linen can therefore be expressed only relatively–i.e., in some other commodity.  The relative form of the value of the linen pre-supposes, therefore, the presence of some other commodity–here the coat–under the form of equivalent.  On the other hand, the commodity that figures as the equivalent cannot at the same time assume the relative form.  That second commodity is not the one whose value is expressed.  Its function is merely to serve as the material in which the value of the first commodity is expressed.”

In order to express the value of a commodity, another commodity is required.

Page 49: “No doubt, the expression 20 yards of linen = 1 coat . . .implies the opposite relation: 1 coat = 20 yards of linen…But in that case I must reverse the equation, in order to express the value of the coat relatively; and, so soon as I do that, the linen becomes the equivalent instead of the coat…whether, then, a commodity assumes the relative form, or the opposite equivalent form, depends entirely upon its accidental position in the expression of value–that is, upon whether it is the commodity whose value is being expressed, or the commodity in which value is being expressed.”

Okay, yeah, I think I got that.  It caused me to do some serious thinking about the equal sign, which actually contains a lot more implied complexities than I’d ever realized.  But it does make sense.

Short-short sold

I’ve sold a short-short called “Mira” to Sword and Sorceress #25, scheduled to be out in November.  Sword and Sorceress was Emma Bull’s first sale, and, as Emma is one of my heroes (no, I’m not kidding), I’ve always wanted to have a story in that anthology.  I’m delighted.   The story came out of a conversation with Reesa, so special thanks to her.  Smooches, too.