The Catholic Geek: Peter J Wacks and shared Worlds

The Catholic Geek: Peter J Wacks and shared Worlds 06/11 by We Built That Network | Books Podcasts:

Guest Peter J Wacks joins host Declan Finn as they discuss writing in shared worlds, like Last Cities of Earth.

The Dragon Awards are open and ready for nominations, and I have a list of suggestions you might want to take a look at. If you already  have a good idea of what you want, just click here to go and vote for them. The instructions are right there.

The Love at First Bite series. 

Makers and Breakers

Subversive Literary Movement

Throwback Thursday: a superb guest post by author Dave Freer. (clicking on the covers for more info about the book.)


Makers and Breakers

by Dave Freer

Joy cometh in the morning

Now of course you want to take anything I say with a whole shovel of salt, because, according to the self-selected arbiters of modern standards, I’m barking insane.

As sanity is a relative concept (take some of my relatives. Please), salt is great preservative, and if I’d rather not be judged sane by their standards, this is all good.

Of course they don’t like you listening to me or reading my folly, but that is, as they say, is hard cheese…

Which brings me around to what I was going to write about.

“‘Hard cheese?’ maybe he is mad after all,” I hear you mutter.

Well, maybe. But what you have to grasp about hard cheese is that, as opposed to milk, or even soft cheese, hard cheese was made as a way to keep food for the long, dark winter months. To store against a possible bleak year and poor harvest.

Making hard cheeses is the opposite of instant gratification. It’s not easy or quick (soft cheeses are, even if you don’t nip off to the shops and buy some cream cheese).

Cheese these days comes from the supermarket… unless of course you’re a nutter like me.

I make cheese. I make bacon. I make salami. I make hams. I make jerky… I preserve, dry, or freeze everything that doesn’t run fast enough to get away.

Part of this is choice and part of this choice-inflicted. I live on a remote island, a once a week ten hour ferry trip off the coast of Australia. Actually, yes, I can buy anything you can in urban America. I can even buy today’s newspapers, as long as I only go and collect them tomorrow. It is just very expensive to do so, and if there is bad weather (and this is the ‘roaring forties’ of sail-ship legend) there is a chance that tomorrow may be somewhat delayed (it’s not quite like mañana. It eventually does come). It does force you to change the way you live, and how you see the world. To plan, to build up stocks and to think ahead. And of course, to delay gratification. It also changes the way you look at that now much maligned and derided hero of yesteryear, the pioneer, the colonist, and those who built on that legacy, so someone urban lout who never got up at half-past predawn to milk, could whinge about government cheese. The farmer, the guy getting a sloppy-with-somewhat-processed-grass tail whipped across his face, the fellow squatting planting seeds he kept from last year, the fisherman on a wild and rolling sea… these are my people, my heroes and my role models. These are the builders, the makers. These are the foundation stone people on which my Australia and the US and Canada (yes there are others, but at least I know a little about those) were built, and still actually stand.

Not surprisingly they tend to see the world very differently from those who are sheltered from these things in the raw, and completely differently from the takers and breakers.

They tend to be pragmatic, to think ahead, to think for themselves, which seems to mean conservative these days (bizarre, isn’t it, how words change meanings. Once that was what one meant by liberal. It still does in some English speaking places.). They value things that they can see have worked (for their parents, grandparents, and more), and do still work. They’ve learned the hard way of the value of hard labor, of honesty, of good neighbors and of a real ‘community’ (not the stolen use of the word that politicians like to burble about).

These are people who know each other, who turn up to fight fires or clean gutters for the old people, because they know, like and respect them. Church is still important, and so is earned respect, appearances, less so. You know people for what they are and do, not for what they look like, and what labels they stick on themselves.

It’s not always an easy way to live, which is one reason why cities draw. The other is that cities offer a great deal… of employment, entertainment, choices and also fast food.

No, I don’t want everyone to live like we do.

If everyone did it, it would be harder going for a hunter-gatherer-farmer like me.

I might have to rely on my writing to put food on the table for my family, And there’d be No-one to make computers, so you’d best all stick to making computers or mining or writing programs, from my point of view, anyway. That’s also making.

But it is much easier to become distant from it. To not see the gulf between making and taking, between building and looting what others build. Although I work the land and sea much as my ancestors did, and with the same attitude – if a piece of machinery made it possible to do it better and faster — I’ll try it, I am two other things (well, yes, actually many. A man is a complex thing) firstly, by background, a scientist who likes logic and numbers, and secondly, a lifelong reader.

And it was books, and identifying a trend in them that I found, well, was making them less pleasurable, that got me writing.

Observation said that there were less books with heroes I could identify with.

Logic said something about them had to be bothering me. It took me some time to work out what it was, because it was counter-intuitive to me.

The center of the books had shifted over the years. Steadily, to the point where it was now bothering my logic and suspension of disbelief, as well as my enjoyment. Fiction is not a how-to manual or even necessarily plausible, as long as it is enjoyable. When it starts to fail the latter part… well, we start to question the first parts.

I realized that the makers, without stopping being the cornerstone of real society, had somehow gone from being mostly the heroes, to inevitably the villains. Somehow we’d gone from FARMER IN THE SKY to only books where humans (particularly white male, Western, heterosexual middle aged ‘country’ people/or those making things) were always villains.

The heroes, weren’t building, they were breaking. And if anything at all, they were striving for or defending the ‘utopia’ we’d narrowly escaped and discovered the horrors of, barely decades ago. Or, possibly worse, humans could be some kind of hedonistic parasite… but making, colonizing, exploring and taming were now evil as were the people (always the same villains) who even thought of such things. They weren’t just evil, they were core-rotten. There was no good in them at all.

Now, of course, I approach this from my own philosophical and religious perspective: While I accept the reality of evil, and that some people can be so corrupted by it that there is little good left in them, I start from the position that humans are made in God’s image. However you take that, it means they start pretty good.

Rotten genes, and bad rearing, and a lousy moral environment can create some very nasty products from that – but not inevitably.

Freer 3

People (or perhaps something more than people) have surprised me over and over. There is still an amazing capacity to do good within just ordinary people, and the capacity of individuals to be that, despite the worst, is something we should celebrate.

Acts of kindness, altruism, generosity, idealism, are not rare. I’ve broken down in areas of South Africa where that is apparently a death warrant… and yet met nothing but kindness and help.

Does that mean I’m some stupid rose-tinted spectacle American Liberal, thinking we can all sing Kumbaya and get on? Not hardly. I’m a pragmatic country-man. I realize that breakers and takers are there too. I just think there are actually more makers than one realizes… but we’re not very noisy and not very busy crawling into the control-spots.

And one of those control spots is fiction.

Freer 1

Fiction is, of course, terribly effective propaganda – but like all propaganda, fails once the target audience is aware it is being manipulated and thus takes the opposite point of view.

What’s more, once they realize it is propaganda, they’re quite likely to dislike the vessel – the story – as well as the ‘message’.

Now I freely admit I started submitting writing (with no delusions that I was a particularly good writer) but with a “I’ve got to be able to do a bit better than this, even if I’m no Heinlein,” look at what was coming out of publishing.

I didn’t realize that those on the levers of publishing didn’t want Heinlein, with ‘makers’. They wanted to break everything that it stood for. If you sneaked it through, you had to clothe it in heavy disguise. I foolishly thought that publishing was long-sighted and logical, and not willing to act against their finest, their foundations, out of short-sighted partisan self-interest.

I thought that there was just a shortage of the kind of heroes I admired, aspired to be like and enjoyed reading about because authors weren’t providing it. Yes, not very bright for a man prides himself on logic.

But it was just so stupid, I didn’t think anyone would do that.

I did figure it out, though. I did then try some stealth, but I am not good enough at it.

And then I was lucky and tried Baen who were still publishing the old kind of Science Fiction.

The trouble, as I see it anyway, is that fiction as propaganda can only work well, long term, when there is a lot of non-propaganda for it to swim amongst, and pass as. So by trying to make the whole field your tool, you must do it so badly that either you prevent the reader from being able to suspend his disbelief (and kill your market, outside the converted), or you convince them to believe falsehoods which may be in your personal short-term interest, but are going to cause devastating long term and collateral damage.

For example: Your teen daughter who reads sf/fantasy is making her first long distance drive home from college. Her car breaks down one night in the middle of nowhere. Two guys stop and decide to grab her and rape her (look at the stats to see who they’re likely to be).

Freer 2

Guns are bad, according to the books she’s read, so she can’t shoot them dead.

Does she, like the feminist heroes of her books – beat them to ground, or maybe just shame them into checking their privilege on twitter? Or, having slightly more brain than cheddar (it’s all about cheese) run to the house across the field – which, given the location is certain to be occupied by the arch-villain of her books, the middle-aged white farmer, who has a wife and three kids, is a church-going Christian, who votes Republican and thinks an Agricultural fair with a rodeo is the best thing ever… and probably keeps a shotgun behind the door and can throw an 80 pound hay bale into the loft sixteen feet up.

The crime stats (the facts, not the fiction) show that he’s her best possible help: not only will he help her, and fix her car, and his wife will feed her and look after her, but he’s almost the single most likely person to physically deal with or to shoot the two varmints, if they decide to try come and get her.

Yes there is a remote chance that he’s some backwoods Hannibal Lector. But the probability is so microscopically slim as to be wearing a dress size minus 24 000 000, which is still too big for it.

But what is she going to believe, if the propaganda has worked? Which is why I started writing books that might be fantasy or sf… but took reality and logic back to where they belonged. That took makers, builders, colonists back to the heart of the story as what they really are a lot of the time: human, fallible and foolish sometimes, but with the characteristics that make the real people.

Pushing that envelope just a bit further I’ve just written a ‘cozy’ Who-dunnit, JOY COMETH WITH THE MOURNING. Set in a small country village in my home, Australia, with the ‘detective’ the person I could think of fitting in with most difficulty there – a timid, urban lady-priest. The point was to write a good murder mystery… with anti-propaganda. With current sneered at villains – ordinary people making lives for themselves and food for others, people as real, and human as I could make them.

With the warmth that they really have. I’m not trying to pretend there are no villains, and no evil.

It’s just not where they claim it is.

We OWN the high ground. We made it. It’s time to stop conceding it. I’m sure some of you can do this far better than I can.

And we can, now.

Let’s do it.

Dave Freer’s blog on writing, politics, and philosophy. blog on the self-sufficiency on the Island





So I Watched Pirates of the Carribbean 5

I am off to work soon, so quick thoughts (Spoilers ahoy! Be warned…):

  • This was an inferior remake of the first movie. We have:
    • A villain with a personal vendetta against Jack
    • Who was cursed so that they couldn’t go on land and where stuck as undead beings
    • Who need the daughter of a pirate in order to end their curse
    • This daughter of a pirate refuses to believe her father can be anything but a good man. Except he’s a pirate.
    • Jack is going to be executed, except he’s rescued at the last minute by the son of Will Turner
    • We have the son of Will Turner using Jack to rescue someone he loves
    • And it ends after the curse is broken and their newfound mortality is used against the villains. Seriously. It’s beat for beat.
  • The problem is that it isn’t NEARLY as good as the first movie. The villain isn’t as interesting as Barbossa, the reveal of the undead pirates wasn’t nearly as cool and creepy, Jack wasn’t nearly as funny or as necessary to the plot, the story was far too disjointed, and the ending wasn’t as clever.
  • WITH THAT SAID – it’s better than the second and third movie, and at least as good as the fourth. The designs on the villains were very creepy and extremely cool, the actions scenes were fun, and Jack was still Jack, and thus amusing. It was good to see him relegated to a more secondary status, and focus on new leads; Jack is not meant to be a lead.
  • This should be how the series ends. It puts a neat capper on every loose thread from the original trilogy and gives all of our main characters satisfying endings to their respective stories. But I’m sure they’ll shoehorn in a sequel regardless.

So the movie wasn’t bad, per se. But I’m not going to see it again. If I ever want to watch it, I’ll just put on the original and see a better version of it anyway. So it goes.

More “An Unimaginable Light” Talk

You know, I’ve been avoiding responding to criticisms of “An Unimaginable Light” on the grounds that authors shouldn’t respond to criticisms of their own stories directly, but let them speak for themselves, but then I realized…I’m not the author. I’m the editor. And I have every right to defend my authors from unfair criticisms!

Goodreads has set up its own “An Unimaginable Light” page. Let’s see what it shows us.

We have this (these are snippets from reviews, not the full thing:

In some ways, the story is thought provoking, but Wright’s emphasis seems to be too much on the “provoking” side: the characters are designed to elicit a specific response, sexualization and use of force against the female character even more so.

I wonder when people are going to realize – as many people, bizarrely, also missed with Mr. Wright’s previous story “The Plural of Helen of Troy” – that the story is actually *specifically opposed to* oversexualization of female characters? But I guess that doesn’t fit the image in their head of that nutso crazy religion guy Wright.

This explores robot-human relations, very similar to what has been done many times in the last 50-75 years. There’s not a lot new to explore, and the argument posed is not very creative.

If you dislike a subgenre, that’s not an actual value judgment.

Wow. If Asimov’s collected body of work was, in fact, a steaming pile of shit, this story would fit right in. Read solely for the fact that it’s on the Hugo ballot and I want to be an informed voter. No Award definitely ranks higher than this piece of garbage.

It’s fascinating how right up until people explicitly hostile to Wright’s philosophy started reading this story, it was almost universally praised, and by people with no direct connection to the superversives or reason for bias in our favor. Perhaps – just perhaps – these negative reviews are written by people incapable of separating their opinion of the philosophy underlying a story from the quality of the story itself.

Because otherwise I would contend – and I think many would agree – to call the story, and I quote, “a steaming pile of shit”, is utterly preposterous.

The reviewer Marco, seen through the link, is apparently the same guy who wrote a previously linked negative review, given his bizarre insistence that some sort of creationism is being pushed (this is total nonsense; I don’t even think Mr. Wright is a creationist himself, though you’d need to ask him to confirm).

My favorite (ironically, of course):

I felt as though this story was an attack on femininity, beauty, on intelligence, sexuality etc, even though the story was pretending to be about ethics and philosophy.

It’s almost unfathomable to me how any sane person could possibly think this. It is literally a defense – an explicit, stated defense – of every single one of those things. How can you possibly think otherwise? How biased do you need to be going in?

Want to prove I’m off my rocker? Go ahead, give the story a look yourself.



“What’s With the Asimov Obsession?”

I have been accused on several occasions of spending more ink than the man deserves defending the legacy and writing of Isaac Asimov. After all, he’s not superversive, right (he’s not, at least most of the time). And anyway, what’s the point of defending him? He’s not the one who’s been edited out of history like the pulp authors are – in fact, he was one of the hand-picked chosen ones to replace them, and despite that STILL never became as popular as legends like Howard and Burroughs.

So what gives?

Here’s the thing: I’m a fan of Asimov. The man can write. I think this is indisputable; that he has his flaws doesn’t change that. Most authors have flaws, and most aren’t as popular, and haven’t written books and stories as good as, Isaac Asimov. Are there better writers? Of course, but that’s not my point.

So when I see people claiming that Isaac Asimov wasn’t that influential (a preposterous comment) or wasn’t a good writer, I’m seeing pure revisionist history – and I don’t like it. It’s not true and it’s not honest; at best it’s stating your own opinion of the man’s work as if its a fact. I’m not saying you need to like the guy. I’m not saying *I* like the guy. I’m saying that his influence on the field is undeniable, and to honest observers – even those not necessarily fans – his skill as well.

I don’t appreciate revisionist history by anyone, and we shouldn’t be engaging in it just because we don’t like someone.

One last thing – I’ve also been told, more than once, that I spend too much time defending Asimov because he’s an enemy of the superversives. Shouldn’t I be focusing on how he hurt our cause (he did, in some ways at least)?

But it’s simply not true to say that I’ve done nothing to conter Asimov’s negative effect on the genre. In fact, regarding Asimov specifically, I’ve done more than most: I reframed Asimov’s robot puzzles in a superversive context.

And how about that for a response?

The Catholic Geek: Art of the Last Cities of Earth 06/04

The Catholic Geek: Art of the Last Cities of Earth 06/04 by We Built That Network | Books Podcasts:

Danielle Ackley-McPhail and Jeff Sturgeon join host Declan Finn to discuss the ‘Last Cities of Earth.’

Websites:,, Twitter!/DMcPhail,!/BadAssFaeries and!/eSpecBooks Facebook!/danielle.ackleymcphail Amazon author page Goodreads Blog:

One Page Podcast: Honor At Stake by Declan Finn

One is a heartless, merciless killer. The other is a vampire.

College freshman, Amanda Colt knows few people and wants to know fewer still. She enjoys fencing and prefers facing a challenge every once in a while. She is beautiful, smart, and possibly the most interesting person on campus…and most people stop after the first adjective.

Then she finds Marco Catalano in her fencing class. He is tall, attractive, and very intense. With a mind like a computer and manners of a medieval knight, he scares most people. Except Amanda. They both have secrets, for they are both monsters.

As they draw closer, they must find the line between how much they can trust each other, and how much they can care for each other. Each carries a secret that can destroy the other. They must come to grips with their personal drama soon, because a darkness is rising. Bodies are turning up all over New York, and an army of vampires is closing in on all sides.

They have only one hope … each other.

You can find Honor at Stake (Love at First Bite Book 1) on