Category Archives: Writing
This is, uh, a thing. A thing I wrote. A thing that’s not really a story, thought there’s plenty of story suggested before it and around it and after it. And something, after all, happens in it. So it’s story-ish.
Just for the heck of it, here are some pics from my favorite fishing hole. Fishing is relaxing and meditative for me, so I do quite a bit of it because STRESS BILLS WORRY CAR REPAIRS LIFE STUFF WHEN WILL I SELL MORE BOOKS AM I WRITING ENOUGH DOES THE STORY I’M WORKING ON NOW SUCK EEEEEK after writing that I want to go fishing right now.
But seriously, it’s a beautiful little spot. I get lots of little fishing companions even when I don’t bring along my 6 year old son (I’ve told the 4 year old that he may come along when he’s 5 because he’s a tad wild and unfocused still and I don’t want him flailing around with a hook).
Not pictured: there are always dragonflies in warm weather. And mosquitoes, but I bring repellent for them. Usually herons and egrets, sometimes a hawk or a duck or a water snake of mystery variety because I give them plenty of space.
Above, mantises and lizard. And lots of duckweed this year, unlike last year. I suspect the mild winter and very hot summer have something to do with it, and maybe a lot of watering and lawn fertilizing going on at the posh homes on one side of the lake.
This, by the way, is the location and activity that inspired the story Basshole, which appears in my Maladapt mini-collection. In that one, a transhuman living in a robotic body does a lot of fishing for 200 years because he’s all messed up about his ex-wife, leaving his fleshly body behind, and just what it is you do with a life anyway. There’s a lot of inner turmoil for him to sort through, but wouldn’t you be thrown off by your 200-years-ago wife showing up in her old human body, out of the blue? I think I would.
In any event, hope you enjoyed the view. I do.
The question is, does President Donald “Joffrey” Trump think he’s having a fun wrestling-entertainment-style feud with CNN and most of the rest of the US press in order to boost his personal ratings, as if he were a television show himself?
Or is Donald J. Trump having a Kim-family-of-North-Korea kind of experience, finding himself enraged that the people His Royal Totally Not A King-ness owns dare do something other than gather in solemn worship of The Totally Not Thinning Or Dyed Haired Demigod Who Walks Among Us Little People?
I think the answer is yes, both, and even more still.
Have you noticed he keeps having rallies? Either he must refresh himself with the blood of mortals on a regular basis or he’s having rallies so he can bask in adulation and remind himself he is worshiped. Which, really, are almost the same thing.
And he does think he’s having a fun feud (I’m sure he’s enjoying himself to some extent, rubbing his hands together and muttering to himself, “that’ll really piss them off” like a standard-issue online troll). But it’s not just fun, it’s active publicity seeking. After all, doing outrageous things for the press is the way he kept his name in the public eye for decades. He craves attention terribly — if only his parents had frickin’ hugged him once in a while we might not be where we are. But we can say that about a lot of famous White (mostly) guys (mostly) who for some reason are always referred to by all three of their names, Donald John Trump.
He obviously loves working a crowd up, and political crowds probably give him the loudest cheers he’s gotten in his life. I’m sure it feels like a blast of pure crack to the naked brain for a lifelong attention junkie. To get those big rally cheers he’s got to keep the mob worked up. If they start thinking the cheers might become less lusty. We see the understanding of that in the disdain and disgust for things like education, expertise, and experience, which he campaigned against nearly as much as he campaigned against Hillary Clinton, and which he has mostly driven out of the Executive Branch and anywhere his direct influence can comfortably reach. It dovetails nicely with the pseudo-anarchic smash-everything-ism of (co-?) President Bannon, as well.
Keeping the mob riled up and validating his feelings of superiority also keeps bothersome qualities like reason, empathy, and humanity from surfacing in his vicinity. And those would be problematic for him because not only might someone question him instead of just shouting WOOO! YEAH! but also I’d say his entire life as a unit is a long illustration of the fact that he just doesn’t get those things. In fact, not only does Donny “the J stands for “teeny hands”” Trump not understand reason, empathy, and humanity, but he appears to hate and be disgusted by those qualities.
Which perhaps is a way of life he learned at the knee of Daddy The Slumlord or Daddy the Racist or Daddy Who Never Said I Love You But Called Poor Little Donny A Screwup Way Too Often.
Which, yes, is sad. But we’re the ones suffering for it. If he’s suffering, it’s down deep in a withered empty shell where once he hid the nascent humanity of his youth, but now keeps a raisin that is probably long dead like an inhabitant of the crawlspace under the house of that famous clown’s house.
At seventy-one years old, he has made the awful lessons he learned his own, and has obviously passed it down to his cold, casually-dehumanizing progeny. A proud heritage.
Before I go further, let me bring the title in.
Journalists who publish things other than the praise and uncritical adulation Trump craves are, in his words, “the enemy of the American people.” By which he means that as President, the United States is a thing he owns and therefore the people in it are things he owns and therefore people who are journalists and don’t do exactly what he wants are broken things he owns that defy him. And those are things to be hated and crushed.
Your free press is to be hated and crushed.
Your free speech is to be hated and crushed.
You, too, are an enemy of the people, unless you come to praise and only praise Lord Donald “Being Born Rich Makes Me Better Than Mere Humans” Trumpet Solo.
But, you say, it’s all hyperbole.
I say, he doesn’t know what that is. He believes in his own superiority and your inferiority. He believes it deep down and he avoids thinking otherwise, because he avoids thinking. He has told us just that many times.
All the rest of what I’ve said follows because he has no introspection and/or ambition to be a better person. He sees no need. He believes he is already the best person ever, and he has believed that since grade school.
He doesn’t think. He hasn’t the depth to keep someone by his side to whisper “you are just a man” into his ear. He hasn’t — he avoids — understanding who and what he is and why he does what he does and thinks what he thinks and feels what he feels and wants what he wants.
All of the above bleeds and oozes from his every word and action because he doesn’t understand hyperbole, but chooses it as a way of life and mode of communication. And he doesn’t understand civil rights, society, the press, government, human beings, or himself. Period. He’s the ultimate know-nothing, and he doesn’t want to know anything about you except whether or not you’re a Trump worshiper or the enemy.
In the best of Trump voters, there’s deep and intense dissatisfaction. A feeling that anything must be better than the politics of our memory, whether that memory is the few years of the 18 year old first time voter or the several decades of the elder Trump voter.
In many, I think, there’s an approach to politics that is identical to the approach to sport. You choose a team, and you root for them no matter what. Which is a foolish and dangerous approach to politics no matter who you’re voting for, and a core failure of civic education at school, in our communities, and in our homes.
But I’m not talking about the best of Trump voters here. I’m not talking about the rah-rah-go-team voters, or the reluctant ideologues who don’t like Trump but hate anyone outside the GOP more, or the impulse-shopper voters who went with whoever’s last sound bite they liked more, or the strategic ‘he’ll pick SCOTUS justices I’ll like’ voters or the on-the-fence voters who aren’t quite sure, somehow, who best represents their ideas and ethics.
I’m talking about the hard Trump core. The people who love the guy for all he represents. Not the Russian bots and foreign provocateurs, but the ones who sound like Russian bots despite being born and raised in the most corn-and-apple-pie-fed settings across the country.
Theirs is the triumph of the won’t.
They call themselves “alphas” and their perceived enemies (most of the citizenry of the United States of America) “betas” and “cucks”…
…and “feminized” (because being a woman is bad, or means you’re inferior, or means you’re genetically programmed to serve men because quite a few of the Trumpite hard core love them some 19th century pseudoscientific genetic determinism and its cousins eugenics and eugenic-style theories, and possibly phrenology and physiognomy and phlogiston and phlat earth ‘theory’ and who knows what else) and, well, whatever flaccid insults help them feel turgid and ready to lash out violently — because manliness, to them, is not showing humanity, but is found in behaving like a rage-blind distempered ape.
They imagine that by naming themselves dominant and aggressive, that makes them paragons of rock-jawed will.
They have little clue what it really reveals: it doesn’t reveal will. It reveals won’t. A humanity-paralyzing fear of tomorrow, of today, and of anything that doesn’t cater to their fussy, prissy, whiny control-freak demands of reality. A boy-tantrum “I WON’T” to the inevitability of time passing. They’re pissed off that reality itself won’t cut the crusts off their PB&J like mommy used to, but insists on being reality.
The “f–k your feelings” crowd runs on the feeling that they are offended that the universe will not treat them like the little princes and princesses they know they are.
That failure of adapting to the facts of life is their motive force, just as gasoline is the motive force of your car: there are a variety of other ingredients and factors, some important and others not, but without gasoline and failure Trumpism Car DOES. NOT. MOVE.
Of course, that’s not what they see in the mirror.
Trumpites, just like “God Emperor Trump” mostly cast themselves as alpha-male towers of will (or equivalent, or admirers of same, when women) — an army to proudly march back into the middle of the 20th century. Or maybe the 19th or 18th, depending on the Trumpite.
As if a past can ever be re-lived. As if the past was ever half as idyllic and perfect as many of them seem to believe — and an awful lot of them can remember the middle of the 20th century.
It is, after all, the land of their childhoods, the land of their childish dreams and childish ambitions. It is an age of shelter for many, even those whose childhoods were difficult or even abusive — what comes after, dealing with the adult consequences of childhood deprivation and/or abuse, often seems even harder than childhood, especially to the adult living it in the now.
And the remembrance of childhood is veiled in the ignorance of the child, and that is hazed by the passage of decades as well as the bitter demise of childhood dreams at the hands of reality — and both white male Boomers and GenX, key Trump demographics, had big dreams that died hard. Dreams of privilege expanding endlessly, dreams of unlimited world-altering success, dreams of the industry and union driven white middle class boom of the 1950s trending up, up, forever up, three chickens in every pot and three cars in every McMansion garage on a solid acre in the suburbs with a tall white privacy fence and a dog and a cat and 2.5 children educated at the highest standard in the world.
Only, the Boomers grew up to be Yuppies and ‘vulture capitalists’ and GenX grew up to build the dot-com boom and bust and found the ‘gig economy,’ and the ‘leaders’ of both have spent, collectively, the last 40 years gutting that goose that was laying the golden eggs, haven’t they?
There were a lot of rich guts in the American goose. Gutting it has taken a long time. But the work is almost done, now. What do you do with a fowl once you have it gutted?
You cut it into pieces and fry it, that’s what. It’s delicious.
Then you throw the bones away. Might take another 40 years to get there. And the process is part of the problem. The Boomer and Gen X gutters know they’ll almost certainly be dead and gone by the time they’ve gnawed this goose down to the greasy bones.
And here they are, writing and tweeting and bitching and Trump-voting away, flailing about wildly for someone else to blame. We (white male GenX, of which I am one) aren’t about to blame ourselves collectively. We’re all about ego and the importance of the individual, by which we mean ourselves, singular, not any other white male of our generations and certainly not any other individuals beyond that demographic. I, me, me, I. And if something is wrong you must be to blame and that’s why we have Trump yelling at his fans to ‘knock the shit out of’ people who dare voice dissent and why we have ideological zealots stabbing people for not agreeing with their politics (yes, enforcing the ‘correctness’ of their politics by killing those who disagree. Or, in milder form, by calling them rude names on Twitter.) and attacking people for having brown skin or the ‘wrong’ religious/spiritual/ideological/scientific/educated beliefs and knowledge.
Let’s go back, for a moment, to that perceived childhood idyll they’re so hot to “take our country back” to.
For me, childhood was the 1970s. In my memory, there’s sort of a glow around those years. That glow is the better side of my childhood. A glow of carefree play. What did I know or feel of the ugliness of the war in Vietnam or the national humiliation of Richard Nixon or the horror of Kent State?
Little or nothing, of course. I was a boy, a poor boy to be sure, but one who was wandering field and forest of rural Wisconsin with a faithful dog at my side. I was concerned with wading in creeks, gathering hickory nuts, snacking on wild apples and plums and berries, climbing trees, playing games with my friends, reading books, and so on. I wasn’t watching or comprehending much of the news.
The 1970s were no golden age, to be sure. But they look a bit gold to me when I remember them. Because I was a child, and the cares of adulthood were not yet upon me. The 1950s are no different. Or the 1930s, or 1990s. Wherever your childhood is.
Trumpism is no yearning for utopia, and it is no brave embrace of the hard work of making a better tomorrow. It is a fleeing in the hopeless direction of lost childhood. It is a cowering. For tomorrow is always uncertain, and doubly so for those who wish, uselessly, to live in the past.
The thuggish threats and violence and posturing with gun and fist are not strength. They are the bared teeth of the rat backed into a corner — only the Trumpite corner is built of fear-rhetoric and scaremongering taken to heart by the fearful. It’s not real. But more than imaginary, it is a huge corner packed full of a whole chaos of rats constantly telling each other how hellish and awful life and the United States and the world are. And no matter how much the rats tear into each other, no matter what other of their fellows they manage to bite, what they rage against is impossible to bite, because it is tomorrow itself, and the blood they taste is their own.
They’re raging against the only true constant in the universe: change itself. A constant that nothing can turn aside, delay, or even touch.
And, perhaps fittingly for the generations of Boomers and GenXers that are the meat of the ranks of Trumpism, their idea of a better world is an action B-movie. No actual leaders, just stars whose charisma is a scriptwritten Hollywood facade of strength, whose power is all spectacle and cheesy one-liners and costumery (Mike Pence and Scott Walker on Harleys, anyone?) whose will is the will of the moral and ethical and emotional weakling: the temper tantrum, the uncontrolled rage, the urge to mass murder with big guns and exciting stunts and technicolor explosions, and of course lots and lots of angry, violent intimidation.
Bully tools, but played out in real life instead of the theater.
Yearn for an angry, bloody version of childhood all you like, Trumpites. That way lies chaos and loss and disappointment. Adulthood can be quite a bit more boring, with its reason, and compromise, and sometimes painful ethical choices, and hard work, and compassion. But one way leads into a better future for our children, and one leads into Lord of the Flies for children of all ages, even the balding ones with deep crows’ feet.
…everyone else has to wait until June 8th to buy a copy (Preorder @ Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iBooks, Kobo, (have I missed any? OMG) or Smashwords). Here’s the short description appearing with retailers:
Maladapt is a mini-collection of four short stories totalling just under 15,000 words.
These are stories about the struggle to adapt to the coming future. About coming to terms with migrating to a robotic body, to telepresence, to universal surveillance and what it means to those of us who don’t quite fit in. They’re stories about FAILURE to adapt, and the victories to be won beyond failure.
If you’re not already one of my patrons, this would be a good time to get in on the ground floor. And grab your free copy. And free copies of a few other things which are posted as files or just plain old posts — sometimes I post microfiction, or full-length short stories as text posts.
My fans & readers are relatively few right now. But I am stubborn, and readers check in with me (here or on Twitter @Tao23) from time to time to tell me they enjoy what I write. So unless a meteorite squishes me unexpectedly, I anticipate being here and on Patreon writing stuff and posting early copy and exclusives for a good 20 or 10,000 years depending on my natural lifespan and how good medicine becomes and whether or not I get to upload into a robot body when this meat one wears out AND OF COURSE if I earn enough money and/or respect to afford and/or merit all the cool death-dodges the future may hold.
That’s where Patreon patrons and people who buy my books come in.
Please join my Patreon and/or buy more S.A. Barton books.
Daddy needs a new pair of robot bodies.
…the way this story is going we might end up being the villain.
Whatever you can do to prevent that from coming to pass, whether it is a tiny bit or a larger bit, it is time to do it. And keep doing it until we are well past this yawning abyss of history our nation is currently trying to throw itself into courtesy of Cheeto Don and the elephant he rode in on.
C3P0 is the poster child for a minor science fiction trope that doesn’t pop up super-often, but never fails to make me cringe and grind my teeth simultaneously whenever it does: intelligence and/or education (an encyclopedic robot brain is an acceptable stand-in for either) represented by the character knowing the exact odds of the possible outcomes of whatever is going on in the story.
I hate it so much.
One, it’s an anti-intellecual sop. The wimpy brainiac worries about failure and would never try but OH WAIT HERE IS THE SAVIOR HE WILL SAVE US WITH HIS AWESOME TACTIC OF NOT BEING SMART BECAUSE SMART SUCKS.
I really, really hate that message. I have hated it since I was a small child in elementary school being teased by my classmates for my habit of reading constantly, with “hey Einstein” and “hey professor,” which were meant as insults. Because what could be more awful than being a genius or an educator, am I right?
Two, it makes no damn sense. Reliable odds are for things that are predictable and fairly simple, like a lottery. If there are a million scratch-off tickets in circulation and one of them is a $100,000 prize winner, you can definitely say the chances of winning $100,000 by buying one is one in a million.
But look, C3P0. You can’t deliver precise odds of navigating an asteroid field. Too many variables. Like, how do you know the density of asteroids in this particular field? Or in this spot in this field? Or, you know, all their orbits? Or whether Han will sneeze and miss seeing a threat? Or whether his rickety-ass spaceship will have an engine hiccup at the wrong moment?
C3P0 is guessing. Anyone can guess, just ask a bookie. And maybe that’s the joke, that C3P0 is just guessing and only thinks he’s smart because he’s educated. And now we’re back to anti-intellectualism and anti-education and anti-expertise. And you’ve seen what those have done for us lately.