The Home of Steven Barnes
Author, Teacher, Screenwriter

Monday, November 30, 2009


I had a great time at the Loscon this last weekend. Hosted an hour of the dance (and they pled with me to stick around for more. Sorry: need my sleep!). Taught Tai Chi, and had a great group. Somehow, on Sunday morning, everybody was actually breathing correctly. One lady came up to me and said that a single session on Saturday changed the entire way she breathed, and now she understood why she'd always hated exercise: she'd been tensing when she was supposed to be relaxing!

Panels...we've got panels...I really didn't do much general paneling, but did do a little "Lifewriting" presentation, which is always fun. Wish I'd had another hour, and the space to let people move. I could have brought in Coach Sonnon's Flow State Performance Spiral, which completes the basic triad of my system. Far more importantly, I could have actually put the knowledge into their bodies, which is infinitely preferable.

Saw lots of old friends, made some new ones, and had a really interesting existential conversation Saturday night that kept me out of bed until 1:30.

Left the convention at 2:00pm Sunday, drove home, took a 1/2 hour nap and drove to San Louis Obispo to watch Nicki and her mom Toni in a "Readers Theater" presentation about Charles Darwin's apparent plagiarism. Ouch. What fun. I was pretty trashed energy wise, but hey, it's my girls. What am I supposed to do?


In three days I fly back to Florida for a bit of family holiday cheer. I'll be taking the manuscript for the original DREAM PARK with me, to read for errors. And as I do, I'll be able to read that book for the first time in 25 years. That's going to be fascinating, really. I don't know why, but I never re-read my books once they are published. This is in contrast to Tananarive, who LOVES to read her own books. I can only guess what that's about for me. I probably need to just get over it, and have the fun of re-reading everything I've ever done. I really should.


There were a few old friends I didn't see at the convention, and I'm a little worried. If Otis reads this, would he please get in touch with me? Just want to know you're all right, guy.


I'm really, really looking forward to James Cameron's AVATAR, coming out in a couple of weeks now. The man pushes boundaries, and has a real gift for putting together butt-kicking film that actually has a core of real emotion. I MUST respect him, because he also has a talent for killing off every black man in every movie he makes. Not one has survived. Yikes. We'll see what happens this time. Probably just coincidence. Yeah, right.


Several people I ran into at the convention spoke of money troubles, and I recommended the same thing: for God's sake, read THINK AND GROW RICH. It's available free on the internet, and has more high-level thinking about how to make money than any other book ever written. I can't recommend it highly enough, and if money is your issue, you must READ it, and ACTUALLY DO THE EXERCISES. My mom drove me crazy with that stuff when I was a kid, but it worked. To tell the truth, I fell away from it, and am having to go back and refresh. I need to re-read until it's etched on my eyeballs. Really.


Tananarive is taking off tomorrow to Florida, so I gotta go and spend some time with her. Talk to you tomorrow!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

"Apparently, I'm stronger than I thought... just in the wrong places!! "

The above comment was part of a post over at the 101 board. I loved it. We concentrate on the trivial, the short-term, the dangerously imbalanced. We neglect the kind of internal work that gives us long-term health and happiness. Try to meditate, and find out just how fast the dog's toenails desperately need to be clipped.

Watching my son learn this, I have to laugh. Whether I'm coaching him through his breathing in the morning, or reading our nightly chapter of Tom Sawyer, he suddenly notices a world of body sensations or environmental fascinations undreamed of during the previous hours. He has to learn that we are not our sensations, thoughts, and inner voices. So do we all.

A good way to turn our imbalanced "strengths" to positive use is to prioritize actions. If we find it easy to read (a necessity) but hard to exercise (a necessity) then make it a rule that you must exercise BEFORE you read.

We can also be so strong we cannot take our brakes off. Learning to relax and recharge in healthful ways is critical to long-term success and health. Yoga is wonderful for this, creating a controlled stress environment where you can test to the edge of failure again and again. When you learn to relate this breathing pattern to the ones you use in the other 23 hours of the day, you will have made an important discovery for which there is no direct English language.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Relationships and growin' up

I had a great conversation with one of my favorite Manly Men yesterday, asking questions about that pesky maturation/gender question. A little to my surprise, he insisted that a male doesn't become a man until he is married. That, in essence, his woman makes him a man. The idea is that until a man must provide for a family, he doesn't really mature. There were a number of elements in his overall position:

1) A man must learn to listen to his woman with his heart, and not his head.

2) Because he can never raise his hand to her, he must develop a completely different method of conflict resolution than that used in bluntly dealing with other men.

3) Whether she earns money or not, he SHOULD be prepared to support her if she decides to be a stay-at-home wife/mother.

4) He must learn to channel his sexual energy so that he is no longer wasting energy chasing nookie...thereby betraying his marriage and risking his children's safety.

5) When/if she has children, he must be prepared to protect them above his own life.

6) If he has sons, he must be prepared to dominate them when they begin to push back and try to assert themselves. They will try to prove that they are equal to him in "manhood" from the age of 9. They must learn that they are wrong.

7) He must provide a role model of proper respect and treatment of women, so that his sons can follow his path.


There was more, but these were the most important points. Also remember that he is talking about very traditional marriages, common in his generation. How does this apply to living together? Not so much...and I've had countless people tell me that everything changed as soon as they got hitched. "Playing house" is a children's game. Marriage is a contemplation of mortality and the importance of building something larger than yourself. I liked the "channeling sex" thingie. Looking at Think And Grow Rich, "the mystery of sex transmutation" is one of the aspects that rewriters and re-issuers try mighty hard to minimalize or marginalize.

There are many aspects to "sex transmutation" that are perfectly mundane, and others that flirt with the spiritual and metaphysical. On a perfectly mundane level consider the amount of time people think about sex. According to Kinsey, 54 percent of men think about sex daily, or multiple times a day. Young men would raise that ferociously, trust me. How often? Don't know...I wouldn't be surprised if males between fifteen and twenty-five think about it fifty times a day. More often than women, from all research I've seen, but women think of it plenty as well.

Now, what would happen if instead of mooning about sex, you concentrated on the behaviors which are "feathering your nest", building the aspects of character, physicality and circumstance that actually lead to being more attractive to your species, and match the energy level of the partners you desire? You'd end up having more sex, better sex, more deeply satisfying sex. But you have to concentrate on the tasks that will actually take you there.

In TAGR, the emphasis is on wealth, and while Napoleon Hill makes it extremely clear that money is only one form of wealth (and not even the most important aspect) this is where the book concentrates. And for men, probably nothing will increase the chances of finding a healthy, satisfying relationship more than being economically stable, and owning your own house (women report that a man who owns his house is about three times as attractive as one who doesn't).

So...what would happen if you conditioned yourself to think of your goals, and the steps to their accomplishment, every time sex entered your mind? I don't mean that you don't have sex--sex is one of the best things in life, and when it is shared with someone you are REALLY attracted to, who you also love, and with whom you share a future...I'm really not sure there is anything in life that equals it. Why settle for less? So...this aspect of "Sexual Transmutation" is a matter of creating a Pavlovian stimulus-response loop between your goals and the most powerful positive neurological sensation the human being can process. I call that pretty powerful magic.

My assumption is that gay relationships are much the same (although I distinctly remember gay men telling me that their relationships are a way of "staying young." Hmmm. Probably just a phase, I hope. Because that would seem an attitude in avoidance of true maturity.) So until I have other evidence, we'll assume that all bonded human romantic relationships carry within them the potential for maturity. Thoughts on sex and relationships as a maturing, motivating force?

Thursday, November 19, 2009

A Splinter of Truth

In writing, sometimes I start with an idea and build outward. Sometimes I start with a character and ask what is most important to that character, or what would be the worst thing that could happen to him. And in other cases a writer can begin with a technological development, and ask whose life would be most strongly impacted (is that a real word?) by this development.

ᅠThen...ask yourself where you, as a real live breathing human-type being, have experienced some similar change, similar development. How did you feel? Or have you ever observed someone experiencing some similar shift? What emotions did they experience? Once you can connect with this, you have a splinter of truth, have grasped hold of a sprout of emotional reality in the midst of a fictional storm.

Hold onto it for dear life. Once you've found that core, every word, every image, every interaction, every extrapolation...everything must be viewed in reaction response or relation to this grain of essential truth. Don't worry about the first draft--first drafts should be written as rapidly as possible. But during re-writing, continue to refer to the core of truth, and it will act like a spark, igniting the rest of your writing. Truth has the tendency to do that, you know...


I think we may be finished with the third draft of our script for State Street. I am so jazzed...never written anything like this project. A "dramady"? Where I'm specifically going "funny"? (Not, as Robert Downy warned: "full retard", however) This is so bizarre. My entire life I've complained that I couldn't write "funny" and now there is a very good chance that my first produced film will be a chuckle-fest? God has a sense of humor. I guess I can roll with that.


Nicki has finished her first play up north. I wasn't able to get there--Daddy duties. But there is another one coming up in a couple of weeks, and I'm dying to see her shine. She'll actually be home this evening, down to pick up her boyfriend from LAX. They'll be back and forth to Paso Robles, but I'll have my muffin here for Thanksgiving. And that definitely gives me much to be thankful for.


So great to have Tananarive home. Boy, do I sympathize with single parents. And feel angry toward anyone who would deliberately set out to get pregnant without a partner. I'm sure in some cases it works out, but frankly I have just heard and seen too much "I'm overwhelmed" leading to "I have a right to have fun" and being out at the club instead of home with the family. My mom was a divorced mom, but she didn't start out trying to do it that way. I've gone out of my way to provide a male figure to some spectacular young people whose Moms were struggling with this, and it is no joke. Yeah, I said it: kids deserve both parents. Two parents. The raising of children is just too important to address without a Mastermind partner.


Ooh! Free association rocks! The Mastermind principle from Think and Grow Rich demands that you have one, just ONE person who is aligned with you in your goals. You speak to this person at least once a week. The only non-negotiable aspect of this relationship is that it must be harmonious. I suggest that you make this your husband or wife--the primary unit of human life, a dyad. A good friend, or family member could fill this role. BUT YOU NEED THIS. Someone to hold you to your goals, keep perspective on where fear is stopping you, and offer advice. If you don't have such a person, might I suggest Coaching? Find someone locally, or over phone/email who understands how to support you, and won't let you be less than your best. The more I examine this process, the more I like it.


I've been watching "Desperate Housewives" on DVD, having fun, but I feel a little sour right now. One of the wives arranged for her husband to run over his own electric guitar, because she didn't want him jamming with friends. And that just seemed mean-spirited and petty. The problem was that this happened in the one relationship that seemed relatively healthy. I guess I'm just not set up to watch soap operas. I have the same problem writing comedy. I want to keep saying: "but that's not honest!" or "she knows better than that!" I just have a problem "going there," and Tananarive has to remind me to go broader, wider, be less logical. I can do it, but when even fictional people are dishonest, it irritates me. Probably reminds me of all the trouble I've gotten into on such issues, and why I promised myself to walk a different path. Ah, well...


The Question of the Day Is: Can you think of a moment when something entertaining ceased to be so, and why?

Wednesday, November 18, 2009


Some years back, I showed the Five Tibetans to Scott, and the first thing he did was deconstruct them. Apparently he applied the idea of moving in all six basic planes from a discipline called Shadow Yoga (and I wouldn't be surprised if he had input from other sources as well) and put the Tibetans in a re-arranged sequence, changed the protocol and added some missing motion (side to side and twisting) and created FlowFit. Extracted from FlowFit, the concept of Six Degrees of Freedom, something central to the CST approach, began to appear in his other work: Prasara, TacFit, and more. Now Coaches Steer and Murdoch over at "Bodyweight Exercise Revolution" have created a six-part program centering on the abdominal muscles, and they're giving it away for free over at

If you have grown beyond the basic Tibetans, I would strongly suggest that you check these guys out. Twelve minutes of work that improved endurance, burns fat, and trains the abdominal core as well as working your body through all six planes of motion? THAT is efficiency. Here's an idea: do five minutes of Turkish Get-Ups, followed by twelve minutes of this'll be totally trashed in 17 minutes flat. You've probably never seen most of these exercises, and that means big fun for us kinesthetic masochists. Good times.


Tananarive came back last night (thank goodness) and we stayed up watching "Dexter." I'm delighted that my Favorite Serial Killer finally made a mistake in judgement, and killed the wrong person. This is critical, because without that it is too easy to forget he is a monster. He may be a charming, brilliant, funny monster who TRIES to do good...but he is a monster, nonetheless. That makes the show far more fun. And poignant. Don't we all struggle against our self-perceived monstrosity at times?


Procrastination came up repeatedly as a negative personality trait with a positive intent. Now, some procrastination might not even be depends on whether we get the job done. If so, that's just our personal style. Here is the most important question: DO YOU KEEP YOUR WORD TO YOURSELF?

In other words, if you promise yourself that you're going to spend an hour a day doing something, and instead you spend seven hours on Sunday, at the last minute, and still get it time, did you promise yourself you were going to spend an hour a day, and break your promise to yourself AGAIN? Or did you shrug, realize you like doing things at the last minute, and go with the flow?

In the first, word-breaking case, you have a problem.

1) you lied to yourself. You had information clearly indicating the "hour a day" pattern was not in alignment with your nature. Why did you set a goal you already knew you wouldn't keep? Dangerous.

2) You broke your promise to yourself. Bad. I promise that if you have a habit of breaking your promises to yourself, you won't be able to control where and when it pops up.

Does your pattern of action allow you to create what you want, in a manner that pleases you? Then it's just your pattern. What others perceive as Procrastination might just be your style. But if, on the other hand, you put off balancing your checkbook, or exercising, or having "that talk" and constantly end up blowing it entirely, that is another matter altogether.

So the first thing to decide is: is this habit pattern in alignment with your goals, values, and emotional charges? If you continue to behave in this fashion, will you make the impact on the world that you desire? What will happen in a year? Three years? Five years?

If the answer is: "awww...I get it done." Then fine. If the answer is: "I'm going to be stuck in a rut" that's different. At that point, we have to start asking what motivates the Procratination, how it distorts your reality, and how you lie to protect it. And you have to learn to differentiate between eccentricity and self-destruction. Ask:

1) Will my life remain in balance if I do this?

2) Will I keep my commitments if I do this?

3) Can I do this and be honest with myself and others?

4) Will this behavior produce more pleasure than pain for myself, my family, and my community?

If the procrastination is a dream-killer, you have an obligation to correct the situation. Either change your habits, or change your dreams. Otherwise you are leaking critical psychic energy.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

If you can't get a job...

Does anyone know if previous Presidents met the Emperor? And how they responded? It seems to me that anyone who takes offense at Obama's bow is almost staggeringly ignorant of very typical Japanese behavior. Anyone ever seen a Japanese film, or anything at all? A little karate, where opponents bow before fighting? Jeeze.


Anyone see the new "Prisoner"? I have to admit that I avoided it on broadcast, planning to catch it on DVD. My main complaint is that I heard a radio commercial, and Number Six uttered his immortal: "I am not a number! I am a man!"...with a whine. A whine. Good lord. In the original, he was a bad-ass agent (they encouraged the audience to speculate that he may have been McGoohan's John Drake "Secret Agent Man")--in other words, James Bond in the Village. Well, that means to do this today, you'd need one of the three J.B's: James Bond, Jason Bourne, or Jack Bauer (I hope no one thinks these initials are accidental). Instead, we have a whiner. Arrgh. Talk about an unequal match. Well, on the face of it, anyway. The idea of Jason Bourne trapped in the THAT is exciting. Did anyone see it? Was it any good?


One of the things discussed in "Think And Grow Rich" is that you must have a definite purpose in life, a specific measurable goal, progress toward which is expressed in continuous action. In other words, you have to be able to say: "These are the tasks I have before me today. These are the things I must do this week. These are the things I must do this month. This quarter. This year. If I do these things, I will reach my goals, goals that will benefit my family, my society, and bring my dearest dreams into existence."

The beautiful thing about this is that if you have done your job properly, you will end up with a list of actions you can take RIGHT NOW, TODAY that will not only bring you closer to your long-term goals, but will benefit you RIGHT NOW, TODAY.

Now, here is where "magic" seems to come in. If you are doing everything you can, today, to take care of your current obligations and needs as well as these actions dovetailing into your long-term purpose, the Universe seems to notice. The instant you are totally committed, and doing everything you can, today, leaving no stone unturned and facing your fears'll start experiencing the strangest thing. Calls from out of nowhere. Old friends calling with opportunities. Favors you did for people years ago are repaid serendipitiously.

If you haven't experienced it, don't laugh. I'm not hallucinating. One suspects that this is a version of the "if you don't have a job, you can't get a job. Until you get one, at which point people will start offering you jobs."

Or: "if you don't have a boyfriend/girlfriend, you can't get a boyfriend/girlfriend...until you've got one, and then men/women come out of the woodwork, throwing themselves at you."

I have no idea what causes this, but have experienced it, and witnessed it, so many times that there is no longer a shred of doubt about it...but I still forget how it works until I cross a new threshold in my life. Question of the Day: Where have YOU experienced this phenomenon?

Sunday, November 15, 2009


Spending more time working with coaching clients is fascinating. Now that I've made this decision, it will be quite telling to see what affect it has on me psychologically.


Tananarive is in Florida, taking care of her parents for a week. So Jason and I are having a Boy's Club for a while. Took him to the L.A. Zoo, and saw something horrific: out of the thousands of people there, I didn't see a single attractive body. This was blowing my mind. Everything was lumpy and chunky and squashed together, no one who could outrun a predator or run down a deer. Good lord. I was wondering if it was just me, if somehow my standards had gotten out of hand.

But then yesterday I took Jason to the Children's Museum in Pasadena...and there were the normal bodies. A nice curve of representative humanity, some fit, some not. And I breathed a huge sigh of relief. What in the hell is going on? Not sure, but a big chunk of the population at the Zoo was Latino (it's near Downtown L.A.) and I suspect that many of them are recent to America. And the basic rule of the human hind brain? "Eat as much as you can, move as little as possible." And they are recent (and sometimes illegal) immigrants, who moved here for a better life. What's a "better" life? More plentiful/available/affordable food is pretty basic. And not having to expend as many calories to earn it. The result? An explosion of obesity. The folks at the Pasadena museum, I'd bet, have been in America longer (or their ancestors have) so even though the obesity rate is still too high, there have been at least SOME adjustments to the situation.



My coaching clients are diverse. One was born in India, and is having a difficult time finding an appropriate mate. One just lost a fiancee, and is heart-broken. The first guy I can't help directly without knowing more about his cultural values--what he's looking for. The second one is pretty obvious. He is insecure, and has a pattern of projecting greater confidence than he really feels. He hooks up with girls who have some wounds, but are promising. He supports them in healing, and then...they begin to withdraw. In this case, they hadn't had sex in a year, on her withdrawal. To me, a pretty clear indication that her hind brain wouldn't trust him to be a partner in raising children. And he went into a downward spiral of insecurity, leading to them becoming "friends" and her moving out. This pattern has repeated several times. This guy is smart, strong, handsome, and a good human being. But he has major abandonment issues surrounding his father, and has never gone in there and cleaned them up. In other words, he LOOKS like a man, but has no real, deep confidence.

Well, I can empathize with that. I have some major wounds there, and the answer was in not worrying too much about being a "man"--just concentrate on being an adult, and letting my genetics take it from there. In other words, handle the first three chakras: a stable income, ethically satisfying sexual needs, creating a secure nest and learning to deal with predators and fear. Keep your word and speak the truth. That, right there, will grow your ass up pretty fast.

Note: you don't have to face predators or alphas one-on-one. Betas can operate perfectly well by forming alliances with other Betas and standing together, or by electing an Alpha chief and supporting him in resisting the predators. Humanity has understood this for a very long time. We can't all be Alphas (nor do I think it would be healthy--lotsa downsides to being Alphas, unless you are the toughest Alpha around, you get your ass kicked a lot by life) but we CAN all be adults. If we avoid this responsibility, we have no business having children, or engaging in reproductive behavior.


On that...I remembered reading that the age of onset for menstruation for women has dropped from 16 to 12 in the last hundred years. This is catastrophic. The level of maturity it requires to parent a child simply isn't available to a 12 year old. And unfortunately, kids start thinking they are mature before they're out of their damned diapers. This can, and probably has, led to a deteriorating cycle, especially in areas where there are more broken families, or fewer adults taking responsibility. Say...the inner cities, for instance. And anyone arguing for the rights of 12 year olds to have children is either mentally deficient or genocidal.


Coaching Question of the day: what positive purpose is served by your worst bad habit? Trust me, some part of you considers EVERYTHING that you do to be of benefit. If you can identify what your subconscious is trying to accomplish, you can often turn a negative to a positive. So...what is that habit, and what is the positive intent?

Friday, November 13, 2009

Forward or Backward?

"One goes ahead, stands still, or goes backwards in life. One's object should be, of course, to go ahead..."

The above quote from "Think And Grow Rich" helps explain why people don't want to set distinct goals and be held accountable for them. If you have clear goals expressed in continuous action, either you are hitting your mark, or you aren't. And in general, IF you can continue to look at those goals, and look at your measurements of action, you will move in the right direction.

So what do people do? They refuse to balance their checkbook and evaluate their net worth. They won't have the critical, deep conversations about their relationships, or perform the vital self-examination and therapeutic work to heal and nuture their hearts. They won't keep track of what they eat, how they exercise, and what they weigh.

This way, they can slide into delusion without rude awakenings, surrounding themselves with fantasies about what does or doesn't work. They slide backwards while believing that they are standing still. And after years, they look up and realize they are miserable, broke, lonely, and sick, and "have no idea" how they got there. It is really so sad, and so preventable. All you have to do is face your fear today instead of pushing it off to the future.


So the 9/11 planners are going to be tried in New York? Fabulous. I still think that Bin Laden couldn't believe how well his plan worked: to push Bush into a horrific overreaction that would both create enemies throughout the Muslim world and damage American credibility and bankrupt us. One of the core reasons I don't believe conspiracy theories is that I can't believe anyone would PREDICT that America would blame Iraq if there were no Iraquis on the planes. I have to believe that if someone WANTED us to attack Iraq from the get-go, and faked the thing, the hijackers would have been Iraquis not Saudis. The fact that America bought into that so easily is the result of our brains shifting to Vengeance mode while our critical thinking went the way of the Dodo. Very similar to the well-known fact that guys don't have enough blood to run their brains and penises at the same time.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

"Lie To Me"

I really enjoy "Lie To Me" with Tim Roth. He is a very, very, interesting guy. Anyone notice the quality of his body language? He has a superlative physical control, adopting a different kinesthetic profile for almost every character he plays. Compare his body-language expert with his swordsman in "Rob Roy" for instance. You'd really think he was a shlub unless you've watched the precision of his motion. Great show, and it may have found a sustainable groove. I can hope.


Anyone know what this supposed "racist" comment Obama made on the campaign trail that Murdoch is talking about? Can't wait to be amused.


The question of "Terrorism" in the Fort Hood massacre is going to be a dicey one. The accused, if guilty (isn't that absurd that we have to talk like this?) is certainly a mass murderer. But the question is whether this was pretty much "going Postal." Terrorism (to me) is trying to send a message, specifically using terror as a weapon to try to influence future or current behavior. Making a specific point. When political, one would expect this behavior to be coordinated with others, part of a larger plan. To put it in cinematic terms, "Inglorious Bastards" starts with terrorism (hideous murder of German soldiers to induce fear and thereby reduce the efficiency of the enemy. "The German will see our cruelty, and imagine what his brothers were suffering at the point of our knives..." etc.). And straight-out strategic killing (in the movie theater) designed to disrupt the lines of command and decapitate the enemy war machine. Not "terrorism" at all.

Was Hasan's action linked to a larger pattern? Remains to be seen, but I'm open to it. Personal suspicion? Half Postal, half deluded political action with no direct connection to anyone else, but an intent to "prove" "punish" or whatever. Not that dissimilar to climbing a tower and shooting co-eds, or bringing an Uzi to the office. With an axe to grind about Muslims being sent to kill other Muslims, yeah. But my guess is that there won't be any direct connections anywhere. We'll see. Hope to God not...and the investigators, thus far, say "no."

But it would be irrational to suggest it isn't possible. OR that it is certain.


I've made a decision about how I'm going to react to the whole science fiction racism thing. On calming myself, it became clear that I've always known this...I just didn't know some of the specific names. So this is nothing new: I knew the job was dangerous when I took it. But I can't write my best stuff if I'm afraid it won't get a fair shake, and therefore my family is at risk financially. So I'm going to diversify my income stream a bit more, so that I can write without needing the writing to pay all the bills. Some of you on the other lists already know that I'm talking about making my kinda informal Life Coaching avocation into something a bit more intense and professional. I don't like using this blog to solicit clients and customers--you guys are more like friends and family, giving me a place to vent. But many of you have asked for more access to me, and I've been offering "strangers" such access, so it would make sense to say it here as well: I've got ten coaching slots, half for general life balance, and half for writing. I'll be offering the first 1/2 hour session totally free, with a mind to finding serious clients with goals that can be clearly defined and therefore supported. If you're interested in a free session, and are serious about seeking a Life Coach, drop me an email at:


Got into some serious discussions about abortion and health care. And was reminded of my basic belief: we just don't have a standard, universally accepted definition of when human life begins. I've heard several different ones, and each of them makes sense from different philosophical positions. Ultimately, it ALWAYS enters the realm of the philosophical. You can measure when the heart of a fetus starts beating--that's objective. But is that fetus a human being? If it doesn't have EEG movement? Then why do we call "brain death" the point when EEG movement ceases? Are we human when sperm meets egg? Only after the fetus would be viable outside the womb? How about only after we name the child? I've seen cultures take a dozen different points of view. Different religions with different definitions. A room full of scientists arguing about it. Sorry--about all anyone can say is that they are convinced they have the answer. And because of these difficulties, for me the abortion question is one that I have to leave between a woman and her Creator. And, of course, if there is no Creator that affects the discussion rather seriously, doesn't it. This is probably as difficult an issue as we're likely to encounter as a culture, and it ain't just a male-female thing, not at all (although I hear that kind of sexist rhetoric).

Now...if it were possible to remove a fetus and cryogenically freeze it, so that others could adopt them, you would have a form of non-lethal abortion, and I'd find the discussion to be much more fascinating. I wonder what the arguments would be then?

Monday, November 09, 2009

God Bless Our Soldiers At Ft. Hood

The slaughter at Fort Hood is absolutely horrific, and I hate to see it politicized, but that's almost inevitable. One thing I wanted to say about the predictable cries of "Muslim" that raged across Right-Wing radio: it is a reasonable cry. No group of human beings that wants to survive can avoid the fact that some of their population will be ultra-sensitive to the "us" and "them". While you don't want your government leaping to a conclusion before thorough investigation, don't tell me that most of you didn't wonder if there was a connection between Hasan's (the accused shooter) religious beliefs, and his actions. If he attended the same Mosque as a couple of the 9/11 shooters it would be crazy not to investigate that.

And if you want the average American to be attentive and scrupulous in investigation, then expect there to be disbelief and incredulity on one side...and angry suspicion or even certainty on the other. That's the way humans are. At times like this, we need both extremes.


Speaking of extremes, it is fascinating to watch the Left and Right fulminate over the health care bill. If you only listened and read to opinions on one side, you'd think that the other got everything they wanted. Extreme Left wingers are screaming that Obama and Capital Hill sold out to Big Pharma and the Insurance companies and are crippled by his insistence on bipartisanship, and is ignoring the will of the American people. Extreme Right wingers are screaming that Obama will bankrupt the country, is a communist... and is ignoring the will of the American people.

The implication is pretty clear to me: he's doing a pretty damned good job of navigating between opposing armies. It really is fascinating to watch the way each side seems utterly tone-deaf to the screaming from the other side, and avoid the implications. The implication? That there is STAGGERING resistance on one side, and a yearning for total nationalized health care on the other. I know of Right-winger who claim everyone who wants health care already has it. I DO hear some Left-wingers say they would like commercial health care to be illegal. But the vast majority are somewhere in the middle. I say cut off the most radical 10% on either side, and let those in the middle work it out. I'm confident they will.

In fact, I wanted to say something that has been increasingly disturbing as the health care debate heats up. I've been seeing so many Lefties turning on him, acting as if if he can't solve all America's problems in ten months, he is an utter failure. It may just be that I haven't been watching politics long enough, or closely enough, but it seems that there are only two settings: Magical Negro, and Sambo. There's no stop in-between for "human." Sort of like Morgan Freeman, who has played God more often than he's been kissed. Truly strange. "We gave ya a chance, boy, and if ya ain't got that nigger mojo, we're takin' ya down." Ugh.


Someone asked if I would rather the publisher of that SF magazine admit to my face that he was racist and wasn't going to cover my material, or that of any black person he could possibly avoid. Of course. I am so sick of the "why aren't there more blacks in science fiction?" panels with whites acting like they are the only group in the world who don't have racial issues. Sick of people looking at me as if I must be crazy, that I'm just making excuses for disappointments in my own career, that the near complete exclusion of non-whites from SF is compensated for by images of aliens and robots. It is emotional stone-walling, and of course I've made LOTS of friends by insisting that something is wrong. And the hidden implication in those panels, as far as I'm concerned? That blacks must be "different". At the least, we have no imaginations. At worst, we're not intelligent enough to read or write SF. We won't come right out and SAY it, but Jesus, have I ever heard that implication often at room parties and such.

So the most important editor in the history of the field, John W. Campbell, believed blacks were genetically incapable of creating an advanced civilization. And arguably the greatest hard SF writer wrote "Farnham's Freehold" with blacks devolving to cannibals and the lead black male character in the entire history of his ouvre betraying his friends (this being a writer who held loyalty above almost all other traits), and the most important non-fiction publisher in the history of the field a bigot...and you know what people will say? I'm misinterpreting. It's isolated. Of course.

We're set up psychologically to believe that we must be "better" or "worse". It just can't be that there are universal issues that create problems. It is irrelevant that my position, that about 10% of human beings are asshole bigots, would literally explain every inequality in American life. That's all right. It must be something else. Can't be "us", must be "them." This hurts, it really does. I have to remind myself to remain centered, to remain focused. To soldier on. But this guy tried to hurt me, and my career, and my family. And smiled in my face as he did it.

OF COURSE I'd want to know where I stood. I wish he'd stood up at conventions and proclaimed to everyone what he thought. And named the names of the other editors and writers who, privately of course, agreed with him. Giving the fans a chance to make a clear, conscious decision which side of the issue they wanted to support.

No. People have a pathological need to deny that the evil they see in the world lives within their own hearts. Science fiction fans want to believe they are a bastion of tolerance, when the most cursory examination of the material, covers, or character lists would reveal the opposite. Blacks would like to think "it's America." Yeah, right. And what other country in the world has black superstars? And groups that are on top (for instance...white heterosexual males) like to complain when special interests try to band together to increase leverage. But let them get old, and they can't wait to join the AARP. One of the most fascinating things humans do is to use guilt as a tool against whatever they consider the dominator group.

Blacks, of course, use slavery, Jim Crow, and segregation to lambaste whites. Jews use the Holocaust to lambaste gentiles. Women in America use the status of women in third-world countries to lambaste men. Gays use gay-bashing to lambaste straights. Every group is jostling for power, and position, and the question of whether the the accusations are "fair" is less important than "is it effective." And the more in denial you are about the fear and anger boiling in your heart, the easier it is to be effectively guilt tripped. Just never forget that no group is really trying to achieve "equality." They all want more. They all want to control the discussion, because deep in the hind-brain there is the sense that there isn't enough freshly killed zebra to go around, and I'm gettin' my haunch first.

I don't know quite what to do, honestly. I wish I could believe that Mr. X was isolated, but looking at a century of SF it is clear that his magazine was popular because his tastes were mirrored by his core audience. Otherwise his magazine wouldn't have survived.

What can I do? Oh, I'm a little spun right now. I'll regain my balance. But I remember a line spoken by Larry Fishburne in "Tuskeegee Airmen": "what do I think about my country? And what does my country think about me?" I love science fiction, despite what I regard as clarity about her issues. What DOES my field really think about me? I'm afraid that for far too many, if they embrace me it's only because they think I'm an "Oreo"--black on the outside, white on the inside. That was the deal I was offered so many years ago: "you're not one of Them, Steve. You're one of Us." A devil's bargain. A soul-stealing bargain.


Recent controversy about sex toys in the news. I forget where this was, but masturbation tools were made illegal, and some religious figure claimed that such tools were bad for marriages.

Well...if you're lousy in bed and don't want your wife to know what an orgasm feels like, yeah. But I know a number of women who are non-orgasmic in their marriage bed, and not one of them masturbates. Personally, I wouldn't want to be in a sexual relationship with a woman who didn't know how to turn herself on. How in the hell could she help me understand her needs, if she doesn't? Men are easy: sex with a guy (according to people I know who go both ways) is like blowing up a balloon until it explodes. Sex with a woman is like opening a safe, in the dark, wearing gloves, and the combination changes every day. Oh...and sometimes even the owner doesn't know the combination. I'll take all the help I can get.