History is Not on Our Side

That title may be a bit uncharitable, because history surely is full of people accomplishing great things, making monumental discoveries, and generally advancing the human race from savagery to civilization. History is also, unfortunately, rife with examples of people being terrible to one another.

Some of that “being terrible” began as “being natural,” because the natural world is a frightful place — the phrase “red in tooth and claw” is literally the natural state of things for most creatures on the planet. Seriously, that’s why our ancestors worked so hard to rise out of savagery and to tame the world around them.

By the time Ogg the caveman decided to brain his fellow caveman Uldarr with a rock because he wanted Uldarr’s share (or Uldarr had stolen Ogg’s share) of the wooly mammoth they’d killed, their ancestors had scratched and clawed — literally clawed, in the days before tools — their way up to a point of some sophistication compared to where the human race started. Fast forward to any point in history, anywhere on Earth, and you’ll see the same things: scarce resources driving people to eliminate rivals; slights and insults provoking people to wrath; and personal conflicts growing into family feuds, tribal battles, and even global wars. Aggravation, escalation, devastation.

Because of all that shared history, and the animosity that pervades human life and culture, it’s a wonder we get along with as many people as we do, as well as we do. Here in the U.S., a lot of that shared history has to do with race, and racial tension is one of the most persistent and pernicious ways these conflicts have manifested.

What, then, does history offer to help us?

History tells us a great deal about what happened in the past: who did what, how they did it, when and where it took place, the kinds of things we can document and present as facts. Some aspects may be disputed, from major elements of events to minor details, and subsequent research may turn up new facts that change our understanding of what happened.

Why things happened, however, and especially why the people involved did the things they did, can be a lot harder to determine.


(Image: “History wallpaper/desktop image,” by Eric Turner, on Wikimedia Commons.)

Why something happened in history may seem evident, in the way that why a hurricane forms is evidently because an area of low pressure developed over warm ocean water; but the cause(s) we ascribe to human events may be too simplistic and may not tell the whole story. Why an historical event happened the way it did is more akin to figuring out why a particular hurricane hit a particular place on a particular date — or, to use a more erratic weather metaphor, to postulate why a tornado (perhaps spawned by a hurricane) destroyed one house and left the house next to it undamaged. It’s much more difficult to explain, and the reasons we come up with are usually not as precise as we would wish. And because such things are erratic, the reasons we put forth don’t lead us to being able to predict future “storms” with great precision.

Unlike hurricanes and tornados, of course, sometimes the people involved in historical events leave records — diaries, reports, memoirs; letters, articles, perhaps blog posts these days — which are subject to scrutiny and interpretation. But those records can be considered tainted by inaccurate observation or unclear memory, or even corrupted by agenda or ideology or passion. All of which combines to make historical analysis difficult, and history-based speculation sometimes unreliable.

Therefore, history is not on our side. It does not offer us a trustworthy guide to the future, and the marks it’s left on the present are often indelible and ugly.

But we don’t need history to be on our side. In fact, having now written all this, it seems silly to think it ever would be. To say that history could be on our side is like the terribly imprecise saying from a few decades ago, “Information wants to be free.” It’s nonsense. Information doesn’t want anything — it is noncorporeal, and has no needs or desires to satisfy. Some people want information to be free, but that’s another matter.

Likewise, some people want history to be on our (i.e., their) side, but that’s another matter.

History isn’t on anybody’s side, and the most we can hope for is that our historical record is as complete and accurate, as accessible and permanent, as possible. Because if we let aggravation lead to escalation and then to devastation, if we find ourselves in a broken society (hopefully not reduced as far as Ogg the caveman’s), it would be good to be able to relearn whatever lessons we can from history, in hopes of not repeating too many of the same mistakes.

But, what do you think?

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To Blog, or Not to Blog, that is the Question

Whether ’tis nobler on the Net to suffer the slings and arrows of outraged trolls, or to take arms against a sea of opinions and by opposing refute them …

Hamlet's famous soliloquy, 'To be or not to be'
(Hamlet’s famous soliloquy.)

Seriously, I wonder whether I should relegate this site to the dustbin of the Internet archives — they say the Internet is forever, after all — or whether I should start back again, tossing out the oddball ideas I’ve collected. I literally have tens of thousands of words of half-formed blog post ideas collected in a Word document. Some of them might even be decent.

Sometimes I think I should get them out in the open and out of my head. I even — gasp! — blogged about that before.

Sometimes I think I should keep them to myself, that nobody’s much interested. (Sometimes I think that last bit doesn’t matter.)

(Sigh.) We’ll see what happens, won’t we?

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I’m Just a Poe Boy, Going to RavenCon

That’s right, this weekend I’ll be at the RavenCon science fiction and fantasy convention in Richmond, Virginia, which pays homage in its name to the legacy of Edgar Allan Poe. I’ve enjoyed attending and serving as a guest at RavenCon for many years. It’s a great convention!

Once again, I’m not doing any concerts πŸ˜•, but I have a few different panels to keep me busy. Here’s my schedule, if you’re going to be around:

Friday:

  • 4 pm — Open Filking
  • 5 pm — Guests Meet and Greet
  • 7 pm — Opening Ceremony
  • Midnight — Open Filking

Saturday:

  • 10 am — Panel: “Conversation with the Editors” (Moderator)
  • 1:30 pm — Baen Books Traveling Road Show & Prize Patrol
  • 3 pm — Panel: “How to Handle Rejection”
  • 4 pm — Reading
  • Midnight — Open Filking

Sunday:

  • 9 am — Non-Denominational Worship Service
  • 10 am — Panel: “Does Science Fiction Still Affect How We Think About the Future?”
  • 11 am — Panel: “Writing Believable Aliens” (Moderator)

What should I read at my reading this year? The opening of the novel I’m struggling to write, or the opening of the story that Analog Science Fiction and Fact bought but hasn’t published yet? Maybe I’ll let the audience decide, if there is one.

Let’s have some geeky fun!

___
Related Items of Interest:
– Listen to any of my albums for free at Bandcamp — Taking You Out to See the Stars, Distorted Vision, and Truths and Lies and Make-Believeyou can also buy them there
– Watch the music video of Tauntauns to Glory

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There Be Dragons at FantaSci this Weekend!

Convention season is ramping up, and this weekend I’ll be at the FantaSci science fiction and fantasy convention in Durham, North Carolina. My friends The Blibbering Humdingers are the musical Guests of Honor!

FantaSci 2023 'Here be Dragons' logo
(FantaSci 2023 logo.)

Here’s my programming schedule for the weekend:

Friday:

  • 2:00 p.m. — Panel, “How to Fake Being an Extrovert”

Saturday:

  • 10 a.m. — Moderating the Panel, “Science and Magic”
  • 1 p.m. — Panel, “Religion as a Tool in Fiction
  • 2:00 p.m. — Baen Books Traveling Slide Show & Prize Patrol

Should be fun! And, whatever you find yourself doing this weekend, I hope you have fun, too!

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On This Day of Thanks

I try to give thanks every day, for any number of things. On this day of special thanks, my every-so-often newsletter was about what I’m particularly grateful for, and this afternoon I got to have Thanksgiving dinner with my 94-year-old dad for the first time in several years. He adopted me back when I was in elementary school, and I’m grateful for the excellent example he gave me — in fact, I often wish I was more like him than like myself. Thanks, Pop!

I hope you had a fine, festive, and fulfilling Thanksgiving!

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My New Political Party

Having moved recently, I had to submit voter registration paperwork in my new district. Rather than pick any of the major parties, I listed a party of one: The Foundations Party.

I thought of this party a long time ago, and came up with a list of foundations that the party — i.e., that I — consider important:

  • The foundation of society is the family
  • The foundation of civilization is productive creativity (or creative production)
  • The foundation of commerce is freedom of choice
  • The foundations of science are verifiable facts and repeatable experimentation
  • The foundations of knowledge are communicable concepts upheld by experience
  • The foundations of learning are curiosity and wonder
  • The foundations of freedom are autonomy and available options
  • The foundation of liberty is life itself … which may be the price paid for it
  • The foundation of the law is respect for individual autonomy
  • The foundation of civility is self-control


(Image from https://www.blissquote.com/2021/07/political-quotes.html.)

You might quibble with my definitions, but as this is a single-person party, my definitions suffice for me. But are there any other foundational statements I should add? What would you suggest, using the formula “The foundation(s) of __ is(are) __”?

And: Want to join me? πŸ˜‰Facebooktwitterpinterestlinkedinmailby feather

ConGregate Starts Today!

After missing LibertyCon last month 😟 due to personal issues, I’m determined to make it to ConGregate this weekend in Winston-Salem, NC. Which is not to say that all the personal issues have been taken care of — far from it — but I’m going to try to ignore them as much as possible.

Here’s my schedule:

Friday:

  • 4:00 p.m. — Concert — a mix of silly and serious songs, including several selections from the new album, Taking You Out to See the Stars
  • 7:00 p.m. — Opening Ceremonies: E Como Mai

Saturday:

  • 1:30 p.m. — Panel, “Communicating Science”
  • 4:00 p.m. — Game, “Well, Actually…”
  • 6:00 p.m. — Baen Books Traveling Slide Show & Prize Patrol

Sunday:

  • 9:00 a.m. — Prayer & Praise Service
  • 1:00 p.m. — Filk Collective

Don’t be a stranger — and let’s have some fun!

___
Related Items of Interest:
– My new album, Taking You Out to See the Stars, is now available on Bandcamp, as well as on streaming services like Spotify!
– Here are The Gray Man’s Recommendations for Near-Future, Near-Space SF Novels
– Watch the music video of “Tauntauns to GloryFacebooktwitterpinterestlinkedinmailby feather

The Gray Man’s Recommendations for Near-Future, Near-Space SF Novels

With apologies for eventually asking you to click through to another site, I was recently invited to submit a book recommendation list to Shepherd.com, a new and growing book recommendation portal. It’s still currently in “beta,” but it’s a pretty neat site with a huge variety of book recommendation lists.

They gave me complete freedom to select and recommend any books I wanted, and (not surprisingly) the list I created is what I consider to be The best stories about near-future, near-space (though I confess I used the term “near space” VERY loosely).

In hopes that you’ll click the link above and go check it out, I won’t repeat the whole list here, but to give you the flavor of it: My first recommendation is Robert A. Heinlein’s The Moon is a Harsh Mistress.


(NASA image of Earth over the lunar plain.)

So please check it out! and if you like something you see, please share it with your friends!Facebooktwitterpinterestlinkedinmailby feather

Album Release: Taking You Out to See the Stars

The new album is live on Bandcamp at this link!

And check out the cover art put together by my son, Christopher:

As of now, it’s only available on Bandcamp, but as we get the interior artwork finished we’ll produce a few physical CDs, and over the next couple of weeks we’ll submit the album for inclusion on streaming services like Spotify.

Hope you’ll give it a listen, and that something you hear will resonate with you! (And if it does, tell your friends!)Facebooktwitterpinterestlinkedinmailby feather

I Did Something Nice, Finally

In situations like this, I think of Inigo Montoya saying to Fezzig, “You did something right,” and Fezzig replying, “Don’t worry, I won’t let it go to my head.”

Despite all the miscues of this week — the poor communications, the questionable decisions, the visit to urgent care, bailing out of LibertyCon because I’m not in the right “head space” — I did manage to do something nice: I wrote a lullaby.

As lullabies go, it’s nothing special — just soft, repeated phrases with a tie-in at the end. It’s called “Dream a Little While,” and the first verse goes like this:

Go to sleep, my little child
Go to sleep, my little child
Go to sleep, my little child
Dream a little while

It cycles through five verses, but anyone could make up more if they want to. Feel free to pass it to any new parents who are tired of the old lullabies. (I can verify that it worked at least once with young Finn.)

I don’t know if anyone else will ever use it, but if they do I hope they’ll let me know.

Here’s the link to the PDF of the score: “Dream a Little While”.

And here’s yours truly doing a quick-and-dirty recording on his phone:

___

Also, in tangentially related news: My new album, Taking You Out to See the Stars, is now 100% musically complete, with 13 songs of various types — covering, as you might imagine, a wide range of topics, but not including this particular lullaby. The album is available for preorder at the link, and should be released on Thursday the 23rd of June once the placeholder cover is replaced with the real cover art.Facebooktwitterpinterestlinkedinmailby feather