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Guest Post by Sarah A. Hoyt: Holding Daddy’s Hand

February 19, 2013 Author: Anthony Pacheco Category: Awesomesauce, Not Exactly Random, Plot, Setting, The Craft  1 Comment

smallsarahThe wise owner of this blog said recently that The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress needs no reboot, and I’m not stupid enough to argue.

In a way he’s absolutely right. The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress is perfect of itself, vying with The Puppet Masters for my most favorite Heinlein ever, which is to say, vying with Puppet Masters for my favorite book of all time.

Which happened to be to our purpose, nothing. Meaning what Heinlein wrote was perfect for Heinlein and for his Universe, but when I finished Darkship Thieves, both my publisher and I decided it was time to open a can of whoop… er… behind on the Self-Satisfied Good Men of Earth.

Partly this was born of logic. After all, well, once you have that complete control, you are certainly going to be hurting the society that hosts you. Any parasite that grows to large is going to do that and government is always a parasite, in the sense that it creates nothing, and can’t live without its host. (Whether it benefits the host on the other hand, is something we might discuss. I mean, I hear these days that intestinal worms are good for you, they decrease auto-immune disorders. Maybe a small, controlled government decreases incidences of tyranny. I don’t know. Maybe we should have a small government and try it.)

Partly this was born of the fact that my publisher and I are both blood-thirsty broads with a nasty disposition. The Good Men annoyed us, and therefore, the Good Men must come down.

So… I was left to plot revolution. When in this type of situation, I go to Heinlein whose writing can be defined as “teaching young people how to plot revolution.”

Well, I can’t say I’m young, but yes. So I did read The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress. And I thought “Okay, then, now let’s try it without a supercomputer.” “Let’s try it without a closed system like the moon” and “Let’s try it without the people we’re fighting against being at the bottom of the gravity well.”

The result was, of course, an unholy mess. In fact, it was such a messy mess, I couldn’t contain it under the Darkship Thieves series except very loosely.

The revolution starts with the escape from Never-Never at the end of Darkship Thieves of the disowned son of a Good Man. It starts not because he has high ideals, but because he would like to stay alive. (The high ideals come later.) It will end – because it’s across the whole Earth – twenty some years later, in a battle royale. In between there are many revolutions. The one in A Few Good Men is in the seacity of Olympus and its land-dependencies. The one in Liberte seacity – the next book, Through Fire – goes SERIOUSLY wrong.

And meanwhile Eden, the center of Darkship Thieves and Darkship Renegades is finding the limitations of a society with no written law (which is relevant considering we’ve decided to ignore our written law. Er… I mean, it’s complete science fiction, never mind.)

Darkship Renegades came out in December. A Few Good Men comes out in March. I have contracts in my hands for Through Fire and what might turn into Darkship Vengeance.

A friend told me I was writing Heinlein homage, but I don’t think I am. I’m also not writing Heinlein reboot, because when it comes to writing science fiction, compared to him I am but an egg.

It is just that I grew up IN Heinlein’s books, and as such it’s difficult to escape certain assumptions about how the world works, and how the future will go. Not ALL assumptions, of course, because we’re not the same people. But in general, we seem to be in accord about what matters: Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

I’m no more doing Heinlein homage than your kid does you homage when his walk is a lot like yours. It’s not that he sat out to imitate you. It’s that he learned to walk while holding your hand.

And in a way that’s what I’m doing – writing space opera, holding daddy’s hand.

There are worse things I could do.

(And because I promised Anthony I’d mention it – I’ve corrupted my entire family with Portuguese Kale soup. This is difficult since we are, of course, on a low carb diet, so the potato base to thicken the water is right out. BUT I make broth from spicy sausage. Then I boil and mash some cauliflower. And then I drop in the julienned Kale. Particularly good on a cold, cold night in Colorado.)

[Admin: Thanks Sarah for stopping by! Links to Sarah’s awesome  latest and upcoming books are here: The Sporadic, Spasmodic, Self Promo Post]

A Few Good Men

Libertarian Science Fiction: Failure to Feed

February 15, 2013 Author: Anthony Pacheco Category: Characterization, Plot, Setting, The Craft  3 Comments

On one hand, I feel somewhat guilty for having a high-traffic blog post that was, at the core, fluff.

On the other, I now have a good idea what some want to read about. So let’s first talk about libertarian speculative DNA.

Libertarian Science Fiction DNA, Anthony Style

In the beginning (for me), there was Robert Heinlein, and it was good. Followed up with Vernor Vinge (The Ungoverned was brilliant). Then there was a back-peddle to Atlas Shrugged.

Then there was David Weber and the libertarian themes in the Honor Harrington books, an impressive feat where the main system of government was a monarchy. But the total send up of The People’s Republic of Haven and the Solarian League was a blatant libertarian f-you to their contemporary counterparts.

Then there was, what, really? Oh sure, Baen carried the speculative libertarian fiction torch and I’m sure there is something on my library selves I’ve forgotten, but what followed was a wasteland. The trail blazed went cold. What we were left with was… message-y. A lot.

Enter Michael Z. Williamson in 2003 with Freehold. Freehold is unapologetic anarcho-capitalism libertarian science fiction at its finest, and the related novel, The Weapon, was an orgy of the destruction of statism and all of its evils. For a time. We’ll come back to Williamson.

Then… crickets. We must travel seven years to come to another (Baen) author who went Full Monty Heinlein, Sarah A. Hoyt with Darkship Thieves.

And finally we come to the supremely 80’s deliciousness of Ready Player One by Ernest Cline.

Libertarian Science Fiction v2.0

My assertion is Williamson rebooted libertarian science fiction. He drove home the obvious evils of statism in absurd detail, provided a large backdrop centered around anarcho-capitalism and projected the triumph of the individual directly into the reader’s brain. A reader following his science fiction books from Freehold to present receives this delicious Libertarian Science Fiction v2.0 meal.

It’s a delicious meal, but it seems to me that Sarah Hoyt is the most serious about pulling up a chair to this rich and wonderful feast. And many of the chairs around the table are sadly empty.

Let me explain what I mean by v2.0: After embarking on the Williamson Trail of Statist Tears, I don’t even need to define what Libertarian Science Fiction is. Readers get it. Libertarians get it. Science Fiction fans get it, and let’s not be coy: any recent book about an anarcho-capitalist society is pure libertarian culture brilliance and when I say brilliance I mean fucking brilliance.

There is no need to reboot The Moon is a Harsh Mistress.

But there is a very clear need to offer a current cultural heartbeat to what the core of libertarian science fiction is. And Williamson meets that need with a sledgehammer . He’s still swinging it today.

Failure to Feed

And here we are. I classified a previous novel I wrote as libertarian gun-nut speculative fiction: a blend of urban fantasy and contemporary thriller.  It lives under my bed.

I shoved it under my bed for the simple reason that what I want to write is books that I want to read. And I want to read libertarian science fiction. I really, really do. And I think many other people out there want to do so too.

There’s a lot of science fiction out there that, as a libertarian, drives me up the wall. Most of the science fiction I’ve been reading lately is message fiction with a side of progressive love affair of replacing one socialistic society with a (supposedly) better socialistic society, usually in a dystopian orgy of carnage and destruction.

I don’t want to read that. I want to read speculative fiction that triumphs the trail of liberty sitting before us.

I am convinced there is a want to read this genre in both books for adults and books for young adults. And when was the last time any of us read a young adult libertarian science fiction book?

Anyone?

[crickets]

This is a failure to feed. When a low-detailed blog post about “Red Pill Science Fiction” gathers over ten times my daily traffic, there’s a need going untapped. I decided several years ago to jump into this pool of speculative freedom-loving goodness with both feet and eyes wide open. I have plans. Notice in this essay I do not go into detail of what all these “ism’s” are. I know you know. And now you know I know you know.

How refreshing is that?

The Care and Feeding of Libertarian Word-Building

What do I like to read in libertarian science fiction? I like to read a book where the author has done some serious world-building. And when I mean serious, I mean avoiding pitfalls that seem obvious to me in “mainstream” science fiction while pulling on the strings now present from the Libertarian Science Fiction v2.0 reboot.

Gender Culture and Libertarianism

Science fiction has a serious gender problem. Feminism and libertarianism are diametrically opposed and thus a large swath of science fiction steeped in this feminism  is distasteful to the libertarian. But more than that, the relationship between genders often have a genesis in poor analysis. For example, every major war the United States participates in shifts gender relations. Every. Single. One. Yet this area remains largely unexplored in science fiction, but not in libertarian science fiction. Notice in libertarian science fiction men are men and women are women. Libertarian femininity is a biological construct and women conform to evolutionary psychological reactions. It ignores what people have told us women are in order to feed us a brand of dogma which, at its core, is the antithesis of libertarianism.

Yes, I went there. In fact, my Lexus Toulouse mysteries go there hard.

Feminism relies on coercion by the use of force. The use of force for coercion is the core evil of any libertarian speculative book. A libertarian society has a completely different set of cultural norms for gender relations. Completely. So what does it look like?

And how does technology impact women’s relationships to the men? For example, stick a woman in powered armor and you can speculate that she has a significant impact not only on the battlefield, but also into the gathering of resources. And the “so what?” of that is that has a tremendous impact on how men relate to her. Yet this technology also has tremendous (negative) impact to a woman’s psychological ability to cope with a sustained war.

Raise your hand if you’ve read a science fiction book where women deal with the aftermath of war just like men.

Wow. I thought so.

How do men function in a libertarian society? Really. Like, what does it look like when a man isn’t forced to do anything because of, well, anything, really. How does the lack of coercion shape cultural norms?  One answer to that is men behave differently when not constantly told they are evil and bad so they better be (nice, submissive, feminine, etc.)

Because, you know, most men aren’t evil and bad. In the lack of a war on boys, what kind of men do boys become?

Now, I did come up with a scenario of a  matriarchal libertarian society, and that’s in my Lexus Toulouse mysteries. Think about it.

Kids and Teens

Completely related to gender norms is the largely unexplored realm of what children and teen culture looks like in the future. The teen of today is not the teen of two hundred years from now, but that’s a major assumption present in most science fiction books. In fact, this is a largely unexplored contemporary area, too. Despite all the come-of-age books and movies, what was the real shift from the teen before WWI and the teen after WWII? I know it was significant, but how significant was it?

Libertarianism is the triumph of society through the advancement of the individual without coercion. That impacts children. Deeply and completely.

Corporations and Centralism

Holy freaking glow-in-the-dark cow on a pogo stick. The evil mega-corporation troupe must die. Die, die, die, die, die. Not because it’s a  leftist circle-jerk (messy and sad) but because it makes no logical sense. It makes no logical sense because corporatism is a big failure because centralization is a big failure. And the more technology we throw at centralization, the bigger the failure is going to be. And somehow, technology, which, time and time again in the last 100 years, have proven to empower, not reduce, the individual. So we have tech making big things fall hard, and tech making little things jump out of the way.

That’s libertarianism, Baby. It’s almost as if the history of technology in these science fictions books undergoes redefinition and re-purposed to suit some not-so-subtle war on capitalism.

Hmmmm, that sounds familiar, doesn’t it?

The De-Centralization of the Military

Not a libertarian concept per se, but a libertarian society, when faced with an obvious threat, will absolutely re-tool itself to deal with that threat.

There are other considerations. For example, logistics. Why do you need a central logistical supply chain when the logistics guy can make his own stuff for his platoon? What does a command structure look like when a decentralized and distributed society goes to war?

I bet it’s different. I bet it’s way different.

And like the mega-corporation, there are thematics here that need to die, and die hard. The allegory for the Vietnam War is done. We’ve all read the Forever War. Forever War–that’s it. We’re done, okay?

And excuse me, while I am ranting, Sometimes it’s as if the real writers who’ve gone to war don’t exist. It’s as if David Drake didn’t write Hammer’s Slammers.

But I digress.

The Author-Reader Bargain

In my series, I do not cram my libertarian genetic code down a reader’s throat and as an aside, neither did anyone else I’ve mentioned thus far. Even Williamson didn’t so much tell, through the wonderfully voiced Kendra, what libertarianism is despite that Freehold is Librarian Science Fiction 101. No, he showed what it is through her child-like eyes. It was a message book devoid of a message, a pretty neat trick and a clear sign of storytelling talent.

In Armageddon’s Princess, I do not preach at you through the Princess. Lexus, as the Princess Concubine spends a considerable amount of time seeking sex and getting laid. And when she isn’t chasing or offering tail, she’s hell-bent on catching bad guys. And when she’s not doing any of those she is trying to simply live with the aftermath of a terrible, terrible war.

That, in a sense, is the apex of my world-building for this series. I believe that if a future libertarian people went to war, that war would be an awful thing. It would be total and it would be complete and when it was over the horror of it would be unfathomable and unbearable.

I may be a rehabilitated hack writer, but, if you’ve come here looking for science fiction swimming around libertarian philosophy, I promise to at least deliver some type of speculative meal. I believe so strongly that there is a desire to read this type of speculative fiction, I have no hesitation in alienating a potential reader that hates my guts with this post simply because I don’t subscribe to the statist cult.

Liberty

Darkship Thieves by Sarah A. Hoyt

January 04, 2011 Author: Anthony Pacheco Category: Awesomesauce, Characterization, Plot, Setting, The Craft  0 Comments

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For anyone new popping up on the scene, I target my book reviews towards novelists (you can find my prior reviews here).

Darkship Thieves by Sarah A. Hoyt was my holiday me me me book, but it turned into much more than that. For the novelist interested in speculative fiction, Darkship Thieves is a course of science fiction om nom nom nom with a major serving of romp and romance.

Here’s the book blurb:

Athena Hera Sinistra never wanted to go to space. Never wanted see the eerie glow of the Powerpods. Never wanted to visit Circum Terra. Never had any interest in finding out the truth about the DarkShips. You always get what you don’t ask for. Which must have been why she woke up in the dark of shipnight, within the greater night of space in her father’s space cruiser, knowing that there was a stranger in her room. In a short time, after taking out the stranger—who turned out to be one of her father’s bodyguards up to no good, she was hurtling away from the ship in a lifeboat to get help. But what she got instead would be the adventure of a lifetime—if she managed to survive . . . .

You can always count on the publisher, Baen, to deliver some classic sci-fi with a bit of the libertarian thematic, but Darkship Thieves is a not-so-subtle homage to Robert Heinlein, and that is one reason it is worthy of study. Once a reader gets into that, the book comes into its own in a major, major way, and how Hoyt does this is a bit of the ‘ole awesomesauce.

Essentially it goes like this: any Heinlein fan is going to read this book and start grinning like a dork about a quarter of a way through it. Halfway through the book the little science fiction libertarian in you will go “this is soooooo good,” but then, like the dogs of war unleashed, the novel takes off on its own and doesn’t end until the reader is breathless.

And Hoyt does this with an exploration of love and honesty, two great libertarian themes so worthy of needing exploration in science fiction.

Heinlein was the master of the libertarian thematic but he also dabbled on the edges of libertarianism beyond the personal affirmation and the economic delivery from tyranny. The core of libertarian philosophy centers around peaceful interactions between people in a “trust, but verify” relationship. A person has to believe in the overall good of mankind, yet expect the odd duck to cause problems and thus plan accordingly.

Thena finds herself as the obligatory fish-out-of-water in a libertarian society after being rescued by Kit, a genetically modified pilot who makes a living stealing power from the terrans. Kit brings her to Eden, a large asteroid with refugees from a nasty war back on Earth. Eden is, for the most part, an anarcho-capitalism society.

Oh, but Kit. Kit is so nakedly honest, so honorable (not to mention a bit of a studmuffin), Thena falls in love with him. She falls hard. She’s a product of a declining civilization, a civilization kept together through understated oppression and slight of hand. When encountering pure goodness, it drives her a little crazy, and she is drawn to Kit not so much because he can get inside her head (literally) but because Kit is simply Kit and no one else. Hoyt brings out the craziness in Thena as she realizes the core of her beliefs are a lie, and then, like a master novelist, Hoyt dials it up to eleven when Thena finds out her life has been a lie.

Thena, my fellow writers, kicks-ass throughout the entire novel despite all of the setbacks a cruel universe throws at her. And yet, when faced with the prospect of losing the first real taste of love she has ever known, she goes on an unholy libertarian rampage that is both epic and intensely personal at the same time.

I could prattle on and on about how Darkship Thieves is a marvelous science fiction book in a classical sense, with wonderful uses of technology and some truly clever settings. At its heart, however, it is a romantic love story wrapped up in a personal coming-of-age yarn about good triumphing over evil.

For a novelist in any type of speculative fiction, I give the novel five slices of bacon up out of five.