It’s the stupidity, stupid.

Let’s get Meta.

There’s a meme running around teh interwebz trying to explain the implosion of healthcare reform, the upshot of which is Democrats are pussies and can’t fight trench warfare against the ominous Rove-inspired disinformation machine. Apparently they are so weak-willed that a ex-Governor who lost a VP bid can just mutter about “Death Panels” on Facebook and they melt into goo like the Wicked Witch of the West.

Here’s the one thing. We have the most nasty dirty-fighting opportunistic power grab going on in Washington right now. The Democrats are fully in control, and the Republican party is completely irrelevant after spending eight years slamming itself in the face with the ball-peen hammer called George W. Bush. You want to know what happened to health care reform? The Democrats killed it, all by themselves. They passed out the torches and pitchforks and didn’t even realize what they were doing.

Here is a ten step guide on how to completely squander the high-water mark of your party’s dominance.

Mistake one: Blow all your political capital on passing two huge controversial bills before even attempting your capstone plan.
Mistake two: Throw everything in at the same time. Why narrowly focus on a single item and come up with a proposal to fix it when you can throw everything at the wall at once in a huge malignant tumor of legislation that insures that there’s at least one show-stopping revelation for just about everyone.
Mistake three: Fail to make a case that something needs to be fixed. When a major selling point is Obama saying, “If you like what you have, nothing will change,” and 70% of the population like what they have, they start wondering why you’re doing anything. When you’re pimping legislation based on all the things it ain’t going to do (like unplug grandma) you are failing to make an argument for it.
Mistake four: Make the patently stupid assertion that “new massive entitlement” = “saving money.”    Compound that by complaining about the CBO like a whiny little brat when the budget impact figures are released.
Mistake five: Make bad jokes about not reading these massive bills, so you look like an arrogant tool.
Mistake six: Call your opposition un-American Nazis.
Mistake seven: Say the public option is not an essential component of the package, except when it is, and say the media is doing everyone a disservice by reporting what you actually said.
Mistake eight: Ask citizens to report on people making “fishy” claims about health care reform.  When someone points out how Orwellian that is, just say “oops, our bad.”
Mistake nine: Repeatedly claim it’s all the evil Republicans’ fault that you can’t move a bill though your until-recently filibuster-proof Senate. Yeah, it’s the Republicans.  They’re not being bipartisan, the bastards.
Mistake ten: If someone releases a video of you enthusiastically supporting single payer, don’t rely on the old standby of claiming your position has evolved. Don’t say that, while single payer is your preference, you’re open to other approaches. Don’t even claim out-of-context quoting. No, instead have a shill release another web-video flatly stating the original video of you is “disinformation” and combat it with other videos of you saying something completely different.

Bonus Mistake eleven: Proclaim that the time for debate is over just as your proposal really starts tanking.

Why am I scared of State involvement in anything?

Of all the crap the U.S. Government spends money on, the National Endowment of the Arts is probably one of the least offensive.  When someone comes around and calls for eliminating funding for it, they come across often as either petty or too easily offended.  Two main complaints rear their head when the subject of the NEA comes up 1) it’s a waste of taxpayer money and 2) OMG look at what they’re funding!!!!

Well #2 has never really moved me.  Frankly if you have that kind of arts funding, I’m for having expression as free as possible. (Besides if your art actually had popular support you wouldn’t need government money, right?)  And #1?  There are a hella lot more wasteful segments of the government to spend energy attacking.

Problem is there’s a number three.

3) Anything funded by the State is eventually manipulated by the State to support the State’s own ends.

But Mr. Swann, it’s just paranoid to think that anyone would try and use the National Endowment for the Arts to try and manipulate their beneficiaries to become mouthpieces for some partisan political agenda.

Shall I quote from a blog post by Patrick Courrielche?

On Thursday August 6th, I was invited by the National Endowment for the Arts to attend a conference call scheduled for Monday August 10th hosted by the NEA, the White House Office of Public Engagement, and United We Serve. The call would include “a group of artists, producers, promoters, organizers, influencers, marketers, taste-makers, leaders or just plain cool people to join together and work together to promote a more civically engaged America and celebrate how the arts can be used for a positive change!” […]

Backed by the full weight of President Barack Obama’s call to service and the institutional weight of the NEA, the conference call was billed as an opportunity for those in the art community to inspire service in four key categories, and at the top of the list were “health care” and “energy and environment.” […]

Obama has a strong arts agenda, we were told, and has been very supportive of both using and supporting the arts in creative ways to talk about the issues facing the country. We were “selected for a reason,” they told us. We had played a key role in the election and now Obama was putting out the call of service to help create change. We knew “how to make a stink,” and were encouraged to do so.

Isn’t it nice to know that political ideology is now explicitly part of the mix? Frankly, if you’re in the arts, of whatever political persuasion, this should really freak you out. Defining politically acceptable modes of artistic expression has never been a sign of a healthy regime.

Today’s the day!

Back in March of 2007 I started writing (and blogging) this thing. Now, finally, after three drafts, a new agent and a new publisher later, it goes into print officially today.

You know you want to buy a copy.

Wolfbreed

Booklist:

Swann’s exquisite werewolf historical brings the era vividly to life as the perfect setting for his conflicted, multidimensional characters. This may be the werewolf book of the year, for, filled with action, romance, gore, and political intrigue, it’s a fresh, page-turning take on werewolf tropes that is not to be missed.

Publisher’s Weekly:

Religion and political intrigue turn an adolescent werewolf into a killing machine in this compelling novel of 13th-century Northern Europe. […] Lilly’s struggle to reconcile her split personalities—cold assassin and lonely girl—becomes a quest for redemption and love as she endures rape, amnesia and the knowledge of her own terrible actions in the church’s service. Swann turns opposing viewpoints into sympathetic perspectives, clearly painting the complex political and religious dynamics of the time.

George R.R. Martin

S.A. Swann has written a spellbinding fantasy of the Teutonic Knights and the great Northern Crusade, set in a little-known period of history amidst the gloomy forests of Prussia and Lithuania. Vivid and visceral, dark and delicious, this one kept me turning pages from start to finish.

Mary Balogh

A mesmerizing story that entertained me thoroughly and moved me deeply. Lilly’s Song is an exciting, non-stop action adventure involving the supernatural. More than that, though, it demonstrates how the human spirit, even when in a not-entirely-human body, can be transformed and redeemed by the power of love. I adored this book.

Robert Masello

Lilly lives in a world so strange that even werewolves have to fight for survival, and I found myself rooting for her from the very start. Before long, I was falling for her, too! Lilly’s Song is a thrilling, yet deeply moving, journey that I never wanted to end.

The Top 5 Lazy-ass SF Clichés

(Inspired by some blog posts elsewhere)

  1. The aliens are really metaphors for a) blacks b) Jews c) pick a minority group.  It’s one thing to use another species to write about racism, quite another to just lift some particular human experience and graft it on to a non-human.  It rarely makes sense.  It’s even worse when it’s used as an excuse to use racial stereotypes without getting clobbered.
  2. The aliens come from the DSMV.  Giving an entire species a single obsession or mental disorder just to make them “alien” is sloppy and a little creepy.  The psychological equivalent of Star Trek’s bump on the forehead aliens (and they had the excuse of budget constraints, what’s yours?)
  3. The <blank> planet, be it ice, jungle, desert. . . any planet that’s just a single environment is pretty much impossible given that light travels in straight lines and planets are round.  The only two I give a pass to are Dune and Trantor.
  4. Whitewashed futures.  Quick, what proportion of the planet is currently Caucasian?  Now, what proportion of your average pan-galactic civilization is Caucasian?  Now does this make sense?  To those white authors afraid of putting people of color in your work,  grow a spine.
  5. The global monoculture.  This is another diversity fail.  Somehow in another century it’s all one big happy planet with the same news, attitudes, politics, economy.  If we’re lucky you get the frontier spacer culture, and the decadent earth culture.  Sorry, you can find more cultural variation in any single city in Texas than in many SF universes with billions of inhabitants.

BBC reports B-movie horror plot

By way of Weird Universe we find a BBC story that’s straight out of an Eli Roth movie. In the story, two illegal immigrants reached a so-called “safe house” in Kent:

Little did they know that their deliberate vanishing which they thought would lead them into a safer life in the UK had meant they had played into the hands of human organ traders who were harvesting the organs of illegal immigrants who would be unlikely to be missed, not officially being in Britain.

When police raided the village butcher shop, one of the few in Britain to have an attached slaughterhouse, they found freezers full of human remains, though all missing vital organs that could be recycled into the organ trade.

Just, um, wow. . .

Bonus points for the following:

A representative of the Royal College of Surgeons commented that he was happy to see such an establishment closed down, but was concerned that the recent increase in availability of organs for transplant might show a significant decrease.

Writing Politics

With all the venting I’m doing on my blog lately, you might be wondering how I account for my political views in my fiction.  Some who only know me from my blog might wonder if I come across as Ayn Rand in drag.  And there’s certainly room in the SF/Fantasy real for the well-written polemic, some of our best fiction was written with a political POV in mind. (Though some insist that it isn’t SF because it’s SERIOUS.)

Unfortunately, it isn’t easy to write polemic well.  For every 1984 there’re a dozen dystopias that fall flat on their face.  Fortunately, that’s not my problem since I don’t do polemics.

People write for a lot of reasons, some to make a political point, some to create art, I write to entertain.  (I only dis the first two when their proponents dis me.)  So, even though it’s impossible to write fiction that isn’t informed by your own point of view, I make a real effort to try and give everyone in my stories a solid reason for their own outlook and have them behave believably in that context. Even when they’re diametrically opposed to my own thinking. I also work extra hard not to give the characters I’m sympathetic to a free ride just because they’re right 🙂

However, one side effect I do acknowledge is the fact that I am way more likely to be sympathetic to individual motivations than group motivations. Oft times I have a small handful of characters fighting against a vast conspiracy. (And admit it, doing the reverse would hardly be dramatic.)

These disruptions of Town Halls must stop!

Nancy Pelosi faces a horrifying disruption at a town hall meeting (here via here):

By the way, speaking of Democrats revising their publicly declared policy positions:

We all know that all this “Death Panel” stuff is crazy talk, hell Obama himself has called such arguments “dishonest,” problem is, he’s also said this about his grandmother:

THE PRESIDENT: So that’s where I think you just get into some very difficult moral issues. But that’s also a huge driver of cost, right?
I mean, the chronically ill and those toward the end of their lives are accounting for potentially 80 percent of the total health care bill out here.

LEONHARDT: So how do you — how do we deal with it?

THE PRESIDENT: Well, I think that there is going to have to be a conversation that is guided by doctors, scientists, ethicists. And then there is going to have to be a very difficult democratic conversation that takes place. It is very difficult to imagine the country making those decisions just through the normal political channels. And that’s part of why you have to have some independent group that can give you guidance. It’s not determinative, but I think has to be able to give you some guidance. And that’s part of what I suspect you’ll see emerging out of the various health care conversations that are taking place on the Hill right now.

Ok, so the “Death Panel” people may have jumped to the clearly unsupported conclusion that when the government gives you “guidance” it becomes mandatory. I mean, our income tax is a voluntary system (meaning you get the choice of weather or not to file and the IRS has the choice of weather or not to imprison you.) But this is clearly not what Obama is saying here, right? He’s saying that these “panels” would not define your care, just give you suggestions. Clearly he wouldn’t say that if he didn’t mean it.

On Saturday, he added a personal story of his own, citing the death of his grandmother to push back against unsubstantiated claims that he wants to establish government “death panels” that would deny care to elderly patients.
“I just lost my grandmother last year. I know what it’s like to watch somebody you love who’s aging deteriorate, and have to struggle with that,” Mr. Obama said. “So the notion that somehow I ran for public office, or members of Congress are in this so they can go around pulling the plug on grandma? I mean, when you start making arguments like that, that’s simply dishonest.”

Yeah, we certainly don’t want any dishonesty in political discourse.

It’s a legitimate topic of discussion, and there was a fair bit of thought in what he said in April. But if your first response to someone successfully demagoguing an issue like this is try to paint them as dishonest crazy people and deny you ever said anything that even smelled like what they’re talking about, it sort of makes a reasoned person doubt your sincerity when you first brought the subject up.

Me, Interviewed

The interview I mentioned earlier is now up on the blog Grinding to Valhalla.

Relevant quote:

Would you have any words of advice for the would-be-writers out there?

Two things. First, only pursue this if what you love, and what you want out of it, is the writing. It takes years to build a career at this, and a love of writing is the only thing you have to get though those years of effort. Second, if you pursue this, you must persist. You must start writing. You must finish what you start. You must submit what you have finished. And you must then start writing something else. Otherwise decent writers remain unpublished because they become hung up somewhere on the process, they never finish, they revise endlessly, they don’t submit their work to markets, or they don’t start a new project while they’re peddling the old project.

Check it out.