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Posts Tagged ‘imaginative fiction’

Though lily-livered fools have been demanding they be “protected” from ideas they don’t like for several years now, it’s terrifying how quickly this terrible idea has moved from the lunatic fringe to the mainstream.  –  “Suppression

For one educated in the Seventies and Eighties, and trained as a librarian in the early Nineties, the landscape of intellectual freedom has become almost unrecognizeable.  For the majority of my life, and the majority of time for which “Banned Books Week” has existed, top-down censorship attempts in the Western world were rare; attempts to ban books, censor websites and suppress speech generally came from non-government authoritarian groups and the majority of educated people could be counted on to oppose and ridicule them.  But in this century, the sick need to control others’ thoughts grew as the internet made it easier for those thoughts to be shared, and early last year top-down government censorship returned with a vengeance thanks to the Great Unwashed eagerly swallowing racist claims about “human trafficking” and magically baneful effects of anything to do with sex.  The US enacted FOSTA, leading to a wave of internet censorship; the UK is trying to build a massive firewall comparable to China’s; the EU has enacted law after law allowing greedy corporations and finger-pointing Prunellas alike power over others’ web-browsing; and every two-bit dictatorship has recognized that all it needs to do to justify thought control is parrot Western “hate speech” idiocy.  Free speech (derided by “progressive”-flavored authoritarians as “freeze peach”) has noticeably declined all over the world:

…First, ruling parties in many countries have found new tools for suppressing awkward facts and ideas.  Second, they feel emboldened to use such tools, partly because global support for free speech has faltered.  Neither of the world’s superpowers is likely to stand up for it. China ruthlessly censors dissent at home and exports the technology to censor it abroad.  The United States, once a champion of free expression, is now led by a man who says things like…“free speech is not when you see something good and then you purposely write bad”…Censorious authoritarians elsewhere often cite Mr Trump’s catchphrases, calling critical reporting “fake news” and critical journalists “enemies of the people”.  The notion that certain views should be silenced is popular on the left, too.  In Britain and America students shout down speakers they [disagree with]…and Twitter mobs demand the sacking of anyone who violates an expanding list of taboos.  Many western radicals contend that if they think something is offensive, no one should be allowed to say it.  Authoritarians elsewhere agree.  What counts as offensive is subjective, so “hate speech” laws can be elastic tools for criminalising dissent…

That article has a lot of good examples of the rise of (often violent) censorship, but beware; even the authors of this ostensibly pro-free-thought piece have been infected by the need to choose a “side” and skew information accordingly.  As I wrote four years ago, Ray Bradbury’s view of future censorship practices was prescient; where else but in “a culture which values feelings above thought” could a video display service ban an historically-important anti-Nazi diocumentary from 1938 for violating its policy against “hate speech”?  Or perhaps Google is just feeling a bit self-conscious, given that it’s currently in a fascist collaboration to develop a censorship-enabled search engine for China.  Meanwhile, the US is trying to silence Edward Snowden by seizing the profits from his new book; I suggest you buy a paper copy to preclude Amazon’s stealing electronic copies from your Kindle at the behest of its pals in Washington.  The censor-morons are loose, and they’re attacking the small targets so their totalitarian masters can expend their energy on big ones like the internet, the publishing industry and what little is left of the independent press.

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Whenever I go out to Sunset, we try to spend at least one evening watching a movie stoned.  And we’ve found the best movies to watch stoned are those with a lot of music and simple plots.  Well, when I went out a couple of weeks ago this was our flick; it’s one of Grace’s favorites and if you have a good ear for musical style you may recognize the composer of the song in this trailer (who happens to be my favorite songwriter).  The links above it were provided by Clarissa, Kevin Wilson, Walter Olson, Jesse Walker, Popehat, and Radley Balko, in that order.

From the Archives

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We serve a high-quality hamburger with no additives or fillers.
–  Dairy Queen

I’ve been fascinated by recursion and surrealism ever since I was child, so it’s no surprise I love this video, suggested by Clarissa.  The links above it were provided by Jesse Walker, Kevin Wilson, Tim Cushing, Popehat, Radley Balko, and Jesse Walker again, in that order.

From the Archives

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It’s been three years since I stopped publishing “fictional interludes” on a monthly basis, and more than six years since I stopped doing “My Favorite __________” columns.  And yet last week I started deeply missing that feature, and wishing that I could produce them as often as I used to.  That mood inspired me to pull out my own copies of Ladies of the Night and The Forms of Things Unknown, browse through them, and reread a few of them, and that in turn inspired me to make a list of my own favorites from both collections (and a couple which will be included in my next collection, Lost Angels, which I’ll probably compile in another year or so).  So without further ado (except to encourage you to support my work by buying them if you don’t already own them, and reviewing them if you like them), I hereby present my own personal top 10, in order of publication, with a short comment on each.

1) Pearls Before Swine

Perceptive readers have certainly noticed my love of mythology in general and Greek mythology in particular; a number of my stories have themes, titles, settings or characters borrowed from it.  This one has only the last, and yet its title is scriptural and its themes eternal.  And its Southern Gothic setting is, in many ways, one that fits the character almost as well as the one she’s usually associated with.

2) Bad News

While it’s not uncommon for my stories to feature dry humor, I have difficulty performing this one at book readings without giggling.  Even if I were restricted to five selections, I think this one would still make the cut.

3) Visions of Sugarplums

As befits a Christmas story, this is certainly the lightest, most sentimental, and most optimistic tale on this list.  And the protagonist is one of my favorite characters I’ve ever (literally) dreamed up, partly because rather than being a goddess, witch, villainess or femme fatale, she’s just an escort of rather nervous temperament who finds herself in well over her head.

4) Rose

This isn’t my only story which treats seriously a topic I usually make fun of in my non-fiction, nor my only story based on a poem, nor the only one featuring very dark humor.  And did I ever tell you that the unreliable narrator is one of my favorite literary devices?  Because it is.  Read this one and maybe you’ll understand why.

5) Millennium

A tale of First Contact seen through an extremely cynical lens.  You’ve probably never seen aliens portrayed quite like this before, and the fact that you probably haven’t may tell you just how cynical.

6) The Sum of Its Parts

I’m not really very good with pastiche; the only author whose style I can reasonably approximate is Maggie McNeill.  And that’s probably why I like this one so much; it reads very much like a pulp tale from the 1930s, and the characters and dialogue are, in my own admittedly-biased opinion, some of the best I ever wrote.

7) Knock, Knock, Knock

I’ve written scarier things than this, and more personal things than this, but none both scarier and more personal.  And I still don’t like thinking about it when I’m alone late at night.

8) Lost Angel

This is not a tale of horror, at least not the usual kind of horror; it is, in fact, pretty squarely in the genre generally known as “science fiction”.  Nobody dies violently or suffers some other awful fate…so why do I always experience a pronounced frisson when thinking about the ending?

9) Trust Exercise

Many of the stories in The Forms of Things Unknown are, in a way, autobiographical, but none more so than this one.  It’s about love, trust and other scary things, but it can’t possibly scare you as much as it scares me because I know what it all means.  I still think you’ll enjoy it.

10) Wheels

While “Trust Exercise” is a scary story about love, it’s not the love that’s scary; that is definitely not true in “Wheels”, the distillation of some themes that have haunted me for almost four decades and finally demanded I explore them in a more traditional narrative form.

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Any drug can be used responsibly.  –  Andre Picard

The Crumbling Dam

Prohibitionists hate harm reduction because prohibition is based in harm magnification:

The Alberta government has appointed a panel to study supervised drug-consumption sites.  Panel members have been told to not to consider the merits of the facilities, only how they affect neighbouring residents and businesses…this political exercise…is about vilifying one type of drug user…Because the reality is there are already a lot of supervised consumption sites in Alberta and every province and territory – places where clients can be served their poison of choice unadulterated, in relatively safe quantities and not be judged or jailed.  We call these places bars.  What they really are are supervised alcohol-consumption sites: a place people can consume a safe supply of a drug in social surroundings and where if they overdose (i.e. get too drunk), there are friends and bar staff around to help…The assumptions we have that injected drugs are dangerous and bad, while liquid drugs ingested in clean glasses are innocuous and safe, are false.  The best way to minimize the harm caused by drugs is to legalize them, to ensure the supply is safe…

The Proper Study (#572)

Every proper study of any kind of sex work shoots prohibitionist lies down in flames:

…[prohibitionists claim] that porn fuels misogynistic attitudes and sexual violence.  If this were the case, you would think that people who consumed a lot of porn would hold particularly negative views towards women.  So we decided to study a group of men whom we’ve dubbed “porn superfans” – those who are so enthusiastic about porn that they’ll attend the AVN Adult Entertainment Expo in Las Vegas…The 294 expo attendees we surveyed…actually expressed more progressive attitudes towards gender equality on two of the questions.  For two others, they indicated just as progressive – or, said another way, just as sexist – attitudes as the general population…

Guinea Pigs (#726) 

In case you had forgotten that banks are actively looking for whores to rat out to the pigs:

The first episode of Forensic Finance discusses human trafficking, with more than 40 million people [pretended by prohibitionists] to be victims…It’s up to [the fascist establishment to feed this hysteria by destroying the lives of sex workers]…and one solution is to analyze bank data…

The rest is mostly a lot of misogynistic, agency-negating bullshit such as “many people who are trafficked might not know they’re victims”.

The Pygmalion Fallacy (#774) 

Return of the Killer Sex Robots:

Sex robots plagued with coding errors could be prone to violent behaviours including strangling, a [doll collector] has [fantasized.  A person who expects to be taken seriously despite calling himself] Brick Dollbanger fears violent repercussions if robotics are not regulated properly.  He believes a simple “coding error” could turn AI girlfriends against their owners [and magically give them souls]…”It scares me to death, it’s a machine and it’s always going to be a machine…If you’ve watched [The Terminator]…I honestly believe synthetics are going to look very similar…It’s not going to be something you can hit with a pipe and it’s going to fall apart…it’s going to be very strong, and it won’t get tired, it won’t stop unless it runs out of an energy supply…

Crying for Nanny (#842)

This is good news; hysteria never stops until it starts harming the wealthy & well-connected:

[Ambulance-chasing shysters are using “sex trafficking” hysteria as a weapon in an attempt to rob] four Atlanta-area hotels [based on the pretense that they] knew sex trafficking was taking place [because they did not actively persecute sex workers and others who might fit the absurdly-broad]…indicator of sex trafficking [propaganda pushed by prohibitionists]…Jonathan Tonge and Pat McDonough…represent four [women who now claim to be]…trafficking victims…

The hotel industry is really going to regret having collaborated with fanatics rather than fighting “sex trafficking” hysteria.

Bad Girls (#923) 

Note how an accomplished adult man is portrayed as a passive victim when sex & drugs are involved:

A prostitute linked to the suspected overdose deaths of three men…including [Andrea Zamperoni] an Italian chef at a popular restaurant…has been arrested on drug charges…Angelina Barini [admitted to providing the chef drugs and later claimed that her pimp gave the chef some kind of fentanyl-based concoction she called “liquid ecstasy”.  After Zamperoni predictably ODed]…her pimp, who hasn’t been identified, would not let her call the police and discussed whether to cut up the body…

Obviously, trying to cover up an overdose by CHOPPING UP A FUCKING BODY is an act of epic stupidity, and if this “pimp” exists, why has he neither been arrested nor named?  Ask yourself:  if drugs were not illegal, would successful men buy unidentifiable and possibly toxic swill from people they don’t know?  And if drug-taking companions weren’t charged under monstrous “felony murder” statutes, wouldn’t people be much more likely to summon help in case of overdose?

Repeat Offenders (#934)

Even when it isn’t garment-related, “rescuers” invariably want to push sex workers into some kind of traditional feminine menial labor:

…76…former sex workers [in Haiti]…have just completed a two (2) year training based on disciplines such as cosmetology, sewing, baking and cooking…This program of social reintegration…was initiated…by Fanm Kore Fanmi Professional Center, Fanm Kore Fanm Association in partnership with Operation Underground Railroad…

The inevitable religious connection is at the very end there; “Operation Underground Railroad” has strong ties to the Mormon Church.

Dangerous Speech (#948)

Why let facts get in the way of a witch hunt?

[Prohibitionists’] claims [against Backpage] have always been bogus. Now, thanks to memos obtained by Reason, we have proof that prosecutors understood this all along…six years before Backpage leaders were indicted on federal criminal charges, prosecutors had already begun building a “child sex trafficking” case against the company.  But this case was hampered by the fact that Backpage kept trying to help stop sex trafficking…”Unlike virtually every other website that is used for prostitution…Backpage is remarkably responsive to law enforcement requests and often takes proactive steps to assist in investigations,” wrote Catherine Crisham and Aravind Swaminathan, both assistant U.S. attorneys for the Western District of Washington, in the April 3 memo to Jenny Durkan, now mayor of Seattle and then head federal prosecutor for the district.  [The FBI] told prosecutors that “on many occasions,” Backpage staff proactively sent him “advertisements that appear to contain pictures of juveniles” and that the company was “very cooperative at removing these advertisements at law enforcement’s request”…[the memos] would wind up being accidently sent by federal prosecutors to Backpage defense lawyers last year.  But both would be ruled off-limits for defense use, placed under seal, and only subject to public courtroom discussion…after prosecutors tried to sanction defendants for a few paragraphs from the memos appearing in a June Wired article

Unsafe for Human Consumption (#954)

Clownish cops continue to pratfall over fentanyl hysteria; clownish reporters swallow it whole:

…[a hysterical] Harrisburg [Pennsylvania cop suffered a panic attack due to cop disinformation about fentanyl after picking up]…a package [discarded by a fleeing vehicle.  A spokespig claimed]…he was stricken with the classic overdose symptoms [and then described the classic symptoms of a panic attack, not an opioid overdose]…the first [backup pig] to arrive on the scene immediately administered a dose of the opioid antidote Narcan [which of course had no effect because he wasn’t overdosing, but]…EMTs [were able to calm him down with] a second dose, which [acted as a placebo to calm his hysteria]…

Buried lede: “…merely touching fentanyl is…not enough exposure to produce a life-threatening overdose”, but the reporter is so afraid of debunking pig dogma he had to insert qualifiers.

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This was not a good idea.  –  Jamie Bisceglia

If you’re British and over 40, or an American of that age who loved Captain Kangaroo, you probably remember the adventures of Simon in the Land of Chalk Drawings.  I recently remembered them and discovered this YouTube channel, and if you’ve never seen them before I think you’ll enjoy them.  And if you’re American and remember them too, you may remember that the song was slightly different when they aired here.  The links above the video are from Emma Evans, Skye, Dave Krueger, Mike Siegel (x2), and Tim Cushing, in that order.

From the Archives

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Once in a while I write something while under the influence that reveals some murky river flowing through caverns measureless to Man, down to the sunless sea deep in my brain.  A couple of weeks ago I replied (while sober) to some moralistic prattle about how the “sin” of homosexuality is still a choice even if it’s an innate predilection, with the following:  “Most humans are born with the inclination toward mindless submission to authority; they not only let it rule them and ruin their lives, but also foist that violent authority upon the virtuous others who are not inclined to that sin, ruining their lives as well.”  But then later in the evening, when I was already well on my way to my secret Garden of The Unknown, one of my regular readers replied with a comment on the concept of sin, and my inebriated brain responded with the following, which you may find interesting (or not):

That depends entirely on how one defines “sin”; it’s not as cut-and-dried as most people think.  Did you ever read this?  It’s one the 10 scariest short stories I’ve ever read.  Now, a lot of people don’t think it’s frightening at all, and maybe even boring; this is because it’s all suggestion and nuance and shadows and no “the house is haunted because slave children were tortured there” modern pat origin BS.  If you don’t have the kind of dark, shuttered rooms and bottomless abysses in your skull that I do, this tale may not take your imagination to the kind of utterly horrifying place that it takes mine.  But if you’re a fan of Poe, Lovecraft, Benson, Blackwood, et al, you might find it at least creepy and worth your time, if not in your personal top ten.  And if you do like it, here are my other nine; PDFs of 13 more tales are included.

No, we aren’t to Halloween season yet, but IMHO it’s never a bad time for tales of the macabre.

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