Received my copy of "The Last Man Who Married a Duck Died 300 Years Ago" earlier this week -- thank you, HERC -- and scampered off to one of my favorite reading chambers to begin. And now that I have read "Infamy, Infamy, They've All Got It In Fa Me!", I can only say this --
You Warned Us, Harlan.
The essay was originally published in 2002 on the pages of a Variety magazine spin-off. That wasn't fair -- it should've been writ in letters of flame across the sky, where even the stupidest, drool-faced yob might have stolen a glance, for a moment, away from their TV. No, it was not granted space before the a larger audience, those of us who'd already turned off the noise, hoping it would all just go away.
It neither went away, nor were we fully aware of the deep and poisonous foothold it already had on the population. And so it continued.
"Sorry, Harlan, you were right" does not ease the pain caused by the cancer of Modern Celebrity, nor does it forgive our lack, my own lack, of savvy in this matter all those years ago. Nor, I expect, does it give you much comfort to have witnessed how things have devolved since you wrote your essay. Perhaps it's not so late for Gunga Din's bugle call to yet be heard. I sure as hell hope so.
Gun control ...
I have noticed three things in particular about most of these school shootings. Things that I have not seen discussed very often.
First, the shootings are committed at large schools, schools with thousands of students. Marjory Stoneman Douglas H.S. has a student count of about 3,000. Second, the shootings are committed at schools for the middle (or lower-middle) classes. At MSD, about 20% of the students are on free or reduced-price lunches. Third (tied in to the size of the student population), the teacher-student ratio is 1-to-24.
Compare all that to, say, Phillips Academy or the Dalton School. Dalton has an enrollment, for K-12, of about 1,300. Phillips (9-12th grade) has an enrollment of 1,150 and a teacher-student ration of 1-to-5.
People keep looking for the single-problem solution. It isn't one thing. It isn't even JUST the guns. The guns are what happens when the isolation of high school finally cracks the young mind.
It's the growing sense of a purposeless life. It's the increasing evidence that we do NOT live in a society for which effort is rewarded. It's coming every day to a building where you go through a metal detector and there are security cameras on you pretty much all the time(but, somehow, the bullies are never stopped).
Here's the closest thing I can offer to a single solution: Schools are capped at 500 students. Every student must have at least three classes a semester that have less than a 15-to-1 student-teacher ratio. Every student MUST sign up for an extracurricular activity that forces him or her to interact with other students: band, theater, sports.
How to pay for it? Tax the NRA. Tax gun sales. Tax bullet sales.
After every mass shooting, the usual suspects rise up on their hind legs to offer "explanations" and "solutions." We need stricter gun control laws. We need to have background checks at gun shows. We need to confiscate all guns, as was done in Australia. We need more guns, but in the hands of security forces in public schools and other public places. We need to get rid of assault rifles and bump stocks. We need to target possible perpetrators more effectively. We need to improve our mental health facilities, particularly for young males. We need to strengthen the nuclear family and make sure every boy has a strong father. We need to destroy the nuclear family because it's patriarchal and instills murderous desires in young men. We need to end the alienation of lone individuals who have only social media to turn to. We need to monitor social media for deviants more rigorously. We need to use social media to educate people. We need to spend more money on education. We need to have a voucher system for private schools. We need to stop showing violence in Hollywood films and TV shows. We need to teach school kids how to protect themselves if a shooter enters their school. We need to teach love and compassion. We need more religion. We need less religion. We need to be less trusting. We need to become more like Scandinavia. Or we need to become more like Singapore. We need to eliminate the Second Amendment. We need to rewrite the entire Constitution. Or we need to just going to go on talking and talking and accomplishing nothing as usual.
"As long as you can blame everything on some unseen deity, you don't ever have to be responsible for your own behavior."
It's one of the purposes for 'prayer'. Immunization from a conscience. The messengers like to tell you that 'magic unicorn laws' won't stop the mass shootings. But prayer does even LESS!
In the real universe, however, Australia had a gun problem, and they passed laws which apparently helped - a LOT. Oddly, Canada doesn't have this problem, anywhere close to our statistics, and they have gun laws. We are absolutely alone with this kind of problem. A clue that we have it in our hands to actually DO something, rather than leave it to deities or magic unicorns or corporate lies. Until then, these mass murders will continue all over the country, with the same conscienceless "prayers" we heard from the same schmucks after the LAST shooting.
(I'm convinced that the day when we can modernize our electoral system, eliminating Gerrymandering and the Electoral College, the NRA's grip on our politicians would be practically NULLIFIED! The majority of Americans would call the "shots", instead of the billions of corporate dollars that control the politians. I'm convinced most Americans DO want gun measures passed, outnumbering the factions who live in denial. A purer democratic system would offer the majority effective power.)
I've said my piece.
It's such a waste of time complaining about Gun laws...
The Second Amendment isn't going anywhere,but logic suggests to look back in history for solutions,Minutemen, ask retirees licensed for conceal permit to walk the halls of schools,higher fences,metal detectors,common fucking sense. That's how you defeat Evil,common fucking sense.
This Week's Surreal Flicks
An animated rotoscope drama from Iran titled _Tehran Taboo_, ŕ la Bakshi's terrible _Wizards_ and _Lord of the Rings_. Also a documentary about SHIT called(what else) _POOP TALK_!
AR-15s, bump stocks and the like.
It only took one "shoe bomber"--someone who failed, at that!--to force an entire nation to take off their shoes at American airports for over 17 years. The threat of shoes is ever-present!
And yet, time and again, firearms get a pass in our society. Arbitrary laws are made and rescinded, as we saw Trump do to last year's mental health/gun check law (because it was an "Obama" thing and had to go--never mind the idea that it was setting a precedent and had the potential to evoke positive change in other areas of society).
But, hey... thoughts and prayers, right? If we repeat that enough, maybe God will make it all better, huh?
"As long as you can blame everything on some unseen deity, you don't ever have to be responsible for your own behavior." - Harlan Ellison
Hang in there, Diane. I hope this is the start of more good news.
Hello you all,and Mr and Mr's Ellison. How have you all been.sorry for my long absence from hereabouts.just trying to keep on top of stuff?.think often o Harlan and Lady Susan and all of you.some of you ispeakto in other places on the net.quick update on me.still alive and breathing.no therapy yet.but the state of Illinois health and human services dept,solved part of my problem,I hope.they booted Aetna insurance out of the states Medicaid program, for service way below and under any callhumanity,wise business strategies,etc.,in my humble opinion.so now I am signed up with blue cross and blue shield.havent talked to them,yet I have a appointment with my physiatrist of long standing on the 23of ođź¤•f this month.and I think I'm going to let his social work
Barnes & Noble just laid off all its full-time staff
...even when they said for months they wouldn't.
This is unconscionable. There are two bookstores near me, this, albeit in a neighboring county, and Books-A-Million. Besides the comics stores...that's it.
- Brian Phillips
John Pickett / Heavy Metal
A resounding no, you are not the only one with the mental picture of the car from that film, and/or Kenny McCormick cruising along with the very well-endowed woman in the South Park parody episode.
Thank you for NOT doing so. Oh, wait ...
When a new rocket is launched, they usually load inert ballast into the upper stage. If Musk had launched a slab of concrete into solar orbit, the event would have been forgotten by the end of that news cycle (SEE KIM KARDASHIAN'S NEW HAIR COLOR!).
By launching a car with a mannequin wearing the SpaceX pressure suit, he guaranteed that people would be talking about it for days afterwards. That car probably cost less than a minute long TV ad. Cheap. For the exposure the launch got, dirt cheap.
The Falcon Heavy is the first of a new generation of heavy launch vehicles. You want to put a probe in orbit around Pluto, instead of a fly-by? You're gonna need something a lot more powerful than an Atlas V rocket. The New Horizons spacecraft was tear-assing toward Pluto at about 30,000 miles per hour. In order to decelerate into orbit from that speed you'd need to expend a lot of propellant, which the Atlas couldn't lift.
For that, or landing a probe on Europa or Enceladus to drill through the ice and see if anyone's home, you need a Big-Ass Rocket. Falcon Heavy, the SLV, or the big rocket under development by Blue Origin.
It's also not unusual for the Federal Government to use commercial aircraft for utility-type missions -- people transport, air refueling tankers, freighters, anti-sub aircraft, etc.
Bringing the private sector into space is probably a necessary step, especially if SpaceX and Blue Origin's experiments in reusability pan out.
I would write.. .
How can you be so concerned of Death fate scenario of Global Warming when Super Volcano is going to eventually blow taking out most of U.S.?
Am I the only one hearing the Opening song to that Movie every time I see that red car being launched ?
I KNEW I shouldn't have lent my car to Elon Musk!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
On Simmons...and writing...and getting over yourself
Dear KM, or Kim, or Kenneth or Circle-jerk participant:
On the subject of getting over yourself: acting haughty because I capitalized a letter when I shouldn't have? Oy-fuckin'-vey.
On the subject of Dan Simmons: did you pay attention to the book from whence I paraphrased Harlan Ellison (you nattering nabob)? You'll note that I didn't say Simmons wasn't a writer. Just that, as of the last decade, he's become an extremely bad writer. And that Harlan Ellison -- though he was merely using hyperbole to extoll the talents of a young "discovery" -- couldn't have been more wrong in predicting that Dan Simmons would outshine him, and most other writers. Hell, even I loved -- unreservedly, in my misbegotten "yute" -- just about everything Simmons was writing. Re-read most of the novels many times. Same with the stories.
But the fact is, only a handful of those past novels still hold up, still retain their former strength of story-telling. KALI only stands the test of time due to the "emotional veracity" -- the verisimilitude -- of the narrator's voice, and how well Simmons evoked Calcutta (an imagined one or not). The plot itself -- a simple one, which I won't pull apart here -- is, well, simple. And all of the rest of the books I mentioned -- in the posting below -- also stand up to a re-reading, years after being put on the shelf. (I would also add his first short story collection, PRAYERS TO BROKEN STONES, and the novel FIRES OF EDEN to that group. The latter is a well-written, dark, tongue-in-cheek, comedy. A rare thing in the Simmons oeuvre, with only "Entropy's Bed at Midnight" matching it for a mix of lunacy and sorrow). That is certainly an accomplishment no one can "sneeze at", yours truly included.
But for whatever reason -- a fight with the "little people" (mentioned below) or a bout of depression (it's affected many a writer in the worst way; although I know of one, actually two, who overcame it with talent intact) -- whatever, Simmons can no longer writer for sour owl poop. Even the short fiction he's published after 2000/2001 has been seriously wanting. The last terrific piece of short fiction he wrote was "Looking For Kelly Dahl". There WAS a short HYPERION-related piece of fiction, "Orphans of the Helix", which was published just before the turn of the century; and it's a pretty good read. But even in that short piece, you can feel the strain (or loss? of whatever) beginning.
Whatever has happened, it's clear that Simmons no longer has what it takes (or no longer has a good ghost writer? who knows?).
In the most excellent novel, SOPHIE'S CHOICE, Styron -- "narrating" as Stingo -- while writing about writing, says something like, "he had the syrup, but it wouldn't pour". Fact is, Simmons not only doesn't have the syrup, he can't even find the plate full of pancakes (or waffles, or whatever)!
But, since you brought it up.
Yeah, Dan Simmons was a writer. And a pretty good one, for a while there.
Now, he's more of a semi-creative typist.
And certainly NOT a better writer than Harlan Ellison.
Next time you post, how about making sure you have something relevant -- or at least coherent -- to say when commenting on someone's post. And try not to take my valid criticism of a writer's failings so personally.
That wold be swell.
I haven't stopped by here in more than a decade, I think. passing on this website because I know that HE would love this artwork.
VOR aka SIMON,
Many years ago a real writer told Dan Simmons he was a writer. That writer was, of course, HE.
Thereâ€™s no reason to believe that you have ever written anything other than boring rants laced with your own silly political opinions.
Get over yourself.
And itâ€™s â€śaugust companyâ€ť not â€śAugustâ€ť as you have written.
Harlan Ellison Was Wrong
Harlan Ellison was wrong.
I LOVE reading his stories (the early ones in GENTLEMAN JUNKIE, and the later ones in SLIPPAGE and CAN & CAN'T-ankerous.
But when I try to read the work of Dan Simmons published after, roughly, 2007 (there are a few books before that which are unreadable -- DARWIN'S BLADE; or only half-so, OLYMPOS) -- like Norman Spinrad when he was reviewing/reading Hyperion, I want to throw the books across the room.
Mostly out of boredom, sometimes because I can't believe they were published.
My inability to read his later work has nothing to do with Simmons' inexplicable embrace of right-wing-nut politics and stupidity (everything from declaring George W. Bush was a great president and continuing to "badmouth" nearly everything Obama-related (whilst touting things that Trump -- no shit, TRUMP! -- has done), to being a climate change denier (or at least pushing articles and opinions that support that inane point-of-view) and having ultraconservative attitudes regarding LGBTQ rights (like the right to have marriages recognized by the state and government), and/or some of the things he's written about regarding race and so forth on the "intellectual" cesspool known as the Dan Simmons forum.
It isn't even that writers like China Mieville are correct in pointing out the predominance of homophobia in Simmons' writing.
It's just that the writing of Dan Simmons has gotten steadily worse since about the year 2000 or 2001. Novels like ILIUM and OLYMPOS, a great idea that went nowhere fast, especially when Simmons turned the latter into an anti-Muslim screed; THE TERROR, another great idea, and three fourths of a pretty good book, but not when compared to his earlier work; or DROOD, another terrific idea -- with only one great fictional character -- Wilke Collins (yes the version in the book is "fictional"), and a LOT of overwrought, plot-less, repetitive prose. And if those weren't bad enough, he followed them with novels that were not only poorly written, they practically scream "I borrowed some plot elements" from (take your pick of various movies and past bestselling thrillers) and then threw in nonsensical ideas and themes, many of them, sadly, reflective of the right-wing-nut sensibility: BLACK HILLS, an embarrassing historical western"horror"-cum porn mash-up, with "North By Northwest" and just about any terrorist thriller movie thrown in for good measure; FLASHBACK, borrowing heavily from Michael Crichton's "Rising Sun", Simmons seems to think the future belongs to Japan, bad Private Eye movies of the 1940s, and a few ideas put forth back in the 70s in another science fiction novel (THE TEXAS-ISRAELI WAR) Simmons managed to write his second worst novel yet -- DARWIN'S BLADE holds the title); THE ABOMINABLE, the Eiger Sanction, Into Thin Air, and just about any badly made WWII spy movie, with a Yeti thrown in for good measure, plus nonsensical plot points involving Hitler; THE FIFTH HEART, a fairly interesting idea, Sherlock Holmes discovers he's a fictional character, which Simmons tried to flesh out into a novel -- but unfortunately, he ain't got what it takes anymore.
Unless a Magical Angel swoops down and smacks him on his noggin, I doubt Simmons will suddenly return to the days of yore, when he could write books still worth returning to more than once: HYPERION, THE FALL OF HYPERION, ENDYMION, THE RISE OF ENDYMION, CARRION COMFORT, SUMMER OF NIGHT, PHASES OF GRAVITY, LOVEDEATH (his best collection of short fictions), THE CROOK FACTORY and A WINTER HAUNTING (as cold and unemotional as THE HOLLOW MAN, but in this case it works really well) and SONG OF KALI,a first novel that, despite it's simple plot, was really well written.
At the moment, the next novel out from Simmons is supposed to be OMEGA CANYON. The original summation of that novel read like a Bollywood movie. Then the publication was delayed -- due, in part, to physical impairments Simmons suffered from an accident; but also, I believe, because the plot just sounded truly nonsensical. Now, the summary of the book sounds a little less breathless. But it still (in summation, at least) sounds as mundane as one of the "movie-of-the-week" TV thrillers that used to run during the 1970s.
Which doesn't offer much hope. Rumors of a quartet of Hyperion-related novellas are still floating in the ether, but given Simmons' loss of ability -- or perhaps the "little people" (see Ellison's story from STRANGE WINE) abandoned him -- one blanches to think what sort of sad mess he could make of that. Personally, I hope he DOESN'T write those novellas -- I wouldn't want him screwing up a perfect batting average where the Hyperion/Endymion books are concerned.
While I still find his Hyperion and Endymion books, and the other scattered titles, above, have stood the test of time, the majority of Simmons' work hasn't aged well. When I try to read it now -- 20 years after first encountering it -- I find it either cold or impersonal (THE HOLLOW MAN) or VERY badly written (see either DARWIN'S BLADE or FLASHBACK...or THE ABOMINABLE...or any book written after THE TERROR).
One of Harlan's short stories has been included in a Library of America publication, and I won't be surprised to find that eventually one, or more, of his books will join the August company in that collection.
And Harlan's work -- mostly short stories, I know -- has "aged" as well as fine wine. His later collections -- STRANGE WINE, SHATTERDAY, STALKING THE NIGHTMARE, ANGRY CANDY, MINDFIELDS, SLIPPAGE, CAN & CAN'T-ankerous, and, of course, THE ESSENTIAL ELLISON, are among the finest books published in modern U.S. fiction.
Simply put: Harlan Ellison was wrong when he declared Dan Simmons to be a finer writer than himself: once or twice in public speaking engagements, one of those was caught on the DVD "Dreams With Sharp Teeth", and also in the introduction to Simmons' first story collection, PRAYERS TO BROKEN STONES.
Dear Alex Mackay:
Not a problem; not a'tall. Glad to have been of service.
720 Tenth Street
Niagara Falls, NY
I didn't write that.
Is that a reaction to something that happened at the Olympics??