Barb Caffrey's Blog

Writing the Elfyverse . . . and beyond

Archive for January 2018

Insist on Facts, Please

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Folks, as I watch the wrangling in Washington, DC, I get more and more frustrated.

The Republicans don’t think anything they do is wrong. So whatever the current President of the United States, Donald Trump, says or does must automatically be right.

And the Democrats don’t think anything they do is wrong, either. So whatever they say must be right, too.

What this does is alienate literally everyone. Because no one takes responsibility for anything. And no one ever admits wrongdoing.

And I’m tired of it.

The thing is, as I watch all this nonsense, I want to remind you of one thing: No matter what is being said, get the facts.

Insist on facts, please.

Do not allow your own biases to be confirmed or denied unless and until you have facts.

And when you see something like a release of a memo by one party (as reportedly will happen within days) about the FBI supposedly doing something wrong, where a whole bunch of stuff can’t be confirmed or denied due to being classified — when the memo by the other party is blocked by the party in power (as the Republicans are going to release the memo authored by Republican Rep. Devin Nunes, but won’t release the memo authorized by Democrats) — you must absolutely, positively insist upon facts.

If one party — in this case the Ds — says that the Justice Department and/or the FBI should at least be consulted before releasing the memo due to possible classified information being there, and that the other party — in this case, the Rs — refuses to even consult with the professionals in the area, that is deeply troubling.

And it looks like facts are being ignored, at least from here.

Still. Even now, when all sorts of things look wrong and are annoying and frustrating and nonsensical, get the facts. Get as many facts as you can, before you condemn.

So, while I continue to condemn tribalism and reflexive thinking — if you’re an R, everything the Rs do is good (even if it’s not), or if you’re a D, everything the Ds do is good (even if it’s not) — I urge you to be smart, be prudent, refuse to be snowed, and dammit, to get the facts before you make up your mind. (Please?)

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Couple Injured in Store Parking Lot Needs Your Help

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Folks, about a week ago in Racine, a young man was driving, high-speed, trying to get away from the police. (As per my policy, I will not name this person. He is a teenager.) He cut through a parking lot and hit two innocent pedestrians, who were coming out of Festival Foods on a Sunday morning.

This couple, Cheryl and Jeffrey Coopman, needs your help. They are raising their granddaughter alone, which was hard enough, as their daughter died last year. (See this story from WISN.com for further details.) They’re in their forties. And all they were doing was shopping at the grocery store.

Now, Mrs. Coopman lacks an arm and a leg, and Mr. Coopman has broken ribs. Both are in the hospital at the present time up in Milwaukee (at Froedtert, one of the best hospitals in Wisconsin), and last I heard, Mrs. Coopman remains in critical condition.

I want you to put yourselves in the place of the Coopmans, just for one moment. Can you imagine yourself, on a sunny but cold January morning, getting out of your car, and walking into the grocery store, finishing your shopping, and coming back out, only to have one of you lose an arm and a leg and the other with broken ribs and internal injuries (no doubt), all because a young person who should’ve known better tried cutting through a parking lot to evade the police?

Then think about the grandchild you have left at home. And how neither of you can care for her…so other relatives have to do it.

This couple’s life has radically changed, all because of one young person who didn’t know his own limits and refused to surrender to authority while he still could. They are in a lot of pain, and even if Mrs. Coopman can make a full recovery (which I pray that she will), she’s going to have a much different life going forward.

My heart aches for these people. They didn’t deserve this. And while life is assuredly not fair, it also doesn’t need to be this unfair.

A GoFundMe account has been set up to pay for the Coopmans’ medical bills. That will only help the finances. Nothing can help their psychological trauma, and the absolute unfairness and injustice of what happened to them, except time and perhaps some good counselors, and maybe if they’re extremely fortunate they’ll be able to rebuild their lives and continue to find some meaning and joy to enrich themselves despite it all.

And while I urge you to consider donating to this account, I also want you to do whatever your spiritual background allows you to do to send good thoughts, positive energy, prayers, or whatever else you think may help. If you can think of a concrete way to help them, too, be sure to do that…as they’re going to need a lot of help.

In addition, the Festival Foods on Washington Avenue in Racine (the location of the horrible accident) is taking donations at any register. So if you live in Racine, or the surrounding area, and can help this couple, and don’t want to use GoFundMe for some reason, that’s another way to help. (I just thought of this. But it’s accurate. Festival said they’d be taking donations at least through the end of January, and possibly longer, the last time I went in there, which was last week.)

While you’re at it, pray for their granddaughter, who’s already lost her mother and now is in jeopardy of losing her grandmother as well…

This is just wrong. And we, as a people, need to do what we can to let the Coopmans know that we do care about this injustice, and will help them in their hour of need.

Because that is what the whole idea of charity (Christian or otherwise) is all about.

Mourning Ursula LeGuin

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Earlier this week, well-known science fiction and fantasy author Ursula K. LeGuin died at age 88. While this was a very long and well-honored life, most of the SF&F community is in some degree of mourning due to how influential LeGuin was on the entire field of SF&F.

Most people who have read any SF&F at all are aware of her best works, which include the Earthsea Trilogy, THE LATHE OF HEAVEN, THE DISPOSSESSED, and the gender-bending THE LEFT HAND OF DARKNESS, that deals with a planet where traditional gender roles do not apply and people can become male or female as the situation arises due to a type of estrus. But LeGuin also wrote poetry, short stories (in and out of SF&F), and any number of other things…and in some ways, she was primed from birth to become a writer.

Now, why do I say that? Well, her mother was a writer. Her father was an anthropologist. And she came from a well-read, well-educated household, with three siblings; all of them were expected from a very early age to reason and explain their reasoning to their intelligent parents, along with reading widely and being able to research nearly any subject.

All of these things — reading widely, being able to research, and being able to reason and better yet, explain your own reasoning — are important to writing. If you don’t read widely, you’re only rarely going to be able to produce anything of worth; if you can’t research new things, you can’t possibly explain them; if you can’t explain your reasoning, you can’t tell a story, because the story would ramble, meander, and perhaps wander off on tangents as it would not be properly set up in the first place.

LeGuin could and did all of those things. But her style, even from the first, was unusual. She wrote in a way that was both moving but also passive; she let the words speak precisely because of how they were stated, and let the reader interpolate a lot as to how people felt about whatever was going on in whatever story.

For example, in my favorite of all her works, THE LATHE OF HEAVEN, George Orr has a gift: He can dream true, and thus change his world through his dreams. But he doesn’t know what to do with it, and is afraid of it, so he refuses to use it.

Enter a corrupt psychiatrist, William Haber, who believes he can control Orr’s gifts. (Orr has no choice to see the man, either, as Orr was abusing drugs to keep himself from dreaming true and thus altering the world.) And over time, Orr loses nearly everything — his world, his girlfriend, even his psyche — until he realizes he must stand up to Haber once and for all.

The problem is, by this time, Haber has figured out how Orr’s managing to do what Orr’s done. And Haber’s version of a utopia is far worse than anything Orr has dreamed up, all unwittingly…so almost all of the pulse is internal, dealing with how Orr feels (which I like quite a bit), rather than external, though there is some of the latter (in particular, what will this horrible guy Haber do with the power Orr refuses to use?)

THE LATHE OF HEAVEN is the most deeply romantic novel LeGuin ever wrote. The romance between Orr and Heather Lelache (later Andrews, as in different worlds she married, or didn’t, thus changing her last name) is halting but real. Orr is enriched by his love for her, and she is given an unusual type of dignity along with the ability to realize that being soft does not make you weak by her love for him. And thus, they become better, wiser, kinder people…that is, until Haber interferes with the relationship. (Which for those who have read this, and are going, “Barb, you are misstating this,” is exactly what Haber does. Haber doesn’t like Heather at all. And he’s just as happy once Heather’s out of the picture, because Haber realizes instinctively that Heather is the main reason Orr will oppose him, due to Orr’s innate passivity.)

See, what I think LeGuin was saying is that we all deserve to find love. Whether we’re more passive than not, whether we’ve made mistakes (as both Orr and Heather have definitely done more than a little of that), whether we’ve done everything right all the time is immaterial. What matters is that we do our best, and stand up for what’s right, even when it’s difficult — and even when the best solution seems to be passive, rather than active, everything will find a way to work itself out over time if you just keep making your best effort.

That’s why I enjoyed THE LATHE OF HEAVEN so very, very much. I could see myself in Heather, for sure. I even saw a little of myself in George Orr, even though I’ve never been considered a passive sort of person…still, having gifts that you don’t always feel comfortable in using is a theme most people recognize instinctively, as we all have talents we’re sometimes afraid to use for various reasons. (Granted, not everyone wants to admit this. But it is the verimost truth.)

So if LeGuin had only written that one, very fine novel, I’d have remembered her and have mourned her craftsmanship and humanity, both of which shone through as a writer.

But as I said, she wrote many other things. And in nearly everything she ever wrote, I found value and worth…which is all you can ask of any writer, really.

And for those who want entertainment and just that in their stories, well, LeGuin could do that, too. Witness the Earthsea trilogy, TEHANU — the fourth book of Earthsea, and THE OTHER WIND, the fifth book. These are all ripping good reads, with heart and pluck and adventures, and kids of all ages enjoy them to this day.

(To clarify, TEHANU is about an older woman as she finds love, all unlooked for, with the former Archmage, Ged from the first three books. But there’s still a great deal of stuff there that younger kids will like, and the romance is certainly not a graphic one.)

So, here’s to you, Ursula LeGuin. I’m glad you lived. I’m glad you left behind excellent novels and stories and essays and poetry. And I hope your family — which includes, effectively, the vast majority of the SF&F community — will find comfort in your memory.

Quick Update

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Folks, I just wanted to let you all know that I am still alive.

(Yeah. Really.)

The last week or two has been challenging, and I haven’t enjoyed my time much. While I have managed to read a number of good books (including Deborah Harkness’ A DISCOVERY OF WITCHES, a book I had wanted to read for over a year, and Audrey Sharpe’s two fine space opera books, the latter being THE CHAINS OF FREEDOM), and I’ve written a little bit, I’ve mostly had to rest.

And I find rest boring.

So, I read and re-read favorite books, including a number of Sharon Lee and Steve Miller’s Liaden series, the three Allie books of Katharine Eliska Kimbriel, and the two Zero books by Chris Nuttall. I thought a lot about the stories I was working on, and talked with other writers about their stories. And I did just a little editing here and there, to keep my hand in…as I truly do hate doing nothing.

Of course, I haven’t been doing nothing. I’ve been recovering. But it feels like nothing, and I won’t pretend it doesn’t.

Granted, I have the philosophy that “work does a body good.” But sometimes, when your body is worn-down, all you can do is rest and prepare your next assault on the “work fortress.” And that’s where I’ve been, the past two weeks.

I look forward to getting back up to speed soon, though. So keep watching this space…as you never do know what I’m about to say next. (Is that part of my charm? I’d like to think so.)

Written by Barb Caffrey

January 22, 2018 at 7:23 pm

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Quick Health Bloglet

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Folks, I had written a longer blog today, but WordPress ate it…and I’m too sick to write it again.

That said, I have been reading a lot, thinking a lot, and resting a lot. It’s all I can do, while I continue to take care of whatever it is that’s got hold of me this time. (Flu flaring to bronchitis, I think.)

For now, as I wait upon recovery, I urge you to read all the books you can, in as many subjects as you can, and to learn as much as you can.

That’s the best way to spread truth and light, and maybe to find some sort of understanding in this world.

I’ll be back as soon as I can.

Written by Barb Caffrey

January 14, 2018 at 5:09 pm

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Jason Cordova’s DEVASTATOR Is Out — And It Is Good…

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Folks, this is the review I just tried to post on Amazon for Jason Cordova’s DEVASTATOR, and couldn’t manage to get it there. (With my luck, though, it’ll post after I put this up here at my blog.)

Mind, I discussed DEVASTATOR, along with Kayelle Allen’s Bringer of Chaos series, last week here at the Elfyverse. So if you haven’t read that post yet, it might be nice to start there…ahem.

(Thus ends today’s try at self-promotion. I’d rather promote someone else anyway!)

So, without further ado, I figured I’d post it here, and I do hope you’ll go read Jason’s newest as soon as you can if you like YA, S/F, or any stories having to do with near-future virtual reality simulations. (Or if you just like Jason’s writing. I mean, really…what’s not to like?)

It’s great to see Tori back in action again in Jason Cordova’s newest novel, DEVASTATOR. She’s a tough customer, albeit a tough customer who’s only seventeen…she’s already had to fight her way out of an insane situation in her favorite virtual reality game known as The Warp in CORRUPTOR (book one of this series), and now been asked to re-enter The Warp to keep an eye on some anomalies no one can quite figure out.

See, things are happening in The Warp that make less sense than usual. For a fully programmed environment to do things that no one understands is just plain wrong; it’s even worse than the previous contretemps Tori defused in CORRUPTOR, as at least there once highly paid programmers were made aware of the issues, they were able to fix them. (What Tori had to do before was to defeat the bad guys wherever possible, evading the rest until she could be rescued and brought out of V/R.) And Tori is possibly the foremost expert on how The Warp actually acts, as opposed to how The Warp is supposed to act, so of course she’s asked to lend her expertise to the problem.

(Lending her expertise sounds nice, doesn’t it? But it’s code words for “murder and mayhem are about to break out here,” really…though I digress.)

Anyway, Tori gathers a bunch of others who are known to her as solid individuals (or at least solid players of The Warp) and all are made referees, more or less glorified Moderators. There’s a tourney going on that will cloak their actions, as the folks who make The Warp absolutely, positively do not want to cause trouble for themselves. And as no one can understand, much less explain, the anomalies that have been observed, discretion is of the essence…thus this subterfuge.

So, they go in there. They have a whole lot of problems. (No, I’m not going to tell you what they are. You need to read DEVASTATOR for yourself, preferably sooner rather than later.) And Tori, her boyfriend Dylan, and many others who’ve risked so much up until now will find their world spun on end, as there are a few plot twists here that I absolutely refuse to spoil.

Great things about DEVASTATOR include an age-appropriate romance (Tori’s a badass, but she’s a more or less innocent badass, which is a refreshing change), a lot of Kaiju-inspired fight scenes, an interesting V/R take on Ragnarok, and much, much more.

Tori’s a fun character, and I rooted for her the whole way. I can’t wait to read the next novel, OBLITERATOR — write quickly, Jason!

———- (Review ends here)

And then, I gave the novel five stars, said it was highly recommended, and tried to point out I’d received it as an ARC, downloaded it right away via KU and read it again, and will be making a point to buy it to put it in my permanent collection, too, down the line. (What else can I do to point out I enjoyed this book?)

Written by Barb Caffrey

January 11, 2018 at 7:11 am

Welcome, 2018! New Year’s Resolutions, Anyone? (A Collaboration with a Purpose Post)

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Folks, this is the first Collaboration with a Purpose post of 2018. And thus, our group of bloggers decided what would be better than New Year’s resolutions?

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My view of resolutions, mind, is probably not like many of the other bloggers. I figure, you need to first change your attitude, and only then make a resolution to keep that change active. (This is directly opposite how most people approach this.)

Why do I take that tactic? Well, I’ve seen too many people crash and burn when they make a grandiose resolution (or two). Here’s a few resolutions I’ve seen others make that definitely have not worked out:

  • Vowing to take more cold baths (I mean, who does this?)
  • Exercising more (Too broad; what counts as exercise?)
  • Eating less (Too broad; you can eat less, say, of veggies and more chocolate cake, and you’re still technically keeping this resolution)
  • Taking up veganism (Nice idea, in theory, but very difficult in practice. Besides, it’s incredibly expensive for most people to do properly, and money is in short supply ’round here.)
  • Becoming a vegetarian after being a lifelong meat eater (Again, nice idea. Hard to do. Easier than veganism depending on what type of vegetarian you want to become, providing it’s not vegan.)

Now, what resolutions do I think are possible, after the requisite change in attitude? Here we go:

  • Trying to see the other person’s point of view once in a while, even if it’s difficult and seemingly makes no sense. (The mental exercise is good for you. Kind of like taking brisk medicine you really don’t want, granted…but still, good for you.)
  • Eating one serving more of fruit or veggies a day. (Starting small is the best way for your change in attitude to work.)
  • Finding an hour a day to spend either writing, meditating, or some combination of the two. (This is a good idea and again, it’s starting reasonably small. In my life, usually my paying job of editing takes over, or taking care of my family may take over, or perhaps my health will act up. But trying for one single hour is sensible, even though of course I want much more than that over time.)
  • Spending ten minutes a day doing some sort of physical activity (probably walking; maybe if I’m lucky, swimming)

See? The last four resolutions are doable. They require a slight shift in attitude, and to try just a little bit harder. And aren’t flat-out impossible, which is what tends to stop too many people from keeping any of their New Year’s Resolutions in the first place.

Now, I know that some people swear by cold baths. (Seriously.) And yes, some swear by veganism. (Yeah. Really.) And some swear by both at the same time — which sounds a bit odd, but whatever floats their respective boats.

But that isn’t me. I believe in incremental change. I know I can make the effort if it’s small. And small things add up over time to big results, if we only believe those results are possible….and maybe that, ultimately, is what New Year’s resolutions are all about — reminding us that change is indeed possible, if we’re only willing to work for it.

Now, take a look at my fellow bloggers’ views on the subject! Here are links to their blogs…more specific links will be added later, once their posts are up:

 

And do let me know what you think of this post…especially as we of the Collaboration are looking for more topics to discuss of an inspirational (or at least interesting) nature in 2018.