Over on the TOF Spot

Further posts have been going up on The TOF Spot without being noted here. Adding the links became too laborious to keep up.

Keep the Change

Hope and change

“Remember that your enemy is never a villain in his own eyes. This may leave you an opening to become his friend.”
-- Robert A. Heinlein

Several more years ago than polite society bears naming, the Incomparable Marge attended a workshop in "Basic Problem Solving" sponsored by her then-employer, a/k/a The Bank. It was a seminar similar to the one disseminated by TOF himself, though The Bank hired a lesser firm, alas. Had they hired TOF's firm, it would have been TOF's one chance to teach the Marge a thing or two. Oh well. Bon chance.

One of the topics in basic problem solving is that people often resist the solution, even to problems they themselves wish solved. That is because solutions by their nature change something, and change inevitably creates anxiety.

So on the second day of the class, the Marge comes to the training room and finds that the books and table-tents have all been moved around. "Tsk," says she to herself. "The cleaning people have gotten the seating all messed up." And so she picks up her book and table tent and is proceeding to her original seat when she notices the two instructors watching from the back of the room. People resist change? Even so trivial a change as a seating arrangement. And so she returned whither her materials had been shifted, and she took to watching the others as they arrived. A little more than half the students insisted on moving back to "their" seats -- seats that had been "theirs" for but a single day.

Imagine the sort of resistance you get when the change is to something in which people have invested ego, like a scientific theory!

TOF in his own seminars used a game -- "The Pony" -- in which students were read a story about two farmers selling a pony back and forth and asked to reach an answer off the tops of their heads which farmer made a profit and how much. Grouped according to the answers they had given, each group was told to develop an argument why their answer was right. Then a spokesman for each group presented its argument to the other groups. Seldom were these arguments sufficiently persuasive to induce people to change groups. In astonishing shows of solidarity, once people were in a group, they showed an odd reluctance to leave it. And these were groups that had existed for but minutes. How much stronger are the bonds for groups like "Production" and "Maintenance" or "France" and "Germany" or "Islam" and "Christendom"?

THIS IS SOMETHING TO KEEP IN MIND for your stories -- and one aspect to thickening your characters. Stories usually involve change of some sort, and your characters will react to it in various ways. A new strategy, a modified product, an altered organization structure, a fresh idea. It need not be earth-shattering -- though in SF it sometimes is, literally! -- and may even be downright mundane, at least to outsiders. A trap for the writer is to stereotype those whose attitudes toward the change are contrary to the author's own. It is a failure of imagination to suppose that these characters can be motivated by no more than sheer mustache-twirling villainy.

Similarly, it is a mistake to suppose that everyone on the same side of a change is there for the same reasons.

The Blood Upon the Rose

The latest Blast From the Past is up on the Story and Preview Page. "The Blood Upon the Rose" is a 2100-word short story. It appeared first in Analog (Feb 1991) then in the collection The Nanotech Chronicles. Later it was pirated by a German agent who had gone rogue and sold his clients' stories without the ugly necessity of actually paying the clients. It appeared without payment in the Heyne Verlag collection Lenins Zahn und Stalins Tränen.

The story is set futureward of "Werehouse," which we showcased here a while back. (Hence, the reference, "...people became animals...") Even so there is a quaint reference to "...make the videotape..." The United States at this time is under the control of an ecumenical heresy symbolized by the "star-cross-and-crescent" and everyone is being ecumenically persecuted, proving that the enemy of my enemy may be simply one more enemy. Hence, the odd laundry list of offenses and defiances.

The intent was to tell the story after the manner a fable, so the narrator and the two characters speak in high language.


Today is the Feast of St. Thomas Aquinas

Say something logical today in his honor.

h/t Mark Shea


Them Dang Commies

In case anyone thinks Francis is breaking new ground.

Read more


The Journeyman: In the Great North Wood

Formerly entitled "On the Shore of the Unquiet Sea." Okay, so TOF finished the novella, weighing in at just over 40 kilowords and has sent it over the aether to ANALOG, where its fate abides. We shall see how it turns out.

The opening scene was posted earlier and remains substantially the same. Now for your delectation (or whatever), no less than the second scene!


News from the Front

Things tend to get noticed only when Americans or perhaps other Westerners get affected. ISIS had killed over 2000 Syrians in the six months prior to executing a Western Journalist and no one in the West seemed to notice. Recently the Kingdom sentenced a man to 1000 lashes for running a liberal website. The site did not even defame Islam. He is unlikely to survive that many lashes. Yet there was the Saudi representative marching in Paris shoulder-to-shoulder with Putin's guy and others in support of freedom of speech. You can cut the hypocrisy with a knife.
In recent news from the various fronts:

A Startling Proposal

Top panel of three, see first link. Year axis in on bottom panel.
The suggestion has been made that predictions made by scientific studies be checked against Actual Results in what TOF joshingly refers to as "The Real World™." A band of intrepid researchers have compared the actual rates of glioma to the rates expected by the seminal Swedish study linking them to cell phone use. The graph to the right covers non-Hispanic white males from 1992/97 to 2008. Corrections were made for the delay of onset. The results are discussed less dauntingly here.

As we can see, the rate of gliomas has remained essentially unchanged even while cell phone use was skyrocketing. The exponential curve is where we would expect to find glioma rates if we took the predictions of the Swedish study as, well, predictions. What a notion!


Science Marches On

TOF first ran across the notion of humans in America prior to the American Indians in a fiction! It was "Beringia," a 1990 story by Poul Anderson in his Time Patrol book The Shield of Time. It follows Wanda Tamberly, a time patrolman who has been studying this pre-Indian people (and has grown attached to them) when a band of Indians finds its way across the Bering Land Bridge. They bully the indigenous people (because they can. They are technologically more advanced.) But even when they don't, they over-awe the natives. But they also fear the native's powers of magic. After all, they are in their country and feeling very insecure, having fled their own land. Everything hits the fan, there are causal loops, and the time patrolman has to salvage her own reputation, too.


Finished the draft of "The Journeyman: In the Great North Wood" (there was a title-change along the way). It weighs in at 44.1 kilowords and so might undergo an edit in second draft to take up the hem or tuck in a pleat. It has already had two subplots excised completely.

Today's excerpt:

Teo joined Sammi at the council fire. “Sammi,” he said, “I been thinking.”
“Sammi not interrupt stupid plainsman on splendid innovation.”
“Nothing. What thought hatched by strenuous clucking?”
“Well, we been talking about making a sortie that will probably result in all of us getting croaked…”
“Songworthy, right?”
“Yah, except who’s gonna sing it? Well the whole reason is we’re running out of food. Otherwise, we could all sit tight until the Raccoons go away.”
“Can sit tight other way, too. Starve to death, go into rigor.”




Captive Dreams

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