Must-Read Philosophical Books

  • by Gitabushi

The following are all the books on my Must Read List.

These are the books that had the greatest impact on my understanding of the world, that taught me the most about how the world works, that contain the ideas, paradigms, and methods that I still use almost daily.

UPDATE: I guess I should explain why I chose these books.

Psychology of Intelligence Analysis, Richards J. Heuer, Jr.

https://www.amazon.com/Psychology-Intelligence-Analysis-Richards-Heuer/dp/B0016OST3O/ref=sr_1_1?keywords=psychology+of+intelligence+analysis&qid=1574439241&s=books&sr=1-1

This book really teaches you how to reason, how to recognize your tendency to bias, and ways to minimize the impact of bias on you.  Great book on how to think.

Bureaucracy: What Government Agencies Do And Why They Do It, by James Q Wilson

https://www.amazon.com/Bureaucracy-Government-Agencies-Basic-Classics/dp/0465007856/ref=sr_1_1?keywords=bureaucracy+wilson&qid=1574439466&s=books&sr=1-1

The study of bureaucracy is really the study of humanity, the study of unexpected consequences, of revealed preferences, etc.  None of us is as dumb as all of us, and this book explains why.

Intelligence Analysis, a Target-Centric Approach:

https://www.amazon.com/Intelligence-Analysis-Target-Centric-Approach-2nd/dp/1933116935

Another “How to Think Better” book. It talks about how when you want to think about something, you have to think of a model of it, useful in the same way as studying a 1:10 scale model of an aircraft carrier can help you understand the whole more easily than studying a full-size aircraft carrier.  If the first book teaches you to avoid bias and know your blind spots, this book is about thinking with more skill about things.

Hellburner and Cyteen, CJ Cherryh

https://www.amazon.com/Hellburner-Questar-Book-C-Cherryh/dp/0446516171/ref=sr_1_1?keywords=hellburner&qid=1574439596&s=books&sr=1-1

https://www.amazon.com/Cyteen/dp/B007JQNCPI/ref=sr_1_1?keywords=cyteen&qid=1574439623&s=books&sr=1-1

Hellburner is another bureaucracy book, but not just bureaucracy.  It is a very unusual book in that there is no antagonist. There is a protagonist, but the obstacles come from people doing the right things for the right reasons, but with different skills and conclusions from the protagonist.  I mean, there *is* evil done, but it didn’t intend evil. And yet evil nonetheless results.  A great insight into how groups work.

Cyteen is the book that taught me that you can control your own thinking, and reprogram your emotional reactions if you don’t like what they currently are.  Lots of other stuff in there, too.  The nature of personality/identity/character. 

Inferno, Niven and Pournelle

https://www.amazon.com/Inferno/dp/B001PU0US6/ref=sr_1_1?keywords=inferno+niven+pournelle&qid=1574439644&s=audible&sr=1-1

This is the book that really made me consider sin. Sin (being wrong and hurting others, and pride, etc.) was a concept that carried over into my loss of faith, throughout my agnostic period, and ultimately brought me back to faith.  This book explores a lot of that.

Mere Christianity, The Screwtape Letters, and The Great Divorce, by CS Lewis

https://www.amazon.com/Mere-Christianity/dp/B0009NS97E/ref=sr_1_1?crid=3P2ZXP5TR4SLB&keywords=mere+christianity&qid=1574439735&s=audible&sprefix=mere+christianity%2Caudible%2C451&sr=1-1

https://www.amazon.com/Unknown-The-Screwtape-Letters/dp/B000ICM1G6/ref=sr_1_1?keywords=screwtape+letters&qid=1574439717&s=audible&sr=1-1

https://www.amazon.com/The-Great-Divorce/dp/B00JPJH18G/ref=sr_1_1?keywords=the+great+divorce&qid=1574439697&s=audible&sr=1-1

I really admire C.S. Lewis.  These books are all philosophy of life, and God, and our purpose, and sin, and why we hurt each other, and who we are, and what God’s plan is for us, and why we are farther apart from God than anyone wants to be.  This trio is well worth the read.

A Response to a Rebuttal

  • by Gitabushi

This is a response to this rebuttal to the piece I wrote recently.

monster men

First, I seem to be good at offending people with my opinions, and that wasn’t my intent.  What seems to have come across is me saying “These types of stories, including Pulp Rev, are bad stories.”

In fact, my point was that I used to see them as bad stories, but I’ve come to realize that they are actually good stories that just don’t do it for me.  And that’s okay.

Second, I actually *like* Campbellian SF.  I can’t say “Campbell did nothing wrong,” because a quick glance at his wikipedia entry shows that later in life, he got into pseudoscience and alienated many of his best writers.

But I like his demand that writers write an alien that thinks as well as a human, but differently than a human.  And I guess I also kind of agree with his insistence that writers “rise above the mire of Pulp,” except that I really don’t think I’m quite as dismissive of Pulp as Campbell was.

I mean (third), if I thought Pulp is an inferior story form, I should be able to prove it by churning out tons of pulp stories.  But I recognize I can’t, because Pulp is written better than Campbell (or the literati in general of the time) gives it credit for.

I can’t write anything that matches A Princess of Mars, but I don’t want to. I didn’t really like the first few Barsoom novels.  The change is now I recognize those are good stories, I just don’t like them.

The first Barsoom story I actually enjoyed was Chessmen of Mars.  It explored a little bit of human nature in several aspects, including someone breaking away from a coercive society, the problem of fame/desirability in a woman and how it impacts romantic pursuit of her.

When I read Conan or John Carter stories, I don’t have any urge to write like that.

But, again, this doesn’t make them bad.

A good example is REH’s “The Frost Giant’s Daughter.”  It is filled with lush descriptions. You feel Conan’s desire and determination. You feel the chill.  But ultimately, nothing happens in the story.

Nothing really happens in “The Queen of the Black Coast,” either.  I mean, a bunch of stuff does happen, but it’s like a SitCom: after everything happens, Conan ends up where he started before he met Belit, and hasn’t really learned anything.

In most Conan stories, the only thing Conan “learns” is confirmation of his cynicism toward civilization, that so-called barbarians have more honor and are thus more trustworthy than the machinations and deceptions of sophisticated city dwellers.

But those both have been criticized as not being as well-plotted as “The Black Stranger.”  But even there, while it is a well-written story, I’m left somewhat unmoved. There’s a lot of action, there is clearly a plot, but ultimately, nothing is learned and Conan doesn’t grow in any perceptible way.

 

So what *do* I like?

I guess I like Campbellian fiction. In contrast to the people who say Hard SF is garbage, say that Campbell ruined SF, or those who say nothing written after 1980 (or was it 1970? Or 1960? I don’t remember) is any good, I *like* quite a bit of 1980s SF and Fantasy. There’s a lot of Leftist garbage influencing SF&F in the 60s and 70s…no one hates Heinlein’s later works (including Stranger in a Strange Land) more than I do.

But I see that as the fault of those writers who lost the science as they wrote social science fiction.

I am still moved by Haldeman’s “The Forever War,” and consider it one of my favorite books.  There is a great deal of wise insight into the human experience.  I also really appreciate many of Haldeman’s short stories, particularly those collected in “Dealing in Futures.”  But I don’t like many of his other works, because of the influence of Leftist ideology on his writing.

But that’s okay. I don’t reject The Forever War because I dislike most of the rest of his writing.  I just point to The Forever War as a great book, because there is insight and chaaracter growth. (although, at heart, it is more of a Milieu story than a Character story).

The key point is: I’m re-reading “Cyteen,” and while I’m enjoying the crap out of it and reading slowly so I can digest every nuance, I’m also somewhat inwardly seething because I *want* to write like that, and I don’t think I can, I’m afraid I never will be able to, and I don’t even know how to work towards making a half-way decent attempt.

And in trying to explain, I’ve probably offended other people. I apologize unreservedly.

I’m just trying to understand my own likes and dislikes, and thinking out loud, in hopes that it helps other people understand themselves better.

The Primacy of Character in Story, or “Why I Can’t Write”

  • by Gitabushi

I originally was going to write about how I am committed to the primacy of Story. I crave a story, not spectacle.  I don’t like Hollywood much anymore because they are filming blockbuster movies that can sell well overseas, and explosions don’t need translation.  I don’t like TV very much because they seem to be focused on “shipping” (focused on the relationships of the characters just for the sake of relationships).  I haven’t been able to get much into PulpRev because as much as I want to support it, too many of the stories seem to be merely wish fulfillment: the main character succeeds because they are heroes…because it is much easier to succeed on paper than in real life.

So what *do* I like?

My original answer was “I like a *story*,” but then I realized people who want a relationship story, or a hero story, etc., also just like “a story,” so I had to dig deeper.

I realized I like character stories.

I like stories that show some insight into human nature, that help me to understand something important about life that will help me be happier or more successful.

I want stories that show us humans acting naturally and normally, and at the right time, decide to do something heroic but out of character…and yet, with all the groundwork of the reasons for the out-of-character decision firmly and clearly established, so that it is both believable and inspiring.  Like “Star Wars” works as a movie for me almost 90% due to Han Solo appearing to ruin Darth Vader’s day and ensure Luke’s success.

aircraft airplane architecture indoors
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

A Pulp Rev story most likely wouldn’t have Han, it would just have Luke doing Marty Stu things until he blows up the Death Star because he can fly better than anyone else.

A modern television show would explore Leia’s relationship with every male in the series, including some of the robots, and probably retcon Luke into being gay C3P0 and keep adding complications until the series was cancelled with none of the major issues being answered.

A Modern Hollywood movies would probably just skip all the stuff on the Death Star as being too complicated and too slow, and replace it with more footage of the Death Star blowing up planets with a few more failed attack runs by various planet defenses.

But Star Wars is good because we care about Luke from where he starts and what he goes through. Han is quippy and dashing, but selfish…a foil to Luke’s youthful idealism and heroism. That’s all Han is: a cynical human, more human than Luke, and just to make Luke all the more heroic.  The Death Star commando raid is necessary to establish all sorts of things about both Luke’s and Han’s character.

And in the end, they only succeed because Han makes an unselfish decision for the first time in probably decades.

That’s what I love to read. That’s what I want to write.

But it takes time, patience, effort, and skill. And I don’t have the time to develop the skill to craft that good of a story. At least, that’s how it seems right now.

I want to write a novel I can be proud of. I think if I write it, it will sell.  But I’m to the point where I don’t care if it sells. I just want to write a *great* character story.

Pray for me. I want this ability.

Stalkerbook (Updated)

  • by Gitabushi

Target knows your daughter is pregnant before you do.  Your TV watches you back.

Creepy.  That’s one good word for how Silicon Valley tech giants watch all of us.

I think emphasizing the Creepy Line is what might finally get enough people incensed about Big Silicon Brother enough to actually scale back their surveillance of us.

Facebook watches you and everything you do in a way that would freak women out if it were a guy doing it. Instead, women use it more than men.  I think it’s because the creepiness of Facebook’s surveillance is downplayed, and so broadly unknown or underestimated.

How did we get here?

I think we naively sold our data for a handful of beads, and for convenience.

We embraced free email, never spending much thought on how a company can make enough money to store all those petabytes of email at no cost to the user.

Well, there is a cost. You just don’t know you are paying it.

Email companies can scan your emails.  You are not allowed a presumption of privacy unless you encrypt…and maybe not even then.

Email companies can show you advertisements. But it would be silly to assume they get enough revenue that way.

I don’t have the numbers, but I have to believe email companies get most of their money by selling source code to the Silicon Valley giants. Every email you send has invisible code embedded that track you. They report back where you navigate to, where you navigated from. Almost every webpage you visit has those same trackers. Facebook has a file on you, even if you never made a Facebook account, even if you have never visited Facebook.

That’s why I call it Stalkerbook.  The Facebook webpage is just the smiling face of their data-mining and manipulation operation. You make it easier on them by posting on Facebook, but you certainly don’t slow them down by not.

The Internet of Things and 5G are eagerly awaited by Big Corporations. You should not be excited.

Because they will tout “blazing fast data transfer speeds” and then add so much ad bloatware that you’ll still have download pauses and it will still take about the same amount of time to load a page.  The human psyche can handle a certain amount of delay/frustration and no more.  Silicon Valley and other Big Businesses will use that tolerance to identify and track you.

Convenience explains the rest.  It’s *easier* when the credit card company watches your purchases and flags anything that seems fraudulent.  Which sounds great, until you have your card declined while on vacation, trying to purchase dinner a time zone away from your normal stomping grounds.

Silicon Valley tracks us because we let them. We were insufficiently suspicious of all the free social media programs.

We aren’t going to get them to stop by passing laws.

The only way they’ll stop is enough people are both aware of the tracking, and creeped out enough by it to demand they stop.  We’re gonna need to get the women upset about this, it seems.

But let’s say we burn down Facebook and salt the earth where it stood. Let’s say we break up Google. Let’s say we are all up in arms about tracking and we actually get effective laws passed to regain our privacy.

What happens to commerce? Because one side effect of that is they won’t be able to target advertising for us. It might actually be harder to stumble on something you would like, but don’t know you would like.

I’m not sure how I feel about that.  There are times where Amazon’s algorithms have actually helped me find something I wanted, and so my life is slightly better as a result.

I realize that contradicts the first 80% of this post. I don’t have an answer that resolves it.

Do you have one?

 

Update:

Dark Patterns.

Episode Six: In Which I Find I Have More to Say About Vox Day

  • by Gitabushi

I recently wrote about my opinion of Vox Day, as part of completing an assignment from a friend to read his book, ‘Jordanetics,” to see if I would be convinced Jordan B. Peterson is a con man.

I ended up convinced that Vox Day is a con man.

However, I now think I have a little bit more to add to that.

To be honest, I rushed through my first response. Partly because I was just irritated with having read what felt like a steaming load of nonsense, but partly because I wanted to discharge the obligation.  But I kept thinking about it, and I think there are a few more points I want to make.

First, Vox Day gives his own “12 Rules.” The most charitable take is that if he’s going to spend a book criticizing JBP’s 12 Rules, he should have his own.  The churlish take is that he wanted to demonstrate his superior intelligence by providing a list better than JBP’s.

Actually, Vox Day’s list isn’t bad.

  1. Embrace the Iron
  2. Take the wheel
  3. Be the friend you want to have
  4. Envision perfection and pursue excellence
  5. Put a ring on it
  6. Set your face against evil
  7. Do what is right
  8. Tell the truth in kindness
  9. Learn the easy way
  10. Believe the mirror
  11. Get back on the horse
  12. Find a best friend

But at best, Vox Day doesn’t realize what JBP’s purpose is; at worst, Vox Day simply doesn’t care.  Because this list is largely inaccessible to the people JBP is trying to reach.  “Put a ring on it,” indeed. One of things JBP is addressing is males who cannot attract a woman, because their life is in chaos.  “Take the wheel.” The whole point of JBP’s teachings are to help males learn that they can take the wheel, and to avoid disaster when they try. You can’t just tell them to take the wheel; you have to teach them to walk before they can run.

So Vox Day’s rules aren’t bad, they just reveal that Vox Day doesn’t comprehend JBP.

This is a problem.

It indicates that Vox Day is criticizing JBP because JBP’s advice doesn’t apply to Vox Day.

It may even indicate that JBP’s concepts threaten Vox Day in some way.

Vox claims to be very, very smart, and expensively educated. We aren’t told exactly what “expensive” means to Vox Day, but based on his writing, he isn’t very highly educated. It seems very likely to me that he never continued past a baccalaureate.

To characterize Vox Day’s fundamental error that underlies his entire book, his choices demonstrate that he has no interest in constructing a compelling argument, but feels it is sufficient to merely make a plausible one.

You see this error in several places.  As I pointed out in the last post on this topic, he comes up with a single plausible argument why Ben Shapiro would get his work promoted over Vox Day’s. Having found that single plausible argument, he assumes and declares it must be true. He makes little attempt to consider other reasons. He doesn’t address all the potential challenges to his theory.  He makes his claim, explains why he thinks that, and stops.

This is undergraduate level thinking: “Here’s what I think, and why.” Period. End of thought.

Studying for a Master’s Degree, providing a single plausible explanation isn’t enough.  You must make a case for why your view is the most compelling.  You must provide multiple chains of logic that support your view, and address competing arguments.  Heck, the first thing you have to learn is to recognize that there *are* competing arguments.

Vox Day rarely take that step, and certainly doesn’t do so in any systematic effort.

For all the problems in our education system with Marxist indoctrination, this is one reason I still recommend people go to college, and in some cases, study for their Master’s.  Education teaches you better ways of thinking, understanding, and arguing.

Elementary education is mostly (or should be) rote learning.
Secondary education is about regurgitation of what you are told, but with more complexity than just memorized tables.
Undergraduate education is about demonstrating that you understand what you are taught, that you can understand arguments that are made for or against something; to research what others think; to analyze and come to basic conclusions.
Graduate education is about synthesizing conclusions: sorting through existing knowledge to find new connections and new conclusions.  Your master’s thesis should result in new conclusions and new understandings of existing knowledge, and learning to make arguments to support your new conclusions, so they can be accepted as accurate.
Post-graduate (doctoral) education is all about creating *new* knowledge: researching, experimenting, and studying to find accurate knowledge that was either not known, or was an incorrect conclusion.

Vox Day’s writing never gets beyond the Undergraduate level.

I can tell he’s intelligent.  But his intelligence hasn’t been trained or honed into useful application.

His argument is, in a nutshell: “I’m smart and accomplished. I don’t like JBP’s teachings. Therefore, no one should.”

But let’s look deeper at that first claim.

One of Vox Day’s claims is that JBP’s advice is for Gamma males. Elsewhere, he says JBP is a confirmed Gamma male.

The last time, I criticized Vox Day as not understanding that the high status/low status lobster is just one paradigm of how life works, and JBP likely was saying to reject that paradigm, and *not* to try to end up at a mediocre status of not being bullied, yet not being a high status lobster, either.

The more I thought about it, the more I realized that Vox Day embraces the paradigm of Bully or Be Bullied because he fancies himself an Alpha Male, and wants to enjoy that status.  Naturally, he would resist encouraging people to reject that paradigm: what good is it to have high status if people don’t recognize that status?

Look at the things Vox Day points to for credibility to criticize JBP and to claim the right to dismiss Jordan and his followers as Gamma males:

  • National Merit Finalist.  Who is going to know what this means, except for those vying for it (i.e., geeks)?
  • Game designer. Who cares, except for geeks?
  • Member of “successful” techno band. Main claim to fame was being on a Mortal Kombat soundtrack. More geekness.
  • Started a Science Fiction publishing house. Geeks.
  • Nationally syndicated writer.  Okay, this one doesn’t seem related to geeks.
    Hot wife.

These are not things to be sneered at, but clearly aren’t accomplishments most people would recognize as providing credibility to criticize the works of a popular Self-Help guru with a PhD in Psychology.

To be sure, you don’t really need credentials to criticize ideas.  You merely need enough of a platform to promulgate your ideas and criticisms of ideas, and let the ideas speak for themselves.

I think Vox Day provides his accomplishments as credentials for two related reasons. First, he has a sense his criticisms aren’t compelling, and so wants to claim a status that elevates him above JBP.  In a sense, it is a dick-measuring contest. “Pay no attention to his ideas.  My dick is bigger than his. You can tell this because I have a hot wife.” Second, he is signalling to an audience that is actually receptive to that sort of posturing.  What sort of person would be convinced by the “I have a hot wife” argument?  Gamma males.  Which is why I emphasized the geekness above.

So when Vox Day is arguing that JBP is a Gamma male preaching to other Gamma males, he’s actually making a Beta male gambit to maintain his standing as leader of Gamma males.  He can’t understand that a true Alpha male wouldn’t give a crap about JBP, they’d just go get laid.

And this all goes back to Vox Day being the con man in the scenario.  He doesn’t understand the needs of low status males, has absolutely zero interest in helping them improve their lives.  His entire criticism of JBP is predicated on maintaining his preferred world order, with Vox Day as an Alpha Male with a bunch of lower status males in their proper position as subordinate to, and in admiration of, Vox Day.

This is Vox Day’s con. He is attempting to protect the brand that is Vox Day.

I wish him good luck.

Fatal Flaws of Socialism

  • By Gitabushi

If you are a regular reader of this blog, you probably reject Socialism.  You know it doesn’t work, you know it has never worked everywhere it’s been tried, and you know that as soon as it fails, it is deemed “Not *real* Socialism” so the True Believers can retain their dreams of a successful implementation, someday, somewhere.

But because we know Socialism doesn’t work, we often take it as an axiom, and we don’t look deeper.  However, in the marketplace of ideas, we must constantly hone and refine our ideas. We must put these ideas out there for the unconvinced and unpersuaded to see and evaluate.  If we never argue against Socialism, we increase the chance that a younger generation will fall sway to its siren call.

construction destruction power steel
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Here, then, are some of the arguments I’ve seen for Socialism, and my debunking response.

Selfishness:

Under quasi-Free Market Capitalism (or the Current System, to whatever degree of Free Market Capitalism we have), the rich are encouraged and allowed to be selfish, rather than sharing their wealth with the poor.

Response:

Accepting for the sake of argument that rich people are motivated by selfishness to use their skills to exploit others, adopting a Socialist system doesn’t change human nature. Selfish people with ability will figure out what it takes to be promoted to positions of power within the Socialist government structure and use their position to ensure they get the best food, best clothes, best living spaces, etc.

This plays out a number of different ways.

  1. Socialist leaders must be compensated better than average, or else they might be susceptible to bribery.
  2. When everyone is equal, the Socialist leaders would be swamped with petitions unless there is some method of gatekeeping, which often takes the form of “gifts”, i.e., bribes
  3. Playing games with “equal”. If everyone gets a pound of meat, the Socialist leaders get the pound of filet mignon, the peasants get a pound of Spam.  If everyone gets 2000 sq ft of living space, the Socialist leaders will get the Manhattan penthouse, the peasants will get an unheated hovel in Alaska, or an un-cooled tenement in Houston, Texas

Democratic Socialism:

The argument is that Socialism has always failed because it was authoritarian socialism, imposed by force.  Democratic Socialism will come into being via Democracy, and being voluntary, will actually work.

Response:

Has there ever been anything in the history of the US that has had 100% agreement?  One representative (from Montana, alas) voted against declaring war for the US entry into WWII.

Some people are always contrary. Some people will choose to go against the tide *because* it is against the tide.

Socialism is based on the principle, “From each according to his ability, to each according to his need.”  There are no exceptions allowed.  Socialism requires *everyone* to be on board to work.

And universality really is a foundational concept for Socialism.  If people could opt out of the supplying part, well, what stops people from giving according to their ability now?  Is there some magic spell that makes people more generous if the society adopts formal Socialism?  So why would you even need to vote it into place?  If Socialism is a great idea, convince people ot give up their wealth now, voluntarily, in a charity system.  Make virtual Socialism.

If you can’t, then you can’t make it work in a government, either, without force.

Nepotism:

Socialists complain that the wealth gets locked up in a rich class, where the parents pass on wealth to their children, who use that wealth to maintain their position, locking out the poor. They own the houses that the poor must rent, they own the businesses and factories where the poor work, and they can skim off the top without working.

Response:

Again, human nature doesn’t change.  One of the main motivations for people to work is to give their children advantages. In a Socialist system, there may not be wealth to pass on to children, but the children of the Socialist leaders will go to the best schools, where the best teachers are assigned. The children of the Socialist leaders will have the best opportunities to excel in competitions and events. The competitions and contests may even be adjudicated in favor of the children of Socialist leaders (to curry favor). But as sure as the sun rises, there will be a class system where the children of Socialist leaders do not have to work in factories or in the fields, but the children of factory and field workers will have no chance to enter the Socialist leadership.  It will be systematic nepotism, rather than the conditional nepotism of our quasi-Free Market Capitalism system. There is some economic mobility in our current system.  Less than a few decades ago, but the Elite Coastal Democrat class has gotten itself more entrenched since the boom of the 50s and 60s has faded.

Equality/Fairness:

Under Socialism, everyone will be equal, and everything will be fair.  We’ll get Socialism when we achieve a post-scarcity society, like when almost all occupations are filled by robots and AI software.

Response:

Humans will never be equal, and things will never be fair to satisfy everyone. Human nature is such that we always overestimate our own contributions, underestimate the efforts and contributions of others, and underestimate how much trouble we cause other people.

Aside from that, responsibility varies from individual to individual.

The basic concept of Socialism is to ensure that no one starves, no one goes without housing, no one goes without clothes and other basic necessities.

Consider an analogy: Assume that by law, every child deserves a stuffed animal or an action figure.

Child One wants stuffed animals. That child cares for the stuffed animal, sleeps with it, protects it from harm.

Child Two wants action figures.  But the action figure is put through the wringer, its arms ripped off, its accessories chewed on, and it is ruined within a month. So you provide another one. Rapidly ruined. You provide another one. This goes on and on.

Child Three doesn’t want a stuffed animal *or* an action figure, but rather a fire truck.  Too bad.

This is all neither fair, nor equal. You put a dozen times the resources into Child Two. Is that fair? Child Three doesn’t get its preferred toy. Is that equal?

This is the same argument against providing a Universal Basic Income sufficient to house and feed everyone.  What if individuals use the money for something else besides food and housing? Well, then you have to give them additional money for food and housing.  What if they *still* don’t use the additional money for food and housing?

So you don’t provide UBI, you provide food and housing.  We’ve seen this with food stamps: an economy develops where people sell their food stamps for pennies on the dollar to buy other things.  Then they still starve and activists hold them up as examples of our unfair society.  Or the amount given via food stamps gets to the point that the people on welfare eat better than the lower levels of working classes.

The problem is that once you *guarantee* a certain benefit, or a certain amount of money, you run up against the perversity, selfishness, and exploitive nature of human beings.

The weakness of Socialism is that it is a system, and humans will always exploit any system to extinction.

 

These are some of the fatal flaws of Socialism.  Add more in the comments section.

 

 

What is a Story?

  • by Gitabushi

I’ve been pushing this book lately, and not just on this blog.   It has the unwieldy title of “Story Genius: How to Use Brain Science to Go Beyond Outlining and Write a Riveting Novel (Before You Waste Three Years Writing 327 Pages That Go Nowhere)” so from now on, I will just call the book “Story Genius.”

I love the book so much. It forced a paradigm shift on writing that excites me and convinces me I will be a successful writer. It also concisely explained much of the dysfunction we see in society, because so many people are laboring under misbeliefs.

For instance, Socialists are laboring under the misbelief that if they can win total political control of all major government and social institutions, they can transform and perfect society so that everyone is equal (at best) or that no one suffers from need (at worst).  There are so many misbeliefs in that assumption.  I think homosexual activists have a misbelief that their unhappiness comes from social rejection, so if they can just force society to celebrate their identity in more and more aspects, they will finally be happy.  The Right has the misbelief that if they just calmly and clearly explain their views and preferred policies, the Right will win elections, enact conservative legislation, and restore the US’ liberty and exceptionalism.  I could go on for days about these misbeliefs, but it is evidence that the book is correct that everyone has misbeliefs.

That’s how it improved my life.

I’ve been mulling on its application to writing for a month now, however.  *MUST* every story be a character development story?  *MUST* every story start with a misbelief that gets resolved?

I’ve really been considering this question. I’ve re-thought this question in light of “13 Hours: the Secret Soldiers of Benghazi” and “A Princess of Mars” and “Coming to America” and “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy, Jack Reacher novels and even “Game of Thrones”.

My answer is that no, not every story must have a misbelief that causes the main character problems and gets resolved over the course of the story.

But the follow-up questions to that are: Do you want people to enjoy and recommend your story?  Do you want to sell your story?  Do you want to write *great* stories, or merely write stories?

Heroic action stories can be enjoyable.  I don’t think the Jack Reacher stories ever have Jack Reacher holding a major misbelief or learning anything in the course of the story.  He’s pretty much unchangeable (except that the author gives him mental abilities needed for the plot that mysteriously don’t exist in other stories where they might have been useful, but the author hadn’t thought them up yet weren’t needed for the plot).  The interest in and success of those stories is the author starts with a perplexing situation, so you want to read to find out what is actually happening.

In “Game of Thrones”, the misbelief is actually on the part of the reader: George R. R. Martin set out to upend several major expectations of the reader, such as Plot Armor and Deaths Mean Something.  I think he’s struggling to finish and the books are kind of fizzling out because you can only deny the expected tropes for so long. If he wants to finish, he’ll have to resolve the story, and it’s going to be trope-y as all get out.

So from that perspective, even if you aren’t dealing with a character’s misbelief, you are still using misbelief to make the story more interesting.

That admission aside, I think that while it isn’t *MANDATORY* to use the techniques in “Story Genius” to load your main character down with one or more misbeliefs that are resolved in the course of the story, it still is a good idea to do it.

Because the book has convinced me that the point of stories is to learn from other people’s mistakes.  You can be entertained by the story, but entertainment is the bonus, and should not be the goal.  We are hardwired to enjoy stories from childhood, but that doesn’t mean we should focus solely on the entertainment aspect.  If we only care about entertaining, we might succeed, and the story might sell, but I don’t think it will have much staying power.  Sure, it might catch on and become famous, and it might be read for generations, like Edgar Rice Burroughs “A Princess of Mars”.  But that’s not the way to bet.  That’s not a good model to base your own writing career on.  When ERB wrote that book and invented those characters, there was no TV, there were no comic books, there were no smartphones, and even movies had no sound or color.  Many people don’t read at all, and we don’t have a unified culture that allows an iconic character like John Carter or Dejah Thoris to capture the imagination of millions.  Put another way: there is so much mindless entertainment already out there, it is advisable to do your best to find ways to stand out.

I think “Story Genius” gives you what you need to stand out.

“Story Genius” requires more prep-work, but in the end, it saves you time.  It’s right there in the title “(before you waste three years writing 378 pages that go nowhere)”.  It keeps you from getting stuck.  It demands you consider every development in terms of the character’s misbelief, which provides a motive force for the story, and only then write the scenes…which keeps you from wasting as much time writing unnecessary filler that you’ll cut anyway.

The book helps you to add layers to your story via subplots.  If everything ties back to both the misbelief driving the story *and* the visible plot developments, your story will have depth.  I thought I might not be able to succeed as a writer because I couldn’t hold an entire novel’s plot in my head.  With this book, I don’t have to.

I have a dozen stories that have foundered on the rocks of painting myself into a corner, plot-wise, or not knowing what to do next.  Thinking about them in terms of misbeliefs resurrects their viability, because it gives me new ideas of how to make them compelling.

“Story Genius” tells you that the misbelief has reached a crisis in the character’s life.  The character has kept the misbelief up until that point because it worked more or less. The misbelief perhaps kept the main character from enjoying life more, or from fulfilling some aspect of life, but it also kept the main character from disaster.  But now the misbelief’s impact on the character’s life has come to a head.  If the character retains the misbelief, their life will be destroyed.  But if they accept life’s lessons and give up the misbelief, their self-image will be destroyed. Everyone thinks they are correct.  Giving up a misbelief is not only admitting you were wrong (very hard for anyone to do), it also is admitting that you damaged your own life for years by not realizing it sooner.

People double down on mistakes. That’s how we hold onto misbeliefs.  That’s why we hold onto misbeliefs.  Only if everything you hold dear is threatened by the misbelief are we forced to actually confront the fact that what we beleived, what we thought kept us safe, was wrong.

Doesn’t that, as a writer, excite you?  Wouldn’t you love to be able to write a story with that sort of impact, that level of import?  “Story Genius” will show you how, and walk you through it.

If the main reason we like stories is because it allows us to safely learn from other people’s mistakes, then yes: underneath and on top of whatever else your story is, you should include a character development aspect. You should make your main character’s misbelief the driving force behind the story.  It will make the story better, and will attract readers.

The only possible downside I can see from this is that it makes it harder to develop a character and setting and write an infinite number of stories in your “franchise”.

Frankly, I don’t see that as a downside.  With the possible exception of Lois McMasters-Bujold’s Miles Vorkosigan series, and the actual exception of the Jack Reacher and Matt Helm series, I don’t want or enjoy series focused on one main character.  There can only be so many self-image-threatening misbeliefs in one character.  Most authors don’t use the same character over and over.  They invent new characters, and new settings.

My favorite author, CJ Cherryh, is my favorite writer because she was good at this.  She had her universe, but she made new main characters for new stories to reveal different aspects of her universe, and it made it better.

Now she’s written an endless “Foreigner” series and I lost interest after book 6.  No one learns anything. The main character is always right. I mean, maybe that’s not completely true, but it’s true enough around book 5 or 6 that I lost interest.

Same with Steven Brust’s Jhereg series.  Same with the Miles Vorkosigan series, but only after book 10 or so, and that was because McMasters-Bujold used different viewpoint characters, allowing her to play off of the new characters’ misbeliefs.

Your fans may want an infinite number books with the same main character. I say, don’t give that to them.  Make new, fresh characters.  Wow them with your ability to create new compelling viewpoint characters, and stun them with your insight into human nature. “Story Genius” shows you how.

Two final thoughts:

No one enjoys message fiction, i.e., “Now I’m going to teach you something I think is true.”  I think “Story Genius” helps you avoid that, by letting you put a misbelief into the main character.  If I wanted to write something against Socialism (and I will), I would make my main character believe that humans are perfectible if they just have the right rules to follow and the right people in charge.  And then I’d show that character how that misbelief will threaten everything they hold dear.  Result: a great story that doesn’t seem preachy.

I haven’t finished my short story, and I haven’t started my novel (waiting to finish the short story).  So maybe I’m wrong about all this.  I don’t think I am. I’m stuck on some mechanical aspects of the short story (what traps or threats can I put into the underground crypt that will drive and highlight the main character’s viewpoint changes?), so I might just drop it for now and start another short story from scratch using this process.  If so, I’ll let you see the results and let you judge if it results in a compelling story.