It’s the 29th of March, I’ve just bought a tankful of oil to stave off indoor frostbite, and I’m feeling…scattered. (Yes, a little broke, too.) So this will be a scattered piece.
Tuesdays are to your Curmudgeon as Thursdays are to Arthur Dent.
First, have a passel of links:
- Vote Fraud: The Ultimate Compendium.
- Will Smith Socked Chris Rock Because, You Know, Trump.
- MasterCard wants to monitor your “carbon footprint.”
- Joe Biden and his Cheat Sheet.
- Hunter Biden and the Biolabs.
- The Gaslighting Continues.
- Your Paper Currency Is Endangered By More Than The Fed.
Enjoy or not, as your preferences incline you.
(Say, how many are there in a passel?)
Change is constant, or so they say. Not long ago, that was brought home to me in a personally striking way.
A church, as I’ve written before, is supposed to be a fundamentally conservative institution. It’s supposed to have a base of doctrines that it maintains over time and promulgates to a slowly changing – hopefully enlarging – body of adherents. That requirement to keep its teachings constant despite pressures to change them is one of the things that collectively distinguish churches from other sorts of institutions.
Today, it’s getting to be hard to tell a Christian church apart from a marketing organization, at least here in America. (My acquaintance with trends on other continents is slender.)
The Catholic Church has been an exception in many ways. Mind you, for the purposes of this tirade, it doesn’t matter that I differ with my Church on some issues. Catholic teaching has been largely constant for two millennia. For a creed that claims the backing of the highest of all Authorities, that is as it should be.
But recently, things started to change.
I was conversing with a priest a little time ago about matters the specifics of which I can no longer remember, when he said something that blew me out of my seat. In an almost offhanded way, he said that the Church’s doctrines about salvation, surely among the most important of its teachings, are moving away from the traditional emphasis on mortal sin, repentance, and absolution. According to this priest, the Church is moving toward a doctrine of salvation that focuses on how well each of us has followed the two Great Commandments:
But when the Pharisees had heard that he had put the Sadducees to silence, they were gathered together. Then one of them, which was a lawyer, asked him a question, tempting him, and saying, Master, which is the great commandment in the law?
Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.
[Matthew 22: 34-40]
That stunned me beyond my ability to express. (Not that I have any problem with the two Great Commandments!) I didn’t argue the matter; I was too shaken. But it’s left me wondering whether that really is what’s being promulgated from the Vatican in this Year of Our Lord 2022. Does any Gentle Reader have something to contribute on this subject?
Now, a few words about indie fiction. The Gospel According To Michael Anderle has taken hold among hundreds, perhaps thousands of aspiring fiction writers. That gentleman has exhorted those who listen to him to emphasize output: i.e., to turn out books as fast as possible, so that they acquire a significant body of work in which those who like their stuff can wallow. “Keep the pipeline filled” is how others have phrased this dictum.
While it might not be obvious, an emphasis on rapid production conflicts with the goal of a high-quality product. This is the case regardless of the nature of the product; fiction is no exception. He who writes swiftly is likely to generate lots of errors of every sort, including plot burps, poor and inconsistent characterization, and unconvincing dialogue. His reputation won’t be immune to that blemish, regardless of how loyal his fans might be.
I’ll admit that there are some exceptions to this effect. A writer I’ve been enjoying recently is among them. He makes a fair number of mistakes, but somehow his tales don’t suffer appreciably from them. But the dynamics are opposed to a rapid-output-with-high-quality product.
Supposedly, the “keep the pipeline filled” approach has salutary effects on revenue. I suppose that if that’s your highest priority, you can’t be criticized for adhering to that approach. But I’ve been sampling and discarding an increasing fraction of the indie novels I encounter, for reasons of quality. And while I’m no better at predicting the future than any other writer, I can’t help but wonder what fraction of the pump-‘em-out community will ultimately be happy with the long-term consequences of the “Output Uber Alles” approach.
Finally, a few words about my own fictional directions.
After the release of The Discovery Phase, a friend asked me about my recent forays into romance. He wanted to know what had impelled me in that direction. I had no answer for him, other than that I had a few attractive Supporting Cast characters sitting around who seemed to me to deserve some love. He smirked rather dourly and said “How large is that fund of characters?” That made me wince. This gentleman has been pressing me to get to work on a sequel to The Warm Lands, so it was fairly easy to divine his preferences. (And his dispreferences)
As it happens, I’ve been working on a quasi-time-travel story. If that surprises you, it damn near paralyzed me to realize that that was what I’d set out to write. I hate time-travel tales. There are very few good ones – good by my criteria, which include not only originality but logical / metaphysical consistency. Only two come to mind as I write this: Alfred Bester’s short story “The Men Who Murdered Mohammed” and the great Gregory Benford’s award-winner Timescape.
But that’s what I’m writing…and no, it doesn’t take place in Onteora County. For this one, I’ve decided to invade Stephen King’s bailiwick and situate the action in the woods of Maine.
It’s premature to say much more about this story. It looks as if it will bear some resemblance to a “classic” novel (viz: “A book everyone wants to have read, but no one wants to read”) that was once part of my high school American Literature curriculum. That, too, surprised me. But then, the specifics of the core motif seem to militate in that direction.
I mentioned some of this to the C.S.O. just yesterday. She was other than pleased for two reasons. First, she too wants me to get to work on a sequel to The Warm Lands. Second, I mentioned the “classic” novel I had in mind and she immediately scroaned. (That’s a scream and a groan together, with intense feeling.) She remembered it much as I did: both the effulgent praise our instructors slathered on it and our shared inability to imagine what supposedly made it so great.
Well, “Of tastes there is nothing written,” as the Talmud says somewhat self-contradictingly.
That’s all for today, Gentle Reader. Enjoy your Tuesday.