Tribes

I am reading (and enjoying the hell out of) Deirdre McCloskey’s Bourgeois Virtues. That book and its arguments are much bigger than this tiny blog post, but a minor point in the book (the alleged fragmentation of modern, that is to say bourgeois-town based-capitalist-liberal, society) triggered for me a point of curiosity.
I know that I belong to many communities (let’s call them tribes). Can I count them? What are they?
I majored in Near Eastern Studies and stopped taking math after Algebra 2, but hey, I’m a child of the Enlightenment, so for discussion’s sake, I’ll define a tribe by the presence of two characteristics:
  1. A tribe is a group of 10 or more people, all known to me, and most of whom know each other.
  2. A tribe has regular (not necessarily constant) and current communication.
  3. I’ve left out tribes too big for all members to know each other (residents in the State of Utah, American citizens, members of the New York Bar).
Pretty scientific, n’est ce pas?
Okay, so here’s my best list of the tribes to which I currently belong, more or less in the order in which they occurred to me:
  1. The Butler family (my dad’s side)
  2. The Lindow family (my mom’s)
  3. The Sorenson family (Emily’s mom’s side)
  4. The Holsingers (Emily’s dad’s side)
  5. My congregation and neighborhood (I live in a place where those are basically synonymous)
  6. Graduates of Timpview High School
  7. Graduates of NYU Law
  8. Past and present employees of Clifford Chance
  9. Past and present employees of Micron
  10. The Numonyx team
  11. Acumen Learning
  12. Baen
  13. WordFire Press
  14. The Utah writing scene
  15. The Colorado (Front Range) writing scene
  16. Italy Milan LDS Mission missionaries
  17. My (unnamed) boardgaming community in Treasure Valley
  18. The Story Monkeys and their families
  19. The Space Balrogs and their families
  20. The Utah-centered filk music scene
  21. Aldershot Ward
There are probably other tribes, but that’s a good start. Is that fragmentation? Maybe. Several things strike me. First, though I regard myself as shy and an introvert, my life has been enriched by many communities, large and small. Second, the people who have had my back when I needed it have come from a surprising array of these different tribes. Third, I’ve passed through some very large institutions that have left almost zero social footprint on me (my undergraduate college, for instance). Fourth, for all the features of social media that go immediately into my “hate” column, I have to acknowledge that social media has made it very easy for me to stay in contact with these, my fellow-tribespeople.
All of which, I guess, a propos of nothing in particular. But if you’re in one of my tribes — thanks.
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A New World Obsession

I’m neck-deep in the WITCHY EYE setting and stories, and wanted to share this quote from the book (it’s in the POV of Obadiah Dogsbody, rough English factotum to a Yankee wizard-priest):

The Tarock was a New World obsession, something the old Lightning Bishop had borrowed from the Florentines or the French (before Bonaparte imposed his Caliphate and ended such occult frivolities) and fiddled with to fit it to the land of the Chesapeake Bay and the Mississippi River. It was effeminate, the kind of thing women did for entertainment behind closed doors. No self-respecting Englishman could take seriously any purported attempt at divination that didn’t involve the death of at least one animal.

WITCHY EYE: coming in March.

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Bookshelf: The State of the Disunion

512md6yidal-_sx331_bo1204203200_Michael R. Collings is a gifted critic, academic, editor, novelist, and poet. In 2016, he’s really doubled down on poetry, producing multiple volumes of sonets (his word) on various subjects.

His most recent collection bears a title suggesting the poems are political in nature. This is partially true, in that many of the poems apparently contain his personal, real-time response to political issues raised or events that took place in the 2016 presidential campaign, such as “Real Men,” which I take as a kind of reaction to off-color comments made in the past by Donald Trump, and “On the Deplorable Word.” Others take aim at our political culture — e.g., “Celebrities” and “Religious Right.”

But the poems transcend the ephemeral events that have given rise to them. Especially in such sonets as “Math and Rulers,” we get the diamond-hard and sparkling reaction of the poet’s soul, the poet as Eternal Being, to the flotsam in the swirling eddies of time around him. So while THE STATE OF THE DISUNION chronicles the gaps between the poet and some of his fellow-citizens, in the end it creates a self-portrait, a unity out of a series of apparently granular and disparate but ultimately connected images, a collage of a man with a great heart, unafraid to call it as he sees it.

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Why Writing Is Awesome

Writing is hard. You work alone in a closet, you struggle with doubt and fear, and then when you produce a book, no matter how good it is, someone feels obligated and entitled to beat you up for it.

And then once in a while, amazing things happen. Like you meet Luca Sabotino (and his dad, Eric), and Luca reads your book, and reaches out to tell you what he thought about it.

Luca, thank you. I’m thrilled to be your friend.

luca-letter-to-mr-butler

 

 

 

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Great Fabrications

And I know this mystery, that sinners will alter and copy the words of truth, and pervert many and lie and invent great fabrications, and write books in their own names.

1 Enoch 104:10

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Autocorrect

I’m usually amused when Autocorrect mangles my perfectly intelligible text into something I didn’t intend. It’s funny, mostly. But now Autocorrect (as embodied in Amazon’s search algorithms) is giving me heartburn.

Here’s the issue: my novel WITCHY EYE is coming out in March from Baen. If I search today for “witchy eye butler” on Amazon.com, the algorithm autocorrects the search to “witch eye butler” and DOES NOT SHOW MY BOOK. I have had people tell me they have looked for the book on Amazon using the correct author name and title and not found it, and I have to explain to them that they have to double check the search results at the top of the page to be sure Amazon is running the search they actually entered.

This is not funny. This is going to hurt my sales. If someone searches for “witchy eye butler,” really, my book should appear as the top search result.

Today I’ve contacted Amazon for the second time about the issue. Last week, they did nothing. This time I am assured that for real, promise promise, this’ll get fixed.

Hmmm.

www.bn.com, by the way, doesn’t have the same problem.

******** UPDATE ********

November 8. My friend Kevin Keller, who works at Amazon (and really, really not in a customer service capacity) fixed the problem. Thanks to Rohan and Sunitha for trying, but huge gratitude to Kevin, whose job it was not, but who did me a favor and sorted this out.

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Symbolic Transgressions

[Sabbatai Sevi’s] transgressions, which formed so characteristic a part of his behavior, did not become a “normal” pattern. Their significance was purely symbolic. They were indicative of some special, exalted condition of the soul.

Sabbatai Sevi: The Mystical Messiah, Gershom Scholem

I wanted to share this quote because it ties into a comment I made on a panel at Salt Lake Comic Con — that in the real world, wizards and holy men (the line is often fine) often show that they have transcended ordinary mortality by deliberately violating taboos.

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Bookshelf: Mythology 101

510nvwc3kpl-_sx322_bo1204203200_Keith is a gregarious, open-minded college student, with a gift for persuasion. He’s so open-minded that he turns in a paper for his Sociology class on what first contact with an extraterrestrial civilization would look like, so open-minded he’s willing to believe in little people, and indeed, so open-minded that when he comes across evidence that some fellow-students are getting special tutoring from an elf in a secret room of the library, Keith sneaks into a meeting of that class and gets himself accepted.

Unfortunately, he’s also so persuasive that Keith has already persuaded the student government to renovate that very same library… which would destroy the elves’ home.

MYTHOLOGY 101 is the first book in Jody Lynn Nye’s Mythology series. This is comic fantasy about a magical world that lies within our own, and the adventures of a good-hearted but sometimes bumbling protagonist who tries to live his life in both. I laughed many, many times.

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Bookshelf: Phoenix Rising

51cqlprlz5l-_sx326_bo1204203200_Ryk Spoor’s PHOENIX RISING is book one in a straight-up, classic fantasy trilogy. This is an adventure story for people who like fantasy role-playing with lots of the familiar stuff — elves, dwarfs, ogres, ancient prophecies, lost homelands, unassailable coasts, dark forces threatening the world, impassable mountain chains, sorcerer-kings — and more than a few twists — my personal favorite being that one of the principal characters is an adventuring toad.

Yep, toad.

PHOENIX RISING follows a smallish adventuring band of three main heroes. Kyri, whose brother Rion is murdered by a traitor among his own order of Justiciars, becomes the god’s own appointee / avatar to investigate the murder. Tobimar, prince of Skysand, is called by an oracle to enter into his family’s perennial and never-resolved quest to find their lost homeland. And Poplock Duckweed — the toad swordsman, crossbowman, and tinkering magician — having accidentally interrupted and therefore delayed the summoning of horrific beings from beyond the world, has now become said horrific beings’ target.

Naturally, the three heroes’ paths cross and their separate quests become entangled in delightful ways. Spoor has a great flair for the epic — vast prophetic vistas, mighty regal pomp and ceremony, declaimed semi-poetic speeches, and ferocious dooms litter this adventure tale along with its lizard-men, evil spiders, and multiple sects of elves. I understand that this world began life as a setting for a roleplaying game — it sure feels like a good one. PHOENIX RISING is a guaranteed pleaser for fans of Terry Brooks and R.A. Salvatore.

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Witchy Eye: Clerics and Magic-Users

Here’s another follow-up note from that Salt Lake Comic Con panel on writing and roleplaying authentic magicians.

Games tend to put spellcasters whose abilities derive from gods into one bucket, and other spellcasters into a different bucket. Clerics vs. magic-users (D&D etc); channeling vs. essence vs. mentalism casters (Rolemaster); rune magic vs. spirit magic vs. sorcery (RuneQuest III); etc. What a spellcaster can do depends on how he gets his magic, as does its effectiveness against spellcasters of other types.

Real-world magic tends to be bucketed differently. Frequently, the distinction is between initiates / insiders on the one hand, and non-initiates / outsiders on the other, even when the two groups do exactly the same thing attempting to achieve exactly the same result. In other words, the difference is often social.

Examples: the village priest vs. the cunning man in medieval and early modern England; an initiated mambo (woman) or houngan (man) vs. the non-initiated Voduisant attempting to work travay in Haitian Vodou; the initiated member of the Ojibwe Midewiwin medicine society vs. the merely professional “juggler” in command of some of the same lore; and the believing braucher or hex doctor practicing in the community vs. the liminal or outsider witch.

WITCHY EYE: coming out in March.

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