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CHRISTOPHER TAYLOR'S BOOKS

Saturday, May 14, 2016

A VEILED GIVEAWAY

Givin' it all away 
Happens every day 
No matter what we say 
We're givin' it all away 
Givin' it all away
-BTO

I'm doing another giveaway, just so you know.  This one is for my first novel, with its shiny new cover and all.  Enter on Goodreads for one of two personalized, signed print copies of this fantasy novel.
What is Snowberry's Veil about?  Its about a ranger and his love, its about an evil secret, its about outdoor survival in the mountains, its about bandits and monsters, its about tribal peoples,  its about quests and honor and truth.  Its about adventure, from a small scale perspective; not a sweeping epic, but a personal, more intimate story.
Check it out.  I think you'll like it.


Goodreads Book Giveaway

Snowberry's Veil by Christopher R.  Taylor

Snowberry's Veil

by Christopher R. Taylor

Giveaway ends May 22, 2016.
See the giveaway details at Goodreads.
Enter Giveaway
Well the giveaway is finished, and it went really well.  Thanks all who entered, and congrats to the winners!

Tuesday, May 03, 2016

THE HAPPINESS DILEMMA

"If you choose not to believe you still have made a choice"
-Rush, "Free Will"

In the novel The Quiet Light, Louis deWohl writes a fictional exchange between a knight named Piers and Thomas Aquinas.  The setting is a terrible period of European history in which Emperor Frederick II is rampaging across the land destroying Christians and generally being a monster.  Piers is very downcast and his faith has been sorely tried.  He complains to Thomas:
  
"Wherever you look, you see tears and despair and bloodshed.  I felt that my own life was senseless.  And I may as well admit it: I no am no longer certain that God exists."
"I needn't exist," said Thomas calmly.  "You needn't exist.  But God must exist or nothing else could.  You can scarcely doubt your own existence... its a violation of the law of contradiction, for if you do not exist, who is it that holds the doubt?  So you do exist, but not in your own right.  You have received existence: from your parents and ancestors, from the air you breath, the food you take in.A river has its existence and so have mountains and everything, not only on earth but everywhere in the universe.  But if the universe is a system of receivers, there must be a giver.  And if the giver has received existence, he, is not the giver at all.  Therefore the ultimate giver must have existence in His own right.  He must be existence and this Giver we call God.  Can you contradict that?"
"I cannot contradict it," said Piers.  "But it does not satisfy me.  Nor will it satisfy anyone who suffers."
"Your question, then, is not whether God exists, but why there is suffering.  But what is suffering?  What is its cause and consequences?  It is caused when parts that belong together are separated and prevented from joining each other.  And its consequence is pain.  A sword cut severs tissues that belong together and thus suffering is caused and leads to pain.  Or two people who love each other are separated and prevented from joining each other: suffering is caused and thereby pain."
[Piers] said: "But why must it happen?  Why must that which belongs together be separated in life?  You explained to me what causes suffering and that pain is its consequence. You did not explain why God permitted the cause."
"All human suffering," said Thomas, "goes back to the archetypal suffering... the separation f man from God.
"We are told  about the Fall of man in Genesis.  The Greeks and other peoples remembered it: they called the time in paradise the 'golden age.'  Do you remember the words of the serpent, 'Eat... and you shall be as God--'? We ate... and by that act of rebellion cut ourselves off from God.  We broke the link between the natural and the supernatural.  That was the separation."
"And were driven out of paradise.  And had to die and suffer.  That was God's answer."
"No, friend.  That was the inevitable consequence of our own act.  But God did give an answer and his answer was Christ.
"Our Lord took upon Himself the total pain of that separation.  The union between God and man is the Cross.  Supernatural life was restored to man," said Thomas, "And thus God is like the precious soil into which the seed, man, is sown.  And the seed branches out into three roots by which it clings to the soil, the roots of faith and hope and charity.  And all three are acts of the will -- the will to accept the truth as revealed by God -- the will to trust the promises of Christ -- and the will to see in God the supreme good..."
"I think I understand that," said Piers, "its like... like an oath of allegiance to the love of God."
Once more he saw that irresistible smile that seemed to confer an honorable accompliceship.
"You see now," said Thomas, "suffering means sharing with Christ.  If you love Him... how can you renounce suffering?  No lover will renounce the pain of his love."
"True," said Piers hoarsely.  "True."
"Man loves many things," said Thomas. "Wealth... or power... or a woman. But if you had to name what all men desire, whatever forms their desire may take... what would you say?"
"Happiness," said Piers after a short hesitation.
"Yes.  Happiness.  But what is happiness?"
"I... I don't know.  I know what it is for me..."
"There is then something you desire more than anything else."
"Yes.  But I shall never have it."
"And if you had it, you would be happy?"
"Yes, of course.  But..."
"But if you had it and so had to fear that it might be taken away from you again -- would you still be happy?"
"N-no, I suppose not.  Not entirely."
"Therefore... shall we agree that happiness is the possession of the desired good.. whatever it is... without any fear of losing it?"
"Yes... I think so."
"But in this life on earth we have not only the fear but the certainty that we shall lose it.  For one day we must die.  Therefore true happiness... lasting, everlasting happiness cannot be our lot on earth.  nor could it be otherwise.  For everlasting happiness is only another name for God."
Thomas' eyes shone.  "Do you see it now?  The urge for everlasting happiness is still in man, in all men.  But since the fall it has been misdirected and like fools we see our happiness in this or that -- in the accumulation of gold or of power or in the union with another creature, when in reality it is in God alone. The love of God is the true quest of man.  'Love and do what thou wilt,' said St Augustine.  And our Lord said 'Seek ye therefore first the kingdom of God and His justice, and all these things shall be added unto you.'"
Thus, the endless hunger of progressivism.  Because if you believe you can achieve happiness through your actions and laws and imposition of enough power, then you will soon find it is insufficient.  So you try for something more, something new, again and again, without end.
It is too easy in this life to presume that with enough will and power and money and the right ideas we can fix it all and have paradise here on earth.  It is too easy for us to have the arrogance to think that we alone have cracked the secret to life and happiness in all of history, if only people would do what we say.
But while happiness is a fine thing, it is ought not be our goal, but rather the appreciated blessing that we sometimes see in seeking our proper goal of being true.  True to God, true to right, true to truth.  It is seeking happiness first that drives almost all misery in the world, because when we achieve what we believe will make us happy, we find that we are not as happy as we thought, do not remain so, and cannot achieve that happiness again in the same way.  So we seek every greater joys and thrills and excitement, spiraling into madness, or despair.
Only by looking outside of ourselves can we find what we seek, and too often we only look within, or in that mirror, assuming that if only we try harder, or things were more fair, or people were less mean to us, or this or that condition was fulfilled which is preventing our goals, we'd be finally happy.
Thomas Jefferson was wrong.  The pursuit of happiness is not a right, primary or not. It is a constant condition of man which cannot be prevented.  And it cannot be achieved through system or efforts.

Friday, April 01, 2016

RETRO WATN: VIVE LA DIFFERENCE

A few years ago, I lost some online "friends" because they didn't care what I had to say about women and pay. Why? Well here's how it went...
"In a time of universal deceit - telling the truth is a revolutionary act."
-George Orwell

Recently on Facebook I found myself being hated by several women who previously were at least friendly online.  They are wives and gamers who I knew online and we got along well.  I try to always treat women with respect, especially online where they tend to be treated as at best second class players or meat to be devoured by horny gamer boys.
However, when the topic of unequal pay came up, I made the mistake of pointing out to two pregnant women that because women can get pregnant they are less valuable to an employer than men who cannot.  I'm sure a combination of hormones, frustration, stress, and general vulnerability played into their response but now they hate me.
To me the statement I made is non controversial, it is quite straight forward and if unfair or at least frustrating, not unreasonable.  The problem is that people don't quite seem to realize what businesses exist for.  They are not there to make you feel good, be fair to you, or be nice.  They are in existence to make money.  A business is how the business owner makes his living, just like your job.  You don't go to work to be fair to your boss and be nice to the company, you go there to get paid.  You can be nice and fair in the process, but that's not the purpose or the goal.
Think about this objectively and it will make sense to you.  Say you have a company, and you have two prospective workers.
  • Worker A might, and is likely to, take on a condition wherein they will miss 6-12 months of work or more, and by law the employer must not only retain them as an employee, but pay them for the time they are gone (in many states).
  • Worker B cannot suffer from this condition.
Now, assuming you are prohibited by law from simply never hiring Worker A, what will your response be?  Worker A is not only going to represent a reduction in productivity, but probably will require you to hire a replacement while they're gone dealing with this condition.
Bottom line: Worker A is going to miss a bunch of work, and thus have less experience and seniority than Worker B.  And, in fact, it is absolute fact that working mothers tend to miss a lot of work even when they come back rushing to deal with emergencies and events involving their child.  Working fathers do sometimes too, now, which leads employers to tend to avoid hiring people with young kids for certain jobs.
That means for the business, you're worth less pay than someone not in that position.  You're giving the company less, costing them more, and hence are worth less in terms of pay.
From a business' perspective, the conclusion is quite obvious.  But women seem to have a problem with the deal because it is tilted against them.  All of us want things going our way and are frustrated and unhappy when things go against us, that's just normal for humans on this earth.  So I do sympathize with women being less than pleased with the reality.
Yet there seems to be another layer lately, one that has been tacked on by feminism which argues that women should have the upper hand and best deal in everything, and in the name of equality get the good parts of all things and none of the bad.  For example, women don't want to be equal to men in lifespan or likelihood of heart disease.
So when I brought this up, the embittered women declared that I thought women as a gender were "worth less as human beings" because of their body parts.  This would come as a shock to the women in my family, not to mention the many I've dealt with and known in my life.
Yet the entire concept that less pay means less overall worth as a human is just ridiculous and even idiotic.  Is a teacher worth less as a human being than a celebrity because they get paid less?  Is a starting worker at a business worth less as a human being than a 10 year vet at the job?  Is a rookie baseball player getting minimum salary worth less than a superstar with a 5 year multi-million dollar contract?
Obviously pay has absolutely nothing to do with value as a human it simply reflects the economic value to a business that the worker represents.  That girl working the fry machine at McDonald's is not as valuable to the business as the manager, she gets paid less.  The pay also represents the business' perspective on that worker's commitment to the job.  Fry girl is likely to just not show up one day because she got sick of working there.  The manager will give 2 weeks notice.
What's amazing to me is that anyone, anywhere, would be so shocked and outraged with such an obvious business principle that they would not simply disagree or debate this topic, but would instantly and totally reverse their perspective on me and go from amiable esteem to contemptuous hatred.
It just is shocking to me that someone's worldview could be so totally damaged and their comprehension of economics and business so twisted by a leftist concept of life that they would react so violently and irrationally to such a plain fact of life.
But, I suppose, I shouldn't really be surprised.  I guess in the modern world I should be amazed it doesn't happen more often.  Because for being so progressive and modern, leftists are some of the most bitter, frustrated, angry, and unhappy folks on the planet.  And they seem to want to share it with everyone.
*UPDATE also see my piece on compensation, inspired by a comment below.

Monday, March 28, 2016

THE NEW COMMISSARS

"Those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience."

As some of you already know, I'm an avid gamer - the real kind, with paper and dice and figures, role playing - and write gaming supplements as well as fiction.  I've noticed a shift in attitudes very recently in gaming, though and its indicative of culture as well as my hobby.
In the exceptional Champions supplement Strike Force, Aaron Allston included various types of gamers that a GM should be aware of and work with in their campaign.  One of those types is the "rules rapist" who abuses every system and violates every intent of the game's rules to get an advantage.
Well, welcome to 2016, where using this term caused someone to be banned on popular gaming forum RPG.net.  Someone posted this:
Frankly, exploiting and abusing rules loopholes is a d*ck move and a player issue. To use the Strike Force category, those folks are Rules Rapists. Mind you, that doesn't absolve a system's designers from working as hard as they can to close loopholes, but when you have the nearly infinite complexity that (for example) HERO has, loopholes are essentially inevitable and HERO is pretty up front about the fact that it's everyone's responsibility to play nicely with each other.
and got a ban notice saying this:
Don't compare people who play differently from you to rapists. That's a group attack, and in very poor taste. I'm suspending you for three days. Plese [sic] don't post in this thread when you return. 
Now, its obvious to any objective, sane reader that this person was not A) calling people rapists or B) claiming that anyone wanted to violently force sexual activity on an unwilling person.  Yet there we have it: instant ban for saying an unword.
Yet some are defending the ban, saying things like "If you don't get what's so awful about that phrase even after people here have tried to explain it to you, then there's nothing more I can say that'll likely convince you."
It seems to me, this is yet another example of the loss of freedom in our society, based on a worldview that tries to be all-inclusive and controlling.  It seems to me that its one thing to, on a case-by-case basis and out of compassion and politeness, to adjust your language around people if they are offended or hurt by what you are saying.  That's a personal reaction and choice.  It is another thing entirely to punish people for saying what might upset or offend other people.
This is just a gaming forum, but its happening around us all the time.  The most recent example is a professor at Marquette University who noted that refusing to even allow any debate or dissent on a topic is not exactly good for learning or freedom (the topic is homosexual behavior).  He was suspended without pay and is being told he must admit his guilt and apologize for the blog post, or be fired.
Or take the Student Senator at USC who is being punished for "violating Principles of Community" by daring to invite homosexual conservative Milo Yiannapolis to the campus to give a talk.
There's a big difference between reasonable expectation of politeness, disapproval of rudeness, and simply enforcing one's personal code of behavior one everyone else.  The truth is, just because you don't like something is not grounds for stopping other people from doing it.
This is something the left has long rightly condemned Christians for doing in culture (by outlawing homosexual activity, for example, or banning work on Sundays) but now engages in regularly and without the slightest hint of shame.
Again, this is the result of a competing religious worldview taking over and crushing all dissent or criticism of its tenets.  The new blasphemy is being enforced, under the guise of being kind or caring.  Just as someone would condemn saying the Lord's name in vain out of concern for their eternal soul, some words and phrases may not be uttered any longer out of concern for peoples' feelings.
Today, people don't say "hey, could you not do that" they run to a parent, a school authority, a moderator, a commissar, and demand that the person doing it be punished for doing so - or, worse, set up devices by which they won't have to run to someone else (witness what's happening with Twitter lately).
RELATED
That reference to the ban came up in a discussion of the health of Hero Games and how well it is doing as a company.  There are some people who are upset, even angry, that the company isn't spending enough time and money to advertise and make its self more popular.
I and some others have tried to point out that a hobby like gaming doesn't spread through advertising and corporate marketing, but through enthusiastic, passionate advocates.  People who love to play chess get converts and spread the joy through their love, not through Milton Bradley doing a multi-million dollar ad campaign during the Superbowl.  And gaming companies aren't a corporation with an office and lots of employees, they are usually one or two guys hiring lots of freelancers out of their home.
But the divide here is more significant than it seems.  Because its a split between those who demand that someone else give them what they want, and those who ask "what can I do to get what I want?"  One expects the company to solve their concerns, the other is trying to find ways to find solutions on their own.
And that's a pretty stark divide in our culture that goes far beyond gaming.  Those who want and take vs those who build and make. Now, obviously this can be overstated, but I thought that was pretty noteworthy when I considered it last night.
THE FUTURE OF CREATIVITY
Gaming as it now exists is pretty free and open.  Game companies create rules and design products that let a group do whatever they want, without restrictions or concern - how you use their product is none of their business.  People create characters with whatever personality, motivations, and behavior they want, and run about in an imaginary world with other players creating situations and interacting.
This kind of attitude toward gaming - demanding other people give me stuff without me having to do anything for it and protect me from anything that makes me uncomfortable - is incredibly corrosive to the creativity and freedom of the game. 
I can easily foresee a time in which people require all involved to sign waivers and statements of declaration about what will and will not be permitted.  You cannot have these situations, these words, these types of characters. Sign this and then se can begin.
And its not just in role playing games.  Books, art, movies, any creative endeavor, anything creative period will suffer from this crushing totalitarianism in the guise of being nice.  If you're not free to express yourself, you cannot truly be creative.  And in the end, all you get is the kind of propagandistic art that tyrannies of the past have puked up: stirring in one sense, but without a soul or creative spark.
I'll finish with what C.S. Lewis said about oppression:
Of all tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It would be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron's cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience.