Asking out

The die is cast once you lose your champion. It’s as true in the publishing world as it is on the field of Warhammer fantasy battle. I sent in a written notice to my publisher a few days ago, informing them that they are in breach of contract, having accepted a certain, long-awaited novel more than 18 months ago without publishing it. Accompanying the notice was a request for termination and reversion, which would allow me to recover the publishing rights without having to wait six months for the automatic provision to kick in.

I did so because the vice-publisher who happened to be the editor that first offered me a book contract departed the company in favor of another publishing house. While the book survived – for the second time – a catalog kill review conducted by his replacement, a conversation with him left me convinced that there’s no future for my books there.

This isn’t a bad thing, since there’s not only another publisher who is interested in publishing the book, there’s also an editor at a third publisher who wants to publish a fantasy trilogy set in the world of the five novellas. And to top it all off, I was exchanging emails last week with a Very Big Name – we’re talking major articles in Time Magazine – who read and liked my unpublished Chronicles of King David, of all things.

(I actually received the first email from said VBN from mid-2004 on my old laptop, but I’d never responded to it since I didn’t note the name and I basically ignore everything that mentions television, the movies or anything remotely having to do with Hollywood. I had to fire it the old machine again to figure out when that other novel had been accepted, happened to notice his email, and found myself wondering why the name seemed so familiar. So, I sent a very belated email asking if he was THE VBN, and was shocked when that turned out to indeed be the case. Strange, but it goes to show that you just never know who is reading your website.)

Anyhow, who knows will come out of any of this, but one thing remains clear. I am the king of being paid not to publish. If anyone else requires me to not write or not publish a short story, novel, or screenplay, please contact me and I will be happy to not write it for you. Be warned, however, my word-rate is high.

The easy out

Urban Cougar comedy:

At 41, Chicago comedian Tracy Tedesco is beating back guys in their 20s like she was giving away Xboxes. Tedesco is the definition of an “urban cougar.”

The label used to be an unflattering characterization of middle-aged, boy-hungry single women. But as more women shed the traditional taboos about age and dating, the name has been taken on as a badge of empowerment by sexy, older professional women who prefer the physical and spiritual qualities of younger men.

Look no further than the celebrity world for proof that the movement is growing. Some of Hollywood’s hottest actresses have taken on younger mates, and a number of male celebrities in TV and music have chosen girlfriends who are several years their senior.

This would be massively amusing if it wasn’t so pathetic. I’m sure men admire Jessica Simpson and Adriana Lima for their “spiritual qualities” too. This is a perfect demonstration of how women are capable of entirely missing a point, then celebrating their misunderstanding. The older woman has always been a male fantasy precisely because it represents an ideal situation, sex without the pressure of commitment. A man in his twenties will cheerfully date a hot older woman, since there’s no pressure, no hassle and no future to the relationship. It’s an in that comes with an automatic out, like a hooker that doesn’t charge.

Among cougars, Adler also cautions the marriage-minded and the biological tick-tockers to think carefully about the lifestyle. “Is this really going to last long-term?” she asked.

“There can definitely be a spark in the bedroom between younger guys and older women,” she said. “But if an older woman is really looking to settle down, they have to make sure they’re not wasting time just for fun.”

That is a concern for Tedesco. She did not expect to be in the position she’s in–she wanted to be married and have kids by now…. She has dated several younger guys in the past five or six years, including one 24-year-old, when she was 37.

The ironic thing is that she probably considers herself to be intelligent. The evidence clearly suggests otherwise. In another five or six years, it’s almost inevitable that she’ll be a toothless, clawless cougar, with neither the marriage nor the casual relationships.

IED efficiency

From Dunnigan’s Strategy Page:

IEDs have been around for several generations. The only reason they are getting so much ink in Iraq is because the terrorists are unable to inflict many casualties on American troops any other way. The Sunni Arab fighters in Iraq are, historically, a pretty inept and pathetic bunch. This can be seen in the amazingly low casualty rate of American troops. By comparison, an American soldier serving in Vietnam was over twice as likely to be killed or wounded.

IEDs were used in Vietnam, but caused (with mines and booby traps in general) only 13 percent of the casualties, compared to over 60 percent in Iraq. The reason for this is one that few journalists want to discuss openly. But historians can tell you; Arabs are lousy fighters. Hasn’t always been this way, but for the last century or so, it has. This has more to do with poor leadership, and a culture that simply does not encourage those traits that are needed to produce a superior soldier. In a word, the North Vietnamese soldiers and Viet Cong guerillas were better, and more deadly, fighters. Contributing factors include better training and equipment for American and Coalition troops. But most of the reason for the historically low casualty rates in Iraq have to do with Iraqis who don’t know how to fight effectively.

IEDs are another matter. They are mainly a matter of technology, planning and careful preparation for the attack. These are all things Iraqis are good at. You also suffer a lot fewer casualties by using IEDs, so the weapon is good for the morale of the users. So over the last three years, the IED has been used more and more. While only 5,607 IEDs were placed in 2004, there were 10,953 encountered in 2005. But American troops responded to the threat. In 2004, about a quarter of IEDs actually went off and hurt someone. In 2005, that rate declined to ten percent, and is still falling.

That’s good news, regardless of how skeptical one is regarding the wisdom of playing nation-building. One thing I’ve wondered is if it would make sense to widen the roads most often travelled by US forces to such an extent that anything planted offroad would have to be so large as to be easily detectable. I find it difficult to imagine that the explosives in the IED’s are so powerful that they’d be undetectable if the roads were two or three times as wide.

This seems so obvious as to be hardly worth mentioning, but asphalt and active road crews are surely less expensive than Humvees, military hospitals and long rehabilitations. And perhaps they’ve already been doing this; I doubt the media would see fit to report the fact that Highway Whatever is now thirty feet wider than before.

The will of the people

Representative democracy at work in South Dakota:

As the South Dakota House of Representatives gave final approval today to a bill aimed at banning most abortions and creating a U.S. Supreme Court challenge to the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision, Gov. Mike Rounds said he’s inclined to sign it.

The House gave final approval to the bill with a 50-18 vote Friday afternoon.

The will of the people of the sovereign state of South Dakota is abundantly clear. It is highly probable that an unknown number of United States Supreme Court justices will disagree, probably a majority.

Now how, I ask, can anyone simultaneously argue that the will of the black robes should triumph, but that we must shed American blood and spend American treasure to establish democracy elsewhere throughout the world?