ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Weston Ochse is a former intelligence officer and special operations soldier who has engaged enemy combatants, terrorists, narco smugglers, and human traffickers. His personal war stories include performing humanitarian operations over Bangladesh, being deployed to Afghanistan, and a near miss being cannibalized in Papua New Guinea. His fiction and non-fiction has been praised by USA Today, The Atlantic, The New York Post, The Financial Times of London, and Publishers Weekly. The American Library Association labeled him one of the Major Horror Authors of the 21st Century. His work has also won the Bram Stoker Award, been nominated for the Pushcart Prize, and won multiple New Mexico-Arizona Book Awards. A writer of more than 26 books in multiple genres, his military supernatural series SEAL Team 666 has been optioned to be a movie starring Dwayne Johnson. His military sci fi series, which starts with Grunt Life, has been praised for its PTSD-positive depiction of soldiers at peace and at war. Weston likes to be called a chaotic good paladin and challenges anyone to disagree. After all, no one can really stand a goody two-shoes lawful good character. They can be so annoying. It's so much more fun to be chaotic, even when you're striving to save the world. You can argue with him about this and other things online at Living Dangerously or on Facebook at Badasswriter. All content of this blog is copywrited by Weston Ochse.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

David Gerrold About Heinlein and the Democratization of Wisdom

I've been a fan of David Gerrold since I read the first four books of his seven book War Against the Chtorr trilogy (sic) (You have to follow and read the link to see what I mean.). I read the chtorr books while pulling duty on the DMZ in Korea. There was something about reading an alien invasion novel, while staring out across a no-man's land mined with deadly explosives and rippling with barbed wire. This was my introduction to the man, and besides Facebook, it's the only time I've ever interacted with him.

Still, he's been around, you know? He was there when one of my literary idols, Robert Heinlein, was on the convention circuit, and is able to give us rare glimpses through the porthole of time back to those moments.

He's also a forward-thinking, take-no-shit, I-have-no-patience-for-bullshit, sort of guy.  He's more in the face than I'm willing to be, but I find myself agreeing with him many more times than not. His words especially resonated when he talked about how long he'd spend researching a subject before he posted, only to have people immediately comment, in his words, he 'feel(s) insulted by the assertion that his (the other person's) ignorance is equal to my research. '

Borrowed shamelessly from Westercon 66 Website
I call this the democratization of wisdom. By commenting, a person becomes equal. Nevermind how ignorant and or assinine the remark is, in the level playing field of the internet, this comment is equal to someone else's research in some people's eyes. It's infuriating. I'm glad that Mr. Gerrold spends his time railing against it. I can't. Between my job in the military and full time writing, I do not have the energy to expend. I've long ago learned that about myself. I can choose to fight the unmitigated stupidity around me and do nothing else, or I can ignore it, and try and plod through my attempt to be the next great version of myself as a writer.

I spend most of my time ignoring it.

So thanks, Mr. Gerrold, for stepping in for this old soldier and fighting on my behalf.

Enough of my words.  Here are Mr. Gerrold's. I  hope you like them as much as I did.

The following is borrowed with permission from Mr. Gerrold:  I used to admire Robert A. Heinlein as the best writer in all of science fiction. I still admire him enormously, but after rereading several of his books this year, I became painfully aware of how he stacked the deck and depended on coincidence. Friday is a good example. It's a good read, but it's a flawed book that reveals some of Heinlein's worst habits.  
But I also knew Robert as a human being, a colleague, a mentor, a friend, and a man who loved to laugh.
But the Robert I knew lived inside the bubble of his own celebrity. And eventually, he figured out how to cope with it. He put up a wall to protect his privacy -- not just the twenty foot high electric fence surrounded by a moat filled with rabid crocodiles, but a psychological fence as well. He didn't answer his mail, he had a printed form with check boxes. And his phone number was given to only those he wanted to talk to.
But when he went to cons, he was gracious to everyone -- well, almost everyone. Robert demanded courtesy from the people around him. He demanded a standard of integrity from himself and from those he interacted with. 
I will never compare myself with Heinlein, because I still admire him so much, but I have begun to understand why he was so firm about his own rules. First of all, there were many people who wanted to interrogate him, challenge him, confront him, argue with him, correct him, or just suck up the oxygen around him.  

That might be flattering if you've never recovered from your Junior High School self-esteem issues -- but if you're honestly interested in the adventure of humanity and the thrills of discovery that science makes possible, then that kind of attention is worse than useless, it's annoying. It uses up time that would be better spent peering through telescopes or seducing redheads. For a working writer, that's a slow kind of soul death, like being gummed by tribbles.  
I've said more than once that I'm not interested in an argument. And there are two reasons. The first is that I'm not interested in an argument. It's annoying. There's only one of me, but apparently there are several hundred people who follow my posts and who want to argue with me. It's time consuming. It's annoying. It sucks the oxygen out of the room. And while some people might like the idea of having an argument with some famous author, the famous author is exhausted. Maybe not by the first argument or even the third, but certainly by the thirtieth. Any author can tell you this -- I hate having the same conversation over and over and over. Especially with people who aren't interested in listening, only arguing.  
But the second reason I don't like arguments is that too often, I end up feeling insulted. 90% of what I do is research. (The other 10% is lying awake nights planning revenge.) When I post something here, it isn't just a casual observation -- it's usually the final percolation of months of consideration. I'll have prowled the dark corners of the web as well as the brighter locii. I'll have read both sides. I'll have taken the time and made the effort to examine the logic (or lack of) on both sides (or more) of the issue. I'll be looking for the human side, the humane side, the compassionate side because that's who I am. I'm looking for the compelling evidence that makes the case. So eventually, when I finally post what I'm thinking, it's a distillation of those conclusions. 
So when someone comes along and reads my post and immediately starts typing -- without having done the same research, working on the assumption that I need to be educated on the issue -- yes, I feel insulted. I feel insulted by the assertion that his ignorance is equal to my research.  
Robert once said to me, "We can't have this conversation because you don't know what you're talking about." He was right. I hadn't done my research. Now I was willing to listen and be educated, but Robert wasn't obligated to teach me. He pointed me toward the source material and told me to go educate myself. That's a lesson that struck home.
I am not "the famous author." I'm a working stiff. I tell stories. Like Robert, I'm competing for your beer money. If you like what I write, that's nice for both of us. If you don't, that's okay too. But Bob Dylan said it best, "Just because you like my stuff doesn't mean I owe you anything." I don't.  
What you owe me -- and every other human being on the planet -- is respect. Courtesy. Dignity. Grace.  
Some people have said that respect must be earned. They have it bass ackwards. It is disrespect that must be earned. Unfortunately it is too easy to earn it and too many people have earned more than they should.
Some more of Mr. Gerrold's work
But if Robert was a role model for me as an author -- yes, he was -- then he was also a role model for me as a human being caught in the limelight. (Limelight contains kryptonite.) Like Robert, or any other author who has earned an audience, I have discovered the necessity of holding the audience at a careful distance -- not because I do not like the audience, but because I do not like those who presume an invitation to argue.
When I say I'm not interested, I mean it. There's no payoff for me. I'd rather play "show me the belly" with the terrier. That's more fun, more rewarding, and gets my ears and nose washed.  
Now I gotta go. One of the alligators in the moat is choking on one of the neighbor's kids and I've gotta go do a Hamlisch maneuver. (That's where I run to the piano and do three choruses of "What I Did For Love.")

If you've never read Mr.Gerrold's books then you should really start. I'd begin with A Matter for Men. But you've probably experienced his work withouth knowing it. He made Tribbles part of the popular lexicon. He's writtten for Star Trek (Original), Babylon 5 and Land of the Lost, to name a few. He's as fine an imagimatist as there is.

Thanks for reading this blog.

Now go read one of our books.

Weston Ochse
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