Suburban & Galactic Gods

Gilgamesh and EnkiduWhat if, suddenly, you found you could not only read minds but change them? What if the eponymous hero of the ancient Epic of Gilgamesh was real, was two-thirds god, was immortal, and — from sheer boredom — had divided his powers of mind with you just so he could have a really good war between the eastern and western hemispheres?

What if you and your brother, both young students, went along on a wild drunken graduation party that spanned a dozen galaxies and were left behind on some primitive no-account planet as a joke. What if, as extremely long-lived energy beings, it was millions of years before anyone remembered and came back for you? What if — from sheer boredom — you’d illegally tampered with the minds of the primitive indigenous apes?

This Sci-Fi Saturday: two authors, two tales, two books each.

Harry Potter books

A case in point!

One nice thing about older fiction — the older the better, but I’m still talking 20th century — is that book publishers hadn’t begun insisting their authors crank out as many pages per book as possible.

There is a basic equation involved: a book, regardless of size, requires a fixed amount to publish. In fact, thick books really cost very little more to publish and distribute than thin books. While there is a little more paper and a little more weight, these do not extend the costs significantly.

But people won’t pay as much for a thin book as a thick book, so thick books have thick price tags. And once again you pay for appearances.

My favorite mystery-slash-detective author (hands down) is Robert B. Parker whose first Spenser book, The Godwulf Manuscript, came out in 1973. It tells a wonderful story in 188 pages. His 31st Spenser book, Bad Business (2004) is 321 pages.

Robert Parker

Robert B. Parker

Yet Parker continued to be a fairly spare and sparse writer throughout his career — others really bought into the bloat (yeah, lookin’ at you, Martin)!

I digress. (And if I start complaining about the new larger paperback format that doesn’t match the others in my large collection and doesn’t even fit on my paperback shelves, I’ll never get to the meat of the post.)

Over Thanksgiving I re-read some books from my SF collection, and I enjoyed them so much I wanted to record them here. This isn’t a book review so much as a diary entry (and watch out for spoilers if you care about that sort of thing).

Without further ado, the works in question are: Parke Godwin‘s Waiting for the Galactic Bus (1988) + The Snake Oil Wars (1989) and Brenda W. Clough‘s How Like a God (1997) + Doors of Death and Life (2000).

While these books are fairly recent, the authors were spare in their storytelling (Godwin especially, delightfully so). In both cases, the entire two-volume tale weighs in around the 400-page mark (Godwin less, Clough more — the decade between them possibly accounting for the increase).

Most interestingly, both tales involve gods. Small “g” gods. Arguably not gods at all, but what are perceived as gods (at the same time, both tales seem to affirm the idea, albeit not the actuality, of a big “g” God).

How Like a GodLet me touch on the Clough books first, since it’s the Godwin books that delighted me most and inspired this post. The bonus was reading a second pair of books that also got into (small “g”) gods.

Ordinary suburban husband and father Rob Lewis suddenly discovers he can read and change minds. In a period of days his ability grows to a point of unconscious power over those around him. His unvoiced whim is their command.

Terrified of the danger to his wife and kids, Rob flees and ends up living a comfortable homeless life isolated from society (his comfort comes from being able to satisfy any need that occurs to him). Then he meets Dr. Edwin Barbarossa, a devout Christian and microbiologist with whom he decides to share his secret. Together the two try to explore Rob’s strange power.

Brenda Clough

Brenda Clough

Events lead them to central Asia where they seek and find the actual Gilgamesh of legend: an insane, angry immortal with dreams of global domination and war. He gave Rob half his mind power (but not his immortality) hoping for an equal with whom he can play global war.

Rob (barely) defeats Gilgamesh and takes the other half of Gilgamesh’s power as well as his immortality. Rob keeps the mental power, but gives Edwin the immortality (Gilgamesh had wounded Edwin fatally, so this was necessary to save his friend’s life).

Rob and Edwin were also working on masking Rob’s power so it didn’t “leak” out and affect reality. The first book ends with them returning home from Asia. Rob — after being absent for a year — hopes to return to his normal married life.

Doors of Death and LifeThe second book involves Edwin’s relation with his immortality and a villain who discovers it and wants it for himself. Rob is forced to use his powers to rescue his friend and deal with the villain.

A central theme involves the idea of coercion even in the name of good. At one point, Rob sits outside a local prison and changes the minds of the inmates to make them law-abiding. He later agonizes over that action.

Rob initially tells his wife, and she pushes him to help her advance at work. An action Rob decides was a Bad Idea. He ends up altering the minds of his wife and co-workers so they forget. In particular he causes his wife to forget about his power. This is a key event that drives him from his home in fear.

A minor sub-theme (as the books were written by a woman, we men might wanna pay attention here) is that one thing women want most from their mates is honesty and trust. Rob’s marriage nearly explodes from the mere appearance of the lack of it.

The Parke books are hard to describe.

Author Jo Walton wrote of the first that it, “is one of the candidates for weirdest book in the world… This is not a book that even nods to realism. Indeed, it’s a book that I doubt realism would recognise if it passed it by in the street… But there are other virtues, and it has those — it’s charming and funny and genuinely original, it fits together like a sliding block puzzle and it’s light and dark at the same time… If you like books that are beautifully written, and funny, and not like anything else, and if you don’t mind blasphemy, you might really enjoy this.”

I quote the entire thing because it’s so on the nail. One pleasure of these two books is the style and sheer quality of the writing. They’re worth reading for that alone.

Waiting For the Galactic BusThe first book follows two brothers, Barion and Coyul, who are members of a highly advanced, extremely long-lived “electron cycle” (as opposed to carbon cycle) life form. They’re left stranded on ancient Earth as a joke.

Bored, facing millions of years until their drunken friends even remember where they left them, the brothers tinker with the pre-sentient minds of the primitive apes. Barion gives them self-awareness — resulting in mind-numbing terror for a beast not quite ready for it. Coyul gives them the gift of laughter (absurdity) to lighten the darkness and allow the creature to escape its mental paralysis.

In doing this the brothers commit a high crime by the standards of their race (who believe that minds must be evolved enough to forget the primitive darkness before they step to sentience). The brothers, in raising awareness too soon, create “spiritually schizophrenic” minds due to tension between intellect and emotion.

It turns out that the energy pattern of carbon-based minds persists permanently after physical death. As these minds, all seeking something to do, begin to accumulate, the brother are forced to create zones for them to inhabit.

Parke Godwin

Parke Godwin

These turn out to be what we think of as heaven and hell. Barion’s highly organized realm is the former; Coyul’s disorganized free-for-all party is the latter. The brothers call their realms Topside and Below Stairs.

Essentially, whatever your mind conceived the afterlife to be, that’s what you’ll get. No matter how much the brothers try to explain the real situation, people persist in what they believe. Very few can accept the facts.

[“One who did was a young Nazarene named Yeshua who had problems of his own in what people thought he was and expected of him.” Given that he looked like — and was — a Jewish Arab, most Christians who met him utterly rejected him immediately.]

Part of the fun of the books is that the cast includes everyone who ever lived, and Godwin’s cast is peppered with famous figures. John Wilkes Booth is a primary character in the first book, for instance. (Gold Star to anyone who figures out who “Jake” the taxi driver is before the reveal.)

The first book involves the brothers’ efforts to prevent Charity Stovall (a passionately religious woman) from marrying bitter, violent fascist Roy Stride. The brothers fear the off-spring has the potential to be more charismatic and destructive than Hitler.

The book ends with the brothers’ rescue and trial. Barion is condemned to a barren inescapable world to serve a sentence. His brother, Coyul, is returned to Earth to attempt to repair the damage they wrought.

Snake Oil WarsThe second book (subtitled Scheherazade Ginsberg Strikes Again) concerns a trial held in “heaven” to determine whether Coyul is really the Devil trying to trick them into non-belief. The problem is that Fundamentalist Christians refuse to accept his explanation of reality (which would free them to have any existence they desired rather than the heaven of their own conception).

The trial involves an attempt to determine the truth of Coyul’s assertions about reality. Both lawyers are prominent figures from history, and — again — gold stars to those who figure it out before the reveal.

[I got “Jake” early, but it took a lot of clues before I figured out Coyul’s lawyer (at least I did get it before it was made really obvious). I never got the prosecutor for sure, but I think I know who it is. Think Monty Python and what no one expects.]

Masters of Solitude

Huh! Looking for images of Godwin’s books I found this and realized I own this book. It’s in a box somewhere, so I have more Parke Godwin reading ahead!

Of the two, the Godwin books are far the richer and more intellectually intriguing. There is also that Godwin has a unique writing style that can be a little bit of a challenge.

I love that! I love a challenge. I love an author that keeps me on my toes and a little off-balance.

I’ve also never seen an author make such interesting use of the colon. (“Threw him one: he caught it alright but just gave it back…”) He makes good use of the semi-colon, which I applaud (I’m trying to “bring back the semi-colon”), but it was the use of the colon that stood out.

This has run long — it was probably a mistake to try to talk about both sets of books — but it is what it is. I’ll leave you with a some choice quotes from Galactic Bus and Snake Oil Wars.

Barion to Coyul about humans circa 1970s: “Cash-register heart and a fairy-tale mentality,” he fumed… “Savage, sentimental and moralistic.”

Barion and Augustine (yes, the saint) after the latter learns the facts of “Heaven” and his “God.” Augustine laments: “Madness or low comedy. Shall we not then run wanton in the street? Why not? What remains?”

“A great deal remains you relentless man,” Barion said. “That I did build into that splendid mind I gave you. Though it’s very like building a magnificent car for someone who obstinately refuses to learn to drive.”

Barion continues, “You and your agonized ilk made it into heaven and hell, I didn’t. The question was never fall and redemption but simply where and how high you can reach.”

Coyul to Charity regarding her potentially dangerous off-spring by Roy: “What Roy did with shadows Below Stairs, his son — the seething product of his ignorance and your inevitable frustration — could very well perpetrate here in a country susceptible to charismatic charlatans as a dog to fleas.” (I love that last bit!)

During the trial of the two brothers by their peers:

Sorlij: What else can happen with you introduce an intelligent being to an empirical fact?
Barion: Among humans, civil war. … I’m more worried about Coyul when he tries to educate Topside.
Sorlij: Why? They can’t destroy him?
Barion: They’re human, they’ll try. Hope springs eternal.

The Nazarene, Yeshua, on the stand during Coyul’s trial in “heaven” responding to the prosecutor about his search for “God”:

“As a man, yes. I thought I was right. As a spirit, I’m still waiting. Man will always wait and always believe. Faith is alive, faith is life. Faith is a passionate singer, a lark at morning, a nightingale under the moon. Man’s need for God is as urgent as his need for a woman.” Now the smile was indeed bitter. “A sweaty, living fact that Saul and Augustine, Jerome and Tertullian were ever uncomfortable with, that need for relief in flesh as well as spirit. They wanted to choke that life out of faith. They’re doing it in America today when they proclaim that God speaks through this fool or that televised zealot and no one else. You’ve mentioned heresy in this trial. I was a heretic, Mr. Helm. What else should they do but nail me to a cross for it?”

The defense lawyer “Mr. Speed” speaking with prosecuting lawyer “Peter Helm” about the testimony quoted above:

“Yeshua shook you, didn’t he?”

“Even if he were that martyred mortal and Christianity the ill-fitting garment made from misunderstanding, yet it was made and covered us. He admitted that. I would rather believe a lie of faith than the reality of this Void. If Yeshua spoke the truth, so did I. Without faith in what we cannot see or explain, there is no religion, only mutable ethic.”

From the closing argument of defense lawyer “Speed”:

“Two sides of an irreducible argument are put before you. Can Man live by rationale alone? Not without hungering for in Infinite, a God he can conceive but not encompass. What men can imagine, they will carve. Can he live by faith alone? Not without throwing blinders over his common sense and leading it like a frightened horse through the fire of reality, a threat in every ray of light that pierces the cover.”

About Wyrd Smythe

The canonical fool on the hill watching the sunset and the rotation of the planet and thinking what he imagines are large thoughts. View all posts by Wyrd Smythe

21 responses to “Suburban & Galactic Gods

  • Wyrd Smythe

    Those interested in the Brenda Clough books can get a free sample of both from her web site:

    First three chapters of How Like a God:

    An excerpt from Doors of Death and Life:

  • reocochran

    I know what you mean about Parker, whose books became shorter and shorter chapters, less details and seemed like he was ‘skating along,’ knowing his fans would read him. But this is true of several of my favorite authors. I have seen a downhill slide for James Patterson’s books, which last month I noted several “Chapters” of only three or less pages! What?

    W.S., I was glad you featured some science fiction books, but you know it will not be my ‘cup of tea,’ although my son, my ex and Dad loved this genre.

    • Wyrd Smythe

      I’m not sure we’re talking about the same Parker. The one I mean (who wrote the Spenser the detective books), his books got longer, but were always good — I never felt he was skating. (If anything, I’m sad he died and there will be no more Spenser books. 😦 )

      Individual chapters can be long or short depending on the needs of story. I’ve read some books where a “chapter” is just one page (and I can think of a couple example even shorter!). I guess I’d say that’s a pacing thing — sometimes an author just wants a “moment of time” to stand out and puts that in its own chapter.

      And, yes, I do know SF isn’t your cuppa. That’s okay; differen’ strokes for differn’ folks! 🙂

  • E.D.

    [Huff Post link deleted] – Here’s a link you may be interested in. I don’t read sci-fi but… maybe I will give one of yours a go. 🙂 Thanks for interesting details on your favourites. Eve

    • Wyrd Smythe

      “We need writers who know the difference between the production of a commodity and the practice of an art.” ~Ursula Le Guin

      Oh, my, YES!! Many of her points hit directly to my heart. Art and “making a buck” are frequently in conflict, and in this overly-materialistic money-grubbing world guess which one always suffers.

      Part of what makes the Parke Godwin books so great is the artistry of his writing. I would definitely recommend those. The Brenda Clough books are very good — and thoughtful and thought-provoking — but do have a foot firmly planted on the “ripping good yarn” side of storytelling.

      I don’t know how familiar you are with Le Guin’s work, but if not I suspect you’d like it. One good starting place might be, The Word for World is Forest.

      I hope you’ll forgive me for eliding the link to the Huff Post article. When it comes to money-grubbing rat bastards, they’re at the top of the heap, and I won’t send my readers there. (Ad-wise they have one of the worst sites out there.) Here is the video, though. I hope everyone watches it!

      • E.D.

        pleased you enjoyed the article.. I need to read more, but always baffled to what to read nowadays. I am still trying to read the Stand, by Sephen King. Its an old book but very popular. I dislike intensely the Dan Brown books, to be honest he only ever wrote the “one.” – A total disaster in my view.. Eve

      • Wyrd Smythe

        Being older Stephen King, The Stand is pretty good. Some think it’s one of his best. (My sister is the Stephen King fan in the family. I’ve only ever read his older stuff, and it never really grabbed me.)

        But King, and especially Dan Brown, are (to my eye, anyway) pretty squarely in the zone Le Guin was talking about when she spoke of writers producing a commodity. They both write very accessible “pop” fiction — the sort of book that’s good for a long airplane ride or a long day at the beach. They’re not “art” (especially Brown).

        I’m not sure why, but Ken Follett’s The Pillars of the Earth (1989) springs to mind here. It’s a book that will inform you about Gothic architecture while telling an enthralling tale. It’s so good I re-read it every few years.

        If you’re looking for truly good reading material, I’d almost recommend avoiding anything newer than 20 years or so. Writing in the last couple decades or so seems flat and tasteless (meaning: without flavor) to me. I’d almost recommend Charles Dickens and Mark Twain before I’d recommend most modern authors.

        The bitter irony of todays “book market” is that if it’s on the shelves of your local mass-market book store, it’s probably not worth reading. Mass-market and quality tend to be mutually exclusive.

  • rung2diotimasladder

    I’m just starting to read Sci-Fi…so far just “Dune” and “Solaris”. I’m going to start a series of Sci-Fi reviews (Notes from a Sci-Fi Newbie) on the Leather Library soon, and I’ll have links from my blog to that. I like experimental, so “Galactic Bus” sounds right up my alley. Right now I have “Anathem” and “Ancillary Justice” waiting to be read. You mentioned Ursula Le Guin, and I have her Earthsea Trilogy here too. So many books, so little time.

    • Wyrd Smythe

      I’ve been reading SF almost as long as I’ve been reading! (Certainly as long as I’ve been picking my own reading material.) You can’t really go wrong with Le Guin. Terry Pratchett’s Discworld books are my favorite of all — they’re the ones I’d take to a desert island. I re-read them all every few years and never tire of them. (See also Soul Music.)

      Depending on your tastes, you might also … “like” isn’t the right word for such dark tales … appreciate the imagination and skill of Stephen R. Donaldson. His Thomas Covenant series is one of the best series I’ve ever read. Also one of the hardest — the “hero” is a real piece of work. (I wrote about it briefly here.)

      As your tastes develop I can probably recommend many more. It depends so much on ones taste for fantasy over hard SF (Dune, Solaris and (based on their description) the Ancillary books are all pretty much hard SF, although Dune flirts with mystic elements). Pratchett and Donaldson are basically fantasy authors (although Donaldson’s Gap series isn’t); Le Guin is mostly hard SF.

      • rung2diotimasladder

        I will have to keep these in mind. I don’t know that I have a preference of Sci-Fi over Fantasy. Of course, it could just be that I haven’t read enough of either to know for sure, but I suspect I like anything that focuses more on the human condition, universal themes. I’m not really into Sci-Fi-ness, if you know what I mean. I like that these genres can explore ideas in a fresh way…for me it’s about the ideas.

      • Wyrd Smythe

        It will take more exposure to really set those preferences.

        One branch of (almost always hard) SF involves ideas about things (technology). This can extend to unusual alien races or planets. This is possibly what you mean by “Sci-Fi-ness” — the space battles and ray blasters and bug-eyed monsters being the cartoon version and the more serious attempts to paint new technology or aliens being the “adult” version.

        Another branch involves “ripping good yarns” and adventure, and these can be hard, soft or fantasy. It might be good to define those terms as I use them:

        Hard SF posits ideas and technologies that are probably possible or close to possible and always includes the concept that even made-up (i.e. impossible) physics is somehow possible and fits in a material world. Faster-than-light travel is instrumental to much SF, but as far as we know, it’s impossible, even in principle. As such, FTL is a “gimme” — a freebie necessary to tell a certain kind of story.

        Soft SF keeps the idea of the logical physical world, but plays faster and looser with what the physics allows. Dune is soft SF in my book due to the mysticism of spice and the Bene Gesserit. For many, the SF world divides into SF & Fantasy. (Two posts on SF might be useful: What is Science Fiction? and SciFi: Two Important Things.)

        Fantasy allows for magic and other things that utterly ignore or transcend physics and the material world. Lord of the Rings is classic fantasy. All fairy tales are fantasy. (Oddly, Star Wars, despite all the technology is actually fantasy (because of “the force” and a fairy tale to boot. I barely consider it to even be SF.)

        A good explanation I once heard was: If I say I can blink my eyes and transport to the other side of the galaxy and I have a physical explanation of how that’s possible, it’s Science Fiction. If I do not explain, or the explanation is “magic,” then it’s Fantasy. In point of fact, the line tends to blur (Dune being a very good example and that is part of what makes it such a classic).

        My guess is that, as with me, the line between SF and Fantasy won’t matter as much to you as the quality of the writing and the content. Good SF (and Fantasy), other than adventure, is always about the human condition.

      • rung2diotimasladder

        Yeah, for me, it doesn’t matter whether the technology is possible. I’m perfectly fine with made up worlds, transporting FTL, mind-reading, whatever, just so long as the author is consistent and good at bringing me into this world. Of course, this kind of thing could come across as hoaky very easily, so the emphasis is on good writing!

      • Wyrd Smythe

        I think you’d love Terry Prachett’s Discworld and Donaldson’s Thomas Covenant. As unalike as day and night, but some of the best SF writing I know.

  • SelfAwarePatterns

    Those sound like interesting books. Thanks for describing them!

    I agree that the bloat of newer books has become annoying. Strictly speaking, it’s not all word count. Modern books typically use bigger fonts than they did in the 70s, which can increase the page count by as much as 50%. But even allowing for that, most books published today are far wordier than they used to be.

    I’m hoping that self publishing will reverse that trend. We’ve already seen a renaissance of the novella form, which I see as a hopeful sign.

    • Wyrd Smythe

      You’re welcome. You might quite like the Godwin books.

      I know what you mean about some modern books using large fonts. That seems to be the case with the new larger format paperbacks. I’m not sure that’s always the case though. I just pulled out the two Parker books I mentioned in the post, and the larger more recent one is — if anything — maybe one point smaller than the older one.

      Actually, come to think of it, it wouldn’t surprise me if using larger fonts wasn’t one more trick in the “increase the page count so we can charge more” ethic of modern publishing.

      Self publishing is interesting in many ways, most of them good. The one downside for me is that it vastly increases the amount of chaff. Publishers are already putting out a lot of crap to fill the demand, and when Alice, Bob, Charlene and Dave all start publishing their own work… it gets noisy out there.

      • SelfAwarePatterns

        I agree that finding the diamonds in the rough of self publishing can be problematic. I give creds to Amazon for making self publishing viable, but wish they could come up with a better system for the good stuff to rise to the top. I strongly suspect there is some brilliant self published stuff out there unconstrained by the usual publisher constraints, but languishing because the right people haven’t seen it yet. There’s a market opportunity here for someone who can figure out a way to make it work.

      • Wyrd Smythe

        Yeah, my sister used Amazon to publish her books. I think she’s sold less than 10 copies — many of them to family members. You use a phrase that maybe hits at the heart of it for me: “diamonds in the rough.” For those interested in developing talents, those can be great finds. As a personal preference, I prefer polished diamonds; artists who’ve paid their dues and developed their craft. One of the things I admire most in people is sheer skill (of almost any kind).

        Given the huge amount of content published, and given that some large fraction of it is chaff, I think that makes it much harder for those rough diamonds to get noticed, let alone get the attention they deserve. You may be right there’s an opportunity if some means can be found to make it work… but how do you find drops of good water in an ocean of brine?

      • SelfAwarePatterns

        “but how do you find drops of good water in an ocean of brine?”

        It seems similar to what Google was able to do with the web. Most of the web is garbage, but search engines from Google forward have managed to find much of the good stuff, particularly the good niche stuff that only tiny slivers of the population may be interested in. Self publishing needs a Google.

      • Wyrd Smythe

        That would be nice. I think the hurdle may lie in the difference between amassing and sifting information versus the need to curate it. Google is pretty amazing at what it does, but have you noticed how when searching for an answer one often finds more people asking the same question and others guessing or giving their best estimates? Finding the actual answer can be tricky, especially as incorrect guesses people accept become part of the mix.

        Google, to some extent, is popularity based. Resources pointed to be lots of other resources are considered “better” (along with all sorts of other criteria). The same problem existed behind IMDB’s attempts to use crowd-sourcing to create “Best Movies” lists — since “best” is so subjective (and all too often mistaken for “favorite” or “loved”), they usually end up with “Most Popular” movie lists. (There is, for one example, no way that any of Nolan’s Batman movies belong on a “100 Best Movies of All Time” list. Not that those aren’t good movies, but they’re miles away from 100 best of all time.)

        I wonder if a neural network could be trained to recognize “quality” writing. IF the phase space of writing ‘W’ actually has an area of quality writing ‘QW’, then one might be able to feed it a vast amount of writing examples along with quality tags of some kind. If QW is sufficiently differentiated from W (and I’m not necessarily sure it is), perhaps new, untagged, material might be recognized as belonging to QW or not.

        There are spam filters that work that way, and I believe they’ve had decent success. The really interesting question involves the nature of QW in relation to W. That’s actually a rather intriguing idea…

      • SelfAwarePatterns

        I think any system that makes good stuff rise to the top will be popularity based (either generally or for a specific niche). If you think about it, that’s the system we’ve always had. Publishers looking at prospective works may have thoughts about quality (an inescapably subjective assessment), but ultimately they were more interested in material that would sell well, in other words, that would be popular.

        When there were lots of publishing houses, they probably served decently as a curation mechanism. (And they had an incentive to choose wisely with the opposing risks of unrecovered printing costs and the danger of another publisher getting a work first.) But, as I understand it, when the publishing industry consolidated in the 80s and 90s, they became gatekeepers, with a lot of the second risk above gone, making most of them overly cautious.

        Anyway, a system based on popularity wouldn’t disturb me, particularly if the rankings shown to me could be tailored based on what I had liked before. I know Amazon recommendations try to do that, but they’ve never been very good at it.

      • Wyrd Smythe

        Heh, yeah, it’s kind of funny watching YouTube try to predict what I might like. My tastes are so eclectic that it probably confuses the hell out of the prediction engine. 🙂

        I think you might be somewhat underestimating the role publishers and editors (or producers in the music biz) play in shaping the work of their artists. I agree their standards for what they’ll publish have opened a lot — needing to “feed the beast” as it were — but they still play a role in sanding off rough edges and can provide some market savvy sometimes.

        I guess I look at it in terms of signal/noise ratio. Fifty years ago there was a lot more “signal” than “noise” whereas now there’s a lot more noise level. While it’s true there’s also more signal, the awful S/N ratio makes it tough to find the signal. As you said earlier, there may be a bonanza waiting for someone who can find a good way to filter out the noise.

And what do you think?

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