Finished Vrenna and the Little King, NSA Wiretapping Stuff

by Mike Shea on 23 December 2005

After a heartbreaking event of losing nearly 3000 words of my latest story due to clicking "discard" in my Gmail client window where I often type up stories (and this very blog posting), I finally sat down and finished typing up Vrenna and the Little King. I got some good feedback from Todd Delong who recommended that there wasn't enough Vrenna in my Vrenna story, a common problem in my Vrenna stories, so I wrote in a new character introduction for her. I actually wrote two different ones and then put in the one I liked best.

I also completed a third edit of the story and sent it off to Flashing Swords as a story submission. I can't make more than $60 if it happens to sell there, but $60 is enough to meet Stephen King's definition of talent: "If you wrote something for which someone sent you a check, if you cashed the check and it didn't bounce, and if you then paid the light bill with the money, I consider you talented."

I still hope to see my story, "The Bear", in the Lycanthrope anthology this month.

In bigger news, I finally released my first book of short stories, Vrenna and the Little King and Other Tales, from One can purchase the book for about $14 including shipping. Lulu also lets authors release hardback versions of their book. Once I am sure the big typos are worked out, I plan to sell the hardback version as well for about $22. That's pretty expensive for a bunch of amature stories but I love hardback books. I might even figure out how to stick them in Renaissance Art leather book covers and make a couple of special editions.

I feel weird about the Vrenna book. I love the stories and they took a good two years to write and edit. I commissioned the cover for the book from Dragonsnail, a cover I think fits the stories very well.

My hope is to sell this book to people who genuinely like the stories, not people who just spend $14 because they know me. I think I'd rather make no money at all than extort my friends into buying my book when they could have bought Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin for less. Still, it is something on which I worked hard so I should probably be more proud than I really am.

The whole NSA wiretap controversy has been a big topic for me recently. From all accounts, it sound quite illegal and a huge shift in how our government treats civil liberties. I found a few interesting bits of reading among the million articles on the topic. This wired article, Lawbreaker in Chief brings up a lot of interesting points and this Ars Technica article The new technology at the root of the NSA wiretap scandal shows the sort of possible technology that is at the heart of this whole topic. Dystopian science fiction stories were written all the time describing technologies that scan every bit of communication between two people to determine if they're up to no good - now it doesn't seem so far fetched.

I found President Bush's response to the accusation really disturbing. His general response was along the lines of "I'm the president during the War on Terror (a war that can and will never end) so I can do what I want. Besides, you weren't supposed to know we were doing it anyway!" That quote is mine but this one was not:

"The fact that we're discussing this program is helping the enemy."

Get that? According to Bush, this blog entry is now a weapon of terror.

I have to step back and ask where the blame deserves to be received. Bush did not seize power. He didn't assassinate the previous country leader and take over with a coup d'etat. Left wingers will argue that the election was hijacked but it was close enough to count. We elected him. It was our mistake. We knew the sort of shit he had done the first four years. We saw his war on terror, a war against an enemy that has always and will always exist. We had our shoes taken off at airports. We had Orwellian fuzzy-threat signs over our highways saying "Report Suspicious Activity". We had already started our war in Iraq, a war with no clear end and no clear motivation. Yet we still elected him. We still put him in office. As a country, we deserve what we got.

Eighteen million people watch Lost, a TV show with no story and characters constantly put under a fuzzy and unclear threat. Twenty four million people watch corporations genetically build pop stars on American Idol. We fret about bird flu and mad cow and whether we'll be killed by a fanatic for saying "Happy Holidays" instead of "Merry Christmas". We're more interested in the Redskins beating the Giants than in the USPATRIOT Act vote.

George Bush may have far overstepped the constitution but we knew what he was, we knew what he would do, and we elected him anyway. Shame on us.