Space Westerns: You May Already Be a Fan if…

serenitycrewSpace Westerns: it’s a genre. Not a beloved genre for those who hate and despise real Westerns (usually without reading any, or even seeing a quality Western movie or TV show), or hate gritty realism, but one which has influenced the science fiction universe. Are you already a fan of space westerns? You may be, if….

…you are a Firefly fan.

The Firefly television series was very plainly and openly based in part on themes from Western fiction. Heck, they even herded cows once! It was set in the aftermath of a big war, as many Westerns deal with the aftermath of the Civil War. The Western touch made Firefly more gritty and realistic than your typical antiseptic and intellectual-ivory-tower sci-fi tale.

… you are a fan of the original Star Trek.

Space— the final frontier…. These are the voyages…. Gene Roddenberry, creator of Star Trek, got his start in the television industry by writing scripts for Western TV shows. He pitched Star Trek as ‘Wagon Train to the Stars’. For younger readers, I must explain that ‘Wagon Train’ was an excellent Western television series, which had quite renowned actors and actresses as guest stars. It was also a very popular show.

Star Trek was set on the frontier of the Federation worlds. Sometimes they visited remote Federation colonies, and at other times they discovered new worlds. Since the series was aimed at a US television audience who mostly loved America and had fought for her in WW2 and Korea, using themes from the American frontier, often in a subtle way, was a natural.

…you like Star Wars.

I never really was a Star Wars fan. I watched the first movie when it first was on television and watched bits and pieces of the others. I did notice there were a few Western themes and images in that series, and I’m sure that’s part of the reason that it was a popular series.

…you enjoy actual Westerns.

It’s funny. People who despise Westerns often proclaim that the genre is dead. And yet, to this day in a used paperback store Western novels sell well. At flea markets some of the junk dealers offer a box or three of Western novels, and charge more than they would for similar used books in other genres. Western television shows, admittedly, are uncommon— perhaps because of the need to include loud proclamations of feminism/abortion rights and openly gay characters in every form of fictional television these days. It doesn’t work well in a genre anchored in a historical reality.

If you are a Western fan who likes one of the sci-fi television series mentioned above, perhaps the space Western is your genre. And if you haven’t read or viewed Westerns yet….

Discover Westerns: There is a cable television channel, Encore Westerns, which has a block of old Western TV series from about 1pm to 7pm. Most series are from around 1958 to 1962, with a few as late as 1968. They include Maverick, The Life and Legend of Wyatt Earp, Bat Masterson, old half-hour Gunsmoke episodes, Cheyenne, Death Valley Days, and Wanted: Dead or Alive (starring Steve McQueen). In the past, they’ve had Have Gun, Will Travel, Lawman, Rawhide and Wagon Train in the lineup.

Western novels are not the brainless shoot-’em-ups of rumor. The best of them feature fine writing and extensive historical research. Try something by Elmer Kelton (Seven-time Spur Award Winner) or Louis L’Amour to discover what Westerns are really all about.

Read More about the Space Western genre:

@&#*#! Parsing the Bad Words

Kitten 'Little Stranger' in my cowboy boot.

Kitten ‘Little Stranger’ in my cowboy boot.


Warning: this post about swearing contains swear words spelled out in full, for the sake of overseas readers who may not know which words we are talking about if I only give a few letters. Children under 18— or under 21— or under 27 from Obama-supporting families— ought to either not read this, or get your mom’s permission before you read on….

Swearing. There was a time when all published authors had the same rule for their fiction— no swearing. None. What. So. Ever. Authors didn’t use any words that wouldn’t be welcome in folks’ parlors.

Then the language allowed in published books became more ‘realistic’, which led to ‘realistic’ swearing in films, then on television. After being exposed to that for a few years, folks that once used barnyard language only in the barnyard began using it in the parlor — in front of children, their grandmother, and visiting pastors and nuns.

What are the bad words and what makes them bad? Which bad words are the worst? I suppose most of us think the worst word ever is fuck. That word is an example of a vulgarism. Vulgarisms, or vulgar language, is language as used by the vulgar— the uneducated poor people. A couple hundred years ago when most folks didn’t get much schooling, the upper class— meaning almost everyone who was educated enough to read books— decided certain words were characteristic of the uneducated poor. The list of vulgar language included words like ‘ain’t’ which had no moral taint, but also some old Anglo-Saxon words that educated people were long accustomed to replace with classy Latinate words. They preferred to say ‘intercourse’ for fuck, ‘defecate’ for shit, and ‘urinate’ for piss. In time these words became not only vulgar in the sense that they were uneducated language, they became truly ‘bad words’ that even the uneducated didn’t use in mixed company or in front of the pastor.

Other, less offensive vulgarisms include the slang use of bitch to mean a female human being. Calling a man a bastard when you are not discussing his parents’ marital status is a vulgarism, and just using bastard in polite society when you could have said ‘illegitimate person’ is somewhat problematic.

A vulgarism isn’t intrinsically evil or immoral, it’s just that there are social rules in place which teach us that these words are words that offend others. A person charitably inclined toward others restricts the use of vulgarisms in most circumstances.

Vulgarisms are not the worst type of swearing. That dishonor goes to blasphemy, the act of taking the Lord’s name in vain. Oh, God! Jesus Christ! Christ on a crutch! and God damn you! are examples of blasphemy— the Holy Name being used as a swear rather than a prayer.

Damn and hell can be used in a blasphemous way, and this is why: Only God has the authority to damn (condemn) a sinner to hell. When you say damn this and to hell with that, you are claiming to be able to exercise God’s power.

Blasphemy is the very worst swear, in spite of what society thinks, because it’s the only one that the Commandment about taking the Lord’s Name in vain really applies to. In contemporary society it may be considered mild to say damn instead of to say motherfucker, but that’s because society’s values are all fucked up. That time the President’s pastor said ‘God damn America’ he was sinning, directly breaking a commandment, while if he’d said fuck a few dozen times during the course of his sermon, he would have merely been rude and inappropriate— which could also be somewhat sinful if he was aware it was rude and thus uncharitable to his congregation and deliberately said it anyway, but isn’t in the same class as blaspheming.

Misusing the name of Jesus is considered a swear in Western Civilization because for many centuries an overwhelming majority of persons believed that Jesus Christ was not only a good teacher and a prophet, but the Son of God and a member of the Holy Trinity. People who did not believe this about Jesus still avoid using His name in vain out of respect for others.

While it may not be blasphemy proper, misuse of the names of prophets and saints (holy Moses!) is highly disrespectful and to be avoided if one is charitably-minded toward others. The same goes for misusing the names of Pagan gods and of the supposed prophets and holy men of other religions. Such usage is unkind to believers in the religion in question, and so it is best avoided.

Minced oaths are the use of similar-sounding substitute words for a blasphemous expression. Gosh darn it! and Judas Priest! are examples of minced oaths. Many Christian preachers used to warn against minced oaths. When you use one, you may be saying gosh or gee but in your heart you are saying ‘God’ or ‘Jesus’ and thus there is some blasphemous intent going on. This is why some Evangelical fiction publishers don’t allow the use of minced oaths. They are weak to the point of being silly by contemporary standards, but there is a legitimate moral concern here.

Sexual slang terms when used in public are also a type of bad language. Many of these terms originated among the sort of men who routinely use-and-abuse prostitutes. Other milder terms might once have been socially acceptable language. To use the slang term for penis, prick, or the slang term for vagina, cunt, as a crude reference to a person is beyond rude. People who talk this way should not be surprised if they get their face slapped.

A new type of bad word is the epithet. Vulgar words such as nigger for black person, kike for Jew, and fag and dyke for male and female homosexual are now considered so politically incorrect that uttering them just once is a job-losing event. Although the arbiters of these new rules permit black persons to say nigger and homosexual persons to say fag, dyke and queer. Now, while the arbiters of these new rules are right that it’s not OK to use such words as an epithet to abuse and humiliate some one, some of the now-forbidden words were rather recently considered to be just down-home language. There are many older persons, both black and white, who grew up saying nigger as the normal word for black person in their social group, and they have a hard time changing because it feels to them like they are showing off, pretending to be a person of higher social standing than they are, to use the classier terms like Negro and black person (which mean the exact same things). It’s a bit uncharitable of us to judge our elders harshly for using that word, when it’s society’s opinion of a word that has changed.

Also, by declaring a word to be a forbidden epithet rather than a vulgarism or slang term, we are giving a gift to the bigots. They now no longer need to make clear that they are meaning the word nigger in a racially bigoted way rather than in a down-home hillbilly way. I think bigots should have to explain at great length what they mean when they are insulting a black person rather than having a one-word expression that puts their hate in a nutshell.

It is in any case equally uncharitable to insult a black person using the expression ‘black person’ than to do so using any racial epithet. God’s going to get mad over it either way. I believe the whole political correctness movement, by constantly generating new epithets out of what were once neutral words or slang expressions, is uncharitable. It makes it possible for a political correctness advocate to condemn a person for saying a word that, when he said it, wasn’t recognized as an epithet yet.

With so many varieties of bad words, how do we decide what to say when we are in a bad-word-saying mood? My opinion is that it is somewhat trite to express such a mood by using the same old swears everyone else says these days. Swearing doesn’t make you a rough, tough man’s-man now when pretty little eleven-year-olds are calling mommy a motherfucker for suggesting that a little room-cleaning might be in order. A real tough guy— or gal— might be better served by coming up with some original colorful language of their own, which avoids the whole cliched worlds of blasphemy and vulgarism altogether.

So that’s my take on the swearing issue. Please don’t tell my mother I wrote this.

Fetal Tissue in Measles/Mumps/Rubella Vaccine

I’ve been watching a lot of TV pundits panicking about the small measles outbreak (when I was a kid, we had more measles cases than that in my school.) When they seek to punish parents for not vaccinating their kids against the ‘deadly’ measles virus, they act as if the only possible reason to object is that those ‘ignorant’ parents fear that vaccines may cause autism. Which isn’t true.

But there are other reasons not to vaccinate. For example, EVERY vaccine can cause problems in some individuals. And for the prolife family, there are some vaccines that cannot be used since fetal tissue from aborted children has been used to produce those vaccines. One example? The measles/mumps/rubella vaccine! Source:

And not one word has been spoken about this! Which is sad, because talking about it in the context of today’s measles hysteria might be one way to pressure vaccine-makers to produce an ethical alternative vaccine for the many prolife families out there.

Another thing unmentioned is that they managed to pretty much eradicate smallpox without forced vaccination of everyone, everywhere. They don’t need to vaccinate the whole human ‘herd’ to reduce the incidence of these diseases. When I was a child it was normal for kids to get measles— it was like getting the flu. My brother and I never got it as children. My brother did get it as an adult, and though he had a severe case, he didn’t die or suffer extreme consequences.

What do prolife parents do about the MMR vaccine and other unethical ones? Some who know the truth feel such pressure to vaccinate anyway, not only for child’s health but out of fear of legal punishments if other, unrelated kids get measles and the authorities decide to blame the prolife non-vaccinated family. Others take a stand in the hope that it will cause better, ethical vaccines to be made. I do not judge people no matter which choice they make. I just make a judgment that this vaccine situation, which amounts to a vaccine shortage since some families who want their children vaccinated cannot do it for ethical reasons, must change.

Good Judges, Bad Judges and Politics

5.0.2One of the things thwarting our democracy is the many bad judges in the system. What is a bad judge? One that exceeds his Constitutional role in his rulings.  One that forgets that judges are not there to make new laws, but to fairly enforce the laws created by legislative bodies.

If you are a conservative (like I am) you may be tempted to label these bad judges as ‘liberal judges’. You may have a list of bad, liberal-slanted decisions made by bad judges.

If you are a liberal (like I used to be), you don’t think of liberal judges as a problem. But what if a conservative judge ignores the letter of the law to make a conservative-slanted decision? That’s a problem.

The problem isn’t one of liberal or conservative in the political sense. What matters is if judges are strictly following the letter of the law and of the Constitution, or if they issue rulings that are based more on the judge’s personal point-of-view and the things he personally admires.  The first is the way it is supposed to be. The second corrupts the system— even if the judge’s personal point-of-view happens to be correct and laudable.

The bad-judge issue is often perceived as an issue only for conservatives. Those darn conservatives want only ‘strict constructionist’ judges on the Supreme Court, pundits say, implying ‘strict constructionist’ is just code for ‘conservative’.

I believe that because of the deep political divide our nation is currently coping with, we conservatives need to frame our concerns on this issue in a non-partisan way. After all, a judge that is personally liberal but is a good judge in the sense of respecting the legal limitations of his position will not make rulings we conservatives find shocking and radical and in violation of all we hold dear.

Judges, like true statesmen, should be above the low brawls of politics. But politics affects judges in that it is the political life forms who appoint most judges. Liberal/progressive politicians tend to want liberal/progressive judges. Conservative politicians have more divided desires. On the one hand they want conservative judges. On the other hand they want to please the large number of conservative voters who want judges who are ‘strict constructionists’ and don’t engage in ‘judicial activism’.

There is a news story today about a study that showed that lawyers and law professors tend to be ‘liberal’ and judges tend to be ‘conservative’. (Much depends on how they defined ‘conservative’ and ‘liberal’.)  The most common conservative view is that judges tend to be liberal. If this study in fact has any validity, how do we reconcile its findings with our common perception?

First, we must always be willing to question our perception. Perhaps we conservatives only think that most judges are liberal because we notice liberal judges and their liberal rulings a lot more. Perhaps we are taking a conservative majority of judges for granted.

Second, we must consider the fact that conservatives may be getting less mileage out of our conservative judges, especially the ones who, on the bench, are Constitution-followers first and conservatives second.  Liberal judges, remember, have a liberal community who are much less likely to think the US Constitution is valid for today’s world, and who therefore, as a group, perhaps tend to favor the judicial activist liberal judge over the Constitution-following liberal judge.

Third, we must remember that both ‘conservative’ and ‘liberal’ are not clearly defined and absolute terms. It’s not like the difference between iron and uranium. When someone uses terms like conservative or liberal we must ask what they meant by it. And also, there are a great many people who don’t fit so neatly into categories, like famed sci-fi author and LDS church member Orson Scott Card, who is a Democrat and seems to have traditionally Democrat views on some issues, but who also supports traditional marriage (between a man and a woman).  While our conservative and liberal labels can be useful sometimes, we must always remember that they are ‘fuzzy’ terms.

Finally, there is the age factor. As people age, they tend to become more conservative— like me. In 1990, I was a Marxist pro-choice Neopagan, now I am a conservative prolife Catholic. The fellow who is a liberal lawyer in one year may be a conservative judge a couple of decades down the line.

I do not think there is much validity to the ideas I’ve heard from the liberal point of view that the ‘conservative judges’ finding, if it is true, means that conservatives are somehow underhandedly subverting the process. But in our divisive society, I can understand how this idea may seem accurate to people with strong liberal viewpoints.


Links to news articles about the judge study:

ABA Journal: Lawyers are more liberal than general population, study finds; what about judges?

NY Times: Why Judges Tilt to the Right

Overlawyered: Harvard study: lawyers tilt left, judges don’t