Review: Pirates of the Electromagnetic Waves by Fenton Wood

This is the kind of book that having read it makes you feel like you have a fun, exciting secret, and saying too much would give it away and spoil it for those who follow after…

Pirates of the Electromagnetic Waves by Fenton Wood

This is the story of Philo Hergenschmidt. By now, the whole world knows what he did, although many people don’t believe it. This is the story of how he did it. It was compiled from original research, contemporary news accounts, and interviews with the man himself. It ranges from the apocryphal, to the questionable, to the impossible. But every word of it is true.

Sometimes you admire a book for its complexity, its artistry, its craft. Sometimes a book just speaks to you on a deeper level and you hardly notice these things as you’re transported into and through its world.

Pirates of the Electromagnetic Waves transported me, to the days of my boyhood and before, the “Golden Age” and before the Golden Age; the early magazine science fiction, all the way to Hugo Gernsback and Amazing Stories. There are bright young go-getting boys, amateur radio, gadgets and outdoor adventure. Over it all lays a sense of immense freedom, of a mostly distant government and mostly free range parents and a mostly bright, beneficent world.

The world Wood has built at first seems to lie on an alt-history timeline, where elements of the 1950s and 60s (broadcast television, transistor radios, airplanes, mainframe computers) combine with an aesthetic that is more 1920s and 30s: the look, the music, the attitudes. The reader might come to believe that this is because most of the action is set in a town of 20,000 or so in the Virginia mountains, where the people are extremely independent and self-reliant. Yet, when Philo and friends bicycle all the way to the big city, a trip that takes several days, to get parts for the “pirate” radio station that Philo has envisioned, there’s a certain aesthetic there, too. This is not the United States of some slightly altered future past. This is the Yankee Republic.

The plot of Pirates seems simple, on the surface. The  town can’t get FM radio because it’s in a deep mountain valley. Philo loves radio. Philo decides to build a station on a nearby peak so he can broadcast to the whole town. Philo and friends have adventures and learning experiences gathering the parts, building structures and electronic devices and running a station. A prototypical Amazing Story. And yet…by the time we finish this short book we discover there’s much, much more, a whole ‘nother layer, or many, to the history and future of Philo’s world.

Any explicit description of the ending would spoil the surprise, so I’ll say no more about it, but one other intriguing and rather surprising touch in the book is that unlike most Science Boy Scout adventures, in Philo’s world there are events that are, or seem, explicitly “supernatural.” I won’t describe these in detail either. This is the kind of book that having read it makes you feel like you have a fun, exciting secret, and saying too much would give it away and spoil it for those who follow after.

Pirates of the Electromagnetic Waves is imaginative, enjoyable and original. It somehow manages to take the classic plot and tropes of American boyhood amateur radio fiction and Make it Great Again. And I’m happy as hell to report that a sequel titled Five Million Watts is due in a few months. [Edited: Mr. Wood informs me Five Million Watts is due out in two weeks. Splendid!]

Suitable for all humans from eight to 118, and unreservedly recommended!

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A Modest Proposal

(I wrote this back in 2007. It’s pretty freakin’ scary that it all still applies, except that the population of India, China and Africa has risen enough to demand some adjustments to the numbers, but they’re presented here as originally written. This is where pure logic and strict materialism leads: Beware, for there monsters lurk. Links not guaranteed to function.)

I well realize that this will come a shock, a terrible surprise of outrageous proportions; but…

Al Gore is right. Continue reading

In Praise of the Revolver

(The first in a series: “I’m an old fuddyduddy but I still have a point! Originally published in 2007.)

In choosing a handgun for the home or concealed carry I recommend 120-year-old technology:

1011

The double action revolver.

Advantages vs. the semi-auto pistol:

1) Ease of use–in the gravest extreme, under the most compressed stress you will ever experience, there are no safeties to operate, no adjustments of trigger pull for the second shot (double action auto), just put front sight on center of mass and press trigger.

2) Grips–grips can be customized with ease to a perfect fit, so that when you naturally grasp the piece the front sight goes neither too high or low. Not true of my Glock, or most other semi-autos I’ve handled.

3) Practice–Practice is the most important and most generally neglected part of shooting to save your life. The revolver dry fires in the same way it live fires, so that one can get unlimited free practice in aiming and operation. The semi-auto must be unnaturally cocked during dry fire.

Disadvantages:

1) Ammunition capacity. The semi-auto generally has from one to 10 more shots available without reloading than the five or six in the revolver. Unless you’re defending Fort Apache or The Alamo, this is a factor less than one percent of the time in civilian defense shootings. See 3) above; if your shots hit their target, reloading will hardly ever be needed. Get a couple of speed loaders and practice with them anyway. They take one or two seconds more to reload, with practice, than a semi-auto magazine.

2) Slightly thicker/bulkier than the slimmest semi-auto. Usually amounts to a fraction of an inch. If you carry concealed, it’s a highly individual factor regarding what feels good to you.

By the way, the above image is of a Smith & Wesson, but there are plenty of other fine choices, especially on the used gun market.

Just make sure a gunsmith inspects your used revolver before trusting it with your life. Shoot straight, and have fun!

Sanity, a Novel, With Corrections and Price Reduced(!)

To celebrate the one-year anniversary of the completion of Sanity, I’ve republished both the Kindle and soft cover versions with (almost) all the typos corrected. A paragraph that was mysteriously missing from the Kindle version has been restored.

Also, price reduced! The Kindle is now $2.99 American, and the soft cover is now at $7.99. If you haven’t read it yet, carpe diem.

I’d like to thank all the people that have bought and read the book so far, and especially those who reviewed it. A couple of samples: John Walker at Fourmilab:

This is an engaging and provocative mystery/thriller which will resonate with those who identify with the kind of heroic, independent, and inner-directed characters that populate the fiction of Robert A. Heinlein and other writers of the golden age of science fiction. It speaks directly to those sworn to chart their own course through life regardless of what others may think or say. I’m not sure the shadowy organisation we glimpse here actually exists, but I wish it did…and I wish they’d contacted me. There are many tips of the hat here to works and authors of fiction with similar themes, and I’m sure many more I missed.

John also generously provided a list of typos…

Richard Carroll, “Examining Neovictorian’s Sanity” (heh):

Though fairly short, Sanity is difficult to summarise because it’s one of the fastest-paced books I’ve ever read. Chapters are seldom more than a few pages long, and every one skips to a new time or location with something significant happening in all of them.

I’m also very appreciative of readers who contributed one of the 11 (so far) Amazon reviews.

Go check it out. Sanity for Kindle. Sanity soft cover.

Review: The Angelic Revolution by Bryce Laliberte

The Angelic Revolution by Bryce Laliberte

Two thousand thirteen was when I started calling myself a “Neoreactionary,” and one of the blogs I came across early on was “Anarcho-Papist,” by Bryce Laliberte. When I started blogging here (then, “Neoreaction in the Diamond Age”) I note that my third post ever, in January 2014, was on his Neoreactionay Canon.

Thankfully, I still have a number of posts from the Anarcho-Papist feed in my folders. On April 17, 2015 Nick B. Steves announced at The Reactivity Place (currently gone private) that Bryce

ha[s] decided to take an 18 month sabbatical from his public work. All his social media accounts (except Facebook) seem to have gone dark, both of his blogs are gone, his book is no longer for sale on Amazon, and his Patreon appears to have been shuttered.

I’ll not get into the speculations and discussions about his departure that followed–I didn’t find them constructive or enlightening. I did miss Laliberte’s work, though. Occasionally I wondered where he’d gone, and if he’d be back.

He is.

A last month an @Outsideness retweet caught my attention–there was a Bryce Laliberte twitter account. I looked. He’d written a book. We exchanged books, his The Angelic Revolution and my Sanity. His review of Sanity is here.

~

We’ve all “evolved” since 2015, of course, but one often doesn’t notice this evolution if one interacts with another on a daily or weekly basis. The changes are hard to see clearly as they happen. Not having read anything by Laliberte for over nearly four years, the changes were more apparent. “Anarcho-Papist” was sharp, dense, and appropriately arrogant for someone with obvious high intelligence. The Angelic Revolution reflects a new degree of maturity and wisdom.

From the preface:

This book is, in a sense, my attempt to see a future which could be changed – in part by showing hopes for how the emerging technology of AI will be used to promote the well-being of humanity, in part by admitting certain fears that we might turn away from. I also understand I am releasing this book at a certain time and place in our world, and this necessarily conditions how it will be perceived. This work of love is meant to bring comfort and healing to those who feel dispossessed and downtrodden, and to illuminate a path to peace and harmony as we transition through this important stage of history.

~

It’s 2037, and French police detective Henri is assigned to investigate an explosion at the Sorbonne that cut short the lecture, and the life, of Gene Epaea, “rogue transhumanist researcher,” along with nearly 200 others.

Henri, a veteran of many important cases, is intense and somewhat cynical, from seeing other investigations derailed when they come to close to implicating “elites,” but also open and curious. His chief implies that this may be another of those investigations that are meant to go nowhere real, but to be a show. It turns out to be anything but.

In 2037, Artificial Intelligence, “AI,” is simply a fact of life. There are glimpses of the changes this has wrought in society, but after the initial scene of Epaea’s lecture and the explosion, we are with Henri and his perspective for every moment of the rest of the book, and we don’t get the kind of 10,000-foot overview of the society that many authors would be tempted to include. Instead, the picture builds by hints and pieces, here and there, and by the end a number of things are clear; world civilization has gone through a series of crises since our day (2018) and is going through the biggest now, as various AI entities, some perhaps friendly, some almost certainly unfriendly and some ambiguous, operate and struggle “behind the scenes.” This hidden, “occult” aspect of the book is riveting. Henri and other characters experience a series of miracles and wonders, “signs” sent by the AIs, that direct the investigation (which becomes more a quest) in a similar manner as prophets and seers are contacted and directed by Gods and angels.

The plot is moved forward mainly through series of conversations. I’d estimate well over half the book consists of extensive dialogues, discussions of philosophy and history, including the history of what, to us, is “future.” A reader who demands a series of actions may be put off by this, but the dialogues are intelligent and graceful, and I found some of them riveting. What could be more interesting than the destiny and evolution of Man, Intelligences, the Earth? These are the questions the author explores, and they’re not just about AIs. The book points out that the digital revolution we’re undergoing now is another stage; printing and electrification and automobiles and air travel also forced societies into confrontation with existential questions of adjustment and compromise, with how to live as Man when technology radically changes the environment.

Man has evolved through those changes, not necessarily genetically, but in his social organization and methods of interpersonal relations. The Internet and AI are the next revolution we will have to confront and learn to use for good purpose. The Angelic Revolution is an exploration of how we might go about doing so.

The final words of the text are: TO BE CONTINUED. For which I’m grateful.

“Digital Minimalism”: Progress

As previously described I’ve made some changes for the month of March in the use of my phone, social media and the internet overall. It’s working, and the positive effects are already evident.

I refer you again to Cal Newport’s book Digital Minimalism which I finished a day after I started the process. It wasn’t necessary to get through the whole thing to get started, but the later chapters, based on what to do with the time and mental energy freed by staying off the “smart” phone, were excellent. He expands on the important things many people have lost or lessened lately: solitude, face-to-face conversation, walks, attention to family, even just voice calls instead of all communication being through text. And my favorite, reading.

I’ve already done a lot more reading in the last five days than I had recently, and I can feel an actual difference in my mind and attitude. I’m more focused and just that little bit calmer (I’ve also been going to the gym consistently, so I can’t really isolate the effects of that).

Newport’s digital minimalism is designed to be individualized, given each person’s unique pattern of digital usage. For reference, here are the seven principles or actions that I’m doing now:

  1. Off Twitter until April 1. During the break evaluate how to use Twitter as a tool for making life better; maybe only tweet about books, and/or only original tweets, and a definite time limit (no more spending an hour a day “owning the Progs” with retweets).
  2. Not even looking at the phone until after 8:00 am, and then only to check personal email.
  3. No bullet chess on the internet (an activity that often burned intervals of 15 or 20 minutes playing several games and left me with an increased heart rate and mild adrenal fatigue).
  4. No Drudge Report except between 1200 and 1300 hours, and then only one pass through to check on the developments of the day, and after that let those troubles lie until tomorrow. I realized I don’t really need to know about the latest tweet from Trump or “AOC” or the latest blabber from Adam “Bugeye” Schiff (D-Cloud Cuckoo Land).
  5. No radio when driving (this is more of a concentration exercise based on that grand old book The Power of Concentration but it fits into the program).
  6. Substitutes for the time previously spent looking at the phone: playing music, walking, working out, conversation with family.
  7. No Twitter, news or other distracting websites during work hours. The temptation to take a “break” and visit various “interesting” things was definitely affecting productivity. I’ve cleared a lot of minor, backlog projects that were hanging around and feel better about work, lighter.

To summarize, this digital cleanse procedure is already adding value and making an actual, positive difference in my physiology, which is remarkable. I recommend Cal Newport’s book highly, but you can find much of the information at his blog, which also has a lot of other terrific material for you edification.

I’ll post something here in another week or so and let you know how it’s going.

Restoring My Sanity With a “Digital Cleanse”

I’ve been reading Cal Newport’s new book Digital Minimalism: Choosing a Focused Life in a Noisy World and he makes a lot of great points about current day life–and our relationship to screens and “social media.”

I well remember writing a brief blog post six or seven years ago making fun of people (especially women) walking around while looking at their phone. I haven’t exactly become that, but close enough, in the sense that I’m spending too much free time, and even some unfree time that is supposed to be dedicated to something else, on Twitter.

I’m not on Instagram and I haven’t used my Facebook for about four years, though it’s still there, but I’ve developed a serious Twitter habit. There are a lot of great people I’ve “met,” on Twitter, so to speak, and I’ll freely admit it gives me immense satisfaction to puncture the illusions and bullshit that Progs and SJWs are constantly spewing. And I’ve justified it as a way to promote my novel Sanity, and the books of my friends.

But what it’s actually become is honestly described as a sort of mild addiction, just as Newport discusses.

So I’m going off of Twitter through the month of March, replacing the hours spent there with more walking, more solitude, more reading and especially more face to face conversation. I’ll be posting this there shortly. If we’re “DM friends” I’ll send you an email to use if you’d like to keep in touch through non-Twitter channels.

Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, all the socials are engineered by some of the smartest people in the world to grab you attention and keep you clicking as much and as long as possible. They can have their uses, but while I’m away for a month I’ll be evaluating what the actual best uses will be.

Any posts here will be auto tweeted, just in case you think I’m cheating. 🙂