Sunday, November 28, 2010

Two From Claire

Just in time for Freedomista Christmas, two new books from Claire Wolfe have been released. They're both compilations of previously-published material, but whether or not you're familiar with her work they're both worth your time and nickel.

Hardyville Tales is a collection of the last, and arguably best, of the Backwoods Home Hardyville columns.  Claire wrote Hardyville columns – not really stories - for over a decade at various sites and publications, but toward the end she began assembling her characters in longer, multi-episode stories.  With the exception of Rebelfire this is the only fiction she has produced to date.  Unlike your typical “freedom fic,” the Hardyville characters aren't lantern-jawed heroes with all the answers.  You won't find long treatises by Captain Liberty here – a Hardyville freedomista with his mind made up is more likely to get drunk and crash his pickup through a bad guy's storefront than win him over with tightly reasoned logic, and in hindsight that may not always be the best choice of action.  Indeed the Hardyvillians themselves don't always agree on the right course or even necessarily get along all that well.  Which is part of what makes me love them, because neither do we.  Though I certainly wouldn't be afraid to let kids near the book, these aren't childrens' tales.  The Young Curmudgeon definitely isn't Peter Rabbit, even at Peter's naughtiest, and people do get hurt sometimes.  But there's one thing all Hardyvillians, even Dora the Yalie, agree on: Don't frickin' Tread On Us.  Just don't.

I'll confess I was a little disappointed by the selections at first.  I've been a Hardyville fan since discovering them in the late '90's, and was hoping to re-read some of the earlier columns which can be hard to find.  But that's a personal thing, and doesn't take away from the value of the book.  These later, longer storylines are less talky than some of those earlier columns, contain actual plots, and while they may not be vintage Claire they definitely show her at her best.  At her best, Claire is a very delightful writer indeed.  And she has added introductory material, some of it new, that will explain what the hell is going on for readers unfamiliar with the setting and characters.  If you're into Christmas, this would be a truly great stocking-stuffer.

The Bad Attitude Guide to Good Citizenship is a book I truly never expected to see.  When Loompanics, which used to publish most of Claire's books, went under, I was afraid the books would go out of print.  But Paladin Press picked up her more recent titles, and the story I heard is that somebody there came up with the idea for this book more-or-less without even consulting Claire.  The title, for example, was definitely not Claire's choice.  To my knowledge she has never given much thought toward “good citizenship.”  Heh.

The Guide is a compilation of articles from her long-running “Enemy at the Gate” column in SWAT Magazine, and most of them are very current and topical.  These are more classic Claire fare, as tightly-reasoned articles have always been her main thing.  But one of the things that has always separated Claire from the rest of the polemic-spewing pack is that her writing is often at least vaguely prescriptive – she doesn't just bitch about the issue du jour - she has ideas about what to do about it, or at least how to live with it without completely abandoning your principles.  So the book is divided into five sections.  The first three concern themselves with the problem:

1.How the Servants Rule
2.Perverting the Law in the Name of the Law
3.Lies Your Politicians Tell You (And the Media Repeat)

But then the final two sections and Afterword concern themselves more with what to actually do about it:

4.Get Yourself a Bad Attitude
5.To Do Or Not To Do – That Is The Question
Afterward – To Politics And Beyond

I'll admit I haven't paid that much attention to Claire's SWAT columns because they're not on-line and – well, it's SWAT Magazine.  Close proximity to the magazine itself gives me hives.  So I was particularly happy to receive this book because it contains a lot of material I hadn't seen.  Claire has not conceded one single point nor compromised one single principle in writing her long-running column, and I know it has caused occasional friction with the publishers.  Rich Lucibella and Denny Hansen – the publisher and editor of SWAT – are not bad guys, not at all.  But they do have kind of a gung-ho blind spot when it comes to law'n'order in general, and cops in particular.  I've always been surprised they give Claire as much rope as they do, because she can have a – well, a Bad Attitude – about such things.  Just to give an example without giving the book away, here's a more-or-less random sampling of titles, one from each section:

Who Do They Think They Are, Anyway?
When Government Steals Our Stuff
The “Gun Show Loophole,” And Other Big Lies
They Say We Should Be Civil
Terrify The Politician Of Your Choice

If you like TUAK, you'll love this book.  Order them here.

1 comment:

MamaLiberty said...

I love these books! Got my Christmas shopping all done at Claire's blog. :)

Today is the last day, so HURRY!