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Tuesday, September 30, 2014

The Boy Who Cried, "Bet Me!"

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.

There's this kid I once knew; he became a man, and I realize now that I never really knew him at all. Mick G. Dilatory has some kind of mental disorder. Pathological liar? Anyway, he lies all the time. The worst part of it all though, is that whether he's telling you the truth or a lie he sounds just the same. You can't tell whether he's lying by looking for telltale clues. He's already studied all that stuff. He knows all the tricks and has schooled himself ruthlessly to never, ever, give himself away. To give you an illustration of how infuriating this is, I remember one time Mick called me about nine o'clock in the morning to tell me that a plane had just crashed into the World Trade Center. I knew he was full of shit as usual and told him so, and then he said, "Holy crap another plane just hit the other tower!" At that point the story had passed far beyond the bounds of possibility and had grown absurd. So I said, "Now I know you're full of shit!" And he said "Bet me!"

"Bet me!" has always been Mick's bluff. No matter how ridiculous his story, when challenged he will always cry, "Bet me!" If he's telling the truth he will offer some figure between twenty to perhaps as much as a hundred bucks for the wager. And he will do the exact same thing if he's lying. In all the years I've known him he's lied constantly and he's never paid off a single bet, ever! Mick would often say that the bet didn't count because we never shook on the bet or even more often he'll turn the bet completely around and claim the exact opposite of his lie was actually what he was betting on and that it is I who in fact owes him the money.

In the boy who cries "wolf" stories, the distrust everyone has for the liar always backfires on the liar when he finds himself in real trouble and really does need help. The moral of the story is always: once you've lost the trust of those who know and care about you, you can probably never get it back. So don't lie! Mick didn't care. In his own mind he's partitioned truth and reality and just like in the book 1984 by George Orwell, Mick has mastered the ability to Doublethink.
The power of holding two contradictory beliefs in one's mind simultaneously, and accepting both of them... To tell deliberate lies while genuinely believing in them, to forget any fact that has become inconvenient, and then, when it becomes necessary again, to draw it back from oblivion for just as long as it is needed, to deny the existence of objective reality and all the while to take account of the reality which one denies – all this is indispensably necessary. Even in using the word doublethink it is necessary to exercise doublethink. For by using the word one admits that one is tampering with reality; by a fresh act of doublethink one erases this knowledge; and so on indefinitely, with the lie always one leap ahead of the truth
It all happened one year ago, today. Mick had placed a couple of folded sheets of paper on my desk. On the back it said: "Jack, Please read and suggest improvements, thanks, Mick." On the first page at the top, he'd typed the words: "A short, short story by Mick G. Dilatory." The story was about this ex-Marine who was shot in Afghanistan and paralyzed from the waist down. It was powerfully written, gritty and fascinating. It was also tragic enough to bring tears to my eyes. I realized at once that Mickey boy hadn't written this story. As usual, for no reason at all, little Mickey had decided to spin out another lie. So, I decided that this time I was really going to get him good! This time he would finally learn his lesson!

If only I could take it all back now. I'm sorry. I have to take a break for a minute. I can't see the screen.





Okay, what happened was that the short story Mick told me he had written, was actually written by an ex-Marine named Michael, and Michael really was paralyzed from the waist down. It had been a true story, a heartbreaking tragic and true story. It was a story not just about Michael, but also about the men he served with and their reactions to Michael's horrible injury as he was medevac'd out.

I found all this out by Googling a few sample phrases. What do you know, right there on Reddit was the almost word for word text of the story, along with a video made by the author attesting to its veracity with pictures and even the bullet. Mick the dirty rotten liar wasn't just a liar, he had stolen the valor and the true words of a genuine Purple Heart wearing United States Marine, and trivialized them by claiming he'd written a short story. What a scumbag! I thought. So I contacted Michael through Reddit and together Michael and I conspired to bring the wolf to Mick's door.

Now, the rest of this story isn't so much about Mick, although he's the victim in the end, it's more about dropping a snowball from the top of a mountain and expecting anything but real tragedy to happen. This snowball was tossed by calling Michael. Well, let's just stay it snowballed.

Ex-Marine Michael was a member of a wounded warrior association, so he contacted them through their proprietary message board. He soon got a phone call. Sgt. Thomas Vincent offered to put a real scare into our little liar-liar-pants-on-fire. "Tommy," as he styles himself, caught a C-130 Hercules jumpseat out of Quantico, and arrived in Memphis Tennessee just a day later. I met him at the airport and together we plotted little Mickey's big lesson in humility.

The day before Tommy's arrival, Mick had called me to ask if I'd read his story. I told him I'd been swamped and hadn't had a chance yet. As I dropped Tommy off at a local steakhouse I phoned Mick to let him know that I'd read his story and I invited him out to lunch to talk about it. I could tell right away that Mick was really thrown off by my behavior. The script wasn't going as he'd no doubt rehearsed. I was supposed to have read it right away; instead, I had ignored it for a full day. I was supposed to have immediately Googled it to quickly discover that someone else had written it. Then I was supposed to have immediately called him to accuse him of his low-down dirty-rotten lying ways. Then Mick would have said, "Bet Me!" However, instead of accusing him of plagiarism I had offered to buy him lunch. Let's just say his hinky-meter was in the red.

I was waiting inside when Mick arrived. Tommy was in an adjacent booth dressed in civilian clothing, sitting within listening distance. After the waitress took Mick's order and mine, I started round-about trying to get Mick to start talking about his story, but he was being cagey. "What story?" he asked. I didn't bother addressing that asinine question and instead engaged him in shop talk and trivia. After we got our steaks and began eating, I casually offered an aside about his short story. In the original version of the story, ex-Marine Michael had either mistakenly—or perhaps intentionally—misspelled the word carotid by referring to his "corroded artery." in Mick's plagiarized version he had corrected that, so I said, "You misspelled carotid. You wrote corroded when you meant to write carotid."

"I don't know what you're talking about," says Mick. He can't help it; lying is as natural to him as breathing.

"Then why are we here?" I asked.

"You said you were going to buy me lunch. I'm here for lunch. Why are you here?" replied Mick suavely and insouciantly with an infuriating little smirk on his face. So I gave him back some of his own medicine. "No, you said you were going to buy me lunch!" I told him. It really gives Mick a thrill when somebody lies back at him. A genuine grin appeared on Mick's face as he shot back at me, "well, since you offered to buy I didn't bring any money." And I said: "But since it was actually you who offered to pay for lunch I didn't bring any money, either."

It was at this point when Sgt. Vincent intruded. He stood up and stepped over to our table and then sat down next to Mick, kind of pushing him over in the seat. "Who's this?" Mick asked me?

"This is Sgt. Vincent. He's a good friend of a wounded vet, name of Michael."

"Nice to meet you. Now get out of my seat Sgt. Vincent," ordered Mick in a snide and disdainful voice.

It was at this point that Tommy let Mickey have it, but good! In full Marine drill-sergeant style, he dressed Mickey up and dressed him down. The entire time this 50 decibel rant was going on, Mick kept his smug supercilious grin plastered on his face. Once Sgt. Vincent finally wound down, that old liar Mickey had succeeded in convincing himself—using Doublethink—that it was in fact he who'd been wronged. Here I'd offered to buy lunch for him, and instead of paying for his steak, I'd ambushed him with some lunatic straight out of Full Metal Jacket. The fury at this grievous injustice enveloped Mickey's face and he roared back, "I don't know what you're talking about!"

At this point, Mick pulled the lapel of his jacket aside and displayed his heretofore concealed semi-automatic pistol. "I don't know who you are, but if you want trouble you're sitting next to it. NOW GET OUT OF MY SEAT!" He roared.

Have you ever heard that old conundrum about the irresistible force meeting the immovable object? Well it was exactly like that. Sgt. Vincent got up from the seat, threw a twenty on his own table and turned back to Mick. "I'll be seeing you again, real soon, but you, well ... let's just say that you'll never see me again."

Mickey has a special van that brings him to the office now. He can still work from his desk but he doesn't need his executive bathroom key anymore. As for Sgt. Thomas Vincent? Well it turns out he's got an iron clad alibi. At the moment of the shooting, he was with his wife eating dinner at the Globe and Laurel restaurant about a mile from MCB Quantico.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Handicapped parking, white privilege, and fatal stupidity



h/t RedState

Being handicapped is difficult. I'm not handicapped, but I've seen the struggle my father goes through getting in and out of tight places where his motorized wheel chair won't fit. I understand how difficult it can be. Just getting into the bathroom can be an exhausting event. People who're handicapped need handicapped accessible parking near ramps and sidewalks. Then of course, there are the walruses and the perfectly ambulatory elderly. These are the ones who have that blue-tag-thingy hanging from their rearview mirror. They can get out of their car and walk far enough into the store to ride one of the store's motorized shopping carts. With an American population that is literally growing increasingly more obese it seems as though every other car on the road has one of these bright blue things hanging from their mirror.
More than a third of U.S. adults earning less than $15,000 a year are obese, while only a quarter of those earning more than $50,000 annually carry that distinction. And there's even a generational divide: Baby boomers (adults aged 45 to 64 years old) are more likely to be obese than any other age group.

What might be most disconcerting, however, is how quickly and completely the obesity epidemic has overtaken the country. In 1990, not a single U.S. state had an obesity rate above 15 percent, but by 2000, only two, Arizona and Colorado, had obesity rates below 15 percent, and by 2010, not a single state had an obesity rate below 20 percent. Even last year, adult obesity increased significantly in six states — Alaska, Delaware, Idaho, New Jersey, Tennessee and Wyoming.

The problem is such that nationally, obesity has leveled off at just over 35 percent, which has earned the United States the unenviable distinction as the world's most obese major country.
Work with me here... could it possibly be that all these doctors with their blue hanging mirror decorations and all the malls, grocery stores, and Wal-Marts with their square acres of handicapped parking spots at the front of every parking lane, and their fleets of "mobility scooters" make it that much easier for every walrus to just sit on his or her fat ass and ride around everywhere they go? The way things are now, the only exercise these walruses are ever going to get is the short walk from the couch to the refrigerator.

What is white privilege, does it exist, should you be concerned, angry, defensive, or perhaps smug?

To fully understand white privilege requires that you not only be black, but that you also grow up in a black neighborhood. I'm sorry Hispanics and Asians, you are just not capable of fully understanding this term. Moreover, all you rich blacks who grew up in affluent neighborhoods, you also can never fully understand the full scope of this terrible concept known as "white privilege." Finally, for white people like me ... well, we're so incapable of understanding what white privilege means, that most of you probably don't even believe it even exists! Oh sure, we can hear a black person recite the definition, but it is simply meaningless to us. It's absurd, even ludicrous to our lily white ears. I gather that it's something about how white people have it so great and black people have it so bad and the reason for this basic truth of life is that it's all the white people's fault, because of slavery or something. That's about as much as I could fathom.

Now, it's possible that you think my flippant dismissal of this entire concept is misguided or even typical of a white person—typical because I'm a benefactor of white privilege of course. Therefore in the interests of attempting to soothe your racially offended butt-hurt feelings, I'm going to go further into this concept than the surface appearance which—by the way—looks to me like "African-Americans" believe that white people owe them a living.

To black people, White Privilege means that whites benefit from an unseen and unremarked upon advantage in our dealings with others as we go about through our lives. When we walk into a nice restaurant they have a table ready for us. When we apply for a loan we get it. When we apply for college we're accepted. When we apply for a job we're hired, and at a much higher pay rate than the few minorities that occasionally slip through—due to a clerical error no doubt. You see, black people's eyes see us as clueless pink fools just wandering about and airily dismissing those of the darker persuasion. We never give African-Americans and their hell-on-Earth lives a second thought. We're white and we just assume that everyone is treated like we are, like royalty. If you're white, now is the time to stop and imagine what life would be like if it hadn't been handed to you on a silver platter and with a silver spoon for your soft pink hands to hold.

To white people, success is a simple formula that has absolutely nothing to do with race. It all starts once a child is born. Both mom and dad interact daily with the child teaching baby to talk, reading to baby, loving and cuddling. Once the child is old enough to start kindergarten, parents demand ever increasing levels of commitment and effort from their children. If all goes as planned the young adult graduates from high school with good grades and the opportunity to attend college. The effort and commitment continue and once college is successfully completed, these upwardly mobile young men and women are set to obtain high-paying jobs. Once they're set with a good job they start thinking about marriage and family. That's the American dream, not just for whites but for everyone, except black people of course. I guess that's why black people think we're so clueless, because we don't understand why black people can't follow the simple plan I've just described.

Two theories account for the disparity in outcome between blacks and practically every other race: the first theory—the politically correct theory—is called "white privilege," which was just discussed. The second theory for the disparity of outcome is described in many different ways and so most people probably assume there are many theories, but in fact they all boil down to one root cause. This singular cause accounts for the miserable existences of most African Americans. It can be explained in simple terms thusly: It's their own damn fault!

I don't want to go full-on politically incorrect—aka raaaacist—and suggest that dad wasn't there for the black kids, but I will. Why wasn't daddy there? Maybe it's because of no fault divorce. Maybe it's because of child-support. Maybe it's because of foodstamps and welfare checks. Regardless of the reason, it's a fact that in black households, dad was AWOL, missing in action, or dead. He wasn't there because he didn't have to be there. He wasn't there because Uncle Sam in his infinite wisdom passed a whole bunch of laws that made his presence not only financially unnecessary, but also downright financially inconvenient.

Who voted for all these family destroying laws? It was the Democrats. Who voted for all these family destroying Democrats? It was every single black person who voted. There's your chain of cause and effect right there. Black people for the past sixty years have gone to the polls and almost unanimously have cast their vote to live on welfare, to eat on foodstamps, to live in section 8 housing, to receive substandard educations, to be killed in drive-by shootings to be mugged by drug addicts, to live each and every day in fear in their terrible neighborhoods. Black people voted and as they say elections have consequences.

In conclusion, there's a horrific twin similarity between people choosing to be handicapped and people voting for Democrats. In both cases they think their lives will be made easier. As they grow more hugely grotesque, as they remain uneducated and poor, as they go through the day wondering why their lives are so difficult in spite of government promises and prime parking it never occurs to them that they are the architects of their own hell on Earth.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Ebola and Islam the perfect storm?

I'm not a Muslim, I don't have any Muslim friends, and I'm not terribly interested in the religion except as it relates to the existence of evil in the world, so for the following discussion, I'm relying on internet look-ups and perhaps imperfect knowledge. Based on what I've learned, it seems that living the life of a Muslim means a lot of washing! Muslims have a call to prayer five times every day, but before they can pray they must be clean. The following verse is from the Qur'an, Surah 5:
O ye who believe! when ye prepare for prayer, wash your faces, and your hands (and arms) to the elbows; Rub your heads (with water); and (wash) your feet to the ankles. If ye are in a state of ceremonial impurity, bathe your whole body. But if ye are ill, or on a journey, or one of you cometh from offices of nature, or ye have been in contact with women, and ye find no water, then take for yourselves clean sand or earth, and rub therewith your faces and hands, Allah doth not wish to place you in a difficulty, but to make you clean, and to complete his favor to you, that ye may be grateful.
So right off the bat Muslims are already used to a much higher level of ritualistic cleanliness that goes hand in hand with the similar steps necessary to prevent Ebola infections.
Giving tips on how to reduce the chances of contracting the virus, especially in schools, a senior nurse at a primary health center at Ketu, Lagos, who declined having her name in print, urged parents and school teachers to teach the students to properly wash their hands as often as possible, avoid putting their hands in their mouths and to as much as possible, avoid shaking or having body contact with people. 
“Since the virus grows on body openings like eyes and mouth among others, and is passed through body fluids, it is important for people, especially children and their teachers, to adopt the seven steps of hand washing and wash their hands regularly since the children are prone to putting their hands into their mouths or rubbing their eyes. 
“It is not just enough to wash your hands with soap but to learn the seven steps of hand washing which allow you to thoroughly scrub your hands. Hand sanitizers can come in handy, especially when one doesn't have access to water. Though these are not the full solution but could go a long way in saving lives.”
Ebola is spread by bodily fluids like saliva, sweat, urine, blood, vomit, feces and ejaculates. Unlike colds flues and other airborn viruses, you are unlikely to catch Ebola unless there is touching, and/or close physical contact with an infected person. As a matter of etiquette Muslims only touch others with their right hand. They use their left hand to do unsanitary things, like cough into, sneeze into, wipe with, pick their nose with, etc. Their right hand is used to eat with, touch the Qur'an, and so on. Logically, if you are ritualistically conditioned to never rub your eyes, pick your nose, touch your naughty bits with your right hand and you only touch people with the right hand then you are very much less likely to spread Ebola to others.

Furthermore, Muslim women are kept in seclusion, and when they are allowed to venture outside in the accompaniment of a male member of the family, they're always covered from head to toe in thick protective clothing, so they are very much less likely to come into contact with Ebola victims. Therefore, logically, only the Muslim men are likely to infect others and even then only with their right hands, and don't forget they've already washed that hand several times today.

Finally, no sane human being would use a highly contagious disease as a weapon, for fear that the virus they intentionally spread would come back around and infect their own population along with the enemy. Notice I used the word "sane"?

For the reasons given above, it seems almost inevitable that in the coming days Ebola will be used as a weapon of terror by fanatical Islamic jihadists  to attack either Israel or the United States. Muslim daily rituals, seclusion of women, polite Muslim etiquette, and fervent maniacal belief in their own righteous invulnerability almost guarantees this ineluctable future event.

When you read the obligatory paragraphs of pablum meant to ease your mind and allay your every concern, remember that they don't bother including malevolent intent in their "Don't Worry" essay .

Saturday, September 6, 2014

One-Eyed Jack Top 20 sci-fi and fantasy authors and the best of their books

Page-Turners
Did you ever buy a book with wonderful, almost reverential, reviews, and then sit down full of expectation, anticipation and just sheer joy, but then when you actually began reading the book, nothing much seems to be happening? Pages go by. More pages go by. Oh hurrah they're throwing a big party. Everyone's having a great time. Uh-oh, somebody's messing with the fireworks. Ha-Ha-Ha stupid Pippin and Took! And more pages go by. AND NOTHING IS HAPPENING! This is supposed to be the best fantasy of all time? Seriously? Who has time to read one-hundred pages of nothing much happens? Two-hundred pages ... I've probably read more books than anybody you know. But I couldn't—I won't!—read this. Because after 3000 pages I expect something a little more earth-shaking than finally managing to throw the shiny MacGuffin into a volcano. I've read most of the books written by the authors listed below, and they wouldn't be listed below if I had ever once furiously hurled one of their most vaunted and acclaimed novels into my fireplace.


Prolific
What I want most from my favorite authors are books. You're a writer; so write! My top 20 list includes both sci-fi and fantasy authors, although they frequently cross-over from fantasy to sci-fi and vice versa. Every member of my top 20 list has a fairly lengthy bibliography.

Convenient
As Stephen King would say, the world has moved on. Libraries and book stores are next in line for the economic chopping block. It wasn't that long ago that people went to places called Blockbuster or Hollywood Video. It wasn't that long ago that people rode on wooden contraptions pulled by horses or mules. All the authors listed below have many titles available electronically. Lie in your bed, or sit on your couch and simply click a few links and presto! You'll be reading a great book.



  1. Brandon Sanderson — I first started reading Sanderson's books because he took over the Wheel of Time saga when Robert Jordan passed away before concluding his epic saga that I had been reading for more than twenty years. Sanderson did a masterful job in finishing it and tying up all the literally thousands of loose ends. The Wheel of Time is the greatest epic fantasy saga of all time. I can't praise it highly enough. Every page has something exciting happening. Sanderson's contribution to the Wheel of Time was so impressive that I started reading his other books...all of them. I haven't yet read a book by Brandon Sanderson that wasn't thrilling. Sanderson's best work in my opinion is the Stormlight Archive 01 - The Way of Kings and the Stormlight Archive 02 - Words of Radiance is equally wonderful. You can pick anything written by Brandon Sanderson and you won't be disappointed.
  2. Robert Jordan — He wrote the Wheel of Time series. From the very first page of the very first book The Eye of the World, you'll be hooked. You won't be able to put it down. I read and reread the entire series every time Jordan came out with the next sequel. Eleven books read and re-read over and over and they never got old! Robert Jordan would have been number one on my list if he'd lived long enough to complete his masterpiece. 
  3. Orson Scott Card — His book Ender's Game is widely considered to be the best science fiction book ever written. I particularly enjoyed his Ender's Shadow series featuring a lesser known character named at first simply Bean—and later known as Julian Delphiki, Jr. Recently Orson Scott Card has begun collaborating with another author—Aaron Johnston—on a series called The Formic Wars, of which three thrilling books have been written. Trust me, you'll want to read them.
  4. Terry Goodkind — The Sword of Truth series is epic fantasy that thrills from page one to ... a lot of pages later. There are currently 13 books written and I've loved them all. I particularly enjoyed book six titled: Faith of the Fallen. In it he explores a fantasy world where collectivism is the regime and degradation, starvation, and misery are the rule.
  5. George R.R. Martin — This author is at the top of every popular list. His Song of Ice and Fire series aka Game of Thrones is widely acclaimed. I have enjoyed every book—although I haven't been enjoying waiting and waiting for book six. He's got another series that is not nearly so popular as Ice and Fire, but in my opinion incredibly entertaining. It's called Wildcards. and if you liked comic-book superheroes and super-villains as a kid, you'll love this series as an adult.
  6. Lawrence Watt-Evans — His Ethshar series has always been one of my favorites. Each book is set in the same fantasy land called Ethshar, but features entirely new characters and plots. You never know where he'll go next. My favorite is called Spell of the Black Dagger, but they're all wonderful, whimsical, and escapist fantasy of the first order. 
  7. Gordon R. Dickson — He's a prolific writer who's particularly good at interweaving philosophy and fiction. My favorite work by Dickson is his Childe Cycle series and particularly book one: Dorsai! I also got a kick out of The Right To Arm Bears but for a completely personal reason that those who know me will understand and those who don't ... won't.
  8. L.E. Modesitt — Although best known for his Recluce series (Yes, that's how it's spelled.) my favorite series by L.E. Modesitt is the Forever Hero trilogy. It shouldn't be missed by anyone who considers himself a science fiction aficionado. He's written a lot of books from the Recluce series, and the Imager trilogy, to the Corean Chronicles and the Spellsong cycle. 
  9. Larry Niven & Jerry Pournelle — They've each written at lot of great science fiction, but together they wrote two books that have fascinated and horrified me by equal turns. Their books feature helpful aliens we call "Moties" and if they seem lovable and friendly, well, you just need to step back and take another look. The first book The Mote in God's Eye, begins with a strange alien ship that sails into our solar system propelled by a a laser that is based light years away in a vast dust cloud, or nebula. It's a really great book, and an excellent answer to the question: in Darwin's world, what if mankind isn't the fittest?
  10. Raymond E. FeistThe Magicians Apprentice simply shouldn't be missed. It's at the top of many fantasy favorite lists with good reason. Feist doesn't waste any time boring you with pointless prose as plots and counterplots split, and re-split again and again until it seems as though a hundred different balls are being juggled at once. Then Feist takes all these separate threads—the characters and their different exigencies—and culminates the story by reweaving the tangled mess into an incredible and masterful conclusion.
  11. Piers Anthony — His Xanth series is fun and fast paced. You'll groan and groan again as puns abound. My favorite series by Piers Anthony is called the Apprentice Adept Series. It's a whimsical look at a land split into science-fiction on one side and fantasy on the other.  I also really enjoyed his much much darker series entitled: Bio of a Space Tyrant. Not for faint of heart or subject to nausea, Anthony describes a future in space that resembles a time not too long ago on the high seas when pirates and evil men ruled with cannon and sword, and rape and plunder were the order of the day.
  12. Alan Dean FosterFlinx and his mighty mini-drag Pip are just too much fun. You'll also love the fantasy realm of Foster's Spellsinger series. Foster has a lengthy bibliography and if you enjoyed Star Wars, guess what? 
  13. J.V. Jones — although this writer doesn't have the impressively lengthy bibliography that the other authors on this list have, her Sword of Shadows series is so incredibly good that there was no way I would leave her off. I've been waiting and waiting for her next, because much like George R.R. Martin when she finally delivers the next in the series, I know I won't be disappointed. 
  14. R.A. Salvatore — Have you read the Dark Elf trilogy? WTF! Get it now! Salvatore writes in elegant prose and succeeds in describing evil in such glittering perfection and yet with such monstrous thoroughness that you will be held spellbound. Imagine one good person born in hell, raised by demons. Trained to fight by a devil. That person is Drizzt Do'Urden.
  15. Dave Duncan — The first books I read by this author were from the Seventh Sword series. It was a fascinating juxtaposition of swords and gods on the one hand and the inevitable intrusion of science on the other. Later I read his four book A Man of His Word series and I can tell you that this was some incredibly suspenseful storytelling! Don't miss the next four in the same universe entitled: A Handful of Men.
  16. Steve PerryThe Man Who Never Missed, the first book in the Matador series, is the kind of book that changes you.  The person I was when I began reading that book, wasn't the same person by the end. It's not just thought provoking; it's not just entertaining. Most of us believe we're powerless. We are one vote among hundreds of millions—ultimately and statistically insignificant. The universe by Steve Perry introduces insignificant people who refuse to be ignored. All that aside the Matador series is tremendously entertaining.
  17. Frank HerbertDune a book read by millions and millions. It's considered one of the best in science fiction and with good reason. The plot is rich and interwoven with a metaphysical idée fixe called Melange. The books themselves will pull you out of yourself. You'll forget for a time who you are and find yourself transported into a malevolent world of betrayal where seemingly Darwin's survival of the fittest has run amok.
  18. Steven King — The word "prolific," is completely incapable of conveying the massive library this author has compiled. King is a workhorse and the plow he tills the soil with is a typewriter. (probably a keyboard these days) Have you read The Stand? Some might argue that it's not sci-fi because there are no spaceships or light-sabers. Some might argue that it's not fantasy because they're no elves, wizards or dragons. To me it's a crossover. The Stand is a combination of contemporary humanity combined with a disease—think Ebola—the end of the world, and finally the epic showdown between God and Satan, good vs. evil. All that in just one book. (King has written so many books that I don't think even he knows how many there are.) You have to read the seven book Dark Tower series, Firestarter, The Mist... King's ability to weave a story out of just about anything is uncanny, and often horrifically disturbing.
  19. Julian May — I first started reading her with a book called: The Many Colored Land. This book is a cross between science and fantasy. Bored twenty-first century would-be explorers could take a one-way trip back in time to the Pliocene epoch, to a particular river valley doomed to be swallowed by massive volcanic eruptions. A dead end in the distant past with a window of opportunity was available for the daring few to escape their endless ennui. No time paradoxes are possible because nothing and no life form will be able to survive the coming apocalypse. Imagine their surprise to discover they were not alone!
  20. Steve Miller & Sharon Lee — I don't enjoy romance novels. With that said, if the writers are talented and their subject is fascinating, I can be persuaded to take part. Forget that the Liaden novels are inherently romance novels. The plots are so sophisticated, thrilling, and enjoyable that the romance takes a back seat. Don't worry; there's no heaving bosoms or explicit sexual descriptions. The stories center around a world called Liaden where cut-throat entrepreneurs wheel-and-deal and those who can't cut the mustard often have their throats ... well ... you get the idea.

This list is incomplete. There are many other authors who deserve to be here. In truth if I was fair-minded enough, and stubborn enough I'd list my top one-hundred. Unfortunately there's just so much time in the day and just so much energy I have left. 

I'll finish with this thought: Song writers can fool all of the people some of the time with three minutes of violent grating noise. Painters can fool some of the people all of the time with shit in a can or piss in a jar. But when you sit down with a book, you're endeavoring to spend many hours seeking understanding of the writer's vision. We who read are not fools. We're not reading to enhance our own popularity. We read because we truly enjoy being entertained. If you write boring long-winded meandering chapters that begin nowhere and end nowhere, then the only people you'll fool are the people who claim they love Tolkien. 

P.S. Didja-ya ever notice that LOTR fans are always watching soap operas, reality shows, and Broadway musicals?