Old Site Menu

Missive #42

The Three-Body Problem is a science fiction novel written by the Chinese writer Liu Cixin. The title refers to the three-body problem in orbital mechanics. I liked this book enough that I’ll continue to read the series and hope that they are as good.It is the first novel of the Remembrance of Earth’s Past trilogy, but the whole series is often referred to as Three-Body. The trilogy’s second and third novels are The Dark Forest and Death’s End, respectively.

The first volume of The Three-Body Problem was originally serialized in Science Fiction World in 2006 and published as a standalone book in 2008, becoming one of the most successful Chinese science fiction novels of the last two decades. The novel received the Chinese Science Fiction Yinhe (“Galaxy”) Award in 2006 along with many more over the years. By 2015, a Chinese film adaptation of the same name was in production.

The English translation by Ken Liu was published by Tor Books in 2014. Thereafter, it became the first Asian novel ever to win a Hugo Award for Best Novel, and was nominated for the Nebula Award for Best Novel.

The series portrays a fictional past, present and future where, in the first book, Earth encounters an alien civilization in a nearby star system that consists of three solar-type stars orbiting each other in an unstable three-body system. — Edited Wikipedia

Ask the Assassin, or
The Advice Request Emails Won’t Stop Coming
By John Ross

Copyright 2004 by John Ross. Electronic reproduction of this article freely permitted provided it is reproduced in its entirety with attribution given.

The title for this week’s column comes from an incident that happened some years back.  I was having a discussion with a woman, and at one point managed to give her one of my “outside the box” explanations as to why one of her major, lifelong, preconceived notions was entirely wrong.  Her jaw dropped, and she said to me with a touch of wonder in her voice, “You just assassinate people’s assumptions about life, don’t you?”  I thought it the highest sort of compliment.

    This week’s inbox brought the usual mix of wheat among the chaff: requests for financial advice, shooting questions, legislative issues, and relationship concerns.  Included in the last group was the following mildly appalling missive.  I am still scratching my head as to how a person who apparently likes my observations could possibly ignore them so completely.  (Warning to readers: If you’re going to keep emailing me about your problems and your inability to deal with them, I’m going to keep using them for column material.)

    Pretty soon I’m going to start charging you people.  Here goes:

Dear Mr. Ross,

I almost lost my wife of eighteen years due to neglecting her personal feelings and goals. I completely sought my own goals (which happened to be shooting sports) and gave hers no thought except on birthdays, anniversaries, etc. I then went all-out (for our budget) on $300.00-$500.00 expensive weekends out on the town. She left me for a short period (one month), seeking the “grass is greener” man. She returned and we are working things out.

I am now consumed with making her every thought and dream come true. I know she is here to stay, but I am feeling burnt out. I will not last long spending every waking moment trying to make all of her dreams come true, but I don’t know where to stop. All of her requests seem to be to make our life happier together. All of these things cost money: Refinancing, remodeling, and lots of work. I am a do-it-yourself kind of person. All my time is spent finishing the home improvement projects that were started before her affair. I am afraid to spend any time or money on my only hobby, competitive shooting, and I only compete once a year.

Do I get some backbone and share some time between my hobby and making her dreams come true, or do I just be happy making the woman I love happy? It’s too bad for me that you don’t know us personally, I think you would be of great help to me to find the right balance. After coming back home she had a lot of demands to MAKE THINGS RIGHT on my part. Some of it I agree with, some I don’t. I know this isn’t quick and to the point  I hope this is enough info and you can read between the lines. I need advice.


    Steve, I am hesitant to give marriage advice based on one email.  But…

    This is a train wreck in the making.

    “I am now consumed with making her every thought and dream come true. I know she is here to stay, but I am feeling burnt out. I will not last long spending every waking moment trying to make all of her dreams come true, but I don’t know where to stop. All of her requests seem to be to make our life happier together. All of these things cost money: Refinancing, remodeling, and lots of work.”

    If all of her requests really were about making both of your lives better, you wouldn’t be emailing me that these things are working you to death and bankrupting you.  Trying to make “her every thought and dream come true” is a blueprint for failure.  As soon as you accomplish one thing she wants, she will forget all about it and the sacrifices it took and dream up three more.  You compete ONCE a year?  Unless the competition is three months long, you have all but given up doing what you love.

    You need a MAJOR makeover, fast.  If you keep doing what you’re doing, your wife is soon going to lose interest in you permanently, and you’ll be burnt out and broke besides.

    Apparently you value my advice or you wouldn’t have emailed me, but currently you are doing exactly the opposite of what I’ve written.  Go
reread my first two pieces on the subject that I wrote for Ross in Range 14 [Your browser may require you to scroll down to 13 November] and 24 until you get it.  The comments on gifts and testing in column 24 are especially relevant to your case, so I’ll reprint them here:

    Gifts: Gifts can be good at eliciting emotions and even smoothing the rough spots, but don’t make the mistake of giving the wrong kind.  You’ll go broke and not accomplish what you intended.  Since women’s emotions are so powerful, realize that all gifts to women have a soothing effect and “goodwill time frame” that is proportional to the emotion evoked.  This has nothing to do with the value or utility of the gift, believe me.  Whether you’re in the early stages of a relationship or have been married ten years, never give expensive gifts, agree to extensive home remodeling that you don’t particularly want, expensive trips, etc. in the hope that it will improve her feelings for you.  If you do, you’ll be paying for the expenditure long after your girlfriend or wife has stopped smiling at you for what you did.

    Steve, is the little light bulb going on over your head yet?

     Instead, give little nothing gifts like a funny card, or a stuffed animal holding flowers, and say “I was thinking of you today.” Do this at unexpected times.  A week later (or maybe even the next day), the $12 stuffed Dalmatian with the heart-shaped spots will be forgotten, and your woman’s attitude will probably (and understandably) be “What have you done for me lately?”  But guess what?  The same thing will happen a week after you agree to pay for her eight-year-old’s private school tuition, which is a $120,000 tab over ten years.  You do the math. 

    How about now?

    The exception to this rule is if you decide to give an expensive, useful gift to a woman who needs it and who has been exceptionally good to you already.  Few men do this.  Men usually give presents, take women to expensive restaurants, etc. in the hope that the recipient will be grateful.  THIS DOES NOT WORK. Expensive gifts should always be unexpected rewards.  They should never be attempted inducements.

    Is any of this sinking in?

    Testing:  Reread my  7/7 [Your browser may require you to scroll down to 13 November] column’s comments on tests.  Remember that testing will continue until one of you dies.  Even if you break up, she will probably test you if an opportunity presents itself.  Plan for this accordingly.

    Your previous mistake was mostly ignoring her, and being excruciatingly predictable by thinking that spending money on her on anniversaries would balance things out.  Your current mistake is being a spineless wimp by failing every single one of the tests she’s been throwing at you (her leaving for a month was a test, by the way) and being excruciatingly predictable by thinking that “making her every thought and dream come true” will win her over.  Neither of these conditions is attractive to women.

    Start doing things that will create attraction and interest in your wife’s mind.  I describe many of them in columns 14 & 24.  The money they cost is little to nothing, and you are currently doing none of them.  Get with it, and good luck.

John Ross 4/17/04

Note to readers: I have not yet decided whether to make Ask the Assassin a regular column. Comments?

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *