On Robert A. Heinlein (1964):
So the banker is the son of a bitch in the deal--Or is he, now? Bankers never handle their own money to any important extent; they are custodians of other people’s money. If the banker thinks that it is a bad deal in the long run [because of discrimination], is it not his solemn duty to his stockholders and his depositors to refuse it? No matter how it offends the “human rights” of purple people eaters? Is he morally justified in hypothecating other people’s money in a deal which he considers risky--whether the risk be on that one piece of paper, or long-term risk for his whole crazy structure of loans and futures and so forth? I say he is not; he is a steward and must behave as one--not as a social reformer. Are you and I entitled to a backseat veto over his judgment? No, it ain’t our money. So far, I think, no argument--You, the banker, and the subdivider are each morally entitled to turn down the purple people eater...
And me on Twitter via Storify:
The Heinlein Foundation appears to have taken down its Virginia Edition Sample.
Here's the letter to F.M. Busby from it:
EDITOR’S NOTE: This letter may never have been sent, possibly due (in part) to its racial contents, still incandescently incendiary forty-five years later. Heinlein moved the letter bodily to his “Story Notes” desk file, possibly because of its relevance to the underlying background of Farnham’s Freehold. The first page of the letter is missing, so we pick it up in mid- sentence and undated, though Virginia Heinlein noted on an index card stored with the letter that it must, by internal evidence, have been written sometime in 1964 or 1965 and in any event before October 1965 (when the Heinleins moved from Colorado Springs). The letter is printed otherwise complete and as Heinlein wrote it.
...long enough that I am seriously annoyed at the amount of time I've wasted on it, because that time could have been better spent reading a good book. Or even writing one. And I think I've finally hit my ohfuckitall point. Brad Torgersen has made himself the point man in this year's brouhaha--and I have patiently slogged through his endless blogs, his self-serving sideways denials, his squalid victim racket, and his astonishing refusal to recognize that he has committed all the same sins he is now projecting onto others.
...I considered photographing one and turning out facsimiles by the gross, but Dad advised me not to. 'It is within the rules, Kip, but I've never yet known a skunk to be welcome at a picnic.'
The School of Athens, Plus Gods and Robots...
Jo Walton: The Just City
...has heard the prayers of all her worshipers through the ages who have read Plato's Republic.... So she summons them all to a volcanic island... doomed to be lost to eruption... ensuring that her tampering... will not unduly disrupt the future, which will only dimly remember the island as Atlantis. In this place, men and women from all times and places set to making a place for the children whom they will raise to be philosopher kings....
The raw ingredients out of which J.R.R. Tolkien fashioned The Lord of the Rings are equal parts Norse-Anglo-Saxon-Germanic myth, chivalric romance, and Christian apocalyptics (evil personified and mighty, but also powerful guardian spirits, and over all a God who arranges things so that the highest prizes fall to those who suffer). The mix is extraordinarily powerful.
...eighty miles south of Rome... founded in 529 by St. Benedict of Nursia.... Generations of scribes labored in the abbey’s library to copy texts and preserve artifacts.... From November, 1943, to May, 1944, the hill on which the abbey stood was at the center of one of the largest and bloodiest battles of the Second World War. Monte Cassino was a crucial part of the Gustav Line... ‘fortress strength.’... The Allied command, believing that the Germans were using the abbey as a garrison and ammunition dump, made the controversial decision to bomb Monte Cassino. On February 15, 1944, American B-17s, B-25s, and B-26s dropped more than four hundred tons of explosives on the monastery....
So I followed my son's friend Jennifer Allaway: #Gamergate Trolls Aren't Ethics Crusaders; They're a Hate Group into the wilds of #GamerGate; discovered among other things that in response to the misogyny there is now a Scalzi Gender; and found that Reason continues its downward spiral with some more "harassment has been a two-way street" opinions-of-shape-of-earth-differ journamalism. I then thought I owed it in order to round out my understanding the picture to see what the honchos of science fiction publishing house Baen Books had to say about #GamerGate...
Jo Walton: After Paris: Meta, Irony, Narrative, Frames, and The Princess Bride: [Steven] Brust is definitely writing genre fantasy...
...and he knows what it is, and he is writing it with me as his imagined reader, so that’s great. And he’s always playing with narrative conventions and with ways of telling stories, within the heart of genre fantasy--Teckla is structured as a laundry list, and he constantly plays with narrators, to the point where the Paarfi books have a narrator who addresses the gentle reader directly, and he does all this within the frame of the secondary world fantasy and makes it work admirably.
Jo Walton: After Paris: Meta, Irony, Narrative, Frames, and The Princess Bride: "I am not the intended audience for William Goldman’s The Princess Bride....
I think Goldman wanted to write something like a children’s book with the thrills of a children’s book, but for adults. Many writers have an imaginary reader, and I think Goldman’s imaginary reader for The Princess Bride was a cynic who normally reads John Updike, and a lot of what Goldman is doing in the way he wrote the book is trying to woo that reader. So, with that reader in mind, he wrote it with a very interesting frame. And when he came to make it into a movie, he wrote it with a different and also interesting frame. I might be a long way from Goldman’s imagined reader, but I am the real reader. I love it....
**Jo Walton: "In dialogue with his century":
I was getting a book off the shelf last night and I came eye to eye with the hardcover of Patterson's biography of Heinlein: Robert A Heinlein: In Dialogue With His Century.
And I realised what a stupid title it is.
Especially for Heinlein, who seemed to write things that went straight from the nineteenth century to the future without pausing for the present:
Twentieth Century: Cars, planes, electricity!
Robert A. Heinlein: The nineteenth century is over! Soon we will be going to the stars!
Twentieth Century: The depression, WWII!
Robert A. Heinlein: To the stars! First we'll settle the solar system. Martians!
Twentieth Century: Cold War.
Robert A. Heinlein: Bomb shelters!
Twentieth Century: Boop, be doop, be doop, be doodle-ooo, boop, be boop, be boop, be doodle-ooo, boop, be doop, be doop, be doodle-eye-doo!
Robert A. Heinlein: The nineteenth century is over! Soon we can have sex with our mothers and our clones! Also, come on, hey, we haven't even got to the moon yet, and I want to have sex with Martians!
Twentieth Century: Apollo XI. Done with space now. Boop be doop be doop...
Robert A. Heinlein: The stars!
Twentieth Century: Computers!
Robert A Heinlein: The stars! Also, more hot competent red-heads, are you listening?
Twentieth Century: If one of us isn't listening, are you sure it's me?
Annalee Newitz: 8 Things We Can Do Now to Build a Space Colony This Century: "We talked to scientists and experts about the fundamental things they think we should do right now...
...if we want to have a space colony in the next 100 years.
Save Earth: NASA astronomer Amy Mainzer, who studies Near Earth Objects at JPL, says our number one priority has to be here on our home planet. She told io9 that it's a pretty inhospitable universe out there, so our space colonies will probably never replace home:
From my perspective, the most important thing we can do to be prepared for any activity far in the future is try not to wipe out life here.... The defining challenge of the next hundred years is to come to grips with creating a sustainable future here, as a minimum precursor to building a sustainable future anywhere else.
Change the Way the U.S. Government Plans Space Missions: Ariel Waldman....
If the nation decides to begin a space colony outside of low Earth orbit, you need to talk about changing the way NASA does business. Currently, NASA engages in a capabilities-based and/or "flexible path" approach in which technologies are developed with no specific set of missions in mind.... The National Academy of Sciences' Committee on Human Spaceflight... recommend[s]... NASA switch to a "pathways" approach... [with[ a horizon goal... [and] a very specific set of stepping stones along the way.... As far as technologies needed for a pathway that leads to Mars, the committee assessed 10 high priority areas in terms of the technical challenges. The 10 high priority areas are: Mars Entry, Descent and Landing (EDL), Radiation Safety, In-Space Propulsion and Power, Heavy Lift Launch Vehicles, Planetary Ascent Propulsion, Environmental Control and Life Support System (ECLSS), Habitats, Extravehicular Activity (EVA) Suits, Crew Health, and In-Situ Resource Utilization (ISRU - using the Mars atmosphere as a raw material).
Develop 3D Printing in Space: Les Johnson suggests:
3D printing and the rocket engine are the two inventions that will eventually enable space settlement. With 3D printing you can cut that supply chain and make all the spare parts you need locally.... A colony cannot survive if it is dependent upon a supply chain from Earth. We must mine asteroids for their raw materials (making solar arrays, colony structural materials, etc from the raw materials in Near Earth Asteroids)....
Let Space Tourists Take Vacations in Orbital Hotels: Seth Shostack... heads up the SETI Institute.... He said that our best bet is to create a thriving space tourism industry today.... He told io9:
At space conferences, people interested in commercializing space want to build small hotel rooms in orbit.... The big problems here are not technical--they are liabiltiy. But there is a market.... at any price point for putting people in orbit. So the first eight space hotel rooms are expensive, but then it's cheaper for next eight....
Figure Out How Ecosystems Work:... Hedvig Nenzen... gave us the lowdown on all the things we need to research now if we ever hope to terraform a barren world:
I'm going to assume that we find a new planet without an ecosystem already on it. Thus, in order to live in space we will have to build something from scratch with species we bring us. Scientists are realizing that it's more and more difficult to make an ecosystem from nothing, and to know how exactly the new ecosystem might work. There are just so many details and parts in an ecosystem that we don't understand yet....
Build a Giant Sun Umbrella with Robots: UC Berkeley economist Brad De Long, who has written a great deal about how robots will change our future economy, noodled around late one night with a few robot-fueled ideas he shared with io9:
It seems clear to me at least that anything done at or inside the moon's orbit over the next century will be better done by teleoperated robots, because beyond the van Allen belt and the atmosphere we become very heavy creatures that need not only water but also sheaths of lead. So I have been trying to think of something we might need to do far enough outside the moon's orbit that teleoperated robots won't do it, and that would be wildly profitable--as the late Jim Baen liked to say, successful space travel and space colonization will be exothermic, not endothermic....
The big one, of course, is the giant sun umbrella at L1, 930,000 miles away. That is far enough that teleoperated robots controlled from a local station shielded against solar storms and cosmic rays might do much better then robots with a 10 second response leg controlled from earth, and that might be a vastly cheaper way of dealing with global warming successfully then hoping for the nuclear/better solar fairies to show up.
Were I NASA, I would be planning for the sunshade now—both the Earth-control 10 second lag teleoperated robot and the local station controlled versions. And, of course, the moon base—perhaps robot only, alas!—for manufacturing the station would make lifting it out of the gravity well to L1 much cheaper.
Study How DNA Repairs Radiation Damage: Sylvain Costes is a molecular biologist at Lawrence Berkeley Labs.... He has some advice.... He told io9:
To colonize another planet, you need to focus on biology. The best way to deal with radiation is to take nutrients that will protect you, like antioxidants. Of course, you need the right ones. NASA and other groups have shown that there are a lot of nutrients blueberries, and more efficient ones, that will protect you against radiation. It won't stop radiation, but it can mitigate the effects....
Costes believes we need to plan for space colonies by discovering better anti-oxidants, adopting a "risk management" approach to space travel. He also notes that it's possible that some people simply may not be able to thrive in space, because their DNA doesn't recover from damage as easily as other people's.
Educate People About Our Connection to Space: Mae Jemison... the most important first step is education:
If we are to have any hope of having a robust, healthy nation of humans living, working, growing up and excelling happily in space we have to reconnect people here on Earth today with their ancient space heritage! The task is to get people to feel that we, like our ancestors, are linked to the stars above, not just the ground beneath our feet. And to know that what we prepare now builds the future. Teach that the reason we can predict aspects of flooding today is because everyday people thousands of years ago noticed the connection of the tides to phases of the moon. And they created calendars based on the movement of the stars. Call weather and crop satellite pictures "images from space," or GPS directions "satellite navigation."... But just a rational discussion won't do it; to feel it, let's make sure that at least once a year we go outside at night with all the lights off and experience a star-studded vista!
McSweeney’s Internet Tendency: Unused Audio Commentary By Howard Zinn And Noam Chomsky, Recorded Summer 2002 For The Fellowship Of The Ring (Platinum Series Extended Edition): BY JEFF ALEXANDER AND TOM BISSELL
Chomsky: The film opens with Galadriel speaking. “The world has changed,” she tells us, “I can feel it in the water.” She’s actually stealing a line from the non-human Treebeard. He says this to Merry and Pippin in The Two Towers, the novel. Already we can see who is going to be privileged by this narrative and who is not.
Graydon Saunders (2014): The March North
You will really, really, really like this thing if this is the kind of thing you like. I do...
"They're sending us a Rust, somebody who goes by Blossom, and Halt."
"Halt?" Twitch says the name again, emphasis different. Not supposed to be anything surprising in the monthly update. "What could we possibly have done to deserve Halt?" Twitch might be appalled.
"Five years in fifty means they've got to send Halt somewhere." Which is just true, not an explanation. Not when Independents don't serve with the Line--there's five centuries of custom back of that.
"West Wetcreek isn't somewhere. Even back in the day, Westcreek wasn't anywhere." Twitch was born here, says this like the laws of the universe are being changed. Twitch don't like it.
Max Gladstone: Choice of the Deathless:
Battle demons and undead attorneys, and win souls to pay back your student loans! At the elite demonic-law firm of Varkath Nebuchadnezzar Stone, you'll depose a fallen god, find romance, and maybe even make partner, if you don't lose your own soul first.
"Choice of the Deathless" is a necromantic legal thriller by Max Gladstone, Campbell Award-nominated author of Three Parts Dead and Two Serpents Rise. The game is entirely text-based--without graphics or sound effects--and powered by the vast, unstoppable power of your imagination.
- Explore a fantasy realm with a rich and evolving backstory, based on the novels published by Tor Books.
- Play as male or female, gay or straight, dead or alive (or both).
- Build your career on carefully reasoned contracts, or party all night with the skeletal partners at your firm.
- Navigate intrigue and mystery in a world of scheming magicians and devious monsters.
- Look for love in at least some of the right places.
- Balance student loans, sleep, daily commute, rent payments, and demonic litigation—hey, nobody said being a wizard was always fun.
I have decided that "Thursday Idiocy" adds too much negativity to this blog. Besides: it depresses me. So I want to fold the negativity into the Monday Smackdowns, and use Thursday to blog from the future...
Here is something from 2114:
Consider twentieth-century American science fiction writer Robert A. Heinlein.
Charlie Jane Anders: Brad DeLong, Carol Queen and Farhad Manjoo at Writers With Drinks!:
We bring you "An Evening of Oversharing About Money"!
When: Saturday, July 12, from 7:30 PM to 9:30 PM, doors open 6:30 PM
Who: J. Bradford DeLong, Carol Queen, Farhad Manjoo, Frances Lefkowitz and Charlie Jane Anders
How much: $5 to $20, all proceeds benefit the Center for Sex and Culture.
Where: The Make Out Room, 3225 22nd. St., San Francisco
Arthur C. Clarke (1971): Reunion: "People of Earth, do not be afraid...
...We come in peace--and why not? For we are your cousins; we have been here before.
You will recognise us when we meet, a few hours from now. We are approaching the solar system almost as swiftly as this radio message. Already, your sun dominates the sky ahead of us. It is the sun our ancestors and yours shared ten million years ago. We are men, as you are; but you have forgotten your history, while we have remembered ours
Marisa Lingen has it 100% right on this.
I really do feel for the book's editor, David Hartwell, in trying to wrestle this thing. But he really should have changed his name to "Cordwainer Bird" for this project...
Marisa Lingen: Robert A. Heinlein In Dialogue With His Century: Vol. 2: The Man Who Learned Better, 1948-1988, by William H. Patterson, Jr.: "You would think that Robert Heinlein was a writer who could, if he chose...
...offend plenty of people all on his own without any help. But he has not been left to his own post mortem devices in this! Oh no! No, he has the assistance of William H. Patterson, Jr., to make sure that no stone is left unturned if it might have creeping, crawling things under it that represent stomach-turning levels of ignorance....
Oh, sorry, maybe I should start this review more straightforwardly: I did not like and do not recommend this book.
Let’s go with the paragraph that brought actual tears of rage to my eyes:
They [the Heinleins] had both fallen in love with the northern countries on their earlier trips, but Finland (which does not consider itself to be “Scandinavian”) was special even among them, with a national character of fierce resoluteness–sisu–that precisely suited their mood on this occasion. The Suomic “do what must be done” was the only attitude that a free people could possibly take, living next door to the Soviet Union. The Baltic states–Latvia, estonia, Lithuania–did not have it, and they had been eaten up by the USSR.
That last piece of toxically inaccurate drivel... is William Patterson slandering the people of the Baltic states–using Finland to do it, no less!–on his own hook. For fun. Because it suits his own political agenda.... William Patterson was an American of the Baby Boom generation who decided that what a biography of Robert Heinlein most needed–what people reading about Robert Heinlein most needed–was to have lies about these people just tossed into their reading material for giggles. Because, you know, most people who pick up biographies of mid-century science fiction writers read reams about the history of the Baltic region and can easily have this kind of blatant falsehood countered rather than lodged in the back of their brain as the truth about the people of this region. Most of my regular readers know that I am a serious Finnophile. I find it all the more offensive to have Finland used as a club on other countries that did not have the advantages of geography and political support. This is just wrong. I used up all my obscenities on this yesterday when I was reading, and believe me, I used many. Today I’m left drained. Today I can just say: this is so very wrong.
I wish that was only one thing. I wish that was the only time that the staggering arrogance of Patterson’s ignorance made itself known in this volume. But alas...
Jeet Heer has an excellent review of just why William Patterson's Heinlein biography is inadequate--with pointers as to how to do better:
Jeet Heer: William Patterson's Robert Heinlein Biography Is a Hagiography: "Robert A. Heinlein: In Dialogue with His Century Volume 2: The Man Who Learned Better...
...The science-fiction writer Robert Heinlein once described himself as “a preacher with no church.” More accurately, he was a preacher with too many churches.... a beacon for hippies and hawks, libertarians and authoritarians, and many other contending faiths—but rarely at the same time. While America became increasingly liberal, he became increasingly right wing, and it hobbled his once-formidable imagination. His career, as a new biography inadvertently proves, is a case study in the literary perils of political extremism.... Stranger in a Strange Land (1961)... a counter-culture Bible... equally beloved in military circles, especially for... Starship Troopers (1959), a gung-ho shout-out for organized belligerence... an ode to flogging (a practice the American Navy banned in 1861) and the execution of mentally disturbed criminals, yet Heinlein became a hero to libertarians... The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress....
I want my money back!
William Patterson: Robert A. Heinlein, Vol 2: In Dialogue with His Century Volume 2: The Man Who Learned Better: "Lyndon Johnson’s Civil Rights Act of 1964...
...had come to a vote just before the nominating conventions, and Goldwater had voted against it. Heinlein understood Goldwater was not voting against civil rights: He was voting against federal enforcement of civil rights... a matter for each state to do, individually, for itself... more importantly...a matter of the attitude of individuals, which could not be legislated....
Goldwater’s opinion was Constitutionally “correct.” The U.S. Constitution had not specifically delegated this kind of power to Congress or the Executive, and it did reserve to the states any powers not specifically delegated. Lyndon Johnson... used federal forces for the pragmatic reason that some states—George Wallace’s Alabama, for example—would not cede the rights of U.S. citizens unless coerced.... But it was an honorable disagreement over tactics, not over basic goals...
Kip Manley: Long story; short pier: John C. Wright is recoiling in craven fear and trembling, and I don’t feel so good myself: "Actually, I don’t know that he’s necessarily...
recoiling in craven fear and trembling. But: he has taken down his storied post, “More Diversity and More Perversity in the Future!” in which he excoriated the SyFy [sic] channel for “recoil[ing] in fear and trembling when lectured by homosex activists,” after said post received 800+ lecturing, hectoring comments; and besides, I can never pass up an obscure joke.
Via Patrick Nielsen Hayden: Chip Delany: "Introduction" to Robert A. Heinlein: Glory Road: "What distresses one about the Heinlein argument in general...
when it is presented in narrative form, is that it so frequently takes the form of a gentlemanly assertion: 'Just suppose the situation around X (war, race; what-have-you) were P, Q, and R; now under those conditions, wouldn’t behavior Y be logical and justified?'--where behavior Y just happens to be an extreme version of the most conservative, if not fascistic, program. Our argument is never with the truth value of Heinlein’s syllogism: Yes, if P, Q, and R were the case, then behavior Y would be pragmatically justifiable. Our argument is rather with the premises: Since P, Q, and R are not the situation of the present world, why continually pick fictional situations, bolstered by science-fictional distortions, to justify behavior that is patently inappropriate for the real world?
Abigail Nussbaum goes someplace that I think her best possible self would not:
Abigail Nussbaum: Asking the Wrong Questions: The 2014 Hugo Awards: Thoughts on the Nominees: "I am nominated...
...in the Best Fan Writer category! I want to congratulate my fellow nominees, Liz Bourke, Kameron Hurley, Foz Meadows, and Mark Oshiro.... I also want to thank everyone who nominated me and encouraged others to.... It's terribly gratifying to receive this nomination, especially at the end of a nominating period in which so many wonderful, smart people said such lovely things about me and my writing....
Annalee Newitz: The io9 Manifesto: Science Is Political: "io9 started out in 2007 as the germ of an idea for a site about futurism...
...with a name that was a joke about brain implants. Six and a half years later, we've grown in size--but we've also grown up. Our 2008 manifesto still holds true, but in 2014 we've got some amendments. Here they are.
[Spoilers]. In Vernor Vinge (1999), A Deepness in the Sky (New York: Tor: 0812536355). On pp. 699-700, a brief paragraph completely reverses your understanding of the progress of the book's main plot:
Sherkaner Underhill didn't seem to notice. He moved his head back and forth under the [game] helmet's light show. 'There has to be reconnect. There has to be.' His hands twitched at the game controls. Seconds passed. 'It's all messed up now,' he sobbed."
When you finish that paragraph, your picture of what is going on in the story is turned upside down.
Donna Minkowitz: My favorite author, my worst interview:
It was the most unpleasant interview I’ve ever done. And one of the most instructive. Science-fiction writer Orson Scott Card wrote one of my favorite books of all time. So when he came out with a sequel, I was delirious with the desire to interview him. “Ender’s Game,” which won the Hugo and Nebula awards in 1985, is the best book I have ever read about violence. Who would have thought it would result in an interview in which I wanted to throttle the author? “Ender’s Game” is also about loving your enemies, a goal so important to me that I wrote a book about it myself. How could I guess that interviewing the author would make me question that entire project? A strangely empathic novel about 6-year-olds forced to be military commanders, “Ender’s Game” brought together a fan base that might reasonably be expected to be at one another’s throats (in some cases literally): progressives, children and soldiers....
I’d somehow failed to ascertain that Card was a disgustingly outspoken homophobe. And given his book’s brilliant, humane examination of the ethics of violence, I couldn’t have predicted he’d be someone who thought it was dandy to bomb and massacre civilians. Now, I’m someone who loves contradictions, especially in writers.... But it’s one thing to admire a bigot on the page, and another to endure a two-hour conversation with one. And my love and admiration for Card only made it worse. Talking to Klansmen was nothing compared to talking to the author of the most ethical book I’ve ever read...
Reread Walter Jon Williams's Implied Spaces on the plane yesterday. I had forgotten how good it was...
Now I find myself looking for someone who has written an essay about the Zelazny hero--the Competent Man whose problem is existential despair, and whose hero's journey is his reconnection with people, thus purpose.
The point is not saving the universe (though that happens too. The point is becoming who he is, or perhaps or rather who he once was.
But I cannot find such essay anywhere in the usual places.
Has anybody written it?
Continuum GoH Speech | Epiphany 2.0: Warning for profanity.
My father was afraid for me to come to Australia.
He mostly made jokes about it — “Good, you’ve got dredlocks, maybe they won’t think you’re Chinese”, stuff like that. But I know my father, and I know when the jokes have a serious undercurrent. Now, mind you, I travel alone all the time, and I’m not always traveling to places that are friendly to Americans, or women, or black people. I’ve walked past trucks in Japan blaring “Gaijin go home” on loudspeakers, underneath billboards featuring a black man in an ape costume who was somehow selling breakfast cereal. I’ve sat on a public bus in Italy while a Somali woman was refused entry. I don’t speak Italian so I couldn’t be sure why, but the fact that everyone turned to look at me as soon as the bus pulled off was kind of a hint. And mind you — I live in New York. In Brooklyn, in a rapidly-gentrifying neighborhood called Crown Heights, which is internationally famous for a series of racial clashes between white Hasidic Jews and black Carribbeans; nowadays both groups have largely been driven out, replaced by wealthy young hipsters. But the cause celebre in New York right now is a police policy called Stop-and-Frisk, which gives the cops pretty much the right to search anyone they deem “suspicious” for any reason — and which in practice has resulted in a tremendously disproportionate targeting of black and Latino people for basically the crime of walking around while black or Latino. 95% of those stopped have been found to have committed no crime.
Francis Spufford: Iain M Banks' Universe:
Back in the mid-’80s, when Banks had made his (literary) name with The Wasp Factory, and was contemplating his perverse swallow-dive into genre, there were, roughly speaking, two available ways of doing SF. (I exaggerate and simplify.) With immense difficulty… the better writers within the field… had brought in good prose and ambitious characterisation; they had opened it to politics, to feminism, to formal experimentation; they had redirected it away from the traditional subject-matter of adventure in space and Things With Tentacles, and pointed it instead at plausibly-rendered near futures, at psychological exploration of the alien within…. The only other way of doing it was the tacky, vestigial tradition of writing about rayguns and starships and galactic empires: still going, thanks to Star Wars, but tending to be practised only by the naive, the nostalgic, the conservative, or the featherbrained. “Space opera”, so called, was an embarrassing low-status leftover. So which would an ambitious, high-minded, young Scottish socialist choose, as he bounced on the end of the springboard over the genre lagoon? Why, Option B. Naturally, Option B. Of course, Option B. Banks’ first SF novel, Consider Phlebas, featured interstellar space battles, settings measurable in parsecs, and characters called things like Juboal-Rabaransoa Perosteck Alseyn Balveda dam T’seif. I can remember reading it and feeling as if an electric fan supercharged to hurricane speed were blowing at me out of the pages every time I opened it. Also, feeling mightily puzzled, for from the TS Eliot allusion in the title onwards, this spectacularly un-serious-seeming story seemed to want to carry me to some serious and even melancholy places….
Actually, he doesn't--that's a good deal of the problem.
I must say, N.K. Jemisin's The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms is the damnedest riff on Jane Eyre I have ever read or ever expect to read.
And the rest of her oeuvre is superb as well: worth buying in hardback...
Arianne Emory, Administrator of Reseune on Cyteen around Lalande 46650 in Union, speaks:
Absolutely essential... are adequately diverse [human] genepools. We do not create Thetas because we want cheap labor. We create Thetas because they are an essential and important part of human alternatives. The ThR-23 hand-eye coordination, for instance, is exceptional. Their psychset lets them operate very well in environments in which geniuses would assuredly fail. They are tough, ser, in ways I find thoroughly admirable, and I recommend you, if you ever find yourself in a difficult [wilderness] situation... hope your companion is a ThR... who will survive, ser, to perpetuate his type, even if you do not...
The Singularity in Our Past Light-Cone: Attention conservation notice: Yet another semi-crank pet notion, nursed quietly for many years, now posted in the absence of new thoughts because reading The Half-Made World brought it back to mind.
The Singularity has happened; we call it "the industrial revolution" or "the long nineteenth century". It was over by the close of 1918 http://inversesquare.wordpress.com/2010/11/11/on-veterans-day/:
Exponential yet basically unpredictable growth of technology, rendering long-term extrapolation impossible (even when attempted by geniuses http://vserver1.cscs.lsa.umich.edu/~crshalizi/future.html)? Check.
Massive, profoundly dis-orienting transformation in the life of humanity, extending to our ecology, mentality http://vserver1.cscs.lsa.umich.edu/~crshalizi/reviews/flynn-beyond/ and social organization? Check http://vserver1.cscs.lsa.umich.edu/~crshalizi/reviews/nations-and-nationalism/.
Annihilation of the age-old constraints of space and time? Check http://www.powells.com/partner/27627/biblio/9780674021693.
Embrace of the fusion of humanity and machines? Check http://vserver1.cscs.lsa.umich.edu/~crshalizi/T4PM/futurist-manifesto.html.
Creation of vast, inhuman distributed systems of information-processing, communication http://www.powells.com/partner/27627/biblio/9780801846137 and control http://vserver1.cscs.lsa.umich.edu/~crshalizi/reviews/beniger/, "the coldest of all cold monsters"? Check; we call them "the self-regulating market system" http://www.econlib.org/library/Essays/hykKnw1.html and "modern bureaucracies" (public or private) http://www.powells.com/partner/27627/biblio/9780674940529, and they treat men and women, even those whose minds and bodies instantiate them, like straw dogs http://www.powells.com/partner/27627/biblio/9780807056431.
An implacable drive on the part of those networks to expand, to entrain more and more of the world within their own sphere? Check. ("Drive" is the best I can do; words like "agenda" or "purpose" are too anthropomorphic, and fail to acknowledge the radical novely and strangeness of these assemblages, which are not even intelligent, as we experience intelligence http://vserver1.cscs.lsa.umich.edu/~crshalizi/reviews/cognition-in-the-wild/, yet ceaselessly calculating.)
Why, then, since the Singularity is so plainly, even intrusively, visible in our past, does science fiction persist in placing a pale mirage of it in our future? Perhaps: the owl of Minerva flies at dusk; and we are in the late afternoon, fitfully dreaming of the half-glimpsed events of the day, waiting for the stars to come out.
What good is an internet that does not have an Ascian lexicon anywhere to be found? Well, what good is it?
The only five I recall are:
Behind our efforts, let there be found our efforts!
In times past, loyalty to the cause of the populace was to be found everywhere. The will of the Group of Seventeen was the will of everyone.
The people meeting in counsel may judge, but no one is to receive more than a hundred blows.
How are the hands nourished? By the blood. How does the blood reach the hands? By the veins. If the veins are closed, the hands will rot away.
Where the Group of Seventeen sit, there final justice is done.
What are the others?
Pournelle's Codominium stories from the early seventies used this idea as an explanation for social breakdown -- economically parasitic non-working citizens, paid for by ever-shrinking numbers of taxpayers.
It's been around a long time as a just-so story.
Totally impervious to facts, too; neither pointing out that money is the creation of the state nor demonstrating just how brutally hard poor people tend to work will put a dent in it.
My take is that it's not really economic at all; it's an attempt to de-legitimize democracy as a political process, because democracy keeps getting the wrong answers.
From the point of view of people who believe the whole 47% nonsense, the wrong answers; things like "women are people" and "blacks are people, with the vote" and so on. "Being a real American is about how you act, not what you look like" would seem to be the chief wrong answer and thus frothing insecurity just at the moment, but it's all the things that take away their expectation of the cringing, servile deference of true helplessness from the people around them.
Insisting on total cultural destruction in preference to adaptation is really terrible insecurity management, all the same.
There is something to be written about the contrast between Max Jones in Heinlein's Starman Jones in the 1950s--who maneuvers in a society where the sociological barriers to unfreedom are an oppressive guild system that denies opportunity--and John Christian Falkenberg in Pournelle's CoDominium in the 1970s--who maneuvers in a society where the sociological barrier to unfreedom are the shiftless
Negroes takers and the politicians who use them as mobs.
In the end, IIRC, Max Jones bullies his way into the Astrogators' Guild on brainpower, guts, decisiveness, and an eidetic memory--and then regularizes his status by paying a whopping fine and promises himself to work for equality of opportunity in a generation or so, In the end, IIRC, John Christian Falkenberg traps the "takers" in a stadium and has his troops mow them all down in an unholy combination of the Nika Riots in Constantinople and some modern right-wing South American coup--after which the "makers" have a chance to rebuild civilization on the colony planet.
Five Firebases: I was very pleased when I got the materials for the "Hammer’s Slammers" role-playing game…. I like the art as well, but that leads to a different question: does it look the way I meant it to? The truth is that I write from the mental pictures I formed in the field in 1970 with the 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment, and I wasn’t thinking much about US equipment then. An M48 tank (for example) was something I rode on, having generally mounted by climbing the bow slope. I spent much more time looking from tanks than at them. Therefore I write from the viewpoint of people who don’t think much about the appearance of their own vehicles or fellow crewmen, and whose view of the surrounding landscape is primarily concerned with potential ambush sites and whether the fellow with the hoe in the rice paddy has a Kalashnikov hidden nearby….
Charles Stross, procrastinating:
Charlie's Diary: I'm going to assume no alien invasions or total collapses of technological civilization or significant asteroid impacts, because all three of these are rare in the historical record…. I'm also going to ignore space colonization…. I'm going to assume that we are sufficiently short-sighted and stupid that we keep burning fossil fuels. We're going to add at least 1000 GT of fossil carbon to the atmosphere…. So the climate is going to be rather ... different.
That's [not the agonizer. That's] the agony booth.
The agonizer is a small device which individuals carry for immediate discipline (Spock uses that on the transporter tech after the beam-up which transposes the landing party from one dimension to the other). It's immediate effects are unpleasant but not fatal.
The agony booth is used on Chekov for his attempt to kill Kirk, and is typically used until death (Kirk orders Chekov's release).
Walter Jon Williams:
Year One: It’s been roughly a year since I started making my backlist available in epub formats, so this seems a good time to shuffle through the records and come to some kind of conclusion.
And the conclusion is this:
Thank God for Amazon!
Even if Amazon is yet another megalomaniacal Internet company bent on annihilating all competition and achieving total world domination in its chosen field (250 points!), Amazon has still provided more options for writers than anyone since Gutenberg. The Kindle broke open the world market for ebooks, and created opportunities for people like me, with considerable backlist, to find new readers for their work.
So far I’ve made 11 novels available, along with two novellas and a novelette. Books are available on Amazon, via Barnes & Noble, and on Smashwords, which distributes to Apple, Kobo, and Sony, among others. Sales have been growing month by month...