chris_gerrib: (Default)
Scott Adams, the gift that keeps on giving, dashed off a blog post on his lunch hour in which he solves the North Korea problem. Like much emanating from the Alt-Right at the moment, his idea is at best half-baked. Scott, like many of the alt-right, is completely unable to understand what the various groups want. So, he makes an assumption about what they want, then follows that assumption down a logical path. But because he hasn't walked in the other guy's shoes, his understanding of their goal is so far out that his proposal makes no sense.

In this particular case, Scott assumes that China wants a peaceful Korean peninsula. Well, they'd like and would take a peaceful region, but what they absolutely don't want is for North Korea to collapse. That would spark a massive refugee problem and other political and economic heartburn. China also doesn't want a well-armed and Western-sponsored nation on it's border. China likes buffer zones. As a bonus, North Korean antics distract the US, giving China a freer hand in the region. This means China can't and won't push too hard on North Korea.

Scott assumes the North Korean leadership is interested in personal financial gain, so his plan gives them time to move their money overseas to hide it. Maybe, but it's entirely possible that the Kim family are psychopaths who just want people to be scared of them. It's also possible that they think Communism is "right" and the current poverty is character-building. Lastly, something is keeping the army from just taking over. Perhaps if one removes the "threat" of invasion from the South, the army will see that as a green light to take over.

At any rate, the failure of the Alt-Right and Trump to understand this is part of a whole. Somebody once said that for every problem there was a solution that was simple, obvious and wrong. The Alt-Right has a platform full of such solutions.

Ah!

May. 30th, 2017 08:44 am
chris_gerrib: (Default)
For budgetary reasons, I did not go to ConQuest in Kansas City this year. (NASFIC will cost twice as much as ConQuest.) Thus, I went downstate for my Memorial Day weekend and visited the parents. It proved a very relaxing weekend, and I'm glad I did.

Last night, I read the Hugo short story nominations for this year. Yea gods and little fishes was the John C. Wright offering bad! As per Sad Puppies Central Command best practices, Wright took a collection of right-wing strawmen, dialed them up to 15, and used them to beat the reader vigorously about the head and shoulders. I'm sure he thought he was clever in casting himself as the boogeyman and a nubile naked "girl" as the heroine, but I found that in particular and the story in general as the failure mode of clever.

I found the Jemisin story a bit too opaque, and have no strong opinions either way on the Wong. The other three I felt were pretty strong contenders. In the novel category, I haven't read three of the six (Jemisin, Anders and Chambers) and bounced hard off of the Palmer. It looks like I've got my work cut out for me.
chris_gerrib: (Default)
I was flying back from a business trip to Orlando today, so I didn't see much news. I did note that the GOP, in a squeaker of a vote, repealed Obamacare. I'll just note the hypocrisy of "read the bill" (which they didn't) and "jam through without debate" (ditto) and the complete lack of bipartisan support for this bill (which supposedly made Obamacare bad). I will note that I think the Republicans have shot themselves in the foot, much like the Sad Puppies did with the Hugo affair.

So, in the Sad Puppies affair, a bunch of maximalists jammed through a slate of nominees. Many people (including Yours Truly) came out of the woodwork to put the kibosh on this. Trump and the GOP have jammed through something that will prove to be unpopular and unworkable. People have been coming out of the woodwork against Trump since the day he won the election, and this will continue.

In general, when maximalists gain control of a situation, anti-maximalists come out of the woodwork to oppose them. In the Civil War, when Southerners, upset that the North wouldn't allow them to expand slavery (see South Carolina's declaration of secession), left the Union and tried to take the Navy and coastal forts on the way out, people came out of the woodwork in opposition.

Being a maximalist generates maximal resistance.
chris_gerrib: (Pirates of Mars)
Natalie Luhrs waxes eloquently on the subject of empathy. It's well worth a read.

What struck me is her somewhat off-handed tie-in to the Sad Puppies affair. One of the things which struck me is the inability of professional writers to exhibit empathy. I was (and remain) struck by the idea that people who make money telling stories (Brad Torgersen, Larry Corriea) couldn't grasp that people want to see themselves in the stories they consume.
chris_gerrib: (Me 2)
I purchased and read Forbidden Thoughts, the much-hyped book from Sad Puppies Central Command. For the most part, I found it neither forbidden nor thoughtful. Rather, it was heavy-handed to the point of immobility, (mostly) poorly-written and consistently poorly edited. A couple of stories saved this book from the shame of a one-star review, but only barely.

There were several non-fiction articles in the book, all but the introduction being recycled blog postings from the Big Three of Sad Puppydom, Tom Kratman, Larry Correia and Brad R. Torgersen. The postings were heavy-handed diatribes when written, and age has done them no favors. Yiannopoulos phoned in a semi-original introduction, but his idea that Science Fiction is under attack by the Evil Left is unoriginal and remains unsupported by such trifles as fact.

On the fiction side, most of the short stories take a favorite right-wing strawman, dial it to 15, then use it to beat the reader vigorously about the head and shoulders. Chief offender was “At the Edge of Detachment” by A. M. Freeman. There, a parent can have their child killed up to the age of 13 – an “allegory” of abortion. Other stories were similarly ham-fisted, and most were unreadable.

Having said that, there were a couple of readable short stories. If that sounds like damning with faint praise, so be it. Notable shorts:

World Ablaze by Jane Lebak – for some reason, Catholics are being persecuted and arrested by the State. If you can swallow that, the story works fairly nicely.

Amazon Gambit by Vox Day – here, the author sets up an all-female military unit that, For Reasons, must fight a primitive enemy hand-to-hand. They win, although it takes a male officer to show the Poor Girls what is needed.

Test of the Prophet by L. Jagi Lamplighter – This story, if given a decent editor, would be commercially viable in any market. A woman born and raised in Pakistan, who moved to America and became a US Marine, needs to go back to Pakistan because her beloved cousin has gotten himself mixed up in the Taliban. We learn (almost too late – a good editor would have frontloaded this) that the woman can see ghosts. We learn (in an entertaining but 10% too long and talky) section that one of the things said ghosts have been up to is inserting errors into every religion’s doctrine. Again, not bad at all.

So, no, I really don’t recommend Forbidden Thoughts, especially if one wants, you know, actually forbidden thoughts.
chris_gerrib: (Me 2)
Hugos

1) Nicholas Whyte, the Hugo administrator for Worldcon 75, has a very cogent analysis of last year's Hugo results had all the new rules been in effect. The combination of EPH and 5 and 6 seem to result in a much better ballot.

2) At Wright's House of Wrong, Mr. Wright goes off on (what is for him a short) rant on the poor quality of recent Hugo nominations. My reply:
Mr. Wright: your editor, deliberately and with malice aforethought, loaded the short fiction categories with as much crap as he could. The only reason any award was given in short fiction is because Thomas A. Mays withdrew. As per his statement at the time, he withdrew because of the ballot-loading.

In short, sir, your complaint about the poor quality of Hugo-winners is rather like a man killing his parents and then asking for mercy from the judge because he's an orphan.


ETA: Mr. Wright's response to the above was to call me a jackass in one comment and in a second comment [wallowing] "in the filthy sewer of your sickening dishonesty, still have the gall to address an honest man, much less upbraid him as if I, and not you, have done something wrong."

I'm never in doubt where I stand in his regard.

Sieges

Via Wikipedia, the Siege of Sidney Street. In January 1911, two crooks holed up in a building in Sidney Street, and the London police had to call in the Army for help. A young Home Secretary, one Winston Churchill, a born micro-manager, ended up on-scene and on camera in one of the earliest newsreels. Really quite interesting.
chris_gerrib: (Me 2)
Links of interest to me:

1) The nearly-abandoned town of Cairo Illinois. It's gone from 15,000 people to 2,000, and is fading fast. Soon, we'll have another ghost town in Illinois.

2) A very nice article by Raechel Acks on What's being done to fix the Hugo awards.

3) A fascinating story - A Hit Man Came to Kill Susan Kuhnhausen. She Survived. He Didn’t.
chris_gerrib: (Me 2)
I don't have a lot to say today, so here's the portion of the DragonCon Awards finalist list that I give a damn about with my vote in italics.

1. Best Science Fiction Novel
Somewhither: A Tale of the Unwitheriing Realm by John C. Wright
Raising Caine by Charles E. Gannon
Ancillary Mercy by Ann Leckie
Agent of the Imperium by Marc Miller
Aurora by Kim Stanley Robinson
The Life Engineered by J-F Dubeau

2. Best Fantasy Novel (Including Paranormal)
The Cinder Spires: The Aeronaut’s Windlass by Jim Butcher
Asteroid Made of Dragons by G. Derek Adams
Son of the Black Sword by Larry Correia
The Fifth Season by N.K. Jemisin
Changeling’s Island by Dave Freer
Grave Measures by R.R. Virdi
Blood Hound by James Osiris Baldwin

3. Best Young Adult / Middle Grade Novel
Updraft by Fran Wilde
Steeplejack by A.J. Hartley
Trix and the Faerie Queen by Alethea Kontis
Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo
The Shepherd’s Crown by Terry Pratchett
Calamity by Brandon Sanderson
Changeling’s Island by Dave Freer
Carry On by Rainbow Rowell

4. Best Military Science Fiction or Fantasy Novel
Allies and Enemies: Fallen by Amy J. Murphy
Hell’s Foundations Quiver by David Weber
The Price of Valor by Django Wexler
Wrath of an Angry God: A Military Space Opera by Gibson Michaels
Blood in the Water by Taylor Anderson
Chains of Command by Marko Kloos
The End of All Things by John Scalzi (note: If Scalzi hadn't withdrawn this would be my vote)

5. Best Alternate History Novel
1635: A Parcel of Rogues by Eric Flint & Andrew Dennis
League of Dragons by Naomi Novik
Deadlands: Ghostwalkers by Jonathan Maberry
Bombs Away: The Hot War by Harry Turtledove
Germanica by Robert Conroy
1636: The Cardinal Virtues by Eric Flint & Walter H. Hunt

6. Best Apocalyptic Novel
A Time to Die by Mark Wandrey
Chasing Freedom by Marina Fontaine
The Desert and the Blade by S.M. Stirling
Ctrl Alt Revolt! by Nick Cole
Dark Age by Felix O. Hartmann
The Fifth Season by N.K. Jemisin

7. Best Horror Novel
Disappearance at Devil’s Rock by Paul Tremblay
Chapelwood by Cherie Priest
Honor at Stake by Declan Finn
An Unattractive Vampire by Jim McDoniel
Souldancer by Brian Niemeier
Alice by Christina Henry

8. Best Comic Book
Ms. Marvel
Daredevil
Providence
DC Universe: Rebirth
Civil War II
Saga
Astro City

9. Best Graphic Novel

Sacred Heart by Liz Suburbia
The Sandman: Overture by Neil Gaiman
Killing and Dying by Adrian Tomine
Virgil by Steve Orlando
March: Book Two by John Lewis & Andrew Aydin
Chicago by Glenn Head

10. Best Science Fiction or Fantasy TV Series
Jessica Jones – Netflix
The Flash – CW
Daredevil – Netflix
Game of Thrones – HBO
The Expanse – Syfy
Doctor Who – BBC
Outlander – Starz

11. Best Science Fiction or Fantasy Movie

Crimson Peak
Star Wars Episode 7: The Force Awakens
Ant-Man
Captain America: Civil War
Deadpool
The Martian
chris_gerrib: (Me 2)
The various factions of Puppies told us that Worldcon and the Hugo awards were "elitist" and "not what real fans read." We were assured that all sorts of stuff that "small f fans liked" weren't on the ballot. (Note, those are not scare quotes but actual, somebody-said-that quotes.) If only DragonCon or San Diego ComicCon would do an award, well, we'd see the real truth.

So, DragonCon just started an award. Anybody could vote, so I did. After a nomination period in which everybody could nominate one work per category, now we've got a final ballot. Here's part of the list:

Best Science Fiction Novel
The Life Engineered by J-F Dubeau
Agent of the Imperium by Marc Miller
Raising Caine by Charles E. Gannon
Somewhither: A Tale of the Unwitheriing Realm by John C. Wright
Ancillary Mercy by Ann Leckie
Aurora by Kim Stanley Robinson

Two of the works (Gannon and Leckie) were on the Nebula final list. Leckie's on the Hugo list, and Kim Stanley Robinson's no stranger to either list. The list is not without Puppie-dom, however. The first two works listed are self-published, and Somewhither is Castilia House.

Skimming down the rest of the list, the fiction categories seem to be reasonably well-salted with the same sort of stuff that we see in Hugo and Nebula voting. Now, since we can only vote for one per category, we'll see what gets the final nod. So far, color me unimpressed.
chris_gerrib: (Me 2)
Josh Marshall of Talking Points Memo has written a series of posts called the brittle grip series. In these posts, he documents "growing calls from the extremely rich to not only be able to use their money without limit to shape the political process but to do so anonymously to avoid being "intimidated" or "vilified"."

I don't think this is just the rich. I think this is modern American conservatism. You see a similar phenomenon in my favorite American conservatives, be they at Simberg's Flying Circus (which I haven't visited for a while), Torgersen's Undisclosed Location or Wright's House of Wrong. In all three (and others) people who exercise their free speech rights in ways critical of the host's actions are accused of wanting to ship the host to a gulag or otherwise forcibly silence them.

To be clear - nobody is silencing the American conservative. Criticism is not silencing.
chris_gerrib: (Me 2)
I have a bit of time on my hands, so you get a two-fer today. John C. Wright, a man who will never use two words when ten could be used, is upset at George Will. Will thinks Trump becoming the Republican nomination is less-than-good for the Republican Party. Wright says of Will "fall you must, for you have broken faith with us" and much more along similar lines. (If one word is good, two are better and ten are great.) A few "highlights" from the post and the comments suggest the problem.

Delusions

Wright says Muslim rape-gangs roam the streets of Europe because of Obama, and Clinton wants that to continue. Gee, I missed seeing those gangs in London when I was there and WTF is an American President supposed to do with local law enforcement in Europe?

Lack of Understanding of Process

"Look at all the insane things the left has been able to accomplish! The last 5 years have seen them imposing socialized health care, forcing everyone to pretend that homosexuals can be married..." - as of mid-2015, 55% of Americans approved of gay marriage. Majorities tend to get what they want.


A willingness to destroy the village to save it

"And in return, we got ... nothing. The spineless Congress funded all Obama's utopias." - The alternative being to shut down the Federal government?


Any corollary between this and the Sad / Rabid Puppy view of the Hugos is strictly coincidental...
chris_gerrib: (Me 2)
In regards to the Rabid Puppy affair, one of my Facebook commentors mentioned that the whole dispute reminded him of the arguments among faculty in college departments. These disputes are noted for being long-running and bitter, fought over seeming trivia, but with all the zeal of a knife-fight. I said that the problem with academia is that the knives are too dull to cut. Herewith I expand that thought.

Vendettas, or what in America we call "feuds," tend to be long-running affairs. This is in part because many of the participants forget why the fight started. The Hatfield - McCoy feud started over a pig. The Puppies started over a campaign by Larry Correia to get him and his Hugos. But these original motives are either long forgotten or mythologized by the competitors. For example, because Larry declined a rigged nomination in SP3, he's a hero in Puppydom.

In real vendettas, there's an actual cost - people get killed. In most real-life disputes, there are real costs, from lost friendships, lost jobs and/or broken noses. Not so in Puppy-land or academia. Nobody will loose anything except a bit of dignity.

Also in real life, we tend to have conflict-resolution measures. The police can be called, or somebody's boss can put an end to fighting. The Hatfield - McCoy mess festered because law enforcement, especially across state lines, was too weak. Here, precisely because the stakes are so low, no conflict-resolution mechanism exists. So the war continues.
chris_gerrib: (Me 2)
On Social Pressure

One of the arguments against changing the nomination process for the Hugos is that "social pressure will change behavior." Maybe, but America's high schools and colleges are full of people who got tattoos, piercings or weird haircuts solely to piss off a social group (their parents). In short, if the desired response is to get society or a group thereof angry at one, social pressure will have exactly the opposite effect.

Why Is VD Focusing on Science Fiction

Eric Flint, for one, wondered why VD was focusing his self-proclaimed immense talents on the banality of a science fiction award. I've never met the man (fortunately) but I suspect there are two reasons. First, VD likes science fiction. If he was a dog fancier, he'd go to dog shows. Second, VD is a petty tyrant. Like all such petty tyrants, he (consciously or not) has found a niche small enough to allow him to safely exercise his tyranny.

Hugo Voting

People are not automatons, and I've already seen people refer to some of the more popular Puppy nominations as human shields. Voting strategies like this are being floated. (If you think it might have got on the ballot without a Puppy boost, vote it on merit.)

The Hugo award

Scalzi is wise on the subject of the Hugo award. Basically, the Hugos are fine. The problem is that a group of people have decided to exploit a flaw in the nominating process (and look like asses while doing so) because, well, they're asses.
chris_gerrib: (Me 2)
So the Hugo nominations have been announced. Unfortunately, even with over 4,000 nominating ballots, AKA "yet another record" we have a fair amount of Puppy-doo on the ballot, pretty much all Rabid. As predicted here, Wile E. Coyote Super-Genius At Large (tm) Vox Day's strategy of picking a mix of popular works and clear fan insult means his net victory looks larger than it is. As John Scalzi said, he jumped in front of an existing parade and pretends he's leading same.

Still, at first blush, several categories look to be clear write-offs. Related Works is full-on Rabid (pity, I *like* Gene Wolfe). In Short fiction, I read There Will Be War and am drawing a blank on "Seven Kill Tiger" so that category's not promising. Fan writer looks like it's Mike Glyer's year, and Fancast doesn't look promising. Pro Artist is also heavily Rabid.

Given that Hugo voters aren't automatons, I expect that categories with either non-Rabid picks or obvious bones to the fans will get awards. I don't vote in Graphic novel, so I can't predict that one, but it looks like four categories will be no-awarded (shorts, related, fancast and pro artist).

At a fairly recent con, I was listening to and being swayed by an argument that social pressure would fix the Hugo nominations without needing to pass EPH or my own 4 and 6. Apparently I was wrong. Damn shame, really. But then given the recent "Boaty McBoatface" kerfuffle, apparently in this day and age we can't have nice things.
chris_gerrib: (Me 2)
I am not a fan of April Fools. Most such jokes hit me before I'm fully caffeinated. Trust me - very few things amuse me before caffeine. Herewith, a few (I hope) non-foolish thoughts.

Rabid Puppies

The nominating phase of Hugo voting is over, so now we await the counting. Wile E. Coyote, Super-Genius At Large over on his site is crowing about victory. Of course, said "victory" (if it happens, given that the fat lady has not sang yet) requires him to celebrate both Ancillary Mercy and Seveneves. The former is the latest in a series of books that assign everybody to the female gender and the later is a book in which seven female astronauts become the sole survivors of humanity. Bottom line - if you define victory broadly enough, you can always win.

Land Ownership in the American West

Until Donald Trump's latest shoot-foot-then-put-in-mouth incident, much buzz was heard on various conservative sites to the effect of "the Federal government owns too much land in teh west." Hello, Homestead Acts, anybody? We spent a century trying to give that land away and couldn't. The simple fact is that most of the land in states like Utah and Arizona is worthless. It costs more money in terms of providing water than one can get out of the land by grazing. So, since we couldn't give the land away, even to the states, the government manages it.

ETA - because I'm feeling my oats a bit:

chris_gerrib: (Me 2)
So, over at Mad Genius Club, Dave Freer had thoughts on Sad Puppies 4. Thoughts I responded to (in part) by quoting various people who asked to be pulled from their list, including Cat Valente who changed her mind and decided to stay on the list.

This prompted a lively discussion about turning down awards, of which the following is a typical sentiment: It’s about fear that their fellow tribe members will turn on them for not supporting the tribe vociferously enough. In other words, reprisals.

To which I responded:

Or we could just take people at their word. (I know, what a novel concept.)

It’s the Golden Rule, people – if you want to be taken at your word for your motivations, then you need to take others at their word for their motivations.

*** end response ***

Discussion and Amplification of Above

I'm tired - tired of being called a CHORF, a SJW, a liar, somebody being paid off by Tor (Christ, I haven't even scored a free bookmark from Tor) or a little guy that does what he's told. Respect is a two-way street. If you want my respect, show me some, or at least pretend to.

Now, I've cast my nominating votes, and I intend to evaluate whatever makes the final Hugo list on the merits regardless of how it got there, but fair warning - my patience is shot.
chris_gerrib: (Me 2)
So I said Friday that Sad Puppies 4 is so far this is everything Sad Puppies 3 was not, namely open and transparent. Unfortunately, the leadership has not made as clean a break from the past as one would have liked.

Specifically, several people, on finding out that they were on the SP4 reading list, asked to be taken off. One person (John Scalzi) had very publicly recused himself from the Hugos well prior to the list being generated. Rather than acting like adults and graciously saying "okay, we'll pull you," the SP4 principals issued various pissy blog posts about how wrong these requests were.

This frankly baffles me. Generally speaking, if you nominate somebody for an award and they say "no thanks" the polite, normal and human response would be "okay, no problem, we'll nominate something else." One might add "but we really liked your stuff, you should reconsider." Anything else is simply being rude.

Further, suggesting that turning down an award nomination is "insulting to your fans" is baffling. I suppose their are cultures in which one must accept any gift offered, but I didn't think we lived in one.

Lastly, saying "but he did X" doesn't cut it either. Two wrongs don't make a right and never did.
chris_gerrib: (Me 2)
So, after much Sturm und Drang, the Sad Puppies have released this year's recommended list. A few thoughts.

1) Kate Paulk released a Google spreadsheet she used to tabulate the votes. It was noticeable how few people participated. For example, for Campbell award, 43 votes were cast. Best novel looks more popular, with 133 works nominated, but still, for this round the Sads don't seem to have a huge number of people.

2) Along the lines above, the distribution looks very "normal." Lots of stuff getting 1 or 2 votes, with the #10 novel, Ancillary Mercy, getting 9 votes.

3) Going by the works nominated, very little of the top tens jump out at me as controversial. The closest we get to controversy is nominating seemingly everybody at Baen for Best Editor Long Form. Well, that and nominating a Scalzi novella (he recused himself this year).

In short, so far this is everything Sad Puppies 3 was not, namely open and transparent.
chris_gerrib: (Me 2)
The Internet version of cleaning out the break-room refrigerator at work.

A) The Rise of 'victimhood' culture. My immediate response was "paging the Sad Puppies - Sad Puppies, please pick up a white courtesy phone." Alas, this is truly Both Sides Do It. From Holly Messinger.

B) Also from Ms. Messinger, some indie Westerns I'd like to watch.

C) A comment on free speech. Presented without endorsement.

D) Ever wonder why barber shops don't take credit cards? Wonder no more. Appropriate as I just got my hair cut this morning.

E) For management types: The Parable of the Monkeys -- The Persistence of Organizational Culture.

F) Sailors watch the birth of an island.
chris_gerrib: (Me 2)
I need to clean out some links, so here - now they're your problem!

A) This fascinating site promises to tell you how many people have your last name and where they live. According to the site, only 26 people in the world are named "Gerrib." I suspect that's actually high, as our name is an Anglicized version of an uncommon Lithuanian name.

B) Here's an interesting video about how difficult it is to drive a Model T. Hint - you have three pedals on the floor, none of which control the gas.

C) Of interest to those who've gone down to the sea: This massive, out-of-control cargo ship is about to crash into the coast of France.

D) A very powerful and simple explanation of how slate voting in awards is bad and how to fix it.

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