chris_gerrib: (Me)
We had a good gully-washer of a storm last night, and it apparently blew in some links.

A) an American tradition is anything that happened to a babyboomer twice.

B) Occasionally, I worry that the loud and militant right wing in America will go from yelling to action. Then, I stop worrying when A ten-million-man march comes up 9,999,900 men short.

C) On "free" health care: then clearly if chemotherapy is free, people will get as much as they can. It’s just simple logic once you “think like a freak” and see that the market for health care is just like the market for cars, with similar elasticity of demand and ability to do comparison shopping. (sarcasm alert, for those so impaired)

D) One of the received truths of gun people is that the M-1 carbine lacked stopping power. Well, this guy fired carbine, rifle and pistol rounds at an aluminum plate with some surprising results.

E) Some wise words on diversity in storytelling.
chris_gerrib: (Me)
From John Scalzi at metafilter:

Robert Heinlein -- or a limited version of him that only wrote Starship Troopers, The Moon is a Harsh Mistress and maybe Farnham's Freehold or Sixth Column -- is to a certain brand of conservative science fiction writer what Ronald Reagan is to a certain brand of conservative in general: A plaster idol whose utility at this point is as a vessel for a certain worldview, regardless of whether or not Heinlein (or Reagan, for that matter) would subscribe to that worldview himself.

Or to tl:dr The Great Scalzi: "don't confuse me with the facts, man!"
chris_gerrib: (Me)
I ran out of steam last night, and blew off my standing trivia competition. I ended up in bed at 9:30, and am blaming a series of late nights and early mornings at the Rotary conference and my writer's workshop. Since the steam is re-building, have some links:

A) A history lesson for Cliven Bundy - the Homestead Acts.

B) Lying Liars who Lie - a response to the historical revisionism of John C. Wright.

C) An interesting take on the book and movie Silence of the Lambs. Well worth the read.

D) I think I said this before, but another voice saying of the film Ender's Game: "You’re making sociopaths. Sociopaths do not make good fighting leaders. Nor do they follow orders well. And all your failed sociopaths are going to have to go somewhere afterwards: you’re going to break them, teach them these habits, and send them back to civvy-street?"

E) I served on one, so they have a place in my heart: Upgrading the classic FFG. (The one I served on is part of this upgrade.)

F) For my Dad, who wonders why they're not making a movie of my book: 268 science fiction books came out in the month of May.
chris_gerrib: (Me)
John C. Wright asked: If Vox Day were racist, why would he deny it? Fear of your opinion?

My reply:

You invite me to speculate, so I will. First, I note that by denying he's a racist you, Larry Correia and a number of other people are defending him. I suspect if he were a self-proclaimed Grand Poo-bah of the KKK, none of the above would give him the time of day, let alone support.

Second, having watched Vox "reward" John Scalzi's gift of a Big Idea piece with a protracted campaign of slander against Scalzi, I suspect that Vox is playing the role of "professional crank on the Internet." He is, in short, saying outrageous things outrageously in order to drum up web traffic and presumably sell books. Radio "shock jocks" have been doing the same for years. (I think his run for SFWA President was part of this shtick - how he expected to win while alienating over half the members is beyond me.)

Third, thanks to him saying "but I'm not a racist" Larry Correia helped get a very second-rate novelette nominated for a Hugo. From now until the end of time, Vox will be calling himself a "Hugo-nominated author."

In short, there's money to be made and a reputation to be built by acting like a racist and denying it. (It's not a reputation I'd want, but then look at the yahoos on "reality" TV.) The perhaps obvious corollary to that is I think you (in particular) and most of his supporters (in general) are being played for fools.
chris_gerrib: (Me)
There's so much craziness going on at the moment, I'm not sure where to focus on, so I'm not going to bother with mere "focus."

1) Bundy - rumor has it his militia has tossed up roadblocks. It appears to me that local law enforcement is going to try and wait him out. Presumably the "militia" have, like, day jobs and/or will get bored standing in the hot Nevada sun in the ass-end of nowhere.

2) John C. Wright quit SFWA. When I mentioned that the goings-on in SFWA would, if they occurred in any other professional organization, resulted in the same sort of firings, I got called "gentle reader" and "a damn liar" in the same post.

3) Over at The Usual Suspects, Judicial Watch got hold of a collection of emails from three days after the Benghazi fiasco. In one of the emails, somebody says "blame it on the video" which since, while the email was being written, other video-related riots were occurring seemed at least reasonable at the time. But since it was obvious that Benghazi was an al-qaida op, that email was sufficient proof for impeachment.

4) Speaking of the dude that done made the video, I said:

Well, his parole from his conviction for bank fraud said “don’t use the Internet and don’t use false identities.” So a Federal judge decided that making movies on the Internet and using a false ID violated his parole and yanked same.

See, this is what bothers me about libertarians. They want “rule of law” except when it’s a rich white guy (Cliven Bundy, High Plains Welfare Queen) or somebody who pisses off Moslems. In that case, the hell with the law.

Does anybody wonder where a guy fresh out of jail gets $100,000 to pay actors and rent a studio? Is it even possible that some Al Qaida operative paid him to make a movie which they could use to start riots? Nah – that would never happen! /sarcasm/
chris_gerrib: (Me)
A while back, Toni Weisskopf of Baen Books released an essay. The gist of the essay was "back in the good old days, we all worshiped at the alter of Robert Heinlein and all was well. Now that we don't, problems will follow."

As it happens, I like Robert Heinlein's stories, and I think he was a good writer. But, folks, he's dead. Been that way for a while, and I for one think it's a good thing we don't all worship at his altar.

See, back in the day, Zane Grey wrote westerns. They were damn good westerns - got made into movies and such. Everybody who read westerns said "if it ain't a Zane Grey western, I ain't buying."

But Zane Grey's dead. Been that way for a while. And when was the last time you walked into a bookstore and saw a section of westerns? Bueller? Anybody? I won't ask when you bought a western.

My point is obvious - westerns got tied to a dead guy, and they died out. If science fiction allows itself to be tied to a dead guy, so will we.
chris_gerrib: (Me)
My fundraiser came off, we made a bunch of money, and it snowed in Chicago, snarling traffic. I learn via the Internets today that:

1) If I'm not 100% in favor of going to war to defend the independence of Ukraine, then I'm an unpatriotic hater of America. (from [livejournal.com profile] james_nicoll). I suspect that eventually, instead of fighting Russia, we'll be allied with them.

2) If I don't think that Bob Heinlein was the Greatest SF Writer Ever and anybody not writing in his mode is Evil Bad and Just No Good, then I'm no true SF fan. For the record, I like Heinlein, but he was a product of his time.
chris_gerrib: (Me)
Tamara Keel, gun blogger and self-described geek, made a cogent remark about SF, to wit: All Klingons are honor-loving warriors. All dwarves are beer-swilling Lawful Good blacksmiths with, for some reason, bad fake Scottish accents. All elves are ethereal granola-munching bunny-hugging archers. But humans are people and therefore can be good or evil, horticulturalists or mechanical engineers, priests or physicists, saints or monsters.

Now, some SF tries to show aliens as not-monocultural (mine, for one) and others (memorably Babylon Five) very explicitly took a dig at aliens because they were monocultural, but Tam's general point is valid. Much of SF falls victim to the Planet of Hats trope. (Warning! TvTropes link = massive time-suck!)

At any rate, Tam's point should have been as controversial as "water is wet." But today comes news that a number of the "being a bigot is FREEDOM!!11!!" crowd has taken offence. Leading the charge is the inimitable Sarah Hoyt. I liked Hoyt's Darkship series, but I really think she needs to step away from the keyboard a bit.

Having said that, I think this latest volley in the ongoing war ties back to a bigger problem - the apparent inability of (some) conservatives to face facts. I note the "some" in that link because, frankly, Tam would qualify as "conservative" to most people. But since she's able to face a fact, that causes some people to want to kick her out of the club.
chris_gerrib: (Me)
“Mom! They’re Picking On Me!”

In watching the latest brouhaha over SFWA, I have noticed various conservative folks arguing that they are being oppressed / victimized / censored by SFWA. (A nice round-up here, with added hilarity in comments.) Alas, this is nothing new. The American Right has been cultivating a sense of victimhood since at least the Reagan administration. At that time, the leading screamer was one Rush Limbaugh, although I remember the local College Republicans could put out a good whine too. What is amazing is that this whine continued despite conservatives gaining control of the US Government.

Heinlein Is Sexist, Or, Things Change

Via a tangent from the above brouhaha, I was directed to this essay arguing that Heinlein's writing is sexist. My thought is this: for his time, Heinlein was not sexist. For example, one of the complaints of the linked article is that Heinlein's women seemed awful eager to have sex.

But in the 1950s, "good girls" didn't enjoy sex. They closed their eyes and thought of England, or something. (Not that Queen Victoria ever did that). Having said that, things change.

Actually, "things change" is part of what started the original brouhaha. Two older guys said something that, in their youth, would not have been seen as problematic. Now it is.
chris_gerrib: (Me)
Thanks to President's day, I am not at work, but thanks to a snowstorm I'm limiting my outside activities. Herewith, some random thoughts:

1) Various Neanderthals in science fiction continue to shoot themselves in the feet (Mary's "critics," not Mary, are doing the shooting). In other news, water is wet and it's cold in Chicago in February.

2) A fascinating short film - how wolves change rivers. If a wolf can change a river, a man can change the climate.

3) From Jay Lake, who's become (not by choice) a connoisseur of cancer treatment: The French way of cancer treatments.

4) Over the weekend, I went to see the new movie The Monuments Men. It was very well done and quite moving. I highly recommend it.

5) Speaking of things highly-recommended, I picked up a new reviewing gig at Heroines of Fantasy. (Alas, it pays the same as my other gig.) My first review, of the very entertaining book The Shifter's Trail, is up on the site.
chris_gerrib: (Me)
SFWA Wrap-up

I've discussed on several occasions the petition to not saddle the SFWA Bulletin with an advisory board. As it turns out, the petitioners (to quote SFWA President Gould) "express concerns for something that does not and will not exist:" - an advisory board. I think "sound and fury signifying nothing" is the best summary of this event. Although, it did lead to a very humorous response from one quarter.

Gravity

Jay Lake riffed on my post about rational thinking. One last thought: facts are like gravity: they get everybody in the end. Call it a Gerrib's Law.

Link Salad

1) Here's an interesting Kickstarter and vaguely linked to the SFWA petition - women destroy science fiction.

2) Here's the first recorded instance of the F-word in English.

3) An open letter from a Death Star architect.
chris_gerrib: (Me)
Yesterday I had some fun with the latest SFWA controversy. Today via Jay Lake I see this article: Welfare State: Washington's Republican counties depend on Western Washington's money. How can they survive the state budget cuts they demand?

The gist of the article is that the deeply-Republican counties of Washington state are heavily-subsidized by the tax dollars flowing from the Democratic cities. This is not unique to Washington state - most rural counties in most states are subsidized by cities. Nor is it unique that these very counties decry "government spending" and "socialism."

How are these two thoughts linked? Rational thinking, or the lack thereof. In SFWA's case, the petitioners claim a First Amendment right to hijack an association's trade journal for purposes not amenable to the majority of members. In Washington state, rural Republicans demand budget cuts that somehow won't hurt them. It's magical thinking, not rational thinking.
chris_gerrib: (Me)
SFWA member David Truesdale is circulating a petition against the appointment of an advisory board for the SFWA Bulletin. Theodore Beale, Professional Crank At Large, has taken up the cause with his usual tact and courtesy. My questions to Beale are posted below:

So every time the board of a newspaper overrides the editor of that newspaper it's a violation of the First Amendment? Every editor of every publication should have sole discretion as to what they publish?

Isn't, in this case, the Board the duly-appointed representatives of the membership that owns the publication? What recourse, if any, do the members have if their publication prints something they collectively disagree with?

What if the editor of a publication decides not to include something in their publication they have violated the author's First Amendment rights? There's no particular reason to expect say, Jerry Pournelle getting the gig.

More to the point, since when does the First Amendment apply to private organizations? SFWA is not Congress nor otherwise affiliated with government.
chris_gerrib: (Me)
Cranks and Arguing With Same

So John Scalzi is having an argument with some crank on the Internet. I suspect I know which crank, and said crank has his crank dial turned up to 12, or maybe even 13. Having said that, arguing with cranks is like mud-wrestling with a pig - you'll get dirty and the pig kind of likes it. Personally, I try (and don't always succeed) to restrict my crank-wrestling to cases where the crank is obviously and factually wrong.

Guns in the (US) Military

When I was in the US Navy (1985-1994) when a ship was in port in the US, there was exactly one (1) gun not locked up in the armory or a ready locker. This was a 45-caliber pistol (M-1911, WWII-vintage) carried by the Petty Officer of the Watch (POOW). He (and it was always a he back then) stood on the brow or ramp leading up to the ship from the pier. The pistol was kept unloaded, and the POOW had two magazines with 5 rounds each. He would only load a magazine when told by the Officer of the Deck (OOD), and only chamber a round on an additional order from the OOD.

Then one day we pulled into port and the POOW had a nightstick instead of a gun. I asked our ship's weapons officer why, and was told words to the effect of "the only time that gun gets used is when a POOW decides to shoot himself." So no guns for the POOW.

Militaries operate in response to their threat levels. In the US, the threat is accidental or unauthorized discharge, so the solution is keep the guns locked up. In Israel, the threat is terrorist attack, so the solution is to carry your gun everywhere.

This phenomenon carries over to other military activities. In the US, Pearl Harbor was a devastating attack, so we spent most of the Cold War with units on a hair-trigger alert. The Soviets also suffered a surprise attack, but that wasn't nearly as devastating. Also, they couldn't trust their officers like we could. As a result, most Soviet ICBMs were never armed with warheads.

History drives current conduct.
chris_gerrib: (Me)
Like the label on the tin says:

A) From Charlie Stross, interesting thoughts on spies and spying. Lots of good stuff there, but one takeaway I'd like to highlight is that loyalty is a two-way street. Snowden and Bradley Manning (both under 30 years old) are from a generation where loyalty to an employer is as alien as the divine right of kings. This is largely because employers haven't shown much loyalty to their employees (Snowden, in particular, was a contractor).

B) N. K. Jemisin stirred up a pot of controversy by calling a racist a racist. Now she thinks people need to pick a side in these matters. Presented without comment.

C) From Obsidian Wings, a metaphor for Asia - my three sons.

D) From Toby Buckell, quantity leads to quality.

E) A human-interest story: Last person to get smallpox dies of malaria while working to eradicate polio. I remind the curious that eradicating polio is the major project of Rotary.
chris_gerrib: (Me)
WTF Moment #1

I put an offer on a house. No counter for a week, because "the owner is traveling in China." My realtor sends a note - "counter or accept by Friday (today) or we move on."

I am shocked, shocked I tell you to get an immediate counter-offer. I am baffled to see that the counter-offer is higher than the list price for another identical unit in the same complex! Whiskey Tango Foxtrot, over?

We put in a "best and final" offer for him to stew over. Quickly.

WTF Moment #2

So, in regards to yesterday's "don't call me a racist, you inferior being you!" post, there have been a number of calls to kick the offending party out of SFWA. To which the offending party, a self-described libertarian, is threatening to sue. He doesn't feel he can be kicked out for "thoughtcrimes."

Hello, McFly - SFWA is a private organization! Under libertarian theory and current law, they can kick out anybody they want to! The First Amendment does not apply to private organizations, only governments. And even if McFly could find a judge who could keep a straight face long enough to hear the case, the remedy won't be a large cash settlement. The remedy offered would be for SFWA to reinstate him.

WTF Moment #3

Via Dave O'Neill [livejournal.com profile] daveon, I read that McFly above is, like many libertarians, a goldbug. I suppose gold makes a better commodity to use for money than, say pork bellies, since the later can spoil, but gold is just a commodity. Like any other commodity, its price fluctuates up and down for a variety of reasons, including but not limited to people finding new ore deposits.

In fact, part of the reason we had long-term deflation in the 1880s and 1890s is that the gold supply kept increasing as new deposits and new extraction technologies came online. But then libertarians like all true believers seem to have an amazing ability to ignore inconvenient facts.
chris_gerrib: (Me)
Just, spitballing here (said in my best Jack Nicholson voice) but saying "don't call me a racist" in the same post as you say "it is not that I, and others, do not view her as human, (although genetic science presently suggests that we are not equally homo sapiens sapiens), it is that we simply do not view her as being fully civilized for the obvious historical reason that she is not" is perhaps, a less-than-optimal argument strategy.

(Context here. Be warned - not for the weak of stomach, and you may need to take a shower after reading.)
chris_gerrib: (Me)
So, as I predicted - the crank Theodore Beale AKA Vox Day did not win the election as President of SFWA. Per his site, he got 44 out of 493 votes = 8.9% of ballots cast.

SFWA dodged another bullet.
chris_gerrib: (Me)
I live in a townhouse, and the association which runs the place has an annual election of board members. Usually, these are Soviet-style affairs - one candidate per open seat. This isn't a conspiracy, rather, it's a reflection of the fact that finding people to fill the slots is hard. Being on the board of a homeowners association is a lot of work for no pay, little thanks and a lot of grief from people.

A few years ago, we had a contested election. At the time, I was confused as to why. Our association had solid finances, was keeping up on maintenance, and things were generally running smoothly. There seemed no reason to change leadership. Then I heard the opposing candidate's "platforms." One guy seemed to want the board to "work with" people who couldn't pay assessments. Another guy wanted separate swimming hours at the pool for boys and girls. The third guy (I think) wanted the association to ban pit bulls. (They already had a rule about aggressive dogs, so I didn't see the point.)

At any rate, after much hoopla, the insurgent platform lost the election. Badly. I mean like, they got 20% of the vote. After the results were announced at the annual meeting, the insurgents held a rump meeting and announced that they would be "keeping their eyes on the board." This idea may have survived until they got to the parking lot, but it didn't live to the next board meeting - I was one of only three non-board-members in attendance. (I was looking for some cheap entertainment which didn't happen.)

I am reminded of this story when I see that Theodore Beale AKA Vox Day is running for SFWA president. Again, SFWA seems to be in good shape, financially and otherwise, and there appears no reason to change leadership, other than Scalzi wants to quit. The one legitimate issue on Beale's platform, self-published authors, is on everybody else's too. So why is Beale running?

I suspect the people who ran for the board of my townhouse didn't really want to run the association. This is why they were nowhere to be found after their loss. No, they were cranks, seeking to impose their crankitude on whomever they could. Ditto, I suspect, Beale. He seems to be making a career at being a crank on the Internet. But that career requires getting people to pay attention to him first. So, stunts like running for President of SFWA. He's by no means the only such crank - see [livejournal.com profile] jimhines latest frolic with The Write Agenda for another exhibit.

Alas, the world is full of cranks, and not all of them content themselves with sitting at the corner of the bar.

Why SFWA?

May. 27th, 2008 04:01 pm
chris_gerrib: (Default)
So I mentioned in yesterday's entry that I would have a comment about SFWA (the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America) and Novelists Inc. [livejournal.com profile] jeff_duntemann had asked at one point "what is SFWA for?" Observant followers of the latest SFWA circular firing squad exercise regarding copyright may have noted a certain, well, religious fervor in the debate. Arguments to the effect that "people giving out e-copies have more sales" were rejected as being against the principle of copyright.

I think there are two types of artist's organizations. One type, best typified by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (the folks who award the Oscars) is a "normative" organization. Their goal is to "advance the art" and define stuff as "good" (gets an award / nomination) or "bad" (not nominated).

The other type is a trade organization. To stay in the same industry, consider the Writers Guild. Although they do in fact give awards, they're really not in the business of defining "good" or "bad" writing. Their goal is to make sure that writers are able to advance their career. Novelists Inc also appears to be a trade group, and cares little for what you write - they just want you to make money doing it.

SFWA has the Nebula Awards, with which the writers try to define the art, but it also does a lot of writer service work. As an outsider, it appears that SFWA hasn't decided what group they fall in, trade or normative. I don't have a dog in this fight, but not deciding the organization's focus can make life interesting for the membership.

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