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More Quick Thoughts

I find I have some time, so you (lucky you) get some more wit and wisdom from me.

Thought The First

If a comment thread has devolved into personal barbs aimed at somebody, additional commenting is probably not worth anybody's time. See here, especially #7, #8 and #10.

Thought the Second

Utah found a brilliantly effective solution for homelessness. Money quote: Between shelters, jail stays, ambulances, and hospital visits, caring for one homeless person typically costs the government $20,000 a year. Providing one homeless person with permanent housing, however — as well as a social worker to help them transition into mainstream society — costs the state $8,000. Sometimes the simplest solution is the best.

Two Quick Thoughts on a Rainy Tuesday

Quick thoughts, with a Bonus! link.

Thought The First

An educator posted his Top 10 no-sympathy lines for his students. Other than the one about student loans (which are not dischargable in bankruptcy) I agree.

Thought The Second

An analysis of why Amazon ratings don't matter. Basically, less-well-known (read "self-published") books don't get a lot of reviews, and the ones they do are actively recruited by the authors. In short, there's a self-selection effect at work that you don't see in broader fiction.

Bonus! link

This fellow is reviewing the Sad Puppies Hugo picks so you don't have to.

Monday Update

I had a quiet weekend. Saturday was largely given over to assembling my new grill, which cooked its first steak Sunday. I also finished Mary Robinette Kowal's latest novel, Of Noble Family. I found the book okay.

Set in Antigua, the novel is largely an exploration of 18th Century race, slavery and family relations. In the afterword to the book, Mary wrote that she wanted to make the conflict bigger, but the geographical realities of Antigua meant she had to make the conflict smaller. It shows, and some of the contrivances needed to make the story work I found a bit irritating. So, it was an okay ending for the series, and I'm looking forward to a new series from her.

May Day

On this 1st of May, have some links and commentary:

1) A lengthy article on the start of Gamergate. The ex-boyfriend sounds like a full-on sociopath.

2) In certain gun-owning circles, it is an article of faith that the Sandy Hook shootings didn't happen. Tim McGraw begs to differ, which shows how impossible these "conspiracies" are.

3) One of the things which fascinated me about the book Ender's Game is how the author set up his reality such that Ender, a true sociopath, is the hero. This fellow thinks it's related to Mormon theology. Presented without comment.

4) This article about Sad Puppies has been all over the Internet. I link to it because it provides a useful definition of fascism. To wit, one needs all of:
- A charismatic leader
- A call to a (usually authoritarian) past Golden Age (frequently mythical)
- A stabbed-in-the-back narrative, which explains why the present is fubar
- A secret cabal of backstabbers, the existence of which means extra-legal or at least extra-ordinary actions are required

Hugos, Novelettes

I've read the novelette nominations, all of which are online for free. Herewith are my comments:

1) “The Triple Sun: A Golden Age Tale”, Rajnar Vajra (Analog, 07/08-2014) - This feels like an episode of the Twilight Zone where, if they'd just pan the camera out, you'd see the "surprise" ending. It also had very kludge-y plotting and characters, including a cadet who, after years of training, suddenly springs on his fellow cadets that he's filthy rich.

2) “Championship B’tok”, Edward M. Lerner (Analog, 09-2014) - This felt to me like it was the middle chapters of a novel. Very incomplete.

3) “The Journeyman: In the Stone House”, Michael F. Flynn (Analog, 06-2014) - I found this a pleasant-enough story, and I'm fond of Flynn's writing style. It did feel a bit like Flynn was serializing a novel with this, but unlike the Lerner, it was a complete story.

4) “Ashes to Ashes, Dust to Dust, Earth to Alluvium”, Gray Rinehart (Orson Scott Card’s InterGalactic Medicine Show, 05-2014) - Actually quite entertaining, although it required buying into the idea that "we humans must continue to fight!"

“The Day the World Turned Upside Down”, Thomas Olde Heuvelt, Lia Belt translator (Lightspeed, 04-2014) - The science in this was weak to non-existent, but the imagery stuck with me and the emotional impact was high.

My ballot at this time:

1) Heuvelt
2) Rinehart
3) Flynn
4) No Award


A Dangerous Post About Work

Busy day of meetings ahead, so have some humor.

(I hope everybody realizes this is a joke. I actually like both my coworkers and my job.)


Hugos, Short Stories

I've read 4 of the 5 nominated short stories. Herewith are my planned votes, recorded for my later convenience. As stated previously, I intend to look with a gimlet eye on anything affiliated with a slate.

Definitely below "No Award"

“The Parliament of Beasts and Birds”, John C. Wright (The Book of Feasts & Seasons, Castalia House) - anybody who bitched about "If You Were a Dinosaur" and nominated this has no room to talk. It's twice as long and three times less interesting.

“Turncoat”, Steve Rzasa (Riding the Red Horse, Castalia House) - I read this when I bought the original anthology. It was one of the weaker stories in the collection, and I had to re-read it to recall anything about it. Frankly, John Scalzi's "Tale of the Wicked" did it better.

Haven't Read Yet
“A Single Samurai”, Steven Diamond (The Baen Big Book of Monsters, Baen Books)

Will Probably Vote as Follows

Second Place - “On A Spiritual Plain”, Lou Antonelli (Sci Phi Journal #2, 11-2014) - reasonably competent story.

First Place - “Totaled”, Kary English (Galaxy’s Edge Magazine, 07-2014) - better than the Antonelli, although derivative of "Flowers for Algernon."

I've read the Analog novelettes but not the novella, so that's my next project, as well as track down the non-Analog nominees.


Travel Thoughts and C2E2 Report

Travel Thoughts

I'm back from attending Rotary District 6450's annual conference in downtown Davenport Iowa. It was my first visit to Iowa, albeit just over the river from Rock Island. The weather was cool and rainy, and the conference was sparsely attended. Still, I had a nice time, met a few people I only see at the conference, and heard some impressive speakers. I stayed at the Hotel Blackhawk, which is a historic property, extensively renovated, and affiliated with the Marriott chain.

I had a lot of down time on Saturday. Since it was raining, I went to the local riverboat casino, a five minute walk from my hotel. I played blackjack for nearly two hours and left $30 up. The casinos are apparently having a problem making money at blackjack, because they invented a side-bet involving your cards and the dealer's up card. I didn't understand it so didn't play it, and watched those that did play it shovel money at the dealer.

C2E2 Report

On Friday AM, I attended the Chicago Comic and Entertainment Expo (C2E2), which had an estimated 75,000 attendees. I left profoundly ambivalent about the whole thing.

First, the main feature of C2E2 is the exhibit floor, which maps to my two least-favorite spaces in fan-run cons, the art show and the dealer' room. Of the several hundred dealers, only three were selling books, and the largest book-selling booth (Random Penguin's) was only selling stuff by the authors in attendance. The largest booths overall were T-shirt shops.

Programming, which is what draws me to cons, was okay - five tracks - the equivalent of Windycon - but much of it was focused on movies and the like. Again, not much to my interest. I did see what happened to masquerades at fan-run cons - between 10% to 20% of the crowd were in costumes.

Overall, I'm of the opinion of Eric Flint: All authors only appeal to a small subset of the mass audience, once that mass audience becomes huge enough. Eric uses himself as an example, and suspects that half-a-million people have heard of him. But compare that to the 50 million people who watch science fiction, and he's got 1% of the market.

Slightly off-topic, but too good not to quote, Eric says of the Puppies:
In other words, the difference between Resplendent Popular Author Me and Pitiful Literary Auteur Whazzername is the difference between tiny (one percent) and minuscule (one-tenth of one percent).

Yes, that’s what all the ruckus is about. The Sad Puppies feel that they have been wronged because Their Tininess has been downtrodden by the minions of the minuscule.

Out of Pocket Alert

I'll be out of pocket tomorrow and all weekend, so here's the last post of the week.

Security In America

A two-fer from View From The Porch: First, our obsession with safety is rubbing off on the Kidz These Days and using drones to smuggle stuff into prisons. Tamara at "Porch" notes that a pistol can be airlifted by not-that-large of a drone. I have a story somewhere on my hard drive from a few years back of a prison break (from a robot-guarded prison) being facilitated by homemade cruise missiles.

Ooh, Pretty Pictures

Thanks to extra-clear water due to ice melt, old shipwrecks in Lake Michigan are visible from the air.

I Got Nothing, Folks

Well, I had another bit on "lead" Sad Puppy Brad Torgersen (personally, I think he's getting played like a big bass fiddle by Vox Day) but I grow weary of this debate. So, you're on your own today for entertainment.

Rotary Tuesday, So Have Some Links

A) On the space front, growing food in shipping containers is exactly the kind of tech we'll need to settle in space.

B) Disordered thinking, or, thinking that Muslims have taken over a number of cities including Dearborn, MI and established "no go zones" wherein Sharia law is practiced, why does nobody check if perhaps his collar is a bit too tight? As the author says, it's an easily-disproved delusion, of the type that used to get people locked in padded rooms.

C) An interesting parable about democracy in action.

D) The current director of the FBI requires all new hires to visit the Holocaust Museum. Here's why.

E) Six myths you believe about the founding of America.

Monday Fire Drill, Redux

So far, Monday has proven to be a real fire drill at work. Fortunately, I got one of my issues put to bed and look to close on another. Go me! Other thoughts:


I decided to tell my inner cheapskate to STFU and so I bought this Weber grill. It really is nicer than the Char Broil, and not that much more expensive.

Sad Puppies

I favorably linked to this article by Eric Flint on the "disconnect" between award-giving SF and popular SF. The more I think on it, I'm not sure the gap is as big as Eric thinks it is. John Scalzi, recent Hugo winner, just got back from a large tour of Australia and an appearance as a big-name guest at the LA Book Festival. In short, somebody's reading him. Mary Robinette Kowal is a featured guest at this weekend's Chicago Comic and Entertainment Expo. We're told "all the kidz go to comic-con."


Speaking of comic-cons, as part of my ongoing, hard-hitting investigative report of same (and if you believe that, call me about a bridge for sale) I will be attending the Chicago Comic and Entertainment Expo (C2E2) for the day on Friday. Then I'm heading to Davenport Iowa to play Rotarian. Updates to follow.

SF Monoculture and Hugos.

My friend jeff_duntemann, when he's not at dog shows, writes and reads science fiction. (Actually, if he has any down time at the show, he probably reads SF. But with three active dogs, I doubt there's much time to be down.) He's also stated an opinion that science fiction, or at least the stuff that wins awards, is not to his taste. He's in fact signed on to the "Human Wave" movement. In his own words:

The Human Wave is about allowing things, not forbidding things. Yes, what the Human Wave stands against is mostly a certain brand of pessimistic literary fussiness.

I like Jeff, but I'm not seeing this "literary fussiness" of which he speaks. Then I read this lengthy and interesting commentary on the Hugos from Eric Flint. Again, it's lengthy, so summary is dangerous. But to attempt summary, Eric demolishes the "politics of the author" idea, and cites two objective and one subjective factor. They are:

Objective 1 - the field is too damn big. With ~300 novels per month, nobody can read everything in SF. So we tend to read our favorite authors while ignoring non-favored ones.
Objective 2 - the awards don't reflect working writers. Nobody is making a living writing short fiction, yet 3 of the 4 literary awards are for short fiction. There "should" be awards for best series, best short novel, best YA, etc.
Subjective - "you also get an ever-growing division in peoples’ attitudes about what constitutes “good writing” and what doesn’t." He uses, pace Mr. Duntemann, the example of the popular definition of a good dog and that as defined by a dog show attendee.

The more I think about it, the more I'm in agreement with Eric. I consider myself somewhat of being in both camps, here defined as general public and dog show attendee, and given things like The Avengers winning Hugos, there is significant overlap between the two camps. But when it comes time to nominate for the Hugos, there are some novels that I enjoyed *cough* Jack Campbell's Lost Fleet *cough* that don't qualify as "Hugo-worthy" in my mind.

Eric offers no real solution. One could, I suppose, create a "People's Choice" award for SF, but that requires somebody to actually organize and fund it. It doesn't really fix the Hugos, although I'm not sure that they need "fixing." I mean, the Academy Awards, the Emmys and a host of other awards go not to the most-watched movies and shows but those "of merit."

More Random Thoughts

Random Thought - Hugos

Marko Kloos and Annie Bellet have both pulled their Hugo-nominated work from contention. I had read the Kloos before this mess - I enjoyed it but it didn't wow me enough for a nomination - and I have never heard of Annie Bellet. In any event, I'm sad that the two of them got caught up in this shit-storm. Sad enough that I ordered one of Bellet's books.

Random Thought - Social

After a few weeks of non-attendance, my usual group of triva-players made it out to Shanahan's for trivia night. We took first place, despite me blowing a 10-point answer. We also got lucky - several of our guesses (including a Simpsons-related question) proved right.

Random Thought - Grills

I'll be buying a new grill this weekend. Unless the Weber goes on sale or otherwise convinces me that it's $100 better, I'll be getting a Char-Broil. My inner cheapskate is winning out.

Random Thoughts, Some Not Original

Random Thought #1

When writing fiction, not including straight white males as characters unless the story "requires it" means that straight white male-dom is the default and normal. - Mary Robinette Kowal

Random Thought #2

There are two kinds of people in the world - "you do you" and "one true cereal." The "you do you" crowd doesn't care what you read / watch / entertain yourself with. The "one true cereal" crowd gets very upset if something doesn't match their standards. I leave you to figure out where the Sad Puppies fit in that.

Random Thought #3

As you may have heard, one of John C. Wright's stories got bounced from the ballot. The Usual Suspects are crying foul. Scalzi suggests that they put their big kid pants on. To which I add - judgment calls about the rules cut both ways. Mary Robinette Kowal and Paul Cornell both missed Hugos because of decisions (and in Cornell's case a simple error) by Hugo administrators. It happens.

Link Salad, Rotary Day Edition

Have a few links:

A) The US missile defense system doesn't work and costs a lot of money. In other news, water is wet.

B) From Tim Akers: the tyranny of choice or why your favorite author has a day job.

C) From 6 things gun lovers and haters can agree on.

D) On being "brave" on the Internet: this is not Nazi-occupied France, folks.

Rainy Monday

It's Monday and raining here in Chicago. Rain's actually a good thing - I put down mulch yesterday, so a nice soaking will bed it down.

On the Sad Puppy front, Torgersen's gone full-wingnut and invoked the specter of 9/11. Sayth he: I remember in the wake of 9/11 there seemed to be two camps forming. The first camp devoted itself almost entirely to the question: What did we do to deserve this, and how can we say we’re sorry? The second camp asked: How can we bring the perpetrators to justice, and what can be done to stop them in the future?

Sayeth I: what planet are you on? If I were your CO, a "random" piss test for drugs would be in your future.

From Puppies to grills. I've been looking at a low-end Weber gas grill to replace my old Char-Broil. I was hoping they'd go on sale this weekend, but no dice. My inner cheapskate is asking are the Webers really $100 better than the comparable Char-Broils? I mean, my $200 Char-Broil served me well for over a decade.

It All Becomes Clear To Me Now

I've always been a bit puzzled by some (many) of the positions taken by such noted "libertarians" as Rand Simberg. Then catsittingstill pointed me at this four-part article on last year's Sad Puppies eruption. See, if you think that "taxation is theft," logically any time the government (via police) or an individual kills somebody, you would expect to demand a full investigation. What's more "theft" than to take somebody's life? Yet many "libertarians" seem to be police apologists.

At any rate, part three of the series, So, The Sad Puppies, Then: 3 of 4 — “Libertarian” Authoritarians And Pulp was an eye-opener. The author postulates that a core set of libertarian values are:

Government is the only enemy of liberty, or the only one worth bothering with
“An armed society is a polite society” — guns make people behave
Securing the borders is one of only two legitimate functions of government
“There ain’t no such thing as a free lunch” — economics is a zero-sum game, and if you’re giving someone government welfare handouts, you must be taking them from someone else, who actually earned them.

He then points out that the "authoritarian personality" are people who believe authoritarian submission (following leaders, and believing that it’s right to follow leaders), authoritarian aggression (a dislike of the unlike, an aggression towards members of groups designated “other” by the leaders), and conventionalism (adhering to rigid norms and belief that others should follow those norms).

Well, if you believe the above, securing the borders and shooting people are great ways to stick it to the out-group. Since the Federal government has been, since the 1960s, the defender of the out-group via civil rights and anti-discrimination, being anti-Fed makes sense. If you don't think you get government handouts (Social Security and Medicare don't count as "handouts") then it's easy to be against that.

Like I said, the article was a real eye-opener.

Liberal SF

A friend of mine noted that the people who run science fiction conventions, called conrunners or semi-jokingly SMOFs (secret masters of fandom) are largely liberal. I tend to agree with him, and I think I know why. Science fiction may not be inherently liberal, but it is inherently not conservative.

I'm going to adapt a thought from Megan McArdle, a conservative economist. Imagine you're walking in a wood and come across a fence. The conservative mindset would be "this fence is here for a reason, leave it." But the science fictional mindset would be to wonder what function it served and could that function be done better by something different.

Now, that's a broad statement, and much science fiction doesn't reach that exulted level, if only because of Sturgeon's Law. But the definition of science fiction, which is "a story that, without a scientific foundation, can't be told" lends support to my theory. What is science but an investigation into why and how things happen?

And technology changes society. For example, the technology of cooking food changed our digestive tracts! If technology can change our bodies, it can certainly change our society, as evidenced by 1900 House. So, part of the science in our fiction really should be sociology, psychology and political science.

Now, story and entertainment matter, but if science fiction is inherently not conservative, I'm not surprised that the majority of people active in it aren't conservative either.


How Do You Say "Internet" in Latin?

There's an old Latin saying, "in vino veritas." Literally, "in wine, truth," and it suggests that things people say when they are drunk are more in line with their real opinions.

I've repeatedly interacted with people on the Internet and been told "they're not like that in person." So, I think a modern version of the old saw is "in Internet, truth."

The mechanism works similarly in both cases. Getting drunk impairs our ability to communicate complex ideas. Writing on the Internet (typically done rapidly) is less effective than interactive speech. Alcohol is chemically a disinhibitor, and the "anonymity" if not distance of the Internet is a virtual disinhibitor.

So, any guesses as how to say "Internet" in Latin?

Comment Policy

This is the personal blog of Chris Gerrib, and all opinions expressed here are solely his own. Commenters are welcome; however please be polite to me and my other readers. I reserve the right to delete comments that are rude, inappropriate or otherwise objectionable at my sole discretion. The opinions expressed in a comment are not necessarily mine, and if I do not delete a comment that should not be construed as my agreement with the commenter.

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