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History Rhymes

History doesn't repeat itself, but it does rhyme. This is why I think Hilary Clinton is our next President, absent getting caught in bed with a live girl or a dead boy.

First, as has been said by many people, the electoral map for Republicans is not good. They are in the hole from the word go, and Trump is not showing much signs of getting out of the hole.

But I think the real impact is The Reagan Effect. I've compared Obama to Reagan before, and the comparison makes this look a lot like the election of 1988.

In 1988, Reagan was personally quite popular, despite Iran-Contra. Reagan's Vice President, Bush the Elder, ran on a very explicit platform of "more of the same." (Too explicit, as those who remember the Saturday Night Live skit can attest.) In 2016, we see Obama, personally quite popular with no scandals, smiling beneficently on his Secretary of State, who is running on a "more of the same but slightly different" platform. It's not 2000, where a sitting Vice President tried to run away from a scandal-plagued (although again personally popular) President.

Don't get me wrong - Hilary still needs to get her people to the polls, and this will be a 55 / 45 popular vote at best, but history is on her side.


Ideas vs. Plot

I turned in the final edit to The Night Watch, my newest book due out this month, so now I'm (in theory) back on the new writing bandwagon. But today I have thoughts about ideas.

Writers are frequently asked "where do you get your ideas from?" My answer to this is "everywhere" or if I'm feeling flippant "I order them in case lots from a store in Podunk Iowa." But I really think the question is "where do you get plots from?"

The answer to that is "hard work." For example, I have an idea of what happens after The Night Watch. The problem is I don't have a plot. Specifically, I don't (yet) have a plausible villain with the capability to seriously challenge Space Rescue. Watching a Bad Guy get systematically taken apart by a more powerful Good Guy is boring, unless you're writing a revenge fantasy or weapons porn.

In my writing process, I need to have this plot before I can start. Once I have two groups with conflicting goals and reasonable parity, I can "play the changes" and generate a book. Without that, I'm just spinning my wheels.
Once upon a time I was a very junior officer in the US Navy, and I had a captain (which in the Navy is a very senior officer, equivalent to a full Colonel) who said "surprises are for birthdays, and it's not my birthday."

It's not my birthday, and even if it were, I don't like surprises in my Presidents. Thus, I don't like Trump, because I have no idea what he would do if he became President. I am becoming convinced that he is a bullshit artist of the first order.

My proof for this is that on two occasions, Trump was asked surprise questions. Both times he gave reasonable answers. One, on abortion, was that if abortion was illegal women who get one should be punished. The other was on the more current hot topic of who can use what restrooms, and he answered that people use the one they feel more comfortable in and it's not a problem. Both of these were "wrong" answers (for the political value of "wrong") and he walked them back.

This, plus certain rumors from his supporters about how the wall with Mexico will be more virtual, lead me to believe that he'll say whatever he thinks will be required to become President. Much like the dog who chases the car, he has no real plan as to what to do should he actually win.

Light and Sporadic, so have a funny

Posting will continue to be light and sporadic. I have three books being released in June, so edits have consumed my free time. That's bad for blogging but good for the finished product.

ETA: Have a funny. (Source)

Two Signs Seen While Driving

I had to drive to a remote branch today, and en-route saw two signs.

Sign The First - Real Estate Apprentice Wanted

So, on the side of the road, I saw a neatly hand-lettered sign saying "real estate apprentice wanted - call XXX-YYY-ZZZZ." I have to wonder - who calls these numbers? I mean, it's clearly a scam: either a short one to sell a get-rich-quick book or a long one to have somebody ruin their credit buying houses to flip.

Sign the Second - Hassert Boulevard

In Naperville, they have a Hassert Boulevard (note spelling). Apparently, the City of Naperville was getting enough calls such that they put up a blue road sign saying that Hassert was not named after ex-Speaker / pedophile Dennis Hastert (again, note spelling).

Presented for your consideration...


I'm Back

I'm back from this weekend's festivities at the Nebula Awards Conference. I did not attend the actual awards, which meant that when people like John Scalzi were walking around like zombies on Sunday AM I was reasonably fresh. I also didn't stay at the hotel - $200 / night rooms plus parking was a bit steep for me. Still, I had a good time.

I especially enjoyed Mikki Kendall's panels on diversity, and I've made a note to go look at Michael Livingston's historical research. I ran into a number of alumni from the Out of Excuses Writer's Workshop, and just folks I knew. I was surprised the number of people I knew in such a small con - around 250 attendees.

At any rate I'm back, and now need to work, edit my book and update my website. Go me.


Gunk Cleared

The gunk in my carburetor that I was complaining about seems to have been cleared away. I'm taking an afternoon off as a mental health day, and tomorrow I'm going to the Nebula Conference tomorrow in downtown Chicago. I'll see some, all or none of you there.


Not Firing on All Cylinders

I was not firing on all cylinders yesterday, for unknown reasons. Specifically, I:

1) Forgot to retrieve my dry cleaning
2) Loaded the dishwasher, put in soap but didn't run it
3) Forgot to turn on my alarm clock

Item #3 resulted in my oversleeping this morning. Fortunately, I had no morning meetings so it was not an issue.

Here's hoping I get my carburetor degunked.


I Can Haz Snazzy Covers!


My Schedule for ConQuest KC

I will be attending ConQuest 47, a science fiction convention in Kansas City, MO, May 27-29. Herewith is my schedule:

Reading SAT 10:30 AM

Lost in Translation: Language Barriers in SFF SAT 1 PM
As everyone knows, Universal Translators and Babelfish come standard-issue with almost any otherworldly adventure. Still, from the "Darmok and Jalad" episode of Star Trek to Daenerys Targaryen's first tentative words of Dothraki, it's clear that language-learning – and language barriers! –offers a wealth of untapped dramatic potential. Join us as we celebrate some of the most epic miscommunications in sci-fi and fantasy history!

No Aliens Needed: Human-Centered Sci-Fi and Fantasy SAT 3 PM
From Firefly and the new Battlestar Galactica to the conspicuously elf-less Game of Thrones series, aliens and strange creatures seem to be taking a turn on the bench. What's behind this interest in 'humanistic' speculative fiction, and what does it mean for the future of the genre?

Writing The Future: Imagining What We Can't Possibly Know SAT 5 PM
An SF story depends on a high level of current scientific and technological knowledge not end up dated before even hitting the shelves. And that's the easy part, because even respecting that vast breadth of knowledge an SF story needs to look beyond the known and innovate in ways that even the current engineers and scientists aren't thinking of. Panelists discuss the burden of SF to inspire, innovate and remain
relevant in a world where science and technology are accelerating exponentially.

Hard Science vs. Science Fiction SUN 11 AM
If a story has too much science does it ruin the story? Do you feel like you are reading a science textbook? Do you read a story or watch a show because the characters are interesting or because the science is accurate? How accurate does the science need to be?


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.


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...
Excerpts from President Obama's recent remarks in Flint, Michigan.

So it doesn't matter how hard you work, how responsible you are, or how well you raise your kids -- you can't set up a whole water system for a city. That's not something you do by yourself. You do it with other people. You can't hire your own fire department, or your own police force, or your own army. There are things we have to do together -- basic things that we all benefit from.


But volunteers don’t build county water systems and keep lead from leaching into our drinking glasses. We can’t rely on faith groups to reinforce bridges and repave runways at the airport. We can’t ask second-graders, even ones as patriotic as Isiah Britt who raised all that money, to raise enough money to keep our kids healthy.

You hear a lot about government overreach, how Obama -- he’s for big government. Listen, it’s not government overreach to say that our government is responsible for making sure you can wash your hands in your own sink, or shower in your own home, or cook for your family. These are the most basic services. There is no more basic element sustaining human life than water. It’s not too much to expect for all Americans that their water is going to be safe.

War of Southern Rebellion

I suppose I should say something pithy about the results of last night's primaries in Indiana, but I don't really have anything. Trump won big as expected, Sanders won narrowly as not expected, but the only change was Cruz recognizing the inevitable. So I'll talk about something else, namely history.

A commentor on another post suggested I said that "(the War of Southern Rebellion was fought for the purpose of freeing black slaves)." No, actually not. The South left the Union and tried to steal Federal property on the way out (Fort Sumter, the Navy in Norfolk). The South left because the North was not sufficiently supportive (in the South's view) of slavery. See the South Carolina Declaration of Secession.

There were a variety of attitudes in the North with regards to slavery, including freedom. The majority position, however, coalesced around keeping slavery out of the north. The working man didn't want to compete with slave wages, and the wealthier classes didn't want to worry about slave revolts.

The man who did the most to actually free slaves was Benjamin Butler. He was a politician who'd used pull to get himself a brigadier general's commission in the state militia, which he parlayed into a major general's post in the Union army. He was incompetent as a general, even by the somewhat lax standards of the time.

But Butler was a sharp lawyer, and when three escaped slaves showed up at his command at Fort Monroe, he refused to return them to their masters. Since the slaves had been employed in building Confederate fortifications, he felt returning the slaves would be the same as handing back guns to the enemy. After some to-and-fro, this became official policy, and the Union army took to paying, feeding and employing former slaves in their camps.

This same logic came to be used to support the Emancipation Proclamation of 1863, which only freed slaves in areas "people whereof shall then be in rebellion against the United States."

In any event, the South, by demanding extension of slave-holders' rights into the North, precipitated a series of events that ended slavery everywhere. The moral of the story is that sometimes it is much better to take half a loaf than to demand the whole thing.
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.

Nice Dorm Rooms

In the mid-1990s, the State of Illinois decided to build at least two hotels. They were the Illinois Beach Resort at the state park of the same name and the Guest House at Argonne National Labs. I've had occasion to stay at both, most recently at the former for a Rotary event this weekend. I've come to the conclusion that they are both upscale college dormitories.

Both buildings have the indifferent maintenance levels of your typical dorm, and the same heavy-duty institutional furniture. They were built fairly cheaply, and used a lot of glass walls. They are both inappropriately sized for their location. The beach resort has 100 rooms (too few) and the Guest House has way more than it needs. Now, don't get me wrong - both places were perfectly adequate for my needs, but neither was particularly worth writing home to Mom about.

About the only noteworthy thing was the view out of my room's window.


Link Salad, Pre-Radio Silence Edition

I'll be at a Rotary event all day tomorrow, so I expect no blogging. Herewith, have a few links to tide you over:

A) In Ye Goode Olde Dayes, cities used to be full of shit - literally.

B) Mary Robinette Kowal is taking applications for a writer's workshop and cruise. I did this last year, and it was well worth it.

C) So, there has been a reactionless space engine proposed and currently undergoing very limited testing. Herewith is a theoretical explanation of why the darned thing just might work. Presented without comment.

D) Found via the scientific method of "dinking around on the Internet" a long and interesting article suggesting that Britain during WWI and WWII played the USA like a piano to our detriment and Britain's gain. Again, presented without comment.

E) Ana Marie Cox kinda sympathizes with Ted Cruz. I see her point.

Puppies, 4 Thoughts on

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.

Rabid Puppies, 2016

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.

Small Towns

I expect that I've blogged of this before, but while we await the Hugo finalists list, have a repeat.

There is a perpetual trend in American culture and politics to idolize small town America. I find this trend amusing. I grew up in a small town (population 3,000) and had 78 fellow students in my high school graduating class. Three of them (to my knowledge) subsequently spent time in prison as inmates. The phrase "wrong side of the tracks" came from small-town America. In short, small towns are not automatically Mayberry RFD.

I no longer live in a small town. I, like most "real" Americans, live in a city. The map below says it all - 50% of Americans live in the shaded counties. "Real" America is city and suburbs.

Guns, Carrying Of

Over the weekend, I took my concealed carry course via Roy and Company in a nearby suburb. I have no immediate intentions to carry a gun. However, concealed carry permits are much like parachutes - if you ever need one, you need it right away and don't have time to go shopping for it. Due to the wide variation in state licensing standards and reciprocity, I took a multi-state class, which included training for Utah and Florida non-resident permits. The three of them give the broadest coverage available.

The class itself was underwhelming. The two old fogies teaching it were knowledgeable, although I had to put up with more than a little political BS. (Did you know that the Oklahoma City bombing was an inside job?) Since I was there to get training, not argue politics, I kept my mouth shut. There were only six of us, so it was a quick class.

The Illinois statute is poorly-written, with several clear cut-and-paste errors, and can be contradictory. All the contradictions were pointed out as proof of Madigan's conspiracy against gun-owners as opposed to errors, but again, not there for the politics. Illinois, unique among concealed carry states, requires one to actually shoot a weapon. This does not have to be the weapon one plans on carrying.

This class provided all materials needed, from pens and paper to a gun and bullets. We shot a small-frame .22 semi-auto. It was the same size as and mechanically functioned like a typical concealed carry 9 MM, just chambered in .22. I (and the rest of the class) had no problem scoring enough hits to pass the test. Now my task is to assemble all the various applications, pictures and related paperwork and send it off to the correct locations.

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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