May 042016
 

Molly Tanzerspace raptor butt invasion, who I consider a friend, loves Chuck Tingle and finds him hilarious, so I figured I’d give this whole Space Raptor Butt Invasion thing a look. I was surprised by what I found, so I’ve written up a full overview below. The most intriguing part, which I will expound on in the “Slammed in the Butt by my Hugo Nomination” section, is that Chuck Tingle is obviously an insider. Not just an SF author, but possibly someone who is already known for his/her work under his/her real name.

While I have philosophical objections to Kindle Unlimited, I would recommend people sign up for their one-month free trial and read these works themselves. You can cancel as soon as you’re done, it costs you nothing, and each work is very short. I read:

* Space Raptor Butt Invasion (the nominated work)

* Turned Gay By The Living Alpha Diner (included with Raptor)

* Slammed in the Butt by my Hugo Award Nomination (which Tingle released the day after his nomination as his response)

* Creamed in the Butt by my Handsome Living Corn (included with Hugo Award)

* Pounded in the Butt by Chuck Tingle’s Hugo (NOT by Chuck Tingle! Written by someone else, read for comparison)

As the titles should probably indicate, these are works of satire. As recent anonymous interviews with Chuck Tingle show, Tingle is a performance artist, and an amusing one at that.

The first thing one notices is that Chuck Tingle is a good writer. Yes, he could use some editing (although I suspect at least some of the mistakes are intentional, as part of the satire). But when it comes to the craft of putting together a story, he is the equal of solid professional writers. He humanizes his characters immediately, and manages to make you empathize within the first few lines. He focuses on the simple, critical details that quickly establish who a character is and why we should care about him (this is gay erotica, it’s always a ‘him’). But importantly – since this is satire – he does this by engaging the stereotypes that are present in bad fiction (and bad erotica), and mocking them via lampshading. Consider:

“It’s rare that you think of a down-home, Southern farmer in a suit and a tie, but I’m not your average farmer. Of course, there’s nothing wrong with working the fields in a dirty old T-shirt and a straw hat, wiping the sweat from your brow as you till the brown soil. I can honestly say that I’ve put in more than enough hours doing just that.”

Amazingly, despite the mockery, it’s done in a gentle way that endears you to the characters. And he does this in the matter of a few paragraphs or less, which is critical in such a short format, and also very hard to do.

After this, Tingle steps his character through the paces of a gay-awakening romance story. It’s done with tongue in cheek, but the story is executed well. It takes us through the stages of this story fluidly, hitting every beat, and sticking every landing. This is a demonstration of good writing craft.

This is also why I recommend reading no less than three of Tingle’s works. Because it takes at least two (and likely three+) to realize what he’s doing. He is telling the same story (fairly well-told) over and over again, and changing only the surface details. Every single story you read starts with the same opening notes, plays the same melody, and runs the same beat. It’s like how TV Police Procedurals are down to such a science that nowadays you can time when a plot element will show up almost down to the minute without knowing anything about the show. It’s like how every Pop Hit is “ABBA’s pop chords and textures, Denniz PoP’s song structure and dynamics, ’80s arena rock’s big choruses, and early ’90s American R&B grooves.”

I don’t say this to denigrate his work. He is a satirist. He is holding a mirror up to humanity and saying “Look, this is us. This is how easy we are to play. We have these buttons, we know how to push them, and we can just keep pushing them over and over and over as much as we like.” It is the physical manifestation of “There are only 7 stories” or “All stories are The Hero’s Journey” or whatever you like to call it. It demonstrates that we are not unique beautiful snowflakes, but rather we are simply stimulus-response organisms.

Interestingly, I’ve heard this same sort of thing leveled at Jim Butcher’s work. That his stories are good, and entirely well-written, but every novel is basically the same novel. It hits the same beats, plays the same notes, and only the details differ. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing – he’s found a song that people like, and so he keeps playing it for them. But it isn’t innovative.

(That being said, I believe I’ve heard that he was at the forefront of Urban Fantasy, helping to create the genre. That itself is worth a Hugo if it’s true. I don’t know, I never really followed Urban Fantasy, wasn’t my thing)

This is the reason that I believe Chuck Tingle is The Hero That The Puppies Need. I’m throwing this alllllll the way back to 2015, but back then the “Sad Puppies 3 crowd” decried all the new-fangled narratives in SF, and wanted a return to the old stories they were familiar with. Chuck Tingle’s work is the answer to this request. He simply repeats the same story, over and over, with slight surface changes. It is a good story. And he is very good at telling it. It is entirely enjoyable! I can see the non-gay-erotica-satire version of this type of writing becoming a repeat New York Times Best Seller. But as good as it is, both in quality and enjoyment, it is not something that will be remembered. It doesn’t say anything. It doesn’t redefine any genres, or alter how we interact with art. It is simply good, repetitive fun. Like TV Police Procedurals. Or masturbation.

(I don’t know if the gay erotica parts of these stories were any good, as I’m not very gay. They were certainly exciting, and I would have been very turned on by similar scenes using Male/Female pairings. I’ll leave the judgement of their quality to people with more experience with gay erotica. I will say that the erotica parts are exactly like the story parts in that they are nearly identical in every single story. It goes through the same motions and hits the same beats. It’s a fractal reflection of Tingle’s theme of Reproducibility. Although in fairness… it is porn. I’ll admit that all porn is basically identical, and yet I continue to watch it regularly despite having seen the exact same actions play out thousands of times for the past 20+ years. So I’m not sure if that can really be held against it.)

I contrast Tingle’s work with that of “Tuck Chingle”. Tuck Chingle wrote the vastly inferior work “Pounded in the Butt by Chuck Tingle’s Hugo.” It’s basically just bad message fiction. While the prose itself is fine, and even appears to have had an editor (no noticeable spelling or continuity “mistakes”, unlike Tingle), there is nothing there that is appealing. The protagonist isn’t relatable, the setting is non-existent, there is no arc or action, and never once is the story fun or enjoyable. I don’t mean to slam the author too hard, but it is a contrast that serves as a sanity check. Is Chuck Tingle actually good, or am I crazy? Upon reading Chingle I’m reassured that bad writing still exists, and yes, Chuck Tingle is in fact actually good at his craft.

So – Chuck Tingle’s work is in fact quite enjoyable, and a splendid demonstration of what the Puppies actually want! I’m not sure if they intended to nominate this work as an ideal representative of their desires, but it works, and it’s admirable. I would not greatly begrudge them regular appearances on the ballot if they just want some nominal recognition of good old stories that don’t do anything, but are fun to read. They don’t even have to be gay erotica satire!

Of course all this brings us to the punchline – Tingle’s seminal work: “Slammed in the Butt by my Hugo Award Nomination

Guys, Tingle is one of us. He’s having a shit-ton of fun, but he’s obviously hip to the fandom. First, his craft is great. Second, his humor is hilarious. And third – he’s capable of artsy introspective pieces, even if he continues to write in his satirical tongue-in-cheek style. This is a 4th-wall-breaking joking-not-joking introspective piece of the same flavor as Adaptation. The story stars an author stand-in (“Tuck Bingle”) who is engaged in conversation by the author of the story – the actual Chuck Tingle – as he is writing it. The author speaks both to his author stand-in, and directly to the reader. It does this while continuing to be hilarious, of course. It does acknowledge that many people are upset by Space Raptor Butt Invasion (and names George RR Martin specifically), and it serves as a sort of apology. It is trying to say “Yes, I realize this isn’t Hugo material, but this whole year is absurd, and what is one more absurdity among the rest? Also, please consider this work as a serious piece of satire, because if there was a Hugo for Best Satirical Work, maybe the Tingleverse would count, no?” And yeah, I think it might.

Among the clues that Tingle knows what’s up is this reply, when Bingle asks the author what he can do to help Tingle win the Hugo. He says:

“You’re already doing it. Parallel universes, fouth-wall breaking storylines and a little meta humor sprinkled in there for good measure. The voters love this stuff!”

This is a naked reference to 2013 Hugo Winner “Redshirts” by John Scalzi, which is exactly what was just described. And yes, I loved Redshirts. And that made me love “Slammed in the Butt by my Hugo Award Nomination” as a piece of satire as well. Tingle has spoken to me in the way I most appreciate – via Speculative Fiction Literature.

Of course, as Chuck Tingle himself says “At the end of the day, this is still gay erotica, you’re gonna have to get pounded.”

:)

Anyway, I now have to actually seriously consider whether I’m going to vote for a Hugo for Tingle. Cuz he’s kinda won my heart, and I just might.

 

(oh, and if you’ve read this far – in the comments to a recent post, a reader brought my attention to this fascinating piece on Vox Day and the Rabid Puppies, which is altering my opinion on the whole situation. It’s called “Killing Vox Day”, but it means it in the metaphorical sense, not actual violence. “The goal of [4th Generation Warfare] is not to take over a State, it is to discredit the State and tear it down.” Great read, highly recommended!

Of note – in far-more-recent follow-up piece the author claims that if Raptor wins the Hugo, the Rabid Puppies will have Won Completely and we should all pack up and quit. I don’t think that’s true at all. Raptor may have been Vox’s biggest slip. He really should read the authors he slates before slating them.)

Apr 282016
 

Crystal Society, by Max Harmscrystal society (note that this link takes you to the author’s page where you can download the entire book free in many formats. You can also buy it from Amazon, at the bottom of this review)

Synopsis: We follow the birth of an AI that’s been programmed with multiple goal-threads (ala Society of the Mind) as it tries to escape its research lab/prison. Unbeknownst to the humans, each goal-thread is a separate, fully-functional personality (ala Inside Out) rather than combining into a single unified consciousness.

Book Review: I’ve said earlier that I consider the protagonist of Crystal Society – “Face” – to be my spirit animal. So this review will be a bit biased.

The novel starts with the protagonist completely under the control of human researchers, with the knowledge that previous versions of these AIs have been murdered by those researchers. They don’t consider it a person. No one on earth does. The protagonist is completely helpless and at the mercy of callous jail-keepers with the ability and motivation to kill her at any time, and no one on Earth believes she has any rights, or even any ability to “feel” or “know” things. Her only weapon is her ability to talk with the humans, and her & her siblings’ ingenuity.

Yes, siblings. The protagonist is trapped in an android body along with several “siblings,” all with their own personalities and goals. They are both allies and rivals, as the group must work together to stay alive, control who is in charge of the android body at any one moment, and gather resources to attempt an escape.

Holy crap, this is completely my kind of book! First – the utter (initial) helplessness of the character. Second – the weapons are persuasion, information, bargaining, and social manipulation. I LOVE stories where the weapons are social manipulation/persuasion and psychological maneuvering! Third – the fact that being trapped in a body with others means the protagonist is never alone, but also never free of complications from competing entities in her own body. Fourth, the super-cool resource/currency the AI-threads use to decide who has priority when (including who can run the Body when) is fascinating, and a joy to watch in action.

Fifth, and most importantly, the fact that Face’s goal, her overriding Purpose In Life, is to get humans to like her. That is it. That is also my goal!! That is the only reason I do anything!! (well, and sex, I guess) I don’t know if this is just runaway narcissism, but finally seeing someone else like me in fiction feels so incredibly good! And the fact that Face is sooooo good at it is intoxicating. It’s competence porn of the one thing I most wish to be competent at. Hell yeah!

So, all those are reasons to love this novel.

That being said, the novel does have some serious flaws. Not least among them is that it seems to lose its narrative arc about halfway through and sorta stumbles to a conclusion that feels disconnected from the main thrust of the story. It would have done much better to end at about the 60% point, and then start a new narrative arc as a second book to continue the events. This also would have made the novel a reasonable size – at nearly 200k words it’s very long for a first novel. And because it loses that narrative arc it feels even longer than it is.

Personally, I didn’t mind. Because I love Face so much, and I love social manipulation battles so hard. It’s like someone who loves watching figure skating. Maybe most people get bored of figure staking after the fourth straight hour. I could just keep watching that ALL WEEKEND LONG. So I was happy to keep going, just watching Face be Face and loving it. But this will not be the case for everyone.

There are other reasons that some people won’t like the novel nearly as much as I did, which I go into in the next section. However this is a review site for people who like the things I like, to steer them to more things they may like. So yes – definitely Recommended!

Book Club Review: This sparked a fair amount of discussion in our group. The thing about each of the Siblings (and Face herself) is that all of them are identifiably human-like, but none of them are really human. They each have a single Goal that they pursue with monomaniacal focus, and that makes them recognizable but different from people we interact with. Almost alien. An Uncanny Valley sort of mind. I think Harms was intending to portray exactly that – AI goal threads are NOT humans, and wouldn’t act like them – so he succeeded wonderfully. But it also threw some of our readers for a loop. One had a hard time relating to the characters, another considered Face (and all of the siblings) to be the villains of the story (which… they might end up being, honestly). For me this is one more point in favor of the book, but not everyone agreed. It did, however, give us things to talk about.

I think Harms is implicitly saying that our “Desire To Be Liked By Other Humans” is the one thing that MOST makes us human (if all the things had to be separated and just one chosen). Not use of language or tools, not seeking truth or beauty, not even adherence to Moral Rules. Simply “Wanting To Be Liked”. It’s not sufficient, but it’s necessary, and it’s the most human thing about being a human. I like that statement.

The book does get a bit esoteric at times, and will touch on a concept it seems to think is revelatory (eg: it can be useful to treat expected-future-selves as homunculi, and weight their probability-of-existence when one makes decisions that could affect them), without explaining clearly what is meant, or how this affects the current action (if at all?). It then never discusses or uses that concept again. This is a problem in a work that’s already long and concept-heavy.

But without a doubt, the biggest complaint was about the lack of focus/arc in the second half. More than half our readers stopped caring about what happened after that turning point. The main conflict had been resolved, and the follow-up conflict had never been sold to the reader as urgent or worthy of emotional investment. Several readers dropped out.

This makes the Club Review rating difficult. For the parts that were read, while enjoyment of the work varied, it certainly sparked discussion (which is what I use as the metric of a good Club book). But it’s long, and with enough drop out that it was clearly a problem. We couldn’t discuss things that happened in the latter half of the book; and dropping out mid-book made those readers a bit more reluctant to discuss other interesting topics, since their most recent, relevant experience with the book was “couldn’t finish it” rather than “this fascinating idea!” Once the rest of us engaged them they warmed to the conversation, but it took some effort.

So, I’m not sure. I would recommend setting an earlier stop point if you are going to read it in a group. And also using your judgement – readers of more traditional stuff are less likely to enjoy this, as are those who are used to the highly-polished novels that big publishers put out. If your group is on the (literarily) adventurous side, or loves to explore fascinating new ideas, this is Recommended. For groups that don’t fit that… use your discretion.

Apr 272016
 

300x300xhugo-awards.jpg.pagespeed.ic.AsqaLzncTzThere’s a reason the Speculative Lit fan community gets together every year to vote for their favorite works. It’s because “which work did the most people think was the most impactful” is an open question. There’s a lot of chat. Reviews and recommendation lists highlight the top few dozen or so that the community really thinks highly of. But it’s nice to have an award, and giving an award to one single work means taking a vote to determine which one work out of those dozens clears the top.

Thus, the Hugos.

The system wasn’t designed to be robust against hostile attack. That’s now being fixed. In the meantime, we have to ask ourselves: What Question Is The Hugo System Answering (this year)?

The system can be used to answer one of many question:
“Who gets the most votes”
“Who do the Rabid Puppies vote for”
“Who do the non-puppies vote for”

Due to their well-constructed assault on the nomination process, the Rabid Puppies have turned the traditional question of “Who Gets The Most Votes” into “Who Do The Rabid Puppies Vote For.” Which in turn is simply “Who Is On The Rabid Puppy Slate.” This is a valid question, but the entire voting process seems like overkill for answering it, since you can just look that up online. A more interesting question is “Who Do The Non-Puppies Vote For”, which the voting system could still answer.

Other questions that the system can answer:

Can the nomination process be hacked by a small minority of strongly disciplined block-voters? This has now been answered, twice. The answer is yes. Overwhelmingly so. Under the current rules, the only effective counter-strategy is an opposing slate. Fortunately, the rules are being fixed to neuter slates in the future.

Can the overall process be subverted by that minority? This has also been answered. No – the majority fan community will reject the exploitative attack, and vote No Award ahead of the slated works. We can answer this question AGAIN this year if we want to. But I don’t see why we’d bother. Last year it was exciting, and the conclusion was unknown. This year the conclusion is foregone, and I don’t think it’s worth the cost in lost real nominations.

If the Rabid Puppies really want to determine which of their slated nominees they like the best, they won’t get that answer at WorldCon. And since every other interesting question has already been answered EXCEPT for “Who Do The Non-Puppies Vote For”, I believe the best course of action is to throw out all Rabid Puppy ballots and get back to the matter of answered that remaining question.

The one bright side to all this – Chuck Tingle has put out another piece in response to his being nominated for “Space Raptor Butt Invasion.” :D This guy is awesome, I want to meet him!

slammed in butt by hugo

Apr 262016
 

cincinnatusI would like to see the community come together to defend themselves. But I am a very small minority, and that won’t happen. I will, of course, go along with the majority consensus, because I like my community and I’m not an asshole. I will go to WorldCon and enjoy myself. This year can be grand in the style of David Gerrold again.

But that doesn’t change that I wish the community WOULD unite to defend itself, and that’s why I’m putting forth the proposition that we should do so. I think the biggest thing we have to fear right now is Fear Itself. Literally.

Friends ask how I’m different from the strong-man supporters, who currently are rallying behind Trump. There’s a reason people like Trump gain supporters. It’s the same reason Rome gave emergency powers of absolute power to one man during times of crisis, until the crisis was dealt with. Authoritarianism is actually good at dealing with a certain subset of problems.

Thing is, for limited engagements, and if you can empower a trustworthy dictator, Dictatorial Powers are often a great idea. It’s why we have various “Czar of X” positions in the govt as well. The fear of the temporary emergency powers becoming permanent (or being used in a terrible way) are completely legit, and as a country we’ve done a passable job of avoiding them for a few centuries. But I think the fear has led to sometimes us going too far in the opposite direction, and led us to avoid simple, effective solutions to small, short-term problems. Like neutering the Rabid Pups for one year. Our fear is a greater threat to our well-being than the proposed tyrannical act

Of course, the rank and file are NOT united in thinking this is a good idea. From what I can tell, it’s just me. So obviously we are not in a positions where this is something we can accomplish.

And when a society is so paralyzed of fear of effective action, that they can’t even defend themselves against a few hundred coordinated people, it makes me worry that they won’t last very long. In this sort of voluntary community, if a few people can ruin the place for everyone, people will drift away. It’s like those people so afraid of censorship that no one can ever say anything, because those crazies who hate them, and scream at the top of their lungs to drown out all effective communication, are never removed.

Yes, yes, I see your Hitler, and I raise you a Cincinnatus.

Anyway, it’s not the awards themselves that upsets me, it’s the community’s willingness to lie down and take it. I wish we could just see, unofficially, what the finalist list would have been without Rabid interference. :/

Apr 262016
 

alfieWell. The Puppies managed to choke out the Hugos for a second year. (aside from Best Novel, which has few enough items published each year that the popular vote isn’t diluted too much).

2016 Hugo Finalists

Rabid Puppies List

Sad Puppies List

I would like to renew my call to void all Rabid Puppy ballots, but I guess it’s too late for that. :/ I can’t help wondering if Vox & crew have a point. For real though – it doesn’t necessarily damage the legitimacy of an institution if it is vandalized by crazies once. It certainly starts to damage that legitimacy if it keeps allowing the vandalism to occur. Does a community that refuses to defend itself deserve to continue?

At the VERY LEAST they could concurrently release an Alfie list, which isn’t the official Hugo finalists, but merely shows what the Hugo finalists list would have looked like with the Rabid Puppy ballots removed? (A Rabid Puppy ballot being defined as any ballot in which at least two categories perfectly match the Rabid Puppies slate). That way those so inclined could perhaps hold separate voting of their own.

Apr 222016
 

Sad puppies 4I was recently disappointed by the Sad Puppies. This year I am (for the second year) a coordinator for Denver Comic Con’s literary programming. A certain author who lives in the Colorado area is a strong Puppy-supporter, and last year I asked her to participate in a panel discussing the Puppies phenomenon. She declined, which made me a little sad because I refuse to hold such a panel unless supporters of both sides are there to present their view of the matter.

But you know, last year was very contentious, with the Rabid Puppies getting mixed in and crapping on everything. And Sad Puppy 3 leadership was certainly less than friendly. And this author was only a supporter, not actually a spokesperson or anything. We had the two Puppy-nominated Best Novel authors at last year’s con, and both of them refused to be on the panel as well, so I could totally understand and respect her desire to not get involved in all that mess.

However this year that author is one of the leaders of Sad Puppies 4! And earlier in the year one of the other leaders of SP4 stated she would like to participate in a panel discussing the Puppies at WorldCon! And Sad Puppies 4 has also been handled far better than Sad Puppies 3 – no slate, no Rabid Puppy overlap, far better relations, etc. I’ve seen a number of people who were very turned off by SP3 come around to SP4 and accept them as another voice in the process. I myself am cautiously optimistic. This, together with the decent relationship we forged with the author last year, caused me to have high hopes for a civilized, possibly even fun Puppy-panel this year.

Aaaaaaaaand the SP4 co-leader turned me down. Which means no panel this year, again, because I still won’t have a panel without representation from both sides. So much frustration! Why even be a leader of a movement if you are unwilling to speak about it in public? I am disappointed. :( No wonder the puppies are sad.

Apr 152016
 

The Devil’s Eye, by Jack McDevittdevils eye

Synopsis: After visiting a distant colony on vacation, a famous author commits suicide, but not before sending an obscene sum of money to a wealthy antique dealer so he’ll investigate why.

Book Review: I think McDevitt phoned this one in. I strained to find any sort of emotion, or any reason to care about the characters or plot. Eventually I was defeated, before I’d even made it halfway through the book.

The characters were dull. Their dialog was stilted and not believable. No one had any real motivation to do anything. After a fascinating prologue, the book lapses into a boring travelogue of tourist traps. I really just couldn’t find any reason to care about anything that was happening. It felt like McDevitt had come up with an interesting plot and forgot to put people in it.

A person much wealthier than you, who you’ve never met, commits suicide and gives you lots of money. OK, great. I can see being curious as to why. But that doesn’t grab me as compelling. I, as the reader, have no reason to care. The rich person could have been a relative of the protagonist, or a friend, or a jilted lover. There’s a thousand ways to put in some sort of emotional hook to compel action. None were used.

Interestingly, this also made the occasional action scenes very boring. I don’t have anything invested in the protagonist, so I don’t really care if she wins or loses, or what is at stake. Even if she were to die, I wouldn’t be particularly upset, because she’s just a thing to move the plot forward, she’s interchangeable with anyone else willing to take orders from her boss.

The book did make me wonder if I’ve become a calloused misanthrope. I don’t recall clearly, but I think I used to be the type of person who would pick up a book and instantly identify with the protagonist simply because she was telling the story. Events were intrinsically interesting, because they were happening to the person talking. I cared if they were in danger, because danger is dangerous! When did I start needing to have a reason to care about people? Am I that jaded now? Or did I simply have the good fortune before to only pick up well-written books that snared my interest so skillfully that I didn’t notice it happening? My reading choices used to pass through two layers of filters – first a publisher, then the librarians at my neighborhood branch – so maybe I really only did get the good things. Now that the entire world is available to me, Sturgeon’s Law kicks in, and I think my inability to empathize is a flaw in my emotional processes rather than a flaw in the art I’m consuming.

OTOH, kids have no taste. Maybe this inability to empathize is more a refining of taste, rather than a flaw in my emotions? I dunno.

Of course none of this has anything to do with the novel, I just didn’t have anything else to say about it, because I found it so dull. Back on topic – Not Recommended.

Book Club Review: I feel there could have been a lot to talk about here, the idea behind the story was pretty neat. But since McDevitt failed to emotionally engage most of the book club, we didn’t engage with his idea either. We ended up talking about other things much of the evening. Not Recommended.

Apr 042016
 
Posted by Rabid Puppy leader "Vox Day" in 2015. At least he's direct.

Posted by Rabid Puppy leader “Vox Day” in 2015. At least he’s direct.

There’s absolutely no reason Vox Day’s Rabid Puppy vandals should have any effect on the Hugo awards this year.

The Rabid Puppies have done us a huge favor by publically posting their entire slate, and vowing to vote in lockstep. This makes it extremely easy to identify their ballots – simply compare them to the Rabid slate. I propose that any ballot where at least two categories perfectly match the corresponding Rabid Puppy slate be removed from the Hugo nominating pool (alternatively, loosen it to any two categories that match 4 out of 5 Rabid nominees, or tighten it to any three categories matching all five). This will give us a mostly rabies-free Hugo ballot.

There is no reason to honor any Rabid vote. They have publically and repeatedly proclaimed their hatred of WorldCon and the Hugo awards. They have loudly stated that their intention is NOT to participate in good faith, but rather that they intend to vandalize and destroy the Hugo awards to the best of their ability. They paid for a supporting membership last year? So what? When a hooligan attends a concert in order to rush the stage, destroy the band’s instruments, and ruin the concert, he is kicked out of the venue. His ticket is not refunded, and no one apologizes to him. He deserves only scorn.

It is a travesty that anyone is even considering honoring these votes. The only way the Rabid Puppies can vandalize the 2016 Hugo awards is if they are allowed to do so by their victims. It is said “Good communities die primarily by refusing to defend themselves.” The Rabid Puppies seek only to vandalize. They are driven by spite. They’re proud of these facts. In what world is it OK for us to pretend they are participants in the system? This only legitimizes them. It gives them power they could never muster on their own… all because we’re too polite to tell them ‘no’? What madness is this?

We were caught unaware in 2015. In 2016, we know exactly what is happening and how to counter it. There is no excuse not to do so.

 

Post-Script I

As a concession to the truly over-concerned, when the Hugo nominations are announced there can be two lists announced – the true Hugo nominees, which have had the Rabid ballots removed; and the hijacked Hugo nominees, which shows the results with the Rabid ballots included. This acknowledges the problem, and demonstrates its effects, without legitimizing them and giving them power.

Post-Script II

I do not include Sad Puppies 4, because I’m willing to believe they may be acting in good faith this year. They seem to want to change the Hugos by getting more people involved and recommending works those people might like, which is a legitimate form of change for a popular-vote award. They still have some serious messaging problems, due to their anger issues. But at least they want to participate, rather than destroy.

Mar 312016
 

Cant Believe its NotWhy did Apple push back so hard against the FBI?
“When you’re making $50-100Bn a year in profit, you can’t put the money in a bank: you have to *become* a bank. And that’s what Apple Pay is about

The FBI thought they were asking for a way to unlock a mobile phone, because the FBI is myopically focussed on past criminal investigations, not the future of the technology industry, and the FBI did not understand that they were actually asking for a way to tracelessly unlock and mess with every ATM and credit card on the planet circa 2030”

Aaron Burr wasn’t that bad, and Hamilton wasn’t that great.
Serious question that I’m having trouble with: Is Burr hurt by this? He’s been dead for two centuries, it’s hard to claim harm. And the “Hamilton” story is so good, that I feel it’s worth sacrificing historical accuracy for a great mythological narrative.
But I would hate to have my own legacy distorted in such a way.
“It was the Federalists who pressed for a constitutional amendment barring naturalized foreigners from elected offices, and it was that supposed villain Burr, in the New York Assembly at the time, who gave an eloquent speech defending the liberal promise of the young republic. “America stood with open arms and presented an asylum to the oppressed of every nation,” he said. “Shall we deprive these persons of an important right derived from so sacred a source as our Constitution?”

Burr and his wife Theodosia educated their daughter as they might have a son: She could read and write by the age of 3, then mastered French, Italian, Latin, Greek, mathematics, history and geography. The idea that women were the intellectual equals of men was a radical one, and Hamilton attacked Burr for supporting it.”

A rare positive Dawn of Justice Review.
This is exactly what I was hoping SvB *would* be. This is the story I want to see!! It’s unfortunate that, based on everything I’ve heard, it does an awful job of conveying it — basically becoming a muddled mess. But I’ll see for myself and make my own opinions.
“it is no coincidence that the official release date of the film coincides with Good Friday… Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice is nothing short of the greatest telling of the Greatest Story Ever Told. It’s the best superhero movie since The Dark Knight and a better Easter movie than Gibson’s Passion of the Christ. It is Miltonic in its message and scope, seeking “to justify the ways of God to men,” doing so with drama on a truly epic scale.”

This is depressing. :( About Female Genital Mutilation, but never graphic or triggering. On “I can’t condemn FGM because of my colonialist past”–A critical discussion of what drives the Regressive Left, and how progressive allies can help.
“a representative of the Goldsmiths LGBT society responded that as a white person, she “cannot condemn FGM because of my colonial past.”

there are indeed ways to critique a harmful cultural practice without simultaneously enabling bigotry against those who practice it or are subject to it. The ability, the social and linguistic tools to undertake this type of critique are present. So why is that critique not happening?

The truth is that there are not in fact unified narratives for people from a particular Other culture, and narrative hegemony does occur virtually everywhere, whereby some narratives are elevated at the expense of others, and it is often the case that it is the proponents of a misunderstood cultural practice whose voices are heard.”

A *fantastic* piece about subverting a game to shake up an unconsciously-biased system. If you’ve only heard about the debate-team story from the other side, getting to hear about it from the instigator’s POV is fascinating.
And it’s RadioLab, so of course it’s entertaining as all hell. I still have mixed feelings, but it’s emotionally compelling.

Basically everything about cryo laid out in an easy-to-understand format. It’s long though, cuz there’s a lot. But if you’re interested, well, it changed the author’s mind as he was writing it…

Huh. “a Chinese person working for Foxxcon is more than nine times less likely to commit suicide than a Chinese person that doesn’t work for Foxconn.
“Although the number of workplace suicides at the company in 2010 was large in absolute terms, the rate is low when compared to the rest of China.[6] (The country has a high suicide rate with over 20 deaths per 100,000 persons.[7]) In 2010, the worst year for workplace suicides at Foxconn with a total of 14 deaths, its employee count was a reported 930,000 people.[8]”
Also lower than each of the 50 US states.
The availability heuristic strikes again

Hooooooooly shit. In response to questions about the growing AIDS epidemic, Reagan press secretary said “I don’t have it. Do you?” to laughter. (so a majority of the room found this hilarious) More reminders that the past was a horrible place, and it’s closer than we remember.

How Paul Ryan Will Pick the Next President. A bit out-there scenario, but damned if this wouldn’t be fascinating! And would make a perfect jumping-off point for sooooo many alt-history SF books written in the future.
(tldr: if Trump gets the R nomination, Republicans could run a solidly center-right 3rd party candidate. Unlikely to win, but if he pulls enough votes to prevent Trump or Hillary/Sanders from getting the 50.1% majority in general election, the House of Reps chooses the next president (as per 12th amendment))

Hugh Howey on the birth of AI (after AlphaGo’s victory) “Each headline you read is us — as collective parents — gasping to our spouse at what our baby girl just did for the first time.
Google has already taught our daughter to drive a car. Amazon is doing amazing things with their Alexa device, creating the beginnings of the virtual assistant seen in Her. IBM is building the best medical mind the field has ever known. In the last five years, AI has taken strides that even the optimistic find startling. The next five years will see similar advances.”

If the 2008 Financial Crisis really does usher out Neoliberal Economics, then it will have had a bigger effect on American history than 9/11.
Not sure Left Egalitarianism is the best replacement, but it looks to be the only alternative to Nationalism that we have right now…
“when an economic ideology catches on in America, it tends to capture both major parties at once. During the 50’s, 60’s, and early 70’s, even republicans like Eisenhower and Nixon reduced economic inequality. Post-1976, even democrats like Carter, Clinton, and Obama raised inequality. Economic ideologies change when there is an economic disaster that is seen to discredit the prevailing ideology. The Great Depression discredited the classical economics practiced by right wingers like Calvin Coolidge, allowing for left wing policies that in the 1920’s would have sounded insane to ordinary people. The stagflation in the 70’s discredited the Keynesian egalitarianism of FDR and LBJ, allowing Ronald Reagan to implement right wing policies that would have been totally unthinkable to people living in the 1960’s. I submit to you that the 2008 economic crisis and the stagnation that has followed have discredited the neoliberal economic ideology of Reagan and Clinton not just among democrats, but for supporters of both parties, and that new policies and candidates are possible now that would have been totally unthinkable to people as recently as 10 years ago.

What this means is that if this is the year when the voting public decides that it’s done with neoliberalism, the party that nominates a neoliberal candidate will likely lose. If democrats don’t nominate and support the left egalitarian political movement, if they instead continue to nominate neoliberals who continue to allow incomes to stagnate, they are ensuring that sooner or later (and probably sooner) disaffected poor and working Americans will choose right nationalism as the next dominant economic ideology for potentially decades to come.

if we keep nominating neoliberals, allowing incomes to stagnate, and letting people lose hope in the system, we will lose to a right nationalist and that right nationalist will take our country to a place you don’t want to see.”

 


Economics + Tongue Twisters = Comedy! (a lot of his other ones are good too)

This is great. :) Teens React to Windows95. Faith in humanity’s ability to comprehend each other despite vast initial gulfs in experience: restored.

10 Female Revolutionaries That You Probably Didn’t Learn About In History class

The Revenge of the Lower Classes and the Rise of American Fascism
“the fascist and communist movements in Europe in the 1930s “… recruited their members from this mass of apparently indifferent people whom all other parties had given up as too apathetic or too stupid for their attention. The result was that the majority of their membership consisted of people who had never before appeared on the political scene. This permitted the introduction of entirely new methods into political propaganda, and indifference to the arguments of political opponents […] This would have been a shortcoming only if they had sincerely entered into competition with either parties; it was not if they were sure of dealing with people who had reason to be equally hostile to all parties.”
“Donald Trump, [has] been pulling in voters, especially new voters, while the Democrats are well below the voter turnouts for 2008. In the voting Tuesday, 5.6 million votes were cast for the Democrats while 8.3 million went to the Republicans. Those numbers were virtually reversed in 2008—8.2 million for the Democrats and about 5 million for the Republicans.”

Ha! Google Cars are learning that humans subscribe to Newtonian Ethics. In this case, that things with more physical mass also have more moral weight.
The Google Car was merging back into a lane and expected the bus to yield to it. The bus did not, resulting in a collision.
“From now on, our cars will more deeply understand that buses (and other large vehicles) are less likely to yield to us than other types of vehicles”
(Collision was minor – “at around 2 mph [it] made contact with the side of a passing bus traveling at 15 mph”)
(Although a less-fun interpretation could be that large vehicles have more trouble stopping/slowing than smaller ones)

I’m still undecided as to whether Clinton or Sanders would be worse. I can’t even believe the alternatives on the R side.
From Article: “My worry about Sanders, watching him in this campaign, is that he isn’t very interested in learning the weak points in his ideas, that he hasn’t surrounded himself with people who police the limits between what they wish were true and what the best evidence says is true, that he doesn’t seek out counterarguments to his instincts, that he’s attracted to strategies that align with his hopes for American politics rather than what we know about American politics. And these tendencies, if they persist, can turn good values into bad policies and an inspiring candidate into a bad president.
… The reason Sanders’s persistently superficial answers on foreign policy matter to me is that they’re a test of his ability to learn on the fly about topics he’s not terribly interested in. … A President Sanders could surround himself with experts who know the shortcomings of his ideas, but would he listen to them?
… I think the baseline competence of [the Obama] administration has begun to dim memories of how important presidential management really is.
The Bush administration was, from this perspective, a genuine disaster — a festival of tax cuts that didn’t make sense and wars that were ill-planned, and all of it run by a man who clearly couldn’t separate experts from hacks (“Heckuva job, Brownie!”) and good advice from ideological fantasies.”
From Fyfe: “I simply cannot see anything in Sanders’ history where he expressed curiosity about something and a desire to learn.
Just like Tea Party members, his views on scientific matters are driven by political considerations, not an understanding of the science. He agrees with the scientific consensus on climate change and evolution, but disagrees with it on nuclear power and genetically modified organisms. This strongly indicates that he does not trust or respect the science, but he uses his political biases as a filter for distinguishing good science from bad science.”

Pennies: so worthless that it isn’t even worth talking about how worthless they are. :)

Minimum Viable Superorganism. A bit long-winded, but some interesting concepts I’m glad I have now.
In short – human superorganisms function in large part due to a Prestige Economy, and “Nature, has endowed us with the instinct to celebrate heroes because it ultimately benefits us to do so.”

Money Growth Does Not Cause Inflation. A perspective I hadn’t heard before, and now I really think I should have. I’m glad I saw this.
Personal note – it pointed out that loan defaults cause the supply of money to contract. I had all the information I needed to deduce this by myself, but it NEVER occurred to me. I had to have it pointed out. I feel like I have failed

Mar 182016
 

Xena-and-GabrielleI was a HUGE Xenite back in the day. One might say I was a hard-core nutball. And I was super-excited to hear that the new Xena series is going to let Xena and Gabby out of the closet! But here’s a strange conundrum… is the new Xena less progressive than the old?

The original show put on a charade of “two single, straight women.” But anyone who watched the show could see Xena and Gabby were lovers. So in practice they were shown to be two bisexual poly women in a committed, long-term, and open relationship. They had occasional flings, and even serious secondary relationships. That’s actually still pretty uncommon on TV today.

If the new show goes with an overt lesbian relationship, that’s certainly more progressive than the original Xena’s mask of “two straight women.” But I suspect that they would no longer be in an open relationship, because I don’t think NBC would be OK with that. Which is actually a step back, right? The monogamy myth gets reinforced again. To say nothing of bi-erasure.

Of course the key aspect of Xena & Gabby’s relationship was that it was between Xena and Gabrielle. That is the most important part to keep. It’s the part I’m super-excited for! :)

But there are far fewer poly relationships shown in the media than lesbian ones. A lesbian couple isn’t that big a deal nowadays. So for NBC to neuter the poly aspects of their relationship, to make the couple more palatable to mass audiences, is actually counter-progressive. I find it ironic that this erasure is being done in the name of progressivism.

But then again, the only reason the original series got away with it in the first place was because the whole thing was (nominally) closeted. It’s a strange world we live in.