Aug 262015
 

spread-dissent-and-kill-oppressionSomeone recently asked me why I try to defend people who I disagree with on moral issues. Their point was that ‘If someone wants to publicly deny the rights of my friends or family I am not going to debate. I am going to tell them to shut up.’ (paraphrased)

While I agree that denying rights to people is awful, I think telling others to shut up for voicing opinions is a bad idea. There are four reasons I’m against shouting down idiots.

1. I may be wrong. I have many beliefs, and I’m sure that I’m wrong about at least one of them. For me to be completely correct about everything is simply impossible. I’m probably wrong to various degrees about quite a few things. If I shout down everyone who disagrees with me, I lock in my current opinions and never have the chance to learn, grow, and modify them. I’m hurting myself by shutting down all dissenting views.

2. Shutting down dissenting views is the tactics of The Enemy. They were used to suppress every minority there is. They prolonged the Dark Ages. Not too long ago, WE were the ones that were being shut up. People who spoke for the rights of black slaves were murdered. People who spoke for the rights of gays were beaten into comas. Atheists were executed by the state. This changed slowly, and one of the biggest reasons for the change was greater respect for dissenting speech. Once people could put forward arguments without being lynched for them, the truth was able to rise to the surface. As such, I don’t believe the truth has much to fear from freedom of expression. You say you’re worried that people’s rights will be taken away if we let others speak freely. We only won those rights *because of* the ability to speak freely. If our position is so weak that the majority of people who are exposed to our argument, and the opposing argument, side with the opposing argument… perhaps we should take a second look at our argument and make sure it isn’t flawed. I’m not afraid to let the crazy homophobic uncle make a fool of himself. It strengthens our position. That there will always be a minority of hateful fanatics is unavoidable, and we won’t make anything better by resorting to their tactics.

3. An idiot who is shouted down is not persuaded, only intimidated. It will leave him feeling wronged, and justified in his anger. We have done nothing to make the situation better, we’ve only boosted our egos by delivering a smack-down to our enemy. It feels good, but it helps nothing. On the other hand, if we engage our opponents we show that we don’t dismiss them out of prejudice, we have considered their views and found them lacking. Furthermore, we can present counter evidence, or point out flaws in their reasoning. No one is ever convinced in a single debate. Heck, most people won’t even admit to being swayed slightly. But over time, usually months or years, they can be taught. If you shout them down you are robbing them of this, and denying yourself the opportunity to help them and thus make the world better.

4. It’s aggressive and rude. Being a dick isn’t just a terrible strategy at spreading your values, it’s also unpleasant. It makes the world a crappier place.

For those who wish to read about this opinion at length, I would point to Scott Alexander’s posts on this topic. He says it much better than I can.

Aug 252015
 
puppy threats

fresh puppy “threats”

Over the weekend, the overwhelming majority of SF Fandom smacked the Sad/Rabid Puppies on the nose with a rolled-up newspaper. It was a smashing victory for civility, when even those who normally enjoy the “old school” style of SF said “We’re not OK with you guys being assholes, cut it out.” No decent person will want to be on a Puppy slate after this. Matthew Foster put it better than I could*.

As by now I SHOULD HAVE expected, this has resulted in a number of Puppies saying that this is Fandom burning its own house, and crowing about a victory? Fascinating.

It’s wrong on so many levels that it’s hard to address them all. Primarily, the Puppies are using words (“burning down”, “salting the earth”, “nuking”, “pyrrhic”) that imply an action which weakens the winners. They seem to not understand the concept of You Never Negotiate With Terrorists. They are cowards, and they expect everyone else to act like cowards. I’m fortunate to live in a country where these sorts of fearful men are laughing stocks. I’m fortunate to be part of a fandom that feels the same.

But, as Alonzo Fyfe once pointed out, you can tell a lot about someone by the type of mistake they make, particularly when it is repeated and consistent. What can we infer about the Puppies** based on their claiming No Award as a victory?

We can assume they are the people who don’t actually care about Science Fiction at all, and certainly don’t care about SF Fandom. They are happy to see fandom “burned down”, and they hope to keep doing it again and again. They’re willing to pay money just to spite others.

This has been shown to be a losing tactic. I think we’re actually best served by signal-boosting their words. The vast majority of people are driven away by this sort of dickishness. The louder they proclaim it, the more people will turn against them.

The most interesting inference, however, is that they know they are weak. They don’t expect to gain any more followers, ever. They have maxed out their strength, and now they are working furiously at charging up the base. Why else employ a tactic that that alienates you from any new potential allies? Their leadership doesn’t expect further support, and is scared of losing the hardcore believers they already have. They know they are leading an army of cowards. They know that at the first sign of a loss cowards will turn tail and flee, leaving their leaders high and dry. They need to hold onto the fantasy that even a refutation as resounding as the spanking they got on Saturday is actually a win. Now they’re doing their best simply to avoid a rout.

Amplify their words. Let everyone see them thrashing about. Their own flailing damns them more than anything we could say. :)

 


*For those without Facebook, his public post says: Gotta love this from Sarah Hoyt, (as I take the wording from the WSJ: …the “fury” of the reaction to the Puppies has proven their point. “That is the reaction of a small clique that has engaged in log rolling or years to reward its followers and those they approved of,” she said before the Hugo ceremony.

Too keep up the false narrative, she finally has to jettison the “small clique” that she claims runs everything, because it was a very, very big clique last night. It was...everyone except the pups. So I believe to recast her quote to makes sense, it would be, 
“the fury of all of fandom against our small clique of puppies has proven our point: that all of fandom has engaged in voting for years to reward the stories they approve of–and we don’t like that.”

Yes, now it makes sense.”

 

**To be more accurate, I should specify I mean only the Puppies who do claim that. Not all Puppies fall in that category, and I don’t want to tar them all with the same brush. I will use the term “Puppies” in this post as short hand for “Puppies who think that No Award is a victory for them”, but please keep in mind that this isn’t all of them. I don’t even know if it’s a majority or not.

 

Aug 232015
 

IMG_20150823_181412148Lets get the awards themselves out of the way first. As you’ve all heard by now, the Puppies were shut out. The community managed to successfully defend themselves at the first level. Congrats to all of us, I’m proud. :)

I had thought it possible there would be some disruption of the awards. Not necessarily anything physical, but maybe booing or chanting or yelling, which would slow things, stop the proceedings, and need to be dealt with. Before I arrived in Spokane I had been half-expecting it. There was not a peep. If there were any puppy supporters in the audience they were well behaved. I will admit that I am partially impressed that they managed to keep their civility about them. The entire thing went off without a hitch.

But by the time I actually walked into the auditorium, I no longer expected the Puppies to be a problem, because this was just the continuation of their entire week-long trend.

Long time readers may be aware I’m a bit of a drama-chaser. I don’t like it personally in my life, cuz who has the time for that shit? But I love to watch it. So I was seeking it out. I made many of my panel choices based on things I thought may draw puppy ire. I went to John Scalzi’s reading, which was hilarious and delightful. There was not a single bit of contention. No boos or hisses or people standing up to ask jerk questions. Maybe this is because John Scalzi is razor sharp and intimidating to anyone without genius-levels of charisma and IQ, and they were scared to speak out. Maybe they were intimated by such a large room full of huge Scalzi fans. I don’t know.

I went to the panel on “Writing About Controversies” which was unofficially THE panel to discuss the Sad Puppy/Rabid Puppy situation. I thought maybe here, of all places, someone would stand up to ask a challenging question during the Q&A. Nothing.

I went to a handful of social justice panels, thinking maybe someone would boo or challenge there. The rooms were more intimate, the audience smaller, and the panelists fairly low-level and unthreatening. I left early out of boredome in several cases.

I attended the business meeting where the rules changes were discussed to address the puppy problem. Here, I thought, is a perfect place for them to strike. It is a very formal, palimentary system (more on this later, it was fascinating!), and it would have been pretty easy to sabotage. I saw one issue run off the table just because it was contentious and there was enough bickering and debate that time ran out on it. A group of less than a dozen puppy-supporters could have thrown a serious monkey wrench in the whole thing simply by exploiting rules without doing anything against the letter of the law (as they like to do). They could have tried continually calling points of order, or offering amendments, debating rulings, objecting to proceedures, etc. They could have run out the clock on everything. I’m sure there’s some way of dealing with this, but it would have gummed up the works if they did it smartly. Nothing at all. It’s like they weren’t even there.

I know there were some around. I ran into one at my hotel’s breakfast bar, and we had a good little discussion. It was very civil, and we went away with respect for each other as human beings. I talked to a couple friends who also ran into a puppy or two. But all in all, it was like they weren’t there. Turns out they are cowards in real life, and only strike out at others when they can do so comfortably from behind the safety of their keyboards.

One may think “Isn’t it possible they are just good people, who don’t want to disrupt a party and ruin the days of other people for no reason? Why are you Saying they are cowards, rather than that they are civilized people?” Nay, I reply. When they can hide behind screens and keyboards, and don’t have to see the faces of the people they are hurting, they are more than happy to destroy someone’s day. They are *gleefull* about it. They cackle about how good it feels to see an anthill and start stomping it (which is a direct quote from a puppy commenter on my blog, I’m not making shit up). I don’t do Twitter myself, but I hear you can see all sorts of abuse on there right now.

But lets grant that those online comments are from the worst fringes of the movement. The fact remains that the puppy supporters were excited to vote a slate so they could hijack the Hugos for their self-aggrandizement. And as I predicted in “Why Vandals?” none of them bothered to show up for the actual party. If the party was left just to them, they’d have a nearly empty convention hall and no one to run it. They do not care about the con, or the people who attend it. They didn’t attend the business meeting to try to make things better. They didn’t put forward any bids to host the 2018 WorldCon. That they didn’t try to further mar the convention by ruining things in person isn’t a mark of civility, it’s simply the modus operandi for internet cowards.

It really dawned on me just how worthless the Puppies are when I went to the business meeting, and during the watching of the fan-recognition part of the award ceremony. These are people, later on in their years, who have been SF/F fans for significantly longer than I’ve even been alive. They’ve spent *decades* of work putting together these conventions. They are dedicated, and in love. They aren’t the authors, they don’t get the accolades themselves. They’re just passionate about SF. I really came to realize how much WorldCon is by and for the fans. I was very disappointed that more puppies didn’t come to the con in person. I was very disappointed that ALL the puppies didn’t come to the con in person! They would have seen that joy and passion for themselves. Maybe that is part of the reason why the puppy supporters who did come didn’t boo or shout or try to disrupt anything. They saw the love and the passion for themselves, and couldn’t bring themselves to be assholes any more. The ones who stayed home, safe behind their keyboards – they are the ones who will continue to be dicks. Because they were cowards, and wouldn’t come to see what they were vandalizing in person. Assholery feeds on cowardice, which leads to further assholery, in a neat little circle. It’s fitting.

The true realization of just how awful they are didn’t hit until the nomination stats were released afterwards. Before that point, it was just a theoretical “Man, I wonder how the year would have been different.” Afterwards, you could see exactly which stories were obstructed by the Puppy’s spite. Which authors were denied the recognition for great work. There are some truely fantastic stories that would have gotten nominations if not for the Puppy’s vandalism. Most tragically, a story by Eugie Foster would have received a nomination. Eugie Foster died tragically last year. By all accounts, she was an amazing person and a great writer. Who knows if she would have won? But now she’ll never have the memorium of “Hugo-nominated author” that she should have received. Because of the Puppy’s butthurt. I’ve tried to engage them before, and be reasonable. After today I’ll go back to that. But for today, I’m allowing myself to be angry. Fuck those guys.

Aug 182015
 

Startide RisingStartide Rising, by David Brin

Synopsis: Disaster recovery after a starship crashes on an abandoned planet, while a space battle takes place overhead. With sapient dolphins!

Book Review: This is a fun adventure tale, featuring lots of problem solving, which puts it right up my alley. The book starts off with a bang, dropping us right into the middle of a raging battle, and it is never dull for its full duration. There is always something going on, very often multiple somethings, and they’re all intriguing.

The uplifted dolphins are a huge part of the charm of this book, they’re mischievous and witty, and strike me as very smart and energetic pre-teens. They’re a delight to read. Brin also gets to have a lot of fun with the concept of uplift, because it means alien species don’t have to make sense evolutionarily. Intelligent trees? Sure, a creator race genetically engineered them, so why not?

The world feels rich, with a lot of depth that is hinted at but never explored, because the main action is too important for diversions. You come away from this book feeling like there are volumes that could be written within it, and this was but one small corner that we had the opportunity to visit. I would refer to it as a very fanfic-fertile environment. :)

There are quite a lot of POV characters though, so many that some start to blur together after a while. And it makes liberal use of psi powers, which threw me at first. It’s an artifact of the times when it was written and psi wasn’t quite disproven yet, but it feels damn bizarre to have fantasy sticking it’s nose into my sci-fi! Fortunately the things that the psi is used for turn out being so damn cool that all is forgiven, and you come to accept it over the course of a few chapters.

When you’re done with it, the book leaves you optimistic, exhilarated, and wanting more. Recommended.

Book Club Review: While there’s a lot of action to be had, the book still manages to make some commentary here and there. It decries traditional colonialism, while also making a case for the importance of helping emerging species. It strikes me as a demonstration of how The White Man’s Burden can be a positive thing (where “White Man’s” would be replaced with “Human’s” or perhaps “Uplifter Race’s”). I wish it had been explored in more detail, but it was a start.

The interesting concepts and adventurous tone makes this a good choice for almost any group, it’ll leave everyone entertained. It is a little dated, but that doesn’t hurt it much. While not amazing, it is good, so I’d Recommend it.

Aug 122015
 

John C WrightThe last few days everyone in Hugo-ville has been in a tizzy about Lou Antonelli contacting the police in Spokane. I’ve seen it referred to as a SWATing. Guys… no. Chill the fuck out. A SWATing is when the SWAT team actually breaks into your house. It’s terrible for a number of reasons, but primary among them the fact that American police are notoriously reckless and an innocent person could be killed. This is a SWATing. What Lou did isn’t SWATing. He wrote a letter, asking for extra police protection at a public event.

Yes, he’s crazy, and he used paranoid language that shows how off-the-deep-end he is. But police do occasionally get such letters from crazy people, it’s not a big deal. And let’s be real for a second – wouldn’t we all feel a bit better with extra security around this year? I’ve heard similar worries from the non-Puppies (called Happy Hippogriffs from here on out for brevity) – they’re also scared that the Puppies fans are dangerously emotional and a few lunatics on the fringe might try to start trouble. I’ve had this expressed to me in private, and seen it online as well. We’re all a bit nervous. Lou just had the misfortune of letting his fear show in public, and targeting the Master of Ceremonies with lunatic accusations while doing so. Cut the guy some slack.

Everyone is quoting the Aug 1 episode of the Superlative Livestream. This is a roundtable discussion by a number of Puppies & Sympathizers, and I think very few people have actually listened to it, because there’s some far more interesting stuff in there! I’ve now listened to it, so you don’t have to. ;) Here’s some highlights.

At ~27:40 someone complains about how many people “shelled out forty bucks just to vote a spoiler vote”, which at first I thought showed crazy amounts of obliviousness. The entire Puppy movement is just one big backlash of the aggrieved, uniting to shell out forty bucks for the satisfaction of casting a spoiler vote! That is their raison d’etre! And now they’re trying to take the moral high-ground, saying that’s dirty pool? Then I realized it was John C Wright talking, and I laughed. The man knows exactly what he’s doing, he just has more chutzpah than anyone currently writing. :)

An interesting insight into the Puppies’ view of us: at ~1:17:25 one complains that “the thing with a lot of these people is that they don’t know people of faith”. Which… wow. Is the problem really that the Puppy voters simply don’t know any Hippogriffs? How else could you imagine that the Hippogriffs don’t know any people of faith? A large portion of them are people of faith! Of the remainder, I guarantee close to 100% know people of faith. We live in America, the most religious first-world country on the planet. It’s nigh impossible to NOT know someone of faith. We are all very much acquainted with people of faith, and the fact that you think we aren’t makes me suspect you’ve been being told some very interesting stories about us.

He then goes on to say that this makes having a chaplain protagonist “non-PC.” I don’t understand how this follows, even in the abstract. If any Puppy is reading this, and agrees with his sentiment, can you clarify what he means?

The same Puppy at ~1:20:15 says that he lives in Texas where they “are very different” because “you don’t have to apologize if you mention God or you say “God-bless-you” when someone sneezes”. Again, I want to know where the hell he’s getting his opinions about the outside world. Generally, mentioning God is not something anyone apologizes for. I mean sure,  it may be considered rude to start arguing Religion and/or Politics depending on the situation, but that’s normal social convention. There’s an old saying about it. That’s just not starting shit at the dinner table. Simply mentioning your God is never something I’ve seen anyone have to apologize for – more often than not it meets with approval.

But seriously, the BIG kicker here is his assertion that anywhere in the US someone would have to apologize for saying “God-bless-you.” That’s ludicrous, to the point that I wouldn’t have believed a Puppy had made that claim if I hadn’t heard it with my own ears. It doesn’t even have religious connotations anymore! That he thinks there are places where you’d have to apologize for saying that means his view of people who are outside his group has been so twisted and distorted that we must be little more than baby-eating mutants! He feels that his in-group is so persecuted outside of his enclave, that the outside world would turn on him for a simple wish of health after a sneeze! NO WONDER the Puppies are so happy to part with $40 to spoil the award party of the enemy side! They have a conception of us as truly awful people. This is the thing I was talking about in Defense Against The Dark Arts. What kind of person thinks it’s ok to distort the worldview of those who respect his opinion to turn them on their fellow citizens in this way? Ugh.

Which brings me to John C Wright. I kinda love this guy. He’s extremely intelligent, and well-spoken, and he has this wonderful, rich voice. He’d make such an amazing Quirrell. And he is *passionate*, which I really admire. I loved it when he was crazy Libertarian, and I still love it now that he’s crazy Catholic. This guy does not give one fuck about what his opposition thinks, because they are wrong. He’s a dyed-in-the-wool Warrior, and he’s amazing to watch. Have I mentioned that I like to watch that kind of thing? I loved reading PZ Myer’s blog for the same reason. Intelligent, passionate, and a warrior. PZ would be what the Puppies call a “Social Justice Warrior” (SJW). John C Wright is the right-wing equivalent. He is absolutely a Conservative Justice Warrior (CJW?), and his fiction screams it. Hell, HE screams it, he doesn’t hide it for a second. He starts off the livestream acknowledging it! But the real fireworks come near the end, and for some reason I haven’t seen it referenced anywhere else.

Starting at ~1:18:00 John Wright says that “they’re an enemy religion to our religion. They know it.” Followed at ~1:18:45 with “They worship Moloch by means of abortion, and they worship Baphomet by means of sodomy.” He’s obviously talking in metaphor, but damn, that is some awesome metaphoring! That’s straight-up biblical. And it’s refreshingly honest. None of this namby-pamby bullshit about “You can say God-bless-you without apologizing for it.” Jesus, that argument is just plain sad, it crumbles as soon as anyone bothers to spend five freakin’ minutes with the opposition. But the claims that we support access to abortion, and we’re cool with sodomy? Entirely true. You think those things are bad, we don’t. That’s something real. That’s something worth engaging. Huzzah to Wright, for cutting past the bullshit and getting right to the beating heart of the divide. You, sir, have my respect. In the odd way that one respects a strong opponent.

Aug 062015
 

astronaught terror

CIVIC MYTHOLOGY – The neat part is, everything under this tag is true, it just uses poetic language.
“Canonically, the United States of America once possessed a unique artifact known as the Demon Core, but it was consumed in the process of summoning a miniature star”

The new Deadpool trailer looks fun. But why in god’s name would you put a joke that’s *older than I am* in the TRAILER? It sends the message that your writers are lazy, which is not a message you want to send in the trailer! (I’m referring to the  “Wearing a red shirt to hide your blood, then making a crack about wearing brown pants, to imply someone is shitting their pants in fear” crack. I can’t say for sure the joke’s been around since the invention of red dye, but I know it was a classic before I was born. And yes, it’s a good joke, especially the first time you hear it. But why would you show off lack of originality in a trailer?)

While we’re talking about movies, I fully expect the Sad/Rabid Puppies to nominate Pixels for a Hugo next year.

An amazingly stupid motion is filed (“prosecutors filed a motion asking the court to order a defense attorney to stop calling them “the government” “), and the defense attorney hits them with an awesome rebuttal.

Yes I know I’m years behind the times, but I just found out how much fun the Crash Course in World History series is.

Huzzah for Amnesty International, coming out for legalization of sex work!

In depressing news, mass incarceration has caused more crime than it’s prevented. Some judges are harsher than others, but the judge you get is luck of the draw. So it’s possible to track people who commit the same crime but get difference sentences and see how the length of the sentence affects the likelihood of future criminal activity. Turns out, longer sentences increase the odds of re-offending.
“each year in prison increases the odds that a prisoner would reoffend by 5.6% a quarter. Even people who went to prison for lesser crimes wound up committing more serious offenses subsequently, the more time they spent in prison. His conclusion: Any benefit from taking criminals out of the general population is more than off-set by the increase in crime from turning small offenders into career criminals.”

Fascinating episode of Rationally Speaking. Ian Morris on, “Why the West rules — for now“. Similar vein to Diamond’s “Guns, Germs, and Steel”
“Geography drives development, but development changes what geography means … as geography changes its meanings, the parts of the world that are most developed keeps moving around.”

How John Green came to believe he’d written something he never had.

A hero of the people! Time Warner Cable owes $229,500 to woman it would not stop calling.

“Breathe in strength, breathe out bullshit”

Why Special Effects Peaked in the 90s

Stupid Dinosaur Movies. “Hollywood has a neat little racket going these days: making mega-budget tent-pole action movies that so saturate the public consciousness with advertisements and brand recognition that they’re treated like major cultural events, but which are also so deliberately immaterial that anyone who criticizes them looks like an uptight buzzkill.”

Not only did teenagers not invent STI-detecting color-changing condoms, it was a straight-up stupid idea even in concept. It would do a great job of getting condom use to drop drastically and further stigmatize already over-stigmatized infections. The entire popularity of that report was just sex-shaming glee.

How long can a con man with no soccer talent whatsoever play soccer at the professional level before anybody catches on? 20 years.

Ginny being amazing again

Very well London. You win. You are the coolest city. Masked vigilante in London is being called The Bromley Batman.
(altho seriously, black pants and shirt + a bandanna is NOT a batman costume!)

Aug 042015
 

more-carved-book-sculptures-by-guy-laramee-oTldr: What really matters is connecting to our readers. And you can’t connect to people if they can’t even read your work.

There are three major Speculative Fiction periodicals in the USA that still print on dead trees – Asimov’s, F&SF, and Analog. They’ve been around for a very long time, and due to their longevity and physical presence, they are considered the most prestigious to be published in. Most of the authors I know want to be published in them more than anywhere else, and send their new works to them first.

I respect this and I’m impressed when friends make sales to them.

But they are not my first choice for publication. None of them are even in my Top 3. Because when I get published in a print magazine NONE OF THE PEOPLE I LOVE CAN READ MY STORY!

It isn’t easy getting a copy of one of these magazines. I have to find a Barnes & Noble in my area (or one of the very rare non-B&N brick-and-mortar bookstores), root around in the neglected corners of their hidden magazine racks for a half hour (seriously, the SF lit stuff is almost impossible to find), only to find out that the June Issue of the magazine doesn’t actually come out in June!! (wtf print publications?) I’m too late! Then I find out I have to pay an amount approaching the cost of many eBooks for what is in effect a single short story, since I don’t care about any of the other stuff in there. And then on top of all that, I’m doing all this for a story I haven’t even read yet. I may not even LIKE it!

And no, I can’t buy an e-copy of a single issue, at least not without spending a half hour trying to figure out how to do that without buying a full-year’s subscription as well, and I’m not gonna be hassled into that.

So, how many authors am I willing to go through this process for? Exactly three: Chiang, Watts, and Dickinson.

I hate that I can’t recommend some of my favorite stories to my friends, because there’s no way for them to read them. I didn’t bother posting about “Three Bodies at Mitanni” at /r/rational,  because how would anyone there get to read it anyhow? I have the same problem with “Liking What You See”. I am insanely happy that I can recommend “The Things” to everyone, because that’s available online! I do so all the time, and it always makes me all excited inside, imagining what they’ll be feeling the first time they read it.

For that reason I generally go with the online publications first, whenever I can. Clarkesworld, Lightspeed, Tor.com, Apex, Beneath Ceaseless Skies. If I get published in one of these, I can actually link to it. I can tell my friends, my family, my podcast listeners, and even the sometimes the guys on /r/rational, that I have written something, and here it is! Come take a look! :) I can’t do that with the Big Three paper publications.

Perhaps even more to the point – paper disappears quickly. It’s on the shelves for one month, and then it’s gone forever. The internet offers some modicum of permanency. Your story will still be available for people to read after two months, or two years, or even fifteen years later!

So yes. I respect the prestige of the paper publications. I am honored to have been in one. But I think that given another decade, maybe two at the absolute outside, paper and subscriptions will lose their luster. More and more authors choose to have their works appear in the free-to-read online publications whenever they can. Because for most of us, what really matters is connecting to our readers. And you can’t connect to people if they can’t even read your work.

All of which is to say – now that the rights for the story I sold to Asimov’s have reverted to me, I’ve put it online so that people can read it.

 

Although I will give print publications this – they are willing to look at works longer than 7,500 words. It is really hard trying to find a home for anything longer than that online. :(

Aug 012015
 

THIS+IS+FINEI just read “Three Bodies At Mitanni” by Seth Dickinson.

Oh my god.

At first you think it’s about Hanson-style Ems. Then you think it’s about p-zombies. Then you think it’s about pathological altruism. Then you make the connection to Meditations on Moloch. Then you realize it’s the story-fication of the picture to the left. And then, in the end, you realize it isn’t about any of those things. Or rather, it isn’t *just* about those things. It is about you.

This is Rational Fiction by a Rationalist that is a Cautionary Tale About Rationalism. And it’s really fucking good. Seth Dickinson continues to be one of the most important writers of our generation.

I only wish it was available in a format that people in my generation could ACTUALLY READ. Right now you can only get it by tracking down a June 2015 dead-tree copy of Analogy Science Fiction (the special 1000th issue!).

But if you get a chance, I highly recommend it. Hopefully Seth will make it available online someday.

Jul 292015
 

v2-explodingThis year has been extraordinarily bad in terms of fiction nominees for the Hugos, which I blame primarily on the Puppies campaign. However it’s not a total loss, there is at least one work in each category that I genuinely liked, and would vote for. Which puts me in a bit of bind, because now I have to decide if I should No Award or not.

There are two major objections to the Puppies’ campaign (aside from plain old bad taste, which is a venial sin at worst).

  1. Block Voting. Three men chose a slate of works (based on inscrutable criteria) and encouraged adherents to vote a straight ticket without considering other works. It seems highly likely that most people didn’t even bother to read the works they voted to nominate. This overwhelms the normal scattered popular vote, and reduces the Hugos to a party-system. Right now there’s only one party (the Puppies) but even if there were multiple parties I would still be unhappy with this result. Having winners chosen by the leaders of whichever party can attract the most loyalists is distasteful. It’s the same political machine that runs US politics, and everyone hates it. Why would we want to adopt that system for anything?
  2. Dark Arts. The Puppies gathered members and fired up their base by using the tried-and-true method of tribal hatred. It’s simple red-vs-blue antagonism. The Puppies’ message is that an evil leftist cabal of “Them” have been oppressing “Us.” Every single thing that really pisses off the right about the left was painted onto the image of “Them.” And we can defeat “Them” and really rub their noses in shit simply by paying $40 and exploiting the very system they have so much faith in! The Puppy Triumvirate found a pressurized reservoir of discontent and resentment that was straining to explode, stoked it further, and tapped some of that energy for their own purposes. All this does is turn the Hugos into another contest of who can hate who harder. All other considerations (such as artistic quality, or personal integrity) get thrown aside when we’re engaged in an existential struggle against the Other Tribe. That is not what I want the Hugos to be about.

So this use of Dark Arts must be discouraged. I cannot ignore the consequences of what would happen if the Puppies’ tactics were to propagate. And they will propagate if they’re seen to be successful. Regardless of how much I personally enjoyed a couple of these nominees, I cannot rate any work that was on a Puppy Slate above No Award.

If you have a Hugo vote this year, I urge you to consider the ramifications of the Puppies’ tactics, and vote No Award as well.

Jul 282015
 

mosterbookIt’s weird that governments enforce contracts. I’ve been reading some upcoming changes to a few details of a subset of contract law, and that fact just struck me in the face again.

Say I’m a representative of the government. Two people come up to me, hand me a piece of paper they both signed some time in the past, and complain to me that one of them isn’t sticking to their agreement. Why the hell does that concern me? You are two private individuals that made a private agreement. Don’t try to get me mixed up in your private affair! What kind of egomaniac thinks “Well, obviously this is something I should stick my nose into! I’m glad they came to me!”

My first instinct would be to tell them to bugger off. I was never any part of this, they can resolve their dispute on their own. I suppose if they want my advice as a disinterested third party, and they feel I have expertise in the area, I can offer advice for a fee. But I’m not going to get involved and enforce anything with violence.

If they wanted me, as the government, to act as an arbitrator and give them Violence Vouchers – which is a legitimate request IMHO – they should bring the contract to me beforehand so I can look it over and agree that I’m willing to give Violence Voucher for this. They don’t get to come to me after the fact and request that they be granted retroactively!

And yet the government does this all the time. Hell, it’s one of the core functions of government – enforcing contracts people entered into privately without any prior knowledge from the enforcing party!

I do see why this is better than all the alternatives. You don’t want people resorting to private violence for enforcement. Preserving the government as the only legitimate user of violence is the single most important function of government. And you don’t want to require that every proposed contract come before a magistrate for review first, as this would slow economic activity to a crawl. Reviewing those private agreements that have become contested for reasonableness, and then siding with one party or the other after the fact, just seems like the most rational and efficient way to deal with this problem in the real world.

But damn, the basic premise is just so freakin’ bizarre.