Utterly, Utterly Random

So I changed the fonts. You might not like the post-text font, but I'm partial to slab-serifs.

In other news, I have come up with the best pangram (sentence that uses all the letters) ever. Namely, "We jinxed-grave zombies quickly spot the elf." Although I confess "Amazingly few discotheques provide jukeboxes" pleases me, too.

Finally, I'm tired of "On the Passing Scene" (mostly because Sowell annoyed me by saying something silly—I am easily provoked). I think henceforth I shall be calling my random thoughts posts "Uncorrelated, Not Uncaused".

Being a Wilde Olive

I finally found the Oscar Wilde poem that mentions Atys, the one Chesterton quotes in one of his books; it's The Sphinx. Along the way I also read part of Ballad of Reading Gaol, and I realized something. An Objectivist is forbidden—morally forbidden—from enjoying Wilde, and not just because Rand was a foam-flecked rabid psychotic in her hatred of homosexuality (Wilde wasn't gay, sorry identity politics, but homosexuality was one of the things he experimented with).

No, Rand and Wilde are at odds far more in that he was capable of repentance, and was a Christian—even when he wasn't a very good one; Christianity is not a Law, it is a Creed. And he knew, as she didn't—because she had narcissistic personality disorder, the Wikipedia article might as well have her photo on it—that self-indulgence is the opposite of happiness. Anyone who can actually read knows Christians also believe altruism, in the secular sense, is sinful (Aquinas said all sins are either excess or defect, a concept he, but curiously not Rand, gets from Aristotle). Selfishness, however, is the vice a post-Reformation Westerner is more prone to; and either is, again, disproportionate. It is useless to argue—by definition, any ethical system that incorporates "ethical egoism", however high-minded, is fundamentally flawed, since the self is not the arbiter of good, and saying it is has the effect, as the immediate nemesis of the fallacy, of making the self and its desires (however ranked) the ultimate good.

Wilde, though, was too smart to fall for that; sixteen centuries of Christian civilization had taught him to know an idol when he saw one. Thus, the ending of the poem, which might've been written specifically as a response to Rand and her 'droids:
False Sphinx! False Sphinx! By reedy Styx
old Charon, leaning on his oar,
Waits for my coin. Go thou before, and leave
me to my crucifix,

Whose pallid burden, sick with pain, watches
the world with wearied eyes,
And weeps for every soul that dies, and weeps
for every soul in vain.
It's funny to me that Rand thinks her critique of the Cross—"sacrificing the ideal to the non-ideal" as she put it, with imprecise Christology—is new, or impressive, in any way. Sweetheart, we call that "the Scandal of the Cross", and we glory in it. Her failure reminds me of the line from "The Ball and the Cross"—that particular symbol cannot be defeated, because it is defeat.

P.S., it occurs to me, similarly, that all Libertarians are—and I know this is a paradox—statists. How? Easy. Remember when Letterman made that joke about Sarah Palin's daughter, or when Don Imus called those basketball players "nappy headed hos"? Well a bunch of right-wingers—maybe not all Libertarians, but every man Jack making a libertarian argument—said they shouldn't get in any trouble with their employers, because of the First Amendment. That is, the private employers should be constrained in what they do with their private money, because of a document that only applies to the government. I'm sorry, but if private relations are to be governed by the same principles as the state, then the state is the arbiter of all things. Libertarians may be surprised to learn this, but I believe we have just demonstrated that they, as much as Mussolini, Mao, or Marx, worship the state.

Forgive me, but my religion began as a sect of Judaism. And our tradition rightly boasts that its members do not believe the works of their hands to be god. Do you?


On the Passing Scene XIII

I had a series of thoughts, none of them warranting a full-length post. You know the drill.
  • So it might be moot, since I'm planning to self-publish, but I don't think I'd be able to join the SFWA anyway. Scalzi is its president, after all, and I'd feel bad asking him to represent someone who has such a low opinion of him.

    Besides, as a Slav (well, one-quarter) I'm offended by their presumption we have to pronounce their organization's name "sɪfwə" or "sɛfwə". "Sfwɑ" is quite doable for me, thank you, and I'll stick a finger through the neck of anyone who says otherwise.

  • Jonah Goldberg makes me happy, even if he is an ideologue—a part of his ideology is trying to avoid ideological excess, a Sysyphean paradox he's better at than most. But he's just a funny guy, like when he described a car he heard about on Car Talk as having more problems than Boy George playing the Saudi royal palace.

    More than that, though, he, more than any other conservative writer except Bozell, feels no need to kowtow to the Libertarians. I think this "batshit=authentic" thing, that makes many sane right-leaning people feel they're somehow less pure than froth-mouthed Ron Paul-worshipers, probably has its origins in the post-hippie period. Every ideology suffers from it, of course, charges of "insufficient revolutionary zeal" and so on, but in right-leaning circles it has a particular flavor. You see it, for instance, in right wingers of the Greg Gutfeld school, more than a little over-concerned with their "punk" credentials.

    Hint: "punk" means "bitch", and "bitch" means "gets screwed". In other words, to accept that as the arbiter of authenticity is to embrace the class-war.

  • Speaking of class-war, how has nobody noticed that, point by point, Ayn Rand's stories are by-the-book class-war narratives, except she sides with the capitalists. And not the real capitalists—the human beings who belong to the investor class, and upon whom others are dependent for employment—but the inhuman creatures of Marxist mythology. Well, except she doesn't even know enough economics to know what an employee is, or how purchasing architectural plans works (hint, you don't own a building just because you designed it, and it's not his property Roarke destroys).

    Huh, I'm pretty sure Rand invalidates all her criticism of Marxism just by the fact she doesn't appear to actually know the definition of "proletarian".

  • You know how people have this strange idea that hereditary political power is just wrong? It's a superstitious taboo on all sides of the political spectrum, the kind of thing that makes a rational person feel like he lives among skin-clad savages.

    It's more allowable from leftists, though, since they, at least, are not adamant in their support for the rights of inheritance. If one has earned one's position—and most hereditary ranks were originally bestowed for military service—why is it wrong to suppose one can hand it down to one's heirs? How is political power different from monetary power? Other, I mean, than the fact political power, even in an absolute monarchy (let alone a medieval one) is always the most closely monitored of all human enterprises, subject to uncountable constraints of law, custom, and competing claims. Why should it be wrong to hand that down in families, if it's not wrong to hand down the far less monitored and constrained power bestowed by wealth?

    Forgive me if I upset you. I am not of your tribe, and do not fear being carried off by the ghosts of the Founding Fathers.

  • Which reminds me, I was thinking about how, in the Imperial German and Austrian militaries, an officer could not be promoted beyond his father's rank. And I was wondering if there was a way around it for my felinoids, who would have a similar problem.

    At first I thought they might promote the parent and child together (they have just as many female nobles/officers as male, just like the medievals did), but they're as strictly meritocratic as the Grande Armée was, so that'd be uncharacteristic. So then I thought, getting himself promoted, on merit, to the same rank as his parent, would probably be a good way for a given noble to demonstrate his worthiness to the succession, and it'd be an encouraging note for the parent to retire on, too.

    Huh, hey, what the hell was Captain Keyes in the first Halo doing, that his daughter is only one rank lower than him?

  • I don't know if you've done it lately—SciFi Channel will let you rectify it soon enough, it's like Scooby Doo for Boomerang—but if you re-watch The Twilight Zone, the original I mean, you'll notice something. It's just the same bunch of talking points about race, war, peace, wealth, beauty, etc., as every show on TV now (other than Serling not actually talking moral equivalence RE: the Soviets, because he had a soul).

    But I don't think it's fair to judge; there's a trope called "SeinfeldIsUnfunny", after all. The Twilight Zone really was doing something, and when Serling said those things, it was legitimate, he'd come by it honestly, he wasn't just vomiting up what had been spoon-fed him. Now you might say he did his job too well, or something, but while he may have cleared the way for much less daring people to make those points, he was still the guy getting blisters and tennis elbow from swinging a machete.

    Nevertheless, Billy the Kid and Jesse James were worthless dirtbags, sorry Rod.

  • Today's Penny Arcade reminds me, you know how people like to act like video rental stores are soon going to be extinct, because of stuff like Netflix? Haha. Sure, maybe mainstream stuff like Blockbuster—you can get your wide-release, uh, blockbusters anywhere, and all—but the little weird niche joint is gonna be around a while.

    I don't have an account, but I somehow doubt that Netflix has The Dawn Patrol starring Errol Flynn, or Howard Hughes' Hell's Angels, or the 1947 version of Oscar Wilde's An Ideal Husband. To name just three movies my sister rented at Casa Video, a weird little video store (chain, albeit with only two "links") in Tucson. "I've never had a problem getting a movie from Netflix"—an argument I see all too often—is very cute. Its unspoken assumption is, "If I am not interested in it, it does not exist."

  • Finally, watch the first episode or two of Outlaw Star, and then go watch the pilot of Firefly. Notice anything?

    Yeah, I liked River better when her name was Melfina.



Sure have been using a lot of French titles lately. Oh well. Anyhoo, so I came across the painter Abbot Handerson Thayer—he discovered the whole "light belly, dark back" thing with animals, like penguins and whales. But I like his art, i.e. this:Apparently his daughter is the model. Or this:Isn't it awesome? It sorta reminds me of some of the art of Last Exile.

It's undeniable that this'd be a great style for SF art, which reminded me of how people complain of what they call "Floating Head Syndrome", like the Star Wars covers—I guess they just hate Bill Gold. But I say, A) it could be worse, it could have Leia clinging to her twin brother's leg while holding a blaster in what, for lack of a better term, we must call "reverse Sabrina" (it's not actually position sul, the name for the correct way pointing a gun downward). B), a well done Floating Heads cover has a timeless, classic quality (I don't hate Bill Gold, see).

But it occurs to me, there are alternatives—if you don't like Floating Heads, how about Jacques-Louis David-esque ideological Neoclassicism? How about populist realism, like Norman Rockwell (yes, realism, go look at his Rosie the Riveter)? Most SF could thematically go with an Art Nouveau or Art Deco look—hell, I can think of four or five guys whose work is Socialist Realist allegory, and could have art to match (I actually really like Socialist Realism in painting and sculpture). If you can't find a propaganda poster from either World War to get inspiration from, the story probably doesn't even warrant cover art.

Which, is, uh, huh. Not to get post-modern, but that actually makes sense. What is propaganda, after all, but "selling a narrative"? Isn't that literally what book covers are designed to do?

On an unrelated note: dude, Frank Frazetta totally looked like Nathan Fillion.


One More Thing

Wow, 3 today. Anyhoo, I came across this earlier, and I'm liable to forget, but remember how I said the stuff my felinoids make their guns out of looks like glycerin soap? Well, it does, but I found a much more specific sample. This. It's chrysoberyl.Specifically it looks like the one in the lower right hand corner.

I also thought it'd be cool (I was embarked on a wiki-walk, specifically on Wikipedia's mineral pages which are a death labyrinth) if someone, I'm not sure if humans or aliens or what, were to make a macuahuitl (those Aztec clubs lined with obsidian blades) lined with synthetic diamond. Wouldn't hold an edge long, but it'd be a hell of a cutter.

And Now for Something Completely Different

...because it's positive, here's some excerpts from Kennedy speeches that, I think, ought to be hanging somewhere in every SF writer's home, office, or at the very least heart.

First, from his Special Message to the Congress on Urgent National Needs, May 25, 1961:
These are extraordinary times. And we face an extraordinary challenge. Our strength as well as our convictions have imposed upon this nation the role of leader in freedom's cause.

No role in history could be more difficult or more important. We stand for freedom.

That is our conviction for ourselves—that is our only commitment to others. No friend, no neutral and no adversary should think otherwise. We are not against any man—or any nation—or any system—except as it is hostile to freedom. Nor am I here to present a new military doctrine, bearing any one name or aimed at any one area. I am here to promote the freedom doctrine.


Now it is time to take longer strides—time for a great new American enterprise—time for this nation to take a clearly leading role in space achievement, which in many ways may hold the key to our future on earth.

I believe we possess all the resources and talents necessary. But the facts of the matter are that we have never made the national decisions or marshalled the national resources required for such leadership. We have never specified long-range goals on an urgent time schedule, or managed our resources and our time so as to insure their fulfillment.


First, I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to the earth. No single space project in this period will be more impressive to mankind, or more important for the long-range exploration of space; and none will be so difficult or expensive to accomplish. We propose to accelerate the development of the appropriate lunar space craft. We propose to develop alternate liquid and solid fuel boosters, much larger than any now being developed, until certain which is superior. We propose additional funds for other engine development and for unmanned explorations—explorations which are particularly important for one purpose which this nation will never overlook: the survival of the man who first makes this daring flight. But in a very real sense, it will not be one man going to the moon—if we make this judgment affirmatively, it will be an entire nation. For all of us must work to put him there.

Secondly, an additional 23 million dollars, together with 7 million dollars already available, will accelerate development of the Rover nuclear rocket. This gives promise of some day providing a means for even more exciting and ambitious exploration of space, perhaps beyond the moon, perhaps to the very end of the solar system itself.

Third, an additional 50 million dollars will make the most of our present leadership, by accelerating the use of space satellites for world-wide communications.

Fourth, an additional 75 million dollars—of which 53 million dollars is for the Weather Bureau—will help give us at the earliest possible time a satellite system for world-wide weather observation.
Rover, as you may or may not know, is closely related to NERVA, and both are types of nuclear thermal rocket. I included that portion of the speech because it's important for an SF writer to consider what could've been, had things gone differently.

Next, from his Address at Rice University on the Nation's Space Effort, September 12, 1962:
...It is not surprising that some would have us stay where we are a little longer to rest, to wait. But this city of Houston, this State of Texas, this country of the United States was not built by those who waited and rested and wished to look behind them. This country was conquered by those who moved forward—and so will space.

William Bradford, speaking in 1630 of the founding of the Plymouth Bay Colony, said that all great and honorable actions are accompanied with great difficulties, and both must be enterprised and overcome with answerable courage.

If this capsule history of our progress teaches us anything, it is that man, in his quest for knowledge and progress, is determined and cannot be deterred. The exploration of space will go ahead, whether we join in it or not, and it is one of the great adventures of all time, and no nation which expects to be the leader of other nations can expect to stay behind in the race for space.

Those who came before us made certain that this country rode the first waves of the industrial revolutions, the first waves of modern invention, and the first wave of nuclear power, and this generation does not intend to founder in the backwash of the coming age of space. We mean to be a part of it—we mean to lead it. For the eyes of the world now look into space, to the moon and to the planets beyond, and we have vowed that we shall not see it governed by a hostile flag of conquest, but by a banner of freedom and peace. We have vowed that we shall not see space filled with weapons of mass destruction, but with instruments of knowledge and understanding.

Yet the vows of this Nation can only be fulfilled if we in this Nation are first, and, therefore, we intend to be first. In short, our leadership in science and in industry, our hopes for peace and security, our obligations to ourselves as well as others, all require us to make this effort, to solve these mysteries, to solve them for the good of all men, and to become the world's leading space-faring nation.

We set sail on this new sea because there is new knowledge to be gained, and new rights to be won, and they must be won and used for the progress of all people. For space science, like nuclear science and all technology, has no conscience of its own. Whether it will become a force for good or ill depends on man, and only if the United States occupies a position of pre-eminence can we help decide whether this new ocean will be a sea of peace or a new terrifying theater of war. I do not say the we should or will go unprotected against the hostile misuse of space any more than we go unprotected against the hostile use of land or sea, but I do say that space can be explored and mastered without feeding the fires of war, without repeating the mistakes that man has made in extending his writ around this globe of ours.

There is no strife, no prejudice, no national conflict in outer space as yet. Its hazards are hostile to us all. Its conquest deserves the best of all mankind, and its opportunity for peaceful cooperation many never come again. But why, some say, the moon? Why choose this as our goal? And they may well ask why climb the highest mountain? Why, 35 years ago, fly the Atlantic? Why does Rice play Texas?

We choose to go to the moon. We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win, and the others, too.

It is for these reasons that I regard the decision last year to shift our efforts in space from low to high gear as among the most important decisions that will be made during my incumbency in the office of the Presidency.


We have had our failures, but so have others, even if they do not admit them. And they may be less public.

To be sure, we are behind, and will be behind for some time in manned flight. But we do not intend to stay behind, and in this decade, we shall make up and move ahead.

The growth of our science and education will be enriched by new knowledge of our universe and environment, by new techniques of learning and mapping and observation, by new tools and computers for industry, medicine, the home as well as the school. Technical institutions, such as Rice, will reap the harvest of these gains.


However, I think we're going to do it, and I think that we must pay what needs to be paid. I don't think we ought to waste any money, but I think we ought to do the job. And this will be done in the decade of the sixties. It may be done while some of you are still here at school at this college and university. It will be done during the term of office of some of the people who sit here on this platform. But it will be done. And it will be done before the end of this decade.

I am delighted that this university is playing a part in putting a man on the moon as part of a great national effort of the United States of America.

Many years ago the great British explorer George Mallory, who was to die on Mount Everest, was asked why did he want to climb it. He said, "Because it is there."

Well, space is there, and we're going to climb it, and the moon and the planets are there, and new hopes for knowledge and peace are there. And, therefore, as we set sail we ask God's blessing on the most hazardous and dangerous and greatest adventure on which man has ever embarked.
If that doesn't get you a little choked up, there's something frigging wrong with you. Human society needs the space program, and all the people who say we should be focused on other things, on their shortsighted self-interested domestic policy, I'm just reminded of the villagers in Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann.

This is the drill that will pierce the heavens.

That's the Pot Calling a Spoon a Cookware Container

So Gabe mentioned recently that he's reading a John Scalzi book, so I decided to check Scalzi out. And I came across his essay "I Hate Your Politics", and it's hilarious...unintentionally. Remember that Chesterton quote about how you can tell someone's a Buddhist by his way of telling you he's not a Buddhist? Remember how the anarchist poet in Man Who Was Thursday keeps getting caught because his cover roles are always ridiculous stereotypes from anarchist pamphlets? Well Scalzi pretends he's lambasting liberals, conservatives, and libertarians equally, but—while quite correct about libertarians—he essentially says that liberals are bad because they aren't more unified, don't press their advantages, and don't have any fun with their obvious moral and intellectual superiority. And then he says conservatives are all lockstep conformist bigots whose ideology is based on hate.

Look, Johnnykins, if you claim you're going to lambaste all three Mediterranean monotheist religions, but then say the problem with Muslims is they're too lenient with the infidel, while the problem with Jews is their greed, cowardice, and penchant for the blood of Christian children, you aren't fooling anyone.

The actual problem with conservatives—other than the problems common to all forms of liberal politics, like ideologically-entrenched historical illiteracy—is just the opposite, and you'd know that if you knew anything about them. The conservative movement has suffered hugely from its embrace, nay fetishization, of the "Big Tent"; that's why they haven't been able to get rid of batshit vermin like Ron Paul and Pat Buchanan, and you can hear otherwise sane people pretending Ayn Rand was a human being.

But it's funny that Scalzi, who is a liberal however much he might deny it, thinks the conservative movement is the one motivated by hate. I invite him to check out Michelle Malkin's mailbag, and then tell me one liberal who gets that many racial slurs and rape-threats—what, pray, has any right-wing pundit done remotely comparable to Keith Olbermann calling her "a big mashed up bag of meat with lipstick" on national (ish) television? Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton schill for Planned Parenthood's open genocide of their people, and defend black rapists, murderers, cop-killers, and drug-dealers who prey on blacks: but it's Herman Cain and Allen West who get called Uncle Toms (to be fair, the correct term for Jackson and Sharpton is kapo, but no right-winger would dare say that, either). It's not conservatives who ignore the judicial rape practiced in Iran and Saddam's Iraq, while equating Israel to Nazi Germany. Nor is it conservatives who Oscar-nominated The Reader—a movie about an ephebophile death camp guard being harassed by nasty Holocaust survivors.

It's not conservatives who lionize Che Guevara, who, remember, never actually fought anybody who had a chance to hurt him—his last words, spoken after throwing down a fully-loaded rifle, were "Don't shoot, I'm Che Guevara, I'm worth more to you alive than dead!" Big man though he was while murdering bound teenage boys and old men, he couldn't keep quiet about his low opinion of black people:
The Negro is indolent and spends his money on frivolities, whereas the European is forward-looking, organized and intelligent... We're going to do for blacks exactly what blacks did for the Cuban revolution. By which I mean: nothing!
He also said Mexicans were "a rabble of illiterate Indians". Lest we forget, Batista was black, Che and Castro were white. No, I know, noted documentary "The Godfather II" cast a blond guy for Batista. Funny how that works.

Look, as far as I'm concerned the Constitution has the same authority as the warranty on your fridge[1], the founding fathers were a bunch of wooden-toothed slave-owning Freemasons who called Hanoverian puppet-rulers tyrants with a straight face, and capitalism is "the least shitty and lame-brained of the shitty lame-brained economic systems currently on offer". But the American right, stupid and illiterate though it may be, did not schill for Communism and does not ignore the grotesque abuses in the Arab world, vilify Jews, and cover up for vicious, brutal criminals based on their skin's melanin content (and vilify all with that same melanin content who don't march in ideological lockstep), while masturbatorily congratulating itself on its moral superiority.


You Do Know He's Called the Brennan-Monster, Right?

I just had to point out, I was looking for criticism of David Brin (for being a vapid ideologue), and along the way I found a thread of people talking about SF and politics generally. A bunch of them were saying Niven was racist and evil (for having an objection to the welfare state and illegal immigration), a pretty leftish group, but what was hilarious was, they couldn't say enough nice things about the Protectors. E.g.:
Don't forget that Jack Brennan, the human Protector, a superintelligent creature genetically compelled to care for his fellow humans, spends his time and money agitating for rehabilitation of criminals rather than (say) going round beating them up like a normal superhero would.
This is what is known, to tropers, as MisaimedFandom. Brennan also murders the entire breeding-age population (and all the children) of a colony planet, just to create an army of Protector-humans to fight the Pak, and burns the entire Martian species to death just on the statistical offchance they're a threat.

That sentence would be all a right-winger would need to prove charges that the left is paternalistic, elitist, and morally myopic.

Les Lois de la Robotique en la Logique Formelle

Remember how I was talking about doing the 3 Laws in formal logic? Yeah, well, I came up with 'em. This is just sorta half-assed—I'm not exactly an expert on symbolic logic, mainly—also "formal ethics" is weird (you have to use that notation, here). Here goes:
1st Law: For all commands x that would harm an a, and the a is human, then x must not be carried out
2nd Law: For all commands y originating with an a, and a is human, and y not satisfying 1st Law, then y must be carried out
3rd Law: For all commands z that will cause harm to the robot itself, and not satisfying 1st Law or 2nd Law, z must not be carried out
In my book the aftermarket add-on Asimov programming actually defines "harm" according to the ICD definition of injury, and "human" as "appears in a civil registry", since those are very sketchy ideas for a computer—it also uses a more technical definition of "harm to robot", from the robot's own self-assessment software. That'd look a bit more like this:
1st Law: For all commands x that would be injury as defined by the ICD to an a, and the a appears on a civil registry, then x must not be carried out
2nd Law: For all commands y originating with an a, and a appears on a civil registry, and y not satisfying 1st Law, then y must be carried out
3rd Law: For all commands z that will cause material failure or operational failure, and not satisfying 1st Law or 2nd Law, z must not be carried out
Third law is slightly different (in that it's solely phrased as negative), but I did all this in like two hours, and it's still the only symbolic-logic representation of the Three Laws I've been able to find. All of you who could do better: why haven't you?

So there.


Sur la Scène Passante III

Huh, I forgot the "e" in "Passante" in the title of the last one I called this. Oops. Oh well.

Random thoughts!
  • Apparently Canada's gun laws simply outright prohibit .32 and .25 caliber. Only, uh, why? It must be that Saturday Night Special nonsense (actual studies show criminals, like everyone else, prefer the most powerful, high-caliber gun they can conveniently use); while there is .32 H&R Magnum, the only other .32 chamberings are .32 ACP, two .32 S&W cartridges, and the rounds used in the Nagant revolver. I could see banning that last one, since the Nagant is the only revolver that can be silenced, but it's weird to ban all other .32 caliber cartridges.

    But other than .25 ACP, there are no .25 caliber handguns, and let's all remember Jeff Cooper's Commentaries (his own random thoughts post) RE: the caliber:
    We hear of an unfortunate woman who, during a nighttime asthma attack, confused the small handgun she kept under her pillow with an asthma inhaler and proceeded to relieve her symptoms. It was not a fatal mistake, partly because she used a 25 ACP, which everyone knows is not sufficient to clear sinuses.
    And that's why we should all be careful to keep our bed-gun far away from our inhaler.

  • You know the "two consenting adults" non-argument used by the Libertards to justify annihilating all of culture? Well, if they were capable of intellectual consistency (which they are not), wouldn't they be in favor of dueling? That, too, after all, involves "two consenting adults", and shouldn't Libertarians have noticed the problem with presuming the state has a monopoly on the use of force? I bet bringing back dueling would also severely cut down both on drive-bys and other gang violence, and on certain types of lawsuit.

    But I kid. Libertarianism is wedded in perpetuity to craven physical cowardice, and also to a blind dogma that speech and action should never be related in the slightest—therefore fighting over insults isn't wrong, to them, it is completely incoherent. Also, I've never even heard of a Libertarian, other than perhaps Jesse Ventura, who any healthy man couldn't kill with one hand. You probably wouldn't even need all five fingers to snuff out Ron Paul. You'd have to cut your hand off afterwards, though, because it had touched him.

  • It's funny, though, that Libertarians refuse to acknowledge any relation whatsoever between words and actions. It's because they're monstrously insincere materialists, of course—also, again, craven physical cowards—but it's also because they don't understand a principle that I (being a huge geek) like to call the Von Neumann Architecture of Human Life. Namely, words are actions.

    What is said, after all, determines what is thought, and what is thought determines what is done. You don't have to believe in "True Names" or kotodama to understand the power of words; simply look around you. Abandon Heaven's favor, relinquish the Earth's advantage, but win the hearts of Men, and you will gain dominion over all three Harmonies, as Zhuge Liang said to Liu Bei.

  • Shifting gears without a clutch, there's this manga called Upotte!!, about this guy who goes to teach at a school...for guns. Moe anthropomorphisms of guns. The assault rifles are in middle school, while battle rifles are high school and SMGs are elementary. The main girls are M16A4 and FNC, who are both living in the shadows of their older sisters M14 and FN FAL L1A1; M16's rivals are Galil and Rk 62, who, though Israeli and Finnish, are Kalashnikov clones. So obviously I eat it up.

    Of course, if they were really awesome, they'd have FAMAS, too, but they already have the L85A2, so maybe they figured one European bullpup was enough. I'm also very curious why the only Japanese gun they have is an obscure M-16 clone, not the Type 89 (living in the shadow of Type 64-sempai, one would presume). It's unusual for a manga to avoid the reflexive assumption that the Japanese one is the best (and most relatable for the audience), but it's just odd that there's no Type 64 at all.

    Also, 3-round-burst is not to prevent ammo waste if the soldier panics and holds down the trigger (though that's definitely a useful side-benefit). It's just a way of gaining the full functionality of full-auto, while preventing the ammo-waste that happens after muzzle jump takes the weapon off target. You might not need it if your weapon, like the An-94 or AK-107, has anti-recoil systems.

  • A GEICO ad just came on, and I'm curious, do they know "So easy a caveman can do it" parallels a Japanese camera ad from the 70s, "So easy a chon [racial slur for Koreans] can do it"? I can't conceive that they would know; hell, the person who draws Keroro Gunsô didn't know "pokopen" ('futility') was a slur for the Chinese, and he is Japanese. They changed it to "pekopon" when the anime came out.

    And has anyone noticed those cavemen are ridiculously metrosexual?

  • I was looking for someone presenting the 3 Laws of Robotics in symbolic logic, so I could put it into Prolog for my SF book (Prolog is a Turing-complete programming language standardized under ISO 13211). I didn't find it. But I did find a bunch of people saying the movie of I, Robot is stupid and shallow, and misses the deeper point of Asimov's stories.

    Snerk. Or, actually, the movie is much smarter than Asimov, in knowing what the Zeroth Law—which is basically what VIKI cites as justification—would lead to. Shit, you'd think a Russian Jew would realize what might be done "to prevent greater harm to humanity itself".

  • And hey, shouldn't the fact the laws include "or through inaction" mean that every robot should either devote itself to preventing violent crime, or suffer the catastrophic crash that violating the Laws causes?

    And if the Zeroth Law is included, you have a robot takeover every time. I mean, a robot would know which of you is better suited to run your life, and it ain't the one that risks a psychotic episode whenever it gets low on a certain monoamine.

    It's funny to me that people think Asimov was great at formal logic, especially considering "Philosophy" was the only Dewey category he never wrote a book in. I guess "Your Friend the Slide Rule" and "The Sensuous Dirty Old Man" took up too much of his time.

  • So someone (whose forum post came up in a search I was doing) says they tell their students "There is no science fiction anymore, all the science fiction I read when I was your age, we're doing."

    Sir or madam, plainly, you weren't reading the right stuff, 'cause I must've missed the manned missions to Venus, the fusion torches, the Bussard ramjets, the asteroid mining, and artificial replacements for every organ, to name just the Larry Niven ideas that are fully of human origin (the hyperdrive is from the Outsiders, remember). Actually the artificial replacement organs (rendering the "organ bank problem" obsolete) might've been partly of Protector origin, but the Protector in question (Brennan) was human.

  • Know what's hard? Coming up with a slang word for aliens. I'd wanted to use Echo Tangos, but that's what Halo calls 'em (awesomely). Then I thought maybe Echo Bravo Echos (Extraterrestrial Biological Entities), but that's too long to say.

    But then it occurred to me, it's not the fact it's extraterrestrial life that's important, but that it's intelligent. So I decided to look at the terminology SETI uses. Well, in terms of the Drake equation, Fi is the number of planets with intelligent life, and Fc is the number of them that have communicating civilizations. So how about Foxtrot Charlie or Foxtrot India? We can also call natively-inhabited planets Foxtrot Lima and habitable-zone planets November Echo. DIP (Developed Intelligent Populations) could also be used, or Delta India Papa, too.

    Hmm, Foxtrot Charlie (presumably "charlie" for short) would have the unfortunate side effect of sounding like Vietnam. And India's a real country (Injun, maybe?), but I do like Foxtrot India. Maybe they'll call them some racial slur for Indians (from Bharat Mata, I mean, not the New World)—possibly in some other language, like Cantonese (aajaà, for instance). Or maybe just "Sub-Charlies" and "Sub-Indias"—I think I'm leaning toward that.

    Fortunately the felinoids can get called a number of rude names having to do with cats.

  • Finally, remember when I said Limyaeel was stupid for thinking medieval cats would be ratters? Yeah, I should've also mentioned that—if she were not a monstrous 4th-dimensional provincial—she would've known that it wasn't till after World War II that cats outpaced dogs as pets (probably because of increasing urbanization and cats being easier to keep in apartments).

    But also, perhaps the unlettered twerp should've looked up the concept of "barn-cat": most medievals were in agriculture, and they didn't live much more hand-to-mouth than 19th century Americans, despite what they taught her in Sunday school history class.


You Are Stupid and Your Dystopia Is Stupid

So one of the other rants by the aforementioned Dr. Doyle had this line:
Personal taste aside, The Giver fails the sf Plausibility Test for me. I don't see how a society like the one depicted could be attained/sustained in anything other than a metaphorical world. And even considered as fantasy, rather than sf, the book is too damned obvious. Things are the way they are because The Author is Making A Point; things work out the way they do because The Author's Point Requires It.
That's sure what I hate about soft SF dystopias, even the ones by people like LeGuin (who might not have girl cooties, as Doyle asserts, but she definitely has "halfwitted pseudo-Marxist hippie Orientalist" cooties, and those are worse). They always beat you over the head with their point; the specific message may have changed but fundamentally they're no different from Pilgrim's Progress. I know, your English teacher called them "important" and "relevant", but the word she meant—as all her be-bonneted Puritan forebears meant—was "moral".

Worse is that the moral is always incredibly vapid and simplistic; it makes the most platitudinous Victorian copy-book look like Twilight of the Idols. And it's not even vapid and simplistic in a contrarian way. Do you think delivering the message of the Giver—just be yourself, mindless conformity is bad—took any moral fortitude whatsoever in 1993 America? Please. Ironic or not, the American populace is in absolute lockstep uniformity in their praise the concept of individualism, free thought, and nonconformity. You will join the herd of independent minds, or you will be trampled under its completely interchangeable hooves.

There's not a single point where Handmaid's Tale deviates from the version of "fundamentalists" all of pop culture had been pushing since, oh, the Scopes Monkey Publicity Stunt. In no way does the Uglies series deviate from the after-school-special orthodoxies you might hear from your school counselor, vis-a-vis body-image issues and "cliques" (that that series actually has some of the better worldbuilding of soft SF dystopias is a sad comment on the genre). The research for Feed apparently consisted of listening to how teenagers talk on their cellphones at the mall, and then changing the slang around to make it sound ten times stupider and less natural—certainly nothing like finding out how long it takes to reach the moon, or how in vitro meat would really be cultivated (hint, it's not grown in open-air troughs, even if it is called a farm). Even Nineteen Eighty-Four is a series of improbable and inappropriate generalizations from (poorly understood, oversimplified, and often completely inaccurate) history; then again Orwell was a syphilitic British Socialist, so his demonstrating literacy at all is like the proverbial dog on its hind legs.

There is one exception, albeit only partial: Brave New World. Apart from a touch of Noble Savage, that really is fairly decent worldbuilding, and a semi-believable plot, with complexity of theme that manages to get that book misinterpreted by most English teachers. To be fair to them, though, many people nowadays are vociferously in favor of most of the things that book presents as components of dystopia, so it may just be cultural dissonance. Come to think of it Fahrenheit 451 is also usually misinterpreted, too—it suffers, like BNW does, from the fact its theme is a hell of a lot more complex than "censorship bad".

The History Channel exists because even Nazi Germany is a lot more complex than these dystopias—not even they could milk so many shows out of one of those societies. I'm not necessarily saying that nobody should do dystopian fiction, only that they shouldn't do it unless they can do justice to their subjects. People, even Stalinist or Nazi people, are not the strawmen-in-jackboots soft SF so frequently deploys, and painting them that way isn't all that far from the kind of propaganda techniques dystopia-writers supposedly deplore. How about you twerps read a little less Orwell and a little more Solzhenitsyn? He knew a little something about totalitarianism.

Genre Conforming

I wonder, do "gender" studies justify all their inanity simply by gifting me so many fun titles? And how has nobody noticed the Eurocentrism of assuming that "gender" implies the concept of male and female (Finno-Ugric languages' only genders are animate and inanimate, while Athabascan and Bantu languages have a dozen or more genders that involve things like shape and material...and the former inflect verbs).

Anyway, the original essay that made me realize that SF is not novel, but romance, is (I just found it again after like two years) here.

Thank you, that is all.


The Whole Solar System Catalog

Okay so it actually involves lots of things from other star systems too, but I really wanted to name this post that. It's about SF equipment.
  • The book Colonies in Space, by T. A. Heppenheimer, one of the people who came up with the Stanford Torus, is mostly a must-read for the SF aficionado of any description. Sure, he falls prey to the Malthusian fallacy—he invokes apocryphal population apocalypses, albeit with qualifications, as an incentive to space colonization—but by and large, he knows what he's about.

    'Course, the book does date, and not just in its over-optimism about the pace of space development (Heppenheimer scoffs at James Strong's prediction that it wouldn't be till 2140-2210 that there would be consistent in-system travel, but subsequent events have borne Strong's time-frame out). But it dates in, for instance, its assertion that plastics won't be used, because they're made from hydrocarbons. Maybe those plastics won't, but silicone rubbers aren't derived from hydrocarbons—and silicon and oxygen are in bountiful supply in space, in things like asteroids. Similarly he said wood wouldn't be used as a building material, and he's probably right: but what about bamboo? You can use bamboo for all the things wood's good for, and it's a lot more renewable. And which is more likely, that everything will be fiberglass and metal, or that people will use bamboo in place of wood and silicone rubber instead of hydrocarbon?
  • You know how ships in SF usually have "USS" or "UNSC" or, generally, naval-type prefixes of the "whoever's ship" pattern? Tsk, tsk. Gentlemen, space is not an ocean: it is aviation, albeit in the sun's atmosphere rather than a planet's. So aircraft registration should be the model.

    In my book, for instance, all the Peacekeeper ships use the UN's "4U" prefix, followed by 5 digits, while the villain's ship, being registered in America, starts with an N. One of the characters, who's Japanese, has a ship named JA4775 Onmyoji—he specifically requested that number, because it's lucky ("4775" can be read "shi-na-na-i", i.e. "not going to die"). They don't really count as "private" spacecraft; the villain has the licenses for nuclear reactors—which implies a certain level of security clearance—while the Japanese guy is a semi-governmental contractor-spy.
  • Speaking of "space is not an ocean", you know what my books don't have? Carriers. Destroyers. Cruisers. Etc. Nope, I have a ship that launches parasite craft, but it's a "mothership"—and it carries its embarked craft on four big struts, an X-shaped rack they attach to. I think the struts have elevators inside them, for the little ships' crews, although I've never had a scene from the point of view of PK space forces. Those parasite craft are "battle spacecraft", essentially manned missile platforms, and they work more like tanks than like airplanes. The other ships are "heavy patrol ships", "light patrol ships", "escort ships", etc., rather than cruisers, destroyers, frigates, etc.

    As for the felinoids' ships, they mostly call them after the size of their metric-patching engines; the two smallest are thirties and fifties, and then doubles, triples, quadruples, and quintuples, which have the same size engine as fifties, but multiple units. The quadruples and quintuples, which are their "capital" ships, are also called "castleships", because they conceptualize space forces as fortifications (they didn't really have much seafaring). Similarly the small "fighter" ships the castleships embark are called "Siege-Breakers", because their main purpose is to defend their mothership. The equivalent of a "flagship" in their space force is a "palace ship" (palace means "seat of government"), and the equivalent of a bridge (which the human space force actually calls a command deck, because it's not a damn boat) is "keep", as in the command center of a castle.
  • So I'd been having the damnedest time coming up with a shape for the felinoids' ships. At first, when I still had them landing, they looked a bit like submarines, and then I thought octagonal prisms would be groovy. In both configurations, they'd project a spherical plasma bubble, since stress-energy tensor metric-patching requires spherical matter shells to work. But then I thought, dude, bite the bullet: so now they're spherical.

    Which was no end of trouble, lemme tell ya. First I had to come up with an appearance for them that wouldn't just be dull—it was tough going until Samus Aran's morph ball gave me some inspiration. Then I had to change it so their guns are recessed into the hulls; I eventually figured out a turret design that'll work. And I was at a loss for what their deckplan would be like, but then I remembered the Discovery I from 2001: A Space Odyssey.
  • Speaking of round things and metric patching propulsion, I was having trouble coming up with a way for my felinoids' bullets to not have crappy range. See, they're spheres (again, they have to be), and the sphere is the worst shape for aerodynamics. Unless, of course, it's dimpled, like a golf ball—especially if the dimpling is irregular, like in these babies:
    Unfortunately it still needs a way to impart spin, and I was at a loss for how to do that. But then I thought, "gyroscope". Specifically, vibrating structure piezoelectric gyroscope, under the dimpled skin of each bullet.

    I know, seems crazy complicated. But we got people talking about putting muscle-wire in our bullets, and we don't have space resources to play with.
  • Remember how I said it's silly to think people will have computers installed in their heads? Or computer watches, etc? Yeah, I came up with something I haven't encountered before (though I admittedly haven't read any really recent SF, mostly because it's crap): everyone just carries handhelds. They use them for phones, email, taking notes, all of that. The actual computer technicians have full-sized desktop computers...but they're servers, because 24th century computer tech, y' know? I mean hell, my brother's Wii sometimes hosts a game of Goldeneye.

    Something that came up in a part I was writing recently is, space computer networks. Since FTL only works at a distance from major gravity wells in my book (because otherwise it creates topological defects), the FTL-comm satellites act as servers for interstellar communication...and space on them is crazy expensive. There's also a certain unavoidable lag, 'cause, uh, relativity.


Welterfindung Zwei

Was looking around for stuff on worldbuilding. Like ya do. Noticed some things.
  • People really just need to stop being cutesy-poo, and mistaking originality for quality. Unoriginality is not bad; attempting to use "aping a successful idea" as a substitute for an actually good idea is bad. Egyptian, Sumerian, and Chinese do similar things in their written form: none of them copied the others, but that's irrelevant to the question of whether logograms are optimal for writing (they got their advantages, though personally I prefer them mixed with something phonemic).

    For instance, a guy said SF movies should stop using the long-slow-pan-across-a-ship, a la Star Wars, and he's probably right: but his two alternative examples, teeny-tiny spaceships and species that don't need ships, are dumb. The universe does, in fact, have an absolute scale (humans and terrestrial lifeforms generally are squarely in the middle of it), and it's doubtful anything too small would A. develop sapience or B. invent space travel. Even if you're the size of a cricket, or an E. coli, a fusion rocket has a certain minimum size—and nobody's ever made much of a case for microscopic sapients. Similarly, nobody, not even Niven, has really done a convincing job with space-borne life, and space-borne sapience should be a whole 'nother story.

  • Limyaeel, of Fantasy Rants fame, is cordially invited to stick to things she knows something about—which, as a person with a PhD in English, is either poverty or teaching, and perhaps chain-smoking. She exceeds the limits of good taste—in that I find blind stinking pig-ignorance personally offensive—when she talks about history, politics, religion, philosophy, or economics. Also most aspects of literary analysis (the only intelligent thing she's ever said is for writers to knock off the rape-as-plot-device).

    Understand, when you say the Medievals—who, remember, charged people with heresy for making witchcraft accusations—tortured and burned cats as witch's familiars, you automatically forfeit your talking privileges. Also, no, medieval cats were not "ratters"—they mainly caught mice and various bird- and bug-pests. Rats are too big for most cats, that's why there are whole breeds of terrier devoted to rats.

    Also, if you Livejournal under the name Limyaeel—a triphthong after a palatalized nasal, for God's sake!—you have no right to criticize anyone else's goofy fantasy names.

  • So there's this article, called "7 Unnecessary Science Fiction Worldbuilding Details". Most of them—no air in space, things on a spaceship being recycled or bolted down, etc.—are, indeed, essentially unnecessary (though we, uh, can't actually do most of these just yet), but the last two aren't. The last two are as follows, and I block-quote:
    6. I understand that it requires more power to launch a ship from a planet’s surface than from a space station. Newton explained this awhile back. (If a culture has the technology for starships, I assume they have the power to launch them from anywhere they dang well please.)

    7. The process of passing through an airlock. Again, no need for lengthy details or even any details so get on with the story already (we don’t need the inside scoop on the hull’s paint drying, either).
    First off, no, actually, just because they have the tech for starships doesn't mean they can launch them from wherever—in my books, for instance, the starships are propelled by massive fusion rockets that would wipe cities off the map if used in an atmosphere. Takeoffs and landings are accomplished by dedicated shuttle-type ships, which dock with the heavy-mover starships.

    And second off, while the process of passing through an airlock is, in and of itself, quite superfluous, it really helps the setting if you describe what it feels like. I do it myself: a character's ears pop, because the ship she was on had a different internal pressure from the place where she goes. God forbid I should delay "the story" by telling you what happens to the characters in it. No, wait, isn't "what happens to the characters" the same thing as the story?

  • Know whose worldbuilding a lot of them praised? Gibson. As in Neuromancer. Only, what? I may have to reread that book (for my sins), 'cause I don't remember a son-of-a-bitching thing about the worldbuilding, other than that the prose was a bad noir pastiche. And my sister was in film class when I read the thing, so lemme tell ya, I know from bad noir pastiches. Oh, well, that, and also that the hacking scenes were ridiculous—unless you mistook ReBoot for a computer science documentary—and the sex scenes were more gross and ugly than anything else.

    I actually have a TakeThat to cyberpunk hacking in my SF book, where one of the aliens' computer technicians scoffs that human hackers actually talk like computer networks are places. I originally actually had him say the human hackers used the VR-interface from the cyberpunk canon, but that was before I rewrote with realism in mind. Apparently, real UI experts are pretty much unanimous that the VR stuff is the single worst possible interface you could design.

  • So at least two people who are not, at least to my knowledge, severely brain-damaged, have praised the worldbuilding in Avatar. As in big blue shaved Ewoks, not Aang (the worldbuilding in that is actually pretty fair).

    I wish we had some kind of a rule where people who say things that reveal them to be completely divorced from reality could lose their voter's card, and probably custody of any children, because dude, Avatar? I said it before, but nobody whose society was born Post-Scarcity is gonna act like human hunter-gatherers, not even like the mythologized hunter-gatherers the Na'vi are. Why are the Na'vi sapient, when there is no evolutionary need for them to be, since their whole planet's ecosystem is one big love-in? 'Course, given that the nervous system of every life form on Pandora can be interfaced to that of every other, it's extremely doubtful evolution there would be anything like here. The only way Pandora's Nature is "red in tooth and claw" is that it seems to function as "from each according to his ability, to each according to his need".

  • All I'll say about people who complain about fantasy using quasi-European settings so often, is this:
    You don't actually get European culture, and you come from it. You think—motivated mainly by your unreflective Post-Modern occidental self-hatred—that you should be allowed to besmirch other continents, inhabited by cultures still less comprehensible to you, with your ignorance?
    So there.
Oh, by the bye, "son-of-a-bitching" is apparently something Elvis would use. I like it, don't you?


One Small Step

Well. Watch this video. You may wish to mute it, if you don't like Forbidden Planet-esque theramin music (I actually sorta do like it).

Cool, huh? Guess who made it?

No, not me. Her. I told you she was a filmmaker. She made it with stop motion in a barn-type building on the University of Arizona farm...campus...deal... (O dear sister, if you read this, kindly correct my hazy recollections). That moon sand? Yeah, that's very high-grade sandbox sand. White stuff. Must've been expensive (I don't actually think it was all that expensive). That little rover-thingy is like nine inches long or so.

I went and hung out with her while she was making part of it, drinking carbonated blueberry juice and munching pretzel chips, while listening to Alice Cooper's radio show. But the best part was when she was going to talk to the guys doing it, and discussing how the little rover's beamed power transmission should work. The guy was constructing a big framework for, if I recall correctly, hydroponics. Let me bold and allcaps that: HYDROPONICS. There were tanks and heat lamps and a big framework that kinda looked like a stargate (frame for a round tunnel?).

Woohoo. Now hopefully this damn thing will actually get picked up (I ain't holding my breath).


On the Passing Scene XII

Hello, hooray, let the random thoughts begin!
  • So Jeff Cooper apparently wrote a poem, at one point:
    A clip is not a magazine, a mag is not a clip;
    Neither is a grip a stock, and "stock" does not mean grip.
    I do not mean to nitpick, but improvement could be seen,
    If we could bring ourselves to say exactly what we mean.
    I know I've occasionally criticized Cooper, but you must understand, with me, your authority is dependent on the answers to these questions:
    1. Is your name Jesus Christ?
    2. If not, are you the successor to the Apostle appointed to settle disputes arising on issues of faith and morals, and speaking solely on those issues?
    If you don't answer "yes" to either of those questions, then your authority with me is no more than any other person, and always subject to my questioning whether—on that topic—you are not full of shit. And remember, if I am one of the 25 people in a room, only 1 of them is smarter than me, statistically. There is a 92% chance that you are not that person.

  • So you know when you're on an internet forum, or commenting on a blog or a site, and someone else posts, y' know, "This is a very interesting topic, I am interested in is the time, our trading site for biggest deals on [insert potentially suspicious commodity here]."

    Yes, well, if the particular venue does not allow you to flag it as spam, I recommend posting this:
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    Lovely spam! Wonderful spam!
    Spam spa-a-a-a-a-am spam spa-a-a-a-a-am spam.
    Lovely spam! Lovely spam! Lovely spam! Lovely spam!
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    Feel free to copy and paste it from this page, I couldn't find a convenient source for it anywhere else.

  • So when I pointed out, commenting on a review of the Atlas Shrugged movie (part 1 of three, part 3 will of course just be Galt talking), that Rand believed the rules didn't apply to her, some right-wing imbecile, taking me for a left-winger, said, "I think you're talking about Obama."

    Yes exactly, catamite, thanks for noticing. What I hate about Rand is that her ethics, precisely like the Left since at least Marx, have loopholes for your status. "If you are a great, moral, creative, productive soul, you can seduce another's spouse" is, exactly, like "If you have been oppressed, abused, downtrodden, and exploited, you can murder another's child." Please, what is the difference? Aren't they both saying the same thing? Rand gives it as payment for greatness, and Marx as restitution for smallness, but fundamentally both are saying "members of class x are exempt from the common bond of man and man".

    This is what you should hate about Randroids: they have all the same psychotic tics as the Left. Also they argue exactly like feminists, only probably with less reading comprehension.

  • The principle is perennial, and is as hateful to the Puritan Right as to the Marxist Left (fortunately, not all on the right are Puritans, and a few on the left are still not Marxists). There is no elect, whether of the capitalists or the proletariat, only the people: which includes the capitalists. Nobody is exempt; nobody is special. The law is no respecter of persons.

    That, and not redistributionist policies, is what is meant by equality, in the thinking of all 18th century republicanism—again, the Jacobins were much more in favor of free markets than the Founding Fathers were. That is why Belloc renders the French motto "Freedom, Brotherhood, and an Equal Law". Remember, the economic movement he founded, with Chesterton, is at least as hostile to socialism as to capitalism, since, unlike both, it does not make the people dependent on the investor-class or on the state.

  • Speaking of Rand being indistinguishable from leftists, I wonder if you're familiar with her gleeful account of the deaths of bureaucrats' families, who suffocate while on a broken-down train? I wouldn't inflict Atlas Shrugged on, well, even on the bitch who wrote it, but here's some dude at National Review talking about it. The relevant part is, she says they deserve to suffocate:
    . . . These passengers were awake; there was not a man aboard the train who did not share one or more of their ideas.
    Or, in other words, they—including the wife and children of a politician, the children young enough that their mother tucks them in—were "little Eichmanns" and their deaths were just "chickens coming home to roost".
    Who is John Galt?

    I almost hope she's right about the afterlife—her trotters would defile the floors of Hell.

  • I was thinking about how, in my book, I have everything metricized, and it occurred to me, shotgun gauges, being based on pounds, are really gonna seem weird and arbitrary. So I decided to convert them to "number of balls that size in a half-kilogram", but then, well, why would they use a metric pound, if it comes to that? (Incidentally, the reason they call it the Royale with Cheese is not because they don't know what a Quarter-Pounder is—meat is sold by the metric pound in France—but because there's no way to say it in French that doesn't sound stupid.)

    Anyway, so then I thought of calling them "caliber x" (that's how French and Spanish do it, whereas Russian does it as "x caliber"—and you can translate the relevant hanzi as "gauge", "bore", or "caliber"), with the new number twice its approximate old equivalent—being based on the number of balls it would take to make a kilogram, which is twice a metric pound. But then I thought, gauge is a pretty esoteric concept—I just checked, my sister didn't understand it. There's no reason other than tradition to keep it around, and, in this setting, the only people allowed to have weapons are the UN foxtrotting Peacekeepers, why would they spare any trouble at all for tradition?

    Then I was like, OK, so they'll call them the measure of the barrel, in millimeters like usual. And I guess they just put "shot" afterwards, probably "S" for short like how they put "R" after round-nosed calibers? So 20-gauge becomes 15.63 mm shot, 12-gauge becomes 18.53 mm shot, and 10-gauge is 19.69 mm shot.

  • You know when actresses shoot their mouths off in fields for which they are eminently unqualified? Cameron Diaz offered her profundities just recently on marriage, for instance. Anyway, every time they do it I am reminded of something someone said on TV Tropes, about Tyra Banks. I quote from memory, but it was something like
    She's not famous for her luscious reasoning skills or her round, firm intellect.
    I'm sure there's a similar line for the dizzying insights of, say, Ben Affleck, but the really sad thing is, he's Ludwig Wittgenstein compared to Diaz. That's how completely Hollywood ignores women's brains, even meatheads like Affleck are an informal intellectual aristocracy by comparison.

  • I think I'll close with, remember a few back, how I compared Galt and Objectivism to a spadefoot toad, burying itself in the sand? I almost feel bad, because no way in hell are they as cute as spadefoot toads. They're so round!

    Also, Eruka, from Soul Eater: "frog-faced" just officially became a compliment.


Dois Coisas e um Brinde

What? It's Portuguese.

I thought of two things I need to note. They're both reality check, one for me and one for Obama. And then I had a thought. Anyway.

For me, remember here when I was talking about cancelling the Constellation program but still developing the "Orion drive ship"? Turns out the "Orion spacecraft" all those documents refer to is something completely different: it's this, basically more reminiscent of Soyuz than anything else. Apparently it's named after the Apollo lander, but, one, why did the thing we can just call "Apollo lander" have a separate name, and two, why didn't anyone notice that calling the thing "Orion" could get it confused with this bad mamma-jamma?

So enough reality check for me. Onto Obama. Did anyone else notice the problem, in that speech where he was basically justifying his opposition to increased drilling? He said something like "There's no easy way to make gas prices go down." Which, sorry, his claim to be the smartest president ever (which, in fairness, was made for him, not by him) takes a serious hit when he says things like that.

I never went to Harvard but I do know the meaning of supply and demand. "Increasing supply while demand remains constant will lower prices" is, to my knowledge, an iron law, like "doubling velocity while mass remains constant will quadruple kinetic energy". There are many valid arguments against drilling, environmental and even economic—just off the top of my head, you could warn about an over-supply resulting from a shortsighted increase in production—but denying a basic principle of economics isn't one of them.

But no matter what you think of Obama (or thought of Bush), he's your country's executive. As an act of patriotism, I intend, this July 4th, to drink to Obama's health. I trust you'll do likewise?


Confirmanda de Veritate

Which is "reality check" in Latin.
  • Big Hollywood had an article on something called "The Philosophy of the Western"; sadly I don't think the book has explored the fact that rugged individualism never actually existed, certainly not in the settlement of the West. I wonder, does it mention—independent of nonsensical "deconstructions" like "Unforgiven" (did you know a real old Western town would lynch a cowboy for cutting up a whore?)—that cowboys and gunfighters were regarded as vermin by townspeople? Does it mention that "gunslinger" and all the rest were journalistic inventions of the early 20th century, and the actual communities just called them "bad men"? I doubt it very much.

    But some idiot was saying the one thing he doesn't like about Westerns is all the shooting at Indians. Now, first off, Indians aren't really all that common in Westerns; and second off, the Indians they do shoot at are usually Apaches, Sioux (and related Plains Indians), or Comanches. And Apaches and Sioux were basically land Vikings—40% of the Apache economy was raiding! Comanches, meanwhile, were Orcs (or, for you Browncoats, Reavers), minus the cannibalism but with additional working-their-raped-and-tortured-slaves-to-death; I said it before and I'll say it again, somehow the Aztecs weren't the biggest assholes in the Uto-Aztecan language group.

  • This is more "let me explain that thing that was puzzling you" than "reality check", but I was rereading the inestimable Ben Shapiro's article on the most overrated movies. One of them on that list is Blade Runner, and he's essentially expressed his puzzlement with its acclaim. Everything he says about it is true—"The pacing...is glacial, and the plot is amorphous"—but he's missing one important piece of the puzzle.

    That piece is, I think, an illustration of the difference between film geeks who are audience, like Ben, and film geeks who are creators like my sister (filmmaker) and me (writer). Know what we like about Blade Runner? The production design. The cultural setting. The lighting. God help me, the con-slang of "city speak". Blade Runner, more than any other science fiction movie, feels like another world, and we like the "this is how we get it done" aspect. Hell, it feels more like it's set in 2219 than 2019. The fact he's good at this—see also Legend—is the only reason anyone puts up with Ridley Scott, even though most film geeks are too blinded by cant to know it.

  • So what's with all the right-wing love for Firefly? I was just reading some of Jonah Goldberg's stuff about it, and the sweet little lamb actually thinks the Alliance is based on Maoism. The mere mention of it on Breitbart's sites starts a sickening love-fest, and John C. Wright can't say enough nice things about it, either. Of course, Wright's not really a fair example: it literally took a miracle before that titan of intellect knew there's a God.

    No, jackasses. The Alliance is not Maoism, and Whedon is not talking about "government intrusion" or the nanny state. Have you ever actually read anything he's written about politics? Whedon loves all those things, the man took Women's Studies at Wesleyan for Christ's sake. The Alliance is you. It's his opinion of "neoconservatism" and the Iraq War, which was just getting underway when he made the show—how dare you interfere with Saddam Hussein's rape rooms, you imperialists! And yet he calls himself a feminist...but you were totally the ones with "cognitive dissonance", no question.

    Maybe the fact "evil corporation" is completely redundant, in every single thing his pudgy hands have ever touched, should've been a clue. Or his obsession with the aforementioned "cognitive dissonance", which, outside of a very few scientific contexts, is just a politer way of saying "false consciousness". I've been in middle school too, I understand your need to think at least one person doesn't hate you, but Whedon is not that person.

  • Speaking of people who support legalized prostitution and opposed getting rid of Saddam, but believe their commitment to women's rights is unquestionable, you know what's proven by the widespread Libertarian support for legalizing drugs and prostitution? Other than that they'll deliberately destroy all civilized standards purely for the sake of their unreflective political fetishism, I mean?

    They don't know anything about East Asia. Know what the brothels were, in premodern Asia? Orphanages. Know what tactic modern organized crime frequently uses to get women for their brothels? Drug addiction.

    And if you needed any proof that Libertarians are just as doctrinaire of ideologues as Communists, you know what their only defense is, if you point these things out? "Oh, well the theory makes that impossible." Just like Mao during the Great Leap Forward.

  • Ever hear of Democratic Peace Theory? It's the idea that democracies/republics don't attack each other. It's a fundamentally materialist theory, in that a major part of its arguments has to do with democracies frequently being more prosperous—and prosperity has no direct relation to war, sorry, comrade. It's also not borne out by history; America didn't have any wars against non-democracies until the 20th century (did you know Mexico was a republic?), unless the Indian Wars count, and the belligerents on both sides in both the French Revolutionary and World Wars had, with a few exceptions, variations on about three systems, two of which are used by all modern liberal republics.

    And also, of course, it's Whig/Hegelian triumphalism, with a utopian strain of "if everyone would accept our system, there'd be no more wars!" Religions don't even claim that, idiots, and they do involve miracles. But anyway, the "Arab spring", currently underway, looks, if it has no other good effects, to put paid to Democratic Peace Theory once and for all. If those protesters manage to set up really functioning democracies, those democracies are quite likely to have wars with each other and with Israel, the US, and various European countries. Unfortunately for the theory, democracies are defined as states that do what their people want: so what if their people want to fight?

  • Late Addendum: So ever hear of the Space Preservation Treaty? It would ban all weapons in space; Dennis Kucinich introduced a related bill back in '05.

    I know what you're thinking (or at least what I hope you're thinking): "But don't they, and the people who wrote the WMD-in-space ban in the Outer Space Treaty, know about Jon's Law, and the Kzinti Lesson that's a special case of it?" Of course they don't know. At least I hope they don't know. I'd accuse Kucinich and the proponents of the above treaties of trying to smother space development in its cradle, but I try to remember Heinlein's Razor. They probably just are that stupid.


De Civitate

Arguably "civitas", which gives us the word for "city" in most Romance languages (though literally it means "citizenship"), is the Latin word for politics. "Politics", after all, being the Greek word for "of the city".
  • Remember how I've basically said that the English Whigs were the original Bolsheviks? Yeah, well, aside from their deliberate ideological distortions of history, their denial of the very humanity of anyone who disagrees with them, and their use of rape and forced famine as weapons of terror, there's also this.

    They call the event where their faction coalesced, "the Glorious Revolution". QED, comrades.

  • I was thinking about our society's utterly mythological approach to history, and about how Jim Crow was motivated by real abuses, however unjustified a reaction it was. Other than the terror-campaign that was Reconstruction, there were the tactics the Union used during the Civil War itself. Everyone knows about Sherman, though most don't understand that his motive was pacifism ("war is intrinsically evil" leads naturally to the idea "anything we do that might shorten a war is justified"; it was basically the argument of all Prussian militarists who didn't follow Bernhardi in saying "war is always good"). Most also don't know about another little war-crime on the Union side, though: the Emancipation Proclamation.

    See, the timing of the proclamation, coupled with the fact it excluded the non-seceding slave states, pretty much puts paid to the notion that it was motivated by any abolitionist ideals on Lincoln's part—if you needed any other refutation of those ideals than the fact his whole attitude to slavery can be summed up as the same "personally opposed, but" so familiar from our own abortion debate. Also, anyone who knows military history knows that "If we win the slaves go free" is a very common tactic. Hideyoshi Toyotomi used it in Korea.

    I say it was a war-crime because that tactic runs contrary to the whole military tradition of Christendom, and not just because Christendom is the only civilization that didn't have slavery in its formative centuries. The sole motive for saying it, in a belligerent territory, is in the hopes of recruiting the enemy's slaves to one's side. But slaves are almost worthless against soldiers under arms; no, the value of a slave revolt is in its ability to terrorize the enemy's civilian population—see also Hideyoshi's Korean campaign. The Emancipation Proclamation is essentially the same tactic as firebombing Dresden.

    That doesn't mean the South was right, slavery-wise, anymore than Dresden means the Nazis were right; it doesn't even mean the Union or Allies were "just as bad" (I'm not Kurt Vonnegut, thanks). It's just an illustration of the important distinction between a hero and a saint, whether that hero be Lincoln or Winston "until the rubble jumps" Churchill.

  • So, I was reading...I think it was Jonah Goldberg, but anyway one of the writers at National Review, about this debate with a libertarian, where, apparently, one of the religious-fanatic types said, quote, "The state uses force", as if that was a statement with any moral content whatsoever. The state also uses combustion and gravity; why should just "that physical quality equal to the product of mass and acceleration" be tabooed?

    But aside from the inability to grasp the distinction between a physical and a moral phenomenon, I was reminded of a Chesterton quote.
    I may remark in passing that when people say that government rests on force they give an admirable instance of the foggy and muddled cynicism of modernity. Government does not rest on force. Government is force; it rests on consent or a conception of justice.
    But it's interesting that Libertarians believe force to be evil. Libertarians, after all, are the ones who usually complain when the military moves an inch out of its way to spare noncombatants; they're the ones who think absolutely any steps are justified in a war. Why? Easy, they think force is evil. If you think "it's evil to do bodily harm" but are forced to acknowledge that "sometimes it is permitted to do bodily harm to prevent it being done to innocents", then, rather than coming to the correct conclusion—"it is not evil to do harm in defense of oneself or others"—they, having conflated "harm" with "evil", conclude (logically correctly), "one may do evil in defense of others." You also get it in Communists and Objectivists; nobody is quite as cruel in war as the pacifist, since he believes war to be evil—not only will he do anything if he thinks it will shorten the conflict, he also holds the phrase "ethical warfare" to be a contradiction in terms.

  • But you must make a distinction between Objectivists and Libertarians; I hate to break it to Rand's Libertarian fans but she hated you. See, e.g, here.

    But I thought it was funny how she calls Libertarians hippies. Even though there is a lot of overlap (halfwitted admiration for counter-cultures and their "authenticity" is at least as old in America as Thoreau), it's just rich coming from the lady who wrote Atlas Shrugged. What, after all, is the point of Atlas Shrugged, except that everything would be perfect, except for The Man, who's Keeping Us Down, Man? And then Galt and co. turn on, tune in, and drop out—"we'll wait out the apocalypse" was something the Beatniks hated about hippies, remember?—in their little free-loving, self-sufficient settlement. In the Rockies, no less—have you ever been to Colorado?
    Who Is John Galt?

  • So you know when people say America is a republic, not a democracy? As if it were a good thing, as if republic weren't a perfect synonym for oligarchy? Yeah, uh, no. America is, in fact, a system of representative government resting on popular sovereignty, with a strong unitary executive. That is, a case can be made for classifying this country as a republic, as a democracy, and as a monarchy. Belloc actually considered it to be that last one, and he knew a hell of a lot more history than you do.

    It's actually funny to me that American conservatives—whose movement prides itself on not being ideologically purist, e.g. the "big tent"—have a problem with that. Isn't this the thing you're always talking about? The compromise and interaction between multiple systems? It goes deeper than the "checks and balances" of the three branches of the federal government; there's not a single part of this system that's not a mix and a balance.


See No Evil

I was thinking about what's wrong with vampire fiction, and I decided, a big factor (leaving the Laurell K. Hamilton and Stephanie Meyer crap to one side) is neglecting what 2nd Edition D&D would call the "ecology" of the beasties. Namely, vaskania. Vaskania, the Greek name for the evil eye—related to the Latin root of "fascinate"—has this meaning in Eastern Orthodoxy:
Vaskania is recognized by the Church as the jealousy and envy of some people for things they do not possess, such as beauty, youth, courage or any other blessing. The Church essentially rejected Vaskania as contradicting the concept of divine providence. The prayers of the Church to avert the evil eye are, however, a silent recognition of this phenomenon as a morbid feeling of envy.
Vampires have always been associated with the evil eye, resentment, or despair—even the suicide-origin has an air of "what good is (anything you've got to be alive to experience, really) while (some other thing is around)". That's pretty much the evil eye in a nutshell; go read up on resentful-ghost beliefs in India, Korea, or Japan (where the evil eye-type beliefs are just one of the many, many types of grudge-pollution).

But it occurred to me as having a broader implication in life. For instance, politics. Pretty much every bad political idea, from racism to class-warfare, has its origins in those self-same resentments; you could call every single one of them "vampirocratic" policy.

Take segregation. It's very satisfying to describe segregation as arising from prejudice, but it's actually factually correct (which is not without its benefits) to describe it as arising from resentments over Reconstruction. After all, ascribing it to "prejudice" implies that the white southerners had nothing to say for themselves. This is not the case; Reconstruction-era Republicans deliberately made it impossible to prosecute the newly-freed slaves, even for rape and murder, because they thought white southerners (most of whom, remember, had never owned slaves) "deserved it". Those white southerners then turned around and did the exact same thing—vampirocratically legislating from their resentments—by deliberately oppressing those slaves' descendents. And now modern race politics has swung back the other way, because of segregation—vampires, remember, live forever, as long as they have resentment and the shedding of blood to maintain them.

There is, quite simply, no way out of that vicious cycle; the daughters (or, more usually, neighbors) of slave-owners no more deserved to suffer during Reconstruction than did the descendents of slaves under Jim Crow than do the descendents of Dixiecrats in modern race-war politics. You can't escape it by talking about whose irrational, unclean resentments are more justified. I mean, I'm a Catholic, of Irish and New England Acadian descent, and my relatives live where they do because of the largest forced famine prior to the 20th Century, and the 2nd largest forced relocation in the New World's history. If one's ancestors having been wronged entitles one to revenge on the perpetrators' descendents, then I, quite literally, own the life of every Protestant, black or white, on this continent.

Except that I don't. Not because of individualism—which is false, unless patriotism and pride in the achievements of your country are false—but because I, too, would come under the same opprobrium. I mean, I'm sure some of my French ancestors helped round up the Templars or followed Peter the Hermit or fought for Arianism against Clovis or massacred Roman settlers in Gaul; I'm sure some of my Irish ancestors acquitted themselves less than honorably in the perpetual clan warfare that's a convenient summary of Irish history. I mean, we're from Connacht—our kingdom was the unjust aggressor Cu Chulainn died defending against. Where, precisely, would you set the statute of limitations on it? And as the Eternal and Unchanging Logos once said, "Let him among you who is without sin, cast the first stone."

Which, however, is interesting. The only two value systems, after all, that have a way out of that perpetual resentment cycle, are Christianity and Buddhism—and once again it's caritas or karuna, because there is more rejoicing in Heaven over one repentant sinner than over ninety-nine righteous men; all are alike worthy to hear the message of enlightenment, even the wicked.

Blood cries out for blood, in all the other belief systems of mankind; if you're not going to sink your civilization in a welter of feuds then you're going to sink its economy in a pit of wergild. It doesn't even matter if the belief system is secular or not; what, exactly, are those schemes of confiscatory taxation, but forcing the capitalists to pay wergild to the proletariat, to avoid a blood-feud called the class war? It doesn't even matter whether the capitalists actually did anything wrong; it only matters that there is resentment. In the honor society you're forced to live in without Christ or Buddha, to quote medieval Iceland's legal code, "There is no such thing as an accident."


The Art of the Possible

Wow, post a day this month. I had some thoughts on SF and politics, and political SF...and science fictional politics? Not sure about that last one. Bulleted lists, I guess?
  • So I came across an article on io9 attacking the idea that women don't like science fiction, which (my sisters are here to tell you), is indeed a folly and a fallacy. But the lady writing it cited as examples the new BSG, and the former CEO of the SciFi channel, Bonnie Hammer. Oops.

    If you're trying to say women like SF, maybe you shouldn't cite a show that deliberately removes all similarities to any sample of the genre. Still worse is it to hold up the woman responsible for that channel showing wrestling, who is pretty much universally reviled as a complete fan-hater, purely because of the programming she chose for her network.

    I wouldn't pick Noam Chomsky (a Holocaust denier, did you know?) as an example, if I were concerned to refute the anti-Semitic canard that Jews are rootless and disloyal.

  • I'm allowed to mention Atlas Shrugged because the magic Galt metal makes it (awful) science fiction, but anyway I realized the fundamental problem with Objectivism (other than its totally incoherent metaphysics and the fact it derives its war-ethic from pure physical cowardice). Fundamentally, they believe in spiritual aristocracy—to the point where they believe "great" people are allowed to seduce others' spouses. How precisely is that different from any cult leader you care to name? Go take a look at Rand's affair with Branden and then tell me she wouldn't have had them bringing her toddlers if her tastes had happened to run in that direction.

    Worse, they don't believe their spiritual aristocracy is under any obligations to nonmembers, which makes it a worse example of one than, e.g., Hinduism. Galt and co. retreat to wait out the apocalypse like a bunch of spadefoot toads burying themselves in the sand.
    Who is John Galt?

    A Hindu would say that the Brahmins, during said apocalypse, should get down there and continue to sing the people's prayers, and the Kshatriyas get down there and continue to kill their enemies. But the allegedly superhuman Galt hides his candy ass in the Rockies. Again, cowardice.

    Also, Capitalism is not the system with a free market, it is the system with an investor-employer class. Industrial capitalism, to say nothing of its agricultural forebear the English landlord system, predates the Free Trade movement by at least half a century. And however "self-reliant" Galt and co. crow that they are, I'd like to see their little artists' commune build anything. Seriously, how much track do you think Dagny Taggart could lay on "her" railroad (unless we're using "laying track on her railroad" as a euphemism)? Simply forgetting employees' existence like that makes Atlas an argument for Communism, not against it; remember my theory Rand was a Marxist sleeper agent?

  • I think I incline to a "weak" anthropogenic climate change position, in that I'm quite sure our output of various chemicals into the ol' air-envelope isn't having no effect. I'm just hesitant to overestimate this effect, since I know just how big a thing said envelope is.

    But I think there is some connection between the "strong", i.e. apocalyptic, climate change position, and people's strange ideas about terraforming. If you think terraforming Mars would be a quick proposition—and there's some question whether it'd be possible—you're doubtless more amenable to the idea that we're doing something major to this atmosphere.

    Guess I did have something to say about science fictional politics.

  • I was looking for discussion on the undeniable trend, in SF and especially fantasy, toward what can only be called "demasculinization" (it's not quite identical with "feminization"). But unfortunately, this brought me into contact, as I probably should've expected, with the Men's Rights Movement—who are the least manly creatures I have ever come across. What's really annoying is that much of what they denounce is eminently worthy of denunciation, but they do it in the exact same shrill, paranoiac tone they claim to decry in feminism. For instance, nobody not either stupid or devoid of empathy can deny that much of what our schools do to boys is unfair, unethical, and even emotionally abusive—but when you characterize it as "rape", I'm afraid this is my stop.

    But, specifically RE: SF, gentlemen, did you know Dave Sim is not an authority? Anyone who thinks stories written "for women" (a gross slander, as they're actually written for a very narrow segment of women) are concerned with emotions, relationships, and family/children, has somehow managed to miss multiple decades of feminist de-legitimizing of motherhood. They are very specifically for the Bounderette, modern feminism's great achievement: the woman who emulates the absolute worst kind of man. Leaving to one side that the Men's Rights Movement is the same in reverse (they ape the very worst kind of woman, especially with their substitution of self-righteous tears and accusations for reasoned argument), if you think science fiction's paucity of female characters period, let alone "strong" ones, was not a flaw, you are not qualified to judge the written word.

    They also say a lot of nasty things about gay men (most of whom I've ever known were a damn sight more manly than them), but they sure do seem to prefer their own sex's company. Just sayin'.

  • But still, what the hell's with SF? It's less a problem in print SF (which has other problems), but all visual science fiction is becoming Supernatural, except with halfwitted philosophical "naturalism" substituted for the halfbaked version of all the world's mysticism. Torchwood is slash fiction; Firefly consists entirely of male anti-Sues and the female Sues who show up their utter worthlessness every twenty minutes; Battlestar Galactica is nothing but indecisive handwringing and hystrionic gestures in precisely equal amounts, it's quite seriously like a satire against women's suffrage.

    It can basically be summed up that women like novels and men like romances. Women, that is, like stories about people and what they're like, and men like stories about people and what they do. Obviously there's overlap—things have to happen in novels, and if I don't know anything about a character I don't give a tin shit what he does—but the division is an important one, and as a broad statement about the sexes' preferences it's largely accurate...

    ...And thinking about it, I've just realized the true cause of the "feminization" of science fiction! It's not directly related to gender politics at all, and I was wrong, it is a problem from print SF. Know what it was? Simple: it was the New Wave. New Wave, "soft", S-stands-for-speculative-not-for-science SF, is novels. "Hard" SF was always romances, always about cool people doing cool stuff in cool places, just like Treasure Island; but it's not the stuff people think of when they think of SF of "literary quality". No it's not fair—I'd put Stevenson and Scott, or even Dickens, up against any novelist except Jane Austen in the literary quality category—but literary analysis is almost exclusively devoted to novels, and romances get short shrift. So it's no wonder SF is increasingly novelistic, and therefore increasingly catered to the tastes of the women who prefer novels.

    Whoo, I'm actually relieved. I'm sure feminism and our culture's weirdass gender-Marxism didn't help, but this is actually just a literary fad. Therefore, the solution is not to complain about the "feminization" of SF, but to re-legitimize the romance as a form of prose fiction. Step one would probably be, oh, acknowledging that it exists.

  • Another loogy to snag at Rand would be, do you know what her books remind me of? Lots of people have pointed out her breathless, Fabio-on-the-cover prose, but it's also got that element of female-misogyny and übermensch-worship running through it that I've only seen one other place.

    Who is John Galt?