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Vol 1.1: Ian Fletcher
Vol 1.2: Karl Denninger
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Vol 1.4: John Julius Norwich
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- The Landmark Thucydides
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SITES OF INTEREST
- Voxonomics 1-1: Robert Prechter
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- Voxonomics 1-3: Dr. Frank Shostak
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- 321 Gold
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Thursday, December 05, 2013
I know the author online. I’ve participated in many email chains with him, Sarah, Mike, and Tom. I’ve got a copy, but I’ve not had a chance to read it yet. I wanted to read the review copy, but I’ve got a deadline and I’ve been slammed. I’ve heard good things about it though.... I offend people on the internet for being an unabashed right winger. Vox sends them into hyperbolic rage spirals. He is their devil. They hate him more than Scott Card or George Bush, so that is saying something. Anybody who has caused that many panty twists is deserving of royalties just for the entertainment value of watching the literati have come aparts.Needless to say, I'll be watching my six with extra caution given the likelihood that Larry will be sending magic kanji-enhanced Shadow Guard after us. Now, where did I put that Benelli-Mossberg Area Suppression Expediter-5K? One of those city block-sweepers could come in handy right about now.
In truth, it wouldn't be entirely unfair to describe Quantum Mortis as Alien Hunters Intergalactic in Space. We had a nice little SF murder mystery going, but after reading MHI and the Grimnoire Chronicles, I realized that it had two major flaws.
- Too few bodies.
- Too small guns.
As many as a quarter of the top 100 Kindle books on Amazon.com are from indie publishers, according to data revealed at a trade presentation by the retailer. A chart detailing the 25 top-selling indie titles in 2012 was passed on by an audience member via Twitter. Though the term indie is broad, covering everything from self-published authors to publishing houses that fall outside the big six, the news has been interpreted as a victory for the go-it-alone author. However in the US the term has come to mean self-published. A spokeswoman for Amazon.com said: "This figure is referring to Kindle books on Amazon.com in 2012, with 'indie' meaning books self-published via Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP). So a quarter of the top 100 bestselling Kindle books on Amazon.com in 2012 were self-published via KDP."Amazon is playing a little fast and loose with the term "indie" here. KDP does not require self-publishing; Marcher Lord has multiple Kindle Select titles that are not self-published. I suspect Amazon doesn't want to rub it in the major publisher's faces that they are already as much a super-publisher as a retail channel. Indie quite clearly means independent publishers AND self- publishers.
My experience with the both world of conventional mainstream publishing as well as indie ebook publishing may be useful here. I looked up my old reports from various publishers, which happens to include a few books that were not mine, and found the following numbers for conventionally published books distributed through the the traditional bookstores:
Books in bold are mine. The others are not mine, but the numbers are hard. Now, one year ago today, I published A Throne of Bones with Marcher Lord Hinterlands. In terms of sales, it is basically a pure ebook and it isn't available in any bookstore.
Here is where it gets interesting. Let's assume, for the simplicity's sake, that the three novellas and SE are a single ebook called SE+.
SE+ PAID: 2,163
SE+ FREE: 21,681
So, even as a relative nobody, who is primarily known for being hated within the genre, and lacking a single book for sale on a bookshelf anywhere, I am still able to sell nearly as many copies of a book in a single year as a well-established minor conventional publisher managed to sell through traditional channels in a book's lifetime. Since IN1 is one of my books, that indicates that I'm only able to sell about half as many books without conventional distribution, but the higher royalty rate balances that out. Conventional publishing will do literally nothing for me unless it is one of the six majors.
That being said, it is clear that even from my non-bestselling experience, the major publishers can still push more books than the same writer can reasonably expect to sell on his own. But since they pay lower royalties, which The Author's Guild describes as 15% of list on hardcovers and 25% of revenue on ebooks, a major publisher still has to sell twice as many copies just to keep pace with the independent revenues.
But that is far from the only consideration. Pocket signed me to write six books. I only wrote four of them and they only published three of them. Even if you sign a book contract with one of the six major publishers, even if you write and deliver the book, even if the book is edited, accepted, and the second half of the advance is paid, there is still no guarantee that the book will ever be published. Now, it's not a bad gig, being paid to not write books, but it's hard to really build on your success that way.
To top it all off, the ability to give ebooks away allows me to reach 10x more readers. I previously worked out that one out of every five free SE+ readers will subsequently buy ATOB. And, most importantly, the primary limiting factor, the publisher's print run, no longer applies. I could have sold considerably more copies of The War in Heaven and The World in Shadow had they not been limited by the print run; both books sold through their respective print runs, which caused the vice-president to call me up, congratulate me, and promptly signed me to two more books... neither of which were either completed or published due to organizational changes that had nothing to do with me. Hence the absence of Stalking the Beast from my literary oeuvre
Here is how I see the pros and cons of independent publishing:
Pros: higher royalties, no print runs, no 6-18 months publishing delays, guaranteed publication, no gatekeeping, total freedom.
Cons: lower sales numbers, no books in bookstores, no marketing, no advances, no professional validation, no free editing and cover art.
Since print runs and publisher reorgs have been the bane of my publishing history, and since I insist on being heavily involved with my covers, there simply isn't any doubt that indie publishing is my preference. If, on the other hand, all you're really looking for is professional validation, then you probably won't be happy with publishing independently.
I tend to suspect that Hugh Howey has demonstrated the future of the industry for the successful writer, which is to publish the ebooks independently and publish print books through a mainstream publisher. However, it will be very difficult for established writers to swing this and an independent probably has to sell at least 100k ebooks per year before the major publishers will be seriously interested in that sort of arrangement.
U.S. immigration officials are considering a proposal from Chinese investors to create a multibillion-dollar development in New York’s Catskills called "China City" -- raising concerns among critics about the potential cost to U.S. taxpayers and, according to one analyst, the possibility it could be a "stalking horse" for the Beijing government.I have a better idea. Let's just give them New York City along with all of its residents, most of whom are avid supporters of mass immigration. Then move all the post-1965 immigrants into New York state. All of the promised economic benefits with none of the social costs.
A spokesman from the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services told FoxNews.com that the proposal for Thompson, N.Y., has not been approved but is under consideration.
The mysterious proposed development appears to be a step beyond the types of ethnic enclaves scattered throughout U.S. cities, like the Chinatown sections of New York City or San Francisco. The 600-acre "China City of America" is located far outside New York City in upstate New York's wetlands and is a meticulously planned project, calling for family housing, a college and student residences, among other structures.
How can those who have repeatedly claimed that the magic of geographical relocation transforms serfs and savages into true blue Constitution-loving Americans possibly object to establishing large Chinese cities in their midst? And how could anyone suspect that the new Chinese-Americans would harbor any loyalties to Beijing? They're here for the opportunity, after all! They love America!
In a paper in the journal Nature, scientists reported Wednesday that they had retrieved ancient human DNA from a fossil dating back about 400,000 years, shattering the previous record of 100,000 years.There isn't a mystery here. The TENS true believers keep thinking that genetics will color in the lines of their rudimentary evolution-based models, but instead, the science keeps breaking their lines. All of the conceptual models are wrong. Pretty much all of the carefully calculated timelines are wrong. Evolution by natural selection is a red herring of a theory that was developed at a time when the scientific tools were crude and largely unscientific. So, it should be absolutely no surprise that the improved data being provided by advancements in genetic science is repeatedly overturning the conclusions that were previously reached.
The fossil, a thigh bone found in Spain, had previously seemed to many experts to belong to a forerunner of Neanderthals. But its DNA tells a very different story. It most closely resembles DNA from an enigmatic lineage of humans known as Denisovans. Until now, Denisovans were known only from DNA retrieved from 80,000-year-old remains in Siberia, 4,000 miles east of where the new DNA was found.
The mismatch between the anatomical and genetic evidence surprised the scientists, who are now rethinking human evolution over the past few hundred thousand years. It is possible, for example, that there are many extinct human populations that scientists have yet to discover. They might have interbred, swapping DNA. Scientists hope that further studies of extremely ancient human DNA will clarify the mystery.
The game will change, but it will take time. I am aware that most scientists are still holding firmly to the natural selection model. This, too, is as expected, as per Kuhn. We'll have to wait until all the Dawkinses and Myerses die off before geneticists with a sufficiently open mind can throw out the theory altogether. As it happens, they're already beginning to throw out Mr. Dawkins's signature concept:
Mendel didn’t expose the physical gene, of course (that would come a century later), but the conceptual gene. And this conceptual gene, revealed in the tables and calculations of this math-friendly monk, seemed an agent of mathematical neatness. Mendel’s thousands of crossings showed that the traits he studied — smooth skin versus wrinkled, for instance, or purple flower versus white — appeared or disappeared in consistent ratios dictated by clear mathematical formulas. Inheritance appeared to work like algebra. Anything so math-friendly had to be driven by discrete integers.The best part of all this is that Dawkins clearly knows it's wrong too. Not that he's going to admit it, though, not yet.
It was beautiful work. Yet when Mendel first published his findings in 1866, just seven years after Charles Darwin’s On the Origin of Species, no one noticed. Starting in 1900, however, biologists rediscovering his work began to see that these units of heredity he’d discovered — dubbed genes in 1909 — filled a crucial gap in Darwin’s theory of evolution. This recognition was the Holy Shit! moment that launched genetics’ Holy Shit! century. It seemed to explain everything. And it saved Darwin.
Darwin had legitimised evolution by proposing for it a viable mechanism — natural selection, in which organisms with the most favourable traits survive and multiply at higher rates than do others. But he could not explain what created or altered traits. Mendel could. Genes created traits, and both would spread through a population if a gene created a trait that survived selection....
These days, Dawkins makes the news so often for buffoonery that some might wonder how he ever became so celebrated. The Selfish Gene is how. To read this book is to be amazed, entertained, transported. For instance, when Dawkins describes how life might have begun — how a randomly generated strand of chemicals pulled from the ether could happen to become a ‘replicator’, a little machine that starts to build other strands like itself, and then generates organisms to carry it — he creates one of the most thrilling stretches of explanatory writing ever penned. It’s breathtaking.
Dawkins assembles genetics’ dry materials and abstract maths into a rich but orderly landscape through which he guides you with grace, charm, urbanity, and humour. He replicates in prose the process he describes. He gives agency to chemical chains, logic to confounding behaviour. He takes an impossibly complex idea and makes it almost impossible to misunderstand. He reveals the gene as not just the centre of the cell but the centre of all life, agency, and behaviour. By the time you’ve finished his book, or well before that, Dawkins has made of the tiny gene — this replicator, this strip of chemicals little more than an abstraction — a huge, relentlessly turning gearwheel of steel, its teeth driving smaller cogs to make all of life happen. It’s a gorgeous argument. Along with its beauty and other advantageous traits, it is amenable to maths and, at its core, wonderfully simple.
Unfortunately, say Wray, West-Eberhard and others, it’s wrong.
I phoned Richard Dawkins to see what he thought of all this. Did genes follow rather than lead? I asked him specifically about whether processes such as gene accommodation might lead instead. Then he did something so slick and wonderful I didn’t quite realise what he’d done till after we hung up: he dismissed genetic accommodation… by accommodating it. Specifically, he said that genetic accommodation doesn’t really change anything, because since the gene ends up locking in the change and carrying it forward, it all comes back to the gene anyway.They backtest and they backfill. That's due to the crumbling state of TENS. They're still clinging to natural selection, of course. But the TENS model is in crisis and it will collapse soon enough. It is even beginning to look as if we may get to see it happen in our lifetimes. Gene expression is more compatible with Intelligent Design than with TENS. We are not evolved, we are created. DNA is our C++ equivalent, and the womb is our compiler. Compile it differently, get different results. This is not New Age mumbo jumbo, but a scientific hypothesis that will be testable once we understand it well enough to become proficient in programming it ourselves.
‘This doesn’t modify the gene-centric model at all,’ he said. ‘The gene-centric model is all about the gene being the unit in the hierarchy of life that is selected. That remains the gene.’
‘He’s backfilling,’ said West-Eberhard. ‘He and others have long been arguing for the primacy of an individual gene that creates a trait that either survives or doesn’t.’
Wednesday, December 04, 2013
Strangely enough, neither Psykosonik nor My Life with the Thrill Kill Kult were invited to contribute. A little hurt, I am.
Short review: Murder mystery with rayguns IN SPACE!Read the whole review there. Jonathan always has an intelligent take on things and usually somehow manages to observe an aspect of the novel that even the writer doesn't realize is there until it is pointed out to him.
Longer review: Both works are set in the distant future, and center around one Graven Tower.... It has been interesting watching SF wrestle with the question of the ongoing IT revolution of the last few decades, especially since society as a whole has not yet figured out how to deal with the Internet. If you read older science fiction, the computers of the future were supposed to be the computer from STAR TREK, Wintermute, and Tron-style virtual reality. No one anticipated the banal reality of YouTube, Hulu, Internet pornography, and people Instagramming pictures of their breakfast toast. All of a sudden, science fiction novels have to wrestle with a future containing smartphones and the Internet, and this book does a good job of grafting the IT revolution onto a space-opera framework.
Of course, the book isn’t all deep thoughts – there are a lot of battles with particle weapons, lasers, missiles, more particle weapons, and flying cars. Graven uses a lot of guns – the book achieves the rare trick of writing gun porn about guns that do not actually exist. It is an interesting look at the IT-augmented warfare of the future (or the present, really), when attacking the enemy’s computer systems is just as effective, if not more so, as attacking his troops and food supplies.
Also, for those who are interested, I've started a Quantum Mortis wiki to help Steve and I keep track of who is who and what is what. If you feel like pitching in and contributing to it, please feel free to do so. I'm also throwing together a Traveller-style sector map that I expect to post there sometime next week.
On the translation front, there are now Finnish (2), French (2), Bahasa Indonesia, and Latin works in progress. So, if you're a native speaker of some other non-English language and you're interested in receiving a bigger revenue share than Simon & Schuster used to provide to Dan Brown and me at the turn of the century, shoot me an email. I'm particularly interested finding translators for Deutsch, Schwyzerdütsch, and Italiano.
A stranger came into the sacristy after Sunday Mass. In an incriminating huff he said, “I have been away from the area for fifteen years; where are the people? And now you are tearing down the school? I went there as a kid.”I'm not anti-contraception myself, but I am against the short-sightedness of small families.The Jews have it right and three is the bare minimum that any Christian couple should have, assuming they can have children. I understand that it is sometimes hard to see past the cost and the challenges that come with raising children, but I don't know a single family with children who regrets the youngest. And most of the families I know, regardless of size, speak a little wistfully about how it would have been nice to have just one more.
I put my hands up to quiet him from further talking and I calmly said, “Let me ask you a question: How many kids did you have?” He said, “Two.” Then I said, “So did everyone else. When you only have two kids per family there is no growth.” His demeanor changed, and then he dropped his head and said, “And they aren’t even going to Mass anymore.”
I never thought I would be asking that question, but since I had to close our parish school, I’ve grown bolder and I started to ask that question more often. When I came to my parish five years ago, the school was on its proverbial “last legs.” In its last two years we did everything we could to recruit more students, but eventually I had to face the fact that after 103 years of education the school was no longer viable.
In one of the pre-closure brain-storming sessions with teachers, I was asked what to do to get more students. I replied, “Well, I know what to do, but it takes seven years.” The older teachers laughed, but the others needed me to state the obvious to the oblivious, viz. we need more babies....
I have modestly preached against contraception and sterilization, but for many of my parishioners it is too late. Most of them are done with raising more children. They have had their two kids twenty, thirty, forty years ago and some women don’t want to hear about the Culture of Death. They decide to go to other parishes where the pastor doesn’t prick their consciences.
I am reminded of a diocesan official in his talk to us young pro-life, pro-family priests twenty years ago. He said, “Yes, you can preach against abortion and contraception, but remember, you have to put a roof over your churches.” Now, our diocese is closing and merging these same parishes, but you know what—they all have good roofs.
Pastors, if the demographic winter or bomb seems someone else’s problem, try this at your parish as I recently did at mine. I took the last ten burials and printed out their obituaries. At Sts. Peter and Paul Cemetery we had six men and four women with an average age of 80 years. With the ten, I counted the number of siblings for a total of 45 and divided by 10 which came to 4.5 children per family. Then I counted the ten’s children and divided by ten. The next generation had 28 kids which I divided by ten and came to 2.8 per family. I then moved on to the third generation, the grandchildren. These ten deceased had 48 grandchildren from their 28 children. When dividing these numbers, I came to a figure of 1.714 per family. The national average number of children per household is 1.91; while the replacement level is 2.1 children per family.
I don’t claim to have answers on how to turn around a dying parish or diocese. In fact, I am more at a loss as to what to say than ever before. To defend the Church’s teaching against contraception and sterilization is like going back to ancient Rome and warning them about the dangers of indoor lead plumbing. No matter what you would say their only response back would come in various levels of volume, “But it’s indoor plumbing!” In other words, no matter the real threat to one’s physical health from contraception and sterilization, the immediate perceived benefits outweigh the moral and physical downside.
If we're going to win the future, our children have to show up for it.
Pink SF primarily concerns a) choosing between two lovers, b) being true to yourself, or c) enacting ex post facto revenge upon the badthinkers and meanies who made the author feel bad about herself at school. Pink SF is about feelings rather than ideas or actions.
Pink SF is an invasion. Pink SF is a cancer. Pink SF is a parasitical perversion. Pink SF is the little death that kills every literary subgenre. And Pink SF isn't limited to SF; there is a very good reason the Sports Guy's meme "Women Ruin Everything" applies so perfectly to most forms of literature. The one exception is the One True Female Genre, which is the Pillow Book. Read Murasaki Shikibu or Sei Shonagon; women have been writing the same thing over and over for more than 1,000 years now and very, very few do it as well as the Lady Murasaki did. Pink SF is the girls coming to play in the boys' sandbox and then shitting in it like cats.
So what, in contrast, is Blue SF? Blue SF is a return to the manly adventure fiction of the past. Blue SF says "fuck that" to strong independent female protagonists who ride rainbow-farting unicorns and flex their nonexistent muscles when they aren't being mounted by corpses and canids. Blue SF says "fuck that" to sexual equality, salutes la difference, and doesn't deign to throw bones to women who might feelbad that their oh-so-tender feelingses isn't being gently massaged. And Blue SF says "fuck off" to every idiot of either sex who whines about it being too this or not enough that.
Blue SF does not apologize for being male, for being insufficiently inclusive, or for refusing to fall in line with the dynamic demand for character quotas concerning sex, race, religion, and sexual preferences. Unlike Pink SF, Blue SF is sufficiently confident to be what it is rather than deceptively market itself as what it manifestly is not. Can you even imagine genuine science fiction trying to sneak into the romance market and pretending that it's all proper romance when actually there is little more than action and technology and ideas under a very thin and superficial veil of romantic intrigue and self-centered drama?
At the Baen Bar, a retired airborne infantry master sergeant left a comment about QUANTUM MORTIS: A Man Disrupted that perhaps is not irrelevant in this regard: "I read it and enjoyed it greatly. Baen might want to talk to the authors because they would fit right in. These guys like guns and prefer big guns. Guns that leave big body counts and lots of wreckage. They like hand-carried particle beams, lasers, slug throwers and vehicle-mounted missiles, cannons and chain guns. MCID would fit right in with Monster Hunters International only with better weapons. But the attitude is there. The simple arrest in the park is an all-time classic. I'll buy the sequels."
That's right. Quantum Mortis actually outgunned Larry Correia. And that, in a nutshell, is what Blue SF is all about. Masculine ideas. Masculine challenges. Masculine action. Masculine energy. And, of course, masculine competition.
Pink SF, on the other hand, is the female equivalent of writing Pride and Prejudice and Zombies and somehow failing to realize that it is a parody.
Tuesday, December 03, 2013
As is so often the case, though, there is something hard and logical beneath the savage provocation. I very strongly suspect, as, I think, Heartiste does as well, that the wiring of Gamma brains will show up differently on brain scans than other male brains.
Here is my scientific hypothesis: The reason Gamma male thought processes and conclusions tend have more in common with female thought processes and conclusions than with normal male thought processes and conclusions is because they have more of the inter-hemisphere connections and less of the intra-hemisphere connections than normal men.
After almost a year of tinkering, CNN Worldwide President Jeff Zucker has concluded that a news channel cannot subsist on news alone. So he is planning much broader changes for the network—including a prime-time shakeup that’s likely to make CNN traditionalists cringe.As JartStar commented: "It will be amusing that in another year or two CNN will have less to do with the news and more to do with reality TV than SyFy has with science fiction".
Once, CNN’s vanilla coverage was a point of pride. Now, the boss boasts about the ratings for his unscripted series, and documentaries like the Sea World-slamming film Blackfish. Zucker, in his first one-on-one interview since taking control of CNN last January, told Capital he wants news coverage “that is just not being so obvious.”
Instead, he wants more of “an attitude and a take”: “We're all regurgitating the same information. I want people to say, ‘You know what? That was interesting. I hadn't thought of that,’” Zucker said. “The goal for the next six months, is that we need more shows and less newscasts.”
Zucker—“rhymes with hooker,” he likes to say—also expanded on comments he has made about breaking CNN out of a mindset created by historic rivalries with MSNBC and Fox. He wants the network to attract “viewers who are watching places like Discovery and History and Nat Geo and A&E.”
“People who traditionally just watch the cable news networks [are] a great audience,” he said. “I'm not trying to alienate that audience. But the overall cable news audience has not grown in the last 12 years, OK? So, all we're doing is trading [audience] share. … We also want to broaden what people can expect from CNN.”
The 48-year-old Zucker initially faced internal resistance to his experiments beyond the realm of hard news, but he now has an irrefutable retort: The No. 1 show on CNN is now “Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown,” a travel-adventure show featuring the bad-boy celebrity chef. Zucker said that inside CNN, his formula has finally been accepted “because people have seen the results.”
And fitting. What Fox has done to CNN is exactly what Larry, Mike, Tom, Sara, and me are going to do to the world of Pink SF. By presenting an ideological alternative that appeals to more than half of the prospective audience that is ignored and denigrated by the monolithic gatekeepers, our market is far less saturated. Having lost their former ability to keep us out of print and out of the bookstores, there is nothing the genre publishers can do except watch helplessly as we cut into their sales in the same way that Fox News cut into CNN's ratings.
I only wish Amazon permitted authors to give away Kindle Select books on an ongoing basis. Every individual who downloads a free copy of The Last Witchking or The Wardog's Coin and reads it isn't merely a potential buyer of A Throne of Bones or Quantum Mortis, he is also one more book sale lost to the gatekeepers.
They are the dinosaurs, heavy with overhead and thin operating margins. We are the mammals, able to write and publish a book in the time it takes them to bring a finished book to market. That's why we are going to win despite their best efforts to pretend we don't even exist.
Speaking of which, I'm looking for translators who are interested in translating my books in return for a share in the revenue. If you are a native speaker of a language other than English and you want to take active part in the Blue SF Revolution, fire me an email.
“What we've identified is that, when looked at in groups, there are connections in the brain that are hardwired differently in men and women. Functional tests have already shown than when they carry out certain tasks, men and women engage different parts of the brain,” Professor Verma said.It's amusing how they can't help but describe their findings in a futile attempt to appeal to women rather than to offend them. It's not the map-reading that is relevant; the real takeaway here is that women are less logical on average because their right hemisphere interferes with the ability of their left hemisphere to logically process information. It's never been any secret that women are less logical; among other things, that's why women weren't permitted to vote in the first place. But now, thanks to science, we are beginning to understand that limits such as these weren't set out of simple prejudice, but rather out of the straightforward desire for societal self-preservation.
The research was carried out on 949 individuals - 521 females and 428 males - aged between 8 and 22. The brain differences between the sexes only became apparent after adolescence, the study found.
A special brain-scanning technique called diffusion tensor imaging, which can measure the flow of water along a nerve pathway, established the level of connectivity between nearly 100 regions of the brain, creating a neural map of the brain called the “connectome”, Professor Verma said.
“It tells you whether one region of the brain is physically connected to another part of the brain and you can get significant differences between two populations,” Professor Verma said. “In women most of the connections go between left and right across the two hemispheres while in men most of the connections go between the front and the back of the brain,” she said.
Because the female connections link the left hemisphere, which is associated with logical thinking, with the right, which is linked with intuition, this could help to explain why women tend to do better than men at intuitive tasks, she added.
And, as the consequences have demonstrated, the West violated those limits at its peril, a mistake for which we are all, men and women alike, paying the price.
It should be fascinating to see what happens when similar studies begin providing unavoidable scientific explanations for the differences between various human population groups that everyone observes, but affects to either deny or explain away.
Rahan and Ryn are partners on assignment for an interstellar agency that monitors the health of ecosystems on terraformed planets. In any other circumstance, one might consider Rahan a badass. Unfortunately, his superior officer, Ryn, is one of the genetically engineered Shemasharra. He’s stronger, faster, smarter, and better looking. He’s also a near mind-reading Boy Scout: honest, fair, ready to help old ladies and inferior men alike to cross dangerous intersections, neither asking nor accepting any reward. Little wonder Rahan finds him so irritating.
The two men are forced to make an unscheduled stop for repairs on Tekmar, a financially and technologically poor world with a paranoid police state and a xenophobic populace. To minimize the potential for conflict, Ryn remains on board the ship, while Rahan deals with the locals. While absorbing a little local culture, he meets a girl named Lida, and they spend several days together sight-seeing. Of course, Lida has an ulterior motive: she’s a member of a revolutionary group that wants to destroy Tekmar’s rigid feudalism. The organization is in desperate need of cash, and there are people who will pay a high price for a live Shemasharra. Rahan and Ryn are kidnapped by a faction of the revolutionaries led by a man named Kerrin who intends to sell them to a mysterious group of off-worlders. Fisticuffs, cyborgs, shootouts, dogfights, and races against time follow.
The Good: Escape from Tekmar is a good adventure story with a suspenseful plot and several secondaries involving the relationships of Rahan with Ryn, Rahan with Lida, and Lida with Kerrin. Lappi portrayed some aspects of those relationships well. For example, Rahan resents Ryn for being superior and for being patient and patronizing. Rahan comes across like a spoiled teenager acting out in passive aggressive rebellion, and I think that’s precisely what Lappi intended the reader to see.
There are several exciting and suspenseful sequences. One of the best scenes is a fight between Rahan and Kerrin, whose cybernetically enhanced skeleton and musculature can’t quite make up for his lack of imagination. Later, Rahan pilots an aged sports flyer and has to outwit surveillance drones and police cruisers.
On the more cerebral side, the author indulges in some interesting speculation on space travel and colonization, genetic engineering, terraforming, politics, and more. Most of that is interesting and worth discussing over a few beers.
The Bad: Tekmar is a good concept piece and rough first draft, but it’s a long way from publication readiness. Almost all of the flaws can be traced to two insufficiencies with which I’m reasonably sure the author will agree:
Lack of depth in the English language
Before I say anything else, Lappi’s native language is Finnish, and I have nothing but respect for someone who attempts to write fiction in a foreign language. Especially in English, the linguistic Borg. I once possessed a familiarity with conversational Russian, but I couldn’t keep up with her alcohol consumption. She left me for a more attentive linguist. I’ve also picked up bits and pieces of half a dozen other languages over the years. Here’s what I finally learned: Effective communication in a foreign tongue is very difficult. Ms. Lappi has that down. Artistic communication, on the other hand, is virtually impossible for most people as they can’t even hope to accomplish it in their own language.
Ms. Lappi’s vocabulary is very simple, but that is only a problem if her target audience is adults. It’s spot on for a mid-grade audience. If she wants to write for adults, I recommend she starts reading Ursula LeGuin, Walter Miller Jr., or Dan Simmons with a dictionary at her side, looking up every interesting or unfamiliar word. (A related word of advice for all writers: Ignore readability tests. Any test that tells you Ray Bradbury wrote at a fifth grade level is worthless.)
Tekmar also has a significant number of punctuation errors, run-on sentences, double words, and awkward constructions, probably cultural and linguistic artifacts. (Let me know if you want specific examples.) Another odd thing: every instance of the character string “aining”, such as in “training” and “raining,” seems to have been replaced by “Amarng,” which looks oddly like a problem with optical character recognition software. On the plus side, there are very few spelling errors compared to most self-published work.
Lack of discipline in storytelling.
The greatest flaw in Tekmar is excessive exposition. The opening scene is fatally interrupted by pages of rambling history, disrupting the flow and dramatic tension. Many readers won’t get past the third or fourth page. Throughout the story, Ms. Lappi commits the cardinal literary sin of “telling, not showing” with abandon.
The characters are shallow. It seemed to me that Rahan and Ryn behave more like women in the secretarial pool than masculine adventurers. The Shemasharra are too perfect. That helped me sympathize with Rahan at the start, but before long I found myself hoping Ms. Lappi would kill Ryn off early. On the other hand, Kerrin was too despicable. Every bad guy needs to be admirable in some way, but he was just a low-IQ strong man with a jealous, vindictive streak. His only positive quality was surgically implanted and admittedly third rate technology. I kept looking for the mysterious slave traders to take over his role.
Finally, I was mildly annoyed with some of the technological anachronisms. For example, how can an organization that possesses artificial intelligence capable of infiltrating an entire planet’s police and military networks not have the data processing capacity to handle the incoming data from its scattered survey missions? They can build FTL starships, but they can't make a hideable security camera? I can believe this is possible, but I’d like some kind of explanation. (But show me. Don’t tell me.) This is a very common problem in science fiction, and only the best writers are able to overcome it in a way that satisfies me.
Kiti Lappi has written a fun, middle-grade adventure story, but it needs to be tightened up. If she chooses to rework it, the next draft will likely take much more time and effort than she has spent to date. The challenges aren’t insurmountable, but they are significant.
Monday, December 02, 2013
It's one of the largest and most rapid wealth migrations of our time: hundreds of billions of dollars, and waves of millionaires flowing out of China to overseas destinations. According to WealthInsight, the Chinese wealthy now have about $658 billion stashed in offshore assets. Boston Consulting Group puts the number lower, at around $450 billion, but says offshore investments are expected to double in the next three years. A study from Bain Consulting found that half of China's ultrawealthy—those with $16 million or more in wealth—now have investments overseas.One wonders why? Mere internal unrest of the sort that has riddled Chinese history or it is something more serious? The sabres are already rattling over the Philippines and Abe is in the process of removing the peace planks from the Japanese constitution.
And it's not just the money that's exiting the country. The wealthy are increasingly following their money overseas. A study by Hurun and Bank of China found that more than half of China's millionaires are considering emigrating or have already taken steps to move overseas.
Things also look problematic for the USA, but there probably isn't too much to worry about until the Wall Street bankers begin emigrating. If you want to know what is likely to happen in the near future, watch the rich.
This is the terrifying moment a trio of gunmen stormed into a disco and opened fire on a crowd of terrified dancers.CCTV captured the moment when the men pull out their guns and push past bouncers to get inside the disco in Cali, Colombia, before they start spraying bullets around the room.The victims' blood flowed out of the nightclub and into the street after the gruesome 20-minute long attack.It should certainly be fascinating to see what Obama can accomplish with regards to the gun crime in Cali, Colombia. This should take place not long after David Cameron deals with the pressing issue of the undercapitalized banks in Athens, Greece.
Alex, London, United Kingdom, 2 hours ago
"Absolutely horrific! Hopefully Obama will be able to change their gun law. It can't carry on the way it is."
As I mentioned yesterday, the first 25 reviewers of the two QUANTUM MORTIS books will receive a free audiobook code from Audible. Make that 24 now, as Sensei was the first to claim one. But don't rush through the books, I'm sure you'll want to linger over every savory moment of the delicate, deliciously enchanting prose that dances across the pages with all the ethereal grace of a half-starved Russian ballerina.
Ah, who am I kidding? There are explosions and guns and futuristic technologies and guns and artificial intelligences and guns and Meteor air-to-air missiles and collateral damage and twin Degroet Tactical M165 20mm cannons. There are also, as it happens, guns. And possibly a mystery or two.
If you want pages and pages of thickly sensuous prose concerning which side of the pillow is more palatable to the semi-conscious senses, read Proust. If you are looking for deep insight into the psychology of the human mind, read Dostoevsky. If you would like a grand and sweeping tale of epic scope and grandeur combined with intelligent commentary on the human condition, read Tolstoy. If you seek snarky, sparkly adolescent dialogue and the inevitable triumph of the gamma male's wit, read Scalzi.
But if you like murder mysteries and old school Mil-SF where the hero wouldn't recognize self-doubt if he saw it and would shoot it on sight if he did, you might enjoy QUANTUM MORTIS.
Did I mention the guns? To quote one confirmed gun porn enthusiast whose blurb for A Man Disrupted was, regrettably, deemed to be a bit too enthusiastic by the publisher:
"That was a seriously satisfying ending. I loved every second of this. I sincerely did. I think it's more enjoyable than A THRONE OF BONES... and I think it has broader market appeal. Seriously. Standing fucking ovation."
Speaking of Selenoth, if you are interested, you may wish to note that the following three books are free on Amazon today:
Suckered again, I see. Are you incapable of seeing that the Obamacare rollout was a planned failure? Do you not understand the progressive tactic of lowered expectations?A readily testable prediction. It is now December. And how is the glorious Christmas gift to humanity doing? According to CNN, not so well.
The website will be functioning reasonably well by December (I suspect they've had the fix all along) at which time Obama will announce his glorious Christmas gift to humanity is "not perfect, but it's improving every day and children and pregnant women are safe now." The argument will have been successfully shifted from "should there even be socialized medicine" to "how can we make socialized medicine work."
Mission accomplished. Another brilliant progressive tactic made possible by the type of foolishness we see in the OP. Call 'em savages if you want to. But they are playing this game like a grandmaster plays a patzer. What's that old saying about looking for the sucker in the room? If you don't see him it's probably you.
GEORGE HOWELL, HOST: We know the first thing you have to do when you go to this website you have to select your state. Is that working?Ah, but it is entirely obvious that the progressives at CNN must be in on the great critic-trap! The fact that it is December and the website still isn't working is only further proof of the superlative strategic brilliance of the progressive masterminds whose fearsome capabilities it is futile to resist, doubt, or even question.
ALISON KOSIK, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: And what's funny is I was talking with Matt, and, yeah, that seemed to work, right, when you logged on. But then came the road blocks. So tell me about what happened, because we're getting another error message here, and it's supposed to be running smoothly. We’re just not seeing that.
MATT SLOANE, CNN MEDICAL PRODUCER: Yeah, so, you know, we've been trying to get into the site since October 1 on and off again. I have to say it did work a lot more smoothly this morning. I got through. I picked my state. I put in all of my information and I got through the whole process in eight minutes. And then it said my status was in progress. So I went to refresh it and I got the error message.
In any event, this should suffice to demolish Porky's tedious political wise-man act. Let that be a lesson to all: if you're going to insist on calling everyone suckers and fools, and strike poses as if you are the only one who has cracked the code of American politics, then you run the risk of drawing my attention long enough for me to systematically destroy your credibility and expose your pretensions.
It's only fair. I'm held accountable for all of my failed predictions, which is why I no longer attempt to predict how Americans will vote or the specific timing of expected economic events no matter how many people ask me to do so. I'll stick to those areas where my predictions have been reliable. Now, if you think you know what's going on, by all means, share your opinion with everyone here. If you have a new take on current events or an original hypothesis, I hope you will run it by us. But if you're so convinced you, and only you, are correct that you're constantly sneering and denigrating others, well, then you had better actually be correct.
Sunday, December 01, 2013
In order to celebrate the introduction of the new Mil-SF mystery series, all three Selenoth novellas, A Magic Broken, The Wardog's Coin, and The Last Witchking will be free on Amazon for the next two days, beginning tomorrow. So, if you don't have all of them yet, this would be an excellent chance to complete the set.
And since ACX and Marcher Lord were so gracious as to give me 25 free audiobook download codes for A Magic Broken, I will be giving them away to the first 25 reviewers of either QM:AMD or QM:GK. (NB: this offer includes the early reviewers who received a review copy last week so long as they review the other book.) Send me an email with a link to your review and I will send you the download code.
You'll need to have an Amazon account to use the code, but since you'll need one to post a review there, that shouldn't be a problem. And just to be clear, the free audiobook code is not contingent upon the nature of the review. As always, I encourage honest and serious reviews, I do not seek mindless flattery any more than I approve of witless criticism.
Baen Books author Tom Kratman, who most of you are aware comments here from time to time, provided QM:AMD with a blurb that is featured on the back of the book. He described the book thusly:
“What are we going to do when artificial intelligence becomes self-aware, self-willed, and maybe stark raving mad? The question matters because that day is coming…fast. With approximately as many twists and turns as China's Tianmen Mountain Road, QUANTUM MORTIS starts fast and then accelerates, leading to a conclusion both shattering…and more than a little heart warming.”
—TOM KRATMAN, author of A Desert Called Peace
QUANTUM MORTIS: Gravity Kills, being a pure ebook it has no blurbs, but the first reviewers on Amazon appear to have enjoyed the novella. Keep in mind that the first GK reviewers have not read AMD and vice-versa.
“This story is an effective and entertaining rework of several of my favorite SF and Mystery themes, with a result greater and more original than the sum of its parts. Let's start with the homeworld, which is also a refuge for a thousand plus governments in exile. To quote Agent K from "Men in Black", "It's like Casablanca, but with no Nazis". Like "Casablanca" and "Men in Black", but unlike that prize turkey, "Barb Wire", the authors make this trope a proper background to the story itself.... The result, shaken not stirred, is an entertaining story, which combines the best aspects of hard SF and 'Tec novels. The best thing, though, is that this world shows the possibility of many more such stories. I am looking forward to them.”
40 Mercury Marauders (4-8)
79 Bane Sidhe (7-5)
67 Boot Hill Hangmen (3-9)
55 RR Redbeards (8-4)
43 Greenfield Grizzlies (9-3)
56 Moundsview Meerkats (5-7)
50 Bailout Banksters (5-7)
71 Bradford Gamma Rays (5-7)
68 Suburban Churchians (5-7)
At the close of Week 12, Fromundah Cheezheads and RR Redbeards both made the postseason. Greenfield Grizzlies got their fourth straight week in first place, despite a loss to RR Redbeards. Moundsview Meerkats leapfrogged the most teams this week, climbing from seventh place to fifth. Suburban Churchians wasn't as lucky, sliding from sixth to eighth. RR Redbeards has won seven consecutive matchups.
This is the weekly open NFL thread. And while the Vikings season has been a nearly unmitigated disaster, the ironic thing is that the decision to Percy Harvin leave appears to have been an even better one that the decision to let Sydney Rice go.
We've reached the age of accountability. The world is our fault. We are the generation that has an excuse for everything—one of our greatest contributions to modern life—but the world is still our fault.Now, before Ryan launches in with his usual generational public defender routine, I readily admit that every member of a generation is not identical or even in step with the generational norm. But we are talking about a collective here! And more importantly, we are talking about a proudly self-identified collective here. So to bring up individuals in this context is not merely moot, it is a basic category error.
This is every generation's fate. It's a matter of power and privilege and demography. Whenever anything happens anywhere, somebody over 50 signs the bill for it. And the baby boom, seated as we are at the head of life's table, is hearing Generation X, Generation Y and the Millennials all saying, "Check, please!"
To address America's baby boom is to face big, broad problems. We number more than 75 million, and we're not only diverse but take a thorny pride in our every deviation from the norm (even though we're in therapy for it). We are all alike in that each of us thinks we're unusual.
They claim they changed the world. We agree. We merely observe that they changed it for the worse.
Some Baby Boomers try to smugly point out that Generation X is also responsible because we have not fixed the problems they caused. They tend to ignore the fact that they are actively standing in the way of any and all attempts to do so. I was correct about the 2008 financial crisis and correct about the failure of the Federal Reserve and the Congress to successfully fix the situation. Did the Fed turn to me or any other GenX economist who correctly observed these things?
No, they appointed yet another Baby Boomer, one who will step up the intensity of the failed policies of the previous Baby Boomer. So what more can I, or any other member of Generation X, now do except point, laugh, and look forward to the day when we can shut off the generational parasite's life-support machines.
I glanced at it on a train the other day, and since I'd almost completely forgotten how it proceeded, - was it really more than two years ago?!? - I was surprised at how interesting I found it to be. So yesterday I got in touch Dominic to see if he'd be interesting in continuing the debate and if he had any objections to my publishing it as an ebook once it is complete. He was more than happy to agree to a return to the engagement, and so we intend to do so before the end of the year.
I am already working on my next installment, to which Dominic will write a response and both will be published here simultaneously. I'd like to know if Alex, Markku, and Scott are willing to return to their respective roles as Agnostic Judge, Christian Judge, and Atheist Judge; also, I'd very much appreciate it if Alex would send me his complete notes as all I'd posted here was his abbreviated summaries.
If you're not familiar with the debate or, like me, don't remember exactly how it went, you might like to read through it again in preparation for our return to the lists. So, here are the links as well as how it began with my first entry:
ON THE EXISTENCE OF GODSIntroduction 1 and Introduction 2
In order to make the case that the weight of the available evidence and logic is more supportive of the existence of gods than of their nonexistence, it is necessary to define the two terms. In making my case for the existence of gods, I am relying upon the definitions of “evidence” and “logic” as defined by the Oxford English Dictionary. I am utilizing the term “evidence” in a sense that encompasses all three of the primary definitions provided.
1.Available body of facts or information indicating whether a belief or proposition is true or valid.
2.Information drawn from personal testimony, a document, or a material object, used to establish facts in a legal investigation or admissible as testimony in a law court.
3.Signs or indications of something.
1.reasoning conducted or assessed according to strict principles of validity
There is a vast quantity of extant documentary and testimonial evidence providing indications that gods exist. This evidence dates from the earliest written records to current testimonials from living individuals. While it is true that the quality of this evidence varies considerably, it cannot simply be dismissed out of hand anymore than one can conclude Gaius Julius Caesar did not exist because one cannot see him on television today. Each and every case demands its own careful examination before it can be dismissed, and such examination has never been done in the overwhelming majority of cases.
For example, there are many documented cases of confirmed fraud in published scientific papers. If we apply the same reasoning to published scientific papers that some wish to apply to documentary evidence of gods, we have no choice but to conclude that all science is fraudulent. But this is absurd, as we know that at least some science is not fraudulent. Therefore, if one is willing to accept the validity of published scientific papers that one has not been able to verify are not fraudulent, one must similarly accept the validity of documentary evidence for the existence of gods that one has not examined and determined to merit dismissal for one reason or another.
Round One Vox and Dominic's Reply
Round One Dominic and Vox's Reply
Round One Judges
Round Two Judges
Round Three Judges
Saturday, November 30, 2013
Hundreds of federal scientists said in a survey that they had been asked to exclude or alter technical information in government documents for non-scientific reasons, and thousands said they had been prevented from responding to the media or the public.He that pays the gold makes the rules. Science prostituted itself when it got in bed with government and now it has to pay the price. Big science is bad science.
The Professional Institute of the Public Service of Canada (PIPSC), which commissioned the survey from Environics Research "to gauge the scale and impact of 'muzzling' and political interference among federal scientists," released the results Monday at a news conference. PIPSC represents 60,000 public servants across the country, including 20,000 scientists, in federal departments and agencies, including scientists involved in food and consumer product safety and environmental monitoring.
In all, the union sent invitations to participate in the survey to 15,398 federal scientists in June. A total of 4,069 responded.
Twenty four per cent of respondents said they “sometimes” or “often” were asked to exclude or alter technical information in federal government documents for non-scientific reasons. Most often, the request came from their direct supervisors, followed by business or industry, other government departments, politically appointed staff and public interest advocates.
[A]theism and agnosticism answer two different questions. Regarding the religions that inhabit the earth (or have done so), X -1 must be false, since they're mutually exclusive (to the extent that there's any substance to their claims). If at least X -1 must be false, it's really not too hard to imagine that X -1 +1 are false. (I'm not going to get into any sort of veridical arguments about the "truthiness" of any given belief system. You want to believe that the New Testament tells a cohesive story that's internally logical, go right ahead. Just don't bother me with all the sophistical razzmatazz necessary to explain what exactly happened when Jesus was born or what happened to Judas after he counted his money.)A few corrections:
As for the broader picture, yes, it is impossible to disprove the existence of some hypothetical deity. Yeah, maybe that is who started the Big Bang (if it really happened) or makes the earth spin on its axis and revolve happily around the sun day in and day out or who winds up the clockwork that makes all that stuff happen. Sure, maybe there are some Epicurean entities who spend their existence in solitary blessedness beyond the travails of this mortal coil and outside the ken of us mere humans. So to that extent, I am an agnostic.
But if that's all "God" boils down to, who cares? I see no rational evidence for the day-to-day involvement of any deity in the regular affairs on earth. You want to believe that the sun stopped shining and an earthquake dumped the dead out of their tombs and they milled around for a while when Jesus died on the cross? Be my guest. Or that God held his nose or averted his eyes at Treblinka or Kolyma? Talk it over with Augustine and Orosius. But leave me out of that argument with all its a priori-isms that are invalid in my eyes.
(1) It is not true to say that X-1 must be false or that most religions are mutually exclusive. For example, Judaism and Christianity part company on a single claim: that Jesus Christ is the Messiah. Most religions make no grand universal claims and both Christianity and Islam, the two great universal religions, comfortably encompass many, if not most, other religions by virtue of their distinction between a sovereign Creator God and the panoply of lesser gods subject to His Will.
(2) There is a considerable quantity of rational evidence for the day-to-day involvement of a deity in regular Earthly affairs. Indeed, this is the core basis for my own Christian faith. The Bible posits that the world is ruled by an arrogant, evil, intelligent, and malicious deity and we have no shortage of documentary, testimonial, and experiential evidence of his existence.
(3) There is no reason to assume that the supernatural is any less complicated, or any less full of detailed variety, than the natural. To repeatedly attempt to boil down a concept as a god, let alone The God, to a simple binary question is so intellectually vacuous as to appear either uninterested or intellectually stunted.
That being said, I can only agree that there is little point in engaging in "all the sophistical razzmatazz necessary to explain what exactly happened when Jesus was born or what happened to Judas after he counted his money". One might as profitably attempt to determine Martha Washington's juggling ability or describe the loss of Alexander the Great's virginity.
Now, I do not mean to sound cynical, so I will ask rather than speak my opinion. Is there any strong woman character which meets with the approval of the Politically Correct who also happens to be, as the characters in Lewis and Tolkien, reflect a Christian worldview, or, as happens in Burroughs or E.E. Smith, to reflect what one might call the traditional heroic worldview, a worldview reminiscent of the Stoic and Military virtues of the ancient Romans and Greeks?The fact of the matter is that those who demand Strong Female Characters don't actually want genuinely strong women possessed of the feminine virtues. They simply want to substitute a nominal woman for a man and claim the masculine virtues for their Mary Sues in order to make themselves feel better about themselves.
I have heard some Leftists praise the female characters of Robert Heinlein, who, with one exception, I myself find to be somewhat demeaning to women. (The one exceptions is Cynthia Randall in ‘The Unpleasant Profession of Jonathan Hoag’, perhaps the only honest portrayal of a woman throughout his whole oeuvre.) Others despise his portrayals.
My cynical question is this: when they ask for ‘strong’ female characters, are they actually honestly asking for strong female characters, Deborah from the Bible, Antigone from myth, Britomart from poetry, or are they only asking for Leftist female characters, poster children for Leftist causes?
If so, what they are asking for is Political Correctness, which means, substituting true narratives about the real glories and sorrows of the human condition for a false narrative, an advertisement for Leftwing political causes, which tell lies about the glories and man, bemoan with crocodile tears only the sorrows of their particular mascots and special causes, and make false promises about the cure for the world’s pain.
If so, they are giving up art for an ad.
Myself, I want to see women writers not because they are women, but because I would like to have the genius of distaff half the human race writing new and brilliant science fiction stories for us to enjoy. But, as far as I can tell, this is akin to the complaint that Science Fiction is meant for juvenile audiences. That has not been true during my lifetime. I have not seen even the slightest trace of the all-boy club mentality ever, neither in any writer nor in any editor nor in any reader.
I have seen plenty of people like me, who are annoyed with the cheerless preachy monotony of Political Correctness and would like the dullards to stop ruining good stories with their sucker punches and pauses for their political advertisements, but, hey, the PC types answer any criticism of PC by calling the complainer a sexist, or saying he is paranoid, or saying that PC does not exist. Any lie will do, just so long as it is an accusation.
To tell the truth about what they are doing, which is informal censorship, that is, thought policework, is the one thing they fear.
As I said before, they think they are fooling us into thinking they are honest and compassionate people, and we know they are not, and they know they are not, but they do not know we know, so when one of us mentions, for the umpteenth time, that the Emperor has No Clothes, they react with exaggerated fear and fury. Because they are afraid of anyone, no matter how humble or obscure, who punctures their little daydream of make-believe, their land of colored cloud where they are the saints and the saviors of the world.
Remember, most Pink SF is written in order to let the gamma male or shambling shoggoth author retroactively triumph over his persecutors from junior high and high school. Hence the lack of credible action and the interminable focus on "witty" dialogue that always allows the author stand-in to come out on top. To say nothing of the inevitable love triangles focused on the Mary Sue. It is wish-fulfillment of a very different kind than the adventurous fantasy of Blue SF.
Now, few Pink SF writers go so far in their wish-fulfillment as McRapey, who in addition to having male infantry soldiers swapping blow jobs as currency has now apparently paralyzed his female characters in his next novel. (A subconscious confession due to the weight of all that Rohypnol plaguing a guilty conscience?) The two primary focuses of the fantasy in Pink SF are the sexual desirability of the author/Mary Sue and the belated revenge of the author on his real-life enemies. These take the place of the Blue SF triumph of the protagonist over the environment, his fictional enemies, and himself.
Knowing themselves weak in life, the writers of Pink SF stride confidently through their fantasies as the demigods they wish themselves to be. And anyone who dares to observe that those fantasies bear no resemblance to reality is not merely mean, but indubitably evil.
Friday, November 29, 2013
A "disease" that affects 30 million people and kills one out of every 206,897 of the individuals who contract it is simply not a serious societal problem, especially not when considered in light of how diabetes contributed to 231,404 deaths in 2011. 28.5 million Americans suffer from diabetes, so the risk of death from diabetes is one in 111. That means the risk of dying from diabetes is 1,855 TIMES HIGHER than the risk of dying from an eating disorder.Read the rest at Alpha Game.
Stuff that in your piehole, fatty. Better yet, stick your finger down your throat if you want to live... and that's not even considering amputations, blindness, and other non-fatal complications.
Where was Secular Humanism at Lepanto?If you've got any interest in the atheism/religion debate or military history, you simply must read the whole thing. And then reflect upon the likelihood that the West's secular humanist culture will survive either the challenge of Islam in the Dar al Harb or the third world's Christian revival.
The moral of this story, this afterword, is "Never bring a knife to a gunfight." Keep that in mind as you read.
In any case, religious fanatics? Us? We don't think so.
We're not going to sit here and lecture you on the value and validity of atheism versus faith. We'll leave that to Hitchens and Dawkins or D'Souza or the pope or anyone else who cares to make the leap. One way or the other. Hearty shrugs, all around. A defense of the existence of God was never the purpose of the book, anyway, though we would be unsurprised to see any number of claims, after publication, that it is such a defense.
Sorry, it ain't, either in defense of Revelations or in defense of Hitchens' revelation that there was no God when Hitchens was nine years old. (Besides, Dinesh D'Souza does a much better job of thrashing Hitchens in public than we could, even if we cared to.)
Moreover, nope, we don't think it's unethical to be an atheist. We don't think it's impossible, or really any more difficult or unlikely, to be an atheist and still be a highly ethical human being. The same, sadly, cannot be said for governments. Thus, consider, say, the retail horrors of the Spanish Inquisition which, from 1481 to 1834 killed—shudder—not more than five thousand people, few or none of them atheists, and possibly closer to two thousand. Compare that to expressly atheistic regimes—the Soviet Union, for example, in which a thousand people a day, twenty-five hundred a day by Robert Conquest's tally— were put to death in 1937 and '38. And that's not even counting starved Ukrainians by the millions. The death toll in Maoist China is said to have been much, much greater. Twenty million? Thirty million? A hundred million? Who knows?
Personally, we'd take our chances with the Inquisition before we would take them with a militantly communist, which is to say, atheist, regime. The Inquisition, after all, was a complete stranger neither to humanity nor to the concept of mercy.
But that's still not the point of this book or this afterword. Go back to the afterword's title. Ever heard of Lepanto? Everyone knows about the Three Hundred Spartans now, at least in some form or another, from the movies. Not enough people know about the battle of Lepanto....
Now let's suppose, just for the moment and just arguendo, that God doesn't exist, that He's a pure figment of the imagination. What then won the battle of Lepanto? No, back off. What got the Christian fleet together even to fight the battle, for without getting together to fight it it could never have been won?
The answer is, of course, faith, the faith of the pope, Pius V, who did the political maneuvering and much of the financing, and also the faith of the kings, doges, nobles and perhaps especially the common folk who manned the fleet. And that answer does not depend on the validity of faith, only upon its sincere existence. Faith is, in short, a weapon, the gun you bring to a certain kind of gunfight.
As one of the early reviewers has observed, by modern standards A MAN DISRUPTED is an impossible book. It violates many, if not most, of the fundamental precepts of modern Pink SF. It is a subversion of the subversion.
The story begins with Tower offering his help to Hildreth, the beautiful policewoman in charge of the case. Both Tower and Hildreth are assisted by their respective ever-present AI ‘augments’. His interest in her is clear from the outset, creating a warm atmosphere that sometimes borders on adolescent merry naiveté. He is happy to go out of his way to lend a hand and she is happy to accept. But if you know anything about the authors you know that this cannot be the story of the white knight, the damsel in distress, and the happy ending that was in plain sight from page one. For the same reason it cannot be an ode to the strong empowered independent fighting female that needs no man. It cannot be the story of the loser antihero, or the invincible superhero, for that matter. So, obviously, this book is impossible; at least, inside the hegemonic frame of political correctness.
If you find Pink SF to be tedious and repetitive, if you wonder whatever happened to the exciting futures that were created by authors like William Gibson and Neal Stephenson, or you find it impossible to believe that novels like The Quantum Rose and Redshirts are truly the best and most intriguing that the world of SF has to offer, there is at least a reasonable chance that you'll find QUANTUM MORTIS to be worth your while.
Labels: Quantum Mortis
After 30+ years of observing and taking part in debates about history with many of my fellow atheists I can safely claim that most atheists are historically illiterate. This is not particular to atheists: they tend to be about as historically illiterate as most people, since historical illiteracy is pretty much the norm. But it does mean that when most (not all) atheists comment about history or, worse, try to use history in debates about religion, they are usually doing so with a grasp of the subject that is stunted at about high school level.This is something I, too, have noticed with regards to many atheists, beginning with Bertrand Russell and Richard Dawkins. It is obvious they don't know any more about history than they do about theology; no one who knows anything about history believes religion causes war, thinks that the Spanish Inquisition was one of the most lethal institutions in human history, or finds the assumption that Jesus was not a legitimate historical figure to be a reasonable one.
This is hardly surprising, given that most people don't study history past high school. But it means their understanding of any given historical person, subject or event is (like that of most people), based on half-remembered school lessons, perhaps a TV documentary or two and popular culture: mainly novels and movies. Which is why most atheists (like most people) have a grasp of history which is, to be brutally frank, largely crap.
Worse, this also means that most atheists (again, like most people) have a grasp of how history is studied and the techniques of historical analysis and synthesis which is also stunted at high school level - i.e. virtually non-existent. With a few laudable exceptions, high school history teachers still tend to reduce history to facts and dates organised into themes or broad topics. How we can know what happened in the past, with what degree of certitude we can know it and the techniques used to arrive at these conclusions are rarely more than touched on at this level. This means that when the average atheist (yet again, like the average person generally) grasps that our knowledge of the past is not as cut and dried and clear as Mr Wilkins the history teacher gave us to understand, they tend to reject the whole thing as highly uncertain at best or subjective waffle at worst. Or, as Grundy put it, as "crap".
All this leads some atheists, who have fallen in to the fallacy of scientism and reject anything that can't be definitively "proven", to reject the idea of any degree of certainty about the past. This is an extreme position and it's rarely a consistent one. As I've noted to some who have claimed this level of historical scepticism, I find it hard to believe they maintain this position when they read the newspaper, even though they should be just as sceptical about being able to know about a car accident yesterday as they are about knowing about a revolution 400 years ago.
However, I do have to take exception to this statement: "This rejection can be more pronounced in atheists, because many (not all) come to their atheism via a study of science." This observably isn't true. Armarium Magnum has the order reversed. The vast majority of atheists become atheists as teenagers, before they have embarked upon any course of study, and they become atheists for reasons that are entirely emotional by their own account. They then turn to science for the explanations that they can no longer seek in religion, and are understandably disappointed and embittered when they cannot find them there either.
The reason the rejection is often more pronounced in atheists is because they are observably less rational than most people who are interested in history. No one who does not believe in the existence of gods through a rational process can legitimately call himself an atheist, for the obvious reason that it is impossible to rationally prove the non-existence of gods. An agnostic's lack of god belief may have a rational basis, an atheist's non-belief never can. Their irrationality not only makes them unusually susceptible to swallowing falsehoods that thirty seconds on Wikipedia would render obvious, but makes it hard for them to give up their ahistorical dogma.
What’s worse is that I’ve also experienced atheists who have been shown extensive, clear evidence that the medieval Church taught the earth was round and that the myth of medieval Flat Earth belief was invented by the novelist Washington Irving in 1828, and they have simply refused to believe that the myth could be wrong.And before anyone angrily denounces Armarium Magnum as another theistic polemicist cut out of the same godbothering cloth as me, perhaps it should be noted that the gentleman is himself an atheist. It's a good piece and I even learned something. It's more than a little amusing to be informed that belief in the medieval belief in a flat earth is intellectually akin to belief in the Headless Horseman. And that will certainly make for a useful rhetorical device.
Neat historical fables such as the ones about Christians burning down the Great Library of Alexandria (they didn’t) or murdering Hypatia because of their hatred of her learning and science (ditto) are appealing parables. Which means some atheists fight tooth and nail to preserve them even when confronted with clear evidence that they are pseudo historical fairy tales.