Wednesday, April 16, 2014

An appeal to reinstall Firefox

I was asked to reconsider my position on uninstalling Mozilla products and refusing to use them in the future:
You are probably here because you have been advised to consider reinstalling Firefox. You may, in fact, have uninstalled Firefox as a result of a recent campaign protesting either Brendan Eich’s being appointed CEO of Mozilla, or his supposedly being fired or forced by Mozilla to resign from that position as a result of a donation he made in favor of proposition 8. Brendan Eich did, in fact, resign; however, he did was not fired or forced to resign by Mozilla. Mozilla does not discriminate based on an individual’s personal political or religious beliefs. If you have been told otherwise, I encourage you to evaluate the evidence for yourself. First of all, I would like to point you to Mozilla’s official FAQ on Brendan’s resignation. I realize that some people will insist that this is just a cover story and that he was really forced to resign, in spite of whatever Mozilla may say to the contrary. So I would like to share some additional corroborating evidence. There are many inside sources who corroborate this, but the one I find particularly credible and compelling is Gervase Markham. He is in a unique position as an outspoken Christian and supporter of traditional marriage who works at Mozilla. Gerv has stated that he has it from sources he trusts that Brendan did step down of his own accord and was not forced out. You can read his full statement on his blog. Finally, I want to remind you of what Mozilla, and Firefox, truly stands for.

If you are still not convinced, I’d like you to consider one more thing. Consider for a moment, the possibility that Brendan really did step down of his own accord and is not interested in coming back. What more can Mozilla possibly do that would persuade you? Is there any further evidence that would change your mind? It makes sense to treat them with a good faith presumption of truthfulness unless and until there is evidence to the contrary. Why? Because if your mind can not be changed by anything, then they may as well ignore you anyway. There are always people who cannot be swayed by reason or any amount of evidence. Since their minds can’t be changed anyway, we all might as well ignore them and focus on those who can be persuaded by reason. If you are not open to any reasonable evidence, then you make yourself irrelevant to the debate. Don’t be do that. Evaluate the evidence fairly, and when in doubt, treat others with a good faith presumption of truthfulness. Then if evidence persuades you to change your position, it will mean something.
I read this. I read Markham's piece. I have evaluated the evidence and I am fully informed concerning the relevant facts. And my answer is a staunch and resounding no. I reject Mozilla. I reject what it now stands for.

I am aware Eich stepped down of his own accord. I am aware he was not fired, that his resignation was not demanded by the Mozilla Board, and that fewer than 10 Mozilla employees publicly demanded his resignation.

I am also aware that Mozilla's executive chairwoman Mitchell Baker issued this official statement on April 3rd: "Mozilla prides itself on being held to a different standard and, this past week, we didn’t live up to it. We know why people are hurt and angry, and they are right: it’s because we haven’t stayed true to ourselves. We didn’t act like you’d expect Mozilla to act. We didn’t move fast enough to engage with people once the controversy started. We’re sorry. We must do better."

For what is she apologizing, precisely. To whom is she apologizing?

I am aware that Mozilla claims to support equality for all." This is a blatant lie on multiple levels. Mozilla might as well proclaim that it supports unicorns for all and Mozilla clearly does not support the Constitutional right of free association or of free speech on the part of those with politically incorrect views.

I am aware that "Mozilla Supports LGBT Equality". I don't and I don't support any organization that does. The sexual abnormal are not the same as the normal population. There is considerable scientific and statistical evidence for this.

I am aware that Mozilla has ignored tens of thousands of negative comments from current and former Firefox users and has refused to provide any statement in response to them. I am also aware that it responded quickly and publicly to a much smaller amount of criticism that threatened much less damage to the corporation.

A supporter of the move to ostracize and oust Brandon Eich declared: "I do think that any individual is free to choose to resign their own job or otherwise not conduct business with someone whom they know has taken an action that they consider unjust."
I agree. That is precisely why I no longer want anything to do with Mozilla and I continue to recommend that everyone #uninstallfirefox.

Until the recent events, Mozilla Firefox represented 34 percent of the total pageviews here. That percentage is currently down to 20 percent, so based on last year's traffic, Mozilla can expect to lose at least 1,835,637 pageviews from my readership alone, in addition to whatever pageviews my household machines happen to generate on an annual basis.

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The destruction of Damien Walter

First the massive tetsubo that is Larry Correia responds to the scurrilous libels of SF wannabe Damien Walter in The Guardian:
[M]y name showed up as the poster child for hate mongery and villainy in the Guardian (a liberal tabloid that passes for a major newspaper in Britain). I’ve been in a lot of American news things but this was a first for me, so on Friday afternoon I had to discuss with my fans on Facebook what I should put on my new business cards. We finally decided on Larry F. Correia, International Lord of Hate. Almost went with The Hatemaster because of the 70’s super villain vibe, but that looks too much like The Hamster when you’re reading fast.

So here is the article written by Damian Walter. It turns out that Tom Kratman knew him back when Asimov’s had a forum, and remembered him as a shrill little libprog, and that if Damian was at the Guardian a village somewhere in England was missing their idiot.

Somebody else told me that Damian is an “aspiring” author, and that he’d recently been given a grant by the British government to write a novel. I have no idea if this is true, and don’t care enough to look it up, but man, if it is… your government actually pays people to write novels? BWA HA HA HAW! Holy shit. As an actual novelist, that’s funny. And I thought my government was stupid.

Unlike Damian, I’m not a huge pussy, so I will include the link to the thing that I’m about to insult.
There is more. There is considerably more. Go, thou, and read. And laugh. Then, when Mr. Correia was done abusing the corpse of Mr. Walter's aspiring career, the elegant rapier that is John C. Wright filleted the bloody chunks:
I was reading Larry Correia’s blog, Monster Hunter Nation. In today’s episode, he has been subject to a ritual shaming by the Guardian so-called newspaper of some country our ancestors left long ago when we got sick of their dandified addiction to petty tyranny, and came here to be free men.

The mewling cravens and castrati were left behind. By some odd miracle, no doubt involving arts forbidden by the Catholic Church, they reproduced and swelled in numbers, and, after Churchill was voted out of office, they outbred the remaining homo sapiens, and overspread the sceptred isle, so green and fair, once called Our Lady’s Dowry.

Not to worry! All that made England decent, fine and free survives in America.

How badly have the dross devolved? A simian named Mr. Damian Walter takes up his pen in his quadrumanous left foot to savage the indomitable Mr. Correia. I read this sentence:

Somebody else told me that Damian is an “aspiring” author, and that he’d recently been given a grant by the British government to write a novel.

A grant?

A grant?!


Can you imagine the sheer effrontery it requires for someone who grovels for pity-pennies to address a real man, a man who works for a living, and upbraid him in his chosen field of endeavor?

Mr. Correia quit his day job, friends. He supports himself entirely by his pen, which by any account, is a frail narrow pillar for all by the most accomplished wordsmiths.

The simian creature does not write in his non-work hours, as do I, he is a beggar. An aspiring beggar. Nay, let me insult no beggar. The creature is not an honest beggar. Honest beggars asks and accept only alms freely given.
There is, of course, more. There is considerably more. Read, and then spare a moment of pity for the wretched creature so publicly humiliated. The painful thing for the libelous Mr. Walter is not that he has managed to draw the scorn of two of the best and most successful writers in the SF/F genre, but that the expression of that scorn makes for considerably better reading than anything he is ever likely to write, with or without the funding of the British government.


Tuesday, April 15, 2014

A rare alignment

Will wonders never cease? I actually concur with Paul Krugman for once:
Four years ago Chris Christie, the governor of New Jersey, abruptly canceled America’s biggest and arguably most important infrastructure project, a desperately needed new rail tunnel under the Hudson River. Count me among those who blame his presidential ambitions, and believe that he was trying to curry favor with the government- and public-transit-hating Republican base.

Even as one tunnel was being canceled, however, another was nearing completion, as Spread Networks finished boring its way through the Allegheny Mountains of Pennsylvania. Spread’s tunnel was not, however, intended to carry passengers, or even freight; it was for a fiber-optic cable that would shave three milliseconds — three-thousandths of a second — off communication time between the futures markets of Chicago and the stock markets of New York. And the fact that this tunnel was built while the rail tunnel wasn’t tells you a lot about what’s wrong with America today.

Who cares about three milliseconds? The answer is, high-frequency traders, who make money by buying or selling stock a tiny fraction of a second faster than other players. Not surprisingly, Michael Lewis starts his best-selling new book “Flash Boys,” a polemic against high-frequency trading, with the story of the Spread Networks tunnel. But the real moral of the tunnel tale is independent of Mr. Lewis’s polemic.

Think about it. You may or may not buy Mr. Lewis’s depiction of the high-frequency types as villains and those trying to thwart them as heroes. (If you ask me, there are no good guys in this story.) But either way, spending hundreds of millions of dollars to save three milliseconds looks like a huge waste. And that’s part of a much broader picture, in which society is devoting an ever-growing share of its resources to financial wheeling and dealing, while getting little or nothing in return.
The financial sector is nothing but a gigantic, money-sucking tick on the US economy. None - I repeat - NONE of the claimed benefits it supposedly provides as "the lubricating oil of capitalism" are worth even one-tenth the present cost of the financial sector. There will be no recovery, there CAN be no recovery under the twin burdens of the federal and the financial sectors, which presently account for 48 percent of the outstanding debt in the American economy.


The willfully thick Blue wall

One thing that has always annoyed me about the Hollywood portrayal of police departments, and is something that I mock in passing in the QUANTUM MORTIS series, is the way in which we are supposed to believe that police departments seriously frown upon individual police violating procedures and skirting the law. Is there a single Hollywood cop who hasn't had to turn in his badge and his gun at one point or another? Or hasn't been suspended from his job?

The reality is that police are statistically more likely to have sex with a prostitute on duty than to arrest one, are more likely to murder someone and get away with it than be caught and charged with the crime, and are only at the risk of losing their jobs if they violate the code of silence and upset the local police union.
Los Angeles police officers tampered with voice recording equipment in dozens of patrol cars in an effort to avoid being monitored while on duty, according to records and interviews.

An inspection by Los Angeles Police Department investigators found about half of the estimated 80 cars in one South L.A. patrol division were missing antennas, which help capture what officers say in the field. The antennas in at least 10 more cars in nearby divisions had also been removed.

LAPD Chief Charlie Beck and other top officials learned of the problem last summer but chose not to investigate which officers were responsible. Rather, the officials issued warnings against continued meddling and put checks in place to account for antennas at the start and end of each patrol shift.
The police chief simply "chose not to investigate" a series of obvious crimes committed by numerous police officers. It's totally predictable, so why do we so seldom see that in the movies?


Monday, April 14, 2014

On the cover

Jartstar shares his thoughts about how he went about creating the cover for AWAKE IN THE NIGHT LAND:

Awake in the Night Land is one of the finest stories I have ever read, and when I was given the opportunity to design a cover for it I was elated. After presenting a series of thumbnails to Mr. Wright with series of different styles and ideas, he chose a straight forward image with the focal point being The Last Redoubt.

The challenge was representing a towering, ancient, rusting structure surrounded by a dead and sunless sky encircled by ruins and a wasteland. If the lighting was accurate to the real world and the story it would consist of a silhouetted triangular shape with a dim red glowing horizon and a few bright spots of magma here and there. This would make for a thoroughly uninteresting image which certainly would not work for a book cover. Using some artistic license I brightened up the concept and made a dramatic, disconcerting red sky with the light of the Redoubt fighting against the creeping black around it. 

I certainly hope my version of the Redoubt has done justice to it as described in the story, but more importantly, it should reflect the power of Wright’s superb work. This question of my success can only be answered by the wayfarers who are willing to enter into the dark of the Night Lands and find their way out again.

On John C. Wright's Journal, Pinlighter asked about the shape of the pyramid:
It’s certainly an effective cover, – I’ll go beyond that, a beautiful cover – but the Redoubt is clearly described in THE NIGHT LAND as being a Pyramid without terraces or steps like that, but looking more like the traditional (Egyptian) pyramid, smoothly tapering to a point. I am curious as to your motives for not showing it like that. 
VD replies: The change to a more Mayan-style pyramid was my call. As you can see in the thumbs, the original plan was to go by the book. But the simple geometric shape just looked too plain and boring, especially for a central element that was featured so prominently on the cover. So, chalk it down to artistic liberty, in much the same way that the Watcher's heads are fully exposed rather than on their sides with their faces half-buried as in the text. It's certainly desirable to get the details right, but not at the expense of making a cover visually tedious. I think Jartstar did a very good job of conveying the ominous spirit of the Night Lands while also expressing its core message of human hope in a visually arresting image; to see it in more detail, just click on the cover.

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Mailvox: the psychic undercurrent

Anonymous Conservative notices that everyone's antennae are twitching these days:
Something difficult to pin down is activating amygdalae. It's telling everyone's brain that bad is coming, and everyone is trying to assuage those amygdalae, to turn off all the uncomfortable warning alarms they are producing in their brains. Conservatives buy up guns and canned goods to ease the stress level and lower the warning level by preparing. Liberals, deep down know the collapse is the end for them, so the only way to assuage their amygdalae is to retreat even deeper into the bubbles of denial that are producing our problems the begin with. Part of that denial is sending anyone who doesn't tell them the future is happy far, far away, so they won't have to think about it.

What Vox asks is the most fascinating question of our time. How can it be that our bellies are full, we are bombarded with endless, professionally produced propaganda telling us everything is fine, and yet deep within us, we all feel like the cattle on an island that head for high ground hours before the tsunami, that nobody knew was coming, hits? How complex is our biology that we connect with our world on such a deep subconscious level that we can't be tricked by professional liars with nearly limitless resources and a death grip on every major media? How bad is the coming mess, that we can't be blinded to it?

And why is it in nature, when the tsunami is coming, no cattle insist on telling all the others that now is the best possible time to go swimming, but in our supposedly more advanced species, we have idiots telling us that if we only double down on the debt spending, print a little more currency, and debauch our culture sexually a little more, everything will get better, because a collapse is impossible?
Of course, some are more sensitive than others. I've more or less felt this way since 1999, and not due to Y2K either. Or at least not directly; my concern then was that it would be used as the same sort of excuse that 9/11 was two years later.

Remember, it's not paranoia when they actually are out to undermine the foundations of your civilization. If only we actually had a Last Redoubt to which we could safely retreat from the rising tide of abhumanity.

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Larry Corriea drops the bomb

On behalf of Mr. John C. Wright and encourages his vast horde of heavily armed readers to divert a little of their ammo money towards a copy of AWAKE IN THE NIGHT LAND:
Many of you already know John for being an awesome sci-fi writer. Personally, I found him because of his blog. Like me, John is an out of the closet conservative. Only where I am blunt and sometimes crude, John is eloquent and intellectual. I’m a tetsubo. John is a rapier. I’ve got a lot of respect for his writing, and I don’t say this lightly but I really do believe he is our modern C.S. Lewis....

Right now it is sitting at: Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #10,504 Paid in Kindle Store

I want to bump that up higher because I think John is a great writer and a voice of reason in the wilderness. So please tell your friends, repost this on your FB or Twitter or whatever you are in to.
Read the rest at Monster Hunter Nation.

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As part of Night Land Day, I asked Andy Robertson, who founded The Night Land site and first published the novellas there, to share his thoughts on the new book. He went one better and explained both how the site developed as well as his initial reaction to John C. Wright's forays into the Night Lands, now collected in AWAKE IN THE NIGHT LAND:

The dark, looming, images of the Land had made such an impact on me.  When I started to write stories set in that world, it was as if I remembered a life I had lived in that society, with its prim manners overlaying iron values and its dauntless courage.   I didn't need to make anything up. I just watched it happen.

Brett Davidson sent me a story from New Zealand with a background that complemented  and extended my own, and I found the person who would be my principle creative partner.   For years we've batted ideas back and forth by email late at night.   Other writers joined us and mostly took their lead from Brett and I. We were building a shared world but one so rich and vivid felt as if we were were discovering something that already existed.  I don't think I've ever had such fun ((while vertical)) in my life.  

And then I got a new submission, from John C Wright, which was quite apart from all the other Night Land tales.

I'd written a fusion of  Hodgson's vision with cutting-edge science, and tried to evoke a credible Redoubt culture, a culture that might really last ten million years.   Therefore my Redoubt was a society of strict moral codes, an actual functional and enforced marriage contract, strong kinship bonds, and sharply differentiated complementary behavior of men and women. ((It strikes me only now that this is mistaken by some readers for archaism. But of course  it isn't.  It's futurism.  Or just realism. No society without these values or something like them can survive more than a couple of generations.))  And I'd written of a society rich in technical and scientific knowledge, including as unremarked givens such familiar SF tropes as nanotechnology, cyborgisation, and Artificial Intelligence.   I had some fun integrating these into Hodgson's "scientific" formulation of reincarnation and psychic predation.

I had done my best to reinterpret the Night Land as science fiction, and other writers had followed me.   But  John's story followed his own dreams.

His character names were derived from classical Greek, not generic IndoEuropean sememes. The manners of the society were likewise closely modeled on the ancient pagans. Dozois has called this an air of distanced antiquity, and it works well, but I repeat it's distinctly different from my own, which is not antique at all. His was not a technically sophisticated society and seemed not to have a scientific attitude to the alien Land that surrounded it. It ran off rote technology and was ignorant of the workings of much of the machinery it depended on. It was doomed and dwindling and dark and candle-lit, a tumbledown place with a hint of Ghormenghast to it. (I know John will hate that comparison, and I apologize). The story was one of childhood friendship, rivalry, disaster and rescue. The writing style was, incidentally, brilliant.

I bought it and published it in our first hardcopy anthology, ENDLESS LOVE. It got into Dozois' BEST SF and several other yearly anthlogies and created a minor sensation. There are still places where the first taste of Hodgson's work a casual reader will get is the translation of "Awake in the Night" in that year's Dozois, and the story is an entry drug not only for THE NIGHT LAND but for Hodgson himself and all his work. This was a story which Hodgson might have written if he had been a more gifted weaver of words. John remarked to me at one point that he was surprised at the story's popularity. I think we both understood that despite its author's talent, the real power resided in the way it had stayed faithful to Hodgson's own visions, without elaborating them too much. The whole world could now see and share Hodgson's original Night Land. They were seeing it through John's eyes, not mine, but that didn't matter to me.   This was what I had set the NightLand website up for.

I expected a whole series of tales from John set in his version of The Night Land, but his next story was a radical departure from anything that he or any of the rest of us had ever done. It surpassed not only Hodgson's talents but, damn it, Lovecraft's.

When I read "Awake in the Night" I felt some envy, but when the ms for "The Last of All Suns" crossed my inbox I felt something like awe. It's almost impossible to describe this story without employing spoilers, because there is nothing else like it to compare it to or to hint that it is like.

Read the whole thing at The Night Land.

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As you can imagine, we are proud, pleased, delighted, and deeply honored to announce Castalia House's publication of AWAKE IN THE NIGHT LAND by John C. Wright. It is, quite simply, one of the best books I have ever had the privilege of reading. If you peruse the Reading Lists on the right sidebar, you can see that I have read a considerable number of SF/F works considered to be of high quality in the last five years alone. So, you can be confident that I know whereof I speak, and I am not exaggerating in the slightest, when I tell you that AWAKE IN THE NIGHT LAND will be one of the best books you read this year if you have the courage to enter one of the most daunting realms in literature.

It is not an easy book to categorize. Part anthology, part novel, AWAKE IN THE NIGHT LAND consists of four novellas that are tied together in one vast story spanning five million years. It is a masterful combination of three literary subgenres, SF, Fantasy, and Horror. It is set in the world first created in an obscure novel published in 1912 and yet it is far more original than the vast majority of SF/F published in the last fifty years. It is remorselessly grim story set in a more inhumanly horrific environment than anything you are likely to imagine, and yet it is an uplifting tribute to the unquenchable human spirit.

It is monstrous and glorious and ghastly and magnificent.

Consider the reactions of the early reviewers:
  • "The Last of All Suns" may be the best SF novella I have ever read. I am not kidding.
  • Every now and then someone comes along who not only can say things nicely, but can say _important_ things nicely. That somebody, in the modern age, is John C. Wright. 
  • He projects an atmosphere of hope amid the vast emptiness of a dead world.
  • Set millions of years in the future the story and setting can really only be compared to the worst nightmares of Lovecraft. I cannot stress enough, read this book! If you like Lovecraft, the darkest visions of Stephen King, or the visions of H.R. Giger you will love this book. If you like science fiction especially the 'Dying Earth' genre of Jack Vance, Leigh Brackett, Michael Moorcock, you will love this book. If you've never heard of those authors or those books, read this book.
I have written a number of books. Never once have I said to you, my readers, "you must read this book". That is because I have never written a book like this one. There are a very small number of books of which I would say "you must read this book": The Lord of the Rings by JRR Tolkien. The Glass Bead Game by Hermann Hesse. The Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco. The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe by CS Lewis. The Dark is Rising by Susan Cooper. Dandelion Wine by Ray Bradbury. Watership Down by Richard Adams.

There were also others that came close, books that I enjoyed very much indeed, but did not quite justify the assertion. Embassytown by China Mieville. Cryptonomicon and Anathem by Neal Stephenson. A Game of Thrones by George Martin. Night Watch by Terry Pratchett. Dune by Frank Herbert.

I will tell you now that if you appreciate excellent books, then you must read this one. I cannot imagine you will regret it.

As a child, I was much struck by the quote of the reviewer for The Times in his review of Watership Down: "I announce with trembling pleasure the appearance of a great story." But I am not so much trembling with pleasure as shaking my head in awe as I announce the appearance of a story that may sit on the shelves in the mighty company of the aforementioned books without feeling shame.

In addition to the Amazon links provided above, Awake in the Night Land is also available in epub format at Smashwords.

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Sunday, April 13, 2014

Inchoatus reviews The Golden Age

This is a review of John C. Wright's The Golden Age from an excellent, but sadly defunct SF/F review site called Inchoatus which has been resurrected and posted here courtesy of the Wayback Machine. I think it is relevant to the forthcoming publication of Mr. Wright's AWAKE IN THE NIGHT LAND because much of what the reviewers say about the earlier novel is directly applicable to the current book, which is a fascinating blend of novel and anthology.

"This dazzling first novel is just half of a two-volume saga, so it's too soon to tell if it will deliver on its audacious promise. It's already clear, however, that Wright may be this fledgling century's most important new SF talent... To write honestly about the far future is a similarly heroic deed. Too often, SF paints it as nothing more than the Roman Empire writ large."
--Publisher's Weekly

It is a very, very rare thing for PW to attach the word "important" to an author. It's an adjective that rings in our ears here at Inchoatus because that's exactly what we're trying to do: make speculative fiction important. Here, we agree completely: the themes that Wright brings up and handles are as deftly done as anything else we've seen. "Audacious" is another good word to use. There are plenty of writers who write about a "golden age" of technological achievement but it is almost always undercut by corruption, or portrayed through the eyes of the indigent and plain, painted with the brush of the chronically cynical or pessimistic, or perceived from the ashes following some apocalypse. But Wright doesn't surrender an inch: he gives us humanity at the absolute pinnacle of its achievement and seen through the main character who is the most powerful man in solar system. Very, very few people, that we know of anyway, have dared this. 

What We Say

There is plenty of "New Wave" science fiction going on and authors keep taking shots at being the definitive voice of this sub-genre. We've reviewed several applicants for the position on this site: most notably M. John Harrison's Light and Dan Simmons' Ilium while most lamentably John Clute's Appleseed and Alastair Reynolds' later offerings of Redemption Ark and Absolution Gap. While we're not yet ready to crown Wright, this book makes a considered and strategic effort at absorbing all similar works that came before and influencing all subsequent writing in the genre: our very  definition of a great book. So while Wright's The Golden Age doesn't assume this mantle all by itself if the conclusion of the series lives up to its promise, then he could be making a the most serious bid we've seen yet.

The Golden Age is a very special book. It's one of those breathtaking efforts where the author (and it almost has to be a debut effort for the author because only those initiates have the naiveté to think they can pull off stuff like this) unflinchingly announces: "I want to write about this." And sometimes, that "this" turns out to be have the scope and the daring that would cause the vast majority of sane and experienced writers to give it up after a few trials as hopelessly complex or large.

But then, those special authors wrap their arms around that scary and impossibly large idea and squeeze. And out pops a genuinely moving story.

The Golden Age is huge in its scope. It takes on nothing less than a humanity that has achieved a kind of pinnacle of technological prowess: immortality is achieved, artificial intelligence is not only achieved but has reached a level of sophistication and service to mankind that genius and perfection are almost routine, engineering efforts of almost irrational scope (such as, for example, living up to 2010: A Space Odyssey's vision of creating a second sun out of Jupiter) take place, people live in almost perfect freedom--free to pursue any aims that they can imagine so long as they don't hurt others. Wright takes this universe, reifies it, and makes it unbelievably plausible ("unbelievably plausible" being a hyperbolic paradox we couldn't resist). Wright hollows out the framework for this future and then pours in all the accoutrements in astonishing detail. No aspect is overlooked. Where Robert Jordan's Wheel of Time world seems a bit strained and predictable, Wright gives us a soaring, wild place of unfettered imagination. Where Goodkind's world comes off as contrived and serving the whim of its author, Wright gives us a solar system that creates the characters and drives the plot to some inevitabilities and some other shocking developments. For sheer world-building, only Stephen R. Donaldson's The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant and perhaps George RR Martin's A Song of Fire and Ice can match Wright. The only author who stands above him in this regard is Tolkien.

Even better, and more praiseworthy, are the characters. Helion and Phaethon--and even the sophotechs--are not the kind of protagonists that we're used to reading about. They're not the youths destined for greatness learning at the foot of a wise old wizard learning the ways of the Force. They're not bitter and taciturn men-of-action disguising a hidden pain underneath their martial prowess and brought reluctantly in to the affairs of government like a random weather event. They're not police, soldiers, or tyrants. They are geniuses capable of daring great things. So many authors don't want to write about genius precisely because it is hard to write about genius. Yet Wright doesn't flinch. Helion and Phaethon are the greatest and most ambitious luminaries of their world and Wright opens them up to use and dares us to match their dreams with ours.

The only similar books where we have similar works of genius character come from Michael Flynn's Firestar and Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged.

For those of you who yearn for a similar hero of the individual, you will find it in Phaethon. We open this book at a time when this perfected society is preparing for a tremendous, millennial celebration. Art--and art that can only be visualized and dreamt of in this sort of paradisiacal setting--is reaching a kind of peak where all the libertine sensibilities of the vast consciousnesses of the solar system come together and literally change the way beauty will be perceived and lives led for the next thousand years. Phaethon is here, participating, but faintly bored and troubled. It will soon become apparent that large sections of his memory are missing and that he himself has been complicit in their removal for reasons he cannot understand.

For this first novel of the trilogy, The Golden Age is a voyage of self-discovery for Phaethon and a reconstruction of his relationship with his father, Helion. It's an extremely interesting and compelling journey to watch the transformation of Phaethon the elitist, privileged tourist in to what is his true nature: the dominant, arrogant, supremely competent and individualistic hero. While not explicit, Phaethon follows a path of pride, rebellion, and romanticism that is thematically related to the fall of Satan in Paradise Lost whom Milton could not resist from imbuing with entrancing ideals and tempting power.

But in most ways, The Golden Age follows in the model of Atlas Shrugged in that we have a protagonist who is stubbornly and arrogantly announcing and casting his vision into the teeth of the "will of the majority." It's one of the glories of American political thought that we countenance the individual and regard him as a hero in cases such as these and it is this notion that drives the popularity of books like Atlas Shrugged as well as treatises (despite opposing politics) of works like Henry David Thoreau's Walden (and, we might add, in direct thematic opposition to some "old country" works like Crime and Punishment and The Idylls of the King). It is also the more literary and famous "carlylian hero" (named for Thomas Carlyle) whose rebel hero rails against the inimical and ineluctable forces of nature refusing to capitulate despite certainty of defeat (Moby Dick's Captain Ahab being one of the most famous of these).

But unlike Atlas Shrugged, the world around Phaethon is not one of oppressive and encroaching government but a more sinister event of free-thinking peoples within a completely libertarian society literally choosing to ostracize him. Unlike Captain Ahab, it is not the forces of nature that oppose Phaethon but the free-acting citizenry of humanity acting almost with the omnipresence and deterministic features of a force of nature. There is an undercurrent of determinism and human coercion that surfaces in this golden age where mankind has reached its zenith of power and freedom: the claw of Marx still reaches out and grasps the flight of freedom just as Tashtego grasped the sky-hawk as the Pequod sank beneath the Pacific.

This is an exciting book where deeply detailed future technology is merged with an overwhelming sensibility of the societal and political problems inherent in that kind of a culture that have a peculiar relevance to where we are today. There are only two reasons that we withhold nomination for a seven (at least at this point): First, the work is unfinished and it is not clear yet if Wright can really pull this thing off; second, is the single-mindedness of the plot. Ultimately, works of this nature have to be compared to Tolkien (as unfair as that may be). One of the great achievements of The Lord of the Rings is that so much of the world existed on its own basis and for its own sake. The politics of Rohan, of Gondor, of Mirkwood, of the White Council, of The Lonely Mountain, of Lothlorien, of Fangorn, and even of the Shire existed with a perfectly rational set of individual goals, objectives, and expectations. As they are swept in to the War of the Ring, so are the various agenda brought in and mutated to that singular event. The mythological history of Arda itself shapes the plot. The Golden Age, at least as we perceive the first book, exists differently: all political thought and events seem focused on the deeds of Phaethon and do not seem to have individualized agenda of their own. Are Phaethon and Helion truly the only people of daring in the solar system? Are there not competing interests even among the sophotechs themselves? At some point, it seems as if there should be a world out there which should--at this point--be largely untouched and unconcerned by these events within the Hortatory Council or at least positioned as equal importance. Where are they?

Finally, we most note, that while the writing is intellectually compelling and the ideas bursting in their intrigue, Wright's talents lack a certain poetry that Melville and Milton have (perhaps hardly fair to compare Wright to these authors) but also that more contemporary authors Wolfe, Tolkien, and Chiang possess. This criticism of so good a book is perhaps grossly unfair but it should be considered praise that we even think to compare Wright with these other authors.

And greater success may yet come. This is an awe-inspiring work of speculative fiction and we hope for great things from the succeeding volumes.

Place in Genre

Future technologies have been investigated by many different authors attempting many different things. Stephenson's The Diamond Age, Alastair Reynold's Revelation Space, and M. John Harrison's Light are three notable examples of authors attempting to wrestle with the results of future technologies. It is very interesting that both Stephenson and Wright chose Victorian ideals as their principle settings for a future people attempting to deal with their technological wonders. (Let us not forget less notable examples such as Clade by Budz and Altered Carbon by Morgan.) Wright is attempting to eclipse these excellent efforts and he may yet do it. In order to do so, he will have to create his world as a compelling force that sears itself in to the minds of his readers in ways that make it inevitable in our minds that things could turn out any other way. He may succeed! He hasn't yet with this first novel but he may succeed by the end. If he can, Wright could very literally change the genre itself.

Why You Should Read This

Those readers who are compelled by future world-building of the higher order--that is, fans of those aforementioned authors Stephenson, Reynolds, and Harrison will find themselves eagerly devouring The Golden Age. Additionally, politically minded fans of Ayn Rand, Robert Heinlein, Michael Flynn, and perhaps even authors from the other side of the political spectrum such as Kim Stanley Robinson will find a lot of very interesting moments in this book where such problems as freedom versus the collective and aesthetics versus judgments are treated fairly and completely. Certainly those stubborn adherents of Terry Goodkind--a man who can seem to only echo endlessly and shallowly the arguments of Ayn Rand's objectivism--should come to Wright's work and see the subject treated with depth, vigor, and the breaking of new ground.

Why You Should Pass

We can't make any recommendations here. It is one of the best works of science fiction available on the market. The only market to whom there may not be an appeal are to those people who are wholly uninitiated in science fiction to begin with. Some authors, like the aforementioned Robinson, can draw events of colonizing the stars in near-future terms that are capable of appealing to broad audiences. But because of Wright's completely unflinching manner in approaching his worlds, people unused to dealing with artificial intelligence, consciousnesses existing independently of bodies and stored in mechanisms, and an easy acceptance of changing the world and worlds to fit the needs of a striving humanity, may quickly become lost and drown in the onslaught of new ideas. In short, a certain amount of training may be required to fully appreciate Wright and meet him on the terms that he sets for his readers. This problem--if it is a problem--may ultimately restrict The Golden Age from finding the kind of large-scale audience it might otherwise deserve.

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Castalia House bloggers

I'm toying with the idea of turning the Castalia House blog into a group one focused on SF/F. Reviews, thoughts on writing, thoughts on the industry, essentially something similar to Black Gate, but from an explicitly Blue SF/F perspective. So, I'm interested in learning if there are sufficient potential contributors capable of writing either a book review or a post once a week. The group blog idea didn't go so well in the past; Alpha Game turned into a single-focus blog to which I am the sole contributor, but SF/F is a broad subject and there are many writers and readers here.

If you're interested, let me know in the comments what sort of subjects you'd be interested in discussing once per week. My goal would be to find seven contributors, everyone responsible for posting once per week. Obviously, any existing Castalia House authors would have first priority.

In any event, let me know what you think of the idea. As is now abundantly clear, my responsibilities as CH's lead editor prevents me from managing a third daily blog.


No likely futures

I've pointed out many times, and demonstrated on more than one occasion, that the Left is considerably less intelligent and educated than it believes itself to be. To further demonstrate the conceit, dishonesty, and self-deception of the Left, consider Damien Walter's inept responses to criticism of his most recent hit piece aka Guardian column.
Commenter:  Not quite sure I agree with the conclusion "The future is queer". Given the current balance of power in the world, it must as equally be likely that future generations may revert to traditional gender roles, however advanced the tech gets. For example, in 75 to 100 years, it's quite easy to imagine a society which regards historical sexual freedom as a contributing factor to the failure of our capitalist paradise. Revisionism which twists historical events is not new, and it's entirely possible some future government/state will twist our present when it's their history. It's also worth bearing in mind that the progressive liberalism talked about here affects only a tiny percentage of the world's population. When the Chinese buy up the UK in a fire sale 50 years from now, how much mind are they going to pay such freedoms?

DamienGWalter: Of course, there are no absolutes when it comes to the future. But putting aside "collapse" scenarios, I can't see any likely future where gender isn't radically changed from its current norms. I think expecting otherwise would be like expecting feudal social structures to carry over in to industrial society. We can already see the structural changes being wrought by technology, the social changes are then almost determined.
There are 83 countries where homosexuality is criminalized. There are 20 countries where homogamy has been at least partially legalized. The countries where homosexuality is criminalized have growing populations. The countries where homogamy is legal have declining populations. And yet, Mr. Walter can't see the possibility of a future where the larger trend is in line with demographic growth.  No wonder he is a mere SF wannabe rather than a bona fide SF writer; his imagination is too limited.

Any doubts that he was engaging in pure rhetoric are answered in this exchange:
Commenter: It’s Larry Correia being discussed, so let’s use his handy Internet Arguing Checklist to examine this article. Points #1 (Skim until Offended), #4 (Disregard Inconvenient Facts), and #5 (Make S——t Up) are fairly well represented here. In particular, compare Damien Walter’s misrepresentation of Correia’s article:

    But Correia boils it down to a much simpler argument. However accurate a queer future might be, SF authors must continue to pander to the bigotry of conservative readers if they want to be "commercial".

to an excerpt from the core of Larry’s actual essay:

    "Now, before we continue I need to establish something about my personal writing philosophy. Science Fiction is SPECULATIVE FICTION. That means we can make up all sorts of crazy stuff and we can twist existing reality to do interesting new things in order to tell the story we want to tell. I’m not against having a story where there are sexes other than male and female or neuters or schmes or hirs or WTF ever or that they flip back and forth or shit… robot sex. Hell, I don’t know. Write whatever tells your story.

    But the important thing there is STORY. Not the cause of the day. STORY.

For extra entertainment, read Larry’s brilliant counter-fisking of Jim C Hines’s post.

DamienGWalter: Counter-fisking? Hmmm...sounds kinky.
Deep and insightful stuff there. But Walter gave his propagandistic game away in an earlier essay: "The challenge for writers of science fiction today is not to repeat the same dire warnings we have all already heard, or to replicate the naive visions of the genres golden age, but to create visions of the future people can believe in. Perhaps the next Nineteen Eighty-Four, instead of confronting us with our worst fear, will find the imagination to show us our greatest hope."

What is his greatest hope? Based on his recent column, a queer future. Kathryn Cramer of correctly pegged Walter as a propagandist rather than a writer with anything to say about the human condition on

"Walter says he wants SF to do more than “reflect” the world, but rather fiction that seeks to “influence” it."

And that is what fundamentally separates Pink SF/F from Blue SF/F. We tell stories to entertain the reader and make him think. They print propaganda to lecture the reader and stop him from thinking. We ask "what if?" They assert "it will be so!"

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Dogmatic and dishonest

Ross Douthat points out the moral defect being exhibited by a corporation and a university in the New York Times, which happens to be identical to that previously demonstrated by a writer's organization:
In both cases, Mozilla and Brandeis, there was a striking difference between the clarity of what had actually happened and the evasiveness of the official responses to the events. Eich stepped down rather than recant his past support for the view that one man and one woman makes a marriage; Hirsi Ali’s invitation was withdrawn because of her sweeping criticisms of Islamic culture. But neither the phrase “marriage” nor the word “Islam” appeared in the initial statements Mozilla and Brandeis released.

Instead, the Mozilla statement rambled in the language of inclusion: “Our organizational culture reflects diversity and inclusiveness. ... Our culture of openness extends to encouraging staff and community to share their beliefs and opinions. ...”

The statement on Hirsi Ali was slightly more direct, saying that “her past statements ... are inconsistent with Brandeis University’s core values.” But it never specified what those statements or those values might be — and then it fell back, too, on pieties about diversity: “In the spirit of free expression that has defined Brandeis University throughout its history, Ms. Hirsi Ali is welcome to join us on campus in the future to engage in a dialogue about these important issues.”

What both cases illustrate, with their fuzzy rhetoric masking ideological pressure, is a serious moral defect at the heart of elite culture in America.

The defect, crucially, is not this culture’s bias against social conservatives, or its discomfort with stinging attacks on non-Western religions. Rather, it’s the refusal to admit — to others, and to itself — that these biases fundamentally trump the commitment to “free expression” or “diversity” affirmed in mission statements and news releases.

This refusal, this self-deception, means that we have far too many powerful communities (corporate, academic, journalistic) that are simultaneously dogmatic and dishonest about it — that promise diversity but only as the left defines it, that fill their ranks with ideologues and then claim to stand athwart bias and misinformation, that speak the language of pluralism while presiding over communities that resemble the beau ideal of Sandra Y. L. Korn.
It was precisely the same pattern of behavior with the SFWA. The rhetoric was fuzzy and muddled, and the accusations were incoherent. No actual reason was ever given for the purging of the nameless member; if I had not announced the identity of the expelled member on my blog, no one outside the inner circle of the organization would have even known who had been successfully targeted for removal by the SFWA president and his obedient Board.

The reason for the deceit is twofold; it is first necessary to preserve the self-conceit of the individuals involved. They do not wish to admit that they are hypocrites who are failing to live up to their professed ideals. It is no different than the reason priests who commit child abuse, teachers who have affairs with their students, and con men who perpetrate frauds are reluctant to confess to their misdeeds even after they are caught red-handed; they are ashamed of their idealistic failures and seek to hide those failures from the knowledge of those who will judge them for it.

And second, the self-deception is vital because admitting their failures means sacrificing the moral high ground in criticizing other organizations and losing their ability to hold other organizations accountable for doing the same thing they are doing.

Both reasons are why it is vital to continue to flaunt their actions in their faces, without mercy, until they admit what they have done and make an open and public choice between their supposed ideals and their ideological dogma. SFWA thought it was marginalizing me by purging me from its ranks, but instead, they elevated my stature, increased my readership, delineated the ideological lines in SF/F, and handed every critic of their dishonesty and dogma an effective weapon to use against them until they either a) come out of the closet concerning their ideology, or b ) correct their self-destructive course.

I think the interesting question to ask here is not why these organizations are behaving in this morally defective fashion, but rather, why now?

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Saturday, April 12, 2014

Resistance is necessary

It appears the federal government may have learned something since the days of Waco and Ruby Ridge:
A Nevada cattle rancher appears to have won his week-long battle with the federal government over a controversial cattle roundup that had led to the arrest of several protesters.

Cliven Bundy went head to head with the Bureau of Land Management over the removal of hundreds of his cattle from federal land, where the government said they were grazing illegally.

Bundy claims his herd of roughly 900 cattle have grazed on the land along the riverbed near Bunkerville, 80 miles northeast of Las Vegas, since 1870 and threatened a "range war" against the BLM on the Bundy Ranch website after one of his sons was arrested while protesting the removal of the cattle.

"I have no contract with the United States government," Bundy said. "I was paying grazing fees for management and that's what BLM was supposed to be, land managers and they were managing my ranch out of business, so I refused to pay."

The federal government had countered that Bundy "owes the American people in excess of $1 million " in unpaid grazing fees and "refuses to abide by the law of land, despite many opportunities over the last 20 years to do so."

However, today the BLM said it would not enforce a court order to remove the cattle and was pulling out of the area.

"Based on information about conditions on the ground, and in consultation with law enforcement, we have made a decision to conclude the cattle gather because of our serious concern about the safety of employees and members of the public," BLM Director Neil Kornze said.
On the other hand, its entirely possible that the BLM simply has not been militarized to the extent of the ATF and the FBI. As Bundy and his supporters have shown, one need not assume that one's rights can be trampled at will.


Another hit piece

Lest you wonder about the tangible reality of the Blue SF/F- Pink SF/F divide, observe that Damien Walter has penned another hit piece in The Guardian aimed at a right-wing SF author, this time Larry Corriea, entitled "Science fiction needs to reflect that the future is queer".

Does it now? That is an odd title, especially considering that a queer future is no future at all, given what we know about biology and human reproduction. But let us permit Mr. Walter speak his piece:
I spent most of my youth being told to get a haircut. As a boy of slight build who usually had hair down around my shoulders, I looked a bit too much like a girl for the comfort of the home counties. Society gets angry when gender roles are blurred, precisely because those roles are a fragile act put on with clothes, hairstyles and makeup. If they weren't enforced, clearly defined gender roles would not exist.

I take comfort in the idea that most of the young men telling others to get a haircut today are rushing home to play at being buxom dark elf warrior maidens in World of Warcraft. Gamer culture has gained a bad reputation for misogyny, but it seems male gamers are more than a little curious about playing out female gender roles. It makes perfect sense. The real world enforces gender roles, but virtual worlds let gamers express the feminine parts of themselves that don't fit in with their masculine identity.
Solipsism alert! Translation: Effeminate little boy is treated as if he's a freak and a queer because he looks like a girl. Spends the rest of his life attempting to get back at society because he can't figure out how to get a haircut and act like the other boys. And apparently he knows so little about online games that he doesn't realize most male gamers play female characters because: a) if they're going to spend hours looking at their character's ass, they would prefer it to be an attractive female one, and, b) people give female characters lots of free stuff.

As proof of the fact that Walter simply doesn't know what he is talking about, I note that while there are High Elves, Night Elves, and Blood Elves in World of Warcraft, there are no dark elves. Nor are any of the elves "buxom".
The kind of virtual worlds that video games allow us to enter have been commonplace in science fiction for decades. But the way that the virtual inevitably blurs the representation of sex and gender is never explicitly dealt with. Science fiction is torn between its higher mission to explore the future, and its lower function as mass entertainment. Deep Space Nine may be the gayest Star Trek, but in common with most of sci-fi's major franchises, it still keeps homosexuality and queerness of all kinds off screen.

Science fiction novels have gone much further in exploring queer futures. From the 1960s onwards New Wave authors like Joanna Russ, Samuel Delany, Ursula Le Guin and Thomas Disch began to push forward the representation of LGBT themes in science fiction. Russ's 1975 novel The Female Man used the tool of alternative universes to explore how gender roles are socially constructed. As liberal democracies like Britain welcome their first gay marriages, queer visions of the future look prescient. But despite the success of these authors, SF still clings to an unrealistically straight vision of the future.
First, SF is rife with a broad variety of sexual freaks, fairies, and flamers. If one troubles to count up the number of sexually abnormal characters in SF, there are almost surely more than the two percent that they represent in the real world. Second, Walter's article is parochial in the extreme. As countries from southern Africa to northern Eurasia criminalize homosexuality, it defies belief to claim that the sexual libertinism that has belatedly infested the demographically dying West is likely to represent the future, much less is certain to do so.
When author and historian Alex Dally Macfarlane made a call earlier this year for a vision of post-binary gender in SF, her intelligent argument was met with predictably intractable ignorance from conservative sci-fi fans. For writers and fans like Larry Correia, whose virulent attack on MacFarlane was excellently dissected by Jim C Hines, sex is a biological imperative and the idea of gender as a social construct is a damn liberal lie! But Correia boils it down to a much simpler argument. However accurate a queer future might be, SF authors must continue to pander to the bigotry of conservative readers if they want to be "commercial".
It is readily apparent that Walter is not only a dishonest propagandist, but he is an inept SF author as well. He clearly violates the "Show, Don't Tell" rule here, as he first claims that Macfarlane's piece was intelligent - read it, it wasn't - then claims that it was met with "ignorance" while refusing to provide any actual examples of said "ignorance". Notice that while he describes Larry's critique as a "virulent attack", he fails to link to it, instead linking to what he inaccurately describes as McCreepy's excellent dissection - read it, it wasn't.
Which is of course nonsense. The science fiction novels of Iain M Banks were bestsellers many times over, in part because the future they explored was openly queer. Citizens of Banks' future society the Culture have the ability to change their sex at will, and frequently shift between sexes and gender roles. Kim Stanley Robinson's 2312 became both a bestseller and multiple award winner with a vision of the future that included fluid non-binary gender. And Nicola Griffith's historical epic Hild, nominated for this year's Nebula awards by members of the SFWA, is built around a bisexual protagonist.

The best science fiction literature explores a future of fluid gender identity that is much closer than many imagine. Genetic researchers have already discovered the two genes that battle to determine the sex of every human, opening the possibility of biological sex change in adult humans at the genetic level. Combine these scientific advances with the changing structure of our society and the gender shifts of virtual worlds and, far from being the lifestyle of a minority, queerness looks very much like the mainstream culture of the future. If science fiction has a role at all, it's to reflect that reality, not deny it.
First, the novels of Iain M Banks were not bestsellers because the futures they explored were infested with homosexuality. Indeed, sexuality in the Culture was largely irrelevant in light of the irrelevancy of biology, the human body, and indeed, the human mind. Banks's future was primarily "queer" in that the AI-controlled Culture was sterile and, like Star Trek, required interactions with societies outside the Culture to provide any drama.

Nicola Griffith's Hild tends to prove what Larry was saying: despite the benefit of its Nebula nomination and the Guardian coverage, it is presently ranked 42,234 on Amazon. Hardly evidence that "queerness looks very much like the mainstream culture of the future".

But his various moral and intellectual failings notwithstanding, the most offensive thing that Walter does in this article is question if science fiction has a role at all. It does have a role, an important role, but Walter, being one of the morally vacuous Autumn People described so vividly by Ray Bradbury, will never understand what it is. And the idea that science fiction's only possible role is to reflect reality is downright laughable; if that were the case, so much for these common SF tropes: faster-than-light travel, alien life, secular societies, peaceful race relations, benign world government, and, of course, legal homosexuality.

So you see, we're not the ones drawing the battle line. Though I am, as it happens, quite content to see Pink SF/F go headlong in this direction. Because if it does, it won't be in the mainstream for long. And we'll be more than happy to pick up the shattered pieces of what was once their market.

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Friday, April 11, 2014

Live by the punch, die by the punch

I'm not sure which is more amusing, this young woman whining about her well-merited concussion or the people who are shocked that so many people aren't sympathetic to a poor little woman who didn't do anything except punch a rugby player in the face in the middle of a brawl.

Everyone with a warrior woman fetish should watch the video, repeatedly, until they get it through their heads that women simply cannot fight men. Too small, too weak, too slow. See the ragdoll-flopping and the way she goes limp? That's from a single punch from a college-age man she assaulted who didn't see her attack coming and clearly isn't a trained fighter. She was lucky she only got a concussion; if he'd aimed a little lower, he'd probably have broken her jaw.

(Old martial arts trick: don't aim for the cheekbones on a rear hand cross, aim for the jaw. It's much harder to crush a cheekbone than to knock the jaw out of alignment. It's instant incapacitation. Also, uppercuts work better to daze the opponent.)

This comment was the best: "I must be from a different era. I don't hit women and I don't like seeing women being hit. Amazingly so many comments support the guy. Sick world."

I, on the other hand, very much enjoy seeing people who initiate violence smacked around, whether they are men or women. Although it is probably funnier when it is women getting flattened, because they seem to think that they have the right to initiate violence without suffering any consequences for it.

The thing is, it is very, very easy to avoid getting punched in the face. A) Don't mouth off to anyone bigger than you are. B) Don't hit anyone. If you are reading this, you are probably aware that I am not the nicest or most easygoing person in the world, but I have never, in my entire life, had anyone hit me back for anything I did or said. There is a very good reason for this: I am civil to strangers and I do not initiate the use of violence.

That doesn't mean I won't wash my hands in your blood if you hand me an engraved invitation by assaulting me, or that I won't enjoy the sound of bones cracking and the rush of pure adrenaline that physical altercations provide... but I will not start anything. I may even turn the other cheek, if I am feeling particularly inspired. But that's something to keep in mind. It is simply impossible to know if that quiet, polite guy in the corner, or that gentle giant sitting at the bar, is the sort of adrenaline junkie who happens to get off on the occasional burst of violence.

What most women don't understand, either because they fear violence or don't take it seriously, is that for many, if not most, men, it is a RUSH.


"Dual loyalty would be an improvement"

Ann Coulter points out that the big GOP donor Sheldon Alderson advocates immigration and amnesty in the USA, while simultanously supporting border fences and deportations in Israel:
Adelson is a big backer of amnesty, telling the Wall Street Journal: “It would be inhumane to send those people back, to send 12 million people out of this country. … So we’ve got to find a way, find a route for those people to get legal citizenship.”

His newspaper, Israel Today, the largest newspaper in Israel, is wildly patriotic on immigration (and everything else). Israel Today has trumpeted the success of the 15-foot razor-wire fence along Israel’s 140-mile border with Egypt, triumphantly noting last August that, for the first time, “no infiltrations were recorded from the Egyptian border, compared to 193 from the same month last year.”

Adelson himself had suggested just such a policy to the Los Angeles Times last year, saying he wanted to “Put a big fence around our country." By “our country,” he, of course, meant Israel. In America, he wants illegal immigrants pouring across the border to provide him with an endless supply of cheap labor.

Recently, Israel has been “rounding up” African refugees, giving them $3,500 and plane tickets to Uganda, to encourage them to “self-deport.” Welcome to El Al Airlines. We’re about to begin pre-boarding for Flight 259, offering non-stop, one-way service to Kampala, Uganda. At this time we’d like to invite our premium-plus illegal immigrants to board.

Wait! I thought we couldn’t “round up” any illegal immigrants! I thought “self-deportation” was a laughable idea!
The amazing thing is that Adelson's defenders failed to grasp the damning aspect of the quote. Daniel Greenfield of FrontPage tries to defend Adelson by pointing out: "The “fence” quote refers to keeping terrorists from the Palestinian Authority out. It certainly isn’t about migrants coming through Egypt."

That may be, but that's really not the problem. The problem is that when Mr. Adelson referred to his country, he was talking about Israel, not the USA. Which means that while he may be in possession of a document that says he is a citizen of the United States, he is observably not an American, as evidenced by both the policies he advocates and his own words.

The problem is not that Mr. Adelson's critics are anti-Semitic. The problem is that Mr. Adelson is anti-American.

The abuse-lottery of public school

This is a useful statistic about sexual harassment in junior high to keep in your pocket the next time you are asked about homeschooling:
An alarming number of instances of inappropriate sexual behavior among middle school students appear to be going unnoticed by teachers and other adults, a new study concludes. The study, written by three University of Illinois researchers, found that 21 percent of the students in the survey experienced some form of physical sexual harassment.

The students reported instances like being slapped on the buttocks, being rubbed against their bodies sexually or being forced to kiss another student. Much of the behavior happened in open areas, most commonly in the hallways, classrooms or gymnasiums.
And that's just in junior high. Combine it with four more years high school and the fact that "9.6 percent of students in a national survey reported experiencing educator sexual abuse at some point in their previous k-12 school years", and there is at least a one-in-three chance that your public school-attending child will be either sexually harassed or sexually abused at school.

The irony, of course, is that many of the same people who go nuclear over minor sexual harassment in the workplace will attempt to minimize the significance of sexual harassment at school, as if pre-teen children are more capable of dealing with it than adults.

One-in-five schoolchildren sexually harassed by other kids by the time they finish junior high. One-in-three schoolchildren sexually harassed or sexually abused by the time they graduate from high school. How little does a mother care about her children that she would voluntarily subject them to that abuse-lottery?


Thursday, April 10, 2014

Neoconnery is anti-American

A Pakistani neocon explains why it is vital for American troops to remain at the disposal of Pakistani interests:
We neocons have fallen out of favor, not just on the left, where “neocon” is routinely used as a term of abuse, but also on the right, where libertarian-minded conservatives who favor a smaller (and cheaper) military have seized the initiative. Rand Paul, the junior senator from Kentucky, is just one of many Tea Party conservatives who has defined his foreign policy views in opposition to the neocons. And it’s easy to see why....

Given all of this, why am I still a neocon? Why do I still believe that the U.S. should maintain an overwhelming military edge over all potential rivals, and that we as a country ought to be willing to use our military power in defense of our ideals as well as our interests narrowly defined? There are two reasons: The first is that American strength is the linchpin of a peaceful, economically integrating world; and the second is that we know what it looks like when America embraces amoral realpolitik, and it’s not pretty.

Like it or not, America’s failure in Iraq does not change the fact that global stability depends on American global leadership, and American global leadership costs money. The United States is at the heart of a dense web of alliances. We extend formal security guarantees to more than 50 countries. Some see these alliances and guarantees as little more than a burden the U.S. can no longer afford. Yet what they actually do is dampen security competition. They reassure partner countries that they needn’t build up their militaries to defend themselves against their neighbors, which then reassures their neighbors that they needn’t build up their militaries. This virtuous cycle is one of the central reasons Western Europe and Japan recovered so quickly after the devastation of World War II, and why globalization has helped ease poverty around the world. For this virtuous cycle to be maintained, however, U.S. security guarantees must be considered credible. It must be clear that when the U.S. makes a security commitment to another country, that commitment will be met. This in turn means that the U.S. military must have the power and the reach to defend countries far from our borders.
It's not an accident that most of the necons complaining that American isolationists " don’t understand about American military power—and American morality" are second- and third-generation immigrants. They may be U.S. citizens but they are not Americans and they simply do not understand, at all, George Washington's warning about entangling alliances.

Quite to the contrary, they demand more and more entanglement, preferably with their true homelands. As the Baseball, hot dogs, and apple pie-named Reihan Salam admits:
Why insist on moralistic crusades, as neocons are wont to do? I suppose I have a personal reason for doing so. It turns out that this week isn’t just the anniversary of the fall of Baghdad. It is also the 43rd anniversary of a telegram which an American consul general, Archer Blood, took the unusual step of condemning his own government. As Gary Bass recounts in his chilling book The Blood Telegram, Richard Nixon and his chief foreign policy consigliere, Henry Kissinger, enthusiastically backed Pakistan’s military junta in its efforts to not only overturn the results of its country’s first free and fair election, but to massacre hundreds of thousands of Bengalis in an effort to teach what was then a rebellious province a lesson. One of the men who died, as it happens, was my uncle.

Knowing fully well that he was endangering his career, Blood decried the American failure to defend democracy or to denounce Pakistani atrocities. He also knew that had President Nixon decided to lift a finger, he could have forced Pakistan to stay its hand. Yet it seems that humanitarian considerations never entered the picture for Nixon and Kissinger. They were apparently too taken with treating the world as a chessboard to bother reckoning with the monstrous crimes they were aiding and abetting. Though Pakistan was unable to prevent the emergence of an independent Bangladesh, thanks in large part to India’s decision to intervene, the country remains scarred by the bloodletting. Imagine if a different president hadn’t cheered on Pakistan’s military rulers but rather threatened to use U.S. power in defense of Bengali civilians.
Neocons are, for the most part, non-Americans who use the United States as a base in order to subvert American national interest in favor of Pakistani, or Israeli, or Iraqi, or Ukrainian national interests. The massacre of hundreds of thousands of barbarians by another group of barbarians is of no concern whatsoever to the American people. And clearly it is a mistake to have allowed men like Mr. Salem to enter the country, because he has repaid his hosts by attempting to involve them in the very violence he fled Pakistan to escape!

One can't even properly describe these neocons as traitors, because they are loyal to their nations. The problem is that their nation is not the American nation. What Mr. Salem does not realize is that Rand Paul and most American isolationists understands very well what Mr. Salem and his fellow neocons want. They simply believe in putting American interests first.


The benefits of interventionism

Strangely enough, we're not hearing so much about those wonderfully inspiring purple fingers in the lead-up to the coming Iraqi elections:
Children in Iraq could be legally married before the age of nine under sweeping legislation tabled on Tuesday that introduces new religious restrictions on women's rights. As almost its last act before elections at the end of the month, the Iraqi parliament looks likely to pass new marital rules for its majority Shia community with a draft law criticised by human rights activists as "legalised inquality"

The legislation has been approved by the governing coalition in an effort to attract support from Shia Muslims in the April 30 vote.

Current Iraqi law sets the legal age for marriage at 18 without parental approval and states girls as young as 15 can be married only with a guardian's approval. It does not allow for special provisions according to sect. But the legislation, known as the Jaafari law, introduces rules almost identical to those of neighbouring Iran, a Shia-dominated Islamic theocracy.
That's certainly an effective way to reduce the rate of illegitimate births by teenage mothers. Remember, we are reliably informed that representative democracy is the best possible form of government for all human population groups and sub-species. And since all morals and cultural norms are relative, on what basis can anyone complain about six-year old girls getting married, especially anyone living in a degraded culture where men can "marry" men, women can "marry" women, and female children are permitted to obtain contraceptives and abortions without parental consent.

It's democratic progress, ergo inevitable. Relax and enjoy it.


Lion's Den IX: Sarah Hoyt

Sarah Hoyt is dipping her toe into the cold, but liberating waters of independent publishing with her book WITCHFINDER. She describes it thusly:

In Avalon, where the world runs on magic, the king of Britannia appoints a witchfinder to rescue unfortunates with magical power from lands where magic is a capital crime. Or he did. But after the royal princess was kidnapped from her cradle twenty years ago, all travel to other universes has been forbidden, and the position of witchfinder abolished. Seraphim Ainsling, Duke of Darkwater, son of the last witchfinder, breaks the edict. He can't simply let people die for lack of rescue. His stubborn compassion will bring him trouble and disgrace, turmoil and danger -- and maybe, just maybe, the greatest reward of all.

Sarah adds: This book was very strange. First, it started as an almost joke.  A friend suggested we collaborate on it because, hey, people liked regency fantasies, and we wrote a proposal (which was nothing like this.  For one, it was for a much shorter book) and we sent it to my agent.  My agent first balked at sending it out because "you have a woman from present-day Earth and someone in the regency.  No one will know what to do with it."  (Apparently she never read things like Diana Wynne Jones Chrestomanci series or the ton of time travel romance books that were so popular in the eighties.  Okay, truth be told, I never read those either, but I DID hear of them.  Impossible not to.)  Then she sent it out under pressure (or at least she said she had) and the rejections agreed with her opinion. So, this book went in the drawer with about fifteen others that never sold in proposal.

Two and a half years ago when I started blogging every day (and wasn't out politically yet) my biggest issue was what to blog about.  (It still is, because there isn't something that fascinating to me every day.)  So I decided to make Fridays easier by posting a chapter of a novel every Friday.  Why Witchfinder?  No idea.  I think it more or less was the first one to come up.  Also, it was definitely not a Baen novel, so no problems with upsetting my publisher.

I wrote to my friend, asked her if she'd send me a quit-claim on the novel. She did.  I started posting it.  I thought it would be a shortish novel and never come out officially, but I gave people the option of donating $6 and when it was done, I'd edit it and send them an ebook.  I made $5k.  While it's not the advance I normally get for science fiction and fantasy, it was the advance I got from Prime Crime for mystery.  (SF/F pay me better.) Also, when I sent it out to be edited, my three editors who are two trusted friends and my husband (yes, I know typos escaped.  Part of it was the way it was written.  You should have seen it before) all thought I should publish it.  Which led to my publishing it.

But structure/plot/possibly typo-ing it all feels very odd to me.  If you'd asked me if I could write a novel a chapter a week over two years, I'd have said you were nuts.  And yet, when I read it (other than continuity typos, like people changing name, which I was still fixing at the last minute) it read as well (or as badly, depending on your opinion!) as any other of my works. Except perhaps the world building got WAY more convoluted than it normally does, because I world build in sudden fits of brilliance and a year and a half is a lot of time for such fits. So, in a way this novel is a first two ways: it's my first slow-written novel, and my first indie novel.

VD: If you're interested in reading WITCHFINDER, writing a review, and sending it to me for posting here, please send me an email with WITCHFINDER in the subject. And if you have any questions for Sarah about her book, please post them in the comments here.

I'm also looking for 10 launch reviewers for both a)  AWAKE IN THE NIGHT LANDS and b) TRANSHUMAN OR SUBHUMAN. For the former, you'll need to be able to read it and post a review on Amazon over the coming weekend. Email me with either AWAKE or TRANSHUMAN in the subject, but not both, please.


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