The Milky Way over Monument Valley

Jul. 27th, 2017 04:36 am
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You don't have to be at Monument Valley to see the Milky Way arc You don't have to be at Monument Valley to see the Milky Way arc

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Posted by David Brin

Tactics and strategy.  

The Confederacy has taken Washington and -- as usual -- America (the Union) is slow responding to an all-out war against every logical or fact-using profession, against the Constitution and against common sense or decency.  Aware that they must act, leaders of the Democratic Party have announced a Better Deal, hoping to leverage in middle Americans a dim memory of the love that their parents -- The Greatest Generation -- had for FDR and his New Deal...

...and as usual, the Dems seem to be clueless.  None of this is about the economy. Nor will it be, until the Trump Recession begins. 

It is about memes. And psychology. And hate. And money. But most of all a deep, simmering confederate hate of all things urban, or scientific, or professional, or expert, or associated with despised universities... or the future.  In the face of such mindless, fevered hate, attempting to offer policy anodynes is just reinforcement of the nerd-wonky image that these folks already have, or democrats.

No, this will require adoption of a whole range of new tactics that directly deal with the psychology and money and the underlying hate.

Indeed some tactics should be blatantly obvious!  Like how to deal right now with a fragile-ego, prickly, mercurial, and flighty president. Earlier I proposed the "Short Straw Gambit"... how DP leaders should draw lots and the losers use flattery to end Donald Trump's dangerous isolation.  The flattery can be sardonic! It can be couched in ways that betray no principles and that are even obvious to Trump's cabal: Bannon & company! They'll scream: it's a trick! It won't matter. Even something as blatantly manipulative as this...

“I disagree with almost everything he says… but boy is our president good-looking for a man his age. Perhaps one of the most-handsome presidents in history.”
... will work! Even knowing he's being manipulated won't matter. Donald Trump likes people who flatter him. Period.  He will invite them to lunch, to golf. And those channels would then make a real difference. We are betrayed by those who refuse to use this! It could save all our lives.
== Ethics and Oversight ==

Who was (or is) on your side? The fiduciary rule, finalized by the Obama Labor Department in 2016, requires certain financial advisers to disclose potential conflicts of interest to clients. It also expands the types of advisers who are mandated by a “fiduciary” standard to act in their clients’ best interests, not their own. 

Read that twice. Until then, your “financial adviser” could legally steer you to investments benefiting her, not you, and not tell you. Democrats failed for decades to overcome Republican support for that system, by legislation, so Obama finally found a way to change it administratively, through the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. (Which Trump is trying to kill.)  Now the civil servants in Trump’s Labor Department appear to have prevailed in preventing DT’s people from rescinding that rule. An example of how we are being served, still, by a “United States Government.” Just not the Confederate preeners in Congress and the White House.  

For decades, POGO — the Project on Governmental Oversight — has worked with government insiders to expose wrongdoing that affects the public. I have long pushed for reliable, graduated and careful, but effective whistle-blower laws. 

You might think the independent Office of Government Ethics (OGE) would have authority to deal with this matter. But, it turns out, OGE not only lacks the proper authority to investigate ethics complaints, it also lacks the ability to discipline people for violations. POGO - the Project on Government Oversight - is urging Congress — specifically Reps. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) and Elijah Cummings (D-MD) — the respective Chairman and Ranking Member of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee — to expand the law so OGE has independent authority to investigate ethics complaints and issue corrective disciplinary actions for noncriminal violations. Here’s how you can help.

At his confirmation hearing, President Trump’s pick for deputy secretary of Interior told a Senate panel that the president’s political positions will be prioritized over the science when deciding agency policy -- such as drilling offshore or on public lands. 

For 6000 years, autocrats and oligarchs ruled badly because (being human) they suppressed facts. Their reign of error and terror ended when we found a better way, actually arguing and negotiating based on evidence. But the oligarchs are swarming back, financing a War on Science and every other fact-based profession.

This is life-or-death people. Look at the endless chain of horrors called "history," run by self--indulgent, cranky asshole-babies called "kings" and "lords" and owner aristocrats. Do you want that era back, but armed with atom bombs and genetic engineering?

The War on science is waged by enemies of your children. Stand up. Add your name to call out Trump's anti-science nominees on 314 Action.

== Boycotting madness and treason ==

Speaking of economics, many are riled enough to start using America’s inherent economic power against this era’s plantation lords. The economic weapon with potential immediate impact?  Boycotts.  Oh, but boycotting whom?

It seems easy to target Trump properties.  But all that will do is make the family sell hotel rooms to foreign governments and lobbyists even more unctuously than before -- and foreign purchases of U.S. hotel chains has been found to be directly related to industrial espionage, the stealing of trade secrets, and honeypot blackmail traps. (Be careful who you bring to your room, the walls have eyes and ears! And never let your electronics out of your sight.)  Still, have a look at the new "Boycott Trump App"  as well as the #GrabYourWallet list. And if he's your bette noir, then fine. 

But I am unimpressed with DT as a heroically evil figure. Far more hapless and now rather neutralized.

No, skip the symptom and go for the disease. It remains up to the nation to find some way to make the Fox News hypnosis model less profitable. Sure the boycott of Fox News advertisers is much, much harder for an average citizen than saying: “I won’t buy any Ivanka shoes or stay in a Trump Hotel!” Keeping track of a long list of Fox advertisers – and favoring their competitors – is far more taxing of time and inconvenience. 

Moreover, there’ll be times when you just have no other good choice. Or picking the alternative will make a real price difference. Or when it would mean dropping your gym or AARP membership. So?  Perfection and purity aren’t the aim!  What matters is overall movement.  

This could be your most powerful tool as an individual American – after voting and political activism and helping to keep your own state and locality above the sinking U.S. average. Especially if you form a little boycott club among Facebook friends and share lists and help each other to stick to a diet.

This could also extend to the gambling dens of Sheldon Adelson, who funneled $5 million to the Trump Inauguration, a fund that took in over a hundred million dollars in blatant bribes from oligarchs. Did this bother and of those who screamed about Clinton speaker fees, that were a thousand times smaller?

== A Great Hero? Not. But possible an American ==

Senator John McCain faces an especially aggressive and nasty form of cancer that's generally a death sentence. And this indeed, saddens me.

For all his many faults, John McCain is an adult and an American and not totally allergic to facts. In other words - not a confederate cultist deliberately helping to hijack U.S. conservatism. Oh, he has helped it happen, over and over. But at least he has rationalized reasons to believe he was doing the right thing. And on occasion, he has even spoken out against the madness, earning him plenty of ire.

Recall how Donald Trump mocked McCain with: “I like people who don’t get captured.” That’s just the tip. This Koch-ist shill decries John McCain for saying that Vladimir Putin is more dangerous than ISIS. But let’s be clear: Vladimir Putin - who I do admit and avow to be a genius — is organizing an "axis" of like-minded autocrats that stretches from Ankara, Damascus, Minsk and Tehran through its pivot in Moscow through the Altaic region to include now Manilla, with much friendly cooperation by Beijing.  

The shared narrative across this axis - that democracy is decadent and useless and dangerous and that the Western Enlightenment must be brought down - is now the core and driving philosophy promoted by the right-wing oligarchy in America, as well.  Given that this campaign has achieved a principal goal of discrediting -- in the eyes of 1/3 of Americans -- every single profession that deals in facts, from, science and journalism to the U.S. military Officer Corps...then yes, this foe is vastly, vastly more dangerous than ISIS.

Still, it comes down to this.  With little time left to accomplish anything, might John McCain gather together the 6 or 7 GOP senators who still view themselves as sapient and loyal Americans, and admit that their party is now pure treason?  If that core started a new, Adult American Responsible Conservative Party, millions would flock to their banners and McCain would go down in history as a great man.

I began this missive with a suggestion for some brave Democrats, to carefully and cleverly reach out to a flighty and terrified Donald Trump.  I finish with a desperate wish that a few Republicans - led by a man who should live up to his "hero" rep - to turn their backs upon that madness.

jimhines: (Snoopy Writing)
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By now, I imagine most of my fellow geeks are aware that when Peter Capaldi leaves Doctor Who in the coming Christmas special, he’ll be replaced by Jodie Whittaker. Naturally, not everyone was happy about the next Doctor being…gasp…a woman.

As the conversation progressed, I started to see more people suggesting the backlash wasn’t a thing. All they were seeing was people complaining about the backlash, as opposed to anyone actually being unhappy about a woman playing the Doctor. The whole thing was people getting angry over nothing, and feeding on each other’s anger.

Now Steven Moffat himself has joined in to proclaim, “There has been so many press articles about a backlash among the Doctor Who fandom about casting a female Doctor. There has been no backlash at all. The story of the moment is that the notionally conservative Doctor Who fandom has utterly embraced that change completely.”

Oddly, most of the people I’ve seen saying the backlash is imaginary, made-up, and/or blown completely out of proportion, have been men. Perhaps — and I’m just guessing here — because it’s easier for men to overlook sexism? Misogyny doesn’t directly affect us, so we’re less likely to notice it?

It’s like white people denying racism, straight people denying the hatred and intolerance of homosexuality, and so on. Just because we don’t see it — perhaps because we choose not to look, or perhaps because we’ve never learned to look — doesn’t mean it isn’t real.

For all those who share Moffat’s confusion, here are just a few examples of the ignorant, sexist, hateful, and sometimes flat-out batshit responses to Whittaker taking over as the Doctor.


“The replacement of male with female is meant to erase femininity. In point of fact, and no matter what anyone thinks or wishes, readers and viewers have a different emotional relationship to female characters as male. This does not mean, obviously, that females cannot be protagonists or cannot be leaders. It means mothers cannot be fathers and queens cannot be kings.

“…I have been a fan of Dr Who since age seven, when Tom Baker was the Doctor. I have tolerated years of public service announcements in favor of sexual deviance that pepper the show. But this is too much to tolerate.

“The BBC has finally done what The Master, the Daleks and the Cybermen have failed to do. They killed off the Doctor.”

John C. Wright (you may remember him from his freak-out over Korra and Asami.)


Over on Twitter, @TechnicallyRon took comments from angry Doctor Who “fans” and turned them into title cards.

Lisa Crowther also screenshotted some comments from angry Daily Mail readers.


Twitter also has plenty of comments like this fellow’s woeful lament, “And again the PC brigade get their way. R.I.P Doctor Who” (Source)


Joe Scaramanga’s response to this sexist twit was a thing of beauty.


British tabloid and shit-filled dumpster fire The Sun responded to the announcement by publishing nude photos of Judie Whittaker.


Caitlynn Fairbarns has rounded up a ton of the negative comments and reactions.


But remember everyone, it’s not about sexism!

“It’s a woman. That’s it, Doctor Who is ruined. Like I said, I’m not sexist, I just don’t think it’s a good idea.” –Mark S.W.


Now, folks might argue that the majority of Doctor Who fans are excited about the Doctor being a woman. (Though there’s a very real and valid frustration that we’re on our fourteenth doctor and the character has still been exclusively white.) Others will say some of the negative comments are coming from trolls just looking to get a reaction, or that of course Daily Mail readers are being horrid about Whittaker’s casting.

You might be right. That doesn’t change the fact that the negativity exists. It’s not one or two isolated assholes. It’s a real and significant thing, and it’s closely tied to the kind of harassment and disdain and hatred and other forms of sexism women deal with every day. Sexism that men so often don’t see. Sexism we respond to by telling women they’re overreacting, or they’re just imagining things, or that if they’d just stop talking about it the problem would somehow magically go away.

I get it. You’re tired of hearing people complain about sexism. Gosh, can you imagine how tiring it must be when you’re constantly on the receiving end of that sexism. Constantly being told you shouldn’t be allowed to play the same kinds of roles. Constantly being told your only worth comes from your body. Constantly being told your inclusion is some kind of public service announcement. Constantly having your accomplishments belittled as “PC pandering.”

Look, I wish we didn’t have folks like Wright rolling around with his head up his ass every time his Straight White Manliness feels threatened by a cartoon or a TV show or whatever else he’s scared of this week, but we do. Pretending otherwise not only turns a blind eye to the pervasiveness of sexism and other forms of bigotry, it also means turning your back on those who are directly targeted by that intolerance every day.

Mirrored from Jim C. Hines.

A Hybrid Solar Eclipse over Kenya

Jul. 25th, 2017 04:45 am
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Chasing solar eclipses can cause you to go to the most interesting places and meet the most interesting people. Chasing solar eclipses can cause you to go to the most interesting places and meet the most interesting people.

Three Hines Books On Sale!

Jul. 24th, 2017 12:56 pm
jimhines: (Snoopy Writing)
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I checked Amazon today and was surprised to see that three of my books are on sale in electronic format. Barnes and Noble doesn’t appear to have price-matched the sale yet (they have now!), and I don’t know if this is limited to North America, but here’s what I do know:

Libriomancer is on sale for $1.99.

Goblin Quest is on sale for $2.99.

The Stepsister Scheme is on sale for $2.99.

That’s book one of all three of my fantasy series. If you’ve been waiting to check out my stuff, this is the perfect time.

Mirrored from Jim C. Hines.

Trailer Roundup

Jul. 23rd, 2017 12:36 pm
jimhines: (Snoopy Writing)
[personal profile] jimhines

It’s movie trailer season!

1. Thor: Ragnarok – I love the banter between Thor and Hulk/Banner. Everything I’ve seen about this movie looks like fun.

2. Star Trek: Discovery – I’m intrigued enough to want to see more, and it will be nice to have some new television-style Star Trek. We don’t have CBS All Access, but I’m sure it will be available on Blu-ray eventually.

3. Ready Player One – I know a lot of people loved this one, but for some reason, the book just didn’t work for me, and the trailer seems to be following suit. The trailer looks pretty, but it doesn’t grab me.

4. Justice League – I don’t know. DC’s cinematic universe has let me down again and again…but then they did Wonder Woman, and I started to hope again. This looks like it could be fun. Or it could be a mess. I’m withholding judgement for the moment.

Which ones, if any, are you looking forward to?

Mirrored from Jim C. Hines.

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Posted by David Brin

A short one, this weekend... I'll have much more to say about the demise of Moore's Law... and the simultaneous sudden surge in software innovation, soon.

Here’s a deeply thoughtful and well supported missive on expertise, especially scientific, and the troubled way in which expert views are often over- or under-appreciated: The Crisis of Expertise by Tom Nichols, author of The Death of Expertise: The Campaign Against Established Knowledge and Why it Matters.

Tom Nichols doesn’t address vexatious issues like the War on Science, a politically propelled vendetta that has metastacized into a broad-front attack upon all fact-using professions. Nor does he explore the fascinating tradeoffs between two centuries — the 20th, which featured a Professionalization of Everything — and the 21st, whose amazing ‘Rise of the Amateur’ I document elsewhere.

No, this rumination zeroes in, thoughtfully, on the difficulty of truth-seeking and reliable verifiability in science, especially when it gives advice to policy.

== Beyond Moore's Law ==

The demise of Moore’s Law: “The computing industry is adjusting to the loss of two things it has relied on for 50 years to keep chips getting more powerful. One is Moore’s Law, which forecast that the number of transistors that could be fitted into a given area of a chip would double every two years. The other is a phenomenon called Dennard scaling, which describes how the amount of power that transistors use scales down as they shrink. Neither holds true today,” writes Tom Simonite in Technology Review. But this article asserts that it doesn’t matter, because while the pace of hardware improvement has slackened, coincidentally, the long-sluggish state of software has experienced some rapid surges with advances by Google and others in the field of Machine Learning.  

The Dark Secret at the Heart of AI: As Machine Learning takes off, it is important for humans to understand what’s going on under the hood, as we embark on an era when algorithm systems determine who makes parole, who’s approved for a loan, and who gets hired for a job? There’s already an argument that being able to interrogate an AI system about how it reached its conclusions is a fundamental legal right. Starting in the summer of 2018, the European Union may require that companies be able to give users an explanation for decisions that automated systems reach. This might be impossible, even for systems that seem relatively simple on the surface, such as the apps and websites that use deep learning to serve ads or recommend songs,” writes Wil Knight in Technology Review.

This raises mind-boggling questions. As the technology advances, we might soon cross some threshold beyond which using AI requires a leap of faith. Sure, we humans can’t always truly explain our thought processes either—but we find ways to intuitively trust and gauge people.” 

Hm, well, that intuition thing has always been iffy, even with each other.  No, what finally started with us was not understanding each other so much as gaining tools  to hold each other accountable. Which unleashed (in a few places) flat-fair competition.  Which unleashed creativity. But only where accountability could take root.

== Problems and solutions ==

Those of you who expected designed creatures any day now… “As CRISPR-Cas9 starts to move into clinical trials, a new study published in Nature Methods has found that the gene-editing technology can introduce hundreds of unintended mutations into the genome.  In other words… time for caution, children. Maybe even another Asilomar Conference.  

See this explored in more detail in: A Crack in Creation: Gene Editing and the Unthinkable Power to Control Evolution by Jennifer A. Doudna and Samuel H. Sternberg.

Steven Koonin (now at NYU/CUSP but previously Undersecretary for Science at the DOE) was a housemate of mine at Caltech. (We were all a wee bit in awe of Steve.) Steve has proposed an approach to resolving the (deliberately stirred) fog and murk around Climate Change in much the same way that I’ve proposed, for years — by creating an arena for full-frontal debate, dealing with every issue with a systematic, adversarial process. It’s natural that he should choose this path. Top scientists like Koonin and Roger Penrose (with whom I dined, last month) are among the most competitive humans our species ever produced. And with good reason, since that is how creative endeavors flourish. 

See Koonin's proposal outlined in A 'Red Team' Exercise would strengthen Climate Science.... which complements my own articles on reciprocal accountability. Our "arenas" of democracy,science, markets and courts all wither in darkness… and operate best in light.

Of course I have opinions as to which “side” would ultimately win such a healthy process, and today’s right has the same suspicion, illustrated by their desperate measures to avoid open fact-checking. Still, I am willing to be proved wrong and even fascinated, when that happens!  So bring on the “disputation arenas” that I’ve called-for, across 25 years!

 == Interesting snippets ==

Interesting study shows that dads are more attentive to their toddler daughters than sons and encourage more analytic thinking.  I would reckon this might be partially cultural and perhaps even a bit recent.A new kind of “flow battery” would let you replace the liquid electrolytes at a service station as fast as you fill now with a tank of gas, letting the old fluids get recharged by solar power.
A new kind of "flow battery" would let you replace the liquid electrolytes at a service station as fast as you fill now with a tank of gas, letting the old fluids get recharged by solar power.

This entertaining “Periodic Table of Irrational Nonsense” deliberately veers away from anything political – in other words the conspiracy theories and denialist cults that are harming us the worst. Still, it amusingly categorizes and arranges many of the silly fetishes that your neighbors (some of them, but never you!) indulge in.

Gangs of orcas and sperm whales are robbing halibut fishermen in the Bering Sea.The orcas will wait all day for a fisher to accumulate a catch of halibut, and then deftly rob them blind. They will relentlessly stalk individual fishing boats, sometimes forcing them back into port.” Oh, but elsewhere on the planet, pods of dolphins will herd schools of fish toward humans who share the catch. Should these halibut fellows study that trick? 

Cool Stuff Friday

Jul. 21st, 2017 12:22 pm
jimhines: (Snoopy Writing)
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Friday still hasn’t seen the new Spider-Man movie 🙁

Mirrored from Jim C. Hines.

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Posted by David Brin

Passing along news for anyone who is heading to Helsinki, for the World Science Fiction Convention. The week before, on 7th of August 2017, the Russian SF community (partly at my urging) is helping to host an International Futurological Conference “Book of the Future” in St Petersburg. "Speakers will discuss the future of literature and the transformation of the book concept because of technological changes in the creation and circulation of literature works and in access to the books, as well as structural changes in information consumption in society. Participation is free, but the organizers kindly request you to register right now." Write to

== What is Magic? ==

Over on Quora, someone asked: “What is the most interesting magic system from fantasy, sci-fi or anime?

You are all welcome to chime in! I have spoken about defining both "magic" and "fantasy" frequently. For example here. (I conclude that a sci fi novelist is the greatest magician, ever!)

But this Quora question was about magical systems and methods. So, let’s roll up our sleeves and dive in. Most magical systems rely upon a short list of basic fulcra:

1- Similarity — make something similar to the object you seek to control. A recognizable or realistic voodoo doll of a person. Or a  model of the valley where you want rain to fall.

2- Contagion - add something that was part of the object you wish to control, e.g. add a person’s real hair trimmings to the voodoo doll.

3- True Names. Related to similarity. You gain power if you know the object’s full (or hidden) names.

4- Appeal to powers. Invoke mighty spirits - or God - by offering what they want. Something valuable, ranging from a human sacrifice all the way to promising to be a good boy or girl. (Or try appealing to Tim Powers.)

5- Art. A florid- dynamic-dramatic verbal incantation helps… it is the technique used by cable news and politicians to dazzle millions into magical thinking and hostility to fact-based and scientific systems. Other art enhancements could be visual or musical. Heck, my incantation called Existence uses one million little black squiggles (letters) in a long-winding chain to cast an incantation that takes you on spectacular adventures in space and time!

Note that all of these seemed to be reasonable things for our ancestors to try, even though magic almost never worked in the physical, objective world. Why did they keep doing itthen, in every culture? First, because these are all methods that work… on our fellow human beings! Persuasion uses all of them and other humans are the most important part of the environment. It was just an extrapolation for people to believe they could also persuade the capricious and deadly forces of nature.

Second, pattern seeking. We invest our hopes into an incantation… and shrug off when it fails, but shout with confirmation, if the thing we wanted happens.

All told, magic has been a horrid sickness that hobbled humans for ages, preventing us from honestly separating what works from what doesn’t. But we are all descended from priests and shamans who got extra food and mates because they pulled off this mumbo-jumbo really well. Their genes flow through our brains, today. No wonder there’s a War on Science!

But if you truly want a different system of magic -- one that departs from all of the above -- try my fun novel The Practice Effect ;-)

== More from Quora ==

Another Quora science fiction question: What is the best sci-fi film/television franchise? Please do answer something other than Star Wars — mainly because it is more fantasy than sci-fi, regardless of the midi-chlorians.”

Okay, I'll bite:

Stargate was by far the best and most thorough exploration of a science fictional premise. It was tightly consistent and episodes all correlated with each other in a series of very well-managed plot and character arcs, while always striving to at least nod in the direction of scientific plausibility. It was also successful at engendering massive numbers of hours of diverse stories at a fairly low budget.

A final point about Stargate… it is one of the only SF franchises to revolve around a motif that is essentially optimistic. Yes, Earthlings emerge into a cosmos rife with danger -- but logic and goodwill and courage generally combine well in a can-do spirit that encourages hope and belief in ourselves. 

Of course, the equally good Star Trek had all of those traits, with a bit lower score (though still pretty high) on consistency, with even more hours and even more optimism.

Ranking in the same general area - with similar qualities - would be Babylon Five.

See where I explain why optimism is so hard to do in sci fi, and hence so rare: The Idiot Plot.

An excellent SF TV franchise at the opposite end of the optimism scale would be the remake of Battlestar Galactica. The premise and universe remained kinda dumb. But it had the best damn writing team imaginable. You had to watch.

The new The Expanse has similar qualities. Of course Firefly was wonderful, filled with zest and joy of life.

See where I dive into a lot of similar topics, in articles and postings about sci fi media and dystopias: Speculations on Science Fiction

Oh, and there are other ways to ask me questions, than Quora. (And this blog's comment section.) I give one minute answers - by voice, on your phone - to your questions via the Askers App

== Visions of the future ==

Some of you may have noticed the cool – if somewhat cryptic – advert campaign from Arconic Corp., giving us 60 seconds of lavish-filmic updating of the most famous future-utopian family. The year 2062 reimagined by filmmaker Justin Lin.

If you haven’t seen it, drop everything for some badly needed cheering up about tomorrow… and a glimpse of how advertising oughta be. And more about Arconic.

For a more in-depth exploration, listen to the podcast Novum: the intersection of science fiction and advertising. Best show about Science Fiction out there. Do leave a comment!

How to See Star Wars for What It Really Is: This article from Big Think reprises and discusses my impudent assertion that Star Wars has become relentless propaganda against civilization, in favor of feudalism and demigod-worship. Even the "rebels" buy in to the assumption. In this reflex, Star Wars isn't alone. Almost all fantasy stories before 1800 preached demigod worship, as did the Nazis, the Confederates and (scratching the surface) recent trends in U.S. politics. Certainly almost every single story by the gifted dazzler Orson Scott Card in the last 25 years preaches handing all power over to some mutant chosen-one, as do 90% of Fantasy tales and (alas) a large fraction of so-called "science fiction" stories. 

The contrasting mythos of Star Trek has been a rebel against this ancient and deeply sick meme. But lately, Star Wars is winning. See how the Chinese agree with my interpretation. 

Another Star Wars vs Star Trek contrast – by Manu Saadia (author of Trekonomics, The Economics of Star Trek) in the New Yorker - describes what might be the premise for Peter Thiel’s  anomie versus Trek and his preference for the rule by tyrants and demigods, in George Lucas’s cosmos. (Critiqued in my book Star Wars on Trial.) While Thiel’s devotion to the Randian-Ubermenschian wing of libertarianism is well-established, I think this author may be over-reaching, in this case. Moreover, the notion that a generous and free post-scarcity society will lack competition is a flaw in Saadia’s entire construct. Indeed, no realm of human activity has ever been more competitive than the two that flourish in a Trekkian world – the arts and the sciences. 

Still, one thing is amply demonstrated by this article… the fact that the New Yorker, along with the Atlantic, Harpers and the rest of the New York liter-artsy community, have completely dropped their former, reflexive hatred for science fiction! Back in TwenCen, these zines used to issue hit pieces against SF in regular rhythm. Now, all of that is gone, and no one seems more eager to discuss SFnal concepts, using SF'nal tropes to make comparisons.

If this transition to future orientation would only rise within the halls of literary academe – the English and Literature departments that still fester with resentment toward the most fecund and creative (and most-American) genre – then perhaps the side of our society that dreams of progress will be united at last, and ready to take on the real enemies of progress. 

Sharing my dismay over Lucasian silliness, though for different reasons…. Here’s a fascinating and fun reminiscence by legendary author Michael Moorcock, of his friend Arthur C. Clarke, with insights into the making of 2001: A Space Odyssey. 

And here, we've established UCSD's new Arthur C. Clarke Center for Human Imagination, where the sciences and arts come together to explore humanity's most unique gift. 

OK SciFi take yer bows. You predicted this! Giant, Man-amplifying waldo robots are here!

Reality TV with a better than average premise. Contestants try to drop out and hide  as if being hunted… and they are!  By retired or profession cops and such, on HUNTED. Of course science fiction has been there.  

Final note... spread the word to your nerdiest Science Fiction scholars!  Those with shelves that groan under rows of old Astounding and Amazing magazines. Those of you who remember plot gimicks and twists you read as a teen.  Society needs your deep memory of past SF thought experiments!  Stay tuned for something called TASAT ("There's a Story About That.") Your nerdy memories may wind up helping to save the world!

Hey... it culd happen!

The masterful art of manipulation

Jul. 18th, 2017 03:13 pm
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Posted by David Brin

== Collusion or treason? ==

While it’s now absolutely verified that Russia tried to interfere in our elections -- and the smokey stench of collusion by the American right has parted to reveal treasonously criminal flame – the most significant cheats warping our democracy are (so far) perfectly legal.  

Take the cheat of hyper-partisanship. As I write this, Former U.S. House Speaker Dennis Hastert has just been released from prison. For 6 years this admitted child molester was head of the entire Republican Party and the GOP's standard bearer. His "Hastert Rule" punished any Republican who negotiated - even over vital national interest - with any Democrat, helping Rupert Murdoch to make the GOP the most tightly disciplined partisan machine in U.S. history.

It was Hastert's #2 Republican - Tom DeLay also later a convicted felon - who raised political cheating to a high art, through the outrage called Gerrymandering. But now that seems  so quaint and 20th Century, because the computer-connected age has brought us something even more scary: using Big Data to target and manipulate individual voters. This deep report by Newsweek -- How Big Data Mines Personal Info to Craft Fake News and Manipulate Voters -- will inform (and scare) you.

Big Data, artificial intelligence and algorithms designed and manipulated by strategists like the folks at Cambridge Analytica have turned our world into a Panopticon, the 19th-century circular prison designed so that guards, without moving, could observe every inmate every minute of every day. 

"Our 21st-century watchers are not just trying to sell us vacations in Tuscany because they know we have Googled Italy or bought books about Florence on Amazon. They exploit decades of behavioral science research into the flawed, often irrational ways human beings make decisions to subtly “nudge” us—without our noticing it—toward one candidate.” writes Nina Burleigh.

Democrats are scurrying to play catch-up. But that's not the ideal method to crack today's online "nuremberg rally" echo chambers of self-reinforced opinion (that I predicted in EARTH (1989).)  Far better will be to send emissaries who can shatter the manipulation face-to face. As I describe in this earlier three-parter. 

== Deep State ==

The alt-right coalition of confederates, feudalists and foreign lords all know that their hold on Red America will shatter, if hundreds of retired officers run for office, in every conservative state assembly district.  And hence, they are busy undermining our longstanding respect for those who serve and who served, not just with courage but also fierce intelligence and attention tho things called facts.

Know the "deep state" meme for what it is. The first salvo of a campaign against the last fact-centered professions to be attacked by the crazed right -- civil servants, the intelligence community, law professionals and the military officer corps who keep us safe. All have balked at the Fox-Murdoch-Koch-Putin-Saudi led War on Science, journalism, teaching, economics, medicine and every other reality-centered group in American life.

You ask: how do they think they'll get away with including military officers and the FBI on their enemies list? The answer: distraction with paranoid fantasies! It's all a big conspiracy! Keep pointing at the "elites" who know stuff and who use facts! Millions of Americans will keep turning their gaze away from the rapid gathering of feudal power into the hands of just a few hundred families.

Oh, sure, let's have transparency and accountability in government! State functionaries could become dangerous, though I know a lot of them and this generation, at least, is almost entirely sincere. We can remind our watch dogs to stay loyal dogs -- not wolves -- with leashes of accountability. Not by spewing hate at them, just because they believe in objective reality.

I'll be talking about it this weekend, at Freedom Fest, the annual conclave of Libertarians, in Las Vegas.  And yes, I am an impudent dissenter, talking up Adam Smith and Robert Heinlein as alternatives to the "hate-only-government" obsession that is pushed by proto-feudal lords. Whether you believe it or not, I feel the soul of libertarianism is worth fighting for!)

Okay, so here is where we draw a line, folks. Leap (fast and hard!) upon every single use of the term "deep state" by hypocrites who wave flags on Veteran's Day, then screech hate at our defenders, at the behest of oligarchs. Be ready for this latest venom and reflect it back. 

In the 1950s, attacking the U.S. Army was Joe McCarthy's last and fatal mistake.  May it be so again. 

== Media to the rescue ==

There is reassurance.  Every new media system was at first used by cynical manipulators. The printing press first poured forth hateful tracts that exacerbated Europe’s 17th Century religious wars. 1930s radio and loudspeakers empowered gifted, callous Svengalis. But over time, civilization developed immune systems. And the new techs actually helped to make us broader, more perceptive and better.

And so. Hey sane-conservatives. You need to add the Evonomics site to your reading every week. Sure, your reflex will be to dismiss these folks as "lefties." But they are the people mentioning and citing Adam Smith more than anyone else.  They truly want Capitalism to work.

Indeed, it worked in the 1950s and 60s, delivering rapid growth at low class-wealth disparity, under "rooseveltean" rules and tax rates that our parents in the Greatest Generation approved and worked well under. Rules and rates that partisans systematically dismantled, starting with Ronald Reagan, making Supply Side Voodoo promises that never once came true, ever, even once.  And growth rates declined and wealth disparities rose, with every move away from the Greatest Generation's social contract.

Just saying, man...

jimhines: (Snoopy Writing)
[personal profile] jimhines

“There is a common poor attempt at a joke … that consists purely in stringing together a series of marginalized identities and calling attention to it … as if the mere existence of someone like that would be so absurd it could only be laughable.”

Invisible 3 CoverAlliah is one of the contributors to Invisible 3, which came out on June 27 and includes 18 essays and poems about representation in science fiction and fantasy. You can order the collection at:

Amazon | B&N | Kobo | iBooks | Smashwords | Google Play

Any profits from the sale of the collection go to Con or Bust, helping fans of color to attend SF/F conventions.

As with Invisible and Invisible 2, the contributors to this third volume have shared work that’s heartfelt, eye-opening, honest, thoughtful, and important…not to mention relevant to so much of what we see happening in the genre today.


Our Hyperdimensional Mesh of Identities

Growing up in the 90s and early 00s in the south-east of Brazil, all I saw in mainstream media were the same repetitive, harmful and offensive stereotypes about travestis in telenovelas and badly written comedy TV shows, and the effeminate gay men and macho lesbian women token characters whose non-conforming gender expression was grossly caricatured for cheap laughs.

As an openly queer young girl in school, I learned that I could be queer, but not too much, not too visibly. I’ve heard those laughs, and I internalized through bullying and ridicule that I should change how I presented myself to the world—which I did really fast by becoming the stock image of a non-threatening feminine girl, although I never hid my sexuality. My first awkward attempts at a masculine gender expression didn’t have time to blossom. I shoved it down some unreachable recess of my mind and avoided it for 10 years, which (along with compulsive heterosexuality and a binary cisnormative culture) is why it took me so long to understand my bisexuality and figure out my transmasculine non-binary gender identity.

Once I did, I uncovered a gender euphoria I’ve been cultivating ever since.

It took me years to understand the ways in which I inhabit my queer transmasculine genderfluid neuroatypical body, and my most powerful illumination came unexpectedly through the stories of a queer non-binary neuroatypical green witch: Elphaba Thropp, the Wicked Witch of the West.

Wicked: Cover ArtI first met her in the book series The Wicked Years by Gregory Maguire, where most aspects about her gender and sexuality were ambiguous or obscured between the lines, and later in fan fiction, where the depths of Elphaba’s intersectional identities (canon or not) could be explored to the fullest by writers that shared those same identities.

Despite being an avid reader of speculative fiction since childhood, it was only after these encounters with trans and non-binary characters in fan fiction during the first half of my twenties that I started researching these topics, that I found out where I belonged. I discovered a thriving community of authors from marginalized groups creating astonishing rebellious versions of every world I’ve ever dreamed of and countless others I couldn’t imagine would be paramount to my process of liberation.

I owe it mostly to the fictional characters and their creators that illuminated me—from early readings like Virginia Woolf’s Orlando to the most recent fan fiction stories about a non-binary autistic Elphaba, a genderfluid bisexual Korra (from The Legend of Korra), and an agender transhumanist Root (from Person of Interest). I wish I could’ve met them sooner. Along the way to self-discovery, I had to collect all sorts of missing pieces with jagged edges and weird fractal shapes, and figure out a way to put them together myself. I was lucky to stumble upon the stories that I did and then to be able to find the communities that I needed. That’s why representation is vital. You cannot search for something you don’t even know exists.

There is a common poor attempt at a joke (that I’ve seen in both Anglophone and Brazilian online spaces), often directed at dehumanizing non-binary people and mocking activists working at the multidimensional core of intersections, that consists purely in stringing together a series of marginalized identities and calling attention to it, using the accumulation of these identities as a joke in and of itself, as if the mere existence of someone like that would be so absurd it could only be laughable.

One of the things fantasy author Jim Anotsu and I wanted to acknowledge when we wrote the Manifesto Irradiativo—our call to diversity and representation in Brazilian speculative fiction—is that our lives cannot be reduced to an isolated shelf in a bookstore or a niche market, thus we cannot be constrained to discussing the realities of our identities in those compartmentalized terms. We’re so much more than single-issue stories, than the same old one-dimensional narratives constructed to serve the gaze of the oppressor without making them examine their privileges and dismantle their systems of violence.

Those single-issue stories exist and persist for several reasons concerning the maintenance of racial, economic, and social power, amongst them because there is a fear of “too much” diversity. As if a book about a bipolar asexual bigender Afro-Brazilian person, for example, would scare away or alienate the common reader—who is always presumed to be the neurotypical cis straight white default that can handle only one unit of diversity at a time, served lukewarm, unseasoned. But as Audre Lorde said in a 1982 speech at Harvard University: “There is no such thing as a single-issue struggle because we do not live single-issue lives.”

Stories matter. And we shouldn’t have the full extent of our existences cut, segregated, and dimmed in them. We deserve to live as a hyperdimensional mesh of identities when they want to flatten us, to be loud when they want to silence us, to occupy the spaces that have been negated to us, and to be wonderfully written and represented as such.


Alliah/Vic is a bisexual non-binary Brazilian writer and visual artist working in the realms of the weird and pop culture. They’re the author of Metanfetaedro and have various short stories published in themed collections and on the web. They’re currently building too many independent projects, working on their first novel, and haunting your internet cables. Find them tweeting at alliahverso and newslettering in Glitch Lung. Or buy them a coffee at ko-fi!

Mirrored from Jim C. Hines.


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