by liberal japonicus
Time for a little cleaning. I'm going to go through the blogroll and delete any blogs that aren't being regularly updated. Now's your chance to recommend some blogs or suggest some to be pruned.
I mean, a "military takeover of Texas"? In what world does this have any purchase at all, much less have a couple senators, the Governor of Texas, and muthafncking Chuck Norris join in? Don't answer that!
But how about this: can anyone point to a left-wing equivalent of something similar? There must be something. Or treat this as an open thread and have a margarita.
by liberal japonicus
Commentariat regular sanbikinoraion, despite his Japanese handle (it means 3-CLASSIFIER-lion) requested a UK election thread, which is a brilliant idea.
It's a pretty exciting contest, with not only Labour and the Conservatives (who currently have a coalition government with the Liberal Democrats and whose leader, Nick Clegg, may lose his seat in Parliament, as was observed in a question at a special BBC question time for the three) (here at the 1:38), but also the Scottish National Party, the Greens and the United Kingdom Independent Party (UKIP), which I'd say to be the rough equivalent of the US Tea Party playing a smaller role but potentially holding the key.
What do they have in common? Nothing I can think of, except I've talked about both today and I'm copypasting my remarks here, for reference and so other people can chime in. Talk about books! It's one of my favorite things.
To the Social Justice Warriors of Science Fiction publishing and fandom, the true and only purpose of science fiction is to promote increased equity in the arena of social justice.
One clear example that I know of: Redshirts.
Redshirts by John Scalzi was a fairly banal Star Trek fan-fic that featured a cast of Security that as I was told (never read it) was a fair SJW cross-section.
John Scalzi, although a cis-male, has relentlessly promoted social justice in various venues including purging the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America of persons who oppose the militant social justice approach or were otherwise in the way of promoting social justice.
-- by that last sentence, Ringo means "voted to kick out Vox Day for using organizational resources to make grossly racist and insulting statements about other writers." Militant stuff, you see.
It is, in fact probably the least racially/sexually diverse book I've written BECAUSE the characters were supposed to reflect a BAD show.
Indeed, when the TV script for it was written, they CHANGED the sex of a couple of characters to make it more diverse! This is true.
So it really is a bad example of a Social Justice-y sort of book. Much worse, in fact, than my OMW series in general.
In the subsequent discussion of Redshirts and how social justice-y it isn't, I commented:
I spend a lot of time on tumblr, native habitat of SJWs — I'm told I'm really more of a Social Justice Druid, myself.
For me, Redshirts was a pitifully inadequate, even timorous take on an issue we spend a lot of time discussing on tumblr. The reality in the TV & movie industry is that characters who aren't SWMs are disproportionately redshirted, or fridged, or otherwise killed off for the sake of the SWM leads' manpain and "personal growth".
Most of the redshirts in Redshirts are SWMs, so the text completely avoids noticing how many classes of people, watching a show like this one, have to armor ourselves against identifying with the people who look like us — because the people who look like us are going to be killed, or raped, or otherwise end badly.
I'm really glad to hear that the TV series may be including more non-SWM redshirts, but I wonder if that means they're going to engage with issues of representation, with how it feels when having a certain identity means you're bound to die "for the sake of the story".
I recently taught Till We Have Faces in a class on Mythic Fiction, here in Northwest Arkansas. About a third of my students were Evangelical & Homeschooled Christians, and thus big fans of Lewis, since he was very nearly the only fantasy writer they had ever been allowed to read, growing up (or even yet, I suspect). The rest, though, were standard issue American young adults / returning students (Veterans and older women and laid-off workers).
All of which is to say -- nearly all of them, even many of the Evangelical students, disliked Till We Have Faces intensely.
I also didn't like it. While I can see what Lewis is after, it feels very much as though he is rigging the game in that novel, if you see what I mean -- manipulating the actions of the characters to achieve the outcome he desires.
I don't (that is) believe those characters would in fact act that way. I believe Lewis wants to say something about mortal love v. Holy Love*, and thus constructed a plot that would let him say that thing.
It feels like a dishonest book, is what I am saying, I guess.
How odd. I LOVE Till We Have Faces, it's my favorite Lewis by far.
Why I love it (caveat: I haven't re-read it in 15-20 years): it's the *only* book I can think of which is really, truly about the "ugly princess", the one whom no-one *ever* thinks is beautiful, and who is never the object of anyone's desire.
Lewis really seems to understand, on a gut level, how defining beauty and its lack can be for women, how bitter and helpless it can make a woman feel.
See, that's one of the things I dislike most about the book.
For two reasons: (1) Yes, I know beauty is *supposed* to be the only thing that is important about a woman, but that is very much working from the Male Gaze, isn't it?
I mean, I know plenty of women who don't, in fact, have their lives ruined by their lack of beauty -- who have perfectly rich, valuable, and happy lives despite not being as lovely as the dawn.
And (2) I was also deeply annoyed that Lewis used the Queen's ugliness as both a symbol of her fallen soul *and* as the cause of her bitterness -- that is, it is her ugliness that makes her betray her sister: because she envies and hates her sister's beauty. So ugly women, you see, are wicked women. Only the beautiful woman is a good woman.
So I suppose what I mean is not that I dislike Lewis making an ugly woman his main character; I dislike what he then does with that main character.
I read it almost the opposite to you. Lewis didn't *make* the character "wicked", he started with a character who was supposed to be wicked and showed how she was human.
Lewis was writing fanfic, based on Cupid/Psyche (and any number of other myths & fairy tales). He asks the question, "why is the ugly sister always the bad one, and the beautiful sister the good one? How is that fair and right?"
Growing up (I was born in the mid-50s, so I'm probably a generation older than you) I felt this question *very* strongly and personally. It was a revelation to me to see a man who felt it, too.
What Till We Have Faces shows, for me, is Lewis saying that where men have the power and the Male Gaze is in fact a determining factor in women's lives -- a situation that seemed to me, as a child in the 60s, an accurate description of reality, not to mention accurate for historical reality -- ugly women become non-persons, and being a non-person is *bad* for people.
He's saying, suffering doesn't "ennoble" people, it doesn't make people better -- it *hurts*, and it keeps hurting, and the scars it leaves are actual impairments.
Orual isn't "wicked" (as the ugly sister is in a fairy tale or the original story), she's *hurt* and does the wrong thing in her pain. But she's also strong -- and her experience with suffering, her ability to keep going even though she's hurting, actually helps Psyche. Orual bears Psyche's pain and lightens her burden -- but Lewis doesn't show that making Orual's life all good and sweet.
Coincidentally, the only non-Puppy nominated for Best Pro Artist this year is last year's winner, Julie Dillon. I was surprised to learn that she's no relation to Leo & Diane, because the ethnic diversity of her models reminded me of theirs -- a rarity in SF/F, then and now.
In other words, while the big consumer world is at the theater gobbling up the latest Avengers movie, "fandom" is giving "science fiction's most prestigious award" to stories and books that bore the crap out of the people at the theater: books and stories long on "literary" elements (for all definitions of "literary" that entail: what college hairshirts are fawning over this decade) while being entirely too short on the very elements that made Science Fiction and Fantasy exciting and fun in the first place!
Among the many problems with this statement is that Worldcon members (that Hugo-voting "fandom" of which Torgersen speaks so sneeringly) did in fact give a Hugo to The Avengers, in the same year they gave the Best Novel Hugo to John Scalzi's Redshirts -- a work which, Scalzi admits, can only be called "long on literary elements" if you're making a joke.
So a lot of us having been talking about literary quality, writing quality, what is a genre, what is our genre, etc. I'm going to use this as an excuse to set down some things I've been thinking about for a while.
One of the most important things about fiction is that we read it for pleasure, for fun. What literary critics rarely discuss is that we all have different ideas about what is "fun".
This is one thing that being part of the fanfic community has taught me a lot about:
Your Kink Is Not My Kink, But That's OK
(I believe this expression, like a number of other useful concepts, came into fanficdom from the Usenet group alt.sex.bondage in the 1990s, before the World Wide Web was up and running.) The point of YKINMK is that you should never assume that what is pleasurable to you is pleasurable for everyone else in general or any one person in particular. People have different pleasures, and that's OK, that's one of the cool things about being a person.
Here's my preliminary typology of the pleasures people get, and seek, from fiction:
Prose, especially on the level of sentences, aka "literary style".
Characterization: how much the characters seem like real and/or vivid people to the reader.
Plot: both in the sense of narrative drive, and in the sense of logic and complexity.
Ideas: which probably also includes the "themes" beloved of high-school lit teachers. Can also be disparaged as "message".
Tropes: the stuff you like. For instance, there was a time when I read every time-travel story I saw, and I'm still likely to give one a try even if all signs point to "you'll regret reading this". For another instance, Mister Doctor Science will try almost anything involving sailing ships, or fencing. Maybe you like fashion, maybe you like space battles, or amnesia, or talking animals, or psychic powers, or divorce ... and now I'm wondering if I know of a novel with all these tropes at once.
Emotions: the feelings evoked in you, the reader. Reading about negative experiences and emotions can be a real, sought-after pleasure: sometimes you want to feel sad (or angry or depressed) about something that isn't you and that isn't real, if only to get the closure that comes from getting to the end of the book.
Different genres -- including literary fiction -- provide pleasure of different types and mixtures.
Literary fiction, IMHO, emphasizes the pleasures of prose and characterization above all, and is often quite shoddy about world-building.
For instance, I recently started Michael Faber’s The Book of Strange New Things, which was on the Locus Recommended Reading List for Science Fiction, but which I decided is litfic. I quit in Chapter 1 or so, when our hero was leaving to talk to aliens … from a carefully-described airport, vintage 2014. The world didn't match the story: sucky world-building, beautiful prose and characterization = literary fiction.
The science fiction and fantasy the Hugo awards voters like usually rates really high on world-building and ideas, but pretty often the characterization can go hang. In recent years there's been *slightly* more of a tendency than in the past for prose to be a factor, but it's still not really the most important thing.
I haven't spent all that much time trying to figure out What the Puppies Want and why they're so convinced the Hugo Awards have Lost Their Way, but a lot of it seems to be that they don't actually believe that recent award-winners are works the voters actually *like*. They don't think it's possible that Ancillary Justice ran the table on the awards last year because people *enjoyed* it, it must have been for a tremendous groundswell of affirmative-action-mindedness.
And this, it seems to me, is why (and how) the Puppies broke the Hugo Awards. Jeet Heer explains:
Taste is individual, not collective. Slate voting makes no sense because it is impossible for even a small group of people to have exactly the same taste, let alone a mob.
Agreeing on a slate allowed the Puppies, especially the Rabids, to overcome their numerical disadvantage and shut other voters' choices out of the running. But that agreement -- to pick the slate instead of thinking about, and then voting, their individual preferences -- is profoundly against the spirit of the awards.
But then, we're also talking about the kind of people who can claim they just want to promote "diversity on the Hugo ballot!" while making sure it reflects the choices and lines the pockets of one person in particular. Not to mention that they use the word Reactionary to describe their *opponents*. I can't figure out if this is Newspeak, or just ignorance.
Literary Reading, by Vladimir Makovsky (1866). I think maybe this is how the Puppies think the readers of "literary SF" make our decisions. What I want to know is, why does the standing man in the pale waistcoat look just like the reader? Is he supposed to be another writer?
On Tuesday we have the oral arguments in Obergefell v. Hodges regarding whether states can constitutionally discriminate on the basis of sex when it comes to granting certain contract rights and obligations to consenting adults. Some call this "same-sex marriage."
As usual, SCOTUSblog will be live blogging here beginning at 10:45am Eastern. I look forward to seeing whether Scalia explodes like that guy in Big Trouble in Little China (which is awesome, BTW (the movie, not Scalia exploding)).
I maintain my prediction of a 6-3 vote in favor of those attempting to get married, with a reasoning breakdown of 5 (Kennedy + 4), Roberts (concurring in the result but writing separately in an amazing tap dance of "I'm not really doing this even though it looks like I am" legal reasoning), and a "fiery" dissent (from the usual suspects, written by the aforementioned Scalia).
Unfortunately we will likely have to wait until the last day of the term to get the opinions. In the meantime, it would be irresponsible not to speculate!
The "broken windows" theory of policing was made widely known by the policies implemented in the 1990s by William Bratton in New York City. Basically, it suggests that small crimes (e.g. vandalism, public drinking and toll-jumping) going without response leads to major crimes. And that dealing visibly with small crimes helps to create an atmosphere of order and lawfulness, thereby preventing more serious crimes from happening. But does it?
On one hand, when that approach was implemented in New York City, the crime rate dropped. On the other hand, the crime rate was also dropping nationwide at about the same time. So, what other examples do we have?
In the 1960s, the speed limits on Interstate highways were 65 or 70 mph. In the mid-1970s, in response to the 1973 "oil crisis," the national maximum speed law set the maximum speed limit down to 55 mph. I don't know what happened as a result in the rest of the country, but in the West (specifically California) the result was minimal. Which is to say, people kept driving at nearly the same highway speeds as before.
But the interesting thing is what happened when the limit was largely removed in the late 1980s. In my observation, what happened was that people continued doing what they had been doing: which was typically driving on the highways at 10 mph above the speed limit.
Today, on the Interstates, one does see a lot of vehicles moving at 70 mph -- mostly big rigs (maximum legal speed 55 mph, as it always has been). Cars, on the other hand, most travel at 75-80 mph. Officers in the Highway Patrol will tell you (unofficially and off the record!) that, absent other factors, their threshold for writing speeding tickets is . . . 83 mph. So, massive -- one might almost say universal -- small crimes routinely in progress.
What one has not seen is
a) an outbreak of lawlessness in general, or even
b) routine speeding on roads other than the highways.
Which leads one to wonder, is the "broken windows" theory is simply wrong, at least as a theory of criminology?
Perhaps what dealing with small crimes, like those listed, actually does is merely give people to see that their local government really has some interest in them and their circumstances, and wants to make things better for them. (A feature which, in a lot of neighborhoods, has been not much in evidence previously.) And, therefore, makes the people more willing in turn to work with the city (including the police department) to make things better.
I sent a summary of my previous post to the Sasquan Hugo Committee, and they wrote back very promptly:
Thank you for your concern and suggestion. We have reviewed the nominations received this year thoroughly and are convinced that the nominations did not violate the rules governing the Hugos.
If you feel the rules should be changed, then that is something to be addressed at the Business meeting at Sasquan. Kevin Standlee is chairing the meeting this year and he can advise you of the procedures for initiating that discussion.
In that case, we can say that SP3, and almost certainly SP4, are working as the marketing department for Castalia House -- and doing an *outstanding* job. Congratulations.
As far as I know, a publisher has never before successfully manipulated Hugo nominations to get an entire slate, not just a single work, onto the ballot. The closest documented case was the 1987 Hugos, where Scientology publishers pushed L. Ron Hubbard's Black Genesis onto the ballot, along with a bunch of promotional material and displays that *really* put fans' backs up. Black Genesis finished below No Award.
Back in 2015, I'm going to think of the Sad Puppies campaign as a stalking horse for Castalia House and Vox Day's profits. I don't think for a moment that the urge to get money for Vox Day is *motivating* the Sad Puppies, but that's what they're *doing*, regardless of their motives. This probably means that next year will see a lot of No Award action, too, because I can't imagine that Day is going to stop using this proven technique to promote Castalia House and his pocketbook. I await with interest to see when (or if) the Sad Puppies will notice how they're being used. I also wonder if they'll respond by trying to distance themselves from Day, or if they'll double down and embrace him as the conservative SF publisher of their dreams.