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Adam-Troy Castro: Young People Read Old SFF: "Nobody discovers a lifelong love of science fiction through Asimov, Clarke, and Heinlein anymore, and directing newbies toward the work of those masters is a destructive thing, because the spark won't happen. You might as well advise them to seek out Cordwainer Smith or Alan E. Nourse—fine tertiary avenues of investigation, even now, but not anything that's going to set anybody's heart afire, not from the standing start. Won't happen...

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Hoisted from the Archiyes: Why We Hate Chickenhawks: Selections from SFF Author David Drake

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David Drake, a good chunk of whose work is best classified as horror and is really about his experiences as an interrogator in the 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment, the "Blackhorse", when it went through the Cambodian market town of Snuol:

I [now] had much more vivid horrors than Lovecraft's nameless ickinesses to write about.... I wrote about troopers doing their jobs the best they could with tanks that broke down, guns that jammed—and no clue about the Big Picture.... I kept the tone unemotional: I didn't tell the reader that something was horrible, because nobody told me.... Those stories... were different. They didn't fit either of the available molds: "Soldiers are spotless heroes," or... "Soldiers are evil monsters"... [...] The... stories were written with a flat affect, describing cruelty and horror with the detachment of a soldier who's shut down his emotional responses completely in a war zone... as soldiers always do, because otherwise they wouldn't be able to survive. Showing soldiers behaving and thinking as they really do in war was... extremely disquieting to the civilians who were editing magazines...

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Hoisted from the Archives: Why We Have Good Reason to Hate Chickenhawks

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Hard Power, Soft Power, Muscovy, Strategy, and My Once-Again Failure to Understand Where Niall Ferguson Is Coming From: Live from Le Pain Quotidien: In which I once again fail to understand where Niall Ferguson is coming from:

Niall Ferguson: The ‘Divergent’ World of 2015: "Hard power is resilient...

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Weekend Reading: Trust and the Benefit of the Doubt

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Weekend Reading: Dietz Vollrath sends us to a classic story from the late Douglas Adams: Douglas Adams: Trust and the Benefit of the Doubt: "This actually did happen to a real person, and the real person was me. I had gone to catch a train. This was April 1976, in Cambridge, U.K. I was a bit early for the train. I’d gotten the time of the train wrong. I went to get myself a newspaper to do the crossword, and a cup of coffee and a packet of cookies. I went and sat at a table. I want you to picture the scene. It’s very important that you get this very clear in your mind. Here’s the table, newspaper, cup of coffee, packet of cookies. There’s a guy sitting opposite me, perfectly ordinary-looking guy wearing a business suit, carrying a briefcase. It didn’t look like he was going to do anything weird. What he did was this: he suddenly leaned across, picked up the packet of cookies, tore it open, took one out, and ate it...

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Note to Self: Enjoyed Cherryh and Fancher's Alliance Rising very much, but... I wish I had read something else this past week and had saved this for five years from now, when The Hinder Stars II, III, and... IV? would be out...

For reasons I do not fully understand, these days publishers seem to want to greenlight books where the authors say: “and we have already written to sequels!” This then creates the problem of how to end the first book with a satisfactory plot resolution while still leaving a bigger story open for the sequels. It is a hard problem. And, much as I enjoyed reading Alliance Rising, Cherryh and Fancher did not quite manage to make it work.

Mind you, it is close—If only Jen-and-Ross-Together had been given twice the screen time, 40% rather than 20% of the book, it would have been a wonderful Happy-for-Now romance In addition to all of its other excellences. And overshadowing it all is that it is all going to end very badly for a great many of the major characters: Because I do not remember hearing about them in any previous Cherryh book, I fear for the ships Rights of Man and Galway and for the entire Monahan family. And I know that Alpha Station becomes a Mazianni military base. I have a bad feeling about Hinder Stars II, III, and... IV?: C. J. Cherryh and Jane S. Fancher: Alliance Rising: The Hinder Stars I https://books.google.com/books?isbn=0756412730...

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J.R.R. Tolkien: The Bespelling of Morgoth: From The Lay of Leithian: Canto XIV: Weekend Reading

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Or is it the Vamping of Morgoth? "For Lúthien hath many arts/for solace sweet of kingly hearts..."

J.R.R. Tolkien: The Lay of Leithian: Canto XIV:

There came a slow and shuddering change:
the batlike raiment dark and strange
was loosed, and slowly shrank and fell,
quivering. She stood revealed in hell.

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Homer's Odyssey Blogging: "Like Little Birds... They Writhed with Their Feet... But for No Long While..."

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So let me procrastinate some more this morning...

Let me riff off of something that crossed my desk last night: Emily Wilson's reflections on her translation of the Odyssey, and on the Odyssey itself. There is one passage that always has been, to me at least, horrifyingly freaky in a very bad way. As David Drake—one of my favorite science fiction and fantasy authors—puts it:

Odysseus caps his victory by slowly strangling–the process is described in some detail–the female servants who have been sleeping with Penelope’s suitors. This is only one example (although a pretty striking one) of normal behavior in an Iron Age culture which is unacceptable in a society that I (or anybody I want as a reader) would choose to live in... a hero with the worldview of a death camp guard...

Indeed:

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Martha Wells's "Artificial Condition" Is Strongly Recommended

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Very strongly recommended: Martha Wells: Artificial Condition: The Murderbot Diaries.

This is one scene: perhaps the best "tell, not show" scene I have read in a long time: Martha Wells: The Last Stand of the Four ComfortUnits of Ganaka Mining Pit: "In the corridor near the living quarters, I found the other ready room, the one for the ComfortUnits...

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Martha Wells Is a Galactic Treasure...

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Terminator, if the Terminator were incredibly shy, were addicted to watching soap operas, and were genuinely driven to protect and serve. Martha Wells is making very interesting comments on artificial intelligence, human connection, and narrative and cognition here: Martha Wells All Systems Red: "I COULD HAVE BECOME a mass murderer after I hacked my governor module, but then I realized I could access the combined feed of entertainment channels carried on the company satellites...

...It had been well over 35,000 hours or so since then, with still not much murdering, but probably, I don’t know, a little under 35,000 hours of movies, serials, books, plays, and music consumed. As a heartless killing machine, I was a terrible failure. I was also still doing my job, on a new contract, and hoping Dr. Volescu and Dr. Bharadwaj finished their survey soon so we could get back to the habitat and I could watch episode 397 of Rise and Fall of Sanctuary Moon...

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Vikings and Zombies and Magicians and Dinosaurs, Oh My!

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Graydon Saunders has “committed book” again. The Human Dress is live at Google Play Books. If this is the kind of thing you like, you will like this thing—I like it very, very much. Vikings and zombies and magicians and dinosaurs and much much much more.

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Wakanda and the Resource Curse

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Wakanda and the Resource Curse: Wakanda’s prosperity is based on its possession of vibranium, a stable transuranic elements with unique And extraordinary chemical properties. Yet those of us who have studied the history of emerging markets with powerful natural resource advantages would fear for the present and future of an emerging market country that based its prosperity on such a road so very vulnerable to the “resource curse“.

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Live from Rant Central: Charlie Stross has had it with you people—those of you people who abandon worldbuilding and the exploration of possible human civilizations different from ours in the future direction for spectacle, and warmed over Napoleonic or WWII stories in fancy future dress: Charlie Stross: Why I barely read SF these days: "Storytelling is about humanity and its endless introspective quest to understand its own existence and meaning...

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Should-Read: I have to think about this. Yes, distributions have lower tails. but it still seems to me that the absence of clearly visible life out there is powerful evidence that there is a "Great Filter": that one of the parameters (or more than one of the parameters) in the Drake Equation is near zero. Sandberg et al. seem to me to be arguing not so much that the absence of visible life out there is likely even if none of the parameters are near zero, but that our uncertainty is so great that it is not surprising that the universe we live in has one or more parameters near zero even though the average value of each parameter across all universes we might live in is larger: Anders Sandberg, Eric Drexler and Toby Ord: Dissolving the Fermi Paradox: "The Fermi question is not a paradox...

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The Robert Heinlein Wars, Part MDCCLXIV: Hoisted from 2006

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The Robert Heinlein Wars, Part MDCCLXIV http://www.bradford-delong.com/2006/12/the_robert_hein.html: John Scalzi watches as Dave Itzkoff begins another round of the Heinlein Wars:

Whatever: NYT Review Fallout: There's been some interesting commentary and discussion following Dave Itzkoff's NYT Book Review piece on me and my books, so I thought I'd post links to some of them I've found, for the edification of Whatever readers. In no particular order: Instapundit notes the piece, and has some thoughts on the idea of [Robert Heinlein's novel] Starship Troopers being fascist, roping in Spider Robinson to rebut that claim...

I would dispute Scalzi's claim that either Glenn Reynolds or Spider Robinson has "thoughts" on this issue. I would characterize them as having "reflexes."

I think I had some "thoughts" on this issue some 10^8 seconds ago:

The Starship Troopers novel I originally read in the early 1970s had four layers:

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Weekend Reading: Ursula LeGuin (2007): Genre Fiction

Weekend Reading: Ansible 240, July 2007 http://news.ansible.uk/a240.html#leguin: On Serious Literature:

Michael Chabon has spent considerable energy trying to drag the decaying corpse of genre fiction out of the shallow grave where writers of serious literature abandoned it... Ruth Franklin (Slate, 8 May 2007)

Ursula K. Le Guin: Something woke her in the night...

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Monday Smackdown: Why Do I Find John McWhorter so Annoying?

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Is it me? Or is it him?

I find an interesting link on Making Light http://nielsenhayden.com/makinglight/archives/016593.html, follow it, immediately find that the introduction annoys me—gets my back up—and then I notice that it is by John McWhorter. Other people like McWhorter a lot: http://nielsenhayden.com/makinglight/archives/016593.html#4335396.

But I read:

John McWhorter: English is not normal https://aeon.co/essays/why-is-english-so-weirdly-different-from-other-languages: "Hwæt, we gardena in geardagum þeodcyninga þrym gefrunon...

...does that really mean ‘So, we Spear-Danes have heard of the tribe-kings’ glory in days of yore’? Icelanders can still read similar stories written in the Old Norse ancestor of their language 1,000 years ago, and yet, to the untrained eye, Beowulf might as well be in Turkish...

And my immediate response is: the cards have been dealt from the bottom of the deck here.

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Essence of Decision: Understanding the Real History of the Imperial and Succession Wars: Hoisted from The Archives

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Hoisted from The Archives: Essence of Decision: Understanding the Real History of the Imperial and Succession Wars: The fall of the Empire, and the failure of its successor states to re-establish order in the galaxy, is usually mistold in the history books.

Popular, semi-academic, and even academic authors write it as a combination of tabloid soap opera and personal heroics: villains, Jedi Knights, stunning double crosses, the Palpatine succession, and--of course--the bizarre and incomprehensible repeated cross-generational psychodramas of the Skywalker family.

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Should-Read: We are narrative-loving animals. It's how we think. We are jumped-up East African Plains Apes, only 3000 generations removed from those who first developed language, trying to understand the world as monkeys with, as Winnie-the-Pooh would say, “very little brain”. We are lousy at remembering lists—that is why we need to write them down. We are not much good at retaining sets of information—unless we can, somehow, turn them into a journey or a memory palace. We are excellent, however, at remembering landscapes. And we are fabulous at stories: human characters with believable motivations; beginnings, middles, and endings; hubris and nemesis; cause and effect; villains and heroes. To place ideas and lessons in the context of a story is a mighty aid to our thinking:

Charles Stross: Why Scifi Matters More When the Future Looks So Dangerous: "Near-future scifi is not a predictive medium: it doesn’t directly reflect reality so much as it presents us with a funhouse mirror view of the world around us...

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“Winter, Spring, Summer, Fall; Death is the Fifth, and Master of All”: The Fifth Season by N. K. Jemisin | Tor.com

Live from the Kansas City Convention Center: Niall Alexander: [“Winter, Spring, Summer, Fall; Death is the Fifth, and Master of All”: The Fifth Season by N. K. Jemisin][]:

An orogene, or—if you want to be a bigot about it, as most of the people of the Stillness do, to be sure—a rogga...

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Must-Read: Leah Schnelbach: Thinking Through Violence in The Just City and The Philosopher Kings:

In a different book, the narrative would become either ‘Maia’s recovery’ or ‘Ikaros’ redemption’, and Walton would track their lives and relationships with this night as a fulcrum point. Instead, it’s one night in their lives...

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Live from the Gamma Quadrant: The Star Trek movie reboot series strips the utopian core out of Star Trek--and continues the process of turning it into a third-rate "Guardians of the Galaxy" knockoff...

A.X.S.: “Star Trek: Beyond” strips politics from the universe:

The television series and some of the films studiously explored the big moral questions facing a bloc as diverse as the Federation, from the limits on cultural integration right through to how a peace-loving organisation should tackle imperial forces.

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"Her Strong Enchantments Failing..." Blogging

What would a hybrid tentacled-horror unholy cross between H.P. Lovecraft and Tom Clancy write if it set out to do a sendup of Anne McCaffrey, Bram Stoker, and J.R.R. Tolkien?

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Live from the Borderlands of Faerie: At Charlie Jane Anders's Writers with Drinks last Saturday night, Charles Stross read the opening to his brand-new The Nightmare Stacks. The whole is excellent. The opening is very, very fine and well-done. But the opening does not give an accurate picture of the full craziness.

So here is another passage. In this passage, the horns of Elfland call "boots and saddles", and we watch the Wild Hunt of the Unseelie Court of Faerie as the Queen of Air and Darkness prepares to take to the skies. Weyr Search was never like this:

Charles Stross: The Nightmare Stacks: "As the huge moon sets and the sky darkens towards true night...

...the ground crews in Malham Cove prepare the first two firewyrms for flight. Strikers One and Two are fettered, quiescent, upon the cracked limestone and grass below the cliff face. The dragons’ barrel-thoraxes rise and fall slowly, air pumping through their air sacs. Their legs, weak and hollow-boned, are splinted with a filigree of titanium trusses to stop them shattering under the weight of riders and weapons payloads. Woven copper wire hoses vanish into mouth and rectum, driven by moaning ventilator boxes to keep the corrosive fumes away from anyone who might approach them. Once airborne the deadly fluoritic acid (a decomposition product of wyrmspit) will diffuse away naturally, but close to the ground it can dissolve the bones inside the ground crew before anybody notices.

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Weekend Reading: John Scalzi: How Blogs Work Today

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John Scalzi: How Blogs Work Today: "My piece... on Clinton and Sanders blew up... with roughly 75,000 views over two days...

...This gave me an excuse to check my referrers and ego search on Google and see a bit of who was talking about the post and/or sending people my way. What I found: Facebook was by far the largest mover of visits and the place where the largest number of people were commenting on the piece, on their own wall or in the comments of others. Twitter was the next highest contributor of traffic/discussion. After that, and a bit down the scale, a couple of political sites, community sites like Metafilter or Reddit, and Google Plus, which, yes, apparently some people still use. But, interestingly, almost none of the conversation about/traffic to the piece was coming from personal blogs.

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Writers With Drinks: Charles Stross, Sarah Kuhn, Shruti Swamy

The Nightmare Stacks A Laundry Files Novel Charles Stross 9780425281192 Amazon com Books

Charlie Anders: Spoken word variety show: "Variety is more that just the name of Prince's favorite girl-singer sidekick...

...It's more than just having sex dressed as Alien Greenspan every once in a while. It's also a Literary Imperative!...

At The Make Out Room 3225 22nd St., San Francisco CA. Saturday, July 9, 2016 from 7:30 PM to 9:30 PM, doors open at 6:30 PM.

  • Charles Stross (The Nightmare Stacks)
  • Sarah Kuhn (Heroine Complex)
  • Shruti Swamy (Night Garden)

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Manu Saadia on Trekonomics at Books Inc. in Berkeley :: June 15, 2016

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Manu Saadia: Trekonomics: The Economics of Star Trek http://amzn.to/28ZnBiD

Live from the Gamma Quadrant: Books Inc.: Trekonomics: The Economics of Star Trek: "Manu Saadia discusses Trekonomics: The Economics of Star Trek...

...What would the world look like if everybody had everything they wanted or needed? Delving deep into the details and intricacies of 24th century society, Trekonomics explores post-scarcity and whether we, as humans, are equipped for it. What are the prospects of automation and artificial intelligence? Is there really no money in Star Trek? Is Trekonomics at all possible? Manu will be in conversation with UC Berkeley economics professor Brad DeLong.


Rough Semi-Transcript:

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Monday Smackdown: Todd van der Werff Gets Game of Thrones Wrong...

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This is wrong!:

Todd van der Werff: Game of Thrones season 6, episode 9: 5 winners and 6 losers in the “Battle of the Bastards”: "Winner 1: Jon Snow...

...Well, obviously. Jon doesn’t just win the titular battle. He also effectively wins a battle against the entire dramatic apparatus of the TV show he lives in.... Jon also earned his win. Yeah, he was saved at the last minute by his half-sister and Littlefinger (more on that in a second), but he kept his troops rallied, even when they were surrounded on all sides by men with shields who were slowly killing all of them.... Yeah, someone else saves the day, but Jon gets everybody to the point where the day can be saved...

John Snow was so completely out-generalled by Ramsey Bolton that it isn't even funny. Yes, Wun-Wun and Petyr Baelish's acceding to Sansa's request and showing up with the knights of the Vale saves the day. But all John Snow did was to not die while his strategic, operational, and tactical decisions got his army of Stark loyalists and Wildlings slaughtered.

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Weekend Reading: Manu Saadia: Introduction: Trekonomics

Manu Saadia: Trekonomics: Introduction:

I have shown how the ideas of progression and of the indefinite perfectibility of the human race belong to democratic ages. Democratic nations care but little for what has been, but they are haunted by visions of what will be; in this direction their unbounded imagination grows and dilates beyond all measure. Here then is the wildest range open to the genius of poets, which allows them to remove their performances to a sufficient distance from the eye. Democracy shuts the past against the poet, but opens the future before him... Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America

...it no longer seemed so important whether the world was Adam Smith or Karl Marx. Neither made very much sense under the new circumstances... Isaac Asimov, I, Robot

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Necessity Sweepstakes Tor com

Live from Thessaly: Stubby the Rocket: Necessity Sweepstakes!:

I went down yesterday to the Piraeus with Glaukon the son of Ariston, that I might offer up my prayers to the goddess; and also because I wanted to see in what manner they would celebrate the festival, which was a new thing. I was delighted with the procession of the inhabitants; but that of the Thrakians was equally, if not more, beautiful. When we had finished our prayers and viewed the spectacle, we turned in the direction of the city; and at that instant Polemarkhos the son of Kephalos chanced to catch sight of us from a distance as we were starting on our way home, and told his servant to run and bid us wait for him. The servant took hold of me by the cloak behind, and said: ‘Polemarkhos desires you to wait…’

‘Why?’ I responded.

Because tor.com is giving away a galley copy of Necessity, the third volume of Jo Walton’s Thessaly. And there was a drinking party last January over at Crooked Timber, in which part of the discussion went:

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