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Sci Fi Musings

Contrary Brin - Tue, 05/17/2016 - 20:31
Let's start with the winners of this year's Nebula Awards:   

Novel: Uprooted, by Naomi Novik (Del Rey).  
Novella: Binti, by Nnedi Okorafor (Tor.com).
Novelette:  “Our Lady of the Open Road,” 
      by Sarah Pinsker (Asimov’s 6/15).
Short Story: “Hungry Daughters of Starving Mothers,” 
      by Alyssa Wong (Nightmare 10/15).
Andre Norton Award for Young Adult SFF: Updraft
     by Fran Wilde.

Congratulations ladies and fine colleagues. (And more about Naomi below.)

== Even good popcorn can make big mistakes ==

Moving from literary masterpieces to... fluff. Apparently evil just won't stay dead.  Perhaps reflecting the state of US politics and morale, Disney and Lucas film show signs of bringing back the most horrendous character in the history of cinema... Yoda.  Just look at the purported (of course, fictional) body count that results from this vile green oven mitt's "wise" decisions.  And across the years I have defied fans to bring up one - even one - bona fide WISE thing that nasty/grumpy lawn-gnome-thing ever does or says.
Along similar lines... Nothing is more winning and charming... and despair-worthy... than this image of Mark Hamill riding the back of a doughty and strong and fiercely impressive (!) Daisy Ridley, in a pose reminiscent of Luke Skywalker's tutelage under that vile green gnome, Yoda.  Why despair-worthy? Because it is emblematic of the stunning lack of imaginative verve not only of the creators of the third trilogy, but its zealous fans. 
Oh sure, I kinda liked The Force Awakens for its characterizations (J.J. Abrams is brilliant at that vital element) and color and lack of evil lucasian messages. (Huzzah for that last bit!) But everyone instantly saw that its plot was a tiresomely slavish and unnecessary utter remake of Ep IV A New Hope. Yet, instead of merely enjoying it, but with a polite-apropos yawn, people actually kvelled! There was jubilation! Why? For a remake? Albeit a well-made and fun one. Still, come on.
Now? All signs suggest that Episode VIII will slavishly remake the excellent Empire Strikes Back.  Truly. Making me ask: Is no one furious that they wrote a story arc in which Luke Skywalker - instead of learning from the horrific blunders of his "masters" - deliberately and knowingly repeats every single blunder committed by both Yoda and Obiwan, down to every last detail?

Oh, sure, dear sweet Luke was always a dim bulb, like falling for it when Yoda fakes his "death" (to avoid answering Luke's questions.) But THAT dim? To recreate an isolated Jedi Order that puts all its eggs in one basket, then lets an emotionally ditzy "apprentice" kill all the pupils. Followed by the master throwing up his hands and going into exile, instead of facing his duty to clean up the mess he made? If this is what Jedi masters do, every single time? Then make the order extinct!
== From Tolkien onward == 
Since 1999 we’ve heard tales about Kyrill Yeskov’s THE LAST RING-BEARER – his riff (in Russian) on Lord Of The Rings, retelling JRRR Tolkien’s classic from the point of view of Mordor.  In this version, the wizard Gandalf “is a war-monger intent on crushing the scientific and technological initiative of Mordor and its southern allies because science “destroys the harmony of the world and dries up the souls of men!” He’s in cahoots with the elves, who aim to become “masters of the world,” and turn Middle-earth into a “bad copy” of their magical homeland across the sea.”
In fact, this interpretation gets some support from – of all people – JRRT himself, who confesses that the Elves were the cause of all the trouble, from the start.  Still, as I explain in my own Salon appraisal – “J.R.R. Tolkien, enemy of progress” --  he could never bring himself to side with modernity; it was just too painful. (Indeed, had I been at the Battle of the Somme, I might have turned against modernity, as well.)
Finally in 2010, Yisroel Markov posted his English translation of “The Last Ringbearer” as a free download.
Moving on... Always Human is a romantic science fiction webcomic about two young ladies growing to know each other and falling in love in a society where nanotech is widespread and used for everyday things like changing your appearance, improving memory, and the like... but some people have too strong an immune system and cannot use the nanotech mods. 
See a lovely profile about my SF writer colleague and this year's Nebula winner for bets novel Naomi Novik, whose series about Napoleanic era sea captains – with dragons – is selling great guns.  
I’m a bit dubious that the copyrights truly are being respected.  But if they are? Well, this is cool.  The Internet Archive's amazing Pulp Magazine Archive now includes all 176 issues of If, a classic science fiction magazine that ran from 1952 to 1974.
== Sci Fi and Time Travel ==
So weird it could be sci fi. Otto Skorzeny, the Nazi special forces chief who sprang Mussolini after he was deposed and put SS agents into US uniforms, later became one of the Mossad’s most valuable assets. A former lieutenant colonel in Nazi Germany’s Waffen-SS and one of Adolf Hitler’s favorites, he later helped Israeli intelligence demolish German companies helping Nasser’s Egypt to build missiles. id Harry Turtledove ever do anything with this guy?
Genuine alternative universe sci fi. The San Francisco to New York Burrito Tunnel! Except that Carter would have been re-elected if this happened.  
I have a weak spot for low budget, indie sci fi flicks that try to do some thinking.  Time travel seems a favorite, with the recent "Predestination" standing out as a faithful expansion on Heinlein's "All You Zombies." I highly recommend the very cerebral and inexpensive "Primer." And from the sublime to the stupid-but-kinda-fun, we recently watched a British semi-pro called "Frequently Asked Questions About Time Travel."  It's madcap and silly and immature...
... but I'll still note a few things. For example, they speak of "editors"... fanatic, time-traveling fans who go back to see their favorite geniuses, and kill them just after their paramount moments, so they’ll never suffer later disappointment. One of the characters says: "So they'd do Kevin Costner, right after Dances With Wolves?"
Okay, given what Costner directed next, that's when I started listening. Then the male loser character meets a young woman in a bar, who gushes how cool it is to meet her hero in his youth, before his fame... which is exactly the scenario – almost perfectly cloned in part – from that story I wrote with Gregory Benford called "I Could've Done Better."  (See it in Insistence of Vision.)  After a few more twitches of recognition, I had to ask: if you guys want to send me a message, try going to http://www.davidbrin.com, scrolling down and sending me an email?

And... um... don't you at least owe me a dinner?
== Final Notes ==
I’m not a huge rap fan, but I sure like Gift of Gab and Blackalicious, especially their excellent pop-rap song “Powers,” which is joyful and stunningly original. So, hey, why would I not follow Gift of Gab over to The Mighty Underdogs doing “Droppin’Science Fiction!” Enjoy an extended epic of sci-fi hip-hop!  Seriously!
Oh, want help moving along your own ambitions to do SF? Alex Bear... whose parents are authors Greg and Astrid Bear, …and whose grandfather was Poul Anderson, the best storyteller I ever knew... has a business copyediting for writers all over the globe. “Copyeditors exist to make any piece of writing flow with correct grammar, spelling, punctuation, and readability. Whether you're writing your first short story or your twelfth novel, all writing needs that last bit of shine.” Set your prose free of reader-halting errors!

And finally... here's a kinda cool Kickstarter  (now ended) – a new, two person card game called NEOLITHIC keeps you busy drawing and using new techs like goat taming and pottery in order to rise up the ladder of civilization.  Not quite as ambitious and challenging – and anthropological – as my own game called TRIBES, which takes eight or more players several hours, replicating the fundamental forces of Darwinian advantage that motivated our ancestors. Get both!  And report back if you find a neat way to combine the two. 
. . ...a collaborative contrarian product of David Brin, Enlightenment Civilization, obstinate human nature... and http://davidbrin.blogspot.com/ (site feed URL: http://davidbrin.blogspot.com/atom.xml)

Qwerkywriter Keyboard First Impressions

Whatever (John Scalzi) - Tue, 05/17/2016 - 19:26
For my birthday my excellent friend Regan procured for me a Qwerkywriter keyboard, which is designed to mimic the look and clicky-clicky feel of an old school typewriter keyboard while still giving you the functionality of a modern computer keyboard. People have asked me to give a report on the thing, and I’ve been using it […]

The Big Idea: Madeline Ashby

Whatever (John Scalzi) - Tue, 05/17/2016 - 09:19
Madeline Ashby takes a while to summarize her work, including her latest novel, Company Town. But as you’ll see in this big idea, this isn’t (just) because she’s not great at making a fast pitch. It’s because there’s a whole lot going on in what she writes. MADELINE ASHBY: Veronica Mars versus The Terminator. That’s […]

Pictures from the 2016 Nebula Awards Reception and Ceremony

Whatever (John Scalzi) - Mon, 05/16/2016 - 08:13
I attended the 2016 Nebula Weekend and its concurrent awards ceremony, hosted by John Hodgman (shown here with friend) and I took about 800 pictures of the reception and ceremony. The best 9% or so of these pictures is now available for your perusal at this Flickr album of the event. It’s just like being there! […]

Will some conservatives support Clinton? Or a third party run?

Contrary Brin - Sat, 05/14/2016 - 18:45
 == A newer generation of rationalizer gets it ==

Out of all the post-Indiana-mortems, expressing stages of grief among sane or quasi-sane U.S. conservatives, probably the most realistic and helpful is offered up by Jennifer Rubin, who proposes a two phase approach: “Stop Trump, then remake conservative politics.”  

Meaning this senior conservative columnist urges any not-insane republicans out there to hold your noses and help elect Ms. Clinton... and even a new democratic majority in Congress… then take the GOP ashes, stir them, and come up with a new plan for the movement. A model better suited to the 21st Century. Perhaps even a conservatism that no longer drives away all of the scientists and other knowledge folks.
Ms. Rubin offers examples proposed by Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb) and others and concludes:
“Somewhere in that mix are the contours of a platform that is contemporary and conservative and for which there is arguably a broader demographic and geographic appeal. It should not include (for there is no political appetite for these things, and they are unattainable and/or unwise from a policy standpoint): opposition to gay rights; large tax cuts for the rich; protectionism; expelling women from combat in a volunteer army; rooting gays out of the military; obsessing over bathroom assignments; fixating on local ordinances about wedding services; keeping the status quo on entitlements; cutting out (as opposed to reforming) the safety net; never, ever raising taxes on anyone; and mass deportation.”
“…Along with all of this, conservatives have to end their intellectual isolation and self-delusions. They need to stop pretending that climate change is not occurring (the extent and the proposed solutions can be rationally discussed) or imagining that there is a market for pre-New-Deal-size government. Conservatives must end their infatuation with phony news, crank conspiracy theories, demonization of well-meaning leaders and mean rhetoric. It’s time to grow up, turn off Sean Hannity, get off toxic social media and start learning about the world as it is. (Read a book authored by someone without a talk show, spend time with non-Republicans, take an online course in economics.) Confirmation bias has become pathological.”
To be clear about the source: Jennifer Rubin writes the Right Turn conservative column for the Washington Post. Indeed, over the years her apologias have helped to justify the "see no evil" refusal of decent folks on that side to admit their "side" has been hijacked. Of course it was, long before Trump, who is merely channeling and focusing the inchoate rage stoked by Beck, Limbaugh, Hannity and the rest. 

They are now like characters in a Tex Avery cartoon who have obstinately charged ten paces beyond the edge of a cliff and now face a dawning realization that they... must... look... down...

 Still, in confessions like this one offer hope! A germ-line or seed stock for a sane conservatism that might grow from the coming self-immolation. A new, more grownup version that can ditch the never-ever-negotiate “Hastert Rule” concocted by the GOP’s perverted former headman, in the 1990s. A new version capable of noticing, at last, that Supply Side "voodoo economics" has failed every predictive test and cannot ever work as anything but a destroyer of markets. 

A new version of conservatism that might instead become a worthy partner in negotiations about moving ahead, across the 21st Century.  

Only first? Before you can stir and seed those fertile ashes… the current lunacy must burn down.
== New Directions? ==
Oh, we are in for fascinating times. For example: Trump veers to suggesting more tax on the rich? Okay, open question: can you name anyone else who predicted this, as I did, repeatedly, going back to last year?  Just askin'. There will be several populist Reset Surprises during the Clinton-Trump debates, I promise.
Oh, but see how the tenor has changed re President Obama's recent appointment to the Supreme Court: Suddenly, a wave of conservatives are calling for the Senate to confirm Merrick Garland, lest Prez Hillary pick someone both more liberal and younger. Or President-for-Duration Trump goes for gonzo appointments.

Hey, I have no objections to GOP senators deciding suddenly to do their jobs. But... But what was all that guff about "let's let the next president choose"? Hypocrisy after hypocrisy, on down the line. 

Okay, let's zoom in. The logic behind some elements of the right supporting Hillary Clinton is clear:
1) If Trump wins the presidency he will re-forge the GOP, top to bottom, in a replacement purge not seen since the Night of the Long Knives. The party of Rupert Murdoch will be no more.
2) The oligarchs' investments are in serious danger amid a Trump instability. They know that democratic presidents administer well and run smooth executive government, and that economic outcomes are always, always vastly better across democratic administrations. Self-interest can "trump" dogmatism. 
3) Also, growing radicalism in both parties would frighten any smart mogul. The brightest are probably resigned to reforms like an end to Supply Side Voodoo and full regulation of Wall Street and a Court that shatters gerrymandering and Citizens United. With Clinton, they’ll be heard enough to negotiate over the details, hoping that incrementalism will fix the mess they made.
(Yes, I know that angers some of you Sandersites, out there. But history shows incrementalism can lead to more incrementalism.  Look up a fellow named Franklin Delano Roosevelt.)
4) The GOP moguls will be pouring cash into congressional campaigns and especially keeping state assemblies red. If they lose those once, they lose many of them forever. 

Hence there will be arguments over how to get Trump-hating conservatives to the polls.  A third party campaign? Possibly. See this article about desperate backroom efforts, as well speak: "If they are serious, they have only a couple of weeks to launch a credible bid. But these Republicans — including commentators William Kristol and Erick Erickson and strategists Mike Murphy, Stuart Stevens and Rick Wilson — are so repulsed by the prospect of Trump as commander in chief that they are desperate to take action."

But I am betting these efforts will collapse.  A far more likely gambit: the Kochs will pour money into the Libertarian Party, even though it's hopeless and they cannot control likely nominee Gary Johnson. Because a push for the LP may get a few million more Trump-skeptical Republicans to the polls.
5) Want the biggest reason some goppers will support Clinton? History shows it is very hard for a party to keep the presidency for three terms. Post FDR, only Reagan-Bush did it. But the score is zero for four straight terms. Hence, I bet some of the GOP moguls are already looking to 2020, deeming it a shoe-in for their chosen boy, likely Paul Ryan. Meanwhile they'll be pumping vitamins into Justices Roberts, Alito and Thomas.

But to get there, they must keep Trumpism from seizing the party and transforming it into something populist, uncontrollable and hostile to oligarchy. Hence they may view HC as a bearable place-holder - and to get through it they must sacrifice things like Supply Side, that have run their course and now threaten the health of the republic and to radicalize the nation.

The alternative - Unite the Party! 

Craven, much? Congressional leaders rushing to make nice with Donald Trump. To be clear, all of the logic that I laid out in the previous section will be clear, as well, to a sharp mind like Donald Trump's.  He will be making deals and promises to prevent all of it!

Even more telling? 

The masters of the masters of Macao's casino empire have okayed their bag-man, Sheldon Adelson to channel millions into Trump-supporting super-PACs. Don't you believe for a minute that all the cash he's conveying is his own.  He is way too smart for that. 

The amazing thing is how easy it seems, to launder foreign money through casino "profits" to influence U.S. politics. I mean, what are the odds that I'm the first to think of it?  Nil.

== Hypocrisy abounds ==
We mentioned him earlier, regarding his famous "rule" forbidding any republican office holder from ever negotiatint with the opposition over anything, even national needs. Now...

Among the prominent Republicans who still support convicted liar and revealed child molester Dennis Hastert: count convicted electoral cheater Tom DeLay, weepy tobacco spokesman John Boehner, plus Ayn Rand fanatic and perfectly accomplishment-free Paul Ryan… these are the annointed leaders of the legislative wing of the Republican Party, across the last 20 years, overseeing the most radically partisan and by-far laziest U.S. Congresses in a century, passing less legislation and holding fewer hearings than almost any other. (Though holding a record number of fundraisers.) 

By comparison, Newt Gingrich - though twice divorced and a (shudder) science fiction author - was a comparative giant, who - between bouts of lunatic culture war - actually strove to negotiate some pragmatic bills to move the nation forward. And hence they crushed him.  A giant. By comparison, that is. So is Tyrion Lannister. Compared to Lannisters.
This is what you get, when the majority party in Congress is content to do almost nothing, in the laziest, most corrupt and worthless national legislatures in a century. “The North American bison is the national mammal of the United States.” Yippee. Obsessed with symbolic nonsense like this, GOP senators and reps have also obsessed on the minutia of naming Naval Vessels in as petty and spiteful a fashion possible.  
. . ...a collaborative contrarian product of David Brin, Enlightenment Civilization, obstinate human nature... and http://davidbrin.blogspot.com/ (site feed URL: http://davidbrin.blogspot.com/atom.xml)

View From a Hotel Window, 5/13/16: Chicago

Whatever (John Scalzi) - Fri, 05/13/2016 - 11:32
Really a quintessential urban hotel view, I have to say. In other news, hello, here I am in Chicago, to do events for BEA and for SFWA. You can find out about both here, and if you’re in Chicago, and wanted to have physical proof that I actually exist in meatspace, those would be the […]

The Big Idea: Guy Gavriel Kay

Whatever (John Scalzi) - Thu, 05/12/2016 - 06:42
For today’s Big Idea, Guy Gavriel Kay is here to share a favorite passage from a writer of histories, and what that passage has to do with his latest novel, Children of Earth and Sky. GUY GAVRIEL KAY: I’ve told a cute (and even true!) origin story of Children of Earth and Sky elsewhere. It involves my Croatian […]

The politics of religion

Contrary Brin - Wed, 05/11/2016 - 17:42
We'll be treading into a minefield, today, taking on the role of religion in politics, asking first...

God can't pick a winner? All of the Republican candidates who claimed to have been chosen by God have now dropped out. Those 'following Haeven's plan' included Scott Walker, John Kasich, Ben Carson, Rick Perry, Rick Santorum, Mike Huckabee - as well as Ted Cruz, who said he would represent the 'body of Christ' to save the nation from nonbelievers. Cruz's father asserted that Ted had been ‘called and anointed’ by the Holy Spirit to be the next president. Former Fox News host Glenn Beck predicted that America would suffer 'violent revolution' if Hillary or Rubio were elected; after Cruz dropped out, Beck opined that "you will never have another Republican President ever again."

A majority of American voters consistently poll it is important to them to have a president with firm religious beliefs... yet the pack of seventeen thoroughly pious Republican candidates steadily winnowed, leaving still-standing the least religious among them - and the most-proudly indulgent of vices - Donald Trump. So now, perhaps it is time for the Republican Party to reconsider their identity with Southern conservatives, as now Trump exposes the GOP's religion problem.

To be clear, this illustrates yet again how our divisions are not left-vs-right in any classical meaning of that silly, lobotomizing "axis." Culture (and now civil) war in the U.S. is more about personality than anything else. 

Sure, there are now record-high numbers of atheists and agnostics and secularists in Blue America (following trends in Europe.) But there are also many millions of old-fashioned Christians, Jews, Muslims and "spiritually curious." Moreover, the victory of a philandering-adulterer-divorcé gambling lord over the anointed-one Ted Cruz shows that sanctity is no more a determiner in Red America than it is in Blue.

Decrypting the Trump phenomenon in his own uniquely contemptuous way, Dilbert creator Scott Adams calls all of us deeply irrational and natural prey for a master emotion-manipulator like Trump, who shrugs off "facts" as irrelevant to his next, expert, savanarola twist. Elsewhere, I will debunk this mythology of Adams, who assumes that the Blue side of this 200 year civil war is just as emotionally-erratic, romantic, reflexive and easily fooled as confederates have always been. In other words, Trump has been successful exactly as Adams describes... on republicans.  Fortunately, that won't be enough.

But let's veer back to religion. Especially the way it has in many sectors catered to a rising volcano of spite.

== Jesus... hijacked by John of Patmos ==

Has “fundamentalism” conquered what used to be called “evangelical” Christianity with memes of hate? Much of this polarizing rant - "Evangelicals are hurting the GOP: The movement is now synonymous with bigotry and stupidity" - is apt...

... but such denouncers miss the pertinence of scripture. And they are unfair to another branch of deeply sincere Christianity.

Take the humble and yes evangelical goodness of Jimmy Carter. "Red Letter Christians” (Many modern New Testament editions convey Jesus’s words in red type) can be Carter-like in their sincere modesty, tolerance and compassionate generosity. Many take part in overseas missions that do more aid-work than preaching. As I have described elsewhere, some even look forward to building starships and spreading "the word" to aliens out there! Oh sure, you have a right to smirk. But at least it allows for an open-ended and upward-aiming human future. That's respect-worthy and if it comes true, then you'd both have fun arguing across the light years.

Such old fashioned, Carter-style evangelicals stare in confusion across a scriptural and emotional chasm at fundamentalist neighbors who focus instead on poisonous purities… e.g. Genesis literalism and vindictiveness toward science. Toward all knowledge professions. Or the hypocrisy of citing three vaguely ambiguous passages in Leviticus to justify homophobia … while stuffing down pork, which is banned explicitly in scores of places.

We discussed all of this back in 2012, the year that Robert Heinlein had forecast for the squeaker election of one Nehemiah Scudder, who would quickly clamp down, toss out tolerance and constitutional rights, then establish a theocracy as Prophet of the Lord. That political year did not feature a likely parallel with Scudder. This year though...

Look into the background of near-miss, runner-up Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz, who has smiled and nodded as his pastor father declared him to be the anointed deliverer of America and the world into a new and foretold age. Look up "dominionism," the doctrine that the faithful have a right to all the goods and property and wealth of unbelievers, who will all die horribly soon anyway, in apocalypse, followed by eternal torment. 

Of course, Ted Cruz has lost to Donald Trump. Only here's the irony. Despite the GOP establishment's fervor to stop Trump, Cruz -- so despised that former Speaker of the House John Boehner called Ted "Lucifer int he flesh" -- was the only rival able to garner enough zealous backing to even challenge the Donald. 

Moreover, when you look at Trump supporters and Cruz-backers, there appears to be very little difference!  Members of the slightly larger group are likely to claim very similar religious convictions, only a bit looser. Just loose enough to look past Donald's roles as gambling czar and twice divorced womanizer, and so on. For them, culture war, confederacy and (yes) racism trump religion by a margin. Maybe 60:40.

For Cruz-supporters, the ratio was reversed. That's about it. Similarities outweigh differences (which is why I expect more post convention unity than others do). Moreover, I would lay down wagers that both crowds will nod happily if a sermon by Raphael Cruz is played for them, promising them an IOU on all the wealth now held by those dastardly, den-of-iniquity Blue Americans... as a down payment to even greater rewards, further downstream.

Oh, sure, now some evangelicals have taken a  'call to resist' against Donald Trump. Where will they go? 

Indeed, there are still millions of Jimmy Carter style, red-letter evangelicals, and tens of millions of other U.S. Christians who are sincerely compassionate, reasonable, even liberal in many ways! It's a horrendously bigoted error to lump blame on all, for the frenzy of some. 

But those "some" now are in a froth. They are eager to scudderize America. And you need to understand the central sun around which their alien solar system revolves.

That central sun is a poem, a rant of stunning hate.

== The Cuckoo's Egg in the New Testament ==
The core illness separating Red Letter Christians from the now-dominant fundamentalist movement swirls around the screed where latter-day thumpers go, to stoke their rancor -- the Book of Revelation (BoR). 

Barely added to the early Christian canon, over strenuous objection by the era's top sages, and despised by later scholars, such as Martin Luther, this froth of cackling sadism is diametrically opposite -- at every level of morality, compassion and intent -- to the homilies of Jesus. 

Those who express hand-rubbing yearnings for the world to tumble into armageddon, as soon as possible -- in the BoR's forecast bloodbath for all-but-a-very-few -- thus disqualify themselves from any say over the use of our nuclear stockpile, which was designed by scientific geniuses to end major war, not to end the world. 
Note that every generation of BoR thumpers have recognized End Times signage in the personages and events of their own era, as in 1799, when the most popular book in Europe assigned every role to Napoleonic era figures, or when both sides of the 1860s Civil War called that fight the BoR precursor, or when Hal Lindsay declared it "obvious" that Babylon just had to be the commie USSR, or today's demonization of all Islam.

 In fact, pattern Recognition does not matter. What matters is desire! It's what they want so very much to happen.

They are praying for billions - including you and your children - to suffer incredible horrors. followed by eternal torment. (See the BoR brilliantly and satirically conveyed in comic book form here.) To be clear, they pray specifically for an end to all democracy and science, to all human ambition of any kind... and for an end of the United States of America, amid a blood bath that slaughters nearly all of its population. At minimum, that gleeful anticipation disqualifies them from claiming the word "neighbor."  Or, indeed, "citizen."
How disappointing that not a single sage or minister has - to my knowledge - refuted the BoR with a single word that tears that bloody howl of schadenfreude into confetti. 

That single word is "Jonah," referring to an earlier and more authoritative passage - one of the finest and most moving in the entire Judaeo-Christian canon - that renders all BoR "predictions" utterly moot.  
The Book of Revelation is a Rorschach test, exposing those who yearn for an insane deity, not the Creator of Maxwell’s Equations and a gorgeous 14 billion year ongoing-bang, and the refractive laws that give us rainbows... as well as the gifts of Beethoven and Schweitzer and liberty and tolerance and the joyful ambitions that fill a child's heart.
But no. What’s mind-boggling is the fact that millions of our neighbors seek "solace" in such a hateful screech. Ask them this question! 
“Do you actually want THAT to happen to me and to those I love? 
“You actively pray for that to happen to us? 

"You would love and serve the source of such horrible hate and madness?”
That's not Jimmy Carter, whose envisioned Lord simply would not do such things. No, that is barbarism and lunacy. But it is more than that. Stand up and recognize one pure and irrefutable fact.

It is war.

. . ...a collaborative contrarian product of David Brin, Enlightenment Civilization, obstinate human nature... and http://davidbrin.blogspot.com/ (site feed URL: http://davidbrin.blogspot.com/atom.xml)

Where I’ll Be in Chicago This Weekend

Whatever (John Scalzi) - Wed, 05/11/2016 - 14:09
If you live in or near Chicago and want to see me and maybe even get a book signed by me this weekend, there are two events I will be at for you to find me at: Friday, May 13 at 8pm: I’ll be participating in the SFWA Conference Mass Signing, in the Red Lacquer […]

The Big Idea: Ada Palmer

Whatever (John Scalzi) - Wed, 05/11/2016 - 08:52
Gentle reader, was it chance or providence that brought you here today to read Ada Palmer’s Big Idea piece about her novel, Too Like the Lightning? And does it matter if it were either? And what do chance and/or providence (or the mindset that would attribute your presence here to either) have to do with […]

47

Whatever (John Scalzi) - Tue, 05/10/2016 - 00:01
Yesterday morning, on the eve of my 47th birthday, Krissy asked me “do you feel old?” The question was rooted partly in the fact that today is my 47th birthday, partly because we were talking about time passing in a general sense, and partly because — and this is a thing they don’t tell you very […]

New Books and ARCs, 5/9/16

Whatever (John Scalzi) - Mon, 05/09/2016 - 17:03
That’s right, we’re still working through the immense stack of new books and ARCs that have come into the Scalzi Compound recently. Some excellent books here, though, so this is not exactly a burden to do. What here excites your eyeballs? Tell us all in the comments!

Climate, Energy and ...oh... Trump vs the Rich!

Contrary Brin - Sun, 05/08/2016 - 17:46


First a quick political note: many of you will recall that long ago - before it even seemed plausible - I forecast a silver lining to Donald Trump becoming the GOP nominee. (There are several, actually.) Despite his maniacal unsuitability, Trump has one advantage, that of being completely detached from the standard and utterly failed "supply side" narrative that's been Holy Writ across the Bush-Murdoch era. He's the one Republican who has ever told Rupert to go chase himself.

And hence I foretold that The Donald would stun the nation, during the autumnal debates, by agreeing with his democratic opponent on some issues, thus wiping never-ever-true Supply Side off our national platter-of-insanities. Now it seems he is already preparing the ground: "Presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump said Sunday that he’s open to raising taxes on the wealthy."

Watch this silver lining unfold. Remember, I do not want him and will work to prevent a Trump presidency. But watch for these debate shockers? Do you want another likely one? When the Republican nominee for president openly avows that the climate is changing and that we must take action about it. Will this 180 reversal damage his credibility? What credibility?  Remember who you're talking about. No, with a blithe shrug he will simply "change his mind"... and cite as his reasons some of the following...

== Face it - we have to cope with a sci fi future ==

Major ice-sheet melting in Greenland is exceeding even the "warmist" expectations

OTOH it seems that the Paris Climate Deal is running ahead of schedule, so sanity may be on the rebound. (See link.) 

Pure fact for your crazy uncle. The first eleven months of 2014 were the warmest on record. 

Then 2015 overtook it, with an average global temperature of 58.62 degrees (F). 

And the first three months of 2016 have already surpassed marks set in 2015. See more from PolitiFact...

...which does not mention accelerating ocean acidification - two words that even denialists on Fox veer away from ever mentioning. Because they have no distraction, no narrative, nothing except the tactic of pointing offstage and shouting "squirrel!"

== Disturbing changes ==

Ground-shaking... "Induced seismicity" is when earthquakes happen more often and much harder, because of human activities like fracking and deep fluids injection.  

In particular, Oklahoma has seen the number of quakes go up by several thousand percent and risk of damage proportionately.  See the map issued by USGS - showing a geologic hot spot in the middle of the country. 

To be clear, this does not make me oppose all fracking, all the time! In this matter, I infuriate leftist friends. Freeing the U.S. from its addiction to Middle East oil has been a huge accomplishment that will have major, wholesome geopolitical consequences, and for our wallets and economy...

... though we badly need far better supervision and site-effects analysis and urgent surveys of illegal methane release! And fracking must be replaced ASAP by rapidly improving sustainables, augmented by some smart-new options in nuclear.  

No, what is pertinent about all of the above is that this proves yet again how always-wrong are the fox-propelled wagers of atomic-level war on science and hijackers of American conservatism.  How many times must these bozos - who said "tobacco is good for you" and "cars don't cause smog" and "women shouldn't vote" and "abstinence education leads to moral behavior" and "prohibition leads to sobriety" and "let's dump waste into streams" -- be wrong before you'll admit that maybe there's a fault in the root code?

== Rethinking energy use  ==

"The annual growth rate of atmospheric carbon dioxide... jumped by 3.05 parts per million during 2015, the largest year-to-year increase in 56 years of research," said a NOAA statement. 
Purely to illustrate how rapidly sea levels are rising, some scientists calculated how much seawater would have to be lifted and sprayed over wintry Antarctica to remove enough to keep sea levels constant.  Every millimeter of sea level rise is equivalent to 360 billion tons of ocean water.  

Okay, want some good news? A Renewable Energy Boom: The average global cost of generating electricity from solar panels fell 61 percent between 2009 and 2015 and 14 percent for land-based wind turbines. Renewables accounted for a majority of new electricity-generating capacity added around the world, last year.  All of this is far better than even optimists predicted and it puts the utter lie to the cynics who tried desperately to thwart investments in sustainables, ever since Ronald Reagan tore solar cells off the White House and disbanded all but one small federal program in the field.

From that day to this, the American right has been associated with obstruction of R&D and advancement of TWODA… or Things We Ought to be Doing Anyway, even if global climate change turned out to be a myth.  Just the raw cash in consumers’ pockets - billions - from increased fuel efficiency has proved TWODA to be the right thing to do, even if (unlikely) it is found that 99% of scientists and smart folks are all 100% wrong.
“In sunny parts of the world like India and Dubai, developers of solar farms have recently offered to sell electricity for less than half the global average price. In November, the accounting firm KPMG predicted that by 2020 solar energy in India could be 10 percent cheaper than electricity generated by burning coal.”

Let’s be clear.  We could have had this ten years ago, but for obstruction by a denialist cult whose underlying purpose was to keep us suckling coal and middle eastern oil as long as possible. But science and innovative tech entrepreneurs are delivering, despite that obstruction. Perhaps in time to save the planet! But not Florida. That ship has left port. 

So let's all promise, when half a billion climate refugees come knocking - many of them Americans - the first recourse will be to give them the houses (or at least guest bedrooms) of the cultists who made re-housing necessary.

== And finally... follow the money ==

The new Gilded Age: Close to half of all super-PAC money comes from 50 donors. “Thirty-six of those are Republican supporters who have invested millions in trying to shape the GOP nomination contest — accounting for more than 70 percent of the money from the top 50.Donors this cycle have given more than $607 million to 2,300 super PAC.” That’s so far.  And it is early, yet.

The good news. TV ad buys have proved worthless, this year. So where will all the money go? Initial signs point to Chinese style social media boiler room operations, paying thousands of shills to head online promoting an image of huge support for a candidate... or more thousands of trolls assigned to commit sabotage in the other side's ranks.  Watch it unfold and beware.

In this separate piece: “Meet the wealthy donors who are funneling millions into the 2016 elections -- with a list of the top fifty donors and "ghost corporations" (backed by individuals who can not be identified.)

What a climate.
. . ...a collaborative contrarian product of David Brin, Enlightenment Civilization, obstinate human nature... and http://davidbrin.blogspot.com/ (site feed URL: http://davidbrin.blogspot.com/atom.xml)

Pre-Prom Pictures

Whatever (John Scalzi) - Sat, 05/07/2016 - 22:59
Athena and her beau Hunter are off at prom right now, but before they left, I took something like 250 photos. Ten percent of them are in a Flickr set for your perusal, if you are of such a mind to take a look. The set is here. Enjoy!

New Books and ARCs, 5/6/16

Whatever (John Scalzi) - Fri, 05/06/2016 - 17:29
A supersized stack today, in terms of the number of titles here. Lots of good stuff here. What here excites you beyond all reason? Tell me in the comments!

New Books and ARCs, 5/5/16

Whatever (John Scalzi) - Thu, 05/05/2016 - 17:55
Hey! Look! More new books and ARCs! Speak to me of the titles here you covet, in the comment thread below.

Recent history and the next election

Contrary Brin - Thu, 05/05/2016 - 13:57
Okay, okay, let's catch our breath. (So says Brin as he flushes all his draft analyses of Ted Cruz! I'll email them to a parallel Scudder Universe.) 

First off, remember, there are always silver linings. For example, Donald Trump may fix our energy shortages! Take Arizona, which today draws 17.3% of its electrical power from coils placed around the spinning in Barry Goldwater's grave.

A smart Republican I know bemoaned "how did it come to this? Where is the real GOP?"  Quashing impatience, I had to reply:  The "real" GOP has been virtually extinct for a very long time. 

Back in Gingrich days, absurd culture war was occasionally punctuated by serious negotiation over bills to help America improve. For that crime of negotiation, Dennis Hastert (role-model for all boys), along with (later convicted felon) Tom DeLay, John Boehner, and Paul Ryan, led a coup against Newt, declaring the Hastert Rule to 'never ever negotiate!' Leading to the laziest, noisiest, most unproductive and most silly congresses in US history.

Then came neocons and the Cheney administration -- under which every metric of U.S. national health plummeted while "culture war" blossomed into a new phase of civil war. And now you are surprised that the Beck-Limbaugh-Fox hate festival has metastasized? Till a carnival barker was able to seize control?

Dig it. If the recent dominance of Trump and Cruz reveals one thing, it is that the War on Science (and against all other smartypants knowledge castes) has left today's GOP lobotomized... a mob easily hijacked by demagogues.

Do not blame Trump for this! The methods that he uses are not his own innovations. His polemical tricks were developed and refined in the Limbaugh-Beck-ClearChannel R&D department. They are brainchildren of Roger Ailes.

Want someone to blame? Look to the masters of Beck and Hannity. "Smart" Republican moguls like the Kochs, Murdoch, Adelson and the Saudi royals, who - like 1920s Junker lords in Germany - thought they could whip a frenzied mob and it would stay their willing beast... till someone charismatic leaped aboard and snatched the reins. They made this bed. 

You want a "real" conservatism? Your hope, like a phoenix bird, can only rise out of ashes.

== The 'Trump Error'? ==

As for the rest of you... I can’t believe all the hand-wringing among blue Americans. Sure Donald Trump is bringing things to a head… but it would have come anyway with the equally and pyrotechnically raving Ted Cruz. And little better with Bush-Cheney clan member John Kasich. To be clear, there was never, at any point during this GOP primary season, a candidate of the stature of Goldwater, or Eisenhower or even Reagan.

Asked one fellow I know:  “How do we avoid the Trump error?"

That's the wrong question, defensive and fretful. Instead ask: "How do we exploit the Trump error?" 

The Murdochians must be defeated in detail, down to Congress and local assembly races. Bernie Sanders should motivate his young crowd to go make those local races their own. And libertarian-minded Americans should recall that market enterprise is wrecked more by oligarchy than by civil servants.

Send Rupert Murdoch back to peddling papers from a box in Sydney. Do that and U.S. conservatism will finally enter the long, hard re-evaluation it should have done 20 years ago, recalling that Barry Goldwater loved science. As did Newt Gingrich. As should any sane person who cares about his or her grandchildren.

Shame on all of you for quailing in hand-wringing fear! Reach out to sane-conservatives now, in their time of angst, and tell them that sane-conservatism will be welcome at the bargaining table. Offer friendship amid their stages of grief. Remind them that their first loyalty is to America and our shared Experiment, not Fox-induced rage. 

Music can help this transition. Julia Ward Howe is renowned as the poet who woke up one night in an inspired state to pen the lyrics of "The Battle Hymn of the Republic," the song that would become the victorious psalm of the Civil War. Join this battle filled with joy. 


=======
Housekeeping note:  Google has caused the Blogspot domain to be moved to HTTPS. Good news for bloggers is that this change is completely automatic and doesn’t require the user to do anything.  Please let me know if any of you experience any effects.
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. . ...a collaborative contrarian product of David Brin, Enlightenment Civilization, obstinate human nature... and http://davidbrin.blogspot.com/ (site feed URL: http://davidbrin.blogspot.com/atom.xml)

History and the election

Contrary Brin - Thu, 05/05/2016 - 13:57
Okay, okay, let's catch our breath. (So says Brin as he flushes all his draft analyses of Ted Cruz! I'll email them to a parallel Scudder Universe.) 

First off, remember, there are always silver linings. For example, Donald Trump may fix our energy shortages! Take Arizona, which today draws 17.3% of its electrical power from coils placed around the spinning in Barry Goldwater's grave.

A smart Republican I know bemoaned "how did it come to this? Where is the real GOP?"  Quashing impatience, I had to reply:  The "real" GOP has been virtually extinct for a very long time. 

Back in Gingrich days, absurd culture war was occasionally punctuated by serious negotiation over bills to help America improve. For that crime of negotiation, Dennis Hastert (role-model for all boys), along with (later convicted felon) Tom DeLay, John Boehner, and Paul Ryan, led a coup against Newt, declaring the Hastert Rule to 'never ever negotiate!' Leading to the laziest, noisiest, most unproductive and most silly congresses in US history.

Then came neocons and the Cheney administration -- under which every metric of U.S. national health plummeted while "culture war" blossomed into a new phase of civil war. And now you are surprised that the Beck-Limbaugh-Fox hate festival has metastasized? Till a carnival barker was able to seize control?

Dig it. If the recent dominance of Trump and Cruz reveals one thing, it is that the War on Science (and against all other smartypants knowledge castes) has left today's GOP lobotomized... a mob easily hijacked by demagogues.

Do not blame Trump for this! The methods that he uses are not his own innovations. His polemical tricks were developed and refined in the Limbaugh-Beck-ClearChannel R&D department. They are brainchildren of Roger Ailes.

Want someone to blame? Look to the masters of Beck and Hannity. "Smart" Republican moguls like the Kochs, Murdoch, Adelson and the Saudi royals, who - like 1920s Junker lords in Germany - thought they could whip a frenzied mob and it would stay their willing beast... till someone charismatic leaped aboard and snatched the reins. They made this bed. 

You want a "real" conservatism? Your hope, like a phoenix bird, can only rise out of ashes.

== The 'Trump Error'? ==

As for the rest of you... I can’t believe all the hand-wringing among blue Americans. Sure Donald Trump is bringing things to a head… but it would have come anyway with the equally and pyrotechnically raving Ted Cruz. And little better with Bush-Cheney clan member John Kasich. To be clear, there was never, at any point during this GOP primary season, a candidate of the stature of Goldwater, or Eisenhower or even Reagan.

Asked one fellow I know:  “How do we avoid the Trump error?"

That's the wrong question, defensive and fretful. Instead ask: "How do we exploit the Trump error?" The Murdochians must be defeated in detail, down to Congress and local assembly races. Bernie Sanders should motivate his young crowd to go make those local races their own. And libertarian-minded Americans should recall that market enterprise is wrecked more by oligarchy than by civil servants.

Send Rupert Murdoch back to peddling papers from a box in Sydney. Do that and U.S. conservatism will finally enter the long, hard re-evaluation it should have done 20 years ago, recalling that Barry Goldwater loved science. As did Newt Gingrich. As should any sane person who cares about his or her grandchildren.

Shame on all of you for quailing in hand-wringing fear! Reach out to sane-conservatives now, in their time of angst, and tell them that sane-conservatism will be welcome at the bargaining table. Offer friendship amid their stages of grief. Remind them that their first loyalty is to America and our shared Experiment, not Fox-induced rage. 

Music can help this transition. Julia Ward Howe is renowned as the poet who woke up one night in an inspired state to pen the lyrics of "The Battle Hymn of the Republic," the song that would become the victorious psalm of the Civil War. Join this battle filled with joy. 


=======
Housekeeping note:  Google has caused Blogspot domain to be moved to HTTPS. Good news for bloggers is that this change is completely automatic and doesn’t require the user to do anything.  Please let me know if any of you experience any effects.
Normal 0 false false false EN-US JA X-NONE /* Style Definitions */ table.MsoNormalTable {mso-style-name:"Table Normal"; mso-tstyle-rowband-size:0; mso-tstyle-colband-size:0; mso-style-noshow:yes; mso-style-priority:99; mso-style-parent:""; mso-padding-alt:0in 5.4pt 0in 5.4pt; mso-para-margin:0in; mso-para-margin-bottom:.0001pt; mso-pagination:widow-orphan; font-size:14.0pt; font-family:"Times New Roman"; mso-bidi-font-family:Times; mso-fareast-language:JA;}
. . ...a collaborative contrarian product of David Brin, Enlightenment Civilization, obstinate human nature... and http://davidbrin.blogspot.com/ (site feed URL: http://davidbrin.blogspot.com/atom.xml)

A Baker’s Dozen of Terrible Things I Have Called Ted Cruz

Whatever (John Scalzi) - Thu, 05/05/2016 - 13:00
In celebration of his exit from the 2016 presidential race, and by request, here is a more-or-less complete collection of all the horrible ways I’ve described Ted Cruz during the campaign (plus a couple bonus bits from 2013, when Whatever readers awarded him the title of Asshole of the Year, besting other luminaries such as Rob […]

The Big Idea: Katrina Archer

Whatever (John Scalzi) - Thu, 05/05/2016 - 09:22
Real-world tragedies, best-selling action novels and the Canadian undead — these are some of the influences that Katrina Archer had in mind while writing The Tree of Souls. What did she take from each and how did they come together in her novel? Archer is on it, below. KATRINA ARCHER: The Tree of Souls was born from not […]
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