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The Big Idea: Mike Allen

Whatever (John Scalzi) - Thu, 10/09/2014 - 08:16
It’s not just words that inspire writers. Mike Allen tells us about the things, more ocular than verbal, that got him going, in this Big Idea piece about his short story collection, Unseaming. MIKE ALLEN: It’s all about the visuals, baby. I am not and will never be the sort of writer who generates a […]

The Spirit of Exploration: Comets, Pluto, Titan and Mars

Contrary Brin - Wed, 10/08/2014 - 20:12
NASA awarded contracts to Boeing and SpaceX to ferry astronauts to and from the International Space Station, ending U.S. dependence on the Russian Soyuz for transportation of humans (at $70 million a seat). It's about time! It also makes clear the advantages of competition, which Elon's company has restored. How interesting that SpaceX is being paid only a little more than half what Boeing will be paid, for the same number of crew/cargo deliveries.  If Elon is trying to make a point... he is succeeding.== Comets! ==As a licensed cosmet... I mean cometologist, I find this truly exciting news: In early November, the Philae lander — currently tucked inside the European Space Agency's Rosetta spacecraft — will drop down to the surface of Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko on November 12.  Philae will make measurements while anchored to the comet by a harpoon. Scientists have just chosen Site J -- located on the comet's head for touchdown. Landing will be challenging: the surface of the 4 km double-lobed comet is jagged -- with unpredictable outgassing jets that will become more active as the comet approaches the sun.This cool online item visualizes Rosetta´s 10-year journey to explore a comet, with all important moments, current positions and also upcoming steps of the mission.Upon approach to Comet 67P, Discovery.com reported: “A spacecraft chasing a comet in deep space has found that its target is surprisingly dark in color. Instead of arriving at a bright, reflective, ice-covered heavenly body, the European Space Agency's Rosetta probe found that its target comet, 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko (or 67P/C-G), appears darker than charcoal…”In fact, this is old news. When the Giotto spacecraft flew past Halley's comet in 1986, there was "shock" that the dusty material was so dark. Though in fact we should have guessed, because other than water, a lot of material in the outer solar system is carbonaceous. At the time, my doctoral thesis on comets was new. It had predicted the dust layers, but not quite how dark they would be. In fact, that prediction was only made in one place, a sci fi novel called Heart of the Comet!== Cosmets and the Red Planet! ==Elsewhere in the solar system... MAVEN -- NASA's Mars Atmosphere and Volatile EvolutioN craft entered orbit around Mars on Sunday Sept 21. After a ten month journey, Maven began its study of the Martian atmosphere; it will spend at least a year collecting data. Only two days later,  Mangalyaan -- or Mars Orbital Mission -- India's first interplanetary spacecraft successfully achieved orbit around Mars. A source of great pride to India. MOM? Seriously? As in Mars Needs Moms?Ah... but then, a few weeks later....Comet Siding Spring is heading toward a close encounter with Mars on October 19. Planetary scientists were worried about cometary debris harming delicate instruments on Mars orbiting spacecraft while could in turn hurt our relays from the rovers. The latest assessment indicates there should be minimal danger. But I'll be biting my nails, while eagerly peering at the science data! ==On to Pluto!==NASA's New Horizons probe was scheduled to cross the orbit of Neptune on Monday (Aug. 25), 25 years to the day after Voyager 2's encounter. (Voyager was our only probe ever to visit Uranus and Neptune.) New Horizons is now streaking toward a flyby of Pluto on July 14, 2015 that should return the first good images at the distant dwarf planet and its moons.Now Paul Schenk of the Lunar and Planetary Institute in Houston has produced created the best-ever global color map of Neptune's big moon Triton, by enhancing images taken by Voyager 2 probe during its flyby of Neptune and Triton, a generation ago.(Alas “crossing the orbit” does not mean a flyby. There will be no Neptune science this time, from New Horizons.)==And beyond==Trailers for scientific papers? Hollywood has borrowed relentlessly from science (occasionally even respectfully), so why not turnaround? Sean Carroll reports that some young physicists have created a truly fun and cool trailer that in one minute teases you to know a lot more than you did before… about superfields and super-gravity and inflation! Yes, books have trailers too! Some of you have seen the amazing video preview-trailer for Existence, with incredible art by Patrick Farley! My web site also offers way cool trailers for Glory Season and Heart of the Comet.How Rare is Intelligent Life? Just released: The Copernicus Complex: Our Cosmic Significance in a Universe of Planets and Probabilities by Caleb Scharf argues that Earth will still be special, even after all sorts of alien worlds are catalogued. Unlike Peter Ward and Donald Brownlee, who argued in Rare Earth that intelligent life on Earth relied on so many unlikely accidents that we are probably alone in the universe, Scharf doesn’t think it’s likely we’re entirely unique, just rare. See more articles on SETI.NASA is expected to sponsor a contest to build better airships, breathing new life — and funding — into the idea. High-altitude airships are still in their relative infancy. None has ever flown at 65,000 feet for longer than eight hours. But a recent study from the Keck Institute for Space Studies at Caltech suggests that a more capable airship may not be far-off.Mind you, we have been reading “revival of airships” stories for thirty years! But the technologies now seem especially ripe. See my own portrayal of the vibrant future of towed zeppelins in “The Smartest Mob.”==Toward Titan and Mars==See the Super Ball Bot: this flexible tensegrity-style robot can land with a bounce -- and roll to explore planetary surfaces -- funded by NASA's Innovative and Advanced Concepts Group (NIAC). (I am on the external board of advisors for NIAC.) Researchers are considering Saturn's moon Titan for the robot's first mission.Looking ahead: is it time to re-evaluate beamed power from space?Win a trip to space -- and back! -- aboard XCOR's Lynx Mark II Spacecraft, a fundraiser to benefit MarsOne, and their plans to build a human settlement on the red planet.Read also about Elon Musk's plans for a Mars colony -- he calls Mars a serious fixer-upper.Recommended: a look at the teams of scientists and engineers who designed, built, launched, landed, and now operate the Mars Rovers: Curiosity - An inside look at the Mars Rover Mission and the people who made it happen, by Rod Pyle. These individuals are the ones who keep pushing at the frontiers of exploration...Finally: Um… didn’t I already do exactly this, in a novel? “NASA Announces Plans To Launch Chimpanzee Into Sun.” -- from The Onion!. . ...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)

Who Is That Masked Man?

Whatever (John Scalzi) - Wed, 10/08/2014 - 00:21
Why, it’s me, who along with Naomi Novik, Kevin Avery, Sarah Maclean, Jeffrey Cranor and Kate Leth (who took the photo), wrote humorous erotic fan fiction of Alan Moore and Dave Gibbon’s Watchmen for the Shipwreck show that took place this evening in Brooklyn. And when the, uh, smoke cleared, my erotic fanfiction from the […]

View From the Hotel Window, 10/6/14

Whatever (John Scalzi) - Tue, 10/07/2014 - 14:01
New York! The Big Apple! The City of Sin! And so on and so forth. I have made it here (in several senses of the term), so I guess I can make it anywhere. So that’s settled. And the hotel room I’m in is very nice, too; it even has a kitchenette with a fridge […]

The Big Idea: M.A. Larson

Whatever (John Scalzi) - Tue, 10/07/2014 - 09:33
The word “princess” has certain connotations in our culture, not all of them that great. Author M.A. Larson is here to talk about some of them, and how they relate to her new novel, Pennyroyal Academy. M.A. LARSON: I didn’t have a daughter yet when I started on the long path from idea to publication. […]

Abortion and the "Jesus Effect"

Contrary Brin - Mon, 10/06/2014 - 18:47
Okay then, after riling up some of you by trashing some favorite movies, or else positively reviewing some films you hate, let's settle down to a topic that will win friends and soothe ruffled feathers...

God Does Not Regard the Fetus as a Soul: This article in Slate is an interesting attempt to grasp - historically - why the American right swung so avidly and passionately toward a zero-tolerance policy against abortion: "Ask most (white) evangelicals about the morality of abortion these days, and you’re certain to hear about its absolute immorality in most, if not all, circumstances. But this is a recent innovation in the history of evangelical belief, a product of political forces as well as new theological insight," writes Jamelle Bouie.

As recently as the late seventies, even the Southern Baptist Convention declared it to be morally acceptable in all borderline cases (e.g. rape, incest or threatened health of the mother and the first couple of months. Even theologians in the "biblical inerrancy" movement (the Bible is 100% accurate) cited “[A]ccording to Exodus 21:22–24, the destruction of the fetus is not a capital offense. … Clearly, then, in contrast to the mother, the fetus is not reckoned as a soul.”By 1982, however, all had changed and the passionate declarations of "baby-killing in all cases, even contraception" became standard as the most perfect litmus test of an increasingly rigid American right wing…. even as the decline and later fall of communism sapped most similar dogmatic purity out of the far-left. 
So whence came this purist passion, that has absolutely no bearing on the hoary and simplistic so-called "left-right axis"? Randall Balmer, in his book about Jimmy Carter "Redeemer," roots this evolution in the 1970s push to change federal tax laws, removing tax-exemption from segregationist schools that barred pupils because of race. This change -- which even most republicans would today call justified -- was first proposed by Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford, but was blamed on Carter by furious southern whites.  Knowing they could not actually make an issue over such an immoral stance, they needed another purist issue, says Balmer.

Very clearly, one aspect to all of this is the effectiveness of the abortion issue at delivering the biggest (and most destructive) "drug high" in American life, repeated, heavy doses of pleasurable self-righteous indignation, poisoning our national genius at pragmatic problem-solving and negotiation with our neighbors.  I explain this in a TedX talk: Indignation, Addiction and Hope: Does it help to be "Mad as Hell?" that shows how it is not only the American right, wallowing in this filthy habit of self-doped dudgeon. Many on the left... and even you moderate liberals... indulge in this addiction, shamelessly. 

But no. Sometimes -- and especially regarding abortion -- it goes much, much deeper than that.

== The deepest underlying reason ==Envision you are a woman who has discovered she is carrying an anencephalic fetus… without cranium or brain, that will not survive outside the womb — absolutely zero chance — and that cannot experience any sort of life. (It has nothing to experience life with!) Will purists actually insist she must continue to carry it for five more months?Then there is the problem of purism vs incrementalism. States like Colorado, that offer teens free contraceptives, would appear to be encouraging promiscuity. Yet, Colorado (and other blues) have LOWER teen sex, teen pregnancy, STD and — yes — abortion rates than states like Mississippi, in which “sex education” consists only of berating kids toward total abstinence -- a goal that they achieve less well than blue states do.Faced with facts like these, the Confederate Philosophy must be purist. Just reducing the number and percentage of abortions is a non-issue; indeed, pushing for pragmatic, incremental reduction is seen as a sign of moral fault! 

As in Ursula LeGuin’s famous story “Those who walk away from Omelas,” no pragmatic weighing of numbers can stand up to the pure villainy of the state sanctioning even one innocent death. (Never mind that state laws against abortion never succeed and always increase the number of botched procedures and deaths.)But none of that explains the purity of the right’s current obsession. So what gives?All right, as you'd expect... I have a theory: the "Jesus Effect."It's quite simple. Just look at any image of Jesus -- beard, long-hair, sandals, beads, wandering around the desert with a bunch of guys, preaching folks to give up their possessions, "the meek shall inherit" and all that… while also proclaiming you should pay your taxes without complaint. Now squint and imagine him returning and walking amongst us today, teaching the same things.Um, to whatever extent he endorses a U.S. political party, which can you envision the hippie socialist choosing?  

No no.  This won't do.  This will not do at all!

What conservatives needed was a single issue that would make the crucial difference, like an on-off switch. Something so pure and absolute that Jesus would have to switch sides, holding his nose and saying: "I disagree with you right-wingers on every social and economic and general moral point, and yet... I must still side with you against the goll-durn lib’ruls. Bcause I can't abide baby-killers."
If you had to come up with such an all-or-nothing test, "baby-killing" would pretty much be it. Just by defining humanity at conception, you eliminate any need to consider Jesus's wishes on other matters, like economic fairness, or pacifism, or inheritance by the meek, or… You get it; nothing else need be considered! Truly, can you think of any better reason, to explain the volcanic fury of this movement?Why no compromise is permissible, even steadily-incrementally reducing the rate and numbers of abortions? 

Otherwise, we'd long ago have found common ground, uniting on a shared goal ----- that strenuous efforts should be undertaken to ensure that abortion will be safe, legal, and very rare.
. . ...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)

Two Views of a Very Temporary Look

Whatever (John Scalzi) - Mon, 10/06/2014 - 14:33
Having never done it before, I was curious what I would look like with just a mustache. The answer: Strangely like John Goodman! And of course I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to make a genuinely terrible picture of myself, so please to enjoy this, which I call “The Worst Police Booking Photo, Ever”: Aaaaand now […]

Aiming for the Market

Whatever (John Scalzi) - Mon, 10/06/2014 - 12:48
On his blog, Steven Brust talks about why he doesn’t like being asked for advice on pubishing — the answer being that he has his own conflicted relationship to the business of publishing, the fact of which does not necessarily put him in the best of positions to counsel someone else with questions about the […]

Today’s Little Bit of Online Wisdom

Whatever (John Scalzi) - Sun, 10/05/2014 - 22:07
Originally posted over on Twitter, and posting here for archival purposes. Occasionally I feel like picking a fight online just to do it. But then I remember to not intentionally be an asshole and/or have a snack. — John Scalzi (@scalzi) October 5, 2014 @scalzi So much internet drama would be avoided if Twitter required […]

Sci Fi Flicks! Some looks back and forward

Contrary Brin - Sat, 10/04/2014 - 16:12
Are we on the verge of the new Golden Age of science fiction cinema, in which it becomes about matters more interesting than explosions?  Let's start as Ray Kurzweil and company give us a sneak peak at the forthcoming movie Autómata“Starring Antonio Banderas, here we have a believable future (2044, thirty years from now) in which desertification is threatening society, and a single company is leading the way in intelligent robotics.” says one George Mason university blogger.  Indeed, it appears to be part of the new crop of films that treat AI with some attempts at subtlety.

Also looming on the horizon, even sooner... I’ve consulted for the new SyFy show “Ascension,” helping them design the ship and life-support systems and other tech… and the society of colonists who last had contact with Earth in 1962.  There is a new trailer up on EW now.  See the premiere November 24.  At least on the idea level, the concept meetings had me thrilled.

What about Avatar?  The sequel soon-to-be-released?  Didn't I write a whole essay of advice for James Cameron (as if he needs or wants it) a year ago?  Okay, I'll post that soon... as an artifact. Of course, like most of you, I am eagerly hopeful about Christopher Nolan’s Interstellar. There appears to be some indication that it will offer us all the optimistic, can-do kind of confidence-building sci fi that this civilization desperately needs, after decades of stylishly-imitative cynicism. A theme that Luc Besson kind-of, sort-of, went for in “LUCY” (an under-rated film) and that Nolan’s protege Walter Pfister murkily tried for, but failed to achieve in “Transcendance.” Marc Zicree and his team are clearly aiming for this sensibility in “Space Command.”About LUCY. Now, first off, I am a Luc Besson fan — though I always make sure to tune down my IQ and mental age dials, whenever I go to see one of his films. Nothing wrong with that! (The Fifth Element is one of my all-time faves.) I did that for LUCY and was rewarded by having a very good time. Though on this occasion… alas… well, this film was kind of tragic, because the IQ downshift should not have been necessary! Look, I am not always searching for something as deeply thought-provoking as Leslie Dixon's terrific screenplay for LIMITLESS...... but just five minutes of dialogue-doctoring could have shifted LUCY's “we use just 10% of our brains" howler (that offended so many) into some much more plausible-sounding blather that we could more-easily accept. A little work with some sober science-advisers and hard SF idea guys could have soothed you nerds out there enough to make this film a real success. Likewise, some of the most "magical" scenes could so easily have been replaced with equally cool tech-manipupation stuff.Having said that... LUCY has many moving and thoughtful moments, along with gobs of Luc Besson's trademark fun. And it does not go for the cheap idiot plot that is so common these days -- the tediously common assumption that all our human institutions, neighbors and professionals are useless fools. Indeed, most are portrayed here as fairly smart and trying very hard.Especially, in the penultimate scene, when Morgan Freeman holds the super USB drive containing… well… no spoiler. But it represents a notion that is unabashedly Faustian and friendly to unlimited human ambition. That is refreshing, compared to the cliched, Crichtonian-nostalgic rant against science that pervades most media.I saw this also in the lovely-gentle film HER.The crux? I found myself won over more than I expected to be. Many good aspects of the film far outweighed howlers — like the ditzy villains. It is what Luc Besson does. As in The Fifth Element, this film is like a golden retriever who jumps on your lap and licks your face and pours love all over you until you surrender.== Why this is rare ==It is an uphill struggle for any film maker! Note the relentless number of dystopias, especially aimed at teenagers, that go for the cliched but timeless message: “I am a star-shaped peg that YOU (society/parents/schools) are pounding into a conformist square hole! Just you WAIT until I find my real friends and my real talents and powers!”
Who can compete with that timeless theme? Indeed, I praise and support the basic, individualistic, non-comformist love of tolerance, diversity and eccentricity that pervades most Hollywood dramas and sci fi novels! It is the only way we’ll get the self-preventing prophecies we desperately need, while keeping up our momentum of self-criticism toward a better world.But when “warnings” become “idiot plots” that never once show the possibility of a decent civilization… hackneyed copycats that ONLY portray teen angst and repetitious chosen-one pablum, then we have a problem.Below, I will offer up my comments (at last) on the flick Gavin Hood made from Orson Scott Card’s “Ender’s Game”… and my reaction may surprise you!But first… and be warned I am about to go VERY fan-boyt geeky on you now…== Star Trek Lives! ==First… a couple of added notes about "Axanar" the cool looking indie film being developed in the pre-Kirk (and pre-JJ Abrams) Ortho Trek universe.1) Reiterating — do have a look at the “Prelude” online. This is way cool and I hope you will support the Kickstarter.2) All praise to Paramount for having taken the simultaneously noble and excellently profitable route of allowing wide latitude for indie and amateur play in this beloved universe, one of the very few that expresses belief in a better tomorrow.3) One small note... I have long been rankled by the tendency of Trek producers to admire the Klingons as macho dudes -- kind of the way Frank Miller praises Spartans... when both were/are horrific slaver-holders and vile oppressors, deeply and savagely cruel. Yes, you must wind up with the Klingons of Deep Space Nine, who have reformed a lot and have (by that point) become gruff-macho but decent allies. But clearly they had to suffer many major losses before finally cleaning up... as did the Kzin in Larry Niven's Known Space cosmos. One of those setbacks was the Chernobyl-like calamity shown in the Kirk flicks. Axanar will be the first of these setbacks for the earlier, super-nasty Klingon types. Fine..But how about a glance at the slave races, languishing under Klingon conquest-rule? (If Klingon territory is comparable to that of the Federation, there would be a lot of such oppressed systems.) Even a nod toward them changes the equation! As even a momentary sight of the real-life Spartan Helot-slaves would destroy our sympathy for the vicious Queen Gorgo and her entire caste of monstrous bullies, in the wretched “300” series by Frank Miller and Zack Snyder.  Miller and Snyder had a good reason never to show that aspect of the Spartans.  But Star Trek should cinch up and shine a light right at the moral imperative of Federation victory, at Axanar.I hope the AXANAR script will show some slave planets rebelling and helped to join the Federation! With others promised… “someday, we’ll free you, too.”4) Finally, about the J.J. Abrams spinoff series. Okay, okay, things could be way worse. Compared to the vast majority of Hollywood sci fi betrayals, they are fun flicks and Abrams seems to actually think he is paying homage to the Roddenberry vision. He does not get the need for an underlying theme of can-do optimism, but at least he’s not doing the cliched opposite.That is, except for killing off Planet Vulcan and raising James Kirk as a traumatized, bratty orphan. But yes, that works, too. Sort-of. At least Abrams is handling Chris Pine’s character well.Only… buthere’s the rub… ** Has the original Kirk Universe been erased? **It is a major bone of contention when you discuss the range of possibilities in multiverse and parallel universes! And artistically, it is one thing if the branch point (when Kirk’s father is killed) created a NEW track without destroying the original. It is another — with many philosophical ramifications — if it is an erasure and replacement. (For one thing, it means Abrams’s cosmos could likewise be erased, at any moment!)Sure, this may be worrying the bone way too much! But it is a sign of how deeply this mythos has wormed its way into our hearts that it really does matter!Indeed, what’s all this with the old (Nimoy) Spock having sworn never to tell anything or interfere? To what end? All the paradoxes are already in place. His words of advice are needed! Especially since, on this track, the Federation has been robbed of one of its strongest members — Vulcan itself. Old Spock should be putting a number of advice gems in a can — like Hari Seldon does for the First Foundation… and JJ Abrams could be doing this NOW, while Leonard Nimoy is still able!One of those gems should show Nimoy's Spock saying:“The universe I came from has not been erased. It stands alongside this one, unreachable, but just inches away, sturdy, like a trellis on which the vine of your new adventure now grows. All of my friends, their triumphs and losses and accomplishments still flourish… elsewhere. But this timeline… this path… is yours.”That statement would give solace and comfort to the millions of fans who are (frankly) just a bit cheesed off at Abtrams over the genocide of Vulcan and Kirk’s lost childhood. It also (hint-hint) lays the seed for a way-cool encounter between enterprises (and ChrisPine-Kirks) in some possible sequel.And that’s my earnest (urgent) advice to JJ Abrams, as one storyteller about destiny to another. Please.  Remember what Trek is about.  It is the only major franchise in cinema that looks at the future and offers us... hope.== Ender’s Game ==And turning to provide a case-in-point....

Okay, we finally rented Ender's Game for a viewing of four families, having all delayed until we could share it, cheap. (That’s the trick, if you need to see a flick, legally, but want only pennies to go to the makers.) And yes, it had many of the flaws I expected. And yet…1) It is still the formula Card perfected so well. A demigod-chosen-one-Nietzchean-ubermensch-child garners reader-viewer sympathy by seeming really weak and standing up to bullies… finding his “true friends and talents and powers” and showing those bullies what-for.2) He feels really really BAD about every brutal use of power that he was forced… forced!… to engage in. Luring the reader or audience member to say: “Ender, don’t be so hard on yourself! They made you do it!”That’s what I like about cardian demigods. They are so soulful and angst-ridden. When they take over the world, they never enjoy it. It’s always for our own good. They never wanted power! We forced them - though our shared obstinacy and the hopeless badness of all society.Gavin Hood’s screenplay softens some of this stuff. For example, Card’s relentless tirades that all democratic institutions absolutely cannot ever be trusted and are guaranteed to be corrupt, and that rule-by-demigod is the only rational choice. Those are gone from the film and the core villainy of the Earth Military is portrayed in a fairly plausible way. Indeed, that particular failure mode can - and has — happened! The quickie incorporation of the Formic Queen from “Speaker for the Dead” was okay and left out the truly horrific rationalizations in the original novel, reducing it, instead, to a fairly sweet paean to tolerance. Fine.As a flick, it is only so-so. Ender only earns his rapid promotions by passing unscientific “tests” that are designed to fit the schoolmaster’s tendentious expectations. There is never a rising-from-equals that would truly be dramatic, as we see in “Hunger Games” for example. Without question, Hood’s film is an improvement over the dismally anti-civilization, demigod-worshipping originals.I kind of enjoyed it, in fact.

Still, start growing aware of when you are being manipulated. The future will not be made by demigods, no matter how intensely Orson Scott Card and George Lucas and other romantics insist.  It will be made by millions, even billions, of somewhat above average (if flawed) people who innovate smartly, struggle bravely, negotiate with each other, build and gradually improve institutions, keep spreading their horizons of tolerance, diversity and imagination, while never losing confidence that we can make things better.  

That's the focus of our great experiment.  And those who preach we should go back to feudalism, couching their allure in epic tales of demigod chosen-ones... these folks aren't the friends of your grand-children.  They are propagandizing for the enemy.

. . ...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)

Redshirts in Korean and Polish

Whatever (John Scalzi) - Sat, 10/04/2014 - 13:43
And they are two very different takes on the same book, I would say. Of the Polish one, I’m mildly curious as to how Adam Baldwin got on the cover, not to mention the young lady with the chest plate tattoo; neither of them really seem to be in uniform. I will say that the […]

New Books and ARCs, 10/3/14

Whatever (John Scalzi) - Fri, 10/03/2014 - 15:14
End of the week is here, and it’s a good time to show you what’s come into the Scalzi Compound, in terms of new books and ARCs. Anything look particularly interesting to you? Let me know in the comments.

Hello, Friday. Have Some Mary Lambert

Whatever (John Scalzi) - Fri, 10/03/2014 - 14:31
I think this song is pretty neat. Enjoy.

The right narrative to fight voter-suppression candidates

Contrary Brin - Thu, 10/02/2014 - 18:15
I sent the following suggestion to the campaign of Jean Schodorf, who is running to oust the “worst Republican in the world” - Kris Koback - from the office of Kansas Secretary of State. Schodorf is that rare creature, a genuine prairie conservative who would have been republican all her life, till she realized that the madness that has hijacked today’s GOP is not temporary and recently switched parties. 

Unlike the millions of sane but in-denial “ostrich republicans” who have buried their heads, moaning and hoping the craziness will just go away, Schodorf is taking it on, head-to-head. Zeroing in on Koback’s blatant and extreme efforts to suppress thousands of native born Kansans from exercising their right to vote.Here is my suggestion… which any of you are free to pass along to your own favorite candidates-for-sanity. ————Dear Jean Schodorf,David Brin here - best-selling author and scientist - with a suggestion how to manage the voter-suppression issue in your electoral campaign.Let’s start with the obvious: You will get almost nowhere just proclaiming that Voter Suppression laws are unfair.  That will be dismissed as "the whining of losers." Nor will it do any good to compare the exceedingly rare polling-place fraud with the outrageous vote theft called gerrymandering,  which can be brought to heel by other methods. No. There is a much better "judo" argument that will expose the Voter ID campaigns as hypocritical cheating... a much more powerful accusation.  Please carefully read my argument below, which is cribbed from one of my more well-known postings: Steering Our Outrage in Wrong Directions.“In fact, as a moderate, I am not opposed to gradually increasing the demand that voters prove who they are! Even though at-precinct voting fraud is virtually nil, there is nothing intrinsically wrong with improving care and accountability. People who are against voter ID improvements in any form are probably dogmatic, too.“But -- and here is a very big "but" -- if these laws weren't aimed solely at stealing elections for the GOP, then the states in question would have accompanied the new regulations with measures aimed at helping their citizens to comply with the new burdens.“States routinely give "compliance assistance" to corporations, when new regulations apply to them.  "But apparently not one cent has been appropriated in any red state to help the poor, or young, or women, or minorities to get the required ID -- a move that would also help them in so many other aspects of life.  In some cases, simple access to ID might help them to STOP being poor.“Please dig that well, because it is the alarm and utter proof of both cheating motives and lying hypocrisy. How much have red states allocated to help newly disenfranchised citizens to comply with onerous new state regulations?  Not… one… red… cent.*“Hypocrisy is still punished by some voters. If this point -- about helping corporations with regulation compliance, while refusing to help one poor citizen to comply with new regulatory hurdles -- were hammered home, then maybe ten percent of the voters might be swayed, and that’s a lot.Hammer that this is what the once honorable and intellectual movement of Goldwater and Buckley is reduced to. Not winning elections based on the merits of their evidence or by comparing the outcomes from their party's past periods of rule. (Those comparisons go very badly for the GOP.) Rather, all efforts go to cheating and more cheating. And if you support this cheat, then no amount of arm-waving will let you escape the clear fact -- that you are a cheater, too.”Yes, that is a very aggressive way to put it.  But this issue could be a killer for candidates opposing the swarm of vipers who have taken over the party of Lincoln, Eisenhower and Reagan.With cordial regards,David Brinhttp://www.davidbrin.com

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* Note, Wisconsin does provide compliance help to get ID and has proved that this is very cheap to do.  But Wisconsin is not "red". It is a battleground state and the compliance help has been engaged by blue elements of that state as part of the tussle among fanatical and moderate elements in this, phase eight of our re-ignited Civil 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)

My New York Comic Con/Super Week Schedule

Whatever (John Scalzi) - Thu, 10/02/2014 - 14:48
Because I will be in NYC next week! To do things! And stuff! Tuesday, October 7, 8pm at The Bell House, Brooklyn: Shipwreck: “Good theatre for bad literature? Marital aid for book nerds? A literary erotic fanfiction competition for the ages? Shipwreck is all of these things. Six Great Writers will destroy one Great Book, […]

Unlocked Limited Signed Hardcover: Officially Out!

Whatever (John Scalzi) - Thu, 10/02/2014 - 08:49
Just a quick note to make you aware that, as the headline says, the Subterranean Press signed, limited hardcover edition of “Unlocked” is now officially out in the world and available for order. This edition features the fantastic artwork above, by Molly Crabapple, my signature, and the general fantastic quality that Subterranean Press gives all […]

Dual Lock In Reviews in Locus Magazine

Whatever (John Scalzi) - Wed, 10/01/2014 - 17:15
Dual, but not dueling, because they are both positive. Whew! The one by Gary K. Wolfe says that Lock In is “the most enjoyable robot story I’ve read this year — even though it’s not quite about robots,” and notes there are “provocative notions about power, privilege, politics, and even family dynamics that give the […]

The Big Idea: Gwenda Bond

Whatever (John Scalzi) - Wed, 10/01/2014 - 08:19
You’ve heard of Shakespeare in the Park, but Shakespeare at the circus? That may be a new one. But that didn’t stop Gwenda Bond from using one of the bard’s most popular plays as one of the inspirations for her new novel, Girl on a Wire. Now she’s here to talk about how to achieve […]

Blurb Requests for 2014 and Convention GoH Invites for 2015: Full Up

Whatever (John Scalzi) - Tue, 09/30/2014 - 18:39
A quick note for people wanting to request book blurbs from me, or to invite me to be a GoH for a convention in 2015: I unfortunately have no more time to read for blurbing through the end of the year (on account of a book to finish plus many other commitments). Also, my 2015 convention […]

Hey, Kids! Let’s Define a Word!

Whatever (John Scalzi) - Tue, 09/30/2014 - 14:38
So, recently, I created a word, “shitcanoe,” to describe people who are, well, not good people. As far as I can tell its appearance on Whatever is the first time it’s ever been used as a general noun, although a quick check of Google has a couple of prior references as a gamer handle (strangely […]
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