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Of Dinosaurs, Legos, and Impossible Hypotheticals
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A Super Serious Meditation on the Nature of Speculative Fiction

One of the squawking points that the Puppy campaigners keep returning to in their quest to prove the existence of a shadowy Social Justice Warrior cabal that at some point took over and subverted the Hugo awards (thus necessitating that they ride in as liberators) is the 2014 nomination of “If You Were A Dinosaur, My Love“, a quirky yet haunting and deeply emotive short story by Rachel Swirsky.

The Puppies, who only understand that tastes are subjective when it’s convenient for them, take it for granted that this story is so awful the only possible reason it could have been nominated was that the SJW clique was rewarding it for pushing the “proper” message.

I’ve never yet had a Puppy who was able to explain, when asked, exactly what the message was. Dinosaurs are more awesome and less frail than humans? Five men should not gang up on one person and savagely beat them with pool cues for being different? What’s the controversial hidden meaning of this story, exactly?

It’s worth noting that the Hugo voting community was and remains pretty sharply divided about this, and it did not win. So one must wonder what all the fuss is about, even if the story does not seem Hugo-worthy. Of course, some people might say that if it’s an honor just to be nominated, then it’s worth asking if the honor was earned… but the Puppies’ individual grievances suggest that they don’t see nomination as an honor. Both Torgersen and Correia’s Campbell nominations have been treated essentially as pledges that were not fulfilled, for instance, and Torgersen acts as though Mike Resnick’s nomination was an unforgivable snub.

But I don’t wish to focus too much on the Puppies’ problems with this story, because there are complaints against it that go beyond their borders. As I said, the community has been divided about its merits, if not as a work in general than as a speculative fiction story in particular. The common criticism amounts to the idea that it is neither a story nor SF/F.

My John Z. Upjohn’s review of If You Give A Mouse A Cookie actually plays on the logic of this: that since the whole story is inflected in the conditional case, nothing really happens within it. The narrator is not telling us what happened when the person referred to in the title was a dinosaur, but merely relating what might have happened if they were a dinosaur. So while the story is full of science fiction-y concepts (though it explicitly paints them as magical and thus fantasy, but more on that later), it’s not actually a specfic story—the reasoning goes—because none of that stuff actually happens.

As it happens, I can’t agree with this logic. I just can’t. “A text in which the narrator explains what would happen if something impossible according to our current understanding of the world happened” is a pretty decent definition of a speculative story to me. In fact, I’m not sure how it could be improved upon. If Rachel Swirsky had written an alternate version of the story that simply straight-out related the events being described as hypothetical in the extant version, they would be no less hypothetical and no more real, would they?

Speculative fiction consists of speculation; that is tautology. It answers the question “What might happen if this other, currently impossible thing happened?”

Swirsky’s story does a number of things worthy of discussion. Making the question explicit, making the speculative nature of speculative fiction part of the text rather than the subtext is simply one of them. If there’s any doubt that this skillful play on convention is not deliberate and informed, it should be laid to rest by the line which follows another impossible hypothetical introduced into the text, the line that reads:

all those people who—deceived by the helix-and-fossil trappings of cloned dinosaurs– believed that they lived in a science fictional world when really they lived in a world of magic where anything was possible.

In this line, Swirsky is commenting on the porousness of the boundaries we try to draw when it comes to speculative fiction. This is science fiction, that is fantasy; this has lasers and star ships, that has swords and sorcery. But even without getting into Arthur C. Clarke’s apt but perhaps overworked adage about sufficiently advanced science… the divide really isn’t as clear as all that.

So much science fiction never bothers to address the why or how of its hypotheticals, because the question the author wants to address isn’t (for instance) “How can we make autonomous intelligent beings to serve us?” but “What happens when we do?” Isaac Asimov’s “positronic brains” weren’t a prediction; he grabbed the most scienterrific buzzword available to him at the time and used it to explain the leap necessary to answer the question of “If We Were Robot-Makers, My Fellow Humans”.

So much of the annals of science fiction require us to imagine not just a new technological breakthrough but a specific breakthrough in our understanding of the physical laws of the universe, some principle hidden to actual real-world modern humans, which when mastered allows us to do things that seem like magic.

Similarly, there are certainly stories with fantasy trappings that dress them up with what Swirsky refers to as the “trappings” of science fiction: magic may be explained away by the wise as simply “subconscious psionic talents focused through the use of repetitive motions and chants”. Actually, I haven’t read all that much that takes that particular route, but it apparently is or was once a common enough meme that I’ve encountered readers who just assume that all well-written magic must be this, and are shocked at the idea that it might not be the author’s intent.

The point I am making here is that you can interpret nearly all of science fiction as fantasy and nearly all of fantasy as science fiction, which might be why we get so hung up on the “trappings”, on the limbs and outer flourishes. This story is science fiction because it has atomic blaster rays, or cyberspace, or nanites, according to your epoch. That story is fantasy because it has elves and dwarves and dragons. Sometimes we focus on the feel when drawing the dividing line. Even a grim and gritty science fiction story is not grim and gritty in quite the same way as a grim and gritty fantasy story, though exploring why would probably take a whole separate blog post.

This porous divide is not the major theme or focus of Rachel Swirsky’s work, and I’m not suggesting that it is only in her acknowledgment of it that the work achieves relevance or eligibility as a speculative fiction story. If talking about the nature of science fiction and fantasy made a work science fiction or fantasy, this blog post would count as speculative fiction. My point here is that there is a lot more going on in this brief piece than a “mere” chasing down of impossible hypotheticals.

But that “mere” is used advisedly, because that’s “merely” what science fiction and fantasy are.

There’s another work nominated this year that has stirred similar questions in a more limited way, perhaps more limited because the Dramatic Presentation categories are seen as less serious and crucial in a literary award than the literary categories, and perhaps because as a Sad Puppy pick it is taken less seriously to begin with.

The work in question is The Lego Movie, which contains a couple of scenes near the end that make explicit the implicit framing device for a movie about Lego characters in a world made out of Lego blocks: it’s all a child, playing with toys. It is this moment, in my opinion, that elevates The Lego Movie from merely being charming and fun to actually pretty sublimely brilliant. It explained so many of the odd quirks of characterization and storytelling earlier in the film.

I mean, it changed the movie’s version of Batman from “weirdly out of character, but okay, it’s funny” to “…that’s freaking brilliant” because it wasn’t Batman as adult comic book fans understand him but Batman seen through the eyes of a child, with way more focus on the cool factor of everything and of course he has the coolest girlfriend and of course even the grimdark angst seems kind of fun…

But that’s just one representative example. Taken as a whole, the movie reminded me of the way my brothers and I used to play with our toys, not playing with this set of characters or that but throwing them all together in an expansive world, some with the figures “playing themselves” and others being creatively repurposed.

We had one figure of a female character with green hair in a red body suit. I believe it was a Robotech character, but she often stood in for Samus Aran because we didn’t have a Samus action figure available to us, but if you unlocked the armor-less playthrough and had the Varia, Samus had green hair and a red body suit. These are the kinds of creative compromises a child’s imagination makes on the fly, and The Lego Movie nailed that.

Here’s the rub, though: a movie that is about imagination and how children play with toys isn’t speculative fiction in any meaningful sense, is it? The story that the little boy is creating for himself is both science fiction and fantasy, but the story about the little boy creating that story through play is rooted firmly in the real world, right? Anybody could do that.

Except during those scenes in the “real world”, the main character maintains his consciousness and a small amount of ability to move independently of the child. There’s no narrator relating this to us. The child is not aware it’s happening. The Lego Movie thus is a fantasy movie, because it contains this element of the unvarnished fantastical.

But look at what a whiplash, razor-thin calculation this is: if we had a cut of the movie that removed the main character’s internal monologue from the scenes taking place in the basement and replaced the character’s independent movement with being accidentally swept to the floor or something similar, the movie wouldn’t be fantasy anymore, yet if we removed those scenes entirely, it would be fantasy again?

I’m sorry, but I don’t buy it.

It’s far less ridiculous to simply declare that The Lego Movie is a fantasy movie than it is to say that it all hinges on the explicitness or lack thereof of a framing device.

To use some other examples:

The Wizard of Oz is a fantasy movie because the story we’re told from the moment that Dorothy is knocked out until the moment she regains consciousness is a fantasy movie; nobody went to the theater to see the amazing adventures of a young woman’s misfiring neurons, but her magical adventures in a land of wonder.

Big Fish is a fantasy movie because it contains a fantasy story; that this fantasy story is intertwined with a family drama makes it no less fantastical. The family drama keeps us grounded and invested, but no one went into that movie thinking, “Gee, I really hope that Billy Crudup reconciles with Albert Finney before he dies.” People might have thought that—or felt it, rather than explicitly having those words pass through their heads—while sitting there watching it, but that’s not why they showed up for it.

How about Edward Scissorhands? If you casually think about that movie, you might not even realize it has an explicit framing device. But the movie is explicitly a story we are being told, which means that any or all of the more impossible, unlikely, and phantasmagorical elements of the story might be imagined or exaggerated or just plain fabricated. The whole thing could be another “Big Fish” story.

Then there’s The Princess Bride. The heartwarming story of Columbo bonding with Wonder Years over a beloved classic story is important, sure. It adds an inflection to the other story, the story that he tells.

But when you get right down to it, what’s the difference between a fantasy story the movie tells to you directly and one the movie tells by means of addressing it to a character within the movie? Not much, by my reckoning. I’m not saying it’s not an important creative decision. The Princess Bride, The Lego Movie, and Big Fish would all be very different movies without their explicit frames. It’s hard to imagine them not being worse movies.

But every movie—every story—has at least an implicit frame. Even if a text is written in third person omniscient style with the least discursive and obtrusive voice possible, we are still being told this happened and that happened and he thought this and she said that and they did this thing. Convention dictates that an invisible narrator presented without appreciable personality or agenda should be fairly reliable, but what does “reliable” mean when we’re told the story of a thing that never happened and never could?

The lover of the narrator in Rachel Swirsky’s story never was a dinosaur, yes! And Han Solo never flew the Millennium Falcon. Captain Janeway never tricked the Borg Queen and returned to the Alpha Quadrant. Link never reunited the Triforce. These things are all both fictional and also impossible.

If you subscribe to the more SFnal-friendly versions of the multiverse theory (or to borrow the trappings of the other genre, the “all stories are true” theory of The Sandman), then of course these things did happen, somewhere, somewhen, somehow.

There is a world where Han Solo exists. In fact, there are infinite numbers of worlds in which he existed, which means that not only are there worlds in which he didn’t shoot first, there are worlds in which a trusting and slow Han Solo was shot dead by a cagey Greedo, and there are worlds in which Han Solo never owed money to Jabba because he was a vapor farmer instead of a spice smuggler.

So even allowing that there is a “real” world of Star Wars somewhere out there doesn’t let us say with any certainty or authority that any cut of a Star Wars movie or any particular of its expanded universe is “what really happened”.

All that we have in any SF/F story is the story, not the story of what really happened, just the story, or maybe more accurately, a story.

If we can imagine that any SF/F story we tell each other might be happening somewhere, we can imagine the same is true that any such story told within any story we’re telling each other.

The Great Speculative Fiction Multiverse not only demands we imagine that there actually a world where a little boy played out his frustration with his too restrictive dad using the world’s most amazing Lego set, it demands we imagine a world where conscious and autonomous Lego figures lived out that story. This demand does not change when we tell these two stories in proximity to each other, does it?

The distinction between “speculative fiction” and “not speculative fiction” is important, sure, but at the end of the day I’d say that the nature of the boundary is more something interesting to explore than necessary to pin down.

And I don’t need to know exactly where the dividing line between “fantasy” and “non-fantasy” lies to know that a story in which the narrator explains what might happen if a human being could magically transform into a human-sized T-rex is a fantasy story.

Originally published at Blue Author Is About To Write. Please leave any comments there.

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Angels of the Meanwhile goes to #WisCon39 (TEN DAYS LEFT)
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angels of the meanwhile coverHey, folks! I’m Alexandra Erin, author of Tales of MU, Sad Puppies Review Books, and that blurry screenshot of a Tumblr post where Superman is singing to Batma that you saw on Facebook that one time.

Can I tell you a secret? I’m terrible at self-promotion. It’s my greatest weakness as an independent author. I’m lousy at networking, I just hate putting myself out there, I’m always worried that I’m making a nuisance of myself, that I’m annoying people, that what I’m doing is not good enough to call attention to…

Right now I’m at WisCon, and I’m doing my best to get over it because there are just ten days left to reserve your copies of Angels of the Meanwhile, an electronic chapbook of poetry and prose put together by caring friends to help Elizabeth R. McClellan (@popelizbet) with the unexpected medical expenses from the shoulder injury that has kept her from joining us.

I would not be here in Madison if she had not come first and then dragged me along with her the next year. I first met many of the people who have contributed their words to the collection here, too: people like the inimitable Amal El-Mohtar, the incomparable Saira Ali, and the unstoppable C.S.E. Cooney. Later today I’m going to be on a panel with the celebrated author and poet Ellen Kushner, who has also generously contributed a piece. Many of the other contributors are part of the larger WisCon community

The whole long list of authors and poets who have stepped up to contribute both new and previously published works is both astonishing and humbling. You can find the table of contents here, though there are also a few late additions I’m still slotting in. All the works listed there and more can be yours. How? Just make a payment in any amount you deem fair in the PayPal form below, and the money will go directly to Lizbet, helping her recoup out-of-pocket medical expenses, lost income, and other related losses from her shoulder injury.

Email Address (For Delivery)

When we’ve finished editing and formatting the final manuscript (projected for July), you’ll receive a package in your email containing the collection formatted for Kindle as well as Nook and other e-readers, and as a PDF. No e-reader? There are free apps for the e-book formats, and the PDF is readable on any computer or smart device.

We’re taking this pre-order route in order to give Lizbet the immediate financial relief she needs while still delivering a product equal to your gift and worthy of the talent that has been contributed to the cause.

Thank you for your help!

Originally published at Blue Author Is About To Write. Please leave any comments there.

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Hello, WisCon!
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So, today we leave for Madison, one day earlier than planned. We won’t necessarily be at the Concourse before tomorrow… that depends on how we feel after a day of traveling, following closely on the heels of a day of panicky, last minute packing and preparations.

If you’re going to be at the Con and you want to say hi and/or hang out, here’s what you need to know:

  1. Because I have a high degree of face blindness myself, I have a habit of making myself recognizable, especially at the con. My trademark rainbow fringe is actually a style I adopted specifically for WisCon two years ago. Depending on when you see me, I might have black hair with rainbow bangs or full-on rainbow hair. I won’t necessarily be the only person with rainbow hair, but the combination of rainbow hair, a floppy black hat, and a floor-length skirt are pretty distinctive.
  2. A thing I hear from people quite often is “I wanted to say hi, but you looked tired/sad/lost in thought.” I assure you, that is just my face. I mean, I might be tired. I have a chronic fatigue condition so I’m often tired. But if I let that stop me from having a good time, I would never have one. I am not the most social person in the world, but once a year I fly hundreds of miles and spend hundreds of dollars to meet people and be social. Help me get my money’s worth!
  3. The face blindness thing is real. If you do come up to say hi, please introduce yourself and please tell me if we’ve met before. I mean whether or not we have. Like, “Hi, my name is Connie Wisconsinconson. We’ve never met, but I wanted to say hi.” The reason I ask this is because if someone comes up and says hi to me, in most contexts this means we know each other and ordinary social norms require me to pretend I recognize them while I silently try to figure out who the heck they are. At con, I’m more likely to say fudge it and explain that I don’t recognize faces, because people are more likely to understand it.
  4. Name tags make things easier, but understand that even if I see you multiple times during a day, I will probably be scoping your tag each and every time. So far WisCon is the one place where I’ve had to do this that no one has been noticeably offended by it, but just letting you know.
  5. I am jumpy when touched unexpectedly. I do enjoy hugs, with sufficient warning.

And that’s about it. I am on a boatload of panels and my boyfriend Jack is also on panels for the first time and I’d like to support him when I am able to do so, so my schedule is not going to be terribly flexible, but seriously, if you want to say hi, say hi.

Originally published at Blue Author Is About To Write. Please leave any comments there.

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UPDATE: WisCon and more.
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Okay, big whoops, caught at what was almost the last possible moment where it could still be fixed, but still caught: when I booked our flights for WisCon, I put in the wrong date. We were planning on getting there Thursday the 21st, but I selected Wednesday the 20th. As in, tomorrow.

I guess that explains why the cost was unexpectedly reasonable for ~1 month in advance… it was that much farther away from the weekend.

At this point, it was impossible to change the tickets at anything like a reasonable cost, so the “fix” means just going with it and getting into Madison a day early. Sadly, the con hotel is fully booked for Wednesday, so they could only put us on a waiting list with no promises. Plan A was to stay on the waiting list while seeing if any of the people we know who are local to Madison could give us crash space.

After reflection, though, I decided that trying to find trans-friendly accommodations (preferably with someone we know) on 24 hours notice as a hedge against the wait list not coming through wasn’t a great idea, especially as everybody we know in the Madison area is going to be busy and/or already hosting guests for the con. The real kicker is the short notice thing… travel is already stressful, and we’re going to be doing it with 24 hours less lead time than we had been counting on.

So I bit the bullet and reserved us a room for one night at the hotel around the corner, the Inn on the Park. I know where it is, I’ve seen the inside, I know the logistics of getting luggage from there to the Concourse on foot, it’s in the one part of town that we know.

An extra night in a hotel plus another day of eating out will put a bit of a dent in our budget, but I think it’ll be worth it to not have to worry about logistics and uncertainty when we land. We can just shuttle from the airport more or less like normal, probably have a quiet night in, and be at WisCon central brighter, earlier, and more fresh-faced than we’d planned.

This change is going to have a pretty huge impact on my work week, though… as you might have imagined, I’ve spent the whole afternoon since I learned of my error running around trying to get trip preparations done. Between that and the fact that we’re leaving tomorrow… I don’t know what’s going to happen with Tales of MU this week. Part of it depends on how much quality writing I’m able to do with the rest of this afternoon, after having run around like a chicken with its head cut off.

I will do my best to keep you all posted.

Originally published at Blue Author Is About To Write. Please leave any comments there.

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FICTION: The Redundant Man Who Was Redundant
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Author’s Note: Inspired by a conversation in the comments on File 770, I’ve decided to re-post my story “The Redundant Man Who Was Redundant”. This and six other short stories are available in my collection The Lands of Passing Through, for Kindle, Nook, or as a mult-format bundle (Kindle, Epub, HTML, and PDF) direct from me. All versions are are DRM free. Enjoy!

The Redundant Man Who Was Redundant

By Alexandra Erin


“According to a CNN news network story, the selling of the MTV music television station could result in…”

In his office in the Department of Redundant Acronyms, Steven Stevenson II groaned and turned off the television. Every day… all day… the hits just kept coming. He looked back at his computer monitor, at the message he’d been typing to the third largest bank in the country. The first and second largest had already served him with cease-and-desist orders for “pestering” them with his “prank messages”.

It all seemed so pointless, sometimes… especially when he glanced at the letterhead at the top of the screen and saw the words “DORA Department”. That hadn’t been his idea, to be sure… and now he was getting memos from the BSA suggesting it be shortened to “DORAD”.

He needed to get out.

“Hold my calls, Dora,” he said to his secretary on the way out the door. “I’m going to lunch.”

“Don’t forget the man from the central CAO office is coming by this afternoon!” Dora reminded him.

Steven Stevenson II sighed heavily and rolled his eyes.

The part about lunch had been a damnable and odious lie, of course. He had, in fact, gone to a bar. It wasn’t the sort of bar that served food, beyond the pickled and salted variety. It wasn’t a dive, either… it was simply a dedicated outlet for serious drinking. Stevenson wasn’t always a serious drinker, but he refused to confront the CAO man on an empty liver.

“You look like a man who’s coming to realize the crushing weight of futility that is your life,” the obnoxious stranger intoned pompously as he grabbed the stretch of bar adjacent to Stevenson.

“What makes you say that?” Stevenson asked without much interest.

The man had the look of a man who was losing his hair. He wasn’t, though. He just had that look. Probably he was, Stevenson decided, but could afford to have it all regrown. The man had a face like a putrescent walrus, but he’d paid good money to have his hair loss reversed.

“There are only three reasons for a man to be in a place like this around lunch time,” the man said. “Either he’s celebrating, he’s coming to realize the crushing weight of futility that is his life, or he’s having a meeting. You’re not having a meeting, and you don’t look like you’re celebrating… ergo, you’re coming to realize, et cetera, and so forth.”

“Congratulations, you’ve figured me out,” Stevenson said, raising his glass in a mock toast. “Is that what you’re celebrating? The defeat and misery of others?”

The man chuckled.

“Oh, in a roundabout way, I suppose, in a roundabout way,” he said. “But, I didn’t mean to inflict my personal joviality upon you, no… I just wanted to give you my card.”

“Are you some kind of psychiatrist?” Stevenson said, looking at the edge of the cream colored bit of parchment disdainfully.

“No, nothing like that, nothing like that at all. I deal in more permanent solutions,” the man said. He held out the card more forcefully. “Go ahead and take it… it won’t bite,” he said, chuckling again.

Stevenson did, and actually looked at it. The gold-embossed logo declared that the man worked for the TastyFlesh Human Resources Company, and that his name was Orville Smith.

“Thank you, but I have a job,” Stevenson said.

“Good job?” Smith asked. “Satisfying work?”

“It’s a job I believe in,” Stevenson said testily, because it hadn’t been all that satisfying as of late.

“What do you do?” Smith asked.

“I head up the Department of Redundant Acronyms,” Stevenson said.

“Oh, the DORA department,” Smith said, nodding sagely. Stevenson winced. “Not exactly the, uh. largest or most prestigious branch of the federal bureaucracy, is it?”

“I didn’t pick it for the prestige,” Stevenson said, and Smith snorted.

“No, I’d guess not,” he said. “Anyway, I’m not offering a job, per se… more of an opportunity.”

Great, Stevenson thought, here comes the pitch.

“The earth is overcrowded,” Smith began. “You know that. Everybody knows that. The price of everything is going up, especially food. Well, no… especially fuel, but food’s got to come from somewhere, right? You can’t really grow it in the cities…”

“Actually, I read an interesting article about the new hydroponics pilot program in Chicago, and then there’s rooftop gardens,” Stevenson interjected. “And the new synthetic meat cultures can be grown anywhere there’s proper facilities. They’re doing interesting work in Nairobi with…”

“Will you quit interrupting me, man?” Smith said. “You can’t grow food in the cities and the bottom line is it’s getting harder and harder to find any arable land that isn’t covered by a city. Past generations supposed we could solve this problem with space travel, colonizing the moon and Mars, but we now know the whole idea of space exploration is a bust. So, what’s left?”

“Tell me,” Stevenson said.

“In a word, sir: cannibalism.”

“Cannibalism?” Stevenson echoed.

“That’s right, cannibalism,” Smith said. “We predict it’s going to be the biggest growth industry of the coming decade, and TastyFlesh is going to be at the forefront of it.”

“That’s… illegal,” Stevenson said. It was also immoral, amoral, unethical, and several other things, but he had a feeling that none of those would really bother Orville Smith.

“For the time being, yes,” Smith said. “But, we’re in this for the long haul. See, we draw up contracts… life-long, ironclad contracts… and our employees get a nice competitive wage paid out every other week, full insurance, vacation, all the usual benefits… ”

“Wages for what?” Stevenson asked.

“Just for being available,” Smith said. “Our employees come into our facility every day—barring those vacation days—and just sort of lounge around. They can bring books, magazines, portables… we don’t expect them to actually do anything. Actually, we discourage it. Just enough exercise to stay healthy, not enough for them to get all stringy.”

“But, how do you make any money?” Stevenson asked.

“We’ve got some of the best lobbyists in Washington working 24/7 on this whole ‘cannibalism’ thing, and when it’s inevitably legalized… that’s when it’ll all pay off,” Smith said.

“You really think it’s inevitable?” Stevenson asked.

“Absolutely inevitable,” Smith said. “Say, man, don’t you read? Malthus. Swift. It’s all there in black and white, ready to be discovered.”

“I think you’ll find that Swift’s A Modest Proposal was, in fact, a work of satire,” Stevenson said.

“His what?”

“The work you’re referring to,” Stevenson said. “A Modest Proposal. He wasn’t actually advocating cannibalism as a means of alleviating the burdens of the poor, he was using that idea as a satirical vehicle. As for Thomas Malthus, he failed to take into account technological advances that would increase the rate of food production until it exceeded that of population growth.”

“Ah, well, whatever you say,” the man said. “Haven’t read any of that myself. It’s just some names that crop up in the corporate literature. Anyway, look at it this way: supply and demand. If there’s a shortage of food, then anything which increases the food supply while decreasing the demand has got to be good.”

“But, the actual problem of overpopulation derives from a scarcity of resources,” Stevenson said.

“Right,” Smith agreed. “And legalizing cannibalism would add resources to the pool.”

“It actually wouldn’t, though,” Stevenson said. “Not in the long term. All those people you ’employ’ have to be fed the same as any other person…”

“Well, that’s why we pay them a good wage, obviously,” Smith interjected.

“Yes, but don’t you see, they’re still consuming their share of resources,” Stevenson argued. “For eighteen years… I assume you’re only signing up adults?”

“Of course, man, what do you take us for?” Smith said.

“So, for a minimum of eighteen years, they’ve been consuming just like any person. And because human being are not in fact cattle, a good portion of the food they’ve taken in will never be recouped,” Stevenson said. “The human brain is a marvel of evolution, but it’s a woefully inefficient source of sustenance.”

“Well, who wants to eat a brain?” Smith retorted.

“Yes, but, you see, a great deal of the nutrition that we consume goes to support our brain,” Stevenson said. “This is just one reason why big, dumb animals are preferable as a food source over smart, shrimpy ones.”

“That may all be true,” Smith said, in a tone of voice which suggested he suspected otherwise. “But… we aren’t feeding them for eighteen years. Just from the time they sign up with us until we get the legislation pushed through.”

“It doesn’t matter who’s feeding them,” Stevenson said. “The point is that they’re still taking the same share of resources for those years.”

“So, what’s your point?” Smith asked.

“That if the idea is to reduce demand for scarce resources, then raising human beings for slaughter is a woefully inadequate way of going about it,” Stevenson said.

“Well, that’s the larger idea, yes,” Smith said. “But we’re a private company. All we really need to do is turn a profit.”

“But the cost of supplying a human being with the necessities of life even for, say, a year… including not just food, but housing, clothes, transportation, and modest entertainment all add up… putting together a wage and benefits package that’ll seem competitive to any other job… has got to be higher than that of bringing to market an animal that’s been raised in a box and doesn’t need anything but nutrition and medicine,” Stevenson said. “How can you possibly hope to break even if you have to invest that kind of money into a single one of your—I can’t believe I’m saying this—feed animals?”

“Well, I’m not an accountant, am I?” the man replied, sounding offended. “Damn it, man, I’d hate to see that kind of talk getting to our investors. We’ve got experts looking over all our numbers at all times, and they assure us it’s a sound principle.”

“Just assuming for a moment that you ever do manage to get this thing legalized, how exactly do you intend to stay in business?” Stevenson asked. “Don’t you think your pool of volunteers will dry up once people realize it’s not just a cushy job that pays them money to lounge around?”

“Of course,” Smith said. “But that’s the beauty part… once it’s legal, that frees up our paid lobbyists to start pushing for, shall we say… broader channels of acquisition.”

“Disgusting,” Stevenson said.

“Hey, just because your job’s a joke is no reason to go raining on my parade!” Smith said.

“Now to begin: you’re the Secretary of the DORA department, are you not?” Clark Whizenby, the CAO man, asked Stevenson at the outset of their meeting.

“It’s just DORA, actually,” Stevenson said.

“Do you mean to tell me that it’s not a department?” Whizenby asked.

“It is,” Stevenson said as patiently as he could, “but that’s what the ‘D’ stands for. When you say ‘the DORA department’, you’re actually saying ‘the Department of Redundant Acronyms department.'”

“Well, I think what I’m saying is, ‘the department that’s called DORA’,” Whizenby countered. “That ‘redundant’ word, as you call it, conveys meaningful information about the agency’s organization.”

“In that case, why not just say ‘Department ORA’, or ‘the ORA department’?”

“Well, because ‘ORA’ is not the BSA bureau’s standard acronym,” Whizenby said. “In fact, that brings me to why I’m here.”

“Of course,” Stevenson said. “The BSA chief has petitioned to have DORA moved underneath him again.”

“Not quite,” Whizenby said. “He’s proposed liquidating the entire department and absorbing its functions.”

“Is there a difference?” Stevenson asked.

“Only to people who are currently employed by this department,” Whizenby said. “Which, if I’m not mistaken, is not many people at all.”

“No, you’ve cut our budget several times,” Stevenson said. “It’s… actually just me, and my secretary, Dora.”

“Right,” Whizenby said. “Well, in situations like this, I like to begin by telling a little story. Twenty years ago, before the central CAO office really came into its own, there used to be a national administration called NASA.”

“I think I’ve heard of it,” Stevenson replied sardonically.

“National Aeronautics and Space Administration,” Whizenby said. “Annual budget of tens of billions of dollars every year. Why, we could have paid for three months of war on the money NASA was getting every year. At the same time, we had another administration called the FAA… the Federal Aviation Administration. Their annual budget was only half of the NASA administration’s, but that’s still, as they say, quite a chunk of change. Then, some bright young egg at the fledgling central CAO office pulled out a dictionary and realized that ‘aeronautics’ and ‘aviation’ were practically the same damn thing!”

“And the rest, I suppose, was history,” Stevenson said.

“Damn straight it was,” Whizenby said. “We took a look at both administrations’ books and realized that the FAA was overseeing thousands of flights on the same budget which NASA used for a handful of flights. So, we folded NASA into the FAA… I don’t need to tell you, there was a lot of controversy at the time, but history has vindicated the decision: in the intervening two decades, there’s been no meaningful scientific exploration of space… no lunar colonies, no domes on Mars, nothing.”

“Maybe not in this country, but India and China have both established…”

“Third-world countries!” Whizenby said.

“Excuse me, but China is the world’s largest…”

“Are you going to let me finish a thought or not?” Whizenby said. “China and India are nothing. We’re the world leader in space exploration, and what do we have to show for it? It’s all commercial… space tourists and communications satellites. The American people should pay billions for a separate organization to oversee that?”

“By that ‘logic’,” Stevenson said, smiling pleasantly and keeping as much sarcasm out of his voice as he could, “wouldn’t it make sense to fold the BSA’s functions into DORA? After all, we make do with a shoestring budget.”

“It’s not just that the FAA had the smaller budget,” Whizenby said. “They produced more with that budget. They were efficient. You, on the other hand… well… we’ve never been quite sure what the point of the DORA department was in the first place. What exactly do you do here?”

“I help to maintain the integrity of the English language in an age of increasing abbreviation,” Stevenson said.

“That’s what the BSA does,” Whizenby said.

“Not quite,” Stevenson said. “Their only concern is that everybody uses the same set of acronyms.”

“How’s that different from what you do?” Whizenby asked.

“It’s completely different,” Stevenson said. “We… that is to say, I… work to insure that… well, let me give you an illustrative example. Let’s say you’re going to the ATMM to take out some money. You put in your card. What does it do?”

“The card?”

“The machine, Whizenby. What does the machine do when it has your card?”

“Well, I suppose it asks me for my PINNN number, doesn’t it?” Whizenby asked.

“Right,” Stevenson said. “Except, you don’t actually need to say ‘number’ because that’s what the ‘n’ stands for in PINNN.”

“Which one?”

“All of them,” Stevenson said. “See, when the system was devised, in the late 20th century, the code was simply referred to as a ‘PIN’, which stood for ‘Personal Identification Number.’ Almost immediately, though, people… as well as the institutions which utilized such things… began referring to it as a ‘PIN number.'”

“And that was bad because…?”

“Because it wasn’t long before some bright egg decided to shorten it to ‘PINN’ with an extra ‘N’, and the whole thing started again,” Stevenson said. “Look, Whizenby, I know what mainly concerns you is efficiency. Think about how often the word ‘PINNN’ or the phrase ‘PINNN number’ are written, printed out, or saved into a database somewhere. Imagine if we could save all the ink, toner, space, and other associated resources being used up by those extra trailing letters and the redundant word? Wouldn’t that be a good thing?”

“It would, but we have to consider usefulness, too,” Whizenby said. “For instance, if you’re dialing into one of those automated AMS menu systems, and the voice just asked you to key in your PINNN, you can’t see how it’s spelled or capitalized, so there’s no way of knowing it’s not asking for an ink ‘pen’ to write with, or a stick ‘pin’, or your numerical ‘PINNN’… though by tacking that one extra word onto it, the meaning is made clear. It may be redundant, but it’s not superfluous.”

“Well, that as may be, yes,” Stevenson said. “But wouldn’t the meaning be made clear by context? Of the things you mentioned, only one of them can possibly be keyed in or otherwise offered over a phone, and certainly only one makes sense in any situation where an AMS attendant is asking for something.”

“A well-worded communication doesn’t require the listener to figure out what they are being told, because it tells them that outright.”

“Well, even if there is some slight advantage to making the numerical nature of the PINNN explicit over the phone,” Stevenson said, “then there’s still no reason to include the redundant appendage it in written matters, is there?”

“Separate standards for written and verbal communications? That’s too complicated… it’d never fly,” Whizenby said. “Plus, whatever tiny gains we’d realize from not printing the extra letters would probably be eaten up by all the clarifications and memoranda and such that would need to be issued to explain the discrepancy. Anyway, it hardly seems like it’s the end of the world if an ATMM machine asks me for my PINNN number.”

“Look, I don’t ask for much,” Stevenson implored. “Cut my budget again, if you have to. I don’t need a secretary. Just let me keep doing this, if for no other reason, then so that twenty years from now you’re not leaving the CCAOOO office and putting your P-I-N-N-N-N-N number in a damned ATMMMM machine.”

“Do you really think it’s likely to go that far?” Whizenby asked.

“There are three Ns in ‘PINNN’ already,” Stevenson countered.

“Right, and I think most people would agree that’s plenty,” Whizenby said.

“More than plenty,” Stevenson said.

“Then we’re agreed,” Whizenby said. “Look, normally, we either eliminate or merge… one or the other, never both… but… the odds are there’s at least one opening in the BSA at your pay level. Actually, I take that back; they don’t have any positions that pay so little. The point is, if your work is so important to you, then it wouldn’t take much shuffling to get you a job over there.”

“But what they do is antithetical to my work,” Stevenson said.

“That being the case, one might very well ask why the citizens of this country are paying two arms of the government to work towards opposite goals in the first place,” Whizenby said. “I think a reasonable person would agree that the ultimate goal of all is to make sure the language is easy to use and easy to understand… and that being the case, the real redundancy is having two separate agencies going about it in differing ways.”


“I think I have everything I need from you, Mr. Stevenson,” Whizenby said. “You will receive an official notice of the central CAO office’s decision within three days… followed swiftly by an order to vacate the premises.”


“Bad news, sir?” Dora asked Stevenson.

“The worst,” he said. “They’re shutting us down in three days.”

“Well, it’s not much, but at least I’ll have a chance to use the new letterhead before we go,” Dora said.

“What new letterhead?” Stevenson asked.

“This,” Dora said, holding up a sheet of paper with the word “TEST printed on it. “It just arrived from the BSA bureau.”

Stevenson gritted his teeth. The logo at the top of the paper read now read “DORAD”.

“I suppose I can take some small comfort in the fact that I won’t have to see that become ‘DORAD Department’,” Stevenson said.

“What?” Dora asked.

“Nothing,” Stevenson said. “Well, I suppose we’d better start looking for new jobs, anyway.”

“Oh, I’ve got that covered,” Dora said. She rummaged in the papers on her desk and found a pamphlet. “This new company’s hiring loads of people… no qualifications needed, just a medical exam, and you don’t even have to do any work. It’s called TastyFlesh HR. Have you ever heard of them?”

Originally published at Blue Author Is About To Write. Please leave any comments there.

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STATUS: Monday, May 18th
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The Daily Report

Well, I am sufficiently not sick to merit putting my personal status update under the professional part.

After giving the matter some thought, I’ve decided to give the satirical book reviews a rest this week. My initial burst of inspiration carried me most of the way through two weeks with very little effort, but I feel like keeping it going for a third week in a row would be a bit more of a slog, and I have a lot of things to get done before Thursday (WISKHAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAN!)

When and whether I resume them will depend on multiple factors. I do have two or three more really strong ideas for specific reviews, and several more books I would like to tackle if I can just hit the right angle for them. But it has to be fun, or it won’t be worth writing, and it must not be forced, or it won’t be worth reading.

Today is the second day I’ve started by working on Tales of MU. It was a bit more of an uphill struggle than last Friday’s efforts, but still fruitful. I predict that by the end of the day I’ll be done with Wednesday’s story, which will be the longest lead time I’ve had in a while.

The State of the Me

My throat is scratchy as all get out but I’m feeling pretty good.

Plans For Today

My main goal for today is to build up momentum on Tales of MU. If I can manage to get multiple updates this week despite being at the con for half of it, I will be justifiably proud of myself, and well positioned to start a great summer.

Originally published at Blue Author Is About To Write. Please leave any comments there.

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Situation Normal: All Fisked Up
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So Brad Torgersen, leader of the Sad Puppy campaign for this year, has a post up on his blog called “Fisking The Broken Narrative”. Fisking, for the uninitiated, is an art from in which one takes a written work, quotes the whole or majority of it in-line, broken up with zingers a la Mystery Science Theater. At least, that’s my understanding of the typical fisking. The Sad Puppies seem more inclined to just rant and rave in the interstices, and Torgersen in particular spends more time reacting to what it would have been convenient for his narrative for the source editorial to have said than he does responding to the actual text.

A typical fisk can be hilarious even if the subject is something you like, but the thought leaders in the Puppy camps don’t appear to have a strong grasp on the principles of humor.

His post is so off-point from start to finish that I could do a (sort of) fisk-within-a-fisk of responding to each of his paragraphs with a gentle, “No, Brad, if you actually read this…” As in, “No, Brad, Kevin J. Maroney didn’t say that Kary English et al destroyed the category you placed them in, he said you destroyed that category. What you’re doing here is deflection and misdirection.”

Other than that instructive example, though, I’m going to restrict myself to one misguided point in particular that he makes, when he refers to  what will happen “if the CHORFs fulfill their stated pledge to bork the 2015 awards by placing ‘NO AWARD’ at the top of every category”.

For the uninitiated: Hugo voters rank the finalists in each category, with NO AWARD being a contender in every category. Reasons for putting NO AWARD higher than a work, you’re essentially saying that work doesn’t deserve a Hugo, for whatever reason. Quality, failure to fit what you define as science fiction/fantasy, suspected hinkiness with the process, whatever.

Also for the uninitiated: “CHORF” is Brad Torgersen’s preferred epithets for the people he has arranged into a group and labeled as the enemy. Because irony is dead and the human race is the hell in which its soul is tormented, this acronym stands for Cliquish, Holier-Than-Thou, Obnoxious, Reactionary Fanatics.

Mr. Maroney, the individual whom Torgersen was attempting to fisk, did in his source attempt to gently clue the Puppies in to the inadvisability of labeling their opponents “reactionary” while holding a stated goal of “stop people from trying to change things and bring it back to the way it used to be”, but all Torgersen appeared to take away from it was “STOP SAYING MEAN THINGS”. We could speculate about whether this was due to an inability to comprehend the point or a tactical decision to only respond in ways that further the Puppy’s narrative, but I don’t see the percentage in it.

Any way, I’m not here to point out all the reasons that the “CHORF” thing is hilarious, but to say that I feel like the Puppy-spun narrative that “the CHORFS” or “the SJWs” have vowed to make sure everything falls below no award reflects the truth about the way they approached their own slate.

Because yes, I have seen people vowing to vote all slate-nominated works below No Award on the basis that they got there through improper channels. I’ve seen people vowing to No Award the whole ballot, on the basis that eliminating slated works leaves the remaining work with too narrow a field of competition for the Hugos to be seen as valid this year. And I’ve seen people who are doggedly reading and judging every eligible work, but predicting that No Award will place highly on their ballots based on the caliber of the slatetd works so far.

I’ve seen people explaining their reasoning, because they know what they’re proposing is controversial. I’ve probably even seen people urging others to do the same, though not so much or so emphatically as to stand out. I’ve seen even less bold, brash (and thoroughly unrealistic) declarations that some unspecified “we” will make sure the ballots or their slated portions will be No Awarded. I’ve seen people asking others if any or all of these things might be a good option.

But yeah, I’ve seen people taking these stances. And if somebody is saying that, whether once in a moment of frustration or it’s their repeatedly avowed stance… meh. They’re entitled to say that, but what’s it got to do with anyone else?

The difference between the Puppy camps and everybody else is, everybody else doesn’t belong to a camp. There aren’t “leaders” over on our side (there’s not even a side on our side), just individuals acting their individual consciences.

I think No Award’s chances are better this year than most, but I wouldn’t predict a sweep. I think a lot of the people who are planning to vote No Award in some fashion also recognize this, which is why a number of them have also announced they are reading all the nominated works and will be ranking them accordingly, just beneath No Award.

This, of course, is a disastrous thing for the Sad Puppy narrative about who is “No Awarding” and what it means… or it would be, if the Sad Puppy narrative were at all connected to the world of facts.

I will predict that in the likely event of No Award’s failure to sweep, Brad Torgersen will be loudly crying about how some unspecified “they” tried it and failed. There will be analyses up at possibly more than one Puppy blog about how “the left” (or “the CHORFs” or “the SJWs”) was too typically self-destructive to pull together the way the Puppies did (which is pretty much the only way to spin things when your opposition better represents the freedom of thought your narrative spin claims for yourself) and/or claiming that this proves that the power of the clique they sought to undermine has been broken and rendered irrelevant, which is why Sad Puppies 4 next year is going to be even bigger because reasons.

But the bottom line is that there is no organized effort to “No Award” the Hugos, certainly not in the sense that Sad Puppies and Rabid Puppies were organized efforts to game them. As I said: our side doesn’t have leaders. Our side doesn’t have camps or campaigns. Our side doesn’t even have a side.

This is just another instance of the Puppies taking everybody who isn’t roped in by their rhetoric and assuming we’re one monolithic group, headed up by the people they hate the most.

I’m sure this makes sense to them.

We know it’s what they’d be doing, in our situation.

Originally published at Blue Author Is About To Write. Please leave any comments there.

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The Banality of Despite
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Warning: This post contains mentions of child sexual abuse. Though I go into very little detail on the subject, there may be more explicit mentions at linked sites.


Recently a Wall Street Journal article appeared online, covering the noisy nonsense known as the Sad/Rabid Puppies—also sometimes referred to without a trace of irony or awareness by its proponents as “Puppygate”, under the mistaken notion that appending “-gate” to the end of something makes it appear like a serious scandal and not a trumped-up controversy.

Vox Day—an internet demagogue, unrepentant liar, demonstrated racist, unabashed misogynist,  and ineffective editor whom none would allege to be an author of any sort or a publisher worth mentioning (h/t TangoMan for keeping me honest there)—was delighted to have the SP/RP’s nonsensical, self-serving platforms correctly labeled as an attempt to drag SF/F into a culture war, but took exception to the description of himself as “probably now the most despised man in science fiction”, raising the question on his blog: if not him, then who?

Over in the comments on File 770, Glenn Hauman answered that question with two suggestions of persons more despised than he is:

Living? Ed Kramer. Deceased? Walter Breen.

The Wikipedia links in the quote are my insertions. I add them because I have every reason to believe that the vast majority of the people reading this blog post will not recognize those names or know what they have in common, which is the sexual abuse of children.

The thing is, while I agree that Ed Kramer and Walter Breen are more despicable than Vox Day, I disagree that they are more despised. You have to know someone to despise them, and Ed Kramer and Walter Breen are very obscure figures in SF/F.

…now, because I know that my satirical activities have attracted A Certain Audience to this blog, I can already hear the sharp intakes of breath as people rush to correct me. Obscure? The co-founder of DragonCon obscure? Am I really so ignorant to not know what a big deal DragonCon is? Obscure? The ex-husband of Marion Zimmer Bradley obscure? He was so active in fandom community circles! How can I call that obscure?

Yes, they’re obscure.

More obscure than Vox Day is, and let me tell you: Vox Day is pretty obscure.

Oh, there’s that sharp intake of breath again…

Let me back up.

This is the “ungraspable scale” problem all over again. We, none of us, really know how big a place the world of SF/F is. We, none of us, can begin to grasp what it means for a place to be even as big as we think it is.

I would bet money that if you had pollsters standing at the doors of DragonCon and ask everyone as they come in if they know who Ed Kramer is, a sizable majority of the attendants would not be able to explain who he is. I mean, a substantial majority. I don’t want to guess at the exact number, but I think closer to 90% than 50%.

To people embroiled in this imbroglio, the idea that people who are active readers and appreciators of SF/F wouldn’t know the name Vox Day might seem unfathomable. His deeds are infamous! The only man thrown out of the SFWA! (…or was he? Dun Dun Dun!) He is the most despised man in science fiction!

Let me tell you: since I’ve been writing about the Puppy incident, more people have learned the name Vox Day for the first time from me than participated in the Hugo nominations this year. I guarantee it.

You want to know who the most despised man in science fiction is?

If we’re limiting it to men, I can think of two strong contenders.

George Lucas and George R.R. Martin.

I’m going to pause to let Vox Day and his followers (the Dreadful Elks, I think they style themselves as?) have a moment where they consider whether or not to triumphantly crow that a rainbow-headed SJW just declared that George R.R. Martin is worse than a child molester. If dealing with anyone else, I’d say that me mentioning this possibility would head it off… but one never knows with the Elks.

For everybody who’s able to keep up, though, please note I didn’t say that Lucas and Martin are top contenders for the worst man in science fiction. I said they’re in the running for the title of most despised.

I mean, who despises Ed Kramer and Walter Breen? The vast majority by a wide margin of everyone who knows the history of their crimes, but how many people is that? Who despises Vox Day? I think at least a simple majority of people who run across him, but how many people is that, really?

Now think about how many people saw Star Wars Episodes I-III, was disappointed or even disgusted by them, and blamed it solely on one man: George Lucas.

Even that’s probably a smaller number than we in the various SF/F communities think. We move in spaces where those movies are despised, and everyone who despises them knows exactly what was wrong with them, and that’s Lucas. Right? But we forget how big a place the world is. We forget that there are millions of people saw those movies and enjoyed them. We forget how many people there are who, whether they liked everything in a movie or not, don’t really connect it to a person standing behind the camera. We in SF/F fandom communities forget how many people just go to the movies to watch the movies.

But even leaving out the vast multitudes of people who genuinely enjoyed those movies and/or have no inclination to despise George Lucas for them, I’d wager that more people do despise George Lucas than despise Vox Day, Walter Breen, or Ed Kramer.

I’d wager the same is true of George R.R. Martin.

I feel awkward pointing this out because I’ve enjoyed his blog and exchanged comments with him, and I am—despite some snark about his word choices—what can only be termed a fan. Mr. Martin, in the very unlikely chance that you find yourself reading this, please believe me when I stress again I’m not calling you a worse person than anyone.

But yes, I will say it: George R. R. Martin is more widely despised than Vox Day.

For what reason? I don’t know. Probably not one reason but many, from many directions.

He’s the better known figure. His work is at this weird intersection of being both strikingly different from most of what’s out there but also widely popular, which means it’s polarizing, which means people have opinions, and wherever there are opinions of sufficient strength and diversity, there will be despite.

Who else is more despised a man in science fiction than Vox Day?

Joss Whedon, probably.

Rob Liefeld, though being a comic book creator he’s more obscure than the other contenders I’ve mentioned. Still, I’d wager anyone who is a household name in comic book households is better known than Vox Day, and thus if they have even a slightly contentious reputation, they are likely to be more despised than he is.

Joel Schumacher? Maybe. The case could be made.

I’ll say again: I’m not saying these men deserve more acrimony than Vox Day, and certainly they have committed no transgressions to my knowledge that are the equal of sexual assault against children. This is not about who owns the crown of “Most Despicable Human Being Involved In The Production of Science Fiction And/Or Fantasy”, but who is despised the most.

And while there’s not a steady correlation between “how many people know about this person?” and “how many people despise this person?”… you do have to know of a person, and think about them, in order to despise them.

So whoever the most despised man in science fiction is, it’s going to be someone that people know about and think about more often than they know and think about Vox Day. The answer is thus likely to be surprisingly petty and banal, rather than salacious and sensational. It will be someone who ruined a franchise rather than lives.

To put it shortly: more people care about what they think Michael Bay did to their childhoods than even know about what Walter Breen did to children.


Originally published at Blue Author Is About To Write. Please leave any comments there.

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Getting a hold of me and such
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Okay, I have now had two variations of people leaving messages in comments with instructions not to unscreen them. The first one left me scratching my head. By the second one, I put it together: there’s a lot of new folks coming across me for the first time on this blog, and I don’t have contact info anywhere.

If you want to talk to me off blog, my email address is contactme -at- alexandraerin -dot- com. I’ll stick that in the sidebar or something in a bit.

Just to give some background on things I’ve been asked:

  • As most of my work is self-published, I don’t really have any industry entanglements or connections. There are people in the industry I am friendly with, and people in the industry with whom I deeply disagree about one or more fundamental things.
  • The Venn diagram of those two groups of people has a lot of overlap.
  • Because we’re grown-ups.
  • I have never been to (or been a member of) WorldCon.
  • The only con I attend with any regularity is WisCon, in Madison.
  • Despite some hilarious rumors that circulated last year, nobody actually pays me to go there.
  • I will be there this year.
  • Barring extravagant and totally unforeseeable changes in circumstances, it will be the only con I attend this year, and likely next.
  • You aren’t missing out on much. As public speakers go, I make a heck of a decent writer.
  • I will do interviews, but I have a distinct preference for text-based communication as opposed to phone, because see above.

If you’ve discovered me through my satirical writing on the puppygator nonsense and you want to see more of what I’m about, I would suggest starting with any of these three places:

It is not precisely my work, of course, but earlier this year I was also allowed to re-post a poem that had a lot of early Rhysling buzz but had fallen into obscurity: the seminal work “Title” by Author. My ongoing correspondence with this elusive poet has yielded dividends in the form of two another repost, “The Epistle of Thistles“, and the never-before-published “Apply For And Receive A Low, Low APR“. The great poet has promised me another poem for every one of mine that appears in an external venue. I currently have two upcoming poems, so we can count on at least two more treasures from Author’s hoard before the year is out.


Originally published at Blue Author Is About To Write. Please leave any comments there.

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Sad Puppies Review Books: MAKE WAY FOR DUCKLINGS
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make way for ducklingsMake Way For Ducklings

Reviewed by John Z. Upjohn, USMC (Aspired)

If you want evidence of the deep rot that has infested the once-great Caldecott Medal, look no further than this book, which is a putrid example of ham-handed message fiction given an award by Feminazi SJWs basically as a participation prize for having a “strong female protagonist who doesn’t need a man”.

This story is set in the liberal heaven of Boston, Taxachusetts and the action—what action there is—centers around what I am sure is a taxpayer-funded boondoggle called the Public Garden Lagoon. Where in the enumerated powers of the Constitution does it say that the government has the power to fund a garden, I ask you? If the people of Boston want a park so badly they should come together and pay for one, but taxation is armed robbery at gunpoint.

The characters in this book are a family of immigratory birds who come to America and immediately have eight babies. The woman duck is no lady and has no respect for her husband’s position as head of the duck household. She finds fault with everything he does, when he tries to make a home for her nothing will do but the finest castle apparently.

Even when they are given a handout of free peanuts (they aren’t free, though, because somebody paid for them. TANSTAAFL!) at the taxpayer-supported park, they have to leave because Mrs. Mallard thinks the world revolves around her and doesn’t think she should have to watch where she’s going when there are bicycles around. Pay attention because this is going to be a running theme. If Mr. Mallard has put her in his place the first time this foolishness arose, the worst excess of this book would have been avoided. But then if he knew how to be a proper alpha duck this book would have been a lot shorter.

So the ducks leave the city and they have their eight babies on an island in the river, but Mr. Mallard has had enough of his wife’s bullshit and decides to go his own way, swimming up the river. The shrew of a duck extorts a promise from him to meet her at the park (remember, the one she decided was bullshit?) in a week. If Mr. Mallard was me, he would have said, “Don’t call me, I’ll call you.” and never looked back. Take the red pill wake up, Mr. Mallard. A better title for this book would be “Make Way For Cucklings” because Mr. Mallard is clearly a beta male cuck of the lowest degree.

The book makes a big deal out of the fact that Mrs. Mallard teaches the ducklings how to swim and stuff by herself, like this isn’t her job. Well, if single motherhood is so great, why did she need a policeMAN to stop her kids from being ran over by cars when she tried to lead them across the highway? Or was it misogyny to notice that?

This book goes from bad to worse as this deadbeat duck wants to go back to the public park to suckle peanuts at the hand of the public teat, but she decided to molt and have babies so oh no she can’t fly anymore, a police officer—that’s a public servant whose salary is paid by taxes—actually STOPS TRAFFIC on a busy highway.

He even calls for backup! Apparently, it’s not enough that one jackass is being paid to stop people with jobs from getting to and from work! Mrs. Mallard is such a special snowflake that they have to send out a cruiser to escort her! Are we supposed to believe that there’s no crime in Boston? Or maybe the police just aren’t allowed to bother with that anymore. We must interfere with anyone’s ~*civil rights*~ after all.

Who pays Mr. Police Man’s salary, I ask you? Is it ducks? Do ducks pay his salary? No! We do! So why is he doing their bidding? In any rational society he would have stood back and let natural selection do its work but we are far past the point of rationality here. Mrs. Unfit Mother and her brood have a goddamn pride parade up and down the streets of Boston where all the slack-jawed liberal idiots can admire what a special snowflake she is and congratulate her on having so many children she needs a police escort to control them!

Why doesn’t she just open a Patreon account while she’s at it? She could tell the sob story about how she was almost hit by a bicycle and the victim bucks would come pouring in, let me tell you. They all have Patreons for some reason even though they produce nothing of value to anyone. It’s nothing but welfare for hipsters. It should be illegal.

And when she gets to the park, Mr. Mallard is waiting for her. Of course he is. She has him so whipped. I threw the book across the room when I got to that part. The story was clearly set up to lead in one direction, where the precious little snowflake figures out that in the real world no one has to put up with her bullshit and the price she pays for whining and crying victim all the time is winding up alone, but the author caved to the SJW bullies and totally undid everything he had been building up to in order to shoehorn in their approved message. It broke the immersion completely. I knew it was coming, but until I saw it on the page I didn’t want to believe it.

But blue pill beta cuck or not, notice that Mr. Mallard didn’t need any police escort to find his way there. He didn’t need any recognition from the town. He just did what he said he would do, quietly and without demanding any special treatment or a parade. And yet we’re supposed to think the mother is the hero of the story? This is some SJW bullshit of the first degree.

This book is the biggest piece of crap I have ever read, and the Caldecott Medal on the cover of it shows that this once prestigious award has been degraded to little more than a shiny piece of toilet paper.

It should come as no surprise that the people of Boston love this book so much they literally built a statue to it. It’s like something out of the Bible story with the golden calf. Do you think the Boston SJWs would have cared about this book if it had been set in some place like Salt Lake City or Wasilla? Hell no! But it’s like I always say: they only care about demographics. The Caldecott Medal is supposed to be an award for children’s picture books, not illustrated love-letters to liberal bastions, which is what this is.

The fact that this book was lavished with so much praise just because it kissed Boston’s ass seriously calls into question the legitimacy of any award it was given. If we can’t know for sure it wasn’t affirmative action and favoritism, we have no reason to believe it wasn’t, and that’s the same thing as proof.

Did you know that only fifteen people in all the world choose the winner of the Caldecott every year? How are the opinions of fifteen people supposed to determine “most distinguished American picture book for children”, I ask you? The fifteen people are appointed by the so-called Association for Library Services for Children, or ALSC. What do you want to bet that some or all of those appointees come from Boston or similarly liberal cities? The ALSC is a division of the notoriously pro-liberal American Library Association, or ALA. If you want to know who they answer to, just spot the pattern: ALSC, ALA, Alinsky.

Follow the money. I guarantee it.

Two stars.

Originally published at Blue Author Is About To Write. Please leave any comments there.

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