Alpha Game: the female process

I thought these thoughts from Sarahsdaughter made for important reading for men and women alike:

I’ve come to understand that my first response is often times
1)emotional and irrational 2)based in fear (not truth) 3)not the same
response I might have later after processing information 4)should not be
verbalized until said processing of information is done.

We, as
women understand and find no issue with the fact that we need to go
through these processes in order to figure out what is true – even when
it comes to our feelings. We want to talk it through. And then, we have a
tendency to arrive at new conclusions without going back and
apologizing for emotional outbursts that were based on wrong

Read the rest at Alpha Game.

He can handle her

Rollo responds to a meme popular among some women:  “I’m selfish, impatient and a little insecure. I make mistakes, I am out
of control and at times hard to handle. But if you can’t handle me at
my worst, then you sure as hell don’t deserve me at my best.” 

That’s not a bad response.  But Shiunji Watanabe’s is arguably more tolerant, less judgmental, and thereby superior in every way.  Now, THERE is a man who could truly handle a woman at her worst.  And don’t forget, 95 percent of all the weirdness in the world comes out of Japan.  True science fact.

However, since we are considering the wit and wisdom of Marilyn Monroe, surely we would be wise to also contemplate the noted English philosophers collectively known as One Direction?

1.  A lack of consciousness of her beauty is what makes a woman beautiful.
2.  There is no woman less conscious of her beauty than a dead women.
3.  Therefore, dead women are the most beautiful.

ὅπερ ἔδει δεῖξαι.  Thereby justifying not only Mr. Watanabe, but the infamous Hoodoogurus.  Now, I can hear some of you wondering if presenting logically impeccable arguments for necrophilia are the right way to go about winning the upcoming SFWA election, but keep in mind that these are the very people who have created a global cottage industry out of thinly disguised necrophilia and bestiality, to say nothing of electing McRapey not once, not twice, but thrice.

Mailvox: to forgive or not forgive

BR asks about the consequences of cheap and easy grace:

As always, thanks for the work you do.  Your blogs are exceedingly useful to me in organizing my own thoughts on everything from politics to relationships.  Unless I’m completely confused, I believe you consider yourself a Christian.  As you seem to also be a Man of Reason, I assume a large part of your Faith is also rooted in Reason.  I love Reason-based Faith.  One of the main reasons I don’t subscribe to any religion is because I find too many people in religions that subscribe to the fallacy that Religion and Reason are not compatible.  I tend to dislike Atheists for the same reason.  Yes, The Irrational Atheist is queued on my Kindle.

Today’s question is on the Christian Principle of Forgiveness.  Does Christ want us to forgive people who harm us in the absence of any sort of reparation?  And I mean harm, not mean words that hurt our feelings.  Words and actions that cause our standard of living to be reduced.

It seems that most “mainstream Christians” believe Christ taught that we should forgive people who harm us regardless of whether that person makes any attempt to undo the damage they caused.  However, this seems to be to be in direct opposition to Christ’s own actions.  God forgave us our sins not in a vacuum, but only because of Christ’s sacrifice.  This to me is more Redemption, than Forgiveness.  Sinning comes with a price tag, however that price was paid for us.  Had it not been, we would not have been forgiven.  If you and I went to dinner, and I paid the bill, you would not say that the restaurant forgave your debt to them.  The debt was still paid, just not by you.

This position seems to be taken most often in regards to unintentional harm.  Harm done not out of malice, but through negligence and carelessness.  However, this still seems to be at odds with other aspects of Christian theology.  I am not Christian, and therefore will not receive the benefit of Christ’s sacrifice.  Yes he died for my sins, but until I take the additional step of acknowledging his sacrifice and committing to his principles, I don’t get the benefit.  In other words, I have to do something to gain forgiveness.

I agree that a person who makes reparations for harm they unintentionally do should be forgiven.  If a person accidentally rear ends my car, but pays for all of the repairs, it is absurd for me to hold a grudge against them.  On the other hand, if the person accidentally read ends my car, but refuses to pay for the repairs, it would be equally absurd for me to forgive them.  However, it seems to me this is exactly what many mainstream Christians seem to think should be done.

 I’m bringing the question to you because I think it dovetails with the “saving Western Civilization” aspect of your blogs.  It seems one of the biggest problems we have in modern society is everyone going around doing whatever they want without regard to the consequences.  Obviously, when their actions only harm themselves, I don’t care.  When their actions cause harm to another person, they simply say “I’m sorry”, and expect that to somehow be enough.  Unfortunately, “I’m sorry” doesn’t make my car functional again.  This problem is further compounded by the above “forgiveness fallacy”, because society now refuses to hold these people accountable.  I don’t mean in a criminal prosecution sense, but in a social consequences sense.  Because everyone is so eager to forgive everyone else, there are no social consequences for bad behavior.  Because there are no social consequences, the bad behavior continues, and the harm done to others by the bad behavior continues to mount.  This harm ultimately results in misplaced resources, which leads to a lower standard of living.

An example:  I rent my spare room to a tenant.  The lease requires that rent is paid by a certain date, and defines penalties for failure.  The first time my tenant missed his rent, I slapped him with the fine.  He was never late again.  I could have chosen to “forgive” him because he simply forgot to pay, and not levied the fine, but then what reason would he have to pay his rent on time?  The harm done by not paying his rent goes beyond simple financial transactions.  I have my own bills to pay, and depend on his rent to make them.  If he is routinely late on his rent, I have to hold more cash reserves to ensure I can pay my bills on time.  This additional money just sitting around “just in case” is an inefficient use of resources.  It’s either unavailable to purchase goods and services, thereby reducing the number of people employed in the production of those goods and services; or it’s unavailable for investment, which costs me money due to lost opportunities (as well as costing another person an opportunity due the reduction of loanable funds in the system).

Taking the example further, if he were routinely late, but always paid the late fee, I would actually be doing him a disservice to completely forgive him this constant “sin”.  By not holding him socially accountable for this lazy attitude, I provide him no incentive to correct his behavior.  Even though it’s his choice to effectively pay a higher rent than the market demands, it reduces his standard of living.  While I could certainly take the position that it’s none of my business, such lack of concern would seem to be at odds with Christ’s message.  In other words, letting your child eat chocolate cake for breakfast is not love. 

Cheap and easy grace, as well as ready forgiveness for sins not repented, is the hallmark of modern Churchianity.  It is also indicative of a false and overtly anti-Christian religion that cloaks itself in Christian language.  The parents who make a showy scene of publicly providing unrequested forgiveness to the murderer of their only daughter when the man responsible refuses to even admit the crime aren’t demonstrating their Christianity, they are simply posturing emotionally, because repentance is required as a part of the process of forgiveness.

God doesn’t forgive the unrepentant and therefore neither should the Christian.

One of the criminals who hung there hurled insults at him: “Aren’t you the Christ? Save yourself and us!” But the other criminal rebuked him. “Don’t you fear God,” he said, “since you are under the same sentence? We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong.” Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” Jesus answered him, “I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise.” – Luke 23:39-43

Notice that Jesus doesn’t tell both criminals they will be with him in paradise, only the repentant man.  When he does ask his Father to forgive the unrepentant, he does so because “they know not what they do”.  So, my conclusion that the Christian can forgive, without repentance, those who do their harm in ignorance, but not those who willfully intend a harmful course of action.

I would, of course, be remiss if I did not point out that BR is making the same mistake I once made, which is to judge the -ism by the -ist.  This is logically fallacious, particularly considering that Christianity not only accounts for, but depends upon, the imperfection of Man.

A profile in atheist courage

Richard Dawkins isn’t so keen on criticizing the God of the Koran:

Asked if he thought the same of the God of the Koran, Dawkins ducked the question, saying: “Well, um, the God of the Koran I don’t know so much about.”

How can it be that the world’s most fearless atheist, celebrated for his strident opinions on the Christian and Jewish Gods, could profess to know so little about the God of the Koran? Has he not had the time? Or is Professor Dawkins simply demonstrating that most crucial trait of his species: survival instinct.

Whoops. It’s funny how these confident, cocksure prophets of atheism-who barely have time to take a breath between slamming the tenets of Christianity and Judaism-often get curiously tongue-tied and shy when the subject of Islam comes up. The idea that Dawkins doesn’t “know so much about” the God of the Koran is absurd. Of course he knows about Islam. And the same disdain and disregard that he has for Judaism and Christianity should surely apply to Islam as well.

The truth is that bashing and mocking Judaism and Christianity is easy and painless. You’ll get praise and admiration from those within the “right” circles of academia, media, and entertainment. Your opponents will argue with and debate your views and they may even offer (gasp) to pray for you. There’s no real price to pay at all.

Well, I know I’m shocked….

Why regulate?

What is the point of regulating anything, given the difference between theoretical regulation and its actual results?

 In the 120 samples labeled red snapper and bought for testing nationwide, for example, 28 different species of fish were found, including 17 that were not even in the snapper family, according to the study, which was released Thursday.

The study also contained surprises about where consumers were most likely to be misled — sushi bars topped the list in every city studied — while grocery stores were most likely to be selling fish honestly. Restaurants ranked in the middle.

Part of the problem, said the study’s chief author, Kimberly Warner, is that there are quite simply a lot of fish in the sea, and many of them look alike. Over all, the study found that about one-third of the 1,215 fish samples bought, from 2010 to 2012, were mislabeled. 

I understand why people like the idea of regulation.  But if it fails nearly one-third of the time, is it actually doing anything?  What would happen without all the expense and effort of government regulation, would everyone be eating cod-oil infused vegetables instead of fish instead of only one-third of the people getting the wrong fish?  Would anyone even notice if the SEC employees weren’t keeping their eagle eyes on internet pornthe markets?

The Suicide Party

“Stupid Party” no longer suffices to do justice to the Republican Party and its determined efforts to demographically extinguish itself.  Steve Sailer points to the obvious problem:

 I recently asked if anybody has checked whether Hispanic voters, the majority of whom are of Mexican background, actually like Senator Marco Rubio (R-CUBA).  A reader points me to this December survey by Public Policy Polling of 700 registered voters, showing approval ratings for potential 2016 candidates. Among the 90 or so Hispanic voters surveyed, only 24% were favorable toward Rubio, while 42% said they were were unfavorable.

First, it should be noted that the Great Brown Republican Hope isn’t even eligible to be president.  Second, as Sailer notes, Hispanics aren’t even favorably inclined towards the guy anyhow.  Third, either Republicans embrace their observable identity as the White party and start running on racial and national policies or they are going to be supplanted by a party who will.

Playing the Hey, We Got One Too game with a Black or Hispanic candidate has never worked for Republicans and there is no reason to believe it is going to work in 2016.  If Republicans wish to pursue the minority vote, there is a much more effective way to go about winning it.  Simply take whatever spending the Democrat proposes and quintuple it every single time.  If Democrats pledge $100 billion for Head Start, pledge $500 billion, with $100 billion earmarked for Black children, $100 billion for Hispanics, and another $100 billion for illegals of all nations.

Seriously.  We all know the Republican Party sold out whatever republican principles it had long ago, so they should just stop pretending and go about nakedly pursuing power in an honest and straightforward manner.

An addition to my platform

[Redacted due to a violation of SFWA Forum policies, which forbids both quoting and paraphrasing of Forum discussions.  Also, I should mention that I was in error in assuming that a question on the Forum was directed at me; it was directed at another individual’s post that I did not see.  My apologies to the questioner.]

If I win I will form a committee consisting of one author from each major publisher, who will be charged with discussing the issue with their publisher and receiving either a confirmation or a denial that the publisher has engaged in “bestseller campaigns” via bulk-buying or other methods.  What will be done with that information will be up to the membership, but at least they will be informed as to the facts of the situation.

Anyhow, it struck me that the problem of the appearance of corruption in science fiction and fantasy might have an easy solution.  Since Tor and its authors appear to be inordinately focused on seeing their names on bestseller lists and being nominated for awards, why not give them exactly what they want?  The SFWA can give out two Best Novel awards, one for Best Novel and another for Best Tor Novel.  That way, all the Tor writers can take turns giving each other awards, which is pretty much what they already do anyhow, and all the other books published in the genre can be considered on their literary merits. This would likely result in the genre’s best writers, such as Neal Stephenson, Charles Stross, and China Mieville, finally having a reasonable chance of winning and thereby legitimizing the Nebula awards again.

The alternative is for the organization to continue to hand out Nebula awards for Best Science Fiction Novel to parodies of Regency romances and thereby looking increasingly insane, until McRapey finally wins one for his historic “reboot” of John Norman, Cisgenders of Gor.

As for the bestseller campaigns, I have a solution there too.  Because the NYT is desperate for cash, it can surely be convinced to create a new SFWA Bestsellers category to which the various SF/F publishers can subscribe and be charged a moderate subscription fee.  Different slots will be sold each month, and the publisher can place whatever title he wants each week in the slots he owns that month.  Everyone can become a “New York Times Bestselling author” whether their books come anywhere close to the top 100-selling books or not, and the publishers can slap “New York Times Bestseller” on every book they publish.  Everyone is happy, everyone wins!

Two brilliant solutions.  Frankly, I’ll be shocked if they don’t elect me dictator-for-life.  Also, given what I am told about the vital importance of these lists, I should appreciate it if every reference to me in the future includes “TwoThree-time Billboard Top 40 Recording Artist”.

Refusing to sell the rope

That could be used to hang the American people.  These firearms companies deserve the business of all pro-freedom, pro-Second Amendment individuals:

A growing number of firearm and firearm-related companies have stated they will no longer sell items to states, counties, cities and municipalities that restrict their citizens’ rights to own them.  According to The Police Loophole, 34 companies have joined in publicly stating that governments who seek to restrict 2nd Amendment rights will themselves be restricted from purchasing the items they seek to limit or ban.

 You can see the entire list here.

Daniel Day-Lewis accepts the Oscar

Perhaps he didn’t give this speech, but really, he damned well should have:

Tonight I had the great honor of receiving the Academy Award for Best Actor for my performance in the film Lincoln. It is my immense privilege to receive an Oscar for the third time in my career, especially for portraying such an historic figure. And as I look back on this role, I can only feel deeply honored and humbled for the praise and respect I’ve received, even though I personally believe that Abraham Lincoln was an American traitor who deserved to die.

Honestly, this award truly is a tremendous thrill for me. And the fact that I’m being awarded for portraying a liar, a fraud, and an enemy of justice whose murder was fully justified doesn’t change that.

After all, just because you play a character in a movie doesn’t mean you have to agree with the views and actions of the character you’re portraying. Far from it! In fact, I saw this role as a real actor’s challenge considering my own deeply held belief that Abraham Lincoln was a tyrant and a hypocrite and that the South should have won the war. It has always been my strong opinion that the Confederate forces had a political and moral imperative to defeat the Union army and that America’s 16th president was a monster who deserved to be murdered in front of his wife, so just imagine what a test it was for me to try to humanize this repulsive figure. All of which makes this third Oscar win particularly satisfying.

It still amazes me that no one in the South ever stopped and thought, you know, since Lincoln is about the only one hell-bent on this war, and nearly everyone else seems to accept the Constitutional concept of allowing the various sovereign states to express their self-determination and go their separate ways, how about we shoot him instead of tens of thousands of immigrant German farm boys being forced to fight against us?  How is assassinating a single dictator somehow considered out of bounds when the alternative is butchering hundreds of thousands of innocents whose only crime was to get drafted into military service?

SF/F Corruption: Part II

I had intended to continue on the SFWA theme with which I began the Corruption in Science Fiction series, but a pair of articles concerning the legitimacy of the bestseller lists caught my attention after being featured on Slashdot over the weekend:

The other day, I received an unexpected phone call from Jeff Trachtenberg, a reporter at The Wall Street Journal. He said he wanted to talk about my bestselling book, Leapfrogging. At first, I was thrilled. Any first-time author would jump at the chance to speak with such a high-profile publication. But it turned out Trachtenberg didn’t want to discuss what was in my book. He was interested in how it had made it onto his paper’s bestseller list. As he accurately noted, Leapfrogging had, well, leapt onto the Journal’s list at #3 the first week it debuted, and then promptly disappeared the following Friday.

Suddenly, I wasn’t so thrilled anymore. I was just about to sit down to dinner with my family and now I was being put on the spot to discuss my role in perhaps one of the most controversial practices in the book publishing industry. I was tempted to make an excuse and plead the 5th. But I wound up talking to Trachtenberg several times over the next few days….

Trachtenberg asked me about my experience with a company called ResultSource,
the firm I had hired to help me hit the bestseller list from day one.
Trachtenberg said he had contacted all of the major New York publishers,
but no one would speak to him about the firm or the role of so-called
“bestseller campaigns” in helping authors reach the coveted status. No
comment. Dead silence.

I can’t say I was eager to be the first person to go on the record
about the topic. But then I realized something – Trachtenberg’s
surprising phone call was an opportunity to live up to what I urge my
readers to do in my book Leapfrogging.  I’ve seen the phenomenon of corporate silence repeatedly in my
career. There’s a big, smelly, ten thousand pound elephant in the
conference room. Everybody knows it’s there, but no one’s willing to
take the risk and point it out. As Trachtenberg was discovering,
bestseller campaigns are the unacknowledged pachyderm of the book

There’s good reason why most industry insiders would prefer that the
wider book-buying public didn’t learn about these campaigns. Put
bluntly, they allow people with enough money, contacts, and know-how to
buy their way onto bestseller lists. And they benefit all the key
players of the book world. Publishers profit on them. Authors gain
credibility from bestseller status, which can launch consulting or
speaking careers and give a big boost to keynote presentation fees. And
the marketing firms that run the campaigns don’t do so bad either.

This sort of thing is hardly a new practice; the Scientologists kept L. Ron Hubbard’s books on the bestseller lists for years this way.  Nor is it a surprise to know that there is some hinky business going on behind the scenes at the New York Times; there usually is, and the NYT has gone to great lengths to keep hidden the method it uses to determine its bestsellers.  But it is a little surprising to see that all of the major New York publishers appear to be involved in this practice, at least to the extent that they are unwilling to openly deny that they utilize such tactics in order to market their books.

Now, upon reading this, my thoughts immediately went to a particular publisher of science fiction and fantasy, which just happens to be a publisher that appears to place an inordinate energy of effort into winning awards.  It also loves bestseller lists; here is Tor congratulating itself on its many bestseller listings in 2010 and 2011.

Tor was particularly pleased by its 2011 showing, in which its “30 New York Times bestselling books this year” annihilated their “2010 release list of 20 bestsellers”.  Interestingly enough, however, the Publishers Weekly list of the 115 bestselling fiction novels for 2011 shows precisely one Tor book on its list: The Omen Machine. Terry Goodkind. Tor (108,809).

After reading this, it also occurred to me that despite McRapey’s tale of the starship ensigns who were expendable hitting #15 on the New York Times bestseller list, Redshirts not only didn’t show up in PW’s list of science fiction bestsellers for last year, it’s only #6 on Tor’s own list of its top sellers, behind the immortal Imager’s Battalion by L. E. Modesitt, presently ranked 19,446 on Amazon a month after its release.  And despite being “a New York Times bestseller”, according to Publisher’s Weekly, Redshirts didn’t even make the top ten in the science fiction category in 2012, coming in behind at least three other Tor novels and a novel published in 1965.

Science Fiction

1. Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card. Tor. 100,387
2. Ready Player One by Ernest Cline. Broadway. 50,593
3. Star Wars: Darth Plagueis by James Luceno. Lucas Books. 31,543
4. The Ultimate Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams. Del Rey. 27,220
5. Star Wars: Apocalypse by Troy Denning. Lucas Books. 26,140
6. Dune by Frank Herbert. Ace. 25,532
7. A Rising Thunder by David Weber. Baen Books. 25,348
8. HALO: The Thursday War by Karen Traviss. Tor. 24,936
9. HALO: Glasslands by Karen Traviss. Tor. 24,932
10. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams. Ballantine. 24,120

That doesn’t denigrate McRapey’s achievement in selling so many copies of a derivative and mediocre novel, but merely points to the varying degrees of what is claimed to be a “bestseller”.  (One can, indeed, one should have contempt for McRapey as an SF author, but he is without question the finest self-marketer and stunt writer in SF/F today, even if he hasn’t reached the mainstream heights of AJ Jacobs.)  On a tangential note, it’s a fascinating snapshot of the sickly state of science fiction to see how many of its current and confirmed bestsellers are either works derived from games and movies or original works first published between 30 and 50 years ago.  Regardless, the fact is that most of Tor’s “New York Times bestsellers” observably fit what we are informed is the profile of the fake bestseller.  They appear on the list for a single week, only to vanish the following week, never to make another appearance there again.

Here is another observable anomaly.  According to John Scalzi himself, Redshirts sold 26,604 copies in 2012.  That’s very good by today’s standards, especially for a hardcover, but it falls considerably short of the 100,047 copies of Neal Stephenson’s Reamde sold, which novel PW reports as being the 115th-bestselling book of 2011.  And yet, Reamde spent only one more week in the top portion of the NYT bestseller list than Redshirts, (ranking 4 and 12 vs 15) despite selling nearly four times more copies.  Is the latter ranking credible, especially in light of what we now know about major publishers gaming the bestseller lists?  And how did Tor/Forge manage to produce “30 New York Times bestselling books” when only one was listed among the top-selling 115 books published that year?

Keep in mind that The War in Heaven sold 35,000 copies and I never thought that it was anything remotely close to a bestseller.  (It probably could have sold more, thanks to the brilliant Rowena cover, but that was the print run, which sold out.  I’m still convinced that what killed that series was Pocket’s foolish decision to do their own imitation Left Behind cover for Shadow rather than leaving it up to Rowena and me.  I still have the sketch somewhere; it was going to be an awesome painting of Mariel and Melusine in combat.) 

None of this conclusively proves that Tor Books is engaging in the questionable marketing tactics mentioned in the Wall Street Journal article, but it certainly raises some serious questions about the legitimacy of its claimed “bestsellers”, just as there are serious questions about the literary legitimacy of its infrequently reviewed, modestly-selling Nebula-nominated novels, such as, for example, its two 2012 nominees: Ironskin (64 reviews, 3.5 rating, #35,470 in Books) and Glamour in Glass (18 reviews, 4.3 rating, #409,451 in Books).

Because, after all, nothing says “science fiction” like tedious derivatives of Jane Eyre and Jane Austen.