It’s not broken, so why not fix it?

The NFL playoffs this year were exciting. The best teams advanced to the Super Bowl. Naturally, this doesn’t prevent the meddlers from insisting on “improving” things. Unfortunately, it turns out that one of those inveterate meddlers is the NFL Commisioner:

“We currently have 12 teams qualify for the playoffs, as you know. We are looking at the idea of expanding that by two teams to 14,” Goodell said at his State of the League press conference. “There’s a lot of benefits to doing that. We think we can make the league more competitive. We think we can make the matchups more competitive towards the end of the season. There will be more excitement, more memorable moments for our fans. That’s something that attracts us. We think we can do it properly from a competitive standpoint.

And then the complaints will start that the #1 seed has too much of an advantage, so two more teams need to be allowed in. The crazy thing is that the people whining about the need for seeding have been complaining about 8-8 teams making the playoffs, but adding more teams is only going to increase the likelihood of that happening. 


Amazon vs BEA

So, on the one hand, the BEA is reporting 3.2 percent economic growth. On the other, retail sales are below expectations, both in physical and online terms:

Amazon.com Inc.’s shares fell almost 10 percent a few minutes past 4 p.m., after the company dropped some disappointing earnings news. The title of the company’s news release is cheerily optimistic: “Amazon.com Announces Fourth Quarter Sales up 20% to $25.59 Billion.” And its operating income actually beat estimates — $510 million, compared with $489.9 million. But fourth-quarter sales of $25.6 billion were considerably below estimates of $26.08 billion, and earnings per share were 51 cents instead of the 69 cents that analysts had been expecting.

That’s not just disappointing for Amazon; it’s also not great news for the U.S. economy. When retail foot traffic and sales were disappointing in December, the standard explanation was that people must be moving their purchases online. Obviously, they weren’t — at least, not nearly as much as analysts expected. Given how dominant Amazon is in e-commerce, this should cause most of us to revise our expectations of fourth-quarter retail sales, as well as growth in gross domestic product.

Now, I wonder if perhaps the data being produced by the government bureaucracy might perhaps be less than entirely accurate? No, surely that’s not possible. That’s crazy conspiracy talk!


A meeting of exceptional minds

If you haven’t read Richard Cantillon’s An Essay on Economic Theory, I highly recommend it. It’s really remarkable for its insights, especially considering when it was written. I have about twenty bookmarks, each of which probably merit their own post, but it was this one little aside on metal ratios that truly blew me away:

It is true that the coinage in England might equally have been adjusted to the market price and ratio by diminishing the nominal value of gold coins. This was the policy adopted by Sir Isaac Newton in his report, and by the Parliament in response to this report. But, as I shall explain, it was the least natural and the most disadvantageous policy…. Newton told me in answer to this objection that according to the fundamental laws of the Kingdom, silver was the true and only monetary standard, and that as such, it could not be altered.

Can you imagine being a party to that conversation? Listening to one of Man’s greatest economic minds in history criticizing the currency policy of what may have been Man’s greatest mind in history would have been an unparalleled privilege. Even if it was only an exchange of letters, it is still amazing to be offered this glimpse into such a fascinating interaction, however brief it may have been.

It also shows how government interventions were having materially deleterious effects on the economy long before Keynes and Marx produced their fallacious justifications for deeper and more pernicious interventions.

And now the punchline. I was reading this in between sets at the gym, and, being understandably overcome by the excitement of the passage, told the story to a junior Swiss diplomat who often works out at the same time I do. He’s a sharp, well-educated guy in impressive condition. He nodded appreciatively, (or so I thought), then said: “so do you know these guys?”

I am 95 percent sure that he thought the conversation took place at Davos….


Betrayed by Fat Bastard

Ron Fournier’s eyes are belatedly opened to Chris Christie’s manifest unfitness for office:

A year ago, I wrote: “The smartest move in politics today is to move against Washington and the two major parties. And the smartest man in politics may be Chris Christie.” I take it back.

At the time, the New Jersey governor had channeled the public’s disgust with political dysfunction, chastising House Republican leaders for refusing to allow a vote on a Hurricane Sandy relief bill. Christie said the game-playing that derailed the relief bill showed “why the American people hate Congress.” He accused his own party’s leadership for “selfishness,” “duplicity,” and moral failure.

His approval rating topped 70 percent.

Now his numbers are dropping, because he wasn’t so smart. Rather than stay true to his post-partisan image, Christie ran a hyper-political governor’s office that focused relentlessly on a big re-election win to position him for a 2016 presidential race. In this zero-sum gain culture, Christie enabled (if not directly ordered) an infamous abuse of power: the closure of traffic lanes on the George Washington Bridge in a fit of political retribution.

If not criminal, it was pretty damn stupid. His reputation is in tatters.

Like girls chasing loser bad boys, the supposedly conservative media is forever getting starry-eyed over moderate Republican candidates that they wrongly believe to be electable. For some reason, they never seem to understand that politics is a strong horse game and that the electorate has to be led rather than followed.

But none of these people should be surprised. Christie’s maximum upside was John McCain. It’s not only pointless and self-defeating to elect moderate Republicans, they’re not electable in the first place. If George W. Bush had campaigned in the manner he governed, he would have lost too.


Book Review: Escape from Tekmar II

Jill reviewed Kiti Lappi’s Escape from Tekmar:

I’m technically a bi-lingual person.
However, I would never have the confidence to pull off a book-length
manuscript in my second language. For that reason, I applaud Kiti
Lappi, the author of Escape From Tekmar, whose native language is
Finnish. She rose to a challenge and actually met that challenge.
Undoubtedly, she improved her skills in English by doing so. That
being said, while her book is readable in English, the level of
readability is extraordinarily low. The sentences are wordy and
awkward, and she often uses words improperly. For example, she
repeatedly confuses “commend” and “recommend”. While these
words are similar, they have subtle distinctions in usage. In
addition, there are many unclear run-on sentences, and I’m not sure
if this is owing to her limited knowledge of English, or simple bad
editing. Completing a cohesive thought in sentence-form is a matter
of logic, as far as I’m concerned.
Despite all that, the manuscript is
not
irredeemable. I would highly recommend (that is, advocate) that
she
pull this book off the market and choose one of two options: hire
a
native English speaker to help her with language edits; or write
the
book in Finnish and hire an English translator. Left as is, the
author risks giving herself an unnecessarily bad reputation as a
self-publisher of junk, which is a shame.
And to be fair, the story isn’t junk.
The elements of a well-told story are there, albeit lost in the
awkward language. The plot, itself, is a simple sci-fi adventure
story about the space travelers, Rahan and Ryn, who find
themselves
unwittingly involved in another world’s revolution. The author
uses
many sci-fi tropes to give the basic plot color: genetic
modification, space travel, invasive spy technology that is too
expansive for upkeep, etc. Some of it is quite interesting and
imaginative, such as the “silver” that repairs the
genetically-engineered Shemasharras and gives them their
distinctive
silver eye color.
The characterization is decent,
especially when the author depicts the relationship between Rahan
and
Ryn. Their relationship shines through enough that I’m not left
reeling when the author reveals their true relationship near the
end
of the book. Although the female protagonist, Lida, isn’t as
fleshed
out, I find it believable that she, as an idealist, has become
embroiled in a revolution that isn’t about the good of the people.
On
the other hand, I never get much sense of Ryn’s character, except
that he feels duty bound to always protect Rahan. Ryn is a
genetically-engineered human, yet he fills the ubiquitous sci-fi
role
of the almost-human robot. Sadly, there are many sci-fi robots out
there with more personality than the genetically-engineered Ryn.
Ryn
is too good, too intelligent, too strong to be entirely relatable.
Along the same lines, the main
character, Rahan, has a strong character arc, from childish
dependency on Ryn’s saving him from disaster (as shown in the
first
scene), to fighting his own battles and becoming the rescuer of
Ryn.
Likewise, the main female character, Lida, also transforms
throughout
the story, beginning with reluctant compliance and ending with
defiance. Ryn, as befitting his flat character, doesn’t change
much;
however, the author allows him to be possessing of weaknesses, as
he
is able to be captured at a crucial moment.
The scene-setting is also quite well
done for an author who has a limited vocabulary in English. I’ve
read
that there are literally no cognates between Finnish and English,
which further gives me admiration for the author’s skills. That’s
obviously beside the point, as I get a general sense of a planet
that
had one time been decked-out with better technology, but has
devolved
into an economic and social decline. The scene-setting works, even
if
it’s not extensive. For the record, I prefer books with extensive
scene descriptions, almost to the point of travelogue, but I
certainly don’t expect that from modern authors.
If I have any banal writer-workshop
type recommendations for the authors, they are these: she needs to
learn how to write without giving info dumps. Info must be told in
order to ground the reader, but it needs to be accomplished a
little
at a time through the scene itself (showing vs telling), or
through
natural dialogue, or through SHORT pieces of exposition. I don’t
really give a shit about the absurd convention of excessive
showing
in fiction—the pretense that fiction should be written as though
it
were a film—but the author needs to work on her art of subtlety.
Storytelling is an art, in which scene and exposition are woven
smoothly together, and the author needs to work on this.
As an
extension of show-vs-tell, the facts the author presents in the
story
often don’t sound planned. I found myself wondering if the author
made things up as she went along. For example, Rahan will suddenly
be
possessing of useful items in his backpack, when he had a moment
before been deficient in useful items, which left me thinking,
“How
convenient for him!” This credulity could easily have been avoided
if the character had been shown finding whatever-useful-item in
real
scene time.
As a last word, the beginning scene is
necessary, and a great way to demonstrate the relationship of
Rahan
and Ryn, but it’s too long. The author spends an inordinate amount
of
time describing a world that the characters are just passing
through
before landing on the planet where they will spend the next 250 or
so
pages.
To reiterate, Escape From Tekmar has
merit. It’s a story that would be worth more of the author’s time
and
attention, as well as the money it would cost for an
English-speaking
editor to clean it up. As it is, though, I can’t rate it well. In
fact, I would probably give it 1 or 2 stars out of 5 due to the
sheer
difficulty in reading the language.

Books on Amazon

QUANTUM MORTIS A Man Disrupted is now available again on Amazon.  All of the book links on the right sidebar are active again, with the exception of A Throne of Bones. That should be good to go sometime this weekend.

My apologies to those who were waiting to read this, but we only learned about the Marcher Lord sale at the end of December, so this was the fastest we were able to get the books back online. But the new publishing structure will allow for a lot of new activities in the coming year, so I think the wait will prove well worth it.  Also, it appears I spoke too soon about the reviews being lost. They’ve already reappeared on AMB, TWC, and TLW, so kudos to Amazon for having a sufficiently flexible system to keep the information from being lost.


The Fifth Horseman 13

I thought this was an interesting pre-rebuttal to Peter Boghossian’s unconvincing attempt to redefine faith. Consider Oswald Spengler’s explicit linking of faith and mathematics in The Decline of the West:

The symbol of the West is an idea of which no other Culture gives even a hint, the idea of Function. The function is anything rather than an expansion of, it is complete emancipation from, any pre-existent idea of number. With the  function, not only the Euclidean geometry (and with it the common human geometry of children and laymen, based on everyday experience) but also the Archimedean arithmetic, ceased to have any value for the really significant mathematic of Western Europe. Henceforward, this consisted solely in abstract analysis. For Classical man geometry and arithmetic were self-contained and complete sciences of the highest rank, both phenomenal and both concerned with magnitudes that could be drawn or numbered. For us, on the contrary, those things are only practical auxiliaries of daily life. Addition and multiplication, the two Classical methods of reckoning magnitudes, have, like their sister geometrical-drawing, utterly vanished in the infinity of functional processes. Even the power, which in the beginning denotes numerically a set of multiplications (products of equal magnitudes), is, through the exponential idea (logarithm) and its employment in complex, negative and fractional forms, dissociated from all connexion with magnitude and transferred to a transcendent relational world which the Greeks, knowing only the two positive whole-number powers that represent areas and volumes, were unable to approach.

Think, for instance, of expressions like e~~ x , /x, al m

Every one of the significant creations which succeeded one another so rapidly from the Renaissance onward — imaginary and complex numbers, introduced by Cardanus as early as 1550; infinite series, established theoretically by Newton’s great discovery of the binomial theorem in 1666; the differential geometry, the definite integral of Leibniz; the aggregate as a new number-unit, hinted at even by Descartes; new processes like those of general integrals; the expansion of functions into series and even into infinite series of other functions— is a victory over the popular and sensuous number-feeling in us, a victory which the new mathematic had to win in order to make the new world-feeling actual.

In all history, so far, there is no second example of one Culture paying to another Culture long extinguished such reverence and submission in matters of science as ours has paid to the Classical. It was very long before we found courage to think our proper thought. But though the wish to emulate the Classical was constantly present, every step of the attempt took us in reality further away from the imagined ideal. The history of Western knowledge is thus one of progressive emancipation from Classical thought, an emancipation never willed but enforced in the depths of the unconscious. And so the development of the new mathematic consists of a long, secret and finally victorious battle against the notion of magnitude.(1)

(1) Thus Bishop Berkeley’s Discourse addressed to an infidel mathematician (1735) shrewdly asked whether the mathematician were in a position to criticize the divine for proceeding on the basis of faith.

It underlines the New Atheists’ lack of not only historical knowledge, but basic scholarship, when century-old writings by long-dead authors are sufficient to highlight the holes in their arguments. Peter Boghossian isn’t merely a bad anti-apologist, he’s an inept logician and philosopher. Then again, Portland State University isn’t exactly Oxford.


Achievement Unlocked!

After beating up on both politicized literary pretenders and McCreepy, the Master Monster Hunter is temporarily even more hated in SFWA circles than Orson Scott Card and me combined. He responded to Jim “McCreepy” Hines:

This is gonna be a long one.

Not really. He mostly hits and runs and does some check listing. I’m the long winded one.

The backstory: Author Alex Dally MacFarlane wrote an article called Post-Binary Gender in SF: An Introduction over at Tor.com, calling for “an end to the default of binary gender in science fiction stories.”

One week later, author Larry Correia wrote a response to MacFarlane’s piece, called Ending Binary Gender in Fiction, or How to Murder Your Writing Career. (Side note: you’ll probably want to avoid the comments on that one.)

That last part is very interesting. You’ll probably want to avoid the comments… Why? Because I don’t edit them in anyway or “massage” them? Between the blog post and the corresponding Facebook post, I’ve got a few hundred comments. Of those, there are a handful that are very mean (this is the internet) but most of them are reasonable, and interestingly enough I’ve also got homosexuals and transsexuals who posted in the comments who thought the original Tor blog post was as ham fisted as I did.

I tried to ignore it. There’s no way I’m going to change Correia’s mind about this stuff, any more than his post changed my thinking. But of course, there are a lot of other people lurking and participating in the conversation,

He’s correct. Arguing is a spectator sport. You don’t waste your time on the already decided, you convince the undecided, and give ammo to your side. If there isn’t an audience, don’t waste your time.

and while I know this is going to do bad things to my blood pressure, I think it’s a conversation worth having.

Heh… My blood pressure is fine. Arguing with lefties on the internet is what I do to relax. In my last fisk, I talked about how the blog post was angsty emo bullshit.

I wonder which is more angsty … an author calling for our genre to move beyond binary gender, or another author spending 4000+ words about how people like MacFarlane are symbolic of everything that’s wrong with the genre, and are destroying fun.
The original. Obviously.  Nice check listing though. I wrote lots of words, ergo, that’s angsty… Or it could just be that I’m a WRITER who averages 3k of paying fiction a day, I threw that thing together while I was waiting for the matinee of I Frankenstein to start. Considering half of those words were a cut and paste of the original Tor article… Man… That means Jim Hines just wrote SIX THOUSAND WORDS to respond! Holy shit. That’s hard core!

PROTIP: Your editor does not like to pay you for the words you cut and paste from other people’s blogs. 🙂

Destroying fun? Quite the contrary. If you’d bothered to read the comments then you know my readers have had a whole lot of fun with this. Oh! You mean destroying the fun of reading sci-fi and killing off our slowly dwindling genre. Well, yeah. That’s sort of the point.  I wrote my post for the aspiring authors who might read Tor.com and think that Ending Binary Gender in Sci-Fi was good advice. I pointed out that when you write with the goal of checking boxes to satisfy the cause of the day, your writing will probably suck.

I agree that if you’re writing a story with the kind of checklist Correia describes, you’re probably going to get a bad story.

Yep. But I said it in a mean way that hurt their delicate lilac scented feelings.

As Larry correctly points out, he’s the type of man who teaches women to defend themselves so they aren’t victimized by criminals. McCreepy is the type of cismale who likes to listen to crying women tell him about getting raped and console them when he isn’t dressing up in women’s clothing and taking pictures of himself. Is there anyone who would be even a little surprised if McCreepy turned out to have a complete Buffalo Bill-style dungeon under his garage?


The suicidal irrelevance of the scifterati

M-Zed, as I like to call him, calls out the posers and literary pretenders of SF’s extreme left:

Okay, I have to respond to this horseshit: “To get your friends into SF, show them a whole bunch of shit that no one gives a crap about, along with a few classics that aren’t really good for neophytes, and some hysteria-inducing leftism. And if that doesn’t work, go with a 2nd previous generation’s failed attempt at literary greatness.”

I’d like to destroy the prejudicial notion that the entire future is leftist, and that this is normal, desirable and believable. Near as I can tell, not a single “expert” they asked is within a standard deviation of center, and they’re all on the left.  The only one with reasonably good recommendations was John Scalzi.  When he’s your moderate, you may have a bit of a bias.

Heinlein’s YA? Neal Stephenson? Lois Bujold? Larry Niven? Sci fi with, you know, actual science? Drake for any veterans.  Hell, Ben Bova has lots of very good near future SF.  Mercedes Lackey is both liberal (since that obviously matters to them) and a good writer, with some decent present-day urban fantasy.

I’ve read close to 10K SF books and written a few, and I’ve never even heard of most of those choices. That by itself proves nothing, except that they’re not recommending anything anyone center, conservative or libertarian is going to be interested in, which is 75% of the population.

One thing you have to understand about the literate Left is that they are parasites who exist on nothing more than whatever they can leech from the productive populace in addition to each other’s farts. They are a breed unto themselves, homo fartsnifferus, for how else could one explain a movie – a freaking MOVIE – being made about a guy who killed himself because he was a mediocre novelist who everyone on the New York literary circuit erroneously believed was a literary genius.

(I speak, of course, of David Foster Wallace. A talented writer, yes, but a terrible novelist who couldn’t even rise to the level of Harold Robbins, let alone John Irving. I don’t condone suicide, but the only more explicable suicide in recent years was the Republican Senate staffer who was caught with kiddy porn.)

The whole point behind the Left’s endless babbling about social justice and gender equity and the entire catalog of pseudo-intellectual jabber is to conceal the fact that they have little talent and even less to say.

Larry Correia adds his own considerable weight to a related issue:

Okay, aspiring author types, you will see lots of things like this, and part of you may think you need to incorporate these helpful suggestions into your work. After all, this is on Tor.com so it must be legit.  Just don’t. When you write with the goal of checking off boxes, it is usually crap. This article is great advice for writers who want to win awards but never actually be read by anyone.

Now do yourself a favor and read the comments… I’ll wait… Yeah… You know how when my Sad Puppies posts talk about the “typical WorldCon voter”? Those comments are a good snapshot of one subtype right there.

I also know from that Facebook thread that a lot of people tried to comment and disagree for various reasons, but their posts were deleted. (and some of them even swore that they were polite!). But like most modern lefty crusades, disagreement, in fact, anything less than cheerleading, is “intolerance” and won’t be tolerated. Meanwhile, my FB thread had lots of comments and an actual intelligent discussion of the pros and cons from both sides (and even transsexual communists who actually like to enjoy their fiction thought this Tor.com post was silly), so remember that the next time a snooty troll calls my fans a “right wing echo chamber.”

If you can’t stomach the comments long enough to hear what a typical WorldCon voter sounds like, let me paraphrase: “Fantastic! I’m so sick of people actually enjoying books that are fun! Let’s shove more message fiction down their throats! My cause comes before their enjoyment! Diversity! Gay polar bears are being murdered by greedy corporations! Only smart people who think correct thoughts like I do should read books and I won’t be happy until my genre dies a horrible death! Yay!”  (and if there is beeping noise in the background, that’s because they’re backing up their mobility scooter).

So let’s break this pile of Gender Studies 101 mush down into its component bits and see just why some sci-fi writers won’t be happy until their genre dies completely.


The revolution continues

I know some of you have been wondering when I was going to get my books back online. I think I’ve received between 35 and 50 emails informing me that the Amazon links were broken over the last month, which is always an intriguing lesson on the inefficient nature of transmitting information via blog posts. The process of changing over from Marcher Lord took a little longer than I’d hoped, but we are at last finally getting somewhere. And since it is based in Finland, it seems fitting that the new publisher, Castalia House, should launch with  Särjetty taika, the Finnish translation of A Magic Broken.

Särjetty taika on fantastinen tarina häikäilemättömyydestä, urheudesta
ja petollisuudesta. Novelli kertoo kapteeni Nicolas du Meren tarinan.
Hän on maanpaossa hänen kapinaan nousseen lordinsa kuoleman vuoksi. Se
kertoo myös Lodista, Dunmorin pojasta; rohkeasta kääpiöstä joka yrittää
pelastaa kääpiötoverinsa orjuudesta. Heidän vaaralliset polkunsa
kohtaavat, mutta tavalla joka on kaikkea muuta kuin ennalta-arvattava.

We’d like to get a few Finnish reviews on Amazon, so if you speak Finnish and would like a review copy, please let me know. However, since the SF/F world doesn’t revolve around Helsinki, we have also published a number of the books in English today, including QUANTUM MORTIS: Gravity Kills, The Wardog’s Coin, and The Last Witchking. The first four books are already live and the other books are in the works; most of them have already been uploaded to Amazon. I’m not sure why QUANTUM MORTIS: A Man Disrupted is not yet live, as it was the second book uploaded, but it appears there might be some technical conflict with the books that were published in print by Marcher Lord. But that should be resolved reasonably soon as Amazon has already acknowledged Marcher Lord’s unpublishing requests.

With a bit of luck and a tailwind, all the books should be live by the weekend with the possible exception of Summa Elvetica and Other Stories which hasn’t been created yet. Unfortunately, the process of transferring publishers appears to have caused the various reviews to disappeared. So, if you previously reviewed the books, or if you’ve read them but haven’t had the chance to get around to writing a review, I’d appreciate it if you’d consider taking the time to post a review again. I was told they would transfer over automatically, but that does not appear to be the case.

If you have any questions about Castalia House, please feel free to ask them here. My long-term expectation is that it will become a new model publisher and a key element in the Blue SF revolution. The publisher does intend to eventually publish other authors besides me, but please don’t send any inquiries in yet since we still have our hands full getting all of my books into print as well as publishing the various translated versions. Unfortunately, Amazon does not support Bahasa Indonesian or we would be publishing Mantra yang Rusak today as well.

But, if you’re interested in getting involved, as a slush reader, a translator, a blogger, or in some other way we haven’t anticipated, don’t hesitate to let me know. We haven’t even begun to put the web site together yet, as our first priority was to get the books online again. We have a long way to go to tear down the walls and towers of Pink SF, but we fully intend on having a good time in the process. After all, what is the point of sacking and pillaging if you’re not going to enjoy it?