Thursday, November 5, 2015

On Tracks

by ProjectManhatten CC BY-SA

A friend asked me if I could give any insight as to why an autistic acquaintance of his was so fascinated by trains. I’m not myself particularly fascinated by trains but I had a vague intuition that such a fascination did make sense. Though I gave it my best shot, I couldn’t really articulate a good explanation at the time, but I’ve been thinking about it since.
As you walk down the street are aware of constantly falling to one side or the other and needing to correct to keep your balance? Only you have to be careful not to over correct or you'll make the situation worse. Just exactly the precisely right correction is needed. But exactly how much to correct is a very difficult calculation. Take a look at the early attempts to mots with human like strides. A human like stride requires constantly updating judgments of balance that are actually quite complex.
I’m not consciously aware to all the calculations that go into staying balanced when I walk. But when I turn my mind inward and consider what I’m doing as a walk, I’m aware of something tense and stressed just below the level of my deliberate thoughts. There’s a feeling connected to my balance of something that’s never stable, that’s never settled, that I’m constantly uncertain of. It’s something that’s intrinsically unpleasant and unsettling. We I was a child I remember like to run my hand along fences or rails when I walked. When there was nothing suitable I would extend my hand so it made an imaginary line to the border of the sidewalk of some other guide that I could could as a reference point, as an additional sense of stability.
When I’m thinking of other things that sense fades into a disregarded buzz in the back of my awareness, but the doesn’t mean it has no effect on me. Mostly it is something that I notice not by its presence but by its absence. In the room I teach Sunday School in there are these movable partitions in tracks in the ceiling. If you push them or pull them by leaning your weight into them slightly they give you a little extra feed back as they move because they only want to move in a certain line. I like to be the one to move the partition. When I open or close it there’s a wonderful sense of relaxation, of being able to move without the stress.

I think a major part of the faciation of trains may be the tracks. The idea of something guiding the path precisely, of something providing stability even in the midst of motion, may be the source of the attraction. To someone with an intuition of the inherent instability of bipedal motion, or to someone with sensory issues who experiences motion as jarringly unpredictable, interacting with something on tracks can be very appealing. Seeing a train following exactly the visually predicted path, feeling the feedback through your fingertips as you play with a toy train, it could provide a sense of stability and an opportunity to relax.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Arbitrage in Createspace Sales

I’ve noticed an interesting phenomenon that is happening with POD books. Now that fact that I was in a position to notice this particular practice is an artifact of a failure. I wrote an odd quirky book that didn’t have a really good commercial hook. Then when I launched it and I let other life stuff get in the way and it launched with almost zero effective publicity. (Copping with Autism mean that I have plenty of experiences with doing things fairly clumsily the first time I try them. I’ll get this writing+selling books things down; it just may take me a couple more tries.) So the total number of sales of POD print edition is:

And I know who has both of those.

But then I noticed this on amazon:

I’m pretty sure most of these retailers don’t actually have a copy of An Arrow of Atossa on hand.  So here is what I think is happening.  I signed up An Arrow of Atossa for extended distribution, which means that books stores, or people with book store account on service such as Ingram or NACSCORD can by the book at a significantly reduced price, that is partially made possible by my taking a reduced royalty on these books. This is done so h brick-and-mortar stores can offer the book at the same retail price on it is available online and still cover their overhead. I think the re-sellers advertising on Amazon are bookstores that manage to contain their overhead so they can use their wholesaler discount to undercut the price. The thing is, one of the ways they are probably containing overhead is by not actually ordering any copies from Createspace until someone buys a copy from them. This means I’m not getting much greater visibility or availability because these retailers are carrying the title.

I initially saw the smaller royalty for sales through bookstores as a trade-off for better visibility and the faint possibility that if I got this marketing thing done properly, someday a bookstore might stock my book. And if the visibility then I wouldn’t get sales through that channel and lower royalty rate would be a dead letter. Now it looks like those lower royalty sales would mainly be siphoned off from my amazon sales. Now with the poor sales showing I’ve made with this book it probably doesn’t matter that much. But I’ll still probably be pulling the book from extended distribution.

The thing that is really interesting here is that this is another potential problem of brick-and-mortar bookstores, and while small, the current business model is already struggling. If other low selling authors also decide that extended distribution isn’t worth the loss in full royalty sales, then even if an indie book store wanted to shelf  oddball titles,  there would be and smaller selection that they could afford. This might mean brick-and-mortar stores forced more into the box of limited selections and mass audience only. Another interesting factory in the ever changing world of publishing.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Enjoying being Cared For

This last week end my husband took me to get shoes. He just said I should go put on shoes and some real pants because he wanted to go shopping with me. As we went out the door I asked where we were going and he said to get shoes.
             Now I had some options. I could have asked where we were going before getting ready. I could have said I wasn’t sure we really had the money to get anything. I could have questioned the need for shoes or brought up other priorities. I could have sked what store we were going to if that would really be the best place to buy. But I didn’t. I didn’t try to manage the situation. I didn’t assume I needed be in charge and check that everything was being taken care of. I didn’t automatically take responsibility for all the decisions.
                My husband took me down to the mall to a store I’d never been in before that was having a sale on good quality athletic shoes. Shoes had been on my list of things that I needed to find the money for. And last time I had been shopping for shoes I had looked at getting walking/jogging shoes. But I had gotten intimidated by trying to figure out which type of shoes I actually needed and how to figure out if I was getting quality that was worth the money. So I had ended up getting a type of comfy work shoe I had gotten before.
                My husband had noticed that my shoes were looking a little worn. He had figured out how we could fit new shoes into the budget. He was confident and acted knowledgable about types of soles and types of shoes. As we looked at shoes for me he showed an awareness that color would influence how broad an array of circumstance I could wear the shoes in.
                I got a nice looking, comfy new pair of athletic shoes. I got to feel comfortable that I had decent shoes at a fair price. I didn’t have to use up any spoons deciding if this was the best possible next purchase. I didn’t have to stress out planning the trip. I got to relax in that fact that my husband had his own way of viewing the budget that worked as long as didn’t pull everything sideways by superimposing my own paradigm and priorities. My husband offered me his planning skills, his knowledge, his executive function. I could joy enjoy being cared for while he lifted the burden off my shoulders.
                The thing I noticed was that I needed to be willing before I could benefit from this care. Even if he had done all the same things for me, he couldn’t have taken the stress off of me like he did if I had insisted in knowing all the details and approving each step before moving forward.  If I had tried to question and understand and check out all his knowledge of tennis shoes I would have ended up less confident, because I would in the end be relying on my much inferior knowledge of shoes rather than his. If I had been focused on being responsible for myself, I couldn’t have enjoyed that sense of being provided for and looked out for, that certainty of being cared for. And I did enjoy it.

Thank you, Baby, for taking care of me.

Saturday, September 5, 2015

Death Race 2015

The evil characters in the movie Death Race 2000 were organizing the cross country trek where many people would die for entertainment. They watched for the fun of cheering on their favorites. Today in 2015 we don’t even bother to watch. America and Europe pat themselves on the back about how popular our death race is and get all worked up about how we should give out better prizes.
People are taking themselves and their children on a variety of long journeys. It may involve trekking through deserts with just the water you can carry. It may involve crossing seas in leaky boats, it may involve involvement with criminal organizations. It may involve crawling under barbed wire fences. It may involve violence between you and your fellow travelers for the best chance of winning the prize. It is the journey to reach America or various European countries without a visa and the prize is being allowed to stay and given various benefits as an applicant for “refugee” status.
I can understand an individual being overwhelmed by the crisis and deciding to just help the person in front of them right now. But what I find morally inexcusable is to advocate that governments, whose job it is to make these big policy decisions, should make a practice of encouraging this gauntlet by making a premeditated decision to give out more and bigger prizes to those who win the death race. The responsible thing to advocate for is that those you think should be allowed to emigrate be given visas in the countries they are currently in, so that they can arrange ordinary commercial transportation at their leisure. To instead require that they “prove” they really want to come by risking life and limb is sadistic and evil. To require them to abase themselves, throwing away honor and respectability, and openly grovel by presenting themselves as helpless and desperate is frankly sick.
It does seem to me that letting in everyone who would like to come is not even close to practical, so some sort of selectivity is required. But the worst possible way select imigrantes is to require them to ignore your stated laws and suffer through at dangerous and degrading journey so they can beg for your mercy on your home turf.
It may be more soothing to our consciences to ignore that fact that we are being selective. It’s easy to say well the ones who made it here are the ones I can see and I’ll lobby for helping them while ignoring those you can’t see. But you are setting up incentives, and you are encouraging expectations, and you are being selective. You are just being selective for those willing to break laws, lie, and put themselves and their children in an abusive situation in order to win your favor. This is not the right policy for governments to pursue and it is wrong for Americans and Europeans to ask them to do so.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

What do we puppies have against “Literary”?

            I’ve seen some confusion and ambivalence about just what it is the Sad Puppies have against “literary” in Sci-Fi and I don’t think what this has to do with the political correctness issues has been fully explicated. So I wanted to go ahead and lay out what I see as the connection.

At it’s root “literally” means a style of writing were the langue at the level of phrases and sentences is itself beautiful and interesting, a common part of this is allusions to cultural classic and references to previous literature. In some ways this style goes with science fiction about as well as beautiful stained glass goes with a telescope. But in other ways whether you want beautiful language as an additional distraction in your sci-fi story is very much as case of de gustibus non destbutontem est.

           But there is an additional quirk to the way literary has actually been practiced. Because the literary style has the quality that you need a certain level of education higher than for other styles in order to appreciate it. You have to have a large vocabulary and a complex awareness of grammar in order to enjoy the prose, and you need a broad knowledge of culture in order to enjoy the literary allusions. And back when literacy was developing as a style only fairly upper class people possessed this level of education.
           Thus one thing talking about literary works did was to effectively signal high social status. This became part of the self image of the literary set, that they had this quality that signaled eliteness. Of course no one articulated it this quality as “this style requires education and is therefore a good status signal” people thought of this quality as being this it’s the style the “best” people read. So it was easy for fans and members of literary circles to start thinking of literary as the “best” type of fiction.
The edition I read did not
explicitly mention the Odyssey

This was reinforced by academia because it was easy to see why you needed a college class to understand something like James Joyce’s Ulysses. It’s not like David Drake’s Cross the Stars where you can just kick back after a long hard day and enjoy a good read. Joyce’s work requires concentrated intellectual effort and either encyclopedic cultural knowledge or a reference guide. Half the fun is sharing connections made and cultural insights and with others. (I haven’t read Ulysses but listening to a course about it convinced me that had been much more amusing than actually reading the book would have been.) The praise I’ve heard of Bloom and his day revolve around the irony of him being portrayed as if he was the iconic greek hero and of this slightly unprepossessing man being celebrated in the literary canon. When I first read Don “Mad Dog” Slade’s story I simply enjoyed it as a rip-roaring good adventure about a veteran soldier returning home and having to re-make a place for himself there. It’s a smooth read with language that doesn’t distract from suspension of disbelief.
There are no three headed dogs in this book,
 only is the poem this book is referring to.
When I read it later, after coming to know to the
Odyssey, seeing the parallels added an extra layer of amusement, but that wasn’t at all necessary to my basic enjoyment of the story. A college course couldn’t really improve appreciation of Drake’s that work because Drake already provided everything the reader really needs.
           In recent times showing off your IQ, much less your snooty education, has become less the done thing. As the shine of “upper class” began to tarnish literary devotees in both social and academic circles had natural motivation to hold on to the cachet of liking the “best” literature. There was a market demand for a way literary could be “best” in a overarching, perhaps moral way. This made the Social Justice drive to make everything political and to treat pushing the correct politics the ultimate moral good the perfect supply for the literary culture demand. So now those proclaiming themselves as arbiters of the “best” kind of literature are using a standard that combines literary style with SJW propaganda and Ultra political correctness.  
Both Puppy groups object to political litmus test that the literary arbiters have appropriated. In addition the Sad puppies, despite being labeled conservative, are more united around ideas like freedom from authoritarian censorship, presumption of innocence until proven guilty, not discriminating on the basis of background, and seeing everyone as basically equal, that were liberal ideas a generation ago. They are fundamentally allergic to the elitism of any kind and so dislike the classism associated with literary culture from early in its development. Whereas Vox Day has no objection to elitism per se. He likes the intellectual stretch of literary style as long as it doesn’t come with other baggage and other aspects of the work aren’t neglected.
This shows up in the fact that the Rabid Puppies slate was very John C. Wright heavy while the Sad Puppy slate had only a couple of his works. Wright is often literary using somewhat ornate language and sprinkling in references to both the literary canon and classical culture. (I can see some justification for entangling hollywood stars with renowned beauties of the ancient world to enhancement of the time travel theme, but drawing Queequeg into it was just over the top. There was no excuses for that. That might have caused a DNF if I hadn’t been reading for my Hugo voting. Which would have been a real shame because once I completed the whole thing, I found the story really cool.) So Vox saw more excellence in Wright’s writing than Brad did. Wright is also a Tor author and it’s interesting to speculate that his literary excellence might be part of what attracted the social climbing would be arbiters of taste to his writing.

             So while part of the Puppy issue with literary is the leftist political baggage  it has recently picked up, there is also an objection in part of Puppy movement to the fundamental snobbishness of literary society and the exclusiveness the is intrinsic to the nature of literary style. Personally I think using literary style  in a science fiction story is a little like taking a Bedazzler to an Armani sheath, but I do see that as a matter of taste. There’s a place for literary style is Sci-Fi as long as it doesn't becomes a requirement for something being considered the best of Science Fiction.

Friday, July 17, 2015

An Arrow of Atossa

         I have self-published my first novel, An Arrow of Atossa. It's about a young princess whose world is shaken by her father's death. How she comes to terms with the uncertainties of the world and finds her place in it. How she confronts the complications of truth and honor and decides what they mean to her. How she becomes a woman who makes her mark on history.

From the back cover:
When Princess Atossa’ s father, King Cyrus, dies suddenly, both her brothers want to follow him as King of Kings. Should she support the ruthless cleverness of the more competent Bardiya or the rash honesty of her father’s choice, Cambyses? Why are the gods taking an interest in her now? She dare not let them control her, but she dare not offend them. And as she makes her choices, navigating politics and honor just get harder. What price will she have to pay to support her choices?
In 530 BC the Kingdom of the Meads and the Persians is the greatest Empire in the world. But that doesn’t mean the royal family is safe. Cyrus the Great of Persia has usurped the throne from his grandfather, one of many empires that had risen and fallen in the Fertile Crescent. It is a time of ancient powers and new legends being made.

          I'm really hoping that I get some reviews and feed back on this book. Amazon discourages reviews from family and personal friends, but from anyone else I would love it if you would read the novel and post an Amazon review.

It's available from Createspace, Amazon , nook , Apple iBooks , and Kobo

Monday, May 18, 2015

Check your Conservative Privilege

           We’ve heard about realizing white privilege, male privilege, able privilege, and Christian privilege, but I think it’s time to confess to that most insidious privilege of all, that most unfair advantage, conservative privilege.
           When you see that liberal person on the internet thread who runs from quests and only regurgitates contradictory slogan you need to be sympathetic to the fact that they don’t have the automatic advantage of having logically coherent political philosophy like you do, much less an invisible conservative knapsack to put it in. When you see progressives turn on each other and going on witch hunts among their own remember you have the innate head start of having a social circle where most people have a natural inclination to loyalty and good faith.

           When you see a Democrat trying fight racism with counterproductive race baiting, keep in mind they don’t have the Republican privilege of being from the part of Abraham Lincoln and Harriet Tubman instead of Bull Conner and Edmund Pettus. Be understanding about the incompetence and corruption of their politicians, knowing they don’t the advantage of real media watchdog criticism to keep them on their toes, rather than just coddling from Democratic operatives with bylines.
          It can be easy to take for granted that we are confident enough in our moral identity to look at what will actually help the poor rather than what will make us look better in the holier than thou competition. But we need to keep in mind that we have this unearned power, whether in comes in the flavor of Libertarian Privilege of being truly and totally comfortable with people having lifestyles and ideas different and foreign to us, or the Traditionalist Privilege of being able to offer up time tested institutions and proved social structures than just wild speculation of what might work. Don’t feel guilty about this privilege, after all there is nothing you can do about it. But keep it in mind and be charitable to those who don’t have it.

*note, this whole post is a joke, it should be read as having a significant dollop of sarcasm.

Monday, May 11, 2015

RaceFail '09 and Sad Puppies

I've been following the Sad Puppies/Hugo saga in various blogs since at least Sad Puppies 2. Certainly I have been following the last couple months of blog posts with much enjoyment. I've seen various Puppies making their case well, giving their various
perspectives, and ably explaining what the actions of the Anti-Puppies look like from their perspectives. One thing I was puzzled by is that I haven't seen is anyone speculating on the influence that RaceFail ‘09 may have had on the pre-conditions that were the background to the Sad puppies or how RaceFail may be impacting the reaction to Sad Puppies. However given the fact that GRRM did not recognize a what a reference to Barflies meant, it’s occurred to me that maybe nobody in Sad Puppies knows enough about RaceFail ‘09 to realize the signs of a connection.
The definitive link list to RaceFail ‘09 is here. When I first discovered it back in 2010, I spend a couple of months reading it whenever I had a spare moment and still never managed to absorb the whole thing. But if you can spare a couple of hours it’s hilarious to read through some of these posts. It would be impossible for me to analyze or even summarize all the themes, convolutions, mis-understandings, and ramifications. So I’m just going to summarize the part of my take away that seems relevant to Sad Puppies.
To explain what I think RaceFail ‘09 has to do with Sad Puppies I need to distinguish between two types of people among the CHORFs. First the social capitalists of SF, being those who invested considerable time, suave fare, and favors becoming “good friends”, “the good guys” and otherwise “good people to known” among the powerful in science fiction, especially for these purposes among the most dedicated and involved of the con going Fandom. (i.e. They have accumulated the social equivalent of capital and want to maintain and profit from it.) Note that I didn’t included anything about politics in this definition. Because of how left leaning publishing has been for many decades the social capitalists, had to be at least comfortable presenting as leftist and go along with nominally endorsing the popular leftist cause of the day in order to succeed in becoming popular. But a social capitalist’s primary concern would not be advancing leftist causes. The primary focus of social capitalists is maintaining both their own place in the existing social structure, and in making sure that existing social structure maintains its power and prestige. However the rhetoric of the social justice warrior was very attractive to the social capitalists because nothing encourages everyone to fall in line behind the existing social order like an outside evil that needs to be fought. So the social capitalists happily encouraged the idea that Science fiction was warring against a vast but vague set of injustices.
The other type of person among the CHORFs is the True Believer SJW, being those who truly and deeply believe that pushing for Social Justice will lead to an enlightened society where everyone (except for those crazy evil conservatives who aren't really people) feels wonderfully accepted and validated just as they are, success is always easy, and life is fair all the time. They see themselves as natural banner bearers of Social Justice banner because they identify as weak and downtrodden and see Social Justice as all about taking the weak and putting them in charge. They tended to be less professionally involved and/or new to professional involvement with literary Science Fiction, so there tended to be more of an amateur's view point.
I think there must have been some intuition under conscious awareness that, for all the energy being put into Social Justice, it was not helping those they claimed to be championing very much. And some mild self-congratulatory back patting among the Social Capitalists about their ability to represent minorities led to some POCs (People of Color, SJW speak for non-white) posting critiques about how neither the back-patting nor the fiction being praised made them feel understood and included, and in fact made them feel alienated.
It was called racist in that certain depictions of POCs either did not show accurate details of how POCs are different from white liberal westerners, or fell in someway in line with stereotypes of how minorities are viewed. I think the flaws that were pointed were actually just first, the liberal tendency to not genuinely understand other points of view (As Bill Reader puts it:
This is the fundamental issue with the SJW ideology. They don’t just disagree with people who have an actual different view on life from them. They don’t even acknowledge that these people exist.
They are more disgustingly culturally arrogant than the staunchest supporter of the British Empire. That person may not have agreed with what Indians did as parts of various traditions; may have looked down on them as childlike; may have imposed his own customs on them in the process. He at least had the decency to acknowledge that such beliefs could, in fact, exist.
For an SJW, a world truly outside their own is so alien that it must be disavowed if ever it is claimed to exist, and the person claiming it must be put to shame. And they will help you get outside your comfort zone, so you can discover the only true way of living.)
And second the liberal assumptions that minorities are always helpless and distressed, needing the help of white noblesse oblige. Anyway there was much disappointment at the fact that much liberal Sci Fi and Fantasy was failing to portray a world that both treats everyone as a unique special snowflake and also with an equality where everyone is equivalent and interchangeable.
The first response from the Social Capitalist Immediate apology and profuse breast beating. However this did not immediately place all the attention back on the Social Capitalists and their agenda. The True Believers found this new insight important and interesting. Some of the Social Capitalists pushed back against too much tearing down of the established pecking order among their own in group. The True Believers gave some push back against the defense of the status quo leading to more push from the Social Capitalists to have this line of discussion to be dropped, including (original deleted or locked but I saw it here) this quote from  Patrick Nielsen-Hayden

This behavior got the True Believers very upset and lead to them giving descriptions of the Social Capitalists and their behavior such as these:
“For the most part, the hateful people want one of three things, which they're mostly not aware of:
1) Attention & Reassurance: "Tell me I'm a good white person! Tell me what I think is ok!"
2) Servitude: "Please answer my 59 questions in long form. Even if I repeat myself or clearly didn't read the answers to previous ones. Don't worry, I'll be sure NOT to pass along what I've learned to the next person. KTHXBAI!"
3) Dominance: "STFU! Personal Attacks! Get back in your place you emotional / irrational / undereducated / militant / those people!" (There's also straight up epithets, but we usually figure out to disengage from those right up)
None of these attitudes are particular conducive to learning, listening, or comprehension, because they're all based in an assumption of supremacy” (link)

“If you weren't so interested in preserving yourselves, your status quo and your self perspective as a liberal understanding academic - you would have never behaved like pantless fools in the first place.
Putting on pants is a good start, but it doesn't mean I stop thinking of you as barely dressed savages. I know it's a turn around and likely a description you never expected applied to you; but if the loin cloth fits, even if it's made with the pages of Shakespeare and Ovid and scrolls of Socrates, it's still just a loin cloth; in your case barely keeping your befouled private workings covered.” (link)

“they slyly play the victim instead.
Oh noes, I tried to have a rational discussion but the Hordes of PoC swamped into my space and took over and they're too many comments and insults are flying and I'm so exhausted at putting out the fires!” (link)

Then came this post (Orginal locked or deleted but I got this from the frisking here) by Theresa Neilsen Hayden
“Those members of the mob who actually wanted someone to listen to them now have one less person to do it. The junior literary critics and wanna-be writers have lost one of the central editors in science fiction from their conversation. And if any of that lot professes to care about Patrick personally -- please understand I'm not rating that probability very high at the moment -- it should be obvious to them what kind of effect they've had.
I know Patrick better than anyone else. This is serious damage. The nithings who've hurt him will have moved on to some other inane topic by now. There's nothing worthwhile I can do to them. It wouldn't take away his hurt -- and besides, they wouldn't understand most of what I had to say to them.
One other issue: when Patrick and I first registered our Live Journal accounts, it never occurred to us to use anything other than our real names -- or rather, our real initials, which are easily traced to us, and which we've used as userIDs in other forums where our identities are or were known. Has it not occurred to the people attacking him that they can say anything, whereas what they say about him will show up whenever someone Googles his name? In terms of public reputation, they're playing with Monopoly money, and he's playing with the real thing.
Some of the people who are using false names are known to him. Some of them are known to or evident to me. In those cases, I've told Patrick who they really are. It's only fair. ...
Those of you I can't identify are not off the hook. I suggest that you never seek to take credit under your real name for anything you've done or written under your LJ pseudonym, because it's unlikely that I will ever forget you or what you've done.”

So now the controversies involved ugly and person insults as well as threats of professional retaliation. This stirred the pot with a vengeance and the discussions ended up leading to with the True Believers producing much eloquent rhetorical outrage and demands for denunciations and disavowals that had a lot of force behind them. The Social Capitalists flailed around trying to defend their territory and ended up committing such solecisms as outing someone so that her real day job name got linked to her fannish activity.
Generally the Social Capitalists more frequently demonstrated a knack for bullying in defence of their social status than a knack for logical argument.
By the time everything trailed off into a low simmer, the Nielsen-Haydens and the other Social Capitalists were in full and ignominious retreat. Certain lessons must have been seared into their psyches. First to immediately and loudly disavow anyone that looked like they might trigger the True Believers, reinterpreted in their own mind as conservatives,  least you get any of the cooties on yourself.  Second, they needed to make a big and noticeable splash to push minorities to shore up their cred.
The True Believers came out having won a hard fought toehold on the mountain of social status, but one that had proved itself to be constantly under threat. But they believed they were on the side of all that was good and if they just trumpeted their cause loudly enough their righteousness would carry the day. Moreover their experience had lead them to the conclusion that any arguments there opponents put up were just smoke screens for self serving attention seeking and social climbing.
Pretty much all the prominent names among the CHORFs were involved in RaceFail ‘09 on one side or the other, and even members of con going fandom who were not involved would have been very aware of this if they were significantly plugged into the Fandom social network. This dynamic was very much affecting important parts of Fandom when Larry Correia was nominated for a Cambell in 2011. There was very much an ongoing campaign to get a higher profile to “POC” authors and viewpoint. But many people on both sides  had found the whole RaceFail ‘09 to be traumatizing. And there was, especially among the socially powerful who had tended to come out poorly, a strong motivation not to set the whole thing off again, and therefore a strong motivation not to mention the situation to any outsiders. As the ripples continue outward from the initial disturbance, it would have been very confusing for anyone seen as an alternative target of a proxy of those insincere and failed efforts at being the white savior of SFF This purposely opaque atmosphere is one to the things the predisposed for the initial sad puppies campaigns to get whatever was going on out in the open where it could be seen and discussed. 

The response to Sad Puppies was also influenced by the pre-existing conditions. Many SJWs were presented with a wonderful opportunity to take attention off their own faux paus by getting their community to focus on an external enemy. Even many of those that came out winners had a welcome chance to get the nasty taste of infighting out of their mouths and go after a more ideologically clean target.  RaceFail also set the expectation for how the argument would go: The people with the less extreme leftist position would whine and threaten impotently, but would find they had no real argument and either run away or govel apologetically. Many seem to have assumed that anything the Puppies had to say was simply slightly reworded versions of arguments already answered. Some may be just now waking up to the realization that Sad Puppies is an entirely different argument and is going in a different direction.
The cries of racist at the Puppies is the assumption are doing the same thing as the Social Capitalists were, only more so because they are more conservative. Only the Puppies never promised that they would speak for anyone except themselves as individuals. They didn't hold out the hope that their fiction lead the way to the paradoxical paradise where everyone is both the same and different in the same way and at the same time. In fact Puppies stand against the idea that the primary purpose of fiction should be anything else but telling a good story. Sure, stories can explore ideas, they can reflect the truth as you see it, but you can’t bend reality to your will be writing a story that presents the world as something other than it is.
 In the end the fundamental issues and departure points for the sad puppies campaigners are very different from what was driving Racefail ‘09. But on the Anti-Puppy side are many people who are reacting to Sad Puppies like it is related to the fundamental disagreements of RaceFail ‘09 so it’s useful background to understand a little of that contretemps.

Friday, February 27, 2015

“Check Your Privilege” is a White Supremacist Statement

              “Check your privilege”  is a phrase parts of the left use to point out that someone is being arrogant or making assumptions about a minority issue or a minority person’s situation without having considered it fully or without knowing all the details. It is also used object to any white person disagreeing with leftist orthodoxy and disqualify their right to have an opinion. Or in an attempt to silence any white person complaining about their problems in a way that competes with minorities telling their sob story.
           The idea is that a white person will not have scars on their psyche from having experienced discrimination or fear of discriminate at an early age. A white person will develop confidence and resilience from knowing that they fit in and that they will be likely to be given the benefit of the doubt in dicey situations. You can sort of see how a specific background experience applied to a specific situation could give someone an advantage you could call “privilege”
           But the way this “privilege” concept is used it applies globally to the person. In an essay foundational to the topic Peggy McIntosh says “White privilege is like an invisible weightless knapsack of special provisions, maps, passports, codebooks, visas, clothes, tools and blank checks.” … “such privilege simply converse dominance because of one’s race or sex” ... “unearned power conferred systematically.”When the concept is applied in actual conversation, it is even treated as attaching to the fact of a racial makeup rather than specific life experiences. It is treated as incommensurate with any other sort of advantage or power so that a minority person could never have something to match that “privilege” no matter how hard they tried. It is treated as ineradicable, as inalienable, so that the white person always automatically has this extra power that gives them an advantage in any project they undertake.
           This usage of “privilege” is often seen in academia and similar areas where the main goal is to evaluate fairly. But they seem to being failing to correctly evaluate how this translates into an arena where what is most important goal is getting things done, including things that may be very hard. In many cases narrative about how hard the department tried is going to be totally ignored in favor of asking “Did you get results or not?” In those cases the doctrine of “privilege” would mean the only rational choice for manager would be to hire white people for all the critical positions while disguising the non-critical responsibilities of minority hires with deceptive job titles and descriptions so they don’t get caught and punished. After all, if their livelihood is on the line, wouldn’t they choose to play on the easy setting as much as possible?
           “Check your privilege” proclaims that if you are white you are elevated by your very birth. It lets a white man show magnanimous humility and willingness to sympathize with the less fortunate while slipping in the assumption that, if results Really matter in situation, then you should put him in charge. It’s basic assumption is that the most fundamental and far reaching thing about someone is the broad racial category into which that were born. It declares that white people will always be better able to handle things, just all around better at getting things accomplished, just based on their race. An this in plain not true. So I reject “check your privilege” utterly.

Friday, February 20, 2015

To Gnon or not to Gnon

                Gnon is an NRx reference (obscure because that’s how NRx rolls) to “Nature or Nature’s God.” Specifically this is used in relation to the facts that harshly constrain us from eating our cake and having it too, no matter how much of a temper tantrum we throw. That saying “can’t we all just get along” doesn’t mean our needs will be compatible with the needs of other individuals or other states or even that they will want to get along in the first place. That just because it would make things more “fair”, we still can’t re-write human nature.
                Gnon is a personification of the power of the universe. The idea of thinking this way is coming from atheists and agnostic, so there isn’t much input from special revelation at work in this concept. This is just based on empirical experience of life as a sceptic. Gnon isn’t assumed to be good, or interested in humans, or even to align particularly well with human ideas of a coherent personality. Having no prima facie requirement of being nice, he is often conceptualized as being sort of mean from the human perspective.

Gnon: I like arms races, and rain my blessings upon them. Pretty much the only reason I’ve put up with the monkeys as long as I have is to use them to play arms races. It’s the only interesting stuff they’ve ever done.
                                                                                                -Nick Land

                I find there is something about the presentation of Gnon that resonates with me. There’s some insight here that is worthy of being affirmed. But from a Christian perspective there are certain issues. It has been pointed out that Satan has been given certain power in this world, and that those who projecting from their experiences indiscriminately may be confounding their idea of the Almighty with elements of Satan’s handiwork. However I don’t want to be so quick to dismiss this basic intuition of God’s existence.

Gnon fishin
This is the God of common revelation. This is what can be known of the Almighty without the prophets and apostles bringing special revelation of His grace and redemption. This is the face God turns towards cut off from Him by our own wickedness and corruption. I don’t think God finds our struggles and failures without him exactly funny, as Gnon is sometimes protruded as doing. But His judgment is that it is fitting and proper that, if we reject Him, our end is ruin and destruction. God wants suffering and sorrow done away with if and only if sin is done away with too, not lessened, not put in a corner and ignored, but utterly done away with.
It’s important to acknowledge that those without a relationship with God can have some perception of Him, if a dimmer one than revelation provides. But it is also a different view than those of us enfolded be the cleansing gift of His redeeming love experience in our everyday lives. There are several important thinks to be gained from engaging with and even embracing God-as-seen from an outsider’s perspective.
First is understanding why we do evangelism. I was talking with a liberal Christian about the possibility that, since the patriarchs were saved without knowing the name or story of Jesus Christ, those in remote areas unreached by missionaries might be saved by believe in God and trusting him based on the limited revelation they do have. I was arguing that just because they could didn’t mean they would and so we still needed to send missionaries to invite them to be saved. I realized later that what I was missing was an appreciation that the un-evangelized would be experiencing Gnon., awesome, but also terrifying. When you realize how immiscible God is with un-redeemed humans, you realize how unlikely it is that someone would make a leap of faith to trust God with your life unless someone brings the good news of redemption and forgiveness to them. A few might do it, but not nearly as may as would trust Jesus once they understand the gospel.
It is also helpful, when communicating with unbelievers in our own culture, to understand that unless there has been a special intervention of the Holy Spirit, the only personal experience non-believers will have had of God will look like Gnon to them. For those like me who grow up as believers from a young age, our lived experience having God respond to us with concern and gentleness is so normal and expected that it takes a deliberate effort to imagine what it is like to experience God as His enemy.
                Being aware of Gnon can also help our own spiritual growth. Fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. You can’t develop towards a full understanding of God without an appreciation of how unbending He is towards sin and evil. An awareness of Gnon as how God can look to those not reconciled by the blood of the lamb can guard us against ignoring an important part of God’s character. Satan is the father of lies and he can use anything that is not true as an opening wedge. One lie he will use is that this world is already adequately reconciled to Him and that we can becomfortable and accepting of everything about it. Instead we need to remember that the kingdoms and powers of this world are under his wrath, that our current bodies are still those we inherited as part of a condemned world and still carry that taint until they are changed in the twinkling of an eye.
                One way this can be seen is in understanding the continuity between the old and new testaments. I’ve heard from a number of sources the impression that the God of the Old Testament is wrathful and the God of the New Testament is loving. I confess that my first reaction to this is to think “You didn’t actually really the book did you? Because that sounds like the result of just reading the cliff notes.” But more charitably I must confess that the Bible is complex and subtle saga and it can be hard to hold the whole thing in your head for some people. And if whole sections down to one simple take away it can look like there are contrasting themes.  Bringing an awareness of Gnon affects in the world today can help bridge that gap and make it easier to understand the coherence of God’s justices and His mercy.
                So I would argue that Christians in the Reactosphere need to embrace Gnon. Not accepting uncritically every characteristic or action attributed to him as reflecting God, but seeing in Gnon accurate insights into the God we worship. We should be willing to use Gnon as a common ground for discussions that increase the understanding of other and of ourselves.

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Telling the Sob Story

In reading about Kelli Stapleton I was struck by this statement: “She had gotten her child into a residential placement, there were some issues with her school, but she had been getting a whole lot of help — including securing almost continuous care in the home, a level of support far higher than almost anyone else in the state was receiving”
Kelli Stapleton tried to kill her disabled daughter Issy, and she has been telling her story about how stress and despair drove her to do it.  She got a whole show on Dr.Phil. But reading that statement about how much help she had I wondered if  the driving factor of the attempted murders wasn’t that Kelli had  an unusually tough time raising her daughter but that she had fallen the habit of telling a sob story.
A culture that doles out help and consideration in proportion to a perception of need that is indexed by the evocation of pity encourages telling and retelling of tales of woe that creates a narrative of pityable ness. Our disability services system is designed to let a web of gate keepers direct limited government resource to those who need them most. So in order to get the extraordinary services, to get upgrades to the basic level of support, you have to present a narrative of why you really, really need the extra resources. The social workers and other helping professionals you deal with will be empathetic people who will respond to how deeply you feel and how passionate your cries for help are.
By Laura Beaudin from Edmonton, Canada
(Crocodile Tears) CC BY 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons
Telling sad stories of how abused and downtrodden you are, can change your perception of reality and depressed and desperate, worsening your subjective situation. Negative self-talk can be a contributing factor in depression. This effect must magnified when you are not only telling yourself but telling others and presenting a coherent picture of need and helplessness. Regardless of how desperate the situation is objectively, subjectively the situation will be worsened by making the negative to focus of your speech and your relationships.
This can lead the needy and vulnerable to a downward spiral. While help received in return for the need being convincingly expressed can help the situation, it can also set-up a pattern. If the answer to life’s problems becomes convincing everyone how pitiable you are, then if you aren’t satisfied with something, the solution can seem to be talking yourself into seeing your situations as even more miserable than you already feel. At some point the help received doesn’t surpass, doesn’t even balance out, how much worse you’ve made yourself feel. But the solution to that which will feel natural is to wallow in missery more strenuously.

Kelli Stapleton's statement: “We obtained the single opening for the Michigan children’s waiver for the whole state!  So Issy has funds for staff at home.  Her very own human for nearly all of her waking hours!  Can. You. Imagine?!” is a declaration of triumph, her strategy has worked. But it also represents something darker. It appeared on Kelli’s personal blog actually called “The Status Woe.”  As I read it I’m struck by how much focus there is on how Kelli is put upon both by her daughter’s condition, by people who don’t do what Kelli wants them to do to help her, and just by the inconveniences of life that get magnified when you deal with a disability.  
            I see the same underlying strand in other deaths of Autistics, like Jude Mirra. When I read about his murderer and mother, Gigi Jordan, I’m struck by how unlikely it is that all of the many accusations she makes of people abusing her and her son can all be true. She had the money to get practical help. But instead she seemed obsessed with making things hard on her self, and flying around looking for a savior, a miracle worker, who could answer her cries with help that would somehow make everything match her vision of perfection.

          This problem is not just Autism community. This situation is endemic among those America is tying most to help. Danusha Goska sums it us:

“They don’t know about believing in themselves, or stick-to-itiveness. … My students know — because they have been drilled in this — that the only way they can get ahead is to locate and cultivate those few white liberals who will pity them and scatter crumbs on their supplicant, bowed heads and into their outstretched palms. My students have learned to focus on the worst thing that ever happened to them, assume that it happened because America is unjust, and to recite that story, dirge-like, to whomever is in charge, from the welfare board to college professors, and to await receipt of largesse.”

             We need to stop encouraging people denigrate themselves in hope of receiving extra help. We need a way of making needs assessment that is less dependent on the ability to craft a sad narrative. Even if that makes me seem heartless towards a person who is practically having hysterics. The harder a person starts sobbing is the face of denial the more likely it seems to me that that person is addicted and needs an intervention rather than another fix.
We need to find a way to reward the needy on the basis of how much effort they are putting out. So there can be concrete motivation to work to get yourself out of poverty. There also needs to be positive recognition and even rewards given for those achieving results, rather than just a snatching away of benefits. We need to value this once again:

“The “broken people” are out there everywhere, inviting us to their pity parties. But I think about my ancestors, and I also think about Muhammad Ali, the best boxer in history. Of all his many great moments, his greatest was a fight he lost. In 1973, Ali fought Ken Norton, a Marine Corps veteran who broke Ali’s jaw — yet Ali did not quit. He went the full 12 rounds and lost a split decision to Norton, but the fact that he finished the fight with a broken jaw is a testament to Ali’s toughness.
                -Stacy McCain