They mentioned me! (#SFWApro)

get-attachmentOn her blog, Liz Hirst, publisher and cover artist for Love, Time, Space Magic (all rights to image with current holder) posts a review of the book which includes a reference to my story, Leave the World to Darkness: “I could almost see this tale unfolding in the lurid panels of a comic book—alternate dimensions, shadow creatures, Nazis! Great fun, plus a spunky heroine with a smart mouth and a notebook.”

The review talked about the other stories too, so it was not like I was highlighted, but I’m still pleased (of course).

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If hubris is the sin of the gods, did this weekend make me a divine fool? (#SFWApro)

As you may have noticed, I didn’t post any time-travel reviews (or anything else) this weekend. And thereby hangs a tail …

This week was Culture Quest, a Mensa quiz competition. For several years I’ve played with friends in South Carolina and stayed a couple of days after (this year I had to forgo that for work). So Saturday I headed down that way. We hadn’t put a charger for our phones in the car since we got the new one so I decided I wouldn’t turn on the maps on my cell phone until I hit South Carolina. I might need it then, but up to that point I should be fine: after all I checked the route online ahead of time and it was simple (US-15 and keep going south). I could handle that.

Not so much. I’m not quite sure where I went wrong but apparently at one of the points where the road divided (US 15 one direction, US 1 or whatever the other) I wound up on US-15’s backwoods cousin. I noticed that everything seemed different from when I drove down three or four years back but hey, I was still on US-15 so I must be misremembering that it was a big, fast road and not a small, slow-moving country road. And sure it was odd I didn’t remember any of these small towns, but like I said, memory’s fallible.

Fortunately I got a text checking how soon I’d be there so I pulled off the road to check GPS. Funny, it insisted I was already in South Carolina and much further from Greenville than seemed possible … eventually it sunk in the GPS was right. I was well east of Greenville and actually south.

I notified my friends I’d be late and recalibrated. From that point it seemed simple enough … but as I came up 395 N to Greenville, barely 10 miles away, I hit a solid block of traffic. Moving at maybe 1.5 miles an hour. And about 1.5 miles of traffic jam. You do the math.

Apparently there’d been a bad accident so a stretch of highway was closed, diverting traffic onto the roads near Fountain Inn, then back on the highway. After that, everything got back to normal and I made the short remaining distance in record time.

I had a great weekend (more tomorrow) but I’m glad to be back home with TYG and the pups (Joyce, if you’re reading, sorry time was too short to stop by). Reviews will come some time this week.

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A near miss (#SFWApro)

Only 38.5 hours this week, unless I decide to do some extra work tonight. I suspect I won’t.

Most of this can be blamed on some extra dog-walking when TYG was busy and a couple of unavoidable errands today. Plus I kept reaching the point where my brain would clog up and I had to stop and goof off for a bit. Which if not for the unavoidable surprises wouldn’t have been a problem.

This reminds me of articles I’ve seen stating that we only have a finite amount of concentration, and that if we push on too long we basically use up our supply. So it’s better to take a break and goof off than try to push ahead. I’m honestly not sure if that’s okay, but I do reach a point now and again where I can’t keep going. Dog caregiving + work + all the little paperwork details that life requires sometimes leaves me feeling exhausted now that I’m working a full 40 hours (or almost in this case) a week. Why yes, it probably is a good thing I don’t have kids.

The shortfall aside, I had a good week. I got a couple more chapters drafted for the time travel book; did a side project for a friend (but a paying one!); and came close to my Demand Media quota (the side project makes up for the shortfall and then some). Plus watching movies. Alas, I’ve almost tapped out my Netflix offerings and the local library so it’s going to get more and more expensive from hereon (even going used for a lot of stuff).

I’m really pleased that the book is slowly shaping up. Too slowly, but I think it will be more than just a listing of movies as I look at patterns, gimmicks and plot elements that keep turning up, over and over. I want to get the first draft batted out completely in May. It’s doable, though not easy: while it doesn’t require the kind of What Next? plotting I need for fiction, it still has to flow smoothly and it’s tougher than you might think to tie everything together.

Next week I know I’ll fall short as TYG and I have various activities planned, starting tomorrow. But that comes under the heading of vacation so I’m cool with it.

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Filed under Nonfiction, The Dog Ate My Homework, Time management and goals, Time Travel Book, Writing

A minor follow-up point regarding John C. Wright

Earlier today I pointed out how Wright bemoans the upcoming new Avengers for going all PC and not having any white Christian men on the team.

If Marvel had made up an entire new team out of the blue to get the white male-free lineup, I might have a slight sympathy for Wright’s criticism (slight because it’s not like the new lineup will last forever or like there’s a massive shortage of white male heroes). But that’s not what they did.

captainamerica117•Falcon’s been around since the 1960s (though his donning Captain America’s uniform is new) and so has the Vision (cover by Gene Colan, all rights with current holder)

•Pepper Potts has been wearing her rescue armor for seven years.

•Miles Morales has been the Ultimate Spiderman for four years.

•Ms. Marvel is new, but she’s extremely popular (and contrary to Wright’s post, not just with Muslims).

In short, Marvel has lots and lots of nonwhite, nonmale characters, so it’s not that surprising we’d wind up with a team that’s composed of them. Statistically it’s probably closer to the makeup of the MU than the Kooky Quartet era of the Avengers (Cap, Hawkeye and two Roma mutants).

I’m not a fan of the latest Nova, but overall the lineup doesn’t look any worse than countless incarnations of the team that preceded it.

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Hugos and Popularity: Eric Flint’s insights (#SFWApro)

One of the arguments that comes up in the Sad Puppies furor over the Hugos is that the Hugos need this kind of treatment because they no longer reflect what people actually like (I touch on that here) because it’s departed too far from its roots.

Eric Flint agrees that the Hugos don’t reflect popular taste, but his arguments actually make sense (Matthew Surridge guts the Sad Puppy arguments here, and Flint’s own post demolishes the claim it’s all the work of sinister lefitts shutting out conservatives.

Flint’s points:

•The field’s simply too big. It used to be that even if you hadn’t read all the nominated stories, you’d be familiar with the authors because it was possible to read all the authors. Now there are lots of popular and/or talented authors you haven’t read. No argument here: short of acquiring super-speed, I can’t possibly keep up with all the fiction I’d like to (even my Is Our Writers Learning? posts have fallen by the wayside the past few months).

•The Hugos and Nebulas were born in an era when most specfic appeared in magazines. That’s where writers made their money, where readers followed the writers they liked. Now most of the money’s in novels, and a lot of authors don’t even writer short fiction. Nevertheless, three of the four prose awards (short story, novella, novelette) are still for short fiction.

•The mass audience rewards good storytelling. Hardcore fans who vote for awards may like storytelling but because they’ve read so much, they want more literary quality as well. Sometimes they prioritize literary quality and brush off the storytelling as hackwork.

That sounds right, though I’m not as sure as I am of the first two points. There are some Year’s Best lists that I’ve learned to ignore because they invariably opt for Art over Entertainment, even if the Art isn’t entertaining at all.

So I highly recommend Flint’s analysis, which goes into all this in more depth.

One point where I strongly disagree is his conclusion (when discussing whether the quality of popular specfic is worse than it used to be—he concludes No) that popular movies really have dropped in intelligence due to Hollywood making them for the teen/twenty-something male audience (though that strategy has encountered problems).

It’s true that Hollywood made a lot of smart, critically acclaimed intelligent movies for the popular audience back in the Golden Age, but Hollywood also made a lot of dumb movies. Universal Studios, for example, consistently lost money on its A-list films. For a long time what kept the studio in the black were Abbott and Costello’s low-budget, lowbrow comic films. And while I love Abbott and Costello (I finished an eight-pack of their films a couple of years back), I wouldn’t class them as intelligent. Likewise Gene Autry’s low-budget Westerns did very well at the box office (as Peter Stanfeld has written) when serious A-list Westerns—the ones that get written about in movie histories—weren’t doing well.

Plus the movie studios were headed by individual moguls who had the clout to greenlight a prestige production they knew wouldn’t make money, but would give their studio a touch of class. Today, bottom-line thinking rules, as it does in so many areas.

But that’s not the thrust of Flint’s post. And on the thrust, I think his argument’s solid.

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I don’t want to give John C. Wright any clicks—

So I’ll link to this long but interesting post on the Sad Puppies controversy, which includes a link to Wright’s rant on the newest Avengers line-up (in comics, not Age of Ultron). It includes Ms. Marvel (Pakistani-American), Rescue (white but a woman), the new Cap (Sam Wilson, American but black), Vision (synthetic human), the female Thor—and without “any Christian White Male Adults who might act like a Father figure, a leader, an alpha male, a hero.” As you can imagine given his horror at the female Thor, this is a bad thing from his perspective.

This is a fairly common right-wing lament: if white men dominate everything, that’s just normal, but if white men are squeezed out, that’s an atrocity. Pundit John Leo has made the point many times in his career that just because women in a particular profession or competition are under-represented (ditto blacks, Muslims, etc.), that could be a statistical fluke. It doesn’t by itself prove discrimination. But then he wrote a column explaining that if all the finalist in a scholarship contest one year were non-white, that clearly proved the judges had done some form of affirmative aspect. He’s written other columns which show he’s perfectly fine pinning an argument on statistics as long as the statistics prove white men are oppressed.

I don’t claim Leo and Wright share the same views, but I’m confident Wright, who thinks women who fight are just men with breasts, wouldn’t be bothered if we had the classic Silver Age formula (all white guys, one woman). And it’s not as if white male leader heroes are in short supply in comics. And contrary to his column, there’s no suggestion white men have been excluded or shut out.

20898019However the real point of this post is the venom Wright unleashes on Ms. Marvel’s membership. Because putting a Muslim on the team is like having a World War Two comic with a Nazi super-hero—”one of the those nice Nazi party members who do not approve of Hitler, or the other official doctrines, written in the official literature, of the organization to which she willingly belongs. Such a comic character would appeal to the moderate Nazis whom we do not wish to alienate, since, after all, Hitler highjacked the noble institution and motives of the Party.”(Wright is apparently unaware there have actually been German and Japanese super-heroes in WW II-set books (not from the era itself). Sgt. Fury’s WW II Howling Commandoes recruited a German at one point; Tsunami of the Young All-Stars was a former Japanese agent. So the idea isn’t as crazy as he thinks).
Second, the base of Wright’s thesis is bullshit. Islam isn’t National Socialism. It hasn’t declared war on the world. Some Muslims have declared their faith requires them to kill and conquer; other Muslims disagree and condemn them. The idea that presenting a Muslim who doesn’t want to kill all non-believers is some kind of propaganda lie is nonsense.His argument is the equivalent of arguing we shouldn’t have Catholic protagonists because they all endorse the Church’s cover-up of child molestation. Or that since some Christians still favor the death penalty for gays, therefore having a Christian who doesn’t hate gays is an unbelievable character. Except of course, that his argument against Muslims is echoed by lots of people in the real world who believe Muslims shouldn’t be treated equally: they have less right to open mosques than Christians to open churches, less right to worship free of government surveillance, less right to be in politics (Glenn Beck once said he wanted to ask Muslim Congressman Keith Ellison if he could prove he wasn’t working with terrorists).Distorting the views of any faith or its worshippers is toxic. But targeting a minority that’s already the subject of bigotry is particularly poisonous. (Image by Adrian Alphona, rights with current holder)

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Filed under Comics, Politics

Eliminating a few politics-related bookmarks

LGM reports that the strongest opposition to the Affordable Care Act is among seniors who already have Medicare coverage and aren’t affected by ACA. So they have nothing to lose if it’s destroyed.

And possibly a lot to gain. As LGM points out here, Florida stands to lose a ton of money by not signing on to the ACA Medicare expansion (leading to the dubious lawsuit charging that the state does, however, have a right to other federal funding that’s being rescinded) but Republicans (or many of them) are determined not to play ball, whether it’s the fear of someone getting something off hard-working American’s tax dollars or the president’s race or the political damage from people liking a Democrat-backed program.

•Copyright law may authorize John Deere to control how farmers modify or work on their tractors (ditto for how we modify, remodel or tinker with our cars). Because the software under the hood is proprietary and covered by copyright law, so in John Deere’s view farmers don’t own tractors, they have an “implied license” to operate the vehicle.

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