Sunday, May 2, 2021

Leaving Facebook

Once is happenstance; twice is coincidence; three times is enemy action.

I encountered Facebook’s moderators for the first time in approximately March of 2020.

I joined Facebook in 2007 – to catch up with @Angelina Greenwood, who was my first friend here, and who I used to live with, back in another life. (Still one of my favorite people in the world.)

In 13 years, I never ran into a moderator. I was the same asshole from Day 1 – nearly the same contempt for modern conservatism, though I grant you it got worse during the Trump years. But the same habits of language, the same tendency to type things like using a four-letter word to suggest that the filibuster become an ex-filibuster and start pushing up daisies.

As though this were completely normal language!

I got banned 30 days by Facebook for that filibuster comment.

I got banned 12 hours by Twitter for that – my first ban on that platform, but obviously the same tripping-the-trigger moderation because stupid AI can’t –

Ah, but no. It’s not stupid.

Three times is enemy action.

I can guarantee you that telling someone that they should “kill their engine,” in an auto thread, is not generating this response. No one gets banned 30 days for typing that you should “kill a process” in your server.

No one is this stupid. It’s true that Facebook has chased off quite a lot of talented people – everyone of any moral quality has or should have left this fascist platform.

But even among those lacking any moral backbone, there are programmers competent to recognize that calling for the filibuster to become deceased is not a call to violence, and not even pearl clutching Nazis could reasonably read it that way.

They’re *all* like that, all the moderation cautions and bans.

Thomas Clay got here before me – and Jim Wright before him. Whacked for various periods because they’d said something the fascist moderators on this fascist platform didn’t like.

Guys, I gotta tell you, particularly where Clay is concerned, that I assumed they’d done something to deserve it.

But I didn’t for 13 years, and when I started getting hit with FB moderation violations, my first assumption was, Jesus, these guys are bad at this – but they’ll get better.

Well, I was right about that. They did get better. They started finding posts I’d made months ago, and flagging those. They found posts with images *hosted* on the FB-owned Instagram, posts with 50K+ shares on Instagram, and flagged and banned over those. They found posts that mentioned the voting habits of white people – bounced me 30 days for that, on the night of the election.

I’ve been banned 90 days since they received the shock to the system of Joe Biden winning the election.

If that win didn’t cause Zuckerberg stress, it should have: no one in our party likes the guy. He lined up visibly with the Peter Theils of the world, involved conservative publications in FB moderation – as fact checkers, folks: took a political movement that has only two tools left to it, white racism and the Big Lie – and made those people FACT CHECKING MODERATORS on Facebook.

You can’t make this stuff up.

Thomas Clay posts, now and again, the “Top 10 Shared Links” of the day on Facebook. Here was today’s:

Ben Shapiro

CBS Sports NBA

CBS 8 – San Diego News

Ben Shapiro

Fox News

Ben Shapiro

Ben Shapiro

Ben Shapiro

Dan Bongino

Ben Shapiro

That’s a normal day. (Today’s, when I happen to be typing this.)

It’s almost never a liberal publication – it happens, but it’s once in a blue moon stuff. I’ve seen Rachel Maddow on the list. But today’s list is typical: all conservative. It’s always all conservative.

Are there liberal publications on Facebook? A bunch. Some of them quite popular, among those of us who share things. But algorithmically Facebook is hostile to them.

Facebook reportedly choked traffic for left-leaning news sites including Mother Jones

Facebook repeatedly overruled fact checkers in favor of conservatives

Facebook quietly pressured its fact-checkers over climate and abortion posts

American News X, Thomas Clay’s publication with half a million followers, is on the verge of being delisted by Facebook. Why? For posting *false articles* … as determined by fact checkers employed by Facebook.

There are more like these – this shit happens all the time. *Tucker Carlson* is one of their fact checkers, via the Daily Caller, which he owns.

Picture the response if Rachel Maddow were made a fact checker for Facebook? Right? That’s what they’re doing for conservatives on this site.

These rotten sons of bitches whacked me on the day of the election. Not an accident, and not unique to me – a bunch of other liberals in my feed got whacked in the weeks following. They did their level best to help out the fascist candidate Zuck was hoping for, yes they did.


People are trying to be helpful when I say I’m out of here.

Don’t use ‘white,’ use wypipo.” Or caucasion, or melanin-deficient.

Don’t say X, say Y.”

Don’t post on very busy sites where there are lots of conservatives who will gang report you in hopes of getting one of their fellow fascist moderators involved.”

Keep a second account, set up in X, Y, Z fashion, so when they whack you you’ll still be able to post.”

Everyone reading me knows what “badthink” is. This is what Facebook is trying to breed, a ground where people PRE-CENSOR themselves. That’s the end goal: not JUST to silence you, but to teach you to silence yourselves, to not even think the things they don’t want you thinking.

Get ‘white people’ out of your mouths, you filthy liberals.”

Don’t tell me you haven’t walked around that phrase. Most of you have.

I have, and I’m white.


Facebook is bad for America. Giving it time and attention was always a mistake, looking back; but it’s far past mistake at this point. Any money Facebook makes off of you will be used against you. Any visibility Facebook gains from your time on its platform, will be used against you.


It wasn’t always like this. For 13 years I quite liked this platform. I’d wander over to Twitter occasionally, and spend stupid amounts of time trying to get a complex idea across, and fail –

This is also intentional, by the way. Twitter exists to foment outrage. “Engagement.” Those short individual posts, each available for individual response, guarantees that mobs of any given description can descend on a single element of an argument, extract it, have drama about it, and not only not deal with the qualifying clauses of the argument, literally never see them.

If I were designing a platform guaranteed to make people hate each other, it would be Twitter.

Facebook felt sane by comparison. You could make an argument that took ten paragraphs, and even if someone wanted to respond point-by-point (bad form, generally – you should rebut the main ideas in people’s work or you’ll descend into unreadability pretty quickly) – even if someone wanted to do that, the form made it difficult, and it was obvious when it happened.

(Hell, this awful platform had “Notes” until quite recently – very much a blog type post, intended to do long form work with multiple images, inline citations and so on. It’s not a surprise they killed them: it gave work too much weight to be presented so precisely. Not in Facebook’s interests, that.)

It felt sane – hell, for my purposes, was sane. I liked being here. I liked seeing my friends, who were mostly here. In the early days my kids were here, before sane young adults decided that this wasn’t for them – either because their parents were there, or because they caught Facebook’s fascist tilt before the generations older than them – either could be true. (The parents one certainly is.)

In 2007 Connor was five. Richard was eight, Bram eleven, Andrea fifteen, Alex seventeen. They were still literally kids, not just “my kids.”

Today they’re all adults, even the baby, who’s 19 and going off to college in September. He was only home this long because of the pandemic: he was supposed to go to the dorms last year. He’s eager to go.

I’m not eager to have him go. We had an interesting stretch –

Andrea, the geneticist, got a job in Los Angeles, at a considerable pay bump over her previous job in Riverside. I’d just bought a truck, for secret reasons, so I was available to drive to Riverside and pick up her and her possessions. She moved in with us – we’re only a 3 bedroom, but the office, though small, has some privacy, so she moved into that, and I moved a mountain of gear into our bedroom.

Andy got a new job after about a month in Los Angeles – a $20K bump over the L.A. job that was a bump over the Riverside job.

Big cities are good for competent people, and it’s been good for Andy.

She moved out after about a month – found a room up toward UCLA, renting with other “student age” people.

One of the “student age” people was an apparently mentally ill stalker, 31 years of age. I won’t use his name, because I suspect he’s still looking for Andrea – at various times he asked both Andrea and me what our last names were. Only one reason for that, I can see.

One night after Andy had been in the new place for a few weeks, the stalker started knocking on her bedroom window – a sliding glass door that let out onto the street.

For half an hour he knocked “Shave and a Haircut, Two Bits” on her window.

Toward the end of that half an hour, I arrived.

He was hovering toward her back door, and I advanced on him. “Who are you?”

He gave me his name. “I love your daughter.”

I kept advancing on him, and he started backing up. It was cinematic: he backed up into a bed frame down the walkway, fell onto it, fell some more, kept scrambling to get away, fell some more, and finally fell onto the ground, in about four distinct movements.

Andy and one of her roommates, a young college-age girl in the room next to Andy’s, who could see this through her window, applauded, so that was nice.

I talked to him a few moments. The only thing that’s stuck with me is: “Is it a crime to love too much?”

I should probably not display this much insight into twitches, but I’ve known a number. He wasn’t that mentally ill – some, probably, but mostly this was a game he’d learned to play, that got him the results he wanted, attention and fear from attractive women. (And my kid is cute.)

The police came, they arrested him, the home owner got a restraining order against him –

I moved Andrea out that weekend. In my useful secret-reasons truck. And everyone was back home again for a few weeks, and it was crowded.

In the short time since Andrea had first moved in with us, her brother Richard, now 22, had gotten Yet Another Raise at my company. (Wholly deserved – they like me there, but they may like Richard better. He’s been there a year now and he’s completely nailed everything they’ve thrown at him. And even with the raises he’s much cheaper than I am.)

Richard and Andrea put their heads together and decided they could afford an apartment together for $2,300 – rented a place down the street, nice complex with a basketball court and swimming pool, for that. Richard gave Andrea his old car (2015 Honda Fit) and bought a much sexier 2015 BMW sedan with only 22K miles. And the two of them moved out together.

The old office has been cleared out. I moved it into Richard’s bedroom, and abruptly, for the first time since I married a woman with 3 kids in 1997, and then had two more, and then raised a family of 5 kids & 7 people in Los Angeles for 24 years – for the first time in 24 years, I have enough space to work without being disturbed by others.

We had a 6 room bedroom in Sherman Oaks, right before my oldest went off to Berkeley. It was necessary, to keep people from killing each other.

Even then, in that huge place, I didn’t have an office of my own; it was out in the second living room, and children were a constant interruption. It was hard to get into a fiction frame of mind, and it’s never gotten a lot easier, working sometimes in my bedroom, sometimes in some nook in the house that’s a little out of the way – but not since marrying Amy have I had an office with a door.

Have one now, though. It won’t last long – Connor goes off to school in September, we won’t move until after he’s gotten through his winter break – but when he goes back to school in early January, we’re probably getting on the road, going off to go look for land to build on.

The University of California, for a few years now, has required parents of children getting in-state tuititon to remain in-state. The gap between in-state and out of state is $30K, and they are *dying* to say you’re out of state and charge you the extra.

Lot of many-hundreds-of-thousand dollar administrator salaries need to be paid, these days.

Not as many teachers.

So our initial plans to move out of state after Connor went to college have been knifed, 2 more years, by the greedy scum running the UC system in California. (Tools of the oligarchs? Why, yes.) We’re looking at Crescent City, we’re looking at Lake Tahoe. If we can wait two years, well, we’ll have the ability to buy and build anywhere.

But we can’t leave California for more than six weeks in a calendar year, or it’ll cost us another $30K.

Connor wants to be a mathematician. He needs that degree. So we do business with the criminals, to get him that paper.

But they are criminals, practically Zuckerbergian.


My buddy Milda Devoe has an interview for her book about writing with children. Great review, great book. You should buy it if you're a writer with kids. (You should buy it anyway. You an 80 year old ex-longshoreman who never married? This is for you, I promise.)


Sold my first story forty years ago, right about this time of year. Didn’t recognize many of the writers in it except Asimov, though there was a young guy named @David Brin elsewhere in the pages.

I was 18. My Dad, who I hadn’t talked to in two years, cried when I told him.

When the fan mail arrived, ~20 letters on paper, I was homeless and living in a storage unit without plumbing, in the heat of a Pomona summer.

Reading fan mail under those circumstances will cause you dissonance.


Jeff Bezos would send your children to work in coal mines if he could.


Joe was only about my eighth choice – ahead of only Bernie, the crystals lady, the Republican from Hawaii, and the billionaires.

Boy, was I wrong about him. Isn’t he doing great?


I think about 10% of white people would happily engage in genocide if they could, to achieve their white ethnostate. At least half of white people would sympathize or think it was sad but necessary for their “way of life.”


Facebook Stopped Employees From Reading An Internal Report About Its Role In The Insurrection. You Can Read It Here.


Leaning toward the Rockwood RLT2906RSD. I could live in that a couple years.

I have to get rid of a *lot* of books to do so. That’s OK. Some good deals on old backlog coming.

Full Specs for 2020 Forest River Rockwood Ultra Lite 2906RS RVs |


You guys have been great. Thank you for all the love, all the “please stay” messages, all the “I’ll miss you” posts.

Back at you. But it’s time for me to go.

Thursday, July 25, 2019

.CBR > .CBZ conversion in Calibre.

OK, and now for something completely different....

Buddy offered to sell me his comics library. About a thousand Marvel titles in cbr format. I turned him down because I only keep comics in cbz, and converting them from his format to mine, and managing it inside Calibre (which is what I use; don't tell me there are other tools, I know) ... looked like a massive pain in the butt. I googled and didn't come up with anything.

Buddy gave me a couple days to think it over --

Here's how you do it, maybe the next person to google "Calibre CBR > CBZ" will find this and save himself a couple hours.

1. Open Calibre. (Honestly, if you don't use Calibre, this whole process probably isn't for you. I find this a very good tool for managing my epubs & comics, but I don't have a vast number of either.)

2. In Calibre, install the "Embed Comics Metadata" plugin by Dick Loraine. It can be found here:

3. In Calibre, open "Preferences" and choose "Change Calibre Behavior." Choose "Toolbars" and then "Main Toolbar." You'll see a screen with "Available Actions" on the left, and "Current Actions" on the right. In the "Available Actions" screen you'll see the "Embed Comics Metadata" plugin -- add it to the "Current Actions" side of the screen, and choose "Apply."

4. Return to the main "Preferences" menu. In the bottom left, click on "Plugins." Click "Show only user installed plugins." Expand the "user interface action plugins" arrow. Double-click "Embed Comics Metadata." Make sure the following checkboxes are selected:
  • Autoconvert cbr to cbz
  • Also convert rar and zip to cbz
  • Delete cbr after conversion.
Choose Apply.

"Autoconvert cbr to cbz" is an option, why don't you just use the plugin to do all of that?

That's a good question. In my case it's because the plugin choked on about half of the cbr files I tried to feed it -- older, smaller files mostly. I don't know why. But it's OK, because Calibre will happily convert even the files the plugin won't convert to cbz ... but only to zip.

So, 5 ...

5. Return to the "Preferences" menu. Under "conversion," select "Input Options."  The first option is "Comic Input." Check the boxes for "Disable comic processing" and "Don't add links to pages...."

Choose Apply.

Back up your library. Once again, back up your library. Right? 

6. Import your CBR files into Caliber, select them, and right click. Select "Convert Books | Bulk convert."

In the upper right hand corner of the dialog box that appears, select "ZIP" from the dropdown. That's all you need to do. Choose "OK."

7. Depending on how fast your computer is, Calibre will start converting your books -- all in one pass, and it uses a temp directory on your boot drive (unless you've configured things very specifically, and you know if you have.) So watch Drive C -- if you're low on space, and your comics are large, you may run out of space.

8. Expand "Formats" in the left Nav bar. Expand the "Zip" format.

9. Ctrl-A to select all the files in the Zip format.

10. Right-click on the files and choose "Remove books | Remove files of a specific format from selected books." Under "Choose formats to delete," select CBR.

11. Calibre will delete all the CBR formats. You'll be left with only ZIP formats. Ctrl-A to select them all.

12. Now  we use the Embed Comics Metadata, which should be in the upper right on your toolbar. Click on the down arrow and select "Only convert to cbz."

13. Calibre will convert your zip formats to cbz. Now, if you've installed a comics reader (I recommend ComicRack for Windows) the cbz format file will popup inside ComicRack. One of the several advantages of the cbz format is that ComicRack and other apps (Comictagger, for example) will store metadata information directly within your .cbz file, and won't with .cbr.

That's all there is. Good luck. I had about 50 cbr files to test this with; converted all of them within about six minutes once I figured out the workflow.

Sunday, June 30, 2019

I've stopped doing much analytical writing. It's interesting stuff, and I've learned a lot, and moved noticeably further left as a result, but that's all personal stuff. We're in a time when the choices are stark, and simple. If you're OK with the concentration camps, I don't want to know you. If you think they're not concentration camps, you're stupid or utterly dishonest.

I got a note from a bright conservative earlier today -- I unfriended him a while back for making light of the concentration camps.

(Digression: I unfriend people on FB a lot. It's rarely really personal -- my social media use exists for my purposes, not yours. If you take up too much of my time to no purpose that suits me, I'll move you along. If you annoy me often enough. If I think you're spreading information that does more harm than good. If you're contentious and make me moderate. You may *think* that having lots of followers and FB friends makes you happier, but the people I see with super busy feeds spend so much time managing flareups in their feeds that I'm frequently appalled. I'm busy and Zuck hasn't ever sent me my FB check, not once.)

Anyway, I unfriended this guy a while back, and told him why. He didn't seem to take it too personally. Apparently he's still reading me; he sent me a very perceptive note about Boomers. (He is one, of course; I'm skeptical about the ability of conservatives, in general, to do *any* social analysis that doesn't impact them personally: but like all of us, they notice the stone in their own shoes.)
Boomers, he said, are not worse than the generations preceding them. In fact, they're probably a little better. Less bigoted than the Greatest Generation, or the Silents. More aware of the challenges facing them. *Far* more aware of themselves *as* a generation, and prone to identifying as such -- God knows that's true, I hit it harder and more frequently than I do when analyzing white people, or men, or straight people, or any other cohort. Conservatives as a group don't like group-based analysis: liberals love it, until you get to generational analysis. (I suspect this has a *lot* to do with the age of my feed, and the fact that the people most prone to complaining about such analysis are very frequently not white, or straight, or male, and are not accustomed to being lumped in with the conduct of people with whom they individually have very little in common. Speaking as a white cis male, welcome to *that* club.)

But my conservative acquaintance is broadly correct, I think. Boomers failed at some of the most basic tasks before them. (And succeeded at others: liberal boomers moved the social construct left. Gay rights, gay marriage, racial intermarriage, a whole host of inter-personal stuff.) They got steamrollered on taxation, on spending, on the ecology, on voting rights, and on and on and on. On balance, and without commenting on any individual Boomer, they failed more than they succeeded, *particularly* on the things that, for the survival of future generations, we had to succeed at.
That's just the reality of what happened. But it may not be useful, to phrase it that way. Daniel Dvorkin made an argument a while back that generational cohorts were less appropriate for analysis than other cohorts -- I disagreed and still do. The phrasing in my head went:

Would women behave differently than men if they had the power? I don't think so, based on child murder rates. (They'd rape less: but I suspect that's biological, it's harder to rape an unwilling man, though not impossible.)

Would POC have behaved better than white people, in reversed circumstances? I doubt it, if we do a real "Lion's Blood" flip-the-scenario thought experiment: people are people.

Would LGBTQ people have behaved differently than cis-straight people? That's a hard one to do a reversed scenario; maybe. You'd end up with a different human race, in a world where LGBTQ were the majority in power.

But you take the thought experiments aside and what you're left with is the reality of the Now. Particularly when talking with white cis men, I'm careful to frame things such that I don't sound like I'm blaming all of them for the sins of most of them. There's nothing special about white cis men -- on any axis. Not special bad, not special good. Just a historical accident, leaving us with a place where right conduct is harder for us than for other people, because people like us are in positions of power, and going to excuse us when they can. It'd take better people than most humans I've ever met to resist that temptation, and certainly white cis men have failed at it.

The main difference becomes this: Boomers are going away. History will swallow us. White people aren't going away, men aren't, cis people aren't. But the Boomers won't be here, in too much longer. Blaming them for getting things wrong? Well, in this very moment, it's a fair argument: a bunch of us are asking to become President of the United States right now -- the last four Presidents we've had have been Boomers.

But not too much longer. The Boomers are running out of road, and people will forget us. In twenty years there won't be many of us left. But the problems of oligarchy, climate change, racism, misogyny, will all still be with us. And Gen Z will be giving Gen X shit for everything they got wrong. It's probably fair, in one sense: seeing what Silents and older Boomers got wrong is part of what informed my political growth and worldview: parsing the errors and crimes of Gen-X is going to be part of what informs Gen Z. At that level, this is probably forever, and frankly healthy: all progress comes from seeing the mistakes of the people who came before you.

I don't know what Gen Z's children are going to throw at them. (I can guess, I'm an SF writer.) But painful as whatever it is, is? Will count as progress, probably. And if it doesn't, if climate change really does destroy the world and most or all of the human race? Maybe our generation really *will* be remembered. For a while.

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

I don't particularly identify as a white man. I'm just a regular guy.

This, of course, is privilege. That I feel normal, and the world mostly treats me that way? A privilege, denied to a lot of us -- the bigger "us," the population of all people, let's clarify, because I'm going to embrace my inner white guy in a bit, and use "us" to describe you and me, buddy.

Because the fact is, I am white and male. Didn't ask for it, but not embarrassed by it. It's luck of the draw, and I got lucky.

The people most insistent about me identifying about a white man? Are other white men, and intersectionalists who (being human themselves, and fallible) damn well want me in the slot that they think will, in the long run, do *them* the most amount of good. It's "white men ├╝ber alles" from the right, and "white men up against the wall" from the left -- though, again, a relatively small percentage of the left; most of the left is decent, and of those who aren't, most of those are sane enough to know that there's no scenario, today, where this society is getting rid of white men.

" the long run, do *them* the most amount of good."

Self-dealing is built into us -- again, the broader "us." Humans. We want to get our share. This is *healthy* -- this is why capitalism has worked, when run well; it harnesses that desire to provide for ourselves and our posterity and makes something useful of it.

And it used to work for us, white guy us, when the workforce was mostly white guys. You look at the best time to be a worker in this country? It was the post WWII era, when the country was 90% white. White men had no problem with the idea that the government existed to help them out -- social security, medicare, GI bill, strong unions, on and on. If you were a white guy, the government was there for you.

But that's just the cost the oligarchs paid to win WWII. Once the Axis oligarchs had been defeated, they turned their attentions to the next target -- workers. White workers. Us, boys.

And they hammered on that fault line. They couldn't sell making white people harm themselves: white men are tribal and like all tribal people, a little stupid outside their tribe. "We won't hurt you: we'll hurt those *other* people." And for two generations, going on three, this poison has infiltrated white men. "Make things worse, and we'll be the last ones standing."

We won't be, of course. White working class people are dying younger. We're the only ones. It's literally just us, *around the world.* Everyone else is living longer. The poison they sold us, which we greedily gulped down, is killing us. The oligarchs never *cared* about black people, beyond the standard racism wired up in them; black people (and Hispanics, and Asians) were just the wedge issue they used to take what our parents and grandparents had from us. And they sold it to us, to our very worst selves, the parts of us that couldn't wake up long enough to notice that they were damn well boiling the frog -- and we were the frog, not those "others."

Bernie Sanders had a chance to be a truly transformational figure. He certainly knows he's white; Bernie supporters keep coming at me with "old Jewish man," he's a *minority,* when I observe that he's an old white man: Bernie knows he is and, inconveniently for you Berners, keeps opening his mouth on the subject: "I come from the white working class," he's said more than once.

And in the crash and bern of Bernieism, the only thing that really saddens me is that Bernie had a unique chance to go right at the heart of this, to say, in effect:

"Yes. We're privileged, by being white. We're privileged, by being men. And we're *dying* for it. That privilege is worth twenty cents on the dollar, but the fight to hold onto it has cost us fifty cents on every dollar. This is why the generations before us did *so much better* ... they were willing to let minorities get better as long as it meant they were getting better themselves. They may not have liked it -- you're not more tribal than they are, though you are more scared -- but for a brief time things were getting better so fast that they could live with it.

"What needs to happen now is that we need to accurately identify what's wrong with us. We need a policy that addresses *everyone's* issues -- yours too. Get you back to the time when you had sane health care, and safe jobs, and weren't living hand to mouth and fearing eviction over a missed paycheck. We can get you back to that time -- but only if we *also* lift everyone else up with us. It can't just be for us; that's just the same fight we've been *losing* for two generations. We have to fix sexual harassment for women, and violence against LGBTQ people, and the brutality of law enforcement and the justice system against black people, and the literal kidnapping and running of child concentration camps for brown skinned children. That's the tradeoff: you want to be safe again? So do they. And we can get there together."

Bernie's never going to give this speech. It's a shame, too. Instead he virtue signals, "I marched with MLK," and talks about "identity politics," as if white guy -- even old Jewish white guy -- wasn't itself an identity.

I used to write things like this and finish with, "We'll work our way through this." But I don't know that we will, any more. The concentration camps are up and running *now,* and we are running out of time.

Tuesday, May 7, 2019

Conversation with my son the other day. There's no doubt there's a lot wrong with our society. And you can call it "partriarchy," and I won't argue with the term. It's a toxic suite of conduct based on the idea that superior strength makes for the right to do as you please, and it's visible across every axis of our society, and in all societies elsewhere in the world and throughout history.

Almost all crimes physical committed by men and women are crimes of opportunity. "I was too angry to control myself." Men and women both say this when they abuse and murder children, which they do at about the same rates.

"But women are *around* children more" ... no. I disagree with the very premise, that more time with children results in more violence; not my experience. Abusers abuse when they have the opportunity, that's true; but opportunity doesn't turn a non-abuser into an abuser. But in any event custodial parents of both genders abuse and murder children at about the same rates.

You know what women don't do, though? They don't often attack men and when they do, the size difference is usually smaller than the average. In other words, they controlled themselves when there was a physical risk to them.

You know what men don't do? They don't attack the Mike Tysons of the world. They control themselves, when there's a physical risk to them.

I used to think that women were superior to men in a variety of ways, about the time that I was volunteering at NOW. I've drifted back off that since -- I'm pretty sure that men and women are about the same, after adjusting for strength. (Much as I'm pretty sure that POC and white people are about the same, after adjusting for social conditions.) The "testosterone poison" defense is bullshit -- testosterone poisoning doesn't send men to attack Mike Tyson; it just sends men to attack people they think they can take. All of this, everywhere, comes down to what people think they can get away with.

You *still* have to educate your sons about their own strength, about the reality that they'll face opportunity to be violent that women and weaker men won't face. Strong good men aren't the problem: but the good has to come first. Strength without a moral compass is why the jails are so overwhelmingly filled with men: opportunity crimes, punished.

Wednesday, April 24, 2019

Write What You Think is True

Reading two books very slowly -- "Growing up Weightless," by John M Ford, and "The Fifth Season," by N K Jemisin. A chapter at a time, I've been busy recently, picked up two contracts when a month ago I had none.

Two very different books. The Ford is a difficult read, interrupted by lengthy pauses -- it's told in pretty much real time, and it's on paper, which is hard for me to read since the eye went off. But I'm getting through it slowly. It is a remarkable work, though; Ken Burnside kept at me to read it for a decade or something, before I finally did. Thoughts later.

"Fifth Season" does, I expect, deserve the awards it's won. That's not a shot at the novel, my daughter and wife both raved about it, and they have good judgment even if I'm sometimes skeptical about the awards infrastructure in the arts (all arts, F/SF is not unusual in this regard.) It's merely an observation that, 6-7 chapters in, I'm starting to see the backbone of the story and yeah, it's epic, and of course it's very well executed.

Hit a scene that a black lady a few years back hated so bad she stopped reading the novel -- the main black male character is routinely ridiculed and described as unattractive by his companion. (It's a dystopia -- while many of the characters are sympathetic, none of them so far are what you'd call likeable -- maybe the orphan orogene (witch) -- but maybe not even her.)

Back when, not having seen the novel, I nodded sympathetically and kept my mouth shut, because I'm an old white guy, and there are subjects it's pointless to comment on. (I've told the story of the time I was at dinner with two black couples -- 25 years ago, about -- they asked me what I thought about black women dating white men because the black men they knew were unemployed -- and ground up by the justice system, I thought even then. I made the mistake of answering. Don't answer that question, fellow white men.)

But it does expose the limits of where I'm willing to go at the artistic level. If a black woman can be mad at N K Jemisin for her description of one black man in a single novel out of how many she's written, there are no safe spots to stand. Take a deep breath, and write what you think to be true. Someone will be angry about it, if you're lucky enough to be noticed at all.


New chapters of AI War, Kozmic Blues, and Emerald Throne going to the Patreon early next week. The AI War chapter will be free to the public.

Wednesday, April 3, 2019

To post a comment on my blog ...

I have to click the "I'm not a robot button."

I have to pick the stairs in an image.

I have to find the traffic lights in an image.

I have to do that with a new image.

I have to do that with a new image.

I have to find the fire hydrants in a set of images. When I click them they vanish and are replaced by more fire hydrants. I have to keep doing this until there are none left. The last square fills with a fire hydrant five times.

Google suggests I log in. I give it my account name and password.

It requests 2 form verification.

I go into the bedroom and get my phone, come back to my office and type in the number that's been sent.

Google posts my comment.

Thanks, Google! Keeping my blog secure and shit!

Tuesday, April 2, 2019

The World's Greatest Living Science Fiction Writer

Are all writers arrogant? I think it's possible there are some who aren't, but I'm not sure I've ever met any. The idea that I sit down and type a story up, something at least 50% of the human race has tried to do at some point; and then you give me money for it? That's me saying, "Yes, I do think I'm the fraction of a percent of storytellers who should be paid for it."

There's a story Asimov told when he was writing "The Gods Themselves." He was getting older, hadn't written fiction in a long time -- told his editor he feared the field had passed him by.

"Isaac," she said, "when you write, you are the field."

It wasn't true, not even for Asimov. But it's a good attitude.

"World's Greatest Living Science Fiction Writer" -- I've had that compliment twice in recent years. (Once from Fred Lang, another time from a guy on G+.) It's not true, though I'm willing to fight to the death over the observation that it might have been true for them.

But you should act as if it's true. If you have any literary ambition at all, you should be working to write the very best of the sort of thing you do. I mean, I write space opera. Right now, the gold standard in this field is probably still Hyperion. Am I going to outwrite that? Probably not -- but I'm certainly going to try.

The intentional fallacy is real. Just because you intend to do something, doesn't mean you did it, and particularly when you get into the upper reaches of any subject, the intentional fallacy gets stronger and stronger. But without intention? No one ever stumbled into excellence by accident.

Wednesday, March 27, 2019

Broke 100 pages on "Emerald Throne." I haven't written like this since before the kids were born. :-)
Topaz AI Gigapixel, version 4.0. I've been watching this tech for a while -- it's finally reached the point where it's going to make some noise. There may never be a genuinely clean version of Bab5, from source -- but just looking at this, there's no real reason this won't at some point be able to produce upsized copies that are quite watchable. Ditto for Doctor Who.

You may have to click through to compare quality on the images. For some reason the Bab 5 images came through split, but in each case the source is the first image, the upsized the second.



Tuesday, March 12, 2019

I think we reached a tipping point a few years ago. For most of Hollywood history, the movies that attracted first rate talent, the very best that was available, had white people, almost always men, for heroes. There were exceptions -- there were always exceptions -- but as a pretty good marker, look at the AFI Top 100 movies of all time, which was put together in 1998: 
1. CITIZEN KANE (1941) 
2. CASABLANCA (1942) 
3. THE GODFATHER (1972) 
6. THE WIZARD OF OZ (1939) 
7. THE GRADUATE (1967) 
10. SINGIN' IN THE RAIN (1952) 
Eight movies about with unambiguous white male leads, two about white women. Only two, even had black characters in any noticeable role, unless my memory fails me: Hattie McDaniel and Dooley Wilson. Hattie McDaniel, of course, won an Academy Award -- first African American to win one, first black person to attend the Academy Awards except as a servant. Dooley didn’t win any awards -- Casablanca was a B movie, in conception, and while it was immensely popular, and won Best Picture, Director, and Screenplay, only Bogie and Claude Raines were nominated, and neither won. But black people really liked Dooley’s character; like Uhura, twenty-five years later, any representation was better than none.
But what passed for representation then, before and during WWII, was a little embarrassing to a lot of black people years later. (Uhura, too -- I’ve seen black Trek fans say quietly that they wished she hadn’t been in Star Trek at all, rather than being portrayed as she was. Contrast that with MLK’s plea to Uhura to stay on Star Trek ... because any representation was better than none. (“Do you understand that this is the only show that my wife Coretta and I will allow our little children to stay up and watch?”)
So things change. Progress is sometimes embarrassing. As great as Black Panther was -- and it’s the best of the movies I’m going to list in a bit -- feminists had some legitimate complaints about it. Captain Marvel, this weekend, annoyed or angered a number of male POC in my feed, because Nick Fury was treated as comic relief. (“Minstrel,” one fellow sneered.)
Supergirl bombed. You probably don’t even remember Red Sonja, and anyway Schwarzenegger got top billing. Catwoman bombed. Elektra bombed. Those movies were so bad and performed so badly that Hollywood, quite sensibly, didn’t make any more of them for decades ...
What? You object to that read? Why, just because over the same time period the list of amazingly bad male-led superhero movies was (at least) five times as long?
Hollywood is risk averse. The rare occasions someone brave comes along, and actually advances the state of the art -- I’ll limit myself to geek movies here -- you get Star Wars, Superman, X-Men, the Matrix -- all of them at least somewhat surprised the studios making them. (Someone should have noticed Blade’s performance -- but they didn’t.) Probably the first big cape movie that the studios were wholly behind, that they were confident in, was the 2002 Spider-Man. And since then the floodgates have been opened ... for male heroes of a particular skin tone.
So the last few years have been instructive, no? This is a list of movies the Usual Suspects predicted, and surely wanted, to do badly, in the last 3-1/2 years:
The Force Awakens 12/18/2015 
Rogue One 12/16/2016 
Wonder Woman 6/2/2017 
The Last Jedi 12/15/2017 
Black Panther 2/6/2018 
Crazy Rich Asians 8/15/2018 
Captain Marvel 3/8/2019 
These made, respectively:
$2.06 billion (FA) 
$1.06 billion (R1) 
$821 million (WW) 
$1.3 billion (LJ) 
$1.35 billion (BP) 
$238 million (CRA) 
$490 million (CM) 
Captain Marvel was the 7th best opening of all time -- not of just superhero movies: of all movies. It’s going to break a billion dollars without a doubt. Crazy Rich Asians is notably the only real “breakout” hit in this crowd. Everything else was damn well expected to make money, and was budgeted like it. But they spent only $30 million on CRA.
But they point is Hollywood did spend money on these movies. Did acquire the absolute top flight talent to produce them. And the audiences were there for it. Hungry for it. Collectively they made over seven billion dollars. 
I won’t talk about the MRAs much. They are what they are. They’re choking today: good. Moving on.
But there were POC men who didn’t like Captain Marvel, and feminists who didn’t like Black Panther. And outraged feminists who were pissed at the POC men, and outraged POC men who were pissed at the feminists. And the truth is, none of that’s going away any time soon; everyone has their own perspectives and their own interests in how to tell a particular story. And you can’t have representation in a single movie; the problem with Black Widow’s “can’t have children” storyline wasn’t that it focused on her as a woman in ways that some women didn’t like: the problem was that there were so few roles for female superheroes that the weight of any one of them -- remember Uhura -- exceeded what a given individual role was normally capable of carrying.
But here’s what is going away. The people who make these movies are smart, in the aggregate, and over time, they do adjust to the marketplace. Somewhere out there people in a quiet room ran the numbers for Black Panther, and said, “We could have done better with feminists.” And those people did the same for Captain Marvel, and said, “Well, we pissed off black men.” (And I guarantee you they understand how they screwed up with black people on Infinity War.) Thirty years from now, it’s going to be popularly understood that Black Panther and Captain Marvel, though very well made movies, are “problematic” upon certain axes. That they were the best we could do, at the time, well, those old folks didn’t understand things the way we do today. By then there’ll have been individual movies with women, Asians, black people, white people, Hispanics, LGTBQ people, disabled people, all tied to urgent, driving narratives, without preachiness, just there, in the flow of the work. And people will look back at Black Panther, at Captain Marvel, and wish that they didn’t have quite so many obvious flaws.
And movies like Casablanca, and Gone With the Wind, and shows like the first Star Trek, will be looked upon as the primitive artifacts of a people nearly as uncivilized as the ancient Romans, and their games in the Coliseum. We’re getting better, and it’s not always fun to remember how it happened. But how we got better is important to remember, or women like Nichelle Nichols, who sacrificed an opportunity to go to Broadway to remain on Star Trek, get forgotten. And nobody wants to forget Nichelle.