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.

"...in 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.

Source

Upsize
Source
Upsize
Source
Upsize
Source
Upsize


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) 
4. GONE WITH THE WIND (1939) 
5. LAWRENCE OF ARABIA (1962) 
6. THE WIZARD OF OZ (1939) 
7. THE GRADUATE (1967) 
8. ON THE WATERFRONT (1954) 
9. SCHINDLER'S LIST (1993) 
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.
 
 
 
 
 

Tuesday, March 5, 2019

I'm a fifth or sixth of the way through "Emerald Throne," depending on whether the book ends up 100K or 125K words -- it'll be somewhere in that range, best I can guess.

It's an odd feeling. I haven't written like this in so long it's hard to remember.

Monday, February 4, 2019

First audio piece for Patreon. It's the only completely surviving file from my NPR days, around 2000. Accessible to everyone.

Wednesday, January 23, 2019

The brain is surprisingly plastic. I've written more between November 1 and today than in any comparable period since "Last Dancer" was published, and that was 26 years ago.

Every time I've sat down in front of the computer, it's come more easily. Skills and ways of thinking I haven't used in decades are abruptly peeking around the corner and wanting to know if they can come back out.

I'm not the writer I was, as a purely machine-level skillset, back then. I know more than I did, I'm a different person to a remarkable degree, but the little story engine in my head isn't back to what it was. Maybe it never will be. But I no longer doubt it's possible to get most of the way there.

Thursday, January 17, 2019


A couple new pieces up at the Patreon, both free to the general public.

A post on toxic masculinity.

The first chapter of Time Wars: The Emerald Throne, which is about Camber Tremodian.