Are you a fan of science fiction and fantasy novels, short stories, art, movies, TV shows, or meta? Have you heard of the Hugo Awards in the past as a good thing, and heard rumors of shenanigans this year? Do you have US$40 you could spend for the right to vote, and incidentally getting some good e-books out of it? You could be a Hugo voter!
How to become a Hugo voter
The Hugos are voted on by members of the World Science Fiction Society, which has a convention in a different city every year. This year's Worldcon is Sasquan and is taking place in Spokane, Washington, from August 19th to 23rd, 2015. You can vote for the Hugos if you're going to attend the con, but you can also buy a supporting membership which allows you to vote this year, and to nominate for next year's awards.
This year's voting closes July 31. You'll get an e-packet of material to help you decide which of the nominees to vote for. This year, the packet includes complete e-copies of: all the nominated short fiction; the complete text of the novels The Goblin Emperor, The Three-Body Problem, and The Dark Between the Stars; complete copies of Sex Criminals, Saga Vol. 3, and Rat Queens; and a watermarked but complete copy of Ms Marvel Vol.1. For the movies ("Best Dramatic Presentation, Long Form"), TV episodes ("Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form") and podcasts, you're on your own, though links are provided.
Time is short, and I know the volume of material to consider looks daunting. You don't have to vote in every category! Just pick ones that interest you and give it your best, most honest shot.
I'm particularly encouraging my friends in transformative works and Tumblr fandom to consider voting because you-all are younger than the average Hugo voter (Worldcon members tend to be aging baby boomers, like me), which is good for the future of the award and the fandom, and because many of you have a lot of insights and opinions about visual and audio media: comics, fancasts, TV shows, art.
The voting system
The Hugo Awards use Instant Runoff Voting. There are no more than five nominees in each category, and you rank them in order from first down. This system rewards candidates with broad appeal to all the Hugo voters.
No Award: If you feel, in a given category, that you like Alpha best, Bravo next, and Charlie after that, but you don't think either Delta or Echo deserves a Hugo, your ballot should read:
4. No Award
If you personally would rather see No Award win, but wouldn't be upset if Delta won, then put Delta after No Award:
4. No Award
If you think it would be a travesty for either Delta or Echo to win, leave them both off.
Should you go to Worldcon?
Last year's Worldcon was in London, the one before that was in San Antonio, Texas, next year's is in Kansas City. Because Worldcon moves around, because it's put together by volunteers, and because it has few or no actors attending, it never gets terribly large compared to Dragoncon, much less ComicCon. Currently, Sasquan has about 4000 attending members and 5000 supporting members, from five continents ... plus one in Earth orbit.
Compared to other cons you might have attended, Worldcon runs light on high-gloss movie, TV, and game presentations, but heavy on cosplay and music. Cosplay isn't just in the halls, there's also the Masquerade, a judged costume and stage show that always includes some staggeringly beautiful and complex presentations -- last year's Best in Show Winner, "Aratalindale", for instance, depicted the Valar from Tolkien's Simarillion. Worldcon music includes performances, filking, and many types of dancing. There's an Art show and Artist's Alley, of course. Alas, the deadline for the Writer's Workshop has passed, but there are lots of other opportunities to talk about writing and fanworks.
I'll make another post about this year's Hugo nominees, some historical background, and some possible guidelines about what to look for, but I want to keep it separate from this one. Reblog, tell your friends, think about getting more of us into the structures of SFF fandom. I believe we're the future of the future, and I encourage you to take up that shiny shiny mantle.
Or course, the young lady is French, not American. Why not? Because, in the US, women play softball and men play baseball. A few girls have managed to get on boys teams in Little League recently, or even high school teams. But after that? The NCAA, for example, does not have women's baseball teams, just softball. (Which means that a woman who wants an athletic scholarship can't get one for baseball.)
Women play baseball in Japan (their teams have contacted Miss Mayeux about her playing there). And they play baseball in Europe, obviously. But the US sticks with seperate but equal. (Women did get to play baseball in the US during WW II, when the men were off to war. But that ended shortly after the war was over.)
Which is why, when the first woman makes it to the major leagues, she will probably not be an American. Just another glass ceiling in the US.
Guest post by Bruce Baugh; originally a comment at File770.
There's an aspect of worldview which is sort of prior to specific politics, religion or philosophy, and so on, that needs some explicit attention.
Some people believe that it's possible (in the sense of "feasible for some significant number of people", not the abstract possible under conditions no one ever actually attains) to be a basically good person. You will go through your life and seldom if ever do any genuine harm except if you go at it with deliberate malicious intent. Any unintentional harm you do will necessarily be small and contained, and almost certainly easily remedied. You are fully capable of overcoming inherited prejudices floating around in your society, and of seeing the world clearly and largely correctly.
Such people tend to be relatively advantaged -- "unmarked", in a very useful phrase from social studies. You don't need or expect to have to use a lot of adjectives to describe yourself: you're American (or whatever your nationality is); if you're married, you just say "I'm married" and the sex of your spouse is assumed; if you're a professional in almost any field, you can just say "I'm an X"; and so on. And such people tend to take the charge that they've said or done something prejudicial really seriously. After all, if you can expect to be a good person except if you choose otherwise, and you've done something clearly un-good, that means the accuser is saying you did deliberately, with malice, choose to be hurtful. That would make you a bad person, and since you're not, they're out of line.
Other people believe that we never altogether escape our legacies, and that they include a bunch of ugly screwed-up stuff as well as good things. We can -- and should -- aim to do better, but perfection isn't attainable, and we are likely to do small harms (and sometimes larger ones) all the time. Sometimes it's through ignorance, sometimes it's through laziness and unwillingness to change the habits that give hurt, usually it's a fair dose of both. In this view, dishing out harm is a routine though unwelcome part of life, and it's no great achievement -- but also no great burden, really -- to respond by acknowledging it, apologizing, seeing what you can do to repair things, and then working to not do that particular one again. As Huey Lewis put it once, "All I want from tomorrow / is to get it better than today."
This view is more common among people who are "marked": those who are hyphenated Americans, who will have to say something to avoid incorrect assumptions about the sex or gender of their loved ones, who can expect to be called a "lady X" instead of just "an X", and so on. They have more experience of being on the receiving end of a lot of unintended but nonetheless genuinely hurtful junk, and of seeing other deny responsibility for the hurt they've given. They see too how even when dealing with their own friends, family, and peers, disparaging attitudes about their kind can slip in and color what they do. (This is what "internalized" bigotry means: believing crap about yourself and people like you, and treating yourself or others like you the way people with social advantages over you are prone to.)
In my view, the second approach is vastly more realistic. We do all screw up a bunch all the time. Nobody can go through life constantly apologizing…but we can go through life recognizing that we do things worth apologizing for all the time, and try to do better. We can be humble about our limitations.
It's in this context that telling someone "hey, that was kind of racist" or "that's just flat-out sexist, unless I'm missing something" or "are you sure you want to be passing on that kind of rank homophobia?" is…not trivial, but not a big deal, and not an overall judgment of any sort on your character. If you slam a door on my fingers, I'll probably yell and want you to open the door right away rather than stand around arguing that it's no big deal and why am I making you feel bad. But if you do open the door right away and help me get some ice, I'm going to think that it wasn't anything you intended and not think any the worse of you as a person. Same deal. Furthermore, I won't claim to be sure that I have never done that to anyone else, nor that I am sure I wouldn't, couldn't, do it myself in the future sometime, because I know that accidents happen. I also know that acting on prejudicial scripts inherited from the many dimensions of culture that surround us all happens.
What I may do is think less of you based on your response. If I see you dodge responsibility time after time, I'll think less of you. If I see you insist that nobody should feel hurt by the thing you did time after time, ditto. I expect adults to be willing to acknowledge the potential for error in themselves and to be willing to work on fixing it and improving things without making a big deal, just as I wouldn't feel it appropriate to celebrate someone merely for not slamming people's fingers in doors, not crapping in other people's drinking water, and almost never setting any occupied homes on fire.
The problem is how to communicate any of that who have a conviction of their own basic perfectibility and who've never thought about it.
It's here. 5-4, Kennedy wrote the opinion, on Fourteenth Amendment grounds.
In my non-legal opinion, the really important Amendment for this decision was the Nineteenth, women's suffrage.
Marriage equality isn't just saying that all *marriages* are equal, it's saying that both persons in a marriage are equal. As I've said before, a traditional marriage involves a man -- a human being who may have full legal, economic, and political rights -- and a woman -- who cannot have full rights. Basically, traditional marriage unites (at best) something like 1.7 human beings, and obviously a marriage between two men (2 human beings) or two women (maybe 1.4 human beings) is fundamentally different.
But once women have access to *all* the rights men do, once women are treated under law as full human beings, marriage is in fact redefined to be a relationship that involves 2.0 humans. Things that are equal to the same thing are equal to each other: a marriage between two adult persons is equal to another marriage between a different set of adult persons.
Marriage equality is a triumph for women's rights. I think a great deal of the angst and vitriol from the opponents of equality used homophobia as a stalking horse for male supremacy. "Adam and Steve" got the abuse, but the underlying fear was that Eve would go off with Lilith, leaving Adam with no-one to Lord it over. Dogs and cats, living together, mass hysteria.
Today, by a vote of six to three, the Court agreed with the Obama administration that the subsidies are available for everyone who bought health insurance through an exchange, no matter whether that exchange was created by a state or the federal government.
Chief Justice John Roberts wrote the Court's opinion, which Justices Anthony Kennedy, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor, and Elena Kagan all joined. The Court acknowledged that, at first blush, the phrase "established by the State" does not appear to include the federal government. After all, the ACA specifically defines "State" as "each of the 50 States and the District of Columbia." But other parts of the law, the Court explained, suggest that the "meaning of the phrase ‘established by the State' is not so clear." For example, one provision that defines who is qualified to purchase insurance on an exchange refers to an individual who "resides in the State that established the Exchange" -- which on the plaintiffs' reading would mean that no one would be qualified to buy health insurance on exchanges established by the federal government.
And if the phrase "established by the State" is in fact not clear, the Court continued, then the next step is to look at the Affordable Care Act more broadly to determine what Congress meant by the phrase. And when you do that, the Court reasoned, it becomes apparent that Congress actually intended for the subsidies to be available to everyone who buys health insurance on an exchange, no matter who created it. If the subsidies weren't available in the states with federal exchanges, the Court explained, the insurance markets in those states simply wouldn't work properly: without the subsidies, almost all of the people who purchased insurance on the exchanges would no longer be required to purchase insurance because it would be too expensive. This would create a "death spiral," in which insurance premiums would go up and enrollment would go down. It is "implausible," the Court concluded, "that Congress meant the Act to operate in this manner."
Justice Antonin Scalia dissented, in an opinion joined by Justices Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito that began by describing the majority's conclusion as "quite absurd." The tone only gets even more strident from there, with Scalia lamenting that "words no longer have meaning if an Exchange that is not established by the State is ‘established by the State.'" And he concludes by complaining that the majority's opinion-- as it did three years ago in upholding the individual mandate -- "changes the usual rules of statutory interpretation for the sake of the Affordable Care Act." Perhaps, he suggested, "We should start calling this law SCOTUScare."
I am not a lawyer, not do I play one on the Internet. Those of you who are lawyers, chime in with your opinion of the opinions.
OK I lied, I have one opinion. Two opinions. Among my chief opinions .... Anyway, Scalia's suggestion about "SCOTUScare" reminds me of the Sad and Rabid Puppies in SF fandom, who continue to bark on a daily basis. One characteristic of the Puppies is that they *love* to make up names for their opponents: SJWs, CHORFs, puppy-kickers, Torlings (a Vox Day-ism, implying that people are actually minions of Tor, the SF publisher) ... I can't keep track, frankly. They love to make up names for themselves, too, so I think it's not just "name-calling" as opprobrium, it's bonding.
“The great argument we made from a business perspective was that if you were trying to introduce a product, would you make something that made 38% of your market uncomfortable?” says Blake Wilson, CEO of the Mississippi Economic Council, referring to the black population in the state. “It was a no-brainer from our perspective, but we probably misjudged the ability for business to influence the general public. The people in Mississippi were not ready to take that step.”
Two-thirds of Mississippians backed the old flag over one that had been redesigned without any Confederate symbolism. Ole Miss’s Bruce says that the alternative flag was not particularly well liked and that many Mississippians saw no threat from businesses that may not want to set up shop because of the flag. “I think the mood was, We’re a poor, agrarian state anyway,” Bruce says. “You can’t hurt us.”
In Mississippi, top state Republicans were split over the state's flag, the last of the 50 state banners to include a specific image of the battle flag. House Speaker Philip Gunn said Monday that the image, which appears in a corner of the Mississippi flag, is offensive and should be removed.
Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves responded Tuesday that the decision should be up to Mississippians, who voted 2-1 in 2001 to keep the flag. Gov. Phil Bryant, also a Republican, said he supported that referendum result.
On to Mississippi. Just hours after South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley asked the state legislature to pass a law removing the Confederate flag from the grounds of the state Capitol on Monday, Mississippi's Republican House Speaker Philip Gunn issued a call for his state to follow suit. The Confederate battle flag is embedded in the upper left corner of the official state flag, but "as a Christian," Gunn wrote on Facebook, "I believe our state's flag has become a point of offense that needs to be removed." Henry Barbour, the nephew of former Republican Gov. Haley Barbour and a well-connected politico himself, echoed Gunn's call.
Adventure has been defined as a story about someone else having a really rough time of it at least 50 years or 500 miles away. Generally both -- think of westerns generally or Indiana Jones, or Star Wars or Firefly. If it's not a rough time, it's not an adventure. If it isn't safely distant, either in time or in space, it hits too close to home to be really enjoyable.
Adventures can come in various forms. The most common involves people having a rough time of it physically. I suspect because it is easy to relate to someone being cold and wet and miserable -- most of us have been there. Or to someone having some kind of noxious "other people" throwing one unpleasantness after another at him. (And overwhelmingly, it is him, rather than her, having a rough time of it -- especially if the rough time is physical. Not always, of course, especially in the last few decades. But still heavily weighted.)
So let's look at an adventure in progress before our very eyes. In this case, the rough time is fiscal, rather than physical. But it involves a situation most of us can relate to: getting into a financial hole, and having nothing but painful ways to get out of it.
Currently, the EU is having adventures (from our point of view, albeit not necessarily from their own, being too close) with Greece. Note that, in this case, both sides are in a hole -- and each is in a hole that is largely of their own making.
Greece has basically been spending other people's money like there is no tomorrow -- and now tomorrow has arrived. Of course they don't want to let go of the comfortable life they have been living. Why would they? But there are no longer any others willing to fund it for them. Which seems horribly unfair, if you are a Greek who has based his personal financial planning(?) on the assumption that the good times will never end.
At the same time, the EU (specifically the euro zone) is in a different hole. They let a member country in without adequately checking its finances. And then they lent it money to keep going, without getting (not just demanding, but actually getting) changes to restore its finances to something sustainable. Now, they don't want to keep funding Greece's extravagances.
But they have problems of their own:
A) Many of their own banks hold a lot of Greek debt, which will be worthless if Greece leaves the euro and goes bankrupt (not necessarily in that order). Which, if the ECB and the IMF stop lending it lots of money, it will.
B) There are other EU member countries which are, if in nowhere near as bad a shape as Greece, still on somewhat shaky ground financially. Greece leaving (or, more likely, getting tossed out) might cause a run on their debts as well.
C) There is no provision in the EU's governing documents for a country to leave -- voluntarily or involuntarily. So if Greece goes bankrupt, it isn't entirely clear how the EU gets shut of them.
(A salutary lessons for all, no doubt; not that anyone should expect countries in the future to learn it. And great fun all around . . . at least if you aren't one of those living in the midst of it.)
Part of the fun in reading or watching an adventure is trying to figure out how the author is going to get the hero out of it in one piece. The difference with this adventure is that, without an author controlling the plot (conspiracy theorists to the contrary notwithstanding), there's no way to be sure they will get out of it OK. Not to mention that I, for one, am having a little trouble identifying someone involved who I could consider a hero.
** Title admittedly cribbed from an Astounding cover with the same caption.
This post is about the shootings in Charleston. It's a topic about which people are going to have strong feelings, in a wide variety of directions, so I would like to ask a couple of favors.
Please don't direct ad hominem comments toward other folks here on the blog.
Please don't call for anybody to be shot or otherwise bent, folded, or mutilated. That request is mostly directed at the Count. Nothing personal, at all, it just is what it is. Cream pies are fair game.
Venting is OK if you need to do that, and being angry is OK if you need to do that, but please try to keep it between the lines.
So - my question: why is it so apparently difficult for conservative spokespeople - people holding elected office, people running for elected office, conservative media organs like Fox - to acknowledge the racial motivation behind the shooting?
Roof has stated that he wanted to shoot black people to start a race war. He wore flags from white supremacist apartheid regimes. Etc etc etc.
Why the apparent difficulty in acknowledging all of that?
I am, sincerely, not trying to call anybody racist, or stir up controversy for the sake of it. I simply don't understand what I'm hearing, and I'd like to.
Are public conservatives simply afraid to discuss race, full stop? Do they sincerely not recognize it as a dynamic in this case? Are they overly sensitive to being somehow associated with Roof and his ideology, so they want to steer the conversation in some other direction?
Note that *none of those things* require a presumption of a racist motive. I'm not assuming one. I just don't get it, and I'd like to try to get it.
As with the gun regulation thread, if things get too crazy, I'll close comments. Not trying to shut down conversation, just trying to keep things as civil as possible.
Over to you all. And again, it's a topic that folks no doubt have very strong feelings about - I know that I do - so inside voices will be appreciated.