Pixel Scroll 10/14 The pixel will see you now…

(1) What could be more appropriate to continue a discussion launched in yesterday’s Scroll than Jurassic Park: High Heels Edition! Thanks to Cathy for dropping this into the comments.

(2) “Emperor Palpatine and Sauron in the Afterlife” by Steve Ogden. Here is the first frame of the comic —

Sauron COMP

This crazy comic sprung from a Twitter conversation I was having with Scott King. He said he was considering writing an essay, the events of Star Wars as seen from Emperor Palpatine’s point of view. I said it would be a terrible idea, but really funny, to have a conversation in the afterlife between two dead bad guys, sort of swapping horror stories about how badly everything went for them at the hands of the Good Guys. Scott admitted it was both terrible and funny, and why don’t I go write it then. So I did, and here you have it.

(3) That was a strange experience – reading Alexandra Erin’s “Millennial Pledge: Trouble Edition”, which translates “Trouble in River City” into a bullet-pointed blog post.

(4) Recommended: Ty Templeton’s comic ”What if Bob Kane has created Bat-Man without Bill Finger?”

(5) Most of “The 20 Biggest Bombshells J.K. Rowling’s Dropped Since ‘Harry Potter’ Ended” are less cheerful than —

chocolate frogs COMP

Chocolate Frogs

Harry, Ron and Hermione all wound up with their own chocolate frog cards, which Ron reported as his “finest hour.”

Harry’s card says that he is “the first and only known wizard to survive the Killing Curse, most famous for the defeat of the most dangerous dark wizard of all time, Lord Voldemort.”

Ron’s card gives him credit for “destroying the Horcruxes and subsequent defeat of Voldemort and revolutionizing the Ministry of Magic.”

On hers, Hermione gets credit for being “the brightest witch of her age” and that she “eradicated pro-pureblood laws” and campaigned for “the rights of non human beings such as house-elves.”

(6) Remember the Star Wars blooper reported by Screen Rant that I posted here the other day? Io9 checked with Mark Hamill who says it never happened.

Instead of calling Carrie Fisher’s name out, Hamill insists that he started to say “There she is!”—dialogue provided in ADR that was cut short by Leia and Luke’s embrace.

(7) “Make Sure to Check Your Camera Settings” — a funny Flash reference at Cheezburger.

(8) Today In History –

(9) John ONeill profiled The Complete Short Fiction of Clifford D. Simak, Volumes 1-3 at Black Gate.

The lack of a complete collection of Clifford D. Simak’s short stories has been keenly felt among many old-school fans. So as you can imagine, I was delighted to discover that Open Road Media has undertaken the first comprehensive collection of all of Simak’s short stories — including his science fiction, fantasy, and western fiction. The first three books, I Am Crying All Inside, The Big Front Yard, and The Ghost of a Model T, go on sale later this month.

All three, like all six volumes announced so far, are edited by David W. Wixon, the Executor of Simak’s Literary Estate. Wixon, a close friend of Simak, contributes an introduction to each volume, and short intros to each story, providing a little background on its publishing history and other interesting tidbits.

As a special treat the first volume, I Am Crying All Inside, includes the never-before-published “I Had No Head and My Eyes Were Floating Way Up in the Air,” originally written in 1973 for Harlan Ellison’s famously unpublished anthology Last Dangerous Visions, and finally pried out of Ellison’s unrelenting grip after 42 very long years.

(10) Margaret Hamilton’s pioneering work on NASA computers is covered by Wired in “Her code got humans on the moon – and invented software itself”.

Then, as now, “the guys” dominated tech and engineering. Like female coders in today’s diversity-challenged tech industry, Hamilton was an outlier. It might surprise today’s software makers that one of the founding fathers of their boys’ club was, in fact, a mother—and that should give them pause as they consider why the gender inequality of the Mad Men era persists to this day.

As Hamilton’s career got under way, the software world was on the verge of a giant leap, thanks to the Apollo program launched by John F. Kennedy in 1961. At the MIT Instrumentation Lab where Hamilton worked, she and her colleagues were inventing core ideas in computer programming as they wrote the code for the world’s first portable computer. She became an expert in systems programming and won important technical arguments. “When I first got into it, nobody knew what it was that we were doing. It was like the Wild West. There was no course in it. They didn’t teach it,” Hamilton says.

She’s an unsung heroine of Apollo 8, because she got them home after a fatal input error in the spacecraft somebody at NASA insisted would never happen.

(11) Scientists measured the erosion of terrestrial river rocks to deduce — “Pebbles on Mars Shaped by Ancient Long-Gone Rivers Dozens of Miles Long”.

Using publicly available images of the rounded pebbles on Mars from the Curiosity rover mission, the scientists calculated that those rocks had lost about 20 percent of their volume. When they factored in the reduced Martian gravity, which is only about 40 percent of Earth’s, they estimated that the pebbles had traveled about 30 miles (50 km) from their source, perhaps from the northern rim of Gale Crater.

(12) NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope has been used to produced new maps of Jupiter – the first in a series of annual portraits of the solar system’s outer planets.

New imagery from NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope is revealing details never before seen on Jupiter. High-resolution maps and spinning globes (rendered in the 4k Ultra HD format) are the first products to come from a program to study the solar system’s outer planets each year using Hubble. The observations are designed to capture a broad range of features, including winds, clouds, storms and atmospheric chemistry. These annual studies will help current and future scientists see how such giant worlds change over time.

 

(13) Well, this is bizarre, but extremely well-edited (NSFW) humor video, a mashup of Hitchcock’s movies with Jimmy Stewart and Kubrick’s sf/horror movies.

(14) Free Nick Mamatas!

No, no, you don’t need to bail him out — just read his story free on the Glittership webpage (or listen to it on the podcast) — Episode #18 — “Eureka!” by Nick Mamatas.

Adam hadn’t worn the crushed velvet blouse in his hands for a long time. It was from his goth phase, twenty pounds and twenty years prior. He shuddered at the thought of it distending around his spare tire these days, but he couldn’t bring himself to put it in the box he’d set aside for Out of the Closet either. And not only because it would be embarrassing if anyone saw it.

There were memories in the wrinkles of the velvet—well, not memories exactly. Half-memories, images and glimpses and smells. Two decades of gimlets and bad decisions and a few teeth and a trio of cross-country moves. What was the place? It was Huggy Bear’s on Thursdays, when they played disco for a majority black clientele, but on most nights it was just The Bank. A real bank, in the sepia-toned days when great-grandma worked in an Orchard Street sweatshop, a goth/darkwave club now….

(15) Kameron Hurley interviewed at SFFWorld:

With The Mirror Empire, you’ve challenged many genre assumptions/expectations/tropes, most notably genre roles and expectations.  What other genre expectations did you seek to challenge but instead readers accepted easily?

So far readers have pretty much balked at everything I thought they would, though I admit I’ve been surprised at the reactions to Anavha, which were far more perplexed and passionate than I anticipated. It seemed like a fairly straightforward plotline to me, but putting characters with unexpected genders into those roles surprised people. I think it really made them think hard about reading abusive relationships like that in other books.

(16) Steve Davidson, taking as his sample the recommendations made so far at Sad Puppies 4, theorizes quite reasonably that works available for free are more likely to be recommended for awards. By implication, he wonders what will happen to authors who like to get paid.

I do believe that there is a distinct trend represented:  freely available, easily accessible works may very well swamp the nominations – if those works are given a little initial traction by readers, like including them on a recommendation list, because (I belabor), the fewer “objections” you place between a consumer and a potentially desirable product, the more likely they are to “buy”.  In other words, “click here and invest a few minutes” is far more attractive than “click here, pull out your credit card, wait for delivery, invest a few minutes”.

(17) Brandon Kempner latest survey “Hugo/Nebula Contenders and Popularity, October 2015” for Chaos Horizons. I’m late picking this up, and as Kempner notes in the post, Leckie’s book was still on the way when he wrote it.

Last year, I tried to track Goodreads stats a measure of popularity. This year, I’m tracking both Amazon and Goodreads.

I’ve been disappointed in both of those measures; neither seems particularly accurate or consistent, and they don’t seem to predict the eventual Hugo/Nebula winner at all. What is useful about them, though, is getting at least an early picture of what is popular and what is not. I do believe there is a minimum popularity cut off, where if you fall below a certain level (1000-2000 Goodreads votes), you don’t have much of a shot at winning a Hugo or Nebula. This also allows good comparisons between books that are similar to each other. If you think Uprooted and Sorcerer to the Crown are both contenders as “experimental”-ish fantasy books, one of those (Uprooted) is 10 times more popular than the other. If you had to pick between one of them being nominated, go with Novik.

(18) Dawn Witzke, in “Taking Sides” , says George R.R. Martin has convinced her to pick a side.

[GRRM] I have no objection to someone starting a people’s choice award for SF. Hell, I might even win it, since I have the sort of mass following that tends to dominate such awards. But it would not be as meaningful to me as winning a Hugo.

[Nitzke] There is no need to start a people’s choice award for SFF, one already exists. You may have heard of it, it’s called the Hugo Awards. And, I believe you might have won one of those once. After reading Game of Thrones, I can say it was definitely worthy of Hugo. (Trust me, that’s not a good thing.)

I do want to thank you, Mr. Martin. Without your rich elitist bullshit, I might have continued to sit on the sidelines again this year. Instead, I will be forking over the cash for a membership, because those of us who can’t afford to blow money on cons are just as much true fans as those who can. So you can go stuff it in your asterisk.

(19) Not everyone is tired of the subject —

https://twitter.com/horriblychris/status/654462570842091520

(20) Talk about a really sad puppy – William Shatner:

William Shatner is exploring strange new worlds in trash-talking his former “Star Trek” co-star George Takei.

Shatner, who played Captain James T. Kirk on the iconic sci-fi series, lashed out at Takei in an interview with Australia’s news.com.au published Monday.

“He is a very disturbed individual, the truth of the matter is,” Shatner said of Takei, who played Hikaru Sulu on the series and subsequent movie franchise. “I don’t know him. I haven’t seen him in 25 years, I don’t know what he is up to. It is not a question that has any meaning to me. It is like asking about George Foreman or something.”

And when asked about director J.J. Abrams, who is currently filming Star Trek Beyond, he told the Australian press:

“No matter what plans I make it is J.J. Abrams who makes the plans and no I don’t think he is planning anything with me,” Shatner said. “I would love to. In one year it will be our 50th anniversary and that is incredible.”

(21) “California nixes warrantless search of digital data”

In what’s being called a landmark victory for digital privacy, California police will no longer be able to get their hands on user data without first getting a warrant from a judge.

Governor Jerry Brown on Thursday signed the California Electronic Communications Privacy Act (CalECPA), SB 178, which requires state law enforcement to get a warrant before they can access electronic information about who we are, where we go, who we know, and what we do.

US privacy rights groups have long been concerned that law enforcement hasn’t considered it necessary to get a search warrant before they can search messages, email, photos and other digital data stored on mobile phones or company servers.

States such as California, tired of waiting around for Congress to update 29-year-old federal electronic privacy statutes, are taking reform into their own hands.

(22) H.G. Wells took a shot at foretelling the future — “A Peek Ahead” at Futility Closet tells you how well he scored.

Readers of the London Evening Standard saw a startling headline on Nov. 10, 1971: “The Prophecy H.G. Wells Made About Tonight’s Standard.” Wells had published a story in 1932 in which a man unaccountably receives a copy of the newspaper from 40 years in the future. “He found himself surveying a real evening newspaper,” Wells wrote, “which was dealing so far as he could see at the first onset, with the affairs of another world.”

Most of “The Queer Story of Brownlow’s Newspaper” is devoted to Wells’ prophecies regarding world events in 1971, and most of these, unfortunately, are misses. Newspapers today are printed in color and the Soviet Union has fallen, but geothermal energy has not replaced the age of combustion, body clothing has not (quite) been reduced to a minimum, finance and nationalism still thrive, gorillas are not extinct, the human birthrate has not dropped to “seven in the thousand,” and there are no plans to add a 13th month to the year.

(23) Here’s a massive cosplay photo gallery from New York Comic Con. (Activate by clicking on arrows in upper right corner of image displayed for Slideshow #1 and Slideshow #2.)

Look for an amazing Raiden, an outstanding Mr. Freeze, a spot-on Nosferatu, and a glorious Muto from Godzilla. Spider-Woman, Hawkgirl, Princess Amidala, Mystique, gender-swapped Booster Gold, Ratchet, Venom… the list goes on and on! Take a look at the slideshows below and share your favorites in the comments!

(24) The sf magazine market contraction predicted by Neil Clarke is not far off, but L. Jagi Lamplighter doesn’t want it to begin with Sci Phi Journal, so she is making an appeal for donations.

Jagi, here.  I learned this morning that Sci Phi Journal needs help.

For those who don’t know it, Sci Phi Journal offers science fiction stories that have a philosophy to them. It is one of the few periodicals offering a place to the kind of stories that Sad Puppies stood for…in fact, it was on the Hugo ballot this year, as was one of the stories that appeared in it (“On A Spiritual Plain” by Lou Antonelli).

Sci Phi offers a venue for the very kinds of stories that we all want to read but seldom get to see. It features some of the best new authors, like Josh Young and Brian Niemeyer, and a number of others. Both John and I have had stories appear in its pages.

It would be a real shame if it folded!

What can you all do to help?

If you should feel moved to make a donation, you can do so here. (The donate button is on the right. You may need to page down.)

(25) Monty Python’s Terry Gilliam will appear at Live Talks Los Angeles on October 19, 2015 at the Alex Theatre. It’s the launch event for Gilliam’s memoir. He gave an interview to a local paper to promote the appearance.

Terry Gilliam

What led you to write the book?

It really was supposed to be a book about just my art — whatever my art is — starting with childhood cartoons. My daughter Holly assembled a chronology of the work I’ve done. I would sit with a microphone and talk about it. Somewhere along the line, the publisher says “Oh, God, this is better as an autobiography.” It ended up being that, even though it’s a very incomplete one. I refer to it as my “Grand Theft Autobiography.” It’s a high-speed chase, crashing around the place, a lot of bodies left all over the place. It’s not the great summation of my life in the last hours of my life.

What was your reaction when you started digging into the art you had made?

I was surprised because I don’t linger in the past. Things I’d done over the years had been filed away. Holly had been archiving and dredging this stuff out. The other day I found something and I thought, “God, I can’t believe I could draw that well 20 years ago!” I can’t draw that well anymore.

(26) A Back To The Future prediction still has an opportunity to come true.

At one moment in the 1989 film a billboard reveals the Chicago Cubs have won the 2015 World Series, the joke being that the Cubs hadn’t won the baseball World Series since 1908 and likely never would do.

“A hundred-to-one shot,” the charity fundraiser jokes with Marty, “I wish I could go back to the beginning of the season and put some money on the Cubs!”

But now it’s looking like the Chicago team could actually win the 2015 World Series.

The Chicago Cubs beat the St. Louis Cardinals this week to proceed to the National League Championship Series (NLCS) and will face the New York Mets or LA Dodgers on Saturday for the chance to play in the coveted World Series. Think of it as a sort of regional semi-final for the biggest game of the baseball season.

The film’s writer Bob Gale said he chose the Cubs as the winning 2015 team as a joke, saying: “Being a baseball fan, I thought, ‘OK, let’s come up with one of the most unlikely scenarios we can think of’.”

The Dodgers, if they advance, will have to start the back end of their rotation which would really boost the Cubs’ chances. No time-traveling DeLorean will be swooping in from 1963 delivering Koufax and Drysdale to save LA.

(27) A high-tech prank — Real Mjolnir (Electromagnet, Fingerprint Scanner)

A replica of Mjolnir (Thor’s Hammer) from The Avengers that’s pretty much unliftable unless you’ve got my fingerprints!

 

[Thanks to Cathy, David K.M. Klaus, Will R.,and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Will R.]

292 thoughts on “Pixel Scroll 10/14 The pixel will see you now…

  1. @Greg: I’m trying to rate story quality in isolation–a good story doesn’t have to have a new concept. No other genre expects that, after all.

    I can’t see the point of trying to rate a story in some mythical state called “isolation” when they’re not written in isolation. The literary context of writing is just as real as the real-world context, and there are few writers who don’t pay attention to the flow of current ideas. This is just as true for any genre. I think notion that the “original idea” is an important thing in science fiction is somewhat exaggerated, more honored in theory than in practice. After all what makes a good story is not a nifty invention or alien per se, but how it’s used in the tale. From that point of view science fiction doesn’t seem all that different from other genres. To judge a story on whether it comes up with a really new invention would be misguided, yes, but that’s not the only way context matters. Literature is a conversation for both readers and writers, and it would be odd to try to read as if it’s not.

  2. Building your own religion and/or variant and installing yourself as Pope is a time-honored American tradition, and a great way to make a lot of money and meet new sexual partners (at least until they catch you).

  3. Um, having reread your comment, Greg, it seems I don’t disagree with you very much – I think you actually were only objecting to the notion that a SF story has to have a novel invention, although describing this as “reading in isolation” doesn’t sound right. But who are these other reviewers who do demand novelties? I can see it a bit in Lois Tilton with her preference for the “hard”, but on the whole I don’t think it’s a widespread attitude.

  4. The C of E makes up for any getting along with other faiths by fighting like cats and dogs internally. (The Archbishop of Canterbury has just cancelled the next Lambeth Conference because he wouldn’t be able to get everyone to attend.) The only thing everyone agrees on is its importance as a national church so that everyone has somewhere to stay away from on Sundays. (To be fair, the Catholic wing has been on favour of disestablishment for some time now.)

    On the megachurches front, some Evangelical parishes certainly have the style (usually referred to as “happy clappy”) but I’m not sure how many of them have the scale. Places like St Paul’s or Westminster Cathedral (RC and bigger than the Abbey) or York Minster have the scale but not the style.

    I have a lot of Massachusetts Puritan ancestors, and they tend to leave me less than impressed as champions of religious freedom; the religious settlement they were running away from basically asked that you attend sporadically and keep your mouth shut about your views if you were a Presbyterian (not simply Calvinist – most of the C of E was Calvinist in most areas – but specifically in favour of abolishing the episcopate) or believed in the sacrifice of the mass. The Puritans had considerably more draconian demands.

  5. Me father he was Orange, and me mother, she was Green!

    Funny story: ever need to get a Catholic funeral for your mom because it matters to her sister the nun, never casually drop into conversation that your mom was an ex-nun who married an atheist (from a Unitarian family).

  6. Game designer Greg Costikyan had some funny things to say in his “Flippancy in FRP” essay: http://www.costik.com/flippncy.html
    “Religion, naturally, is not the same thing as alignment at all. In the Catholic Church, for instance, St. Francis of Assissi and Torquemada could hardly be considered of the same TSR-style alignment. Even if the GM refuses you a strange alignment, you can be the devotee of a strange religion. Two popular religions in New York are the Mimeo Mythos Cult (who worship the Great God Gestetner) and the Holy Sativan Church. Another popular set of churches are the Orthodox Church of Our Lord Slayer of Heretics, and the Reformed Church of Our Lord Slayer of Heretics — which churches, naturally, consider each other heresies.”

    Silly But True

  7. Camestros Felapton : “Rational? Well in the sense of ‘not bat-dropping insane’ given the available evidence but not in the sense of ‘best hypothesis based on the evidence and reasoning’.”

    Really?

    While, taking the most convincing argument from the essay, at the time, Brahe was measuring the apparent diameters of stellar discs as between 2 arcminutes and 20 arcsecs, depending on their magnitude. Galileo found them to be a consistent few arcseconds which astronomers at the time thought to be more accurate since the telescope removed “adventitious rays”. But there was no parallax observed in stars throughout the year.

    Now, according to the Copernican model, this is because the stars are so distant that the parallax was too small to be measured. In the 17th century, they could measure down to about an arcsecond, so in modern units the stars had to be at least about a parsec away for no parallax to be observed. But at that distance, a 2 arcsecond disc would mean a star the size of Earth’s orbit. If stellar parallaxes were even smaller, then this would mean that they’d have to be even larger.

    So, based on the astronomical observations of the time, if the Earth was going around the Sun, then all the stars observed would have to at least ten million times the volume of the Sun at the minimum distance necessary for parallax to go unnoticed, or even larger at a greater distance.

    Or you can argue on a geocentric model which has the stars smaller and closer with no need to explain parallax.

    It wasn’t until 1720 that Edmund Halley demonstrated that the telescopic star discs were an illusion based on lunar occultations.

  8. Graydon: in some strict sense, the UK is a theocracy — the Queen is head of the Established Church — and all the other religions are permitted on what is technically sufferance.

    Oh, I never thought that the British government lacked the power to limit megachurches, though I can see how you read my comment that way. I guess what I meant by “justification” was something like “why do they think it’s worth the effort?” I find some megachurches seriously annoying—depends on their actions in the community—but as a general concept, fairly harmless.

    James: On the megachurches front, some Evangelical parishes certainly have the style (usually referred to as “happy clappy”) but I’m not sure how many of them have the scale. Places like St Paul’s or Westminster Cathedral (RC and bigger than the Abbey) or York Minster have the scale but not the style.

    Yes, the style is part of the definition. I’ve read—somewhere, can’t remember the source—that Roman Catholic congregations don’t fit the definition of “megachurches” due to their services and (I think?) hierarchy. I’m not sure how widespread that definition is, but style definitely matters.

    I’ve been in Westminster Cathedral, by the way. It is large and impressive, but is it megachurch size? The megachurch near me seats something like 20,000 . . . well, I suppose it depends on the definition, again.

  9. “As an agnostic who would be an atheist but for recognizing (due to many years of working with computer programming) that it’s never a good idea to claim that I know anything for absolute certain, I don’t think making fun of other peoples’ religions is amusing or appropriate.”

    I don’t want to get into a long discussion here but, technically, atheism/theism is about what you believe and agnosticism/gnosticism is about what you know. So I am an agnostic atheist, I don’t know there are no gods, but I don’t believe there are any gods. Socially many people, including my husband, are more comfortable calling themselves agnostics. I decided to ‘come out of the closet’, so to speak, and now just call myself an atheist.

    “But I find the propensity of many religious people in the U.S. for declaring that their particular flavor of religion is somehow superior to others (often in relation to Islam, but quite frequently to other versions of Christianity) absolutely ludicrous to the point where I’ve utterly lost patience with having to hear it.”

    I totally agree that making fun of someone else’s beliefs, in general, is rude and counterproductive. When someone wraps themselves in their beliefs as a cloak of immunity because they call it ‘religion’ while proposing to gut science education or deny people civil rights because of those beliefs, then they should not get immunity from ridicule of those beliefs.

  10. @Mary Frances — I guess what I meant by “justification” was something like “why do they think it’s worth the effort?”

    Most evangelical protestants argue that divine authority is the only legitimate authority. (The US ones are especially prone to a variety of unlawful acts relating to a particular social agenda. And the US construction of political legitimacy requires being a white protestant in significant respects, which is not how the UK does it.)

    Since no sensible politician is in favour of an alternative structure of political legitimacy, and since the general fundie social agenda isn’t popular in the UK, it would be dangerous to allow them to get started; it might work, or it might lead to sustained conflict, neither of which is good from the point of view of the people in power.

  11. @RDF, in addition to Camestros’s points about the Tychonic model, I have to say that I don’t understand how you got from “a scientist of the time could find fault with Galileo’s theories” to “The narrative we have now of brave Galileo beset by people ignoring the science for religious reasons is wrong, a later construct motivated by anti-clericism.” Even if Galileo had been 100% wrong in every calculation, the fact would remain that he was prosecuted and threatened with torture not for being a bad scientist, but for heresy. The Church’s position was that it was not permissible to even propose that X was true if the Church had ruled that X was contrary to Scripture. And they considered heliocentrism unacceptable not because they cared about parallax measurements, but because it would require admitting that some Biblical phrases were not literally true. Yes it’s the case that there were scientists of the time who disagreed with him for other reasons, but how is that relevant?

    I fail to see how it is anachronistic anticlericalism to see that as a clear case of scientific inquiry being suppressed for religious reasons. They literally admitted that that was what they were doing.

  12. @McJulie
    “Regarding the religiosity of the US compared to Europe and the UK — I think the difference might have more to do with the 1950s than with the 1770s. During that era we were VERY deliberate about defining ourselves in opposition to the Godless Communists as God-fearing Capitalists. That was when we added “under God” to the Pledge of Allegiance, after all.”

    Another difference is that we’ve never had a religious war, thank Ogd, and I hope we never do. I think Europeans learned some valuable lessons from their centuries of such conflict. If I understand correctly, that’s a big part of why secularism was written into the US Constitution in the 1780s. Now if we can just convince some of our citizens that separation of church and state really was a hard earned and excellent idea!

    Although the US vs. the Commies came close to that intensitiy in propoganda and, as you say, greatly increased religiosity and distrust of non-belief in America.

  13. RDF on October 15, 2015 at 8:23 pm said:

    Camestros Felapton : “Rational? Well in the sense of ‘not bat-dropping insane’ given the available evidence but not in the sense of ‘best hypothesis based on the evidence and reasoning’.”

    Really?

    Yes.

    Brahe was measuring the apparent diameters of stellar discs as between 2 arcminutes and 20 arcsecs, depending on their magnitude. Galileo found them to be a consistent few arcseconds which astronomers at the time thought to be more accurate since the telescope removed “adventitious rays”. But there was no parallax observed in stars throughout the year.

    Now, according to the Copernican model, this is because the stars are so distant that the parallax was too small to be measured. In the 17th century, they could measure down to about an arcsecond, so in modern units the stars had to be at least about a parsec away for no parallax to be observed. But at that distance, a 2 arcsecond disc would mean a star the size of Earth’s orbit. If stellar parallaxes were even smaller, then this would mean that they’d have to be even larger.

    Now, remember that at this point what does a RATIONAL person know about stars:
    1. They appear fixed (as opposed to planets, comets, the moon and other things)
    2. They appear to move relative to an observer on Earth
    3. They are not like anything on Earth or near it
    4. When you look at them through a telescope they look like discs (a newish discovery which we now know to be due to instrumentation)
    5. Occasionally new ones appear (as Brahe discovered)
    6. They are further away than the furthest planet and that according to either model is a long, long way away
    So given that how big is TOO big for a star to be RATIONALLY? Rationally I don’t know anything about the possible size range of stars. Bigger than anything that I have ever encountered? Rationally that is a possibility I’d have to accept as under either model they must be pretty sizeable to be further away than any planetary orbit and still look like discs. Rationally at what size should our rational person of the time say is ‘too big’ for an estimated size of a star?

    Despite the measurement, the careful observation and the geometry, that argument was simply an argument from incredulity. A rational person would not rely on it as a valid argument.

    Or you can argue on a geocentric model which has the stars smaller and closer with no need to explain parallax.

    Well you could but then you’d have to explain why everything orbits around the Earth rather than say, Jupiter. Put enough effort into and enough fudge factors (of which both the Ptolemaic and Copernican systems had to have) you could probably get a workable Joviancentric model together :). You’d be stuck for a defensible explanation of the seasons and actual parallax issues with other planets have to be explained in other ways (i.e. parallax also helps confirm the Copernican model when looking at planets and less so when looking at stars).

    Also, despite public denials, it has been found that Exxon executives were planning on the basis of the heliocentric model…no, wait, I’m getting my historical periods science-denial topics mixed up again.

  14. I don’t want to get into a long discussion here but, technically, atheism/theism is about what you believe and agnosticism/gnosticism is about what you know. So I am an agnostic atheist, I don’t know there are no gods, but I don’t believe there are any gods. Socially many people, including my husband, are more comfortable calling themselves agnostics. I decided to ‘come out of the closet’, so to speak, and now just call myself an atheist.

    These days in the US, at least, it’s my strong impression that the term “atheist” is coded strongly as “believes there is no god or higher power” (sometimes/often with an unfortunate subtext of “and is dismissive and offensive about other people’s spiritual beliefs”), not anything less definitive. (Especially the longer Richard Dawkins keeps being Islamophobic. He is not doing the atheist movement any favors, IMO.)

  15. Eli on October 15, 2015 at 9:10 pm said:

    @RDF, in addition to Camestros’s points about the Tychonic model, I have to say that I don’t understand how you got from “a scientist of the time could find fault with Galileo’s theories” to “The narrative we have now of brave Galileo beset by people ignoring the science for religious reasons is wrong, a later construct motivated by anti-clericism.” Even if Galileo had been 100% wrong in every calculation, the fact would remain that he was prosecuted and threatened with torture not for being a bad scientist, but for heresy.

    Yup. There is a bit of anti-Gallieo/Church-excusifiying in the 2nd worst nomination for Best Related Work in the 2015 Hugo awards:

    While popular culture prefers to paint Galileo as persecuted by the Church for his science — indeed, consequently founding a counter-religious illuminati of scientists — careful study of history reveals that Galileo was not “persecuted” for his beliefs, but rather he was sanctioned by Rome for his personal actions in defiance of a church order of which he was a member. – Why Science is Never Settled
    By Tedd Roberts

    Galileo could have been wrong in all sorts of ways. We know he was wrong about the sun being the center of the Universe and we have a more sophisticated under of relative motion these days – but even if we swap who said what there is a substantial ethical issue. If Galileo had been advocating the GEOcentric model and the Church had adopted the HELIOcentric model then charging him with heresy, threatening him with torture and placing him under house arrest for the rest of his life would still be wrong. Well ‘wrong’ at least by my pajama-wearing cocoa-sipping partisan of gay marriage, gun control, socialized medicine* standards.

    [*copyright: John C Wright]

  16. What does JCW have against pajamas and cocoa? Both are entirely wholesome things, widely regarded as good for children.

    @junego: In common parlance in the US, “atheist” is taken to mean “there are no deities!” and “agnostic” means “I dunno… maybe?” In practice, both groups prefer sleeping in on Sundays.

  17. lurkertype on October 15, 2015 at 10:27 pm said:

    What does JCW have against pajamas and cocoa? Both are entirely wholesome things, widely regarded as good for children.

    “pajama” is derived from the Persian word p?y-j?meh – now as we know “Persia” is Iran and Iran is officially an Islamic country and it is axiomatic in JCWrightism that the Islamic world has never contributed anything to the world and hence pajamas do not exist according to dialectic, and hence if you wear pajamas then you are naked and nakedness is a sin and is doubly a sin if you are naked when claiming to be clothed. At least that is how I interpret it.

    Some may say it is merely a reference to this but I think my explanation is more plausible.

  18. Robert Whitaker Sirignano: Did you get my email? If not, please send me an e-mail at mikeglyer (at) cs (dot) com so I will have the right address to contact you.

  19. Camestros Felapton: “pajama” is derived from the Persian word p?y-j?meh – now as we know “Persia” is Iran and Iran is officially an Islamic country and it is axiomatic in JCWrightism that the Islamic world has never contributed anything to the world and hence pajamas do not exist according to dialectic, and hence if you wear pajamas then you are naked and nakedness is a sin and is doubly a sin if you are naked when claiming to be clothed. At least that is how I interpret it.

    I am mightily impressed by your Aristotle!-ness — and the Puppies should be, too.

  20. @Greg Hullender

    I’m going to gently disagree with you that Asimov’s and F&SF are noticeably better, acknowledging that it’s all just a matter of taste anyway of course. My tastes appear to slant slightly towards Clarkesworld, Lightspeed, and some of the other outlets. Not by much, as I definitely like what Asimovs/F&SF put out, particularly in their longer length works. In fact, looking at my longlist I can see an interesting split – Asimovs is pretty strong for me in novelette/novella, but I rated very few of their shorts. Shorts are my most “diverse” list in terms of outlets, probably because very few publish at longer lengths.

    I had a look at your stats, which are very interesting. Stripping out RSR’s own rankings so we’re just looking at the other review sites, I make it:

    Analog 8
    Asimovs 35
    F&SF 22
    Clarkesworld 22
    Lightspeed 39
    Tor 15

    Which would need adjusting into proportions of stories published, but even so I don’t think you could make a distinction between the two sides. Clearly the ratings from RSR itself show a preference for one “side” of the divide, and that’s fine.

    The whole thing is really just a dilemma – how widely do you read in shorts to try and give a fair judgement? I mean, I’m putting some real effort in this year, and I’m nowhere close to reading all the magazines, let along catching good stories from anthologies. Ultimately the answer ought to be “read as much of what you like then nominate what you like”, but this is an unusual year.

    Anyway, RSR is an interesting and useful resource IMO, and thank you for the effort you’re putting in to it.

    @Peter J

    Thanks for the UK Kindle heads up, I’ve just spent too much money.

  21. Dark Eden by Chris Beckett

    Too late I think for my recommendation to be of any use, but I did enjoy it. A weird planet, difficult but believable people, and an interesting question (Why would anyone do the things that form the backstory?) which leads to another question (why would anyone do anything?)

  22. On British Megachurches. I’m surprised people are saying that they are in effect banned. This isn’t so at all (I’m an atheist btw).

    A quick google shows one church with a weekly congregation of around 8-10,000 people (2005 figures) and about 9 churches with congregations of over 2,000. Most of the biggest are in London and a majority are pentecostal.

    However churches are also subject to local planning regulations – they don’t get a free pass. I can imagine quite a few councils deciding that there would be insufficient parking, plus insufficient benefit to the local community. Hence the church would have to scale their plans down a notch or two, or cancel. This is one of the reasons why buildings such as cinemas get a change of use to a church – the roads and parking are already designed around having the place full (or near full) and a change of use is usually easier to obtain than new build.

  23. Cassy, I suspect I’ll be putting the second book on my own ballot, the only thing stopping me from certainty being I haven’ read it yet. I seem to have scruples, or summat;)

    Also, it’s a little embarrassing to fawn over a book this much in the author’s presence, but it’s that good, and novel a thing: everybody go read the Commonweal books, right this minute!

    Xtifr:

    Harrison’s Soylent was made from….soya and lentils. The more famous ingredient was only added in the movie.

    I did not know that, thank you. It’s hard, having only seen the movie (amid the late-night reruns, sometime in the eighties, and really only remembering the reveal, and that it wasn’t very good), to imagine the shape of the original story. I’ll have to seek it out, sometime this century.

    Graydon:

    And the US construction of political legitimacy requires being a white protestant in significant respects

    I think I get what you’re saying, or will, with a bit more coffee, but it’s probable you mean something more interesting, so would you unpack that, please?

    Camestros:

    pajama-wearing cocoa-sipping partisan of gay marriage, gun control, socialized medicine

    If it doesn’t require giving JCW any money, I think I’d like this on a business card.

    “pajama” is derived from the Persian word p?y-j?meh – now as we know “Persia” is Iran and Iran is officially an Islamic country and it is axiomatic in JCWrightism that the Islamic world has never contributed anything to the world and hence pajamas do not exist according to dialectic, and hence if you wear pajamas then you are naked and nakedness is a sin and is doubly a sin if you are naked when claiming to be clothed. At least that is how I interpret it.

    That’s beautiful.

    Sadly, it’s not as fanciful or exaggerated as it may appear. For complicated reasons beyond my control, I was visited by a chaplain soon after giving birth. I was still groggy and more cooperative than I ought to have been, and told him my daughters name (Oriana), whereupon he exclaimed “But that’s foreign!” (It’s not, it’s a perfectly valid, if unusual Portuguese name, all the way back to the Middle Ages), and proceeded to explain his reasoning. It went like this: Oriana, Orient, the East, pagans, barbarians, see? Also, you’re blonde. (Which I’m not.) And then, thankfully, he left me to my own heathen self.

  24. My apologies to the Dark Eden fans – I accidentally fell asleep and missed my chance. Nonetheless, after your warm recommendations, it has gone on my watchlist for next time there’s a discount.

    Now I’m poking around todays deals to see what looks likely… 🙂

    Re: Megachurches

    I think the planning permission bit is probably the thing. The UK is not terribly large, and getting permission to build gigantic buildings is tricky. Gigantic religious buildings are probably viewed with additional suspicion but the regulations stay largely the same so far as I’m aware.

    I think they would be seen as a bit tacky, really, compared to cathedrals which are generally very old and beautiful, but sadly ‘tacky’ isn’t a reason to turn something down except where conservation areas come into play (and even then its complicated – my Dad used to lead a planning committee so I’m reasonably familiar with the basics, although no-one ever tried to build a megachurch – I don’t think it would fit in South East London unless they managed to float it).

    Minor brain-picking – am I right in thinking that only CofE bishops get to be in the House of Lords, or are there representatives from other religious (Christian or otherwise) groups? I would’ve thought it would be a nice gesture to at least include a token Scottish representative. (Wales, of course, always gets screwed.)

  25. Susana S.P.: I was visited by a chaplain soon after giving birth. I was still groggy and more cooperative than I ought to have been, and told him my daughters name (Oriana), whereupon he exclaimed “But that’s foreign!” (It’s not, it’s a perfectly valid, if unusual Portuguese name, all the way back to the Middle Ages), and proceeded to explain his reasoning. It went like this: Oriana, Orient, the East, pagans, barbarians, see?

    W. T. F. F.   😡

  26. Minor brain-picking – am I right in thinking that only CofE bishops get to be in the House of Lords, or are there representatives from other religious (Christian or otherwise) groups? I would’ve thought it would be a nice gesture to at least include a token Scottish representative. (Wales, of course, always gets screwed.)

    You are correct. 26 Bishops of the CofE get to sit in the House of Lords automatically. Certain religious leaders have been given life peerages – I’m not sure if the current chief Rabbi has been so elevated, but the last one was – but on an individual basis rather than as an automatic side effect of their day job.

    although no-one ever tried to build a megachurch – I don’t think it would fit in South East London unless they managed to float it).

    There’s a fairly huge looking LDS temple described as ‘London’ but actually in Surrey, well south of the M25 fairly close to Gatwick. That might be as close as we get for megachurch designed as such.

  27. @ JJ: That’s about the size of it, with maybe a few more Fs in there.

    OTOH, the whole thing (or, really, just the fact that there was a chaplain in my room) was certainly a powerful warning of how much bullshit women are supposed to put up with when they cease to be persons and become mothers. Not that the child gets any personhood either. Sooo many opinions.

  28. Real USian mega-churches include coffee shops, cafes, and movie theaters, so that it is possible to conduct ones entire social life without going amongst the unbelievers.

  29. Susana S.P. OTOH, the whole thing (or, really, just the fact that there was a chaplain in my room) was certainly a powerful warning of how much bullshit women are supposed to put up with when they cease to be persons and become mothers.

    If a chaplain (or any religious representative) showed up in my hospital room at any time except upon my personal request (which would never be made) — regardless of my reason for being there, birth, illness, deathbed, whatever — I would be mad as hell. I would consider that a huge violation of my personal space and privacy.

    It’s pretty appalling that it was considered acceptable to foist that on you without your consent.

  30. @Lexica
    “These days in the US, at least, it’s my strong impression that the term “atheist” is coded strongly as “believes there is no god or higher power” (sometimes/often with an unfortunate subtext of “and is dismissive and offensive about other people’s spiritual beliefs”), not anything less definitive. (Especially the longer Richard Dawkins keeps being Islamophobic. He is not doing the atheist movement any favors, IMO.)”

    Since atheists were vilified and less trusted than rapists before Dawkins, I don’t think it’s fair to blame him for the bad rap (although I do vigorously disagree with Dawkins on several of his social and political stands.)

    As the example of the LGBQT community has shown, ‘coming out’ to show that real people among your family, friends, aquaintances, and neighbors are actually part of this vilified group and that we aren’t in fact monsters who are offensive toward other people’s beliefs (or at least no worse than people like the Southern Baptists I was raised with who honestly believe that the Jews are responsible for Christ’s death and deserve their punishment and that Catholics are allied with the anti-christ) is an important step to take.

    So now you can say you’ve actually communicated with a dreaded atheist who explained what the beliefs of many, if not most, other atheists actually are and that I didn’t slaver (much) nor make fun of or misrepresent others beliefs (more than usual for a human being). :^]

  31. @ junego

    Another difference is that we’ve never had a religious war,

    There are some who might argue that we’re very much in the middle of a religious war in the US, albeit a guerrilla war, not a uniformed one. I might well be one of the people who would find such arguments plausible.

  32. @lurkertype
    “@junego: In common parlance in the US, “atheist” is taken to mean “there are no deities!” and “agnostic” means “I dunno… maybe?” In practice, both groups prefer sleeping in on Sundays.”

    That’s pretty much what a lot of people do think the words mean, but that’s not what the majority of atheists actually believe, which is instead what I described. I am an agnostic and an atheist, which describes what I know and what I believe.

    You can be an agnostic theist…you don’t know there are gods, but you believe there are gods. Which means some Sundays you sleep in and some you don’t??

    I’m just being more precise. :^]

    And I definitely prefer sleeping in!

  33. @Susana S.P. —

    >> And the US construction of political legitimacy requires being a white protestant in significant respects

    > I think I get what you’re saying, or will, with a bit more coffee, but it’s probable you mean something more interesting, so would you unpack that, please?

    Legitimacy is this performative thing. Any politician has to perform in the right ways to be taken seriously, either by an electorate or their peers. (Gorbachev’s Armani suits come to mind.)

    The US has a real range of constructions of political legitimacy, but one of the constant elements is performance of religion. So note how it was newsworthy that Obama might be a believer (and that you couldn’t tell from church attendance), or the political necessity that Obama not attend a “black” church. Or how Romney had issues with the GOP faithful for not being a suitable definition of “Protestant Christian”. Or how it is news any time a representative doesn’t swear their oath of office on a bible.

    So it really does look like, at least nationally, that being a legitimate politician requires the forms of a white protestant belief, that there are enforcement mechanisms for the performative parts of that, and that the requirement is “live”, subject to ongoing change, rather than a static inherited ritual requirement.

  34. @Susanna S.P.
    “Also, it’s a little embarrassing to fawn over a book this much in the author’s presence, but it’s that good, and novel a thing: everybody go read the Commonweal books, right this minute!”

    Thanks for the info on the second book. I had dropped “The March North” down on the Hugo TBR because of not being eligible and was going to look it over later wrt putting Graydon on my Campbell nominee list. Now I’ll read TMN earlier then get the second book.

  35. @Heather Rose Jones
    “There are some who might argue that we’re very much in the middle of a religious war in the US, albeit a guerrilla war, not a uniformed one. I might well be one of the people who would find such arguments plausible.”

    I totally agree that we’re in a tremendous cultural/social ‘war’ (inside the US). I sometimes fear it may come to an internal shooting war, especially with the emphasis some of the fundamentalists have put on pushing their extreme beliefs into our armed forces over the last 30+ years.

  36. I think people have covered the salient points on mega churches; never underestimate the power of planning laws when it comes to discouraging buildings the powers-that-be think should be discouraged.

    What has caused problems is that two Archbishops of Canterbury in a row hankered after a sort of Pope like role in the global Anglican community, and have had to be forcefully dissuaded from this when it came to them refusing to condemn outright the persecution of gay people in countries which have Anglican churches.

    Of course the money to pay for this came from US fundamentalist mega churches, who are dedicated to persecuting gay people wherever there are people who will take the money to do it, which is why the present Archbishop of Canterbury is reaping what he and his predecessor sowed.

    The law providing for same sex marriage passed on free votes by massive majorities in both Houses of Parliament, notwithstanding some exceedingly dirty tricks by some, though not all, of the Bishops in the upper house, thus demonstrating the inability of the Established Church to wield power within the Establishment once politicians decided that there was nothing spiritual about the activities of the Lords Spiritual, at least in this matter.

    Oddly enough, many people who have no formal Christian religious beliefs retain enough childhood beliefs about what Jesus was like to be sure that Jesus would not approve of persecuting gay people, because he would not approve of persecuting anyone; this was something of a stumbling block when it came to mobilising the holy silent majority, since it turned out that the holy silent majority disagreed with the Church on this matter.

    According to Andrew Brown, the Guardian’s immensely knowledgeable Religious Editor, and an atheist,

    If ex-Catholics made up a denomination of their own, they would be the second largest religious grouping in the USA…

    Very few of those ex-Catholics left to join fundamentalist groups; it seems to me that Heather Rose Jones and Junego have good reason to be worried…

  37. Camestros:

    pajama-wearing cocoa-sipping partisan of gay marriage, gun control, socialized medicine

    He left out the flip-flops.

  38. junego on October 16, 2015 at 8:41 am said:
    @Heather Rose Jones
    “There are some who might argue that we’re very much in the middle of a religious war in the US, albeit a guerrilla war, not a uniformed one. I might well be one of the people who would find such arguments plausible.”

    I totally agree that we’re in a tremendous cultural/social ‘war’ (inside the US). I sometimes fear it may come to an internal shooting war, especially with the emphasis some of the fundamentalists have put on pushing their extreme beliefs into our armed forces over the last 30+ years.

    Yes.

  39. pajama-wearing cocoa-sipping partisan of gay marriage, gun control, socialized medicine

    I don’t think I’ve come across this ship. Which of the Culture novels is it from?

  40. Very few of those ex-Catholics left to join fundamentalist groups

    Over at Slacktivist, it’s been pointed out that ex-Catholics don’t generally join fundamentalist Protestant churches, because they’re still Catholics at heart.

  41. @P J Evans:

    Over at Slacktivist, it’s been pointed out that ex-Catholics don’t generally join fundamentalist Protestant churches, because they’re still Catholics at heart.

    Shades of Stephen Daedalus.

  42. P J Evans on October 16, 2015 at 3:11 pm said:

    Over at Slacktivist, it’s been pointed out that ex-Catholics don’t generally join fundamentalist Protestant churches, because they’re still Catholics at heart.

    I’m probably even a Jesuit 🙂 – just without all the believing god and obedience to the Pope and going to church stuff.

  43. I’m probably even a Jesuit 🙂 – just without all the believing god and obedience to the Pope and going to church stuff.

    Ah yes, me too! Although the Jesuit are already halfway there, as the many jokes about them attest…

  44. Peter J on October 16, 2015 at 11:53 am said:

    pajama-wearing cocoa-sipping partisan of gay marriage, gun control, socialized medicine

    I don’t think I’ve come across this ship. Which of the Culture novels is it from?

    🙂
    Look to Rightward?
    Consider Aquinas?
    The Slate of the Art?
    The Hydrophobia Sonata?

  45. Anna Feruglio Dal Dan on October 16, 2015 at 3:56 pm said:

    I’m probably even a Jesuit 🙂 – just without all the believing god and obedience to the Pope and going to church stuff.

    Ah yes, me too! Although the Jesuit are already halfway there, as the many jokes about them attest…

    Indeed – in Harry Potter terms The Ravenclaw of ecclesiastical groupings.

    Which would probably make The Dominicans Slytherin, The Fransiscans Gryffindor and The Benedictines Hufflepuff? OK, I’m stepping away slowly from this whole notion before it explodes in my face.

  46. @LunarG: indeed, that’s what I think of when I think “megachurch”. Apparently our British brethren don’t have the one-stop-shopping kind. Which actually would seem more likely to get planning permission, what with the theaters, cafe, coffee shop and bookstore operating daily. It isn’t just “a church with a big congregation” — the style is what makes it a megachurch.

    @Camestros: I have been Aristotle!d into submission. Well done.

    Most of the ex-Catholics I know either become agnostic/atheist/apathetic or become Episcopalians, which are Anglicans who think gayness, women priests, etc. are okay. They definitely don’t go fundie — Lutheran or Presbyterian is as far out as they get. Once you have a liturgy, it’s tough to go hellfire and damnation or happy-clappy (They’ve tried to have happy-clappy Catholic stuff; it never works).

    Heather Rose Jones: yes, to all that. The fundies are doing their darndest in the military and the legislatures.

  47. Er… The Church of England is Anglican and we have women priests and while we don’t have gay marriage (working on it) general gayness is pretty much okay.

    ETA: Well, I should probably amend the general gayness approach to: “Its complicated.” Still: Women priests! We has them!

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