Pixel Scroll 3/30/19 ///Pixel.Scroll.Comment Is In The Middle Of Nowhere In Australia

(1) CATS SLEEP ON $FF. Cat Rambo issues a warning about “Writing Contests and Fees”, and rebuts several arguments she’s heard trying to justify them.

Here’s one of her answers:

Charging a fee means better submissions. Great reason for editors and magazines; meaningless to writers and in fact, means people that self-reject will be even more likely to do so. It also ensures economically disadvantaged people don’t get to participate. The price of a latte for one person may be the next person’s daily food budget.

(2) PROBLEMS FOR JUDGE WHO ENGAGED KRAMER’S COMPUTER SERVICES. More revelations about the judge, from the Gwinett Daily Post. Recent news proves that not only did the judge know about Kramer, but that she was in phone contact with him. She currently is being asked to recuse herself following making false statements and recording the DA during a meeting without his permission or knowledge. “Gwinnett DA files motion for Superior Court judge to recuse herself from all criminal cases”.

Just days after a court filing alleged that Gwinnett County Superior Court Judge Kathryn Schrader expressly gave a convicted sex offender access to the county’s computer network, Gwinnett County District Attorney Danny Porter is calling for her to recuse herself from all criminal cases.

…In Friday’s filing, which included an affidavit, Porter said he confronted the judge about her computer being monitored, but “at no time during this meeting did Judge Schrader disclose that she had any direct knowledge of this monitoring, or that she had hired Ward, Karic and Kramer to do so.”

The judge also recorded the meeting “through a video on her phone without (Porter’s) knowledge or consent,” Porter wrote in the affidavit.

On March 15, when the GBI interviewed Schrader, she accused Porter of hacking her computer, Porter’s affidavit said.

“Because Judge Schrader has alleged that I committed a criminal offense against her, I have grounds to reasonably question her impartiality in any criminal case that my office handles before her,” Porter’s affidavit said. “This is further supported by the fact that Judge Schrader has surreptitiously recorded our private conversations without my knowledge or consent, while feigning ignorance of the very individuals she had employed and allowed to access the entire Gwinnett County Computer network.”

(3) AGED, BUT NOT GOLDEN. Is reviewer Christopher Priest so eager to lash out at a writer who died 30 years ago, or was this an irresistible opportunity to downcheck a favorite of some of his living American colleagues? He reviews Farah Mendlesohn’s The Pleasant Profession of Robert A. Heinlein for The Spectator: “Robert A. Heinlein: the ‘giant of SF’ was sexist, racist — and certainly no stylist”.  

…Mendlesohn describes how Heinlein, who when younger had made a well-earned name for himself as an author of serious and innovative speculative fiction, became a rotten writer in the second half of his career. He always told stories well, but his style was execrable. From Starship Troopers (1959) onwards, his books had an endlessly hectoring, lecturing tone, almost always phrased in long and unconvincing conversations full of paternalistic advice, sexual remarks, libertarian dogma and folksy slang. Reading one of his later novels produced the weird effect of meaningless receptivity: you could get through 20 pages at a gallop, but at the end you couldn’t remember anything that had been said, by whom or for what reason. The next 20 pages would be the same (but seemed longer).

… At the end of the war he began a series of juvenile novels, aimed unerringly at young readers but told in the same didactic voice. These novels, not published in the UK until years later when Heinlein was famous, had a profound effect on their American readers. There is still today a generation of middle- aged and elderly American science fiction writers for whom Heinlein is in a position of seminal influence, similar to Hemingway in other literary circles. Heinlein’s influence on modern American science fiction is not universal, but still detectable….

(4) SWATTER GETS 20 YEARS. On December 28, 2017 Andrew “Andy” Finch was killed when police officers in Wichita, Kansas responded to a 911 call about a hostage/murder situation. Tyler Barriss, who made the call, has now been convicted and sentenced: “20 years for man behind hoax call that led to fatal shooting”.

A California man was sentenced Friday to 20 years in prison for making bogus emergency calls to authorities across the U.S., including one that led police to fatally shoot a Kansas man following a dispute between two online players over a $1.50 bet in the Call of Duty: WWII video game.

U.S. District Judge Eric Melgren sentenced Tyler R. Barriss, 26, under a deal in which he pleaded guilty in November to a total of 51 federal charges related to fake calls and threats. The plea agreement called for a sentence of at least 20 years — well over the 10 years recommended under sentencing guidelines. Prosecutors believe it is the longest prison sentence ever imposed for the practice of “swatting,” a form of retaliation in which someone reports a false emergency to get authorities, particularly a SWAT team, to descend on an address.

(5) LIKE A JAWA MARRIOTT. Take one look at the picture and you can have no doubts: “The upside down hotel said to have inspired Star Wars faces demolition”.

Much of the shooting for the original Star Wars movies took place in Tunisia, and legend has it that one local landmark made a powerful impression on its creator, George Lucas.

The influence of Hotel du Lac in Tunis, shaped like an upside-down pyramid with serrated edges, would later be seen in the fictional Sandcrawler vehicle used by the Jawas of the Tatooine desert planet in the film.

(6) WOMEN AT THE FOREFRONT. The Bustle lists “12 Female-Driven Sci-Fi & Fantasy Novels That You Definitely Don’t Want To Miss”. One of them is —

‘The Priory of the Orange Tree’ by Samantha Shannon

A millennium ago, a powerful, evil dragon, known only as the Nameless One, was locked away in the Abyss. The people of three nations want to keep the dragon sealed away, but fear that his return is imminent. In Samantha Shannon’s sweeping new fantasy novel, three women, one from each nation, must join forces if they want to keep their world safe.

(7) ADVANCED DEGREES. As Women’s History Month winds up, Yahoo! Entertainment explores the “Six Degrees of Peggy Carter: Why the S.H.I.E.L.D. Founder Is the Lynchpin of the Entire MCU”.

While there may not be direct links from Peggy to every single Avenger, her status as a founding member of S.H.I.E.L.D. links her intrinsically to the heroic group and their efforts to save the world from evil time and time again. So here is a very unofficial, fan-centric look at the impact Peggy Carter has had on the MCU, and the ways in which she helped bring Earth’s mightiest heroes together as a team. “All we can do is our best,” after all….

2. Iron Man

A “self-made man” in the same way that Kylie Jenner is a self-made billionaire, Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) likely spent his childhood years on the receiving end of some very disapproving glances from his father’s friend and close confidante. Howard’s working relationship with Peggy — sans fondue, of course — is established in The First Avenger, but their friendship is explored even further in Agent Carter’sstellar two-season run on ABC. The pair teamed up to save the world more than a few times, forging a bond so strong, it’s impossible to believe that Peggy wasn’t a part of young Tony’s life — and that she didn’t have an impact on the hero he grew up to be.

And besides that, if Howard had died in Agent Carter’s season one finale, as he came very close to doing, Tony would have gotten scrubbed from the timeline, Marty McFly-style. Thanks, Aunt Peggy.

(8) CLASSIC TREK CONTRIBUTOR At Den of Geek, “Star Trek’s D.C. Fontana Talks the Origin of Spock’s Family”.

… For fans of Star Trek: Discovery, specifically, Fontana’s script for the animated episode “Yesteryear,” has been the visual and thematic backbone of nearly all of Discovery Vulcan-centric flashbacks in the second season, which has informed this version of Spock’s character. And, for those who love Spock parent’s— Amanda Grayson and Sarek—Fontana is the person who straight-up invented them.

…In The Original Series, Amanda and Sarek only appeared in “Journey to Babel,” written by Fontana. But, because that episode also featured a huge diplomatic summit on the Enterprise, this also means she created several of the big classic Trek aliens, too, including the Andorians and the Tellarites, who have both made huge appearances in Discovery first two seasons.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born March 30, 1904 Herbert van Thal. Editor of the Pan Book of Horror Stories series ran twenty four  volumes from 1959 to 1983. Back From the Dead: The Legacy of the Pan Book of Horror Stories is a look at the series and it contains Lest You Should Suffer Nightmares, the first biography of him written by Pan Book of Horror Stories expert Johnny Mains. (Died 1983.)
  • Born March 30, 1928 Chad Oliver. Writer of both Westerns and SF, a not uncommon occupation at that time. He considered himself an anthropological science fiction writer whose training as an academic informed his fiction, an early Le Guin if you will. Not a terribly prolific writer with just nine novels and two collections to his name over a forty year span. Mists of Dawn, his first novel, is a YA novel which I’d recommend as it reads similarly to Heinlein. (Died 1993.)
  • Born March 30, 1930 John Astin, 89. He is best known for playing as Gomez Addams in Addams Family, reprising it on the Halloween with the New Addams Family film and the Addams Family animated series. A memorable later role would be as Professor Wickwire in The Adventures of Brisco County, Jr., and I’d like single out his delightfully weird appearance on The Wild Wild West as Count Nikolai Sazanov in “The Night of the Tartar” episode. 
  • Born March 30, 1948 Jeanne Robinson. She co-wrote the Stardance Saga with her husband Spider Robinson. To my knowledge, her only other piece of writing was ‘Serendipity: Do, Some Thoughts About Collaborative Writing ‘ which was published in the MagiCon Program. (Died 2010.)
  • Born March 30, 1950 Robbie Coltrane, 69. I first saw him playing Dr. Eddie “Fitz” Fitzgerald on Cracker way back in the Ninties. Not genre, but an amazing role none-the-less. He was Valentin Dmitrovich Zhukovsky in GoldenEye and The World Is Not Enough, with a much less prominent role as a man at the airfield in Flash Gordon being his first genre role. Being Rubeus Hagrid in the Potter franchise was his longest running genre gig. He’s also voiced both Mr. Hyde in the Van Helsing film and Gregory, a mouse, in The Tale of Despereaux film.
  • Born March 30, 1958 Maurice LaMarche, 61. Voice actor primarily known for such roles as Pinky and The Brain (both of which Stross makes use of) with Pinky modelled off Orson Welles, the entire cast as near as I can tell of Futurama, the villain Sylar on Heroes, the voice of Orson Welles in Ed Wood, a less serious Pepé Le Pew in Space Jam, and, though maybe not genre, he’s voiced Kellogg’s Froot Loops spokesbird Toucan Sam and  the animated Willy Wonka character in Nestlé’s Willy Wonka Candy Company commercials. 
  • Born March 30, 1990 Cassie Scerbo, 20. She’s only here because in researching Birthdays for this date, one site listed her as being a member of the cast of Star Trek: Progeny, yet another of those video Trek fanfics. Though IMDB has a cast listed for it, that’s about all I could find on it. If I was betting a cask of Romulan ale, I’d wager this was one of the productions that Paramount got shut down three years back. 

(10) IN THE ZONE Some TV history leading up to the Jordan Peele reboot, in the New York Times: “‘The Twilight Zone’: Here’s Why We Still Care”.

Today we live in a world where the words “Twilight Zone” are used as an adjective whenever anyone wants to describe stories (or real-life events) that are fearless, insightful, ironic and just a little bit spooky. And that theme song was killer too.

(11) FLIGHTS OF FANTASY. NPR’s Etelka Lehoczky analyzes a new graphic novel: “In ‘She Could Fly,’ A Teen Wrestles With A Host Of Psychological Mysteries”.

“Would you rather be able to fly or turn invisible?” It’s the archetypal party question. It was already popular way back in 2001, when This American Life addressed it, and the years haven’t lessened its appeal. As recently as 2015, Forbes posed the question to 7,065 “business and professional leaders … across the globe” and Vulture brought it up with the stars of Ant-Man.

Fly, or turn invisible? The question’s popularity is probably due to its uncanny psychological subtext. The two powers don’t seem to conflict at first, but a closer look reveals that they represent opposing tendencies. To fly is to be triumphant, dominant, powerful. To be invisible is to recede, to hide.

Christopher Cantwell nods to this duality in She Could Fly, a graphic novel whose protagonist wishes she could fly and feels like she’s invisible…
Luna seems to be suffering from a particularly intense form of obsessive-compulsive disorder, but she hasn’t been diagnosed or received any treatment. Taking it for granted that there’s no help for her, she shuts out such well-meaning people as the aforementioned guidance counselor. Luna has only one source of hope, and it’s a doozy: A mysterious woman spotted flying, superhero-style, around the skies of Chicago.

(12) MODERN MILSF. Andrew Liptak intends this as a compliment, I wonder if Hurley takes it as one? In The Verge: “The Light Brigade is a worthy successor to Starship Troopers”.

The world Hurley presents in The Light Brigade is a feudalistic nightmare, and makes a sharp commentary on the growing influence and dangers of a world ruled by corporations. Corporations control all aspects of the lives of the citizens, from the information they have access to, to how they’re educated and where they live, their lives given up to supporting whatever unknowable corporate goals their overlords have planned. It’s a perverse twist on Heinlein’s arguments about serving to earn citizenship, which implied that one has to earn their freedom through service. In Hurley’s world, freedom is an illusion. It doesn’t matter what you do, you end up serving your host corporation.

(13) THEY’LL SCARE THE CHOCOLATE OUT OF YOU. If you thought this happened only in Monty Python, not so, says Open Culture: “Killer Rabbits in Medieval Manuscripts: Why So Many Drawings in the Margins Depict Bunnies Going Bad”.

In all the kingdom of nature, does any creature threaten us less than the gentle rabbit? Though the question may sound entirely rhetorical today, our medieval ancestors took it more seriously — especially if they could read illuminated manuscripts, and even more so if they drew in the margins of those manuscripts themselves. “Often, in medieval manuscripts’ marginalia we find odd images with all sorts of monsters, half man-beasts, monkeys, and more,” writes Sexy Codicology’s Marjolein de Vos. “Even in religious books the margins sometimes have drawings that simply are making fun of monks, nuns and bishops.” And then there are the killer bunnies.

Hunting scenes, de Vos adds, also commonly appear in medieval marginalia, and “this usually means that the bunny is the hunted; however, as we discovered, often the illuminators decided to change the roles around.”…

Numerous illustrations at the link.

(14) SURVIVAL AT STAKE. “Tasmanian devils ‘adapting to coexist with cancer'” – BBC has the story.

There’s fresh hope for the survival of endangered Tasmanian devils after large numbers were killed off by facial tumours.

The world’s largest carnivorous marsupials have been battling Devil Facial Tumour Disease (DFTD) for over 20 years.

But researchers have found the animals’ immune system to be modifying to combat the assault.

And according to an international team of scientists from Australia, UK, US and France, the future for the devils is now looking brighter.

“In the past, we were managing devil populations to avoid extinction. Now, we are progressively moving to an adaptive management strategy, enhancing those selective adaptations for the evolution of devil/DFTD coexistence,” explains Dr Rodrigo Hamede, from the University of Tasmania.

First discovered in north-eastern Tasmania in 1996, the disease has since spread across 95% of the species’ range, with local population losses of over 90%.

(15) CAMELIDS VISIT COMIC CON. Two events in the same facility find they are unexpectedly compatible.

(16) PLATE SPECIAL. AMC’s series based on the novel by Joe Hill premieres June 2. Here’s the NOS4A2 “A Fight For Their Souls” official trailer.

[Thanks to Nancy A. Collins, JJ, Mlex, Steven H Silver, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, Cat Eldridge, Chip Hitchcock, John King Tarpinian, Carl Slaughter, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Soon Lee.]

89 thoughts on “Pixel Scroll 3/30/19 ///Pixel.Scroll.Comment Is In The Middle Of Nowhere In Australia

  1. When I started to read Sixth Column, some 35 years ago, I thought the book was about aliens. It talked a lot about these “panasians” and I of course thought they were from the planet Panasia. Why else this stuff with killing themselves all the time and behaving in totally weird way. I just didn’t understand when they invaded earth.

    So yes. Racist. They didn’t even seem human.

  2. I haven’t read The Human Factor either, but I’ve spent the last couple of hours doing a good bit of reading about it.

    Most of it was spent attempting to find this engineered disease that only killed black people.

    And yes, I finally found it. Maurice Castle, MI6 officer now working a desk job in London, is told a leak has been traced to his unit. His junior, Davis, is determined on flimsy evidence to be the source of the leak. Davis is, to everyone’s annoyance but not outrage, murdered with an aflotoxin by a doctor who is totally sure he’s doing the right thing.

    But the real leaker is Castle. Communists helped him get his black African wife out of South Africa after she was imprisoned for her political activities. (Late 70s; apartheid, remember.) This humanized the Communists for him and he’s been a double agent ever since.

    After Davis is killed, he tells his handler he has to stop, because continued leaks will expose him. But then he’s given a memo about a “final solution” to the problem of black opposition to the capitalist regime in South Africa. Yep, something that will kill only black Africans. Of course Castle leaks it, and of course he was given a special version with key phrases so that its leaking could be definitively traced back to him.

    The disease doesn’t have to work to serve its function in the novel. Its function is that everyone knows Castle will be horrified by it, horrified enough that he’ll leak it even though if he has the brains God gave a gnat he knows it will probably reveal him as the leaker.

    I am not seeing any parallel here to what Greene did in The Human Factor and what Heinlein did, based on Campbell’s outline, in Sixth Column.

  3. Hampus Eckerman on April 1, 2019 at 7:36 am said:
    When I started to read Sixth Column, some 35 years ago, I thought the book was about aliens. It talked a lot about these “panasians” and I of course thought they were from the planet Panasia. Why else this stuff with killing themselves all the time and behaving in totally weird way. I just didn’t understand when they invaded earth.

    So yes. Racist. They didn’t even seem human.

    Hampus, have you ever seen the movie “Letters from Iwo Jima”?
    Or “Samurai”? The Code of Bushido apparently calls for suicide instead of dishonor. I didn’t see any suicide in Sixth Column that wasn’t of that sort.

    And when Commodore Perry showed up in Japan, I’m pretty sure the locals considered him to be from another planet, because his culture was so totally outside their frame of reference that they didn’t know what to do.

    I still haven’t seen anything specific being presented as racist. The sooperdooper sekret weapon is based on biology that was far less sophisticated than our current knowledge. Blood types were still a relatively new thing, with their discoverer being awarded the Nobel Prize in 1930.

    And ‘orientalism’ as a racist trope wasn’t defined that way until 1978.

    The atrocities committed by the invaders weren’t anything special as atrocities go. They just used sci-fi weapons to commit them.

    Guys, please, all I’m asking is some definite, specific things in the book that indicates racism. I keep coming back to Heinlein’s writing it so as to minimize the rather more overt racism of Campbell.

  4. @Techgrrl And ‘orientalism’ as a racist trope wasn’t defined that way until 1978.

    It’s quite hard to know how to respond to this. You do understand that orientalist attitudes had existed for a very long time before Said coined the term?

  5. Regarding allegations of racism in “Sixth Column,” the best counter-argument is the way Frank Mitsui, an Asian-American, saves the day at the end of the book. A white scientist, Ledbetter, appalled that the heroes want to bring back the Constitution rather than create a new system ruled by smart people, tries to mount a coup by taking control of the death ray and tuning it to kill white people. Frank attacks Ledbetter, who has to reset the death ray in order to kill him. This gives the rest of the team time to take him down. Although Frank dies, he clearly dies a hero.

    That may just be Heinlein trying to subvert Campbell’s racism, but, if so, I remember being impressed by it as a kid. (It has been 50 years since I read the book, but that scene has stuck with me.) Anyway, in light of that, I took all the criticism of the PanAsians to be cultural, not racial.

  6. I ahve nto read this book, but the defences of how it isn’t racist here are convincing me both that it is incredibly racist and I never want to get near it.

    So far, it seems like the argument *against* it being racist is:
    – We were okay with locking up Japanese Americans at the same time and were in a war where some people from Asia were on the other side, so trope screaming of Yellow Peril Propaganda are okay.
    – Well, people are locking up a different minority right now, and a percentage of the wider population are okay with that (NONE of which, I hope, regularly post here – if you do, you are a terrible human being), so an equivalent or worse atrocity is not racist.
    – Bushido (A code used by a subculture of one of the many different Asian cultures, and not even adhered to that strictly within it) specifically calls for suicide over dishonor so the stereotype of suicidal panAsian people is okay.
    – The science behind a weapon meant to kill only one race might not be sound by our understanding now but understanding then was more limited, so the very concept of a weapon that kills a whole “race” of peoples is just fine.
    – ONE good, culturally assimilated person of the same bloodline saves the day, whilst conveniently dying tragically so nobody has to give him heroic recognition and actually live with his presence in their community.
    – We didn’t have a word specific to this kind of prejudice against Asians then, so prejudice against Asians was okay.
    – some of the criticism is of the culture, not the skin tone, and advocating genocide towards the culture is okay.
    – lots of this kind of racism was around then, so it appearing in this fiction is okay.
    – Our culture would seem weird to them, so treating them as if a cultural difference makes them not even human is okay.

    Seriously, NONE OF THIS IS OKAY. Maybe Heinlein tried to find ways to smooth over and even critique the underlying idea he was handed, but he still used the idea, and the idea was crap from the start.

    And if you can’t tell the difference between a war story set based on an actual war in which “the other side” happens to be Vietnamese or Japanese or Korean*, as actually happened, versus a mass PanAsian invasion playing on Yellow Peril terrors (complete with taking the worst of some subcultures and making them true across the entire mass)

    * Even where this is true, seeing them as humans, even if those humans are enemy combatants, should be the norm not the exception — and it says something of our war films that they aren’t always. Even Nazis were human — and pretending they aren’t is how we have their actual successors walking around with people making excuses how they aren’t the same thing at all.

  7. I can quite believe Heinlein tried very hard to mitigate and subvert the racism inherent in the prompt he was given; he also tried very hard to avoid sexism, most of the time. It’s probably important to give credit for that effort, overall, since it stands out from many of his contemporaries. The thing is, Heinlein was still swimming in that soup, and sometimes he messed up. Intent isn’t magic. That doesn’t mean Heinlein is or should be cancelled but I don’t see the point in trying to shelter his work from criticism.

  8. Lenora Rose: When I was a young sf reader trying to get my hands on all the work by my favorite writers, I had to wait for them to put this one back into print (not yet knowing how to find old prozines). And once I read it I was a little surprised they had. If I’d really been a sensitive reader I’d have been a lot more surprised.

  9. @Sophie Jane —

    The problem with Heinlein/Campbell’s “Asian blood”(*), of course, is not just the spurious biological distinction between races but more importantly that it’s a literal treatment of the rhetoric of purity and pollution that’s used to justify white supremacy.

    Oddly enough, I was listening to the brand new book Winter of the Witch by Katherine Arden just yesterday — and there’s a scene in which Vasya, the main character, gets one of her allies to sniff out two Russians hidden within a large group of Tatars, literally by scent — I’m not talking about individual scent, because the ally didn’t know either person, I’m talking about “Russian” scent as a generalized concept.

    So — is Arden a racist?

  10. I don’t think anyone should be cancelled, per se. I mean, I’m against actual hate speech or active and conscious racial supremacy but there’s a lot of unconsidered and unconscious prejudice that happened and still happens. And I don’t wish books out of existence that exist — especially from historic eras — even if I refuse to read them myself, and thus do technically contribute to the market slowly easing them back out of print.

    And I agree that Heinlein made an effort (Farnham’s Freehold was a crash and burn — and that seems to be the consensus among the black people I know in particular* – but it was an effort. This one sounds like less awareness and less of an effort but also earlier in career…) I’m more boggled at some of the defenses raised in his name than I am at the description of the content of the book itself.

    * Most of the black people I know, I know through social justice circles and blerd activism, which might skew the results. At minimum, it skews them towards black people who know who Heinlein is in the first place. And it’s not like I actively poll people on their opinions when I meet them. Heinlein just comes up weirdly often when it comes to the subjects of classic SF and current social justice.

  11. @ Contrarius

    So — is Arden a racist?

    My initial reaction is “depends on what kind of handwaving accompanies the act.” If the handwaving tends towards racism, yeah. If not, then maybe not. But I see where you’re going—just the whole sniffing act would be suspicious to me except that witches are supposed to have keen senses of smell.

  12. Sniffing might work if people are from cultures with sufficiently different food – maybe one is vegetarian and the other eats a lot of seal. I understand that talented noses can smell that in your sweat. Or you could have hygiene differences, I suppose. Say culture X favors jasmine soap and culture Y likes rose. But those are not racial differences.

  13. The Day After Tomorrow (aka Sixth Column) was one of the earliest SF books I read as a child, when I had just discovered Heinlein. I both loved it and hated it. It has always been a source of grief to me that the book is wonderful in a science-fictional way — using a cult-like faux religion to sneakily overcome the enemy, with the religious “miracles” the result of actual “science”! — while the source of that “science” was hugely racist.

    I have often wondered how the book could have been written to tell the same story without the racism. I wish that someone more talented than me would have written that book.

  14. @JJ: Fritz Leiber’s Gather, Darkness has some of the same themes as 6th Column, with considerably less racism (as far as I recall).

  15. @Lis Carey: I am complimented that you spent so much time researching The Human Factor. It’s a wonderful book, right on the line between Greene’s “serious novels” and his “entertainments”. It didn’t surprise me to learn John Barnes is a big fan of Greene’s, as he shares Greene’s inability to write entertainments that don’t have heft.

    What The Human Factor and Sixth Column have in common is that both are about two bad actors coming into conflict. Had Campbell had his way, Sixth Column would have been unspeakable. As it turned out, the Panasian official in charge of the occupied US was more sympathetic than the racist US scientist who snapped and nearly wiped out the resistance base, having previously proposed a coup based on superior people–such as himself, a Smart Guy–ruling the world. The only other evil scientist-like figure I can think of offhand in Heinlein is Simes in Starman Jones, who is there to contrast with Hendrix.

    As we know, the US engaged in racist imagery and propaganda directed against the Axis powers and their people. We acknowledge that, just as we acknowledge that Germany and Italy were racist would-be empires. The US is reluctant to say the same about Japan, due to our rightfully guilty conscience from Bombing them, but it’s still so. Imperial Japan was not an innocent party. They didn’t follow the US script for racism, but they still subjugated and oppressed millions of people who didn’t look like them, and did serious damage to the US in the course of empire. Was it right to stir China, Japan, and Russia into a Panasian Empire? It was a turn WW II could have taken, so maybe it was fair.

    The Human Factor is also about a war between two bad actors. In regard to South Africa, the SU was the good guys and the US was the bad guys. The US did its damnedest to keep a small white minority in power over a nation of Africans and the SU did its damnedest to put them out of power. If development of a Western genocide bioweapon that selectively killed Africans wasn’t entirely plausible to a seasoned Western intelligence analyst, there wouldn’t’ve been a story. Of course, it was a lie on the part of the SU. As I said, two bad actors on both sides in both stories. But the SU getting a political activist out of prison and out of the country was a good, if self-serving, act.

    If you focus on the mechanics of the fictional weapons, you’re looking in the wrong place.

    Suppose instead of a death ray you tune by ethnicity, suppose the superweapon in Sixth Column was a massive army of AI-backed drones, taught to kill anyone who looked Asian. Which is to say, a massive invading army and a very small number number of Asian US citizens. Would that also be wrong? What exactly is there which a subjugated people should not ethically do to drive out an army of invaders? Would it have been wrong to magically get enough firearms and a commanding position from which to use them, and to kill every member of an invading army? You’d be killing the same people, and identifying many of them ethnically.

    That is an ugly story. Heinlein made it more antiseptic by devising a weapon similar to a neutron bomb, except it distinguished among people rather than between people and buildings. That’s an understandable thing to do when you are in the middle of a war you didn’t start, against an aggressor who attacked first and who committed atrocities.

    It’s still an ugly story written like it is, but it’s the ugliness of the dance of nations more than simple racism.

    That said, there’s still considerable racism in the story. The Panasian culture is not pulled out of thin air, but I’d agree it is influenced by Orientalism. (I think Heinlein also wanted to kill off Soviet Russia ideologically first, which he did.) There’s definitely racism in the story. Just not as much as one thinks, and not always on one side. There’s a lot of reason to the idea that racism is bigotry plus power. Americans in particular and Westerners in general take it as common sense that they have the power. That’s as true of leftists as of rightists and all those in between, though they express that belief in power in very different ways.

    One running theme through Heinlein’s works is that America isn’t going to last forever, any more than any other country or empire lasts forever. There’s no Farnham’s Freehold without that, just as there’s no “If This Goes On…” and no Friday. When it does last, as in The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress, it’s often a mean country, just as racist in the future as it was in Heinlein’s lifetime. I don’t fully agree with Jo Walton that the juveniles are mostly dystopias, but there’s enough in what she says to make the argument credible. When you take that log point of view, the sins of the US aren’t so exceptional. Neither are our virtues, nor will be our eventual fall.

  16. @JJ: That is almost exactly how I feel about The Day After Tomorrow, which is the name I bought it under when I was young. So much about it is absolutely wonderful, just like Beyond This Horizon, and yet one is a eugenicist utopia and the other literally makes distinctions on the basis of good and bad blood.

  17. @Rob —

    But I see where you’re going—just the whole sniffing act would be suspicious to me except that witches are supposed to have keen senses of smell.

    In terms of our discussion, it doesn’t matter whether anyone has a keen sense of smell or not — the point is that Arden is saying there are racial differences to be detected (the Russians would be “white”, while the Tatars would be “Asian”, originally Mongol).

    And I think it’s pretty dumb to call that racist.

    In real life, we know that there are many genetically based differences between ethnic/racial groups, and many of those differences lead to different diseases. For instance, blacks have a much greater incidence of sickle cell anemia, Ashkenazi Jews have a much greater incidence of cystic fibrosis, and so on. And that’s before we even mention the obvious genetic differences leading to differing physical appearances.

    So it’s entirely plausible that a weapon could be designed to target racial differences with some degree of accuracy. For example, maybe it would home in on large amounts of melanin in the skin. Or whatever.

    And imagining such a weapon wouldn’t make someone a racist.

    I think we all need to remember that “equal” (as in “all humans are created equal”) doesn’t mean “identical”. We can celebrate our differences instead of pretending to not notice them.

  18. John A. Arkansawyer: you are vastly overestimating how many people in a competing army are traditionally killed in a given conflict if you think “wipe out the entire invading force and incidentally a few of our own” is anything like usual or acceptable or necessary casualties before an invading force retreats and sues for peace.

    WWI came closest and even that was cumulative over time, and sadly equally distributed. WWII was harder on civilians thanks to bombing raids — and especially the two most significant bombs at the end — whilst being less awful on the actual soldiers, not exactly a trade-off I agree with. But even the fire-bombing of Dresden and the hits on Hiroshima and Nagasaki were not anything like the rate of absolute genocide you posit as “no different”.

    Meantime, in the real world, the US AND Canada both decided that a policy of abusing and locking away (and stealing land and wealth from that we kept after release) our own people who happened to look like one of the Axis forces was an acceptable price to pay in wartime, not too unlike deciding “oops, this superweapon will kill a few of our own in the course of driving out an invasion, but that’s okay” as far as moral choices go, and we now consider that a shameful black mark against us, not justified by the Imperialistic and genocidal natures of our opponents after all.

    Contrarius: imagining such a weapon isn’t racist? Maybe not as an abstract, and it’s certainly possible for a non-racist fictioneer to put such a thing in the bad guys’ hands as an extrapolation of things some horrible people would do. Because they might. (And I do recall these books are just that; fiction wrestling with that question. Although a mite too comfortable sounding with proposing the thought experiment at all) But.

    What use could it be put to that wasn’t racist?

    That you can argue a thing might be more plausible than we make it out to be doesn’t make it less racist when the only feasible purpose can be defined as “kill them but not us”. Especially when there is no, zero, not one group of “them” it could be turned on that doesn’t at this point hit some of “us” because they happen to match a given profile while missing some of “them” because they don’t. And see above about that trade off of deciding to dispose of human beings who look like the bad guys but live with us and how it worked out in this world and in my own country.

    And that feels like a pretty wild misuse of “celebrating our differences”, usually a concept of egalitarian thought meant to challenge those who still think equality means racial colourblindness.

  19. @Contrarius: that’s an interesting bit of handwaving, but it doesn’t get around @Lenore Jones’s comment about diet (which was my first thought — and I don’t remember that scene, but I do remember Vasya’s being repelled by fermented milk, which I would expect to have an effect on smell if taken regularly). More important is that this is a fantasy; the author is not claiming, as you do, that there’s a scientific line between races/ethnicities/what-have-you — all the cases you cite are statistical rather than making clear borders. (Edit: a point I see @Lenora Rose make much more thoroughly.)

  20. @Lenore —

    “Contrarius: imagining such a weapon isn’t racist? Maybe not as an abstract, and it’s certainly possible for a non-racist fictioneer to put such a thing in the bad guys’ hands as an extrapolation of things some horrible people would do. Because they might.”

    Oh, absolutely. I am reacting only to Sophie Jane’s comment — about a supposedly “spurious biological distinction between races” and “literal treatment of the rhetoric of purity and pollution that’s used to justify white supremacy” — not to the thought of actually using such a weapon.

    What I’m saying is that the author is not racist for coming up with it; the character would be racist for wanting to use it.

    @Chip —

    “More important is that this is a fantasy; the author is not claiming, as you do, that there’s a scientific line between races/ethnicities/what-have-you — all the cases you cite are statistical rather than making clear borders. ”

    Please don’t put words in my mouth — I never said anything about a “line” or a “clear border”. There are very obviously gradations between, especially these days.

  21. Contrarius, I believe you were responding to Lenora Rose, not me. Not that I don’t agree with her, because I do.

  22. @Lenore —

    Contrarius, I believe you were responding to Lenora Rose, not me. Not that I don’t agree with her, because I do.

    Woops, apologies!

  23. Andrew: Fritz Leiber’s Gather, Darkness has some of the same themes as 6th Column, with considerably less racism (as far as I recall).

    Ooo! That’s one of the e-books I picked up for free back in December 2016 when Open Road Media had a huge number of books available for $0.00 for a short time! Thanks!

  24. Contrarius on April 1, 2019 at 6:56 pm said:

    So it’s entirely plausible that a weapon could be designed to target racial differences with some degree of accuracy. For example, maybe it would home in on large amounts of melanin in the skin. Or whatever

    This post, and a few of them below it.

  25. @Lenora Rose: You can’t commit genocide against an army that has, without provocation, invaded your country, slaughtered your citizens, and subjugated your nation. Genocide and war crimes are, at that point, being committed against you, and anything you do to soldiers and their non-military counterparts who are on your soil is self-defense. By any other standard, one reaches the conclusion that the various African peoples who lost over a hundred million citizens during the European invasion shouldn’t’ve tried to kill every one of the invaders, or that the Native American peoples who lost tens of millions to the European invasion should have just lied down and died.

    It’s very hard for Americans to imagine themselves in that position, because we are so used at this point to being the Big Swinging DIcks of the world, but every dog has its day. Every empire falls, every country disappears, every civilization collapses. It’s not a thought I care to dwell on. It’s healthier to contemplate my own death.

    In Sixth Column, there’s a moment when the soldiers in possession of the superweapon consider retreating to an unconquered democracy and industrializing the weapon there for use. If they had done that, it’s quite possible the country to which they retreated would have realized they themselves had just become the next target for a genocidal empire. The devil’s logic of escalation and deterrence might well have led to a genocidal, pre-emptive strike against the empire’s homeland. The soldiers in the novel rejected that notion on pragmatic grounds, but had they considered it, they might well have decided that it’s better to exterminate an army than a nation.

    Or maybe not. Gar Alperovitz makes a good argument in Atomic Diplomacy that Japan was nuked to keep the Russians from arriving in time to claim a bigger share of the spoils of war. I suspect the understandable but wrong desire for vengeance on the part of Americans made that decision a lot easier. And that war was already won. Among others, Paul Fussell notably argued in Thank God For The Atomic Bomb that fewer lives were lost by the Bombings than would have been lost in an invasion. Maybe that’s so, but the alternative of a siege against a tiny island nation, out of allies, would have been even less destructive, though long and expensive, and could be ended at will.

    These are really ugly thoughts which I don’t enjoy thinking, but I grew up with Mutual Assured Destruction on one side of my mind and the Holocaust on the other. It’s left me with a revulsion toward violence and a resolution to see violence through once it is sufficiently inflicted upon me.

    And now, blast from the past about a song whose author assures us…well. Listen for yourself to the cheerful optimism of Randy Newman:

  26. @Contrarius

    My point is that the fictional weapons in The Day After Tomorrow are a reification of a common racist trope. I’m not sure what arguments about the science of race-based weapons add to that. It might help to remember that race is a social construct, and applying science to it generally doesn’t end anywhere useful or productive.

    I also notice that we’ve lost all mention of the Yellow Peril and orientalism? I wonder how that happened?

  27. @Sophie Jane:

    My point is that the fictional weapons in The Day After Tomorrow are a reification of a common racist trope.

    That is a fact and there is no way around it. You can’t shine shit with superscience. I have literally heard, in BIrmingham, Alabama, a white girl tell a black boy their blood was different. This was sometime in 2001-2002, contemporaneous with the last trial over the bombing which killed those little girls.

  28. Regarding sniffing out the enemy, I do recall hearing that in Vietnam the NVA could smell out the Americans rather easily, because the American diet and cultural habits (like smoking, and using aftershave) gave them a very different odor that was obvious even to the unaided human nose. It may have worked in the other direction, as well, but I’m less confident about that. I do not, however, have a cite for this; it’s just one of those things mentioned in some documentary or other, so take it with the amount of salt that seems reasonable to you.

  29. John A. Arkansawyer: So in your mind there is no ground called “Driving out the invader” that doesn’t involve or justify slaughtering them to the last man AND some of your own side in the process? Because that is NOT what is needed to drive out an invader. The Germans were not slaughtered to a man before they freed France. The Reconquista did not kill every Moor in Spain. That’s not how it’s done.

    And yes, killing every last one of them when a lesser assault makes them go back home is still genocide. That they, in invading your land, might also be committing genocide does not justify it. You cannot excuse war crime levels of deliberate and calculated overkill by self defense. Period.

    And how you go from “Do not commit genocide in retaliation for attempted genocide” to “should just lay down and die”, without acknowledging the VAST number of options in between for fighting back, I don’t know.

    Even Hiroshima and Nagasaki did not kill everyone in those cities, much less everyone in Japan, or everyone in Japan’s armies.

    America is dying right now, by the way, at least as what it wishes to present itself to be. I’m pretty sure your fondness for America does not extend to a fascist dictatorship that happens to carry the same name.

  30. @Sophie Jane —

    My point is that the fictional weapons in The Day After Tomorrow are a reification of a common racist trope.

    But I don’t see how you make the progression from “bad weapon” to “racist author”.

    Disclaimer here: I haven’t read the story in question, so I’m talking entirely about principles, not the story’s actual content.

    For me, I’d have to know how the author treated the concept he’d come up with. Is it the good guys who want to use this weapon, or is it the bad guys? If the weapon is seen in the story as a Good Thing by the Good Guys, and if the result of using that weapon is seen as a Good Thing in terms of the story’s outcome, then it would be fair to call the author racist. But if the weapon is seen in the story as a Good Thing only by the Bad Guys, or if the consequences of its use are seen to be a Bad Thing in terms of the story’s outcome, then not so much.

    Another extrapolated example occurs to me, one that might trip fewer people’s triggers — Ender’s Game and Speaker for the Dead. Humans wipe out the entire Formic species because of what is perceived to be an existential threat to humanity. Most of humanity rejoices, but Ender feels extreme guilt.

    Was OSC a racist (in this case speciesist) for coming up with the idea? Was he a racist for the way his idea was utilized in the story?

    I’m not sure what arguments about the science of race-based weapons add to that.

    I was just pointing out that there *are* biological differences involved. Yes, those differences have fuzzy edges — but that doesn’t make them nonexistent.

  31. @Contrarius: I am not putting words into your mouth; I’m reading your claim

    So it’s entirely plausible that a weapon could be designed to target racial differences with some degree of accuracy. For example, maybe it would home in on large amounts of melanin in the skin. Or whatever.

    @Cassy B: a biologist I used to know claimed that there had been a project to try to sniff VC/NV forces on the covert move by picking up the scent of fish sauce, and that this had been countered by hanging containers of fish sauce randomly around the ~jungle. I’m also unsure of this story because the person reporting may have chosen the sardonic (which they commonly aimed for) over the strictly accurate, but I don’t find it unbelievable.

  32. @Chip —

    My claim, and the passage you quoted, say nothing at all about lines or clear borders. “Some degree of accuracy” is not at all the same thing as “100% accuracy” or “entirely without error”. Again, please stop inventing things I haven’t said.

  33. @Contrarius: “I haven’t read the story in question”

    It’s a very short novel, a quick read, and quite good as a work of SF, some of Heinlein’s best imaginative work bound to some of Campbell’s worst ideology, which means it does have problematic aspects. I don’t think they’ll squick you. I recommend that you read it. I might not recommend it to everyone.

  34. @JJ

    Ooo! That’s one of the e-books I picked up for free back in December 2016 when Open Road Media had a huge number of books available for $0.00 for a short time! Thanks!

    And now it’s a Hugo nominee!

  35. @Lenora Rose:

    So in your mind there is no ground called “Driving out the invader” that doesn’t involve or justify slaughtering them to the last man AND some of your own side in the process? Because that is NOT what is needed to drive out an invader. The Germans were not slaughtered to a man before they freed France. The Reconquista did not kill every Moor in Spain. That’s not how it’s done.

    And yes, killing every last one of them when a lesser assault makes them go back home is still genocide. That they, in invading your land, might also be committing genocide does not justify it. You cannot excuse war crime levels of deliberate and calculated overkill by self defense. Period.

    I go back and forth on this. Some days I feel as you do, that the minimum of violence necessary is always the best choice. Other days, I walk outside and look at all the Confederate flags and think Lincoln should’ve told Sherman to finish the job. The minimum of violence enabled the South to eventually prevail in the Civil War.

    Most days, I feel as you do. Sunday was the Trans Day of Visibility. A permitted event was held at our state capitol. A rightist group showed up to get physical and disrupt the event. They laid hands on people. The police finally sent them away. As they left the grounds, they said they’d be at another event in a nearby city. So today, I don’t.

    I’m committed to non-violence past the point of reason. I don’t want to prepare for violence, even in self-defense. I want to make absolutely sure we’ve given peace every chance we can, even if it means taking significant damage in the process. And once that’s been done, I won’t give much of a damn for a good long while thereafter.

    I’m a little scared currently to go back to where my family is from on my mom’s side. I never felt that way before. Not when I had long hair, not when I had dreadlocks, not ever. But now I do. I don’t want to be sleeping with the fishes. Not even in the pristine and beautiful Buffalo River.

  36. Whereas I am fine with friends of mine who consider “Punch a Nazi” reasonably defensible as pre-emptive self defense, though it is not in me personally to hit first so long as they are in no position to implement the kinds of laws they desire. (It IS in me to hit second, including on behalf of someone beside me, but that’s another discussion) But I would consider the (So far as I know never seriously suggested) suggestion to round up and shoot every person who chanted “Blood and Soil” in Charlottesville to be reprehensible and descent to their level.

    I think when it comes to what we would actually do, we’re on similar ground, with a similar concern for where the world is heading. The US is heading there faster than Canada, but we have the same symptoms (I used to argue that our conservatives were not on the same level of racist reactionary as your Republicans, but now they seem to be more and more including and even embracing white supremacists, and Doug Ford is stripping the province next door in a way that doesn’t even pretend to be democratic and is definitely corporatist. (Our Conservatives are at least pretending at democracy and budget balancing as their reasoning.)

  37. @Contrarius: now you’re misquoting me; I said nothing of 100%. Just what do you think “some degree of accuracy” means? 80%? 50? 20?

  38. @Chip —

    now you’re misquoting me; I said nothing of 100%.

    Baloney, Chip. You accused me of claiming lines and clear borders, which was simply false.

    Get over it.

  39. @Lenora Rose: It would be reprehensible and it would descend to their level. I wouldn’t do it, myself. If my memory serves, it also would’ve meant the leader of the gang that showed up at the Capitol that Sunday wouldn’t’ve been there, so I can’t say as I’d’ve cried if someone had. But it’d still be wrong. I hope I still feel that way in ten years.

    This discussion makes me sad. I wanted to live in the future, but the one I thought we were about to have. This one isn’t shaping up so well. But I remain optimistic.

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