Pixel Scroll 6/16/16 Schroedinger’s Kzin

(1) ARM-WRESTLING WITH A PUBLISHER. Kristine Kathryn Rusch sees writers as too prone to follow rules, and too prone to think themselves as powerless in the face of contractual language: “Business Musings: Thus, Lawyers, and Writers (Contracts/Dealbreakers)”.

Lawyers aren’t afraid of thugs and goons and cartoon characters that go bump in the night. They’re not afraid of someone who plays the Big Dog and says, You’ll never work in this town again. Lawyers generally say, Well, let’s see.

Lawyers know there’s usually a solution—and it’s often as simple as standing up and saying to the person on the other side of the contract, I’m not playing your silly game. No. I’m not doing it. Now, what are you going to do?

…. Here’s the bottom line, people. I know a bunch of you are stuck in contracts you don’t like. Publishers are reinterpreting contracts in whole new ways, ways that they never looked at in the past.

The big shift is that publishers no longer see themselves as manufacturers and distributers of books. They’re running a rights management business, which means taking advantage of the full copyright on a property, instead of licensing a tiny part of that copyright. (If you don’t understand that sentence, get a copy of the Copyright Handbook. If you’re too damn lazy or cheap to do that, at least see this blog post of mine.)

(2) ATWOOD. “Margaret Atwood awarded 2016 PEN Pinter Prize”.

Canadian poet, novelist and environmental activist Margaret Atwood has been awarded the 2016 PEN Pinter Prize. She will receive her award at a public event at the British Library on the evening of Thursday 13 October, where she will deliver an address.

Margaret Atwood was chosen by this year’s judges Vicky Featherstone, Zia Haider Rahman, Peter Stothard, Antonia Fraser and President of English PEN and Chair of Judges, Maureen Freely.

The judges praised Atwood as a ‘consistent supporter of political causes’, adding ‘her work championing environmental concerns comes well within the scope of human rights … she is a very important figure in terms of the principles of PEN and of Harold Pinter’.

Atwood said:

I am humbled to be the recipient of the 2016 PEN Pinter Prize. I knew Harold Pinter and worked with him – he wrote the scenario for the film version of The Handmaid’s Tale, back in 1989 – and his burning sense of injustice at human rights abuses and the repression of artists was impressive even then. Any winner of such an award is a stand-in for the thousands of people around the world who speak and act against such abuses. I am honoured to be this year’s stand-in.

(3) GUY WITH A GUN. Bruce Arthurs wrote about this army experience in 2012 after the Aurora theater shooting, and it’s relevant again this week: “Shots In The Dark, or, How I Became A Sharpshooter”.

Several ammo clips later, I and the other trainees have finished the Night Firing exercise and gather around to get our scores. I get a high score.  I get a surprisingly high score.  I get an astonishingly high score, far above the type of scores I’d gotten during daytime firing exercises.  I get a score so high that suddenly I’ve moved up into Sharpshooter-level numbers. That Holy Shit guy?  He skunked it.  Didn’t hit a single target. Well, let’s revise that statement, because it doesn’t take much time or brains to figure out what happened.  In the dark, with everyone firing around him, with multiple targets and multiple dim flashes, he’d gotten his orientation just slightly off and had been shooting at the wrong target.  The target of the guy next to him.  At my target.


(5) FIRST FIFTH. Joe Sherry continues his series at Nerds of a Feather with “Reading the Hugos: Novel”. Number five on his ballot is: The Aeronaut’s Windlass:

Butcher’s novel is the only finalist not on my nomination ballot. Prior to last year, I was completely unfamiliar with Butcher’s work. I knew that it existed, but until Skin Game‘s nomination, I had never read anything Butcher wrote. Happily, Skin Game was a solid read and one that I vastly preferred over the eventual winner, The Three-Body Problem. The Aeronaut’s Windlass is the first volume in a steampunk epic fantasy series from Butcher. I like it more than Skin Game, and I’m happy to be getting in on the ground floor of the series rather than jumping in at Book 15 like I did with the Dresden Files. The setting was fantastic (airships and insanely tall towers), but what drew me in was the characters. Gwen, Benedict, Brother Vincent, Bridget Tagwynn, Rowl, Captain Grimm, and pretty much everyone across the board are what sold me on this book. These are characters I would love to spent more time with.

This is one of those spots on my ballot that I could realistically swap positions with the next one up. I think Seveneves is an overall a better book, but I enjoyed The Aeronaut’s Windlass just about as much as I did Seveneves, just in different ways. They are two very different sorts of novels, and I’m down for more of Butcher’s Cinder Spires series, but Seveneves gets the nod today.

Sherry’s first installment was – “Watching the Hugos: Dramatic Presentation Long Form”.

(6) CONCLUSION OF FROZEN SKY. “Jeff Carlson has finished his Frozen Sky trilogy and the third book is by far the biggest and most ambitious of the 3 books,” reports Carl Slaughter. Frozen Sky 3: Blindsided was released June 11.
Carl interviewed Jeff in 2014 for Diabolical Plots. He was nominated for the John Campbell and Philip Dick awards and has been published in Asimov’s.

The aliens in The Frozen Sky are intelligent, but they look a bit like squids, they don’t speak and they don’t have sight. Why not bipedal aliens like Vulcans or Klingons or Romulans with vocal cords and eyes?

Because I’m not constrained by a production budget! Ha. “Let’s glue some ears on him. We’ll glue some forehead thingies on them. Okay, we’re done.”

Star Trek is good fun but limited in presentation. That’s the beauty of being a novelist. The medium requires the reader’s imagination. Yes, I direct the action, but hard sf readers are smart readers. They want to be strangers in a strange land. So I can say, well, I have this claustrophobic three-dimensional low-gravity environment like the mazes of an ant farm inside Europa’s icy crust. What would kind of creatures would evolve here? Six-foot-tall bipedal creatures like people? Heck no.

Jeff’s other series is the Plague series.


(8) EARLY WRITING. Jami Gray gets a great interview — “Hugo award winner, Seanan McGuire visits with latest InCryptid novel!”

Many writers have that first novel which will never see the light of day. Out of curiosity, do you have one stashed somewhere? Inquiring minds want to know: what was your first attempt at writing and how old were you?

My first serious attempt at writing was a fourteen-page essay when I was nine, explaining to my mother why she had to let me read Stephen King. It had footnotes and a bibliography. I finished my first book when I was twelve. It was called Dracula’s Castle, and if I knew where it was, I’d probably put it online.

(9) MORE STORIES. Editor Glenn Hauman’s Indiegogo appeal to fund the Altered States of the Union anthology has an update – “We’re annexing new territory!”

The response to the concept behind Altered States has inspired a lot of authors to join in the fun, so we’re proud to announce we’re expanding the book by almost 60%, adding new stories by:

  • Russ Colchamiro
  • Peter David
  • Keith R.A. DeCandido
  • Robert Greenberger
  • Meredith Peruzzi
  • Aaron Rosenberg
  • David Silverman & Hildy Silverman
  • Anne Toole

(10) A BOOKSTORE NEAR YOU. Dutch writer Thomas Olde Heuvelt will be on a book tour in the US in June and July, courtesy of TOR. The trip includes three appearances in California, including an LA-vicinity stop at Dark Delicacies Bookstore in Burbank on the evening of Tuesday, July 19.


(11) MEDIA STRATEGY. Vox Day’s tells followers at Vox Popoli that his new philosophy is “Don’t talk to the media!”

In light of my ridiculous experience with Wired and after seeing how multiple media outlets turned to George RR Martin and John Scalzi to ask them to interpret my actions, I now turn down most media requests. I do so literally every week; I just turned down two yesterday alone. The media is not in the business of reporting the news, they are in the business of selling their masters’ Narrative.

(12) A MAD GENIUS ON THE HUGOS. Kate Paulk devotes half of “Hugo Awards – The Nominee Highlights – Best Fanzine” to criticizing Gregory Benford’s intention to vote for Steve Stiles in the Best Fan Artist category. Yet his reasons for supporting Stiles — Steve’s years of accomplishment as a cartoonist — parallel my reasons for voting for Toni Weisskopf as Best Pro Editor in 2015.

(13) PRINCE OF TIDES, THE GREAT SANTINI. George R.R. Martin urges readers to donate:

Pat [Conroy] passed away in March… but his books will live on, and so will his memory. In his memory, his family has now establishing a Pat Conroy Literary Center in his beloved home town of Beaufort, South Carolina. You can read about it here: http://patconroyliterarycenter.org/ A worthy project, I think. I’ll be donating. I urge all of you who love good writing to do the same.

(14) LOOKING FOR LAUGHS? The B&N Sci-Fi & Fantasy Blog is enthusiastic about Joe Zieja’s humorous Mechanical Failure.

Comedy is a tricky beast, especially in science fiction. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy is unquestionably a towering achievements of the form, but after than, opinions vary wildly (we’d wager John Scalzi has equal numbers of fans who either want him to stop trying to be funny, or to stop writing books that are so serious). It’s rare in genre to find a book that can do satire without being preachy, comedy without being entirely silly (not that a little silliness is a bad thing), and still manage toss a little “science fiction” into the mix. Joe Zieja’s debut novel, Mechanical Failure (the first part of the Epic Fail trilogy, which gives you a hint as to what you’re in for) makes as good a bid as we’ve seen in quite some time, diving headfirst into full-on military SF parody and making it look easy.

(15) UPJOHN OUTPACED BY REALITY? Alexandra Erin’s facing a challenge that reminds me of the one Garry Trudeau faced while producing Doonesbury during the Watergate era — it’s hard to be more absurd than real life.

Mr. Upjohn’s post-con report from WisCon is still forthcoming; it’s evolved and grown a few times since the con actually ended as I took reality onboard , which once again has made parody seem tame. When actual flesh and blood con attendants are decrying the “dystopian” tape lines designating travel lanes on the crowded party floor, I clearly need to step up the game.

Meanwhile, Erin writes, “I’d really love to close out my WorldCon fundraiser” – still needs $375.

(16) CHANGE OF ADDRESS. Juliette Wade has ported her TalkToYoUniverse content to her Dive Into Worldbuilding site.

Introducing the Dive into Worldbuilding Workshop at Patreon!

Dive into Worldbuilding started in 2011 – five years ago – when Google+ introduced their hangouts feature and I decided it would be fun to hang out with fellow writers and talk about worldbuilding. Since then, it has grown and changed, from just a bunch of friends meeting online with no record except my written summaries, to a meeting that got recorded and sent to YouTube, to a show featuring a wide variety of guest authors as well as regular topic discussions. With each change, my goal has been to reach a wider variety of interesting people, listen to more interesting views on worldbuilding, and share insights with as many people as possible.

Today, I’m taking it a step further with the Dive into Worldbuilding Patreon – which is also the Dive into Worldbuilding Workshop.

This Patreon will do more than just support my research into panel topics. It will help me to pay my guest authors for their time and expertise – but it will also let me help more of you.


  • June 16, 1816 — At the Villa Diodati, Lord Byron reads Fantasmagoriana to his four house guests—Percy Shelley, Mary Shelley, Claire Clairmont, and John Polidori—and challenges each guest to write a ghost story, which culminates in Mary Shelley writing the novel Frankenstein, Polidori writing the short story The Vampyre, and Byron writing the poem Darkness.

[Thanks to Petréa Mitchell, Vincent Docherty, Michael J. Walsh, Carl Slaughter, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.]

191 thoughts on “Pixel Scroll 6/16/16 Schroedinger’s Kzin

  1. If you crave that experience of reading old pulps ( ads for Rosicrucianism, correspondence plumbing courses, and trusses) without the hassle of then having to vacuum the floor for moulted yellow paper scraps, then you can read scanned issues of the relevant magazine issues serialising the retro-Hugo novels at:

    Gray Lensman by E.E. “Doc” Smith (Astounding Science?Fiction)

    The Reign of Wizardry by Jack Williamson (Unknown)

  2. On Heinlein’s Double Star, it’s been a long time since I read it, or even re-read it, but I sort of remember a line with one of the political handlers saying something like, “It doesn’t matter if the game is dirty if it’s the only game in town.”

    Huh. Just leaving that there.

  3. (12) I nominated Steve Stiles, thanks much, and so I’m voting for him. He’s the only legit candidate on the ballot (never forget, Teddy slated a kiddie porn artist). And I saw work he did this past year as well as his previous decades.

    (7) I like half the leading ladies and don’t like the other half. However, the movie looks like it might be fun, and Hemsworth as a dork makes me giggle. Will probably wait for actual reviews from fannish folk and go to a matinee if it’s good.

    OK, even if Impala missed the packet, @Joe Sherry directly pointed her to it. And possibly other people have. Certainly File 770 has mentioned it. So at this point, Ms. Impala is adding “how to get the Hugo packet” to her stock of Willful Ignorance. Does she actually read anything other than her own blatherations?

    And speaking of bad communication, she hasn’t said boo about Puppy Safe Space Party plans, has she? MACII put up the rules and fees for those ages ago, about the same time they put up the park idea. 770’s got TWO fully-furnished parks, Kate; have you managed to come up with one party? Which will be catered by someone else so you don’t even have that hassle. All you have to do is pay the money, tack up some decor, and it’s instant party! Or are there too few Puppies going to attend to make it worth it? Or are they too cheap to pitch in and expect you to pay it all?

    I’d love to see an actual left-wing news source in America. MSNBC tries, but even they have the odious Morning Joe. Rachel Maddow is carrying the whole damn network and even she’s left-center-left (along the pattern of west-southwest). And anyone who calls it the “Democrat” Party is operating in bad faith.

    @robin: Thanks for the link! Great interview.

    @Simon: lovely.

    @Chip Hitchcock: Not to mention, they didn’t have a duplicate or triplicate paper copy? Stuff gets lost or destroyed even without theft.

  4. [3] GUY WITH A GUN
    Coupled with yesterday’s

    I liked this essay suggesting a small, reasonable, practical change that would have a huge impact in mass shooting situations like Orlando, without undue compromise of the civil rights of lawful gun owners.


    [11] MEDIA STRATEGY. Weirdly, this is something he’s almost right about. The news is in the business of crafting narrative, not reporting facts. This is actually desirable. A bunch of random facts with no narrative shaping would be meaningless to most people. And yes, even a very fact-based narrative is always going to have some bias to it.

    But that’s not what he’s complaining about here. He’s complaining about media sources NOT being biased TOWARD him. You know, how dare they talk to two best-selling authors who don’t like what I’ve done! How dare they present the objective facts, which make me look like a jerk!

  5. @Peter J:

    @Jim Henley:
    A few years ago I came across an account of a Brit attempting to explain UK politics to an American which made much the same point from the reverse angle, as it were. The essential part ran something like:
    “The Prime Minister is the leader of the party which won most seats at the last General Election. At the moment, that’s the Labour Party, which you would call socialist.
    “The main opposition is the Conservatives, or Tories …
    (pause for reflection)
    “… which you would call socialist.”

    Heh. The sad thing is, though, that while our GOP in the Trump era is becoming more like a European far-right party, your respectable conservatives are becoming increasingly Americanized. This is a sore point with some folks on the list, but it certainly looks like, e.g., the Tories are dismantling as much of the British welfare state as they can get away with while setting up the conditions for further dismantlement later. (Such as cutting the budget of the NHS so it performs worse, making it a riper target in the future.) Meanwhile the ECB demands austerity of debtor nations but frowns on trying to close budget gaps with tax increases rather than spending cuts.

  6. Re: “political-malfeasance-by-political-party”, confirmation bias, reporting bias, etc:

    Here in America, there are something on the order of a HALF MILLION elected officials; and something like 60% of them are Republicans.

    IF malfeasance was equally distributed (and I for one would need to be persuaded that it actually is) – as well as equally reported – then one would be likely to hear of nearly TWICE as much Republican misbehavior as Democratic misbehavior.

  7. Now I’m wondering if Beale understands that blogging/tweeting are also “media”…
    one can only hope.

  8. @Hampus: “Sometimes I wish I could be quietly passionate.”

    Don’t do that. Think of the neighbors! 😀

    @lurkertype: (MSNBC)

    Love Maddow. Doesn’t take herself too seriously, admits it when she messes up, does her research, invites Republicans, and listens to her guests. I wish there were more pundits like her, regardless of viewpoint.

    @McJulie: (AR-15 link)

    That’s a good article. Thanks for the link.

  9. McJulie: I liked this essay suggesting a small, reasonable, practical change that would have a huge impact in mass shooting situations like Orlando, without undue compromise of the civil rights of lawful gun owners.

    I’m going to disagree with you about liking that essay. I agree with what he proposes, but it’s not enough, not near enough — and I totally disagree with his claim that the meaning of the Second Amendment is clear-cut and immutable. It’s not, and I’m tired of gun owners claiming that it says things it doesn’t say. 😐

  10. As a right pondian I’m largely staying out of the gun control debate here. Though I will note that Police Scotland’s recent decision to allow firearms officers to carry openly at all times without checking with Parliament first caused a major stramash. Ultimately they were told to go back to keeping them locked up unless they were actually needed.

    I’m much happier living in that sort of society frankly. Even though to me any weapon is just a tool, they’re just tools I have no need for.

    I also remember reading a good article linked from here at Stonekettle Station Which made a lot of sense.

  11. @IanP:

    That Stonekettle Station article’s suggestions seem eminently sensible to me. I’ve suggested some of those propositions myself, but not with that level of detail and specificity. (Naturally, when I uttered such things in the presence of those he calls “gun fetishists,” I was instantly denounced as a far-left gun-grabber. Funny how that happens – despite those same fetishists bragging about how responsible they are and how much care they take with their precious weapons. Almost as if they’re willing to give lip-service to responsibility, right up to the point where they could be held responsible…)

  12. Beale wrote that piece because he was bored, not getting enough attention and as a way to signal to his followers how important he his: he gets calls from media every day and is powerful enough to turn them down – what will the sunday funnies do now?

    He’s a pathetic piece of narcissistic trash that needs near-constant ego-stroking to remind himself of his trashiness. If he were a Futurama character, it would be Langdon Cobb without the acting chops.


  13. That magazine capacity thing can largely be overcome by training, sad to say. Training in changing magazines quickly, training in situational awareness, tactical, CQB training – all of which are available to the average citizen (usually for a fee).

    That one time you hear/think the shooter is down for reloading – mmmm, maybe not. Maybe they just want you to think they’re down for reloading and have a couple waiting for you.

    Of course we’ve been fortunate that most mass shooters are mentally unstable and not operating on all cylinders when they blow, and, as odd as it sounds, we’ve also been lucky that jihadists are seemingly more interested in “going to heaven” than they are in killing infidels, otherwise, they’d be capable of doing far, far more harm than they have to date.

    I can immediately think of three things they’ve not done (none of them) that would turn these “sprees” into multi-day affairs (remember the DC Sniper? Can’t find ’em, can’t end it), but will refrain from detail out of a sense of responsibility.

    None of these shooters have been “trained”, thank goodness.

  14. @Steve Davidson–

    Yes, you are quite right; none of these shooters have been “trained.”

    We have a major, ongoing problem with people either emotionally unstable or inspired by political extremism deciding to go out in a blaze of glory.

    We don’t have a major problem with trained, disciplined agents of a foreign power operating inside the US.

    Limiting magazine size to something sane would help. Universal background checks for gun purchases would help. Letting doctors talk to patients about guns, and funding epidemiological research on gun violence would help.

    The fact that these steps wouldn’t prevent every mass shooting, and especially that they wouldn’t address a problem we don’t really have right now is not an argument against doing them.

    Seriously. What a pernicious version of letting the perfect be the enemy of the good! 🙁

  15. @Steve Davidson:

    Juxtaposing for effect…

    That magazine capacity thing can largely be overcome by training, sad to say.

    None of these shooters have been “trained”, thank goodness.

    This is exactly why I regard capping mag size as a Good Idea. No, it’s not an insurmountable handicap to the very skilled, but it IS a handicap and Joe Killemall is frequently not highly skilled. Thus, it imposes a handicap on the spree shooter which can be overcome by someone with more training and – one hopes, at least – better intentions. You know, like THE POLICE. Especially SWAT members.

    I feel the same way about most other measures that are called useless because someone with sufficient skill is able to defeat them, up to and including “guns really aren’t that hard to make from scratch, if you have access to decent-quality metal and the right tools.”* Sure, that’s as may be, but getting that material and learning those skills constitutes a significant hurdle that “I feel like buying a gun and a crapton of ammo tonight” does not.

    Hurdles make a difference.

    * Yes, I’ve actually heard that one used as a serious argument in support of the position that any kind of gun ban is futile. Anyone wanna guess which con I was attending at the time?

  16. Hey, I wasn’t advocating against more/better controls, I was only pointing out that this one thing is not a panacea:

    Here’s my thinking on “guns in ‘Merica”

    1. far too easy to get
    2. not nearly enough (if any) training/education required for licensing/purchase
    3. simple logic: if there were NO guns in society, no one would ever be killed or injured by one
    4. the desire to open carry in public suggests that the individual has “issues” and would probably not pass a psyche evaluation for ownership (if we required such things)
    5. if you really need one for “protection” of your home/business/etc., – it ought to be provable (and one of the first qualifiers ought to be those who have been stalked/subject to domestic violence, etc., and none of this “it was just a lovers quarrel BS)
    6. the electronic guns that can only be operated by their owner ought to be encouraged (NRA has a hand in preventing them from being commercialized)
    7. I largely believe that focusing on a technological aspect of the problem (ban high capacity magazines, ban “assault” weapons, ban calibers, ban rate of fire, ban whatever) are mostly window-dressing: they’ll stop or slow down the casual, but not the determined, and it is, I believe, the determined who do the most harm). I would much rather see sensible licensing, background checks, mandatory training and an application process that takes far longer than it does now. At the very least, do them like driver’s licenses – requiring re-certification on a regular basis and confiscation when it is not passed.
    8. close the hole with gun shows, private sales and online sales; violators should be banned permanently from ownership
    9. recognize that with ANY guns (or cars, or explosives, or) present in society,we’re still going to pay a price as a consequence of trusting people with lethal items.
    10. at least fund the CDC to study and gather data so we can talk about fixes based on fact, not NRA punditry.

    Am I against limiting magazine capacity? How much ammo a person can purchase as a thing? No. I just don’t believe that those solutions will have all that much of a positive effect.

    (FYI: plenty of gun dealers were selling high capacity mags during the ban because they were “pre-ban” manufactured. And boy where there a lot of them – the factories must have upped their capacity right before the ban to account for so many “pre-ban” mags flooding the market. Either that, or it was “creative accounting” on the part of gun dealers/mfg who suddenly had a product on their hands that they could increase their margins on four-fold….)

  17. @Chip-Hitchcock:

    Those astrogation books were kept in book form so that the Astrogators Guild could control them.

    I also believe that RAH’s constant reference to slide rules and log tables was deliberate, even in the face of knowing that one day ENIAC would not require an entire building. RAH considered the ability to do math by oneself an essential skill for any “citizen” (he’s why I took slide rule in high school).

    The above is also why I have grave concerns about NASA’s new “glass” capsule; if the electronics go, there’s no ability to step outside, take a sighting over iron sites and get the ship back on course.

    Fortunately, our heroes will always have eidetic memories, rendering all of the guild’s security measures moot….

  18. I don’t want to take Larry’s guns away. I do think that the Stonekettle Method is a wry and effective way to regulate their use.

  19. Good list, Steve.

    Let me add requirement to renew license every 2-5 years. And law against drunken carrying. And requirement on secure storage at home.

  20. Dann: ” leftward bias in the American media”

    Monty Python: “Howls of derisive laughter”

    Sorry, but no. Not just compared to other countries that others better qualified than me have point out, but compared to the vast numbers of ordinary Americans I’ve met. Of course the latter is mere anecdata, but the former is not.

    For that matter, I have never managed to detect “leftward bias” in the mass media of any country I’ve lived in, they’ve all been great stalwarts of the Establishment. As one might expect given economics etc. – one hardly expects anything mainstream to be seriously anti.

    steve davidson: “we’ve been fortunate that most mass shooters are mentally unstable”

    Fortunate? That’s like you can imagine that it is mentally stable and reasonable for someone to go out and kill a whole load of other people. People that they (usually) don’t even know personally. I could not disagree more. There is a reason that “most” (???!!!!) mass shooters are “mentally unstable”, and that is that it is a crazy thing to do. (No insult intended to harmless crazy people here. I know lots of harmless crazy people, who are just as horrified as normal sane people by these homicidal maniacs.)

  21. Y’know, everyone wants to stop mass shootings.

    But most (I think) people would like to see mass shootings stopped before they begin

    Whereas the gun rights absolutists only want to see mass shootings stopped after the killing has started. And the only acceptable method of stopping a mass shooting is… killing someone. (I guess because, otherwise, where’s the fun in it? Or something.)


  22. @lurkertype: these were tomes, not sheets (or even tomes of sheets like present-day Jeppesen charts). OTOH, ISTR that the tomes were supposed to be navigators’ guild ]secrets[ — which seems like a hell of a way to run a spaceship. (There’s no indication of competition, so these aren’t like, say, the Portuguese maps of Africa.)

  23. @Takamaru: what I was trying to get at was, the same deranged thinking that led to an attack probably also prevented the attacker from being more efficient in their mayhem; they were so enraged they didn’t stop at home for the extra magazines, didn’t chain ALL the doors on the building shut; didn’t mine the parking lot in anticipation of first responders; didn’t call in bomb threats all across town to draw first responders away…etc., etc.

    @Hampus – I think I had renewal requirements in there….

    Here’s another aspect to this general discussion: I’ve read in numerous places where folks pontificate on the future of technologies that it won’t be long before the technological capability to engage in mass destruction is readily available to the individual (cheap, easy to use, etc) – if we’re not there already.

    Seeing as how HS students have already built A-Bombs (properly constructed and workable even if lacking the fissile material); anyone could collect enough radium watches to make a bomb that would appear “dirty” to sensors, people are already using “home genetic engineering” kits, I’ve seen some pretty awesome flamethrowers on Youtube, and a batch of chlorine gas is only Comet and Bleech away – I think the contention is a reasonable one.

    With that being the case – what do we do? Other than education, I mean. As a species, we’ve pretty much already proven that if we have a technological capability, we will use it to cause harm (use it for good too, but that’s beside the point).

    We are apparently incapable of halting technological advance, as well as the dissemination of information. We’re pretty much agreed on the idea that “people” ought to have “freedoms”, which most seem to assume includes being able to purchase the cleaning products of one’s choice.

    Do we allow governments to watch everyone and everything 24/7? To pre-emptively arrest people who might be up to no good? Or what?

  24. @Steve Davidson: In fact, Omar Mateen in his 911 call told police there were three snipers outside the building who would shoot them if they tried to assault the club, and that he was going to put some hostages in suicide vests.

  25. Making things very much harder? Yes, yes and yes. Which is exactly what we are after.

  26. Making things very much harder? Yes, yes and yes. Which is exactly what we are after.

    “Harder” from our current POV. But if 3D printing technologies continue to improve in quality and ease of use and continue to fall in price, it will be trivially easy. Think of an example like illegal types of porn. Before the late 1990s/early 2000s, producing it was a difficult prospect because–since you obviously couldn’t send it off to a commercial developer–you had to set up your own darkroom and learn how to use it (or use some sort of black-market, underground developer if you could find one.) Now? It is trivially easy to produce whatever you want using a universally available, high quality digital camera. Want to produce prints? Also trivially easy with universally available, high quality and cheap inkjet printers. If you want other printing options, there are also less cheap but still available color lasers, die subs, and others.

    I’m confident that—while never becoming exactly like a cornucopia machine–decent 3D printing technology will sooner rather than later become as everyday as digital cameras and inkjet printers. And good luck herding that can of worms.

  27. I think a lot of the murders are spur of the moment things, like suicides. There were still knives in British kitchens after they switched the ovens from coal gas to natural gas. You could still kill yourself–it was only a little bit harder. And yet suicides dropped by a third by requiring just that little bit of extra effort and resolve.

    If making it harder cuts the murder rate by a third, that’s totally worth doing. Let’s try it.

  28. No gun control regime can be perfect or instant, nor needs to be. Until a scary black man got elected president, the household gun-ownership rate dropped from 50% to 30% over a 30-year period. The household rate is much more important than the average guns/person figure, because the household rate better indicates how many people have quick recourse to a weapon when the urge to lash out or self-harm strikes.

    So what can work is a de-proliferation program involving buybacks, waiting lists, storage requirements, technology restrictions, carry limitations, strict liability and time. “Time” here means up to a generation. If no special effort can drive the household rate from 50 to 30, actually trying can take it from 30 to 20, or 15. Or lower. The point is not to eliminate all guns tomorrow. It’s to make real improvements incrementally over time. Patience allows cultural change to happen. Marginalism keeps the perfect from being the enemy of the good.

  29. As noted the US has not had a problem with automatic weapons (loosely – machine guns) in a long time. Even though they are legal to own there are enough restrictions in place to minimize them falling in the wrong hands.

    That leads to the most straightforward regulation: amend the National Firearms Act of 1934 to include semiautomatic rifles and pistols. This wouldn’t impact existing owners until the weapons were transferred. It would immediately impact manufacture and sell of new weapons. It immediately closes out the private sales and gunshow loopholes and ensures background checks more thorough than any conducted today for these weapons and also mental health status is considered. It also has 72 years of constitutional law to back it (though certain states like Montana are currently working to undermine it and, of course, in Citizens United the Supreme Court was perfectly willing overturn a century of law). You’re talking likely a couple lines of amendment and maybe funding some additional BATF investigators.

    Whether you could pass it, in the current political environment, is an entirely different question. If a minor amendment can’t be passed all the rest of the discussion is relatively pointless.

    With all that said, if you really want to impact violence statistics the way is reducing income inequality and poverty while improving access to education, mental health care, and improving the social safety net. Mexico, for instance, with tight gun laws, has a lower gun death rate than the US (about 3/4) but a higher rate of homicides from all means (about triple the rate). I’d contend it’s social factors. Gun violence is a symptom of underlying issues not some spontaneous thing arising on its own.

  30. Catching up a bit but as far as I could see this possibility wasn’t mentioned for Kate’s lack of notification about the Hugo packet. Does she actually have a membership? There’s no Paulk’s in the membership list. According to isfdb.org, that is her legal name. She could have asked to not have her name listed, but that’s seems contradictory to her wanting her presence to be know.

  31. I know I’m not the only one who really, really gets tired of hearing that all mass murderers are “mentally unstable”. This is effectively a magic-word argument; it allows us to imagine that there’s no way an ordinary sane and functional human being would ever do such a thing, while simultaneously increasing the stigma on people with diagnosed mental/neurological conditions.

    The people who do this kind of shit are, increasingly, sane and rational except on this one particular point. They are functional in society. They are capable of long-term planning to carry out their goals — “just snapped” is another bullshit phrase I’d like to see taken out of circulation. They do these things not out of mental instability, but out of social encouragement.

    The usual name for the sort of thing I’m talking about is “stochastic terrorism”, but I recently heard a much better version that doesn’t require people to know esoteric math to understand: “outsourcing the violence”. These hate crimes are the desired outcome of an entire industry in America, whose components start with the gun manufacturers and spread out from there to include hate radio, organized hate groups, right-wing blogs and news channels, and even individual members of Congress. the constant drumbeat about “Second Amendment Solutions,” people posting pictures of liberal politicians with crosshairs over them, the race to the bottom in the comments on any article about a “controversial” topic* where the haters try to outdo each other in describing the depth of the atrocity they’d like to commit — these all feed into the increasingly-common decisions of individuals to act on those ideas. It’s mob mentality with a generous helping of Pontius Pilate from the people at the top. “WE would never have condoned such a thing. WE are shocked, shocked we say, that someone might have taken us at our collective word. WE offer our thoughts and prayers (but nothing else except more of the same) to the friends and families of the victims.”


    * And may I also say that I am FUCKING SICK AND TIRED of hearing civil rights for all citizens, freedom of religion, and economic justice described as “controversial”?

  32. @Lee:

    Very agreed on the “mentally unstable” or “mentally ill” canard, as well as the rest of your post (but the “mental illness” part is specifically what I wanted to comment on).

    There’s a certain list of default reasons that pop up as soon as someone opens fire in this country, and merely looking at that list tells you a lot. A black guy is assumed to be a criminal, and his background is scoured for evidence of that; even a parking ticket will do. (Not even that? Well, he must have been smart enough not to get caught yet. Check out his friends, relatives, neighbors…) Muslim, terrorist, game over. Brown skin means he’s an illegal immigrant, running drugs, or both. I’m sure just about everyone here can fill out the rest of the list with little effort.

    White, though? Well, he’s clearly not in his right mind, and we’re obviously not talking about “safe” diagnoses like depression or anxiety or anything else public figures have prescriptions for in their own medicine cabinets. No, this guy must have been barely half a step away from a straitjacket and shock therapy! What other reason could there be, and who can we blame for not catching this clearly-in-retrospect dangerous person before they acted? (Certainly nobody in the legal power structure. Pin it on family, friends, work associates – you know, people who are too busy grieving to put up a fight.)

    It’s just part of the need to “other” killers as quickly as possible, and no justification is off-limits. Race, class, wealth, religion… find something that sets them apart from People Like Us, and do it fast. Otherwise, right-thinking people of an approved skin tone might think we have a problem and expect lawmakers to do something about it…

    (Do I need to make my disgust for that line of reasoning explicit, or did it come through okay?)

  33. Stoic Cynic:

    “Gun violence is a symptom of underlying issues not some spontaneous thing arising on its own.”

    Both, actually. Otherwise we would see much higher firearm homicide rates in countries as Romania, Hungary or Estonia.

    It has been proven again and again and again that the availability of firearms are one of the main reasons for increased number of homicides.

  34. I would say that while poverty and high difference in income might be reason for higher crime and homicide rates, the problem with masshootings are about entitlement, gunculture and gun availability.

  35. And the main cause of firearm deaths is suicide. And that is about 100% based on gun availability.

  36. 100% is possibly an exaggeration. Say 75% as examples from Australia gave us.

  37. A few things leap out from the CDC’s statistics:

    Males take their own lives at nearly four times the rate of females and represent 77.9% of all suicides.

    Firearms are the most commonly used method of suicide among males (56.9%).

    In 2011, middle-aged adults accounted for the largest proportion of suicides (56%), and from 1999-2010, the suicide rate among this group increased by nearly 30%.

    The industry has prevented research through its various mouthpieces, but it’s still possible to guess the state of a man who ends his life with a gun.

  38. @Hampus Eckerman

    Mass shootings are the rarest gun death event and the least likely to be influenced by gun laws. Europe has its share of mass shooting events. Granted most, but not all, of these involve ideologically motivated attackers using, usually, illegal weapons but that probably doesn’t matter much to the victims. Also Oklahoma City, Boston, London, etc. involved bombs not guns.

    Suicide is a tricky subject. A lot of countries have much higher overall suicide rates than the US with much tighter gun control laws. Historically this has included Sweden and Japan. While gun control might remove an impulse option it isn’t a panacea. (Speaking of which, serious interest, what did Sweden do to lower its suicide rate? It went from one of the highest in the world to less than most oecd nations over the last 20 years. I can’t seem to find any particular why though. Just that it has dropped spectacularly).

    Accidental deaths probably would see a reduction from gun control. The problem is most of the laws proposed in this thread already exist in most US jurisdictions. It’s already illegal to be drunk with a firearm. That one will get prosecuted generally. Otherwise most prosecutors don’t have a taste for pressing negligent homicide or manslaughter charges against grieving families even for things like violating trigger lock laws or just plain stupidity.

    That brings us to homicide and other violent crimes. Typically these occur at much higher rates in countries with under developed social safety nets. This is where I think we really need to address other factors than guns.

    This not to say further restrictions aren’t worth pursuing. If a patient had a fever of course you try to reduce it but ultimately you need to address the underlying cause and not just the symptoms.

  39. @Stoic Cynic–

    Mass shootings are the rarest gun death event and the least likely to be influenced by gun laws. Europe has its share of mass shooting events. Granted most, but not all, of these involve ideologically motivated attackers using, usually, illegal weapons but that probably doesn’t matter much to the victims. Also Oklahoma City, Boston, London, etc. involved bombs not guns.

    And yet, mass shootings are not just less common, but dramatically less common in countries that are culturally very similar to the US, but have tighter gun laws. Any UK citizen can probably name every mass shooting they’ve had there in the last ten years. In the US, few people could name every mass shooting that happens in a given week. Because yes, we have several every week, and they don’t all make the national news because there’s nothing distinctive or newsworthy about them beyond their local area.

    Australia tightened its gun laws after a mass shooting, and has had a dramatic drop in such events.

    So your claim about gun laws not affecting mass shootings seems doubtful.

    Suicide is a tricky subject. A lot of countries have much higher overall suicide rates than the US with much tighter gun control laws. Historically this has included Sweden and Japan. While gun control might remove an impulse option it isn’t a panacea. (Speaking of which, serious interest, what did Sweden do to lower its suicide rate? It went from one of the highest in the world to less than most oecd nations over the last 20 years. I can’t seem to find any particular why though. Just that it has dropped spectacularly).

    Japan has a substantially different culture in which the conception of suicide is very different and plays a different role. Sweden is in the far north, with a couple of cities inside the arctic circle–and this means Sweden has, for much of the year, very long, dark nights, and very short days. And yes, there’s substantial medical and epidemiological evidence that this increases the suicide rate significantly.

    It’s too bad that the same people who assure us that gun crime, especially mass shootings, are a mental health issue are just as opposed to funding and regulation to increase access to health care of all kinds as they are to better gun regulation.

    Accidental deaths probably would see a reduction from gun control. The problem is most of the laws proposed in this thread already exist in most US jurisdictions. It’s already illegal to be drunk with a firearm. That one will get prosecuted generally. Otherwise most prosecutors don’t have a taste for pressing negligent homicide or manslaughter charges against grieving families even for things like violating trigger lock laws or just plain stupidity.

    Yes, that attitude is a problem.

    I don’t know about you, but I have the vague impression we’re in the same age range, and I remember when being drunk was a mitigating factor, not an aggravating one, in fatal car crashes. And I remember when it changed, lived through the change.

    We need to shift attitudes on the “grieving” family members whose irresponsibility killed other family members or neighbors. Fuck those bastards, just like we learned to fuck the bastards that drink and then get behind the wheel of a car.

    That brings us to homicide and other violent crimes. Typically these occur at much higher rates in countries with under developed social safety nets. This is where I think we really need to address other factors than guns.

    Again, see above. The same people who tell us we can’t have more gun regulation and that it’s the safety net, not guns, are also strongly opposed to spending on social safety net programs.

    So, please, start being serious, or admit you don’t really care about all the bloodshed.

  40. “Mass shootings are the rarest gun death event and the least likely to be influenced by gun laws. Europe has its share of mass shooting events.”

    This is really disingenous. Europe has more than twice the population of US (if we include Russia). And mass shootings are an extremly rare thing here, usually at most one a year. Compare that with US and you will se how totally ridiculous your statement is.

    And the thing is? Germany had a mass shooting. So they tightened regulation, just like Switzerland and Australia did when they had proplem. And of course the shootings dropped.

    Stop lying about the cause of gun death. Gun availability is the key factor for all firearm deaths, including mass shootings.

  41. @Liz Carey

    On suicide: and the numbers are higher in France, and in Belgium, and… But of course anywhere else it is complex societal or geographic factors and in the US it is just guns?

    So, please, start being serious, or admit you don’t really care about all the bloodshed.

    Not serious? I proposed above expanding the National Firearms Act which gets you too almost everything anyone has asked for in this thread or the others. It also has the advantage of 82 years of case law to back it and has been effective in addressing firearms issues within its boundaries. It would require only a couple sentences to amend it.

    Do I expect it to be a magic solution if that happened? No. But nothing is.

    It doesn’t matter much anyways. I do not believe it, or any other meaningful gun control law, will be passed at the federal level any time soon. The NRA is part of the problem but reality is you have a significant number that believe gun rights are a fundamental protection against tyranny. For almost any gun law to be effective you need registration. Registration is seen as a prelude to confiscation. Confiscation is seen as a prelude to tyranny.

    I do not agree with those premises but it doesn’t matter whether I agree or not. It’s a mindset that’s out there and politics is the art of the possible. Those are the folks that give the NRA its political power. You need to either convince those folks your not planning on seizing their guns or massively outnumber their political engagement. All while hoping you don’t further radicalize them into a whole contingent of McVeigh’s.

    For effective action you’d do better to push for other social reforms at the federal level while pushing gun reform at the local level where there is at least a chance of passage. It’s the social reforms that matter most anyways.

  42. For the record the UK has had only three mass shootings in 30 years. All were carried out with legally held firearms, both Hungerford and Dunblane led to tightening of licensing laws. Semi automatic rifles and repeating shotguns were banned after Hungerford, handguns after Dunblane.

  43. New study from University of Alabama. There is a direct correlation between mass shootings and the availability of guns.

Comments are closed.