Pixel Scroll 7/16

Six stories, two advertisements disguised as news, and a charming science video make up today’s Scroll.

(1) What happens when you delegate your online transactions to a program that becomes annoyed by your laziness? Rudy Rucker provides an imaginative answer in “Like A Sea Cucumber”, a free read on Motherboard. [Via SF Signal.]

(2) Bill Willingham’s Fables is coming to an end reports Jim Vorel on Paste.com.

The closure of Fables with the Fables: Farewell trade paperback on July 22 will be the end of an era in the comics industry, the rightly deserved and satisfying conclusion to a singular, ongoing story rivaled by only a handful of other titles. Fables is retiring on par with say, Vertigo stablemate The Sandman in both critical adoration (a ridiculous 14 Eisner Awards) and commercial success, an immediate entrant into the comics hall of fame. Not bad for a series at least partially inspired by The Rocky & Bullwinkle Show, by Willingham’s own admission.

(3) Frequent File 770 commenter Nicole LeBoeuf-Little educates Examiner.com readers about the Hugos in an article which includes a deep dive into the question “Why would anyone vote No Award? Isn’t that like nuking the Hugos or something?” Five reasons are given, one being a voter’s personal desire to overrule the Hugo Administrator —

Protest a finalist’s placement on the ballot due to eligibility. The award administrators do try to identify ineligible finalists and remove them from the ballot, but not every voter will agree with their assessment. For instance, two of this year’s finalists in the Novella category, “Big Boys Don’t Cry” by Tom Kratman and “One Bright Star to Guide Them” by John C. Wright, were actually first published earlier than 2014. However, the 2014 versions were considered to have been substantially revised and expanded from the originals and thus qualified as new works. A voter who disagrees with that assessment might well choose to rank No Award above those novellas. For another example: Last year, the 14-book Wheel of Time series was nominated in its entirety under “Best Novel,” having been ruled to be a multi-part serialized single work. A number of voters disagreed, and ranked No Award higher.

….Point is, No Award should not be considered a destructive option. It is a tool of dissent with which voters have been intentionally empowered. Use it, or not, as your conscience, heart, and/or whim dictates. The health of the Hugo Awards will be undiminished either way.

(4) Michael Z. Williamson, for one, will be exercising the nuclear option as he told his readers on July 13:

I have just voted NO AWARD across the board for the Hugo awards, including the category in which I am a finalist.

At one time, the Hugo WAS arguably the most significant award in SF, with the Nebula being the pro award with a different cachet.

The Nebula lost any credibility when it was awarded to If You Were An Alpha Male My Love, which was not only eyerollingly bad Mary Sue, but wasn’t SF nor even an actual story. If that’s what the pros consider to be worthy of note, it indicates a dysfunction at their level….

This was my choice.  I am not telling my fans not to vote for me. If you feel my work is worthy, by all means vote for it. Just understand that if I win, it will be subject to the same scathing derision I give to any and all social and political issues.  It deserves no less.

(5) Vox Day still opposes voting No Award in 2015 for tactical reasons:

Also, and more importantly, not voting No Award permits us to correctly gauge the full extent of the SJW influence in science fiction and see how it compares to the current strength of the Sad and Rabid Puppies. That’s my chief interest in this year’s vote, because it will inform the strategy that we pursue in the future. Remember, we haven’t even begun to finance “scholarships” in the way the other side has. Our 2015 numbers do not reflect the full extent of the force we can bring to bear.

(6) Alex, of Randomly Yours, Alex, the opposite of a no award voter, is struggling with a decision about ranking “Hugo Awards: the novellas” for reasons that may be completely unique:

“The Plural of Helen of Troy,” John C Wright: ready for me to get actually controversial? I’m not sure about this one.

That’s right. I actually liked this story and would consider putting this on my ballot. But it was published by Castalia House, and that sound you just heard? That was my politics running smack bang into my reading enjoyment.

The story is told backwards; another PI, this time working in a city outside of time somehow – I’m generally quite capable of reading time travel stories without the paradoxes doing too much to my brain, as a rule, although I know that’s not possible for many readers. (What can I say, it’s a gift. Like reading Greg Egan science.) He’s contracted to help a man whose girlfriend (?) is apparently going to be attacked by someone, and they have to stop it. Of course things get messier than that, and there are iterations and variations as the story progresses (…which means going backwards…). There are some neat moments – I was quite amused by the realisation of who the man and the ‘Helen’ were, and some funny enough moments of these people completely out of their times living together. Including Queequeg. QUEEQUEG LIVES.

Anyway. Now I have to figure out how to vote in the novellas and it HURTS. I’ve got a couple of weeks, right? I can figure it out in that time…

(7) Attendees at Pulpfest in August will receive The Pulpster, the con’s feature-laden program book.

The highlight of the issue will be a round-robin article on H. P. Lovecraft and WEIRD TALES. It will feature contributions from filmmaker Sean Branney; Marvin Kaye, the current editor of WEIRD TALES W. Paul Ganley, founder of WEIRDBOOKand Derrick Hussey, the publisher at Hippocampus Press; authors Jason Brock, Ramsey Campbell, Cody Goodfellow, Nick Mamatas, Tim Powers, Wilum Pugmire, Jessica Amanda Salmonson, Darrell Schweitzer, and Chet Williamson; poet Fred Phillips; pulp scholars and collectors John Haefele, Don Herron, Morgan Holmes, S. T. Joshi, Tom Krabacher, Rick Lai, Will Murray, and J. Barry Traylor.

Supporting members are also guaranteed a copy. Or following the convention, a limited number of copies of the program book will be available for purchase through Mike Chomko, Books which can be reached at mike@pulpfest.com.

Nick Mamatas would want you to!

(8) The Easton Press is taking orders for Douglas Adams’ The Complete Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy

Five complete novels and one story, together in one volume… “Far out in the uncharted backwaters of the unfashionable end of the Western Spiral arm of the Galaxy lies a small unregarded yellow sun.”  With over 15 million copies sold, the Hitchhiker’s Series ranks among the best-loved works of science fiction.  Features 5 specially commissioned original full-color illustrations!

All these gilt-edged editions remind me too much of the Bible…. A resemblance Douglas Adams would probably enjoy, in an ironic way.

(9) Finally, I enthusiastically recommend “The Scale of the Solar System,” linked in comments earlier today:

102 thoughts on “Pixel Scroll 7/16

  1. American libertarianism is fundamentally not about human rights as most other people would use the concept – it’s about the rights of property-owning entities, and protecting the ability of property-owning entities to engage in potentially profitable activity is the heart of it.

    Bruce — very insightful. 

    A lot of the arguments I’ve had with libertarians have eventually come down to things like — I believe “property” is defined socially, by us for our own convenience, and they believe that “property” is inherently meaningful and well-nigh sacred. It turns into a religious argument. 

    At that point your only option is to get another pitcher of beer and change the subject.

  2. Even pretty far since his days as creator of Elementals.

    Correction: It was “Villains & Vigilantes”, not “Champions”.

    Willingham wasn’t just an illustrator for V&V, he wrote two of the early adventures (Death Duel with the Destroyers, and The Island of Dr. Apocalypse) and the ‘Destroyers’ villain team from those adventures would show up in the early Elementals comics as well as flunkies of the main villain there.

    That caused a bit of an issue at the time, with people complaining that Elementals was ripping off V&V until it was pointed out that the same person had done both.

  3. @McJulie

    At that point your only option is to get another pitcher of beer and change the subject

    I find, like religion, it’s better to not even argue it any more. Libertarianism is an essentially Utopian concept in which, if everyone acts consistently and rationally in their own self interest, its ideas hang together. But introduce the fact that humans are by nature not consistent or rational in all things, the whole thing blows up once you expand it out past the size of a very small community. The closest thing I’ve found to hardcore libertarians are the campus communists; they’ve both based their philosophies on the foundations of unnatural human behaviour and defend it as an article of faith.

  4. McJulie: I’m writing here with my ex-libertarian hat on, so there’s a strong dose in my comments on the subject of “where did I go wrong, and was was involved in getting righter again?”

  5. Internet Libertarians like to talk about how they believe in the “rights of the individual.” The part they seem to be leaving out is “… and they’re the individual.”

  6. I’ve just been to this exhibit at one the Harvard University libraries, and I think I’ve discovered where someone has been getting inspiration for Rhetoric:

    ‘Be what you would seem to be’—or if you’d like it put more simply—’Never imagine yourself not to be otherwise than what it might appear to others that what you were or might have been was not otherwise than what you had been would have appeared to them to be otherwise.’

  7. Dex on July 17, 2015 at 10:02 am said:
    I find, like religion, it’s better to not even argue it any more. Libertarianism is an essentially Utopian concept in which, if everyone acts consistently and rationally in their own self interest, its ideas hang together. But introduce the fact that humans are by nature not consistent or rational in all things, the whole thing blows up once you expand it out past the size of a very small community. The closest thing I’ve found to hardcore libertarians are the campus communists; they’ve both based their philosophies on the foundations of unnatural human behaviour and defend it as an article of faith.

    There was/is a British Trotskyist group that evolved into a libertarian group – The Revolutionary Communist Party (UK). http://www.theguardian.com/education/2003/dec/09/highereducation.uk2

    Which just goes to prove something but I’m not sure what. Working out how they went from to another is like looking at an Escher print.

  8. True she would’ve had to ingest it between breaths somehow.

    That could have worked, especially since it never mattered — the police declared it murder without any further input. So it was just bad writing, acting like it’s an important thing even though it contradicts what was just said and then having it turn out not to be important anyway.

    He has some interesting ideas trapped in his stories though. Like I want to know more about how a spirit could testify about the manner of his own death to the police, is this a routine thing in this world, what’s the legal recourse for a an undead spirit which I’d assume would no longer have rights once deceased, and so on. The idea of a spirit giving a deposition that he shot himself seven times is far more entertaining of an idea than anything else that occurs.

    Yeah, there are references to judges who apparently judge mystic things, as well as, if I remember correctly, mundanes unaware of all this stuff. You’d assume that it’s the mundanes who would be the ones an insurance company would rely on in deciding to pay out, but who knows?

    The impression that I got was that he threw in ideas as he thought of them, without ever thinking about or caring whether it fit what he was writing a few paragraphs back (the flintlock thing is another example of that), and he didn’t have an editor good enough to point it out. So it winds up a dreamlike, self-contradictory world in which even what he intends to feel firm and solid doesn’t, because the worldbuilding is scattershot, improvisatory and inconsistent.

    Doing that on purpose can have interesting effects. Doing it because you can’t be bothered to keep your characters or world consistent makes the story fall apart.

  9. Mark, re: “The Long Goodnight of Violet Wild” — Thanks for pointing to this.

  10. I’m sure Mr. Williamson will be amused to learn that his voting choice makes him a social justice warrior according to the next post down.

  11. I commend to you all a day spent firstly in the completely over the top celebration of St George in Victoria, Gozo, where the concept of subdued good taste clearly never stood a chance, notwithstanding the fact that the dragon seems on the small size, followed by taking a speedboat out of Xlendi round to the mushroom rock and the azure window, which are also completely over the top but not nearly so gaudy.

    This is much, much more fun than reading the garbage masquerading as Hugo nominations, not to mention reading the garbage currently being spouted by the people who stuffed the ballot to put the garbage in the Hugo nominations in the first place.

    Tomorrow I shall be letting somebody else drive a boat to visit Comino and the azure bay; I have no doubt whatsoever that I will be having a lot more fun than the idiots who stuffed the ballot with garbage, because clearly their inability to find anything better to do with their time than stuffing ballots with garbage means that their minds are so impoverished that they cannot aspire to anything better.

    Meanwhile File770 continues to serve us all, and I express my thanks to Mike. A cold beer in Xlendi would be better, but for now it has to be my thanks…

  12. “A Cold Beer in Xlendi”

    This sounds like a new Fafhrd and the Grey Mouser story.

    It starts out with a dragon being on the small size. Then they go by boat to Mushroom Rock and the Azure Window, and there’s a wicked priest named Comino…

  13. Hi, Mike! Thanks for the shout-out on the Examiner article! Not that anything in it will be news to any File770 regulars, of course, but if it works as a handy thing to link non-Hugo-savvy friends and acquaintances to, by all means, go for it.

    BTW, i never did report back – the Rush show in Denver last week was wonderful!

  14. Re, Michael Z Williamson, so for him, the last straw was a story getting a Hugo that didn’t actually, you know, get a Hugo?

    Makes sense.

  15. Matt Y: The way I understood “Helen” was that the time lord guys all thought Monroe was so hot they all stole copies of her to seed through the timeline wherever a beautiful woman was supposed to be. So Helen was Monroe, just a different one.

    Chris: I think the author should have re-thought the title of his piece. While I agree there is nothing wrong in what he was saying, it was more about the process of science analysis and the need for proper review rather than the science itself. And the title does sound like a denialist(of whatever stripes) dog-whistle.

    When I read Pale Realms of Shade my first problem was when the ghost appeared and decided he was in the US because A: There were buildings; and B: there were sign posts. While I understand USians are supposed to be an insular lot, I hope they realise there are places that aren’t the US and Europe. As an Australian that really brought me to a stop.

  16. We sometimes play a google map game where you try to identify the location where an image was clipped from based on clues like local geology, vegetation and road signs and markings. We have spent hours puzzling over road signs and markings trying to figure them out. It is amazing the wide variety of sign designs there are. I think the closest we ever came to Europe was an image from western Russia and the closest to the US was in Central America somewhere. All of these images had signs and buildings – often even with bits in English.

    I think we need to make some of these SFF authors play that game for a few weeks. And then take some remedial science classes.

    I thought the title of that science piece was representative. The whole piece was full of contrarian dog-whistles. I found very poorly done and occasionally outright misleading.

  17. @rochrist

    But it did win a Hugo.

    A secret Hugo.

    A shadow Hugo. Forged, or so the skalds say, in the hottest fires, of the deepest depths, of Hades. Quenched in the tears of a thousand-thousand puppies it was, while 13 sky clad, and cloven footed, priestesses of social justice danced lewdly about it chanting from the Gnostic gospels of Alinsky.

    They say, on a dark night if you listen closely to the wind you can hear the faintest echoes of their verses still:

    hugo…. hugo… HUGO…

    Sis, boom, bah

    HUGO, HUGO, HUGO

    RAH, RAH, RAH

    Look in your heart and you know it to be true…

  18. Stoic, just because you can cosplay Hunter S. Thompson in comment threads doesn’t mean you should.

  19. @Bruce Baugh

    Never mind. It’s your turn too drive. No point mentioning those bats. You’ll see them soon enough…

  20. To be fair to MZW, which I think is the least we can do since Jade Helm 15 will surely have him in an internment camp by this weekend (Is he in a Jade Helm 15 state?), he does realize Dinosaur didn’t WIN a Hugo. In the post he complains that it ruined the NEBULAs by winning. It did actually win a Nebula; it just didn’t ruin the Nebulas forever by doing so.

  21. I wonder how many people have ever said that They’d Rather Be Right ruined the Hugos forever. I’d only be copying Jo Walton to say much more about it, and better to link to her doing it. And yet the Hugos survive. Even if “If You Were A Dinosaur, My Love” were that much of a travesty, the Nebulas will survive.

    But then I’m kind of an optimist on such things. I don’t think the US presidency is fundamentally discredited despite Jackson, Pierce, and Bush II, either.

  22. (Nor do I think that even the action of arrogant, ignorant cheaters like Williamson and his buddies will permanently mar the Hugos’ reputation. In due time they’ll just be footnotes and asterisks.)

  23. Dex on July 17, 2015 at 10:02 am said:

    The closest thing I’ve found to hardcore libertarians are the campus communists; they’ve both based their philosophies on the foundations of unnatural human behaviour and defend it as an article of faith.

    I have seen it asserted that Ayn Rand came up with her particular brand of libertarianism by, essentially, inverting communism — so it has all the same flaws, only in reverse.

    Bruce Baugh on July 17, 2015 at 10:06 am said:

    McJulie: I’m writing here with my ex-libertarian hat on, so there’s a strong dose in my comments on the subject of “where did I go wrong, and was was involved in getting righter again?”

    Good for you!

    Re-reading Have Spacesuit, Will Travel made me think about where some of the SF Heinlein-influenced libertarians are coming from. I absorbed a lot of the same messages — you know, pluck, gumption, self-reliance, luck is an illusion, that sort of thing — but I only ever applied them to myself. Going around telling other people to be more self-reliant is a jerk move, and often, manifestly impossible for them — some people are born into poverty and worse.

    People find it too easy to believe in charity for themselves and hardcore laissez-faire for everyone else.

    Also, I finally read Damage! A great story that also really illustrates what’s wrong with the slated works.

  24. @Bruce:

    Another ex-libertarian here. In fact, that’s how I sign my Daily Kos comments. What I find darkly amusing about my conversion was that it was a result of conversations with a couple of more (ahem) rabid libertarians. I kept finding myself disagreeing with them, and when I compared the positions to the theory, I had to admit that I was drifting away from libertarianism.

    I think the actual breaking point for me was when one of the people started talking about how everything – including roads, law enforcement, and the judicial system – should be privately owned, with access based on individual agreements. That may sound good at first, until you consider all of the implications. First of all, that means you can’t set foot inside a new store without, essentially, signing a EULA that governs your interactions. Nobody reads those now; who would read the multitudes of them required by such a society? No, I prefer having laws that standardize the experience of public access, even at the cost of some people chafing against some provisions that they personally dislike.

    Furthermore, just try to imagine that society in action if, say, you want to drive across the country. Will all the road owners recognize the same equivalent to a driver’s license? What if some schmuck who owns a key half-mile decides to put a high fare on it that he’ll conveniently waive in exchange for sexual favors? There are some seriously weird people out there; give them that kind of power over others and there’s no telling what abuses you’ll see… but since his model (seriously!) included the obligation that the plaintiff and defendant mutually agree on a judge and court, all that jackass has to do is reject any court that would disagree with him. He thus gets away without even a slap on the wrist.

    The other guy waffled between “that’s his right” and “that’s nonsense because people wouldn’t do that” all the way through.

  25. I’m another ex-libertarian. I also distrust all conversion narratives, especially my own. And I’ve got probably three or four different ones to distrust. The coup de grace was definitely the Global Financial Crisis, which impeached the Efficient Markets Hypothesis for all time, but I’d been on a long glide-path away from libertarianism for probably longer than I quite realize beforehand.

    But since then, I’ve come to some conclusions about the contractarian tendency within libertarianism that Rev. Bob discusses. The impulse toward contractarianism strikes me as a flight from the messiness of human relations, a desire to be able to define all mutual obligations tidily and without ambiguity. Being able to objectify the expectations attendant on all social interaction appeals to certain personality types, I think, and contractarianism seems to hold out that promise. Monetization also promises objectivity, hence the allied appeal of the cash nexus. The latest manifestation of this impulse is the vogue for the of self-executing “smart contracts” among Bitcoin enthusiasts. Record them on the blockchain! Make them self-enforcing! We won’t even need lawyers!

    The thing is, the promise of contractarianism breaks at every stage, and as I’ve gotten older, and had more experience in the corporate world of all things, I’ve come to appreciate just how many different ways it breaks.

    Initially the critique of non-libertarians is simply that contractarianism is cold, unfeeling. That is, they dislike exactly what the libertarian likes about it; contractarianism is ultimately inhuman because it denies our emotional, social nature. And that is a valid concern and a genuine layer of brokenness.

    But it doesn’t stop there. Because even economics itself argues that contracts are of limited utility – real utility, but limited. Coase’s theory of firm formation takes on the question, “Why do corporations form at all? Why hire staff instead of simply contracting all work among freelancers?” Coase’s answer is that contracts can’t adequately specify all the ways that people in a firm need to rely on each other to do the things necessary for a business to succeed. You need a “thicker” web of expectations and mutual reliance than you can design, a priori, into a document. This is why, when anyone tries to defend high-handed treatment of employees by managers or owners on “Unless there’s an agreement saying they can’t do that it’s okay,” you should snort derisively.

    But it gets worse! I’ve come to doubt that most libertarian enthusiasts for contract-based relations even have much experience working under the regime of actual contracts in the real world. Because leave firm formation and non-contractual sociality aside; even contractual relationships don’t work the way libertarians seem to think they do. In the real world, there’s a lot of slippage in how contracts govern what the parties actually do. Your business signs a deal with my business to provide you services for your product line X at compensation $Y? Cool. Now it’s six months later and you tell me, “Look, we’re losing money on X and can’t afford to pay you $Y any more.” Our telling you, “Tough shit, it’s in the contract so suck it up,” is way down the list of my responses. Way before that, my team asks itself a bunch of questions, like, “Do we want this business at a lower price?” “Can we afford this business at a lower price?” “Do we like those guys or do we think they are jerks?” Even fairness comes into it! We are very likely to consider the possibility that you have a point, that your complaint is sympathetic and even just. And it’s very possible that we all agree to write an addendum at a new price, and it’s very possible that we honor the spirit of the intended addendum in the meantime. Or maybe we agree to go our separate ways. And maybe we hold you to the breach provisions, or maybe we negotiate a lower penalty, or maybe we waive it entirely. Maybe the least likely thing of all to happen is us suing you.

    The point is, even contractual relations are ultimately social. So in the end, they can’t even be the refuge the libertarian seeks in them.

  26. Rev. Bob on July 18, 2015 at 1:54 pm said:
    Furthermore, just try to imagine that society in action if, say, you want to drive across the country. Will all the road owners recognize the same equivalent to a driver’s license?

    Indeed. Mind you genuine libertarians do at least provoke interesting ‘what-if?’ questions.

  27. @Jim:

    The big financial crisis was an eye-opener to me as well. It’s kind of hard to defend privatizing Social Security so the funds can be invested in the stock market after such a crash.

    One other observation about what you dubbed “contractarianism” – there seems to be a perception in that crowd that contracts and property rights Just Work, instead of relying on a robust government and legal system to support them.

    But then, they don’t seem to give much thought to infrastructure in general. Everything’s about their specific circle of influence: my person, my stuff, my business. One of the best examples I remember of that was a reaction to the infamous “you didn’t build that” line. The owner of a business (hardware store?) put a “did too” message on his sign and snapped a photo, denying that he got any help from the government. It didn’t take long for someone to annotate the photo, pointing out the roads, power lines, mailbox, and so on, at length.

    It is folly for the leaf to renounce the tree.

  28. One other observation about what you dubbed “contractarianism” – there seems to be a perception in that crowd that contracts and property rights Just Work

    I often suggest that libertarians try reading some substantive legal analysis on the issues they so often hold forth on, such as Bruno Leoni’s Freedom and the Law. For some reason, they never seem to actually do so.

  29. One thing that contributed to my detaching from libertarianism was how often I found myself explaining that, yes, solidly grounded principles of economics keep working even when you don’t fancy the outcomes. Like….

    * The efficiencies of scale apply as much to workers organizing for collective representation as they do for factories increasing their output capacity.

    * The benefits of specialization apply as much to someone signing up with a group health coverage effort or for a group retirement policy as to someone being assigned to a particular assembly line role. And they don’t disappear when people sign up with a government effort to secure each participant some desired service.

    * History exists. You can’t just decree that time X had satisfactorily just allocation of resources, you have to investigate and see.

    It led to me thinking “If they only respect their professed principles when they like the outcome, I don’t have to respect their judgment.”

  30. Contractarianism though is the logical result of libertarian axioms particularly those of the anarcho-capitalist wing. If the use of collective force to coerce behaviors is illegitimate (and hence the illegitimacy of government) then you are left with voluntary contracts to arbitrate behavior (otherwise you end up with a Hobbesian war of all on all).

    In the example of a bad actor owning a road: the belief would be either someone would build an alternate road or the community, acting individually, would sanction them by deciding to not provide services or business.

    The problem ultimately is contractarianism ignores the power disparities an unlimited right of property implies. I think it was Larry Niven who observed the natural outcome of anarchy is feudalism.

    I think such a society also requires a supermajority common philosophical model to sanction bad actors. Which ignores the capacity of people for schism, sects, and heresies. Even the anarchist movement has three distinct strands of thought (anarcho-capitalist, anarcho-syndicalists, and, anarcho-communists. All three of which tend to cordiality of relations akin to Trotskyists and Stalinists. Then there are the near cousin minarchists, et cetera, ad nauseam.

    (And that became more wall o’ text than I thought it would even simplifying thoughts a lot).

  31. @Stoic Cynic:

    The problem ultimately is contractarianism ignores the power disparities an unlimited right of property implies.

    I think the disagreement between us is that I think we’re spoiled for choice on the problems of contractarianism. The one you identify is yet another.

  32. @Jim Henley

    Splitter! 😛

    I think your arguments are on point. There are a lot of reasons to find it not compelling. As an ex myself I just picked two of my own bugaboos.

    I think at least some of becoming an ex for me came with age. Moral absolutes that were attractive at twenty seem absurdly naive given life experience. Which is either a growth of wisdom or selling out.

    YMMV 🙂

  33. @Stoic: “Moral absolutes that were attractive at twenty seem absurdly naive given life experience. Which is either a growth of wisdom or selling out.”

    I’ll agree with that.

    @Bruce: “The efficiencies of scale apply as much to workers organizing for collective representation as they do for factories increasing their output capacity.”

    One of the other things that I find to be a real head-scratcher is the zeal libertarians have for taking functions away from Big Government (evil!) and giving them to Big Corporate (good!). The problem I keep running up against isn’t gov/corp, but big/small! Amazon (to pick a random example) ultimately does not care if you object to their policies. Your patronage is a rounding error to them. Joe’s Pasta Shop, though… they’ve got a vested interest in making you happy.

    And, under our current system here in the states, we see a huge tendency for big entities to gobble up smaller ones and get even bigger. Some would even say that this is the natural trend of an unregulated capitalist system: past a certain critical mass, wealth becomes an attractor instead of a resource. A billionaire has to work at it to lose money, but people like us have to scramble to stay afloat.

    At least governments usually have some way the public can influence them, and limitations they’re bound to obey. Private companies… not so much. According to libertarian dogma, the civil rights struggle of the 1960s should never have been necessary, because what sane business turns away customers based on skin color? And yet, many of those same people defend businesses that want to discriminate against LGBT customers. I don’t get it.

    The whole notion of a corporate right to discriminate needs to Go Away, and the sooner the better. If you’re there to serve the public, you should be willing to serve ALL of the public. Pharmacists who want the freedom to not fill certain prescriptions, bakers who don’t want to decorate certain cakes, pizza places and hardware stores and mechanics who feel the need to find out where their customers go to church and who they sleep with… they all have the freedom not to serve those distasteful people. It’s called tendering your resignation and finding another line of work. Same goes for government employees who want to pick and choose who they’ll issue marriage licenses to, too.

    Sorry, but… well, the soapbox was right there… 🙂

  34. Stoic Cynic: I think at least some of becoming an ex for me came with age. Moral absolutes that were attractive at twenty seem absurdly naive given life experience.

    I had a lot of moral absolutes when I was young. Then, over many years, I gradually came to realize that things are never that simple, never that black-and-white or good-and-bad — that real life has many shades of gray, and that ethics and stances are never one-size-applies-to-all.

    And that’s an incredibly uncomfortable place at which to arrive: the certain knowledge that there are no easy or certain answers, that it’s not possible to obtain that mythical “Perfect Life” roadmap, the following of which would make decisions easy and prevent mistakes and misfortune.

    I see a lot of this in the various Puppy Manifestos: they seem to cling so desperately to their concepts of black-and-white, good-and-bad, their Answers To All The Nation’s Problems — because accepting and dealing with the alternative — that there are no fix-all answers, that there is no way to guarantee a perfect life — is Just Too Damn Scary.

    It’s hardly surprising that SFF which does not support the “right answers do exist which will fix everything” narrative scares and horrifies them.

  35. Jim Henley @8:18am:

    To be even fairer to MZW, he didn’t even say that “it ruined the Nebulas forever by winning,” he just said that the Nebula lost credibility as a pro award when the pros gave one to an “eyerollingly bad Mary Sue” that “wasn’t SF nor even an actual story.” Presumably, credibility could be restored by choosing significant works of scientifiction in future.

  36. I still actually have a fair number of moral absolutes, or at least guidelines that serve in pretty much all the cases I apply them. It’s just that the details of the application keep turning out to be complicated.

  37. To be even fairer to MZW

    Given that MZW doesn’t seem to understand what the term “Mary Sue” means, why should anyone take him seriously when it comes to assessments regarding literary awards?

  38. JJ : I see a lot of this in the various Puppy Manifestos: they seem to cling so desperately to their concepts of black-and-white, good-and-bad, their Answers To All The Nation’s Problems — because accepting and dealing with the alternative — that there are no fix-all answers, that there is no way to guarantee a perfect life — is Just Too Damn Scary.

    http://www.psychologistworld.com/influence_personality/authoritarian_personality.php

    According to Adorno’s theory, the elements of the Authoritarian personality type are:

    – Blind allegiance to conventional beliefs about right and wrong
    – Respect for submission to acknowledged authority
    – Belief in aggression toward those who do not subscribe to conventional thinking, or who are different
    – A negative view of people in general – i.e. the belief that people would all lie, cheat or steal if given the opportunity
    – A need for strong leadership which displays uncompromising power
    – A belief in simple answers and polemics – i.e. The media controls us all or The source of all our problems is the loss of morals these days.
    – Resistance to creative, dangerous ideas. A black and white worldview.
    – A tendency to project one’s own feelings of inadequacy, rage and fear onto a scapegoated group
    – A preoccupation with violence and sex

  39. The problem with libertarianism (as with pretty much all “-isms”) is that theories can look really good in the abstract. Those theories, however, when applied to real life conditions and the behavior of us shaved apes individually and/or en masse, tend to shoot out great clouds of smoke from the engine in very short order.

    Large groups of people (be they mobs, governments, corporations, et cetera) behave no more rationally than the average component part of those bodies do. That’s why rules, restrictions and requirements are generally needed. GIGO applies to everyone and everything-individuals, groups, businesses small and large and governments, among others.

    Libertarians all too often base their assumptions (and that’s what libertarian concepts frequently are-assumptions) on the belief that people will act in their own best interests. Trouble is, that doesn’t always match with reality. If I own a business, I’m in business to make a profit. So I would consider it unwise to dismiss anyone’s business for what I would consider a silly reason. But not everyone thinks or acts that way.

    If an employee of mine decided they couldn’t do their job for reasons of “conscience”, I would tell them that my needs as their employer would require I relieve them of that ethical dilemma by placing them at liberty to find other, less ethically challenging work on the first instance they refused to serve a customer making a lawful and valid request for service.

    If the person who most greatly abused me in my life came to me to do business with me, I’d take his money and do my best work for him, period-his money is just as green and spendable as anyone else’s. I’m funny that way. I might not shake his hand, but I’d do his taxes (and I’d give him a sandwich and a blanket if he came to my door hungry and cold).

  40. @Robert Reynolds: “If the person who most greatly abused me in my life came to me to do business with me, I’d take his money and do my best work for him, period-his money is just as green and spendable as anyone else’s.”

    The ethical dilemma I keep coming back to is the hypothetical KKK Cake. Basically, it’s the “wedding cake baker vs. gay wedding” situation in a different light: instead of a gay couple wanting a wedding cake with two grooms, it’s a white supremacist who wants a swastika or a Confederate flag on the cake he’s getting the Grand Wizard for his birthday party.

    Intellectually, I know it’s the same situation with different “offensive customer” examples, but I can’t bring myself around to see them as the same thing. I think part of it is that I think of a wedding cake as “just a cake” with minimal customization, but the other example involves a lot more customization. Still, even if I stipulate a closer parallel – a rainbow-decorated “pride cake” for an LGBT activist’s birthday party – I still can’t treat them the same way.

    Maybe it’s the difference between consensual “sin” and actual advocacy of harm to others. Whether I like the gay couple or not, their wedding isn’t going to incite others to hurt or kill people… but the Klan has that history. (Oddly enough, I’d have no qualms about putting a certain orange car on a cake. Same symbol, different context.)

    I think I’d express my reservations and ask the Klansman if he’d consider using another bakery. I’m not sure what I’d do if I were the employee directed to do the decoration by a superior, though.

  41. Rev. Bob: Intellectually, I know it’s the same situation with different “offensive customer” examples, but I can’t bring myself around to see them as the same thing… I think I’d express my reservations and ask the Klansman if he’d consider using another bakery. I’m not sure what I’d do if I were the employee directed to do the decoration by a superior, though.

    Damn those real-life gray areas.

    It is that soul-searching, or lack thereof, which defines each of us as human beings.

  42. @Bruce Baugh

    But the complexities of applying moral guidelines is the whole rub isn’t it?

    I would hope we each have our moral code which guides us. For philosophical and ethical reasons my own could probably be summarized as ‘And you harm none do as you will’ (borrowed from the Wiccans who I believe borrowed it from Crowley).

    But then you get to what constitutes harm? Is a small harm sometimes justified where it would offset a larger harm? Etc.

    We each juggle our own ethics. I remember an article on an anarcho-capitalist site a few years ago. Posited the opportunity to cast a decisive vote against a certain German dictator coming to power the author would have declined. She felt voting is consent to the use of collective force against her fellow humans and not justifiable under any circumstances. On the other hand she had no qualms at all with personally assassinating the candidate dictator as an act of self defense.

    That’s a level of absolutism I personally could not be comfortable with. I would have just voted no.

  43. @Rev. Bob:

    Individuals draw their own lines in the sand. My feeling is, if I choose to open a public accommodation, my latitude in drawing lines is greatly inhibited. If someone comes to me wanting me to violate the law and place myself at jeopardy of losing my license, that I will refuse to do. Otherwise, if it’s lawful and falls within my regular services offered, I’ll probably do the job.

    I suppose that I have it easier in that regard, because what I do tends to make things like the KKK example irrelevant for the most part. I might tell a Klansman that a portion of my fee for his services will go to the UNCF (and I’d smile when I said it) but I’d still do his taxes. I wouldn’t socialize with him outside of business, but I rarely do that with clients in any case.

    For many years, I didn’t operate a public accommodation, doing taxes based solely on referrals, just so that I could more or less choose who I did business with. I could do that. Not everyone can. If someone refused me service, I’d shrug my shoulders and find someone willing to take my money. But I understand that not everyone feels that way and a public accommodation is a public accommodation.

    In the instance you put forth here, I wouldn’t ask an employee to do that job. I’d do it myself. But a job is a job and my employees would not have the latitude to refuse work for my business based on their moral uneasiness. If they want that privilege, they should open their own business.

    I’d take Donald Trump’s business-and then fumigate the office and probably feed the chair he sat in into a wood chipper.

  44. Stoic Cynic: my own could probably be summarized as ‘And you harm none do as you will’ But then you get to what constitutes harm? Is a small harm sometimes justified where it would offset a larger harm? Etc. We each juggle our own ethics.

    Awhile back, someone posed the question on Facebook: If you found out your spouse/life partner murdered someone, would you turn them in to the authorities, or help them dispose of the body?

    It was a bit shocking how many people immediately responded, “help them bury the body, OF COURSE!”

    My response would have been: It depends. What prompted the murder? Was it murder, or self-defense, or a crime of passion triggered by abuse committed by the victim?

    If it was just cold-blooded murder, I’d try to talk my spouse or parent or child or sibling into turning themselves in. And if they refused, I would turn them in myself. How could I ever live with myself if I didn’t? How does this person look at themselves in the mirror every day? And these people?

    I am intensely loyal person. But I don’t consider shielding a murderer a noble act of loyalty, and I just can’t see myself ever doing it, no matter how much I cared about the perpetrator.

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