TNH's Particles
* Rebecca, Rowena, Puppies, Fanfic.
* The Bot of Mormon.
* Bill Clinton's hand in Donald Trump's campaign.
* Frogs in Miniature Coffins from Churches in Finland.
* Optimism in hamsters.
* The Plot of Ant-Man.
* How to tell if you're reading a gothic novel.
* Pens and Proofreading.
* Robert Herrick his Prayer to Ben Jonson.
* My old subway station gets an amazing facelift.
PNH's Sidelights
* Kieran Healy: "Fuck Nuance."
* Henry Farrell interviews Ada Palmer
* America.
* The harder you push fandom, the more it pushes back.
* Ursula K. Le Guin on how Go Set a Watchman is better than To Kill a Mockingbird.
* New media "best practices" are a cargo cult.
* New York City, where it's A-OK to kill people, so long as you do it with a motor vehicle.
* Happy Bastille Day!
* The Hard Truths of Ta-Nehisi Coates
* Lost Friends
Abi's Parhelia
* The Long Ride, Day Zero
* Why The Elonis Decision is a Victory in the Fight Against Online Harassment
* Land Art That Deflects Noise From Amsterdam's Airport
* How to share your unpopular opinion without being an asshole
* A review of Kahlil Gibran's Collected Works
* 5 Mètres 80
* Nielsen Hayden Facts
* Searching for the wine from the last supper
* The curious case of the disappearing Polish S
Jim's Diffraction
* Angelus ad virginem 14th century Irish carol
* Christmas on the Theremin
* Kinect eye patch for Xbox One will protect what's left of your privacy
* Real-Time Wind Map
* IS-907: Active Shooter: What You Can Do
* Smithsonian museum artifacts can now be 3D printed at home
* PunditFact
* A Display You Can Reach Through And Touch
* The Craigslist killers: the full story
* Proposed Museum of Science Fiction
Avram's Phosphenes
You Know Nothing, Charlie Brown
“It’s actually the Puppies who are the Marxists.”
Wes Anderson’s The Shining
Thor gets a cellphone
Definitely-Not-Filthy Sailing Terminology
Paul Ford on The Dress
The End of Libertarians (via)
I won’t fear Muslims
Higgledy piggledy / Benedict Cumberbatch…
Six hit country songs separated at birth
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“We are prophets of a future not our own.” (Oscar Romero)

“Peace means something different from ‘not fighting’. Those aren’t peace advocates, they’re ‘stop fighting’ advocates. Peace is an active and complex thing and sometimes fighting is part of what it takes to get it.” (Jo Walton)

“You really think that safety can be plucked from the arms of an evil deed?” (Darla, “Inside Out”)

“Forgiveness requires giving up on the possibility of a better past.” (unknown)

“The whole point of society is to be less unforgiving than nature.” (Arthur D. Hlavaty)

“Terror consists mostly of useless cruelties perpetrated by frightened people in order to reassure themselves.” (Friedrich Engels)

“You don't owe the internet your time. The internet does not know this, and will never learn.” (Quinn Norton)

“Great writing is the world's cheapest special effect.” (Teresa Nielsen Hayden)

“Everyone gets so much information all day long that they lose their common sense.” (Gertrude Stein)

“Very few people are stupid. It’s just that the world really is that difficult and you can’t continually be careful.” (Quinn Norton)

“Armageddon is not around the corner. This is only what the people of violence want us to believe. The complexity and diversity of the world is the hope for the future.” (Michael Palin)

“Just because you’re on their side doesn’t mean they’re on your side.” (Teresa Nielsen Hayden)

“The fact that ‘there are only a handful of bad cops’ cuts no ice with me. If ‘only a handful of McDonald’s are spitting in your food,’ you’re not going to McDonald’s.” (Ta-Nehisi Coates)

“Young men and women, educated very carefully to be apolitical, to be technicians who thought they disliked politics, making them putty in the hands of their rulers, like always.” (Kim Stanley Robinson, Red Mars)

“The poor have been rebels, but they have never been anarchists; they have more interest than anyone else in there being some decent government. The poor man really has a stake in the country. The rich man hasn’t; he can go away to New Guinea in a yacht. The poor have sometimes objected to being governed badly; the rich have always objected to being governed at all. Aristocrats were always anarchists.” (G. K. Chesterton, The Man Who Was Thursday)

“When liberty is mentioned, we must observe whether it is not really the assertion of private interests.” (Hegel)

“History is the trade secret of science fiction.” (Ken MacLeod)

“But isn’t all of human history simultaneously a disaster novel and a celebrity gossip column?” (Anonymous LJ commenter)

“I see now that keen interest can illuminate anything, and that anything, moreover, has something worth illuminating in it, and that without that interest gates carved by Benvenuto Cellini from two diamonds would merely look chilly.” (Lord Dunsany)

“I grieve for the spirit of Work, killed by her evil child, Workflow.” (Paul Ford)

“The opposite of ‘serious’ isn't ‘funny.’ The opposite of both ‘serious’ and ‘funny’ is ‘squalid.’” (R. A. Lafferty)

“Ki is, of course, mystical bullshit. That’s why it works so well, both as a teaching idiom and a tool of practice in martial arts. It’s as nonexistent as charm, leadership, or acting. Humans are all about bullshit.” (Andrew Plotkin)

“We act as though comfort and luxury were the chief requirements of life, when all that we need to make us happy is something to be enthusiastic about.” (Charles Kingsley)

“Nobody panics when things go according to plan. Even when the plan is horrifying.” (The Joker)

“Hope has two daughters, anger and courage. They are both lovely.” (attributed to St. Augustine)

“Plot is a literary convention. Story is a force of nature.” (Teresa Nielsen Hayden)

“This movie has way too much plot getting in the way of the story.” (Joe Bob Briggs)

“If there is no willingness to use force to defend civil society, it’s civil society that goes away, not force.” (Teresa Nielsen Hayden)

“Always side with the truth. It’s much bigger than you are.” (Teresa Nielsen Hayden)

“Listen, here’s the thing about politics: It’s not an expression of your moral purity and your ethics and your probity and your fond dreams of some utopian future. Progressive people constantly fail to get this.” (Tony Kushner)

“I don’t want politicians who are ‘above politics,’ any more then I want a plumber who’s ‘above toilets.’” (Ta-Nehisi Coates)

“Plans are nothing; planning is everything.” (Dwight D. Eisenhower)

“People never lie so much as after a hunt, during a war, or before an election.” (Otto von Bismarck)

“Every organization appears to be headed by secret agents of its opponents.” (Robert Conquest)

“Not forgiving is like drinking rat poison and then waiting for the rat to die.” (Anne Lamott)

“Nothing makes one so vain as being told that one is a sinner.” (Oscar Wilde)

“Life isn’t divided into genres. It’s a horrifying, romantic, tragic, comical science-fiction cowboy detective novel.” (Alan Moore)

“See everything, overlook a great deal, improve a little.” (John XXIII)

“You will never love art well, until you love what she mirrors better.” (John Ruskin)

“They lied to you. The Devil is not the Prince of Matter; the Devil is the arrogance of the spirit, faith without smile, truth that is never seized by doubt. The Devil is grim because he knows where he is going, and, in moving, he always returns whence he came.” (Umberto Eco, The Name of the Rose)

“I can hire one half of the working class to kill the other half.” (Jay Gould)

“I’m a leftist. I don't argue with anyone unless they agree with me.” (Steven Brust)

“Adam was but human—this explains it all. He did not want the apple for the apple’s sake, he wanted it only because it was forbidden. The mistake was in not forbidding the serpent; then he would have eaten the serpent.” (Mark Twain)

“Details are all that matters; God dwells there, and you never get to see Him if you don’t struggle to get them right.” (Stephen Jay Gould)

“Tradition is not the worship of ashes, but the preservation of fire.” (Gustav Mahler)

“But this kind of deference, this attentive listening to every remark of his, required the words he uttered to be worthy of the attention they excited—a wearing state of affairs for a man accustomed to ordinary human conversation, with its perpetual interruption, contradiction, and plain disregard. Here everything he said was right; and presently his spirits began to sink under the burden.” (Patrick O’Brian, Master and Commander)

“Hatred is a banquet until you recognize you are the main course.” (Herbert Benson)

“For a Westerner to trash Western culture is like criticizing our nitrogen/oxygen atmosphere on the grounds that it sometimes gets windy, and besides, Jupiter’s is much prettier. You may not realize its advantages until you’re trying to breathe liquid methane.” (Neal Stephenson)

“‘There are no atheists in foxholes’ isn’t an argument against atheism, it’s an argument against foxholes.” (James Morrow)

“And after the fire a still small voice.” (1 Kings 19:12)

“The man who tries to make the flag an object of a single party is a greater traitor to that flag than any man who fires at it.” (Lloyd George)

“The United States behaves like a salesman with a fantastic product who tries to force people to buy it at gunpoint.” (Emma of Late Night Thoughts)

“I’m a fuzzy-headed warm-hearted liberal, and I think fuzzy-headed warm-hearted liberalism is an ideological stance that needs defending—if necessary, with a hob-nailed boot-kick to the bollocks of budding totalitarianism.” (Charles Stross)

“The real test of any claim about freedom, I’ve decided, is how far you’re willing to go in letting people be wrong about it.” (Bruce Baugh)

“As with bad breath, ideology is always what the other person has.” (Terry Eagleton)

“Only he who in the face of all this can say ‘In spite of all!’ has the calling for politics.” (Max Weber)

“No, it’s not fair. You’re in the wrong universe for fair.” (John Scalzi)

“I don’t understand death, but I got hot dish down pretty good.” (Marissa Lingen)

“Skepticism is the worst form of gullibility.” (John “adamsj” Adams)

“We have a backstage view of ourselves and a third-row view of everybody else.” (Garrison Keillor)

“The Reign of Sin is more universal, the influence of unconscious error is less, than historians tell us.” (Lord Acton)

“All human progress, even in morals, has been the work of men who have doubted the current moral values, not of men who have whooped them up and tried to enforce them.” (H. L. Mencken)

“Tomorrow never happens. It’s all the same fucking day, man.” (Janis Joplin)

“Words are always getting conventionalized to some secondary meaning. It is one of the works of poetry to take the truants in custody and bring them back to their right senses.” (W. B. Yeats)

“It is a little embarrassing that, after 45 years of research and study, the best advice I can give to people is to be a little kinder to each other.” (Aldous Huxley)

“Never believe in a meritocracy in which no one is funny-looking.” (Teresa Nielsen Hayden)

“Probably no man has ever troubled to imagine how strange his life would appear to himself if it were unrelentingly assessed in terms of his maleness; if everything he wore, said, or did had to be justified by reference to female approval [...] If he gave an interview to a reporter, or performed any unusual exploit, he would find it recorded in such terms as these: ‘Professor Bract, although a distinguished botanist, is not in any way an unmanly man. He has, in fact, a wife and seven children. Tall and burly, the hands with which he handles his delicate specimens are as gnarled and powerful as those of a Canadian lumberjack, and when I swilled beer with him in his laboratory, he bawled his conclusions at me in a strong, gruff voice that implemented the promise of his swaggering moustache.’” (Dorothy L. Sayers)

“Grown ups are what’s left when skool is finished.” (Nigel Molesworth)

“If you don't like the ‘blame game,’ it’s usually because you’re to blame.” (Jon Stewart)

“Slang is for a war of signals.” (Unknown semiotician/palindromist)

“Science fiction is an argument with the world. When it becomes (solely) an argument within science fiction, it breathes recycled air.” (Ken MacLeod)

“All worthy work is open to interpretation the author didn’t intend. Art isn’t your pet—it’s your kid. It grows up and talks back.” (Joss Whedon)

“I really don’t know what you do about the ‘taxes is theft’ crowd, except possibly enter a gambling pool regarding just how long after their no-tax utopia comes true that their generally white, generally entitled, generally soft and pudgy asses are turned into thin strips of Objectivist Jerky by the sort of pitiless sociopath who is actually prepped and ready to live in the world that logically follows these people’s fondest desires.” (John Scalzi)

“So whenever a libertarian says that capitalism is at odds with the state, laugh at him. It’s like saying that the NFL is ‘at war’ with football fields. To be a libertarian is to say that God or the universe marked up that field, squirted out the pigskins from the bowels of the earth, and handed down the playbooks from Mt. Sinai.” (Connor Kilpatrick)

“True religion invites us to become better people. False religion tells us that this has already occurred.” (Abdal-Hakim Murad)

“There is a machine. Its program is ‘profit’. This is not a myth.” (Joss Whedon)

“There's always romance at the top of a system.” (Will Shetterly)

“Power always thinks it has a great soul and vast views, beyond the comprehension of the weak.” (John “Second US President” Adams)

“There is a document that records God’s endless, dispiriting struggle with organized religion, known as the Bible.” (Terry Eagleton)

“There comes a time when the operation of the machine becomes so odious, makes you so sick at heart, that you can’t take part, you can’t even passively take part; and you’ve got to put your bodies upon the gears and upon the wheels, upon all the apparatus, and you’ve got to make it stop, And you’ve got to indicate to the people who run it, the people who own it, that unless you’re free the machine will be prevented from working at all.” (Mario Savio)

“Racism is not merely a simplistic hatred. It is, more often, broad sympathy toward some and broader skepticism toward others.” (Ta-Nehisi Coates)

“To live is to war against the trolls.” (Henrik Ibsen)

“There is at the back of all our lives an abyss of light, more blinding and unfathomable than any abyss of darkness; and it is the abyss of actuality, of existence, of the fact that things truly are, and that we are ourselves incredibly and sometimes almost incredulously real.” (G. K. Chesterton)

“Perhaps all the dragons in our lives are princesses who are only waiting to see us act, just once, with beauty and courage. Perhaps everything that frightens us is, in its deepest essence, something helpless that wants our love.” (Rainer Maria Rilke)

“It’s just a ride and we can change it any time we want. It’s only a choice. No effort, no work, no job, no savings and money, a choice right now, between fear and love. The eyes of fear want you to put bigger locks on your door, buy guns, close yourself off. The eyes of love instead see all of us as one.” (Bill Hicks)

“I don’t think we have a language, will ever have a language, that can describe transcendence in any useful way and I am aware that that transcendence may be nothing more than the illusory aspiration of a decaying piece of meat on a random rock. The thing is to be humble enough to be content with that while acting to other people as generously as if better things were true, and making art as if it might survive and do good in the world. Because what else are we going to do with the few short years of our life?” (Roz Kaveney)

“No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better.” (Samuel Beckett)

“Fuck every cause that ends in murder and children crying.” (Iain Banks)

“If it doesn’t connect with people around you who aren’t like you, it isn’t politics.” (Teresa Nielsen Hayden)

August 24, 2015
We enjoy in eminence
Posted by Avram Grumer at 10:48 PM * 50 comments

Steven Universe

It’s been a while since I’ve fallen for a TV show this hard. Steven Universe, now in its second season on the Cartoon Network, is wonderful. What’s it about? Steven, a tubby kid with a pink gemstone where his belly-button should be, lives in a weird alien temple with three alien women, the Crystal Gems. They teleport around the globe, fighting monsters. Simple premise, right? What’s so great about it?

While it’s ostensibly a kid’s cartoon, the characters are mostly adults, and they have complicated grown-up histories and motivations, all presented so that kids can understand, but with their complexities visible to the adult viewer. Though there are other kids for Steven to interact with; his probably-going-to-be-a-girlfriend-eventually, Connie, is thoroughly realized, an awesome and totally believable little nerd-girl.

The back-story is rich and subtle— so subtle that I didn’t realize until I browsed some fan pages that the show’s setting is actually an alternate history. The writing is sophisticated— one recent episode had a fake-out plot spur leading to a reveal that (I noticed with a second viewing) had been foreshadowed at several points. A lot of the episodes are like that, with elements that reveal depths of characterization on second viewing, or minor details in the background that hint at things as yet unrevealed.

And the artwork! Clean, distinctive character designs, lush background colors. I almost got distracted from the action in a recent episode just looking at the trees in the background. The characters often visit exotic-looking abandoned alien facilities (temples, combat arenas, laboratories, etc) and the art crew does a great job with the designs. It’s worth scouring the backgrounds for implicit worldbuilding!

The music is really great. One of the main characters is voiced by Grammy-winning singer-songwriter Estelle, and the characters often burst into song. Here’s an example, an extended version of the show’s theme song, shown at San Diego ComicCon this year.

The show presents us with characters from a variety of races, ethnicities, and body-types. Even the alien characters who make up the main cast don’t all look like white people. A number of the characters (including Steven himself) are broader-then-average, and it’s never presented as a problem, or as something to mock. If anything, largeness is associated with both power and beauty. (Though there are also skinny characters, and they, likewise, are treated with respect.)

The Gems are (so far) all female. (Exactly what that means for a species that probably doesn’t reproduce sexually, we don’t yet know.) Not only that, but the show explores gender roles in a serious and intentional way, while still keeping things comprehensible for kids. There’s even a multi-episode story arc revolving around sexual consent (handled at metaphoric arm’s length).

I’ve had this sitting on my hard drive for over a month, waiting for me to figure out how to get more quotes from Paradise Lost into it (“Celestial rosy red, Love’s proper hue”; “And these the gems of Heaven”; “And in the lowest deep a lower deep”), but eventually I gave up and went with this.

August 23, 2015
Hugo discussion thread
Posted by Abi Sutherland at 02:00 AM * 774 comments

So I slept through the awards, having stayed up too late reading (!). But per the Hugo PDF and supplementary data from Locus, this is what we have (in ranked order):

Best Novel (1,827 nominating ballots): The Three Body Problem, Cixin Liu (Tor)
The Goblin Emperor, Katherine Addison (Tor)
Ancillary Sword, Ann Leckie (Orbit US; Orbit UK)
Noah Ward
Skin Game, Jim Butcher (Roc) [S][R]
The Dark Between the Stars, Kevin J. Anderson (Tor) [S][R]

Best Novella (1,083 nominating ballots): Noa Waard
“Flow”, Arlan Andrews, Sr. (Analog 11/14) [S][R]
Big Boys Don’t Cry, Tom Kratman (Castalia House) [S][R]
One Bright Star to Guide Them, John C. Wright (Castalia House) [S][R]
“The Plural of Helen of Troy”, John C. Wright (City Beyond Time: Tales of the Fall of Metachronopolis)[R]
“Pale Realms of Shade”, John C. Wright (The Book of Feasts & Seasons)[R]

Best Novelette (1,031 nominating ballots): “The Day the World Turned Upside Down”, Thomas Olde Heuvelt (Lightspeed 4/14)
Noah Ward
“The Triple Sun: A Golden Age Tale”, Rajnar Vajra (Analog 7-8/14) [S][R]
“Ashes to Ashes, Dust to Dust, Earth to Alluvium”, Gray Rinehart (Orson Scott Card’s InterGalactic Medicine Show 5/14) [S][R]
“The Journeyman: In the Stone House”, Michael F. Flynn (Analog 6/14) [S][R]
“Championship B’tok”, Edward M. Lerner (Analog 9/14) [S][R]

Best Short Story (1,174 nominating ballots): Noa Waard
“Totaled”, Kary English (Galaxy’s Edge 7/14) [S][R]
“A Single Samurai”, Steven Diamond (The Baen Big Book of Monsters) [S]
“Turncoat”, Steve Rzasa (Riding the Red Horse)[R]
“The Parliament of Beasts and Birds”, John C. Wright (The Book of Feasts & Seasons)[R]
“On a Spiritual Plain”, Lou Antonelli (Sci Phi Journal #2 11/14) [S][R]

Best Dramatic Presentation - Long (1,285 nominating ballots): Guardians of the Galaxy [S][R]
Captain America: The Winter Soldier
Edge of Tomorrow
Interstellar [S][R]
The Lego Movie [S][R]

Best Dramatic Presentation - Short (938 nominating ballots): Orphan Black: “By Means Which Have Never Yet Been Tried”
Doctor Who: “Listen”
Game of Thrones: “The Mountain and the Viper”[R]
The Flash: “Pilot” [S][R]
Grimm: “Once We Were Gods” [S][R]

Best Related Work (1,150 nominating ballots): Noah Ward
“The Hot Equations: Thermodynamics and Military SF”, Ken Burnside (Riding the Red Horse) [S][R]
“Why Science is Never Settled”, Tedd Roberts ( [S][R]
Transhuman and Subhuman: Essays on Science Fiction and Awful Truth, John C. Wright (Castalia House) [S][R]
Letters from Gardner, Lou Antonelli (The Merry Blacksmith Press) [S][R]
Wisdom from My Internet, Michael Z. Williamson (Patriarchy Press) [S][R]

Best Graphic Story (785 nominating ballots): Ms. Marvel, Volume 1: No Normal, G. Willow Wilson; art by Adrian Alphona & Jake Wyatt (Marvel Comics)
Saga, Volume 3, Brian K. Vaughan; art by Fiona Staples (Image Comics)
Rat Queens, Volume 1: Sass and Sorcery, Kurtis J. Weibe; art by Roc Upchurch (Image Comics)
Sex Criminals, Volume 1: One Weird Trick, Matt Fraction; art by Chip Zdarsky (Image Comics)
Noa Waard
The Zombie Nation Book #2: Reduce Reuse Reanimate, Carter Reid (self-published) [S][R]

Best Professional Editor, Long Form (712 nominating ballots): Noah Ward
Toni Weisskopf [S][R]
Sheila Gilbert [S][R]
Anne Sowards [S][R]
Jim Minz [S][R]
Vox Day[R]

Best Professional Editor, Short Form (870 nominating ballots): Noa Waard
Mike Resnick [S][R]
Jennifer Brozek [S][R]
Bryan Thomas Schmidt [S][R]
Vox Day[R]
Edmund R. Schubert [S][R]

Best Professional Artist (753 nominating ballots): Julie Dillon
Noah Ward
Kirk DouPonce [S]
Alan Pollack [S]
Nick Greenwood [S]
Carter Reid [S]

Best Semiprozine (660 nominating ballots): Lightspeed
Strange Horizons
Beneath Ceaseless Skies
Noa Waard
Abyss & Apex [S]
Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine [S]

Best Fanzine (576 nominating ballots): Journey Planet
Noah Ward
Black Gate [R]
Tangent Online [S][R]
Elitist Book Reviews [S][R]
The Revenge of Hump Day [S][R]

Best Fancast (668 nominating ballots): Galactic Suburbia Podcast
Tea and Jeopardy

Noa Waard
The Sci Phi Show [S][R]
Adventures in SciFi Publishing [S][R]
Dungeon Crawlers Radio [S][R]

Best Fan Writer (777 nominating ballots): Laura J. Mixon
Noah Ward
Jeffro Johnson [S][R]
Dave Freer [S][R]
Amanda S. Green [S][R]
Cedar Sanderson [S][R]

Best Fan Artist (296 nominating ballots): Elizabeth Leggett
Spring Schoenhuth
Ninni Aalto
Steve Stiles
Brad Foster

John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer (851 nominating ballots): Wesley Chu (2nd year eligibility)
Noa Waard
Kary English (2nd year eligibility) [S][R]
Eric. S. Raymond [S][R]
Jason Cordova [S][R]
Rolf Nelson[R]

[S]: Appeared on the Sad Puppies slate (donotlink link to original source)
[R]: Appeared on the Rabid Puppies slate (donotlink link to original source)

Congratulations to the winners, and commiserations to the losers. Yes, even the Puppies, because I am willing to believe that anyone who puts their hands on pen or keyboard in the service of our art partakes, to one extent or another, in the thing we’re trying to honor. Whatever else they’ve done, whatever dissatisfactions and entitlements they’ve let eat them out from the core, are laid on top of that basic impulse. And that is what the Hugos honor.

August 16, 2015
My Privileged Elite Background, Revealed
Posted by Patrick at 06:39 PM * 326 comments

Sarah Hoyt:

MOST of the editors [in the SF field] came from families where ALL generations had gone to college as far as they remembered (kind of like my husband’s family. It amuses me that paternal grandad would have bowed and scraped and been speechless before my inlaws.) More than that, they’d gone to prestigious colleges. For 99% of them, if they had an ancestor who worked with his/her hands, it was buried in the mists of time.
Hm, where shall I start?

delbert at the dropforge.jpeg
Grandfather Delbert Hayden (1901-1962) at his Princeton class reunion, delivering an informal seminar in Renaissance humanities at the drop forge at Fisher Body in Detroit. Like you do.

Seriously. Seriously? I didn’t go to college. In fact, I didn’t graduate from high school, and I don’t have a GED. This is one of the more widely known facts about me, tbh. If you’re making generalizations like that about a set of people that has me in it…well, you just hate to see that kind of thing at this level of play.

Both of my parents went to college — Michigan State University. Both of them were the first people in the known history of their families to do so. I don’t make this assertion lightly. Thanks largely to the heroic efforts of relatives, I know the names, dates, and something of the lives of all 32 of my great-great-great grandparents, and I know the same for all but eight of my 64 great-great-great-great-grandparents. This gets us back to approximately the American Revolution. Not a college degree among them.

haydens and newtons.jpeg
The 1906 meeting of the Modern Language Association, Daviess County, Kentucky. On the left, great-grandfather Prof. Clarence E. Hayden (1872-1908) prepares to speak to his twin sons about Dryden’s The Hind and the Panther. On the right, Prof. greatX3-uncle James Urban Hayden (1856-1933) contemplates figurative imagery in Galen’s On the affections of the mind.

Let’s talk about how people like me don’t have an ancestor who “worked with his/her hands.” Leaving aside my own resume of youthful labor (day laborer, typesetter, printer’s flunky, scraper of paint off of aging Great Lakes freighters—that one was less than perfectly fun), there’s the fact that my father’s father was a factory worker in Detroit. His father was a farmer, as were all the Haydens before him back to the seventeenth century.

My mother’s father was a CPA and a shopkeeper. He came to Michigan from Kentucky with a backwoods accent so severe that he was literally incomprehensible to people there. His forebears were Appalachia through-and-through: hardscrabble, hard times.

Great-great grandparents John Freeman (1850-1928) and Tacy Allen (1857-1924), shown on their grand tour of the fashionable resorts of late 19th-century Europe. “Taormina is so overrated, don’t you think, dear?”

As you can see, Sarah Hoyt is exactly right. My ancestors were generation upon generation of privileged scions of the Ivy League. Beth Meacham’s rural Ohio forebears were all Oxbridgeans; in fact, you couldn’t even show your face in 19th-century Newark, Ohio if you hadn’t published at least one article in a peer-reviewed journal of classical studies. Claire Eddy’s family in Hell’s Kitchen, of course, was composed entirely of high-society patrons of the arts; the entire career of George Balanchine would have been unthinkable without the support of Claire’s tavern-keeping, linoleum-installing relatives. And of course Teresa Nielsen Hayden’s dirt-farmer Mormon forebears contrived the artificial distinction between “literary” and “genre” fiction out of whole cloth, because monkey cucumber parliamentary archaeology. And other things that make just as much sense.

We look forward to explaining other issues of similar subcultural salience.

August 15, 2015
The empty place is for Bigfoot
Posted by Abi Sutherland at 03:53 PM * 51 comments

Cath, of her kindness, has been doing the yeoman work of organizing two Gatherings of Light at Sasquan. This is the master information post, which can be linked to and referred to. It is versioned, and will be updated if details change.

This is revision 3, as at Thursday 20 August


(Twitter hashtag #MLthursdaydinner)

Thursday, August 20, 7:30 pm Pacific Time

Location: Saranac, 21 West Main Avenue, two and a half blocks from the convention center. Map link here

Meet at 7 pm Thursday evening inside the ground floor pointy end of the exhibit hall. Outside you can see the little green park on West Spokane Falls Blvd, and the crosswalk over highway 2. A few steps away from the escalator there are some benches next to Elevator 14. Cath will be there from 6:45 onward.

For identification purposes, she describes herself as “middle-aged, pale skin, red hair, glasses, and will be holding a red Chinese paper lantern.”

If you run late, come find us at Saranac. The reservation is under the name of Cath Rowan.

IMPORTANT: If you’d like to join the dinner expedition, please post an explicit “I am coming to Thursday dinner” comment on this thread by midnight Sunday Aug 16 Mountain time the evening of Wednesday 19 August, or until all 20 seats are filled. Cath will comment with updated attendance lists.

- o0o -


(Twitter hashtag #MLfridaymeetup; schedule link here)

Friday, August 21, 2-3:45 pm

Location: CC 201C

Drop by when you can, BYO beverages, snacks, handwork, etc

Note that this room has chairs but no tables. If lots of people show up at once, some may have to stand.

If the gathering is still going strong at 3:45, we can move down to hall C.

- o0o -


Contact details for Cath: cathrowan at the Canadian extension of Yahoo (nationality is important in this context); if you need a cell phone number, contact her that way. She is also @cath_rowan on Twitter (in case the convention center bandwidth overloads).

She promises to do her best to monitor all three (e-mail, phone, and Twitter) closely during the couple of hours before each event.

Cath was also suggesting using #MakingLightatSasquan to find other fluorospherians at panels, company for a meal, etc.

August 11, 2015
On sale today: John Scalzi’s The End of All Things
Posted by Patrick at 11:10 AM * 4 comments

endofallthings.jpg On sale today in hardcover and ebook in North America, and on August 13 in trade paperback and ebook in the UK.

Excerpts here. Author post about it here. Video interview with the author here. Author tour schedule here.

From the author’s post about it, linked above:

“This book is a direct followup to The Human Division and continues the scenarios, events and characters found there. It also wraps up the larger story arc begun in The Human Division (i.e., you will find out who is behind all the cliff-hangery stuff and why), so those of you worried that there will be some things left unresolved and to be dealt with in a third book: Relax. It all gets settled. […]

“I will be stingy on the details except to say that two [of the novel’s sections] are from the point of view of major characters in The Human Division, one from a previously minor character, and one introduces a brand new character who I think is very interesting indeed. […] And yes, the actual end of all things is a very real concern in this novel.”

Some reviews:

“Polished and powerful…The inevitable and parallel downward spirals of the two corrupt space empires, the human Colonial Union and the alien Conclave, are finally coming to a head. All four protagonists work for one of the two entities, and Scalzi shifts among their perspectives to thread a fine needle, recognizing that good people can be entrenched in terrible systems and sometimes can’t (or won’t) change them.”
Publishers Weekly (starred review)

“It’s classic crowd-pleasing Scalzi, offering thrilling adventure scenes (space battles, daring military actions, parachute jumps through a planet’s atmosphere), high-stakes politics, snarky commentary, and food for thought. Delightful, compulsively readable, and even somewhat nutritious brain candy.”
Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

“[F]ascinating, uncharted territory for military science fiction. The world is a considerably complicated place, and this is a book that recognizes it, and attempts to capture a tiny piece of that complexity. The format of the book, with its four parts and sub-chapters, aids the narrative in this regard, reminding me of the films Syriana or Traffic by telling huge story in tiny brushstrokes….[T]he series has been left in a good place, and I can’t wait to see what happens next.”

August 06, 2015
The building of the centerpiece
Posted by Abi Sutherland at 06:13 PM * 94 comments

Go, gather photons. Seek, and you will find.
Go pluck them where they hang from bowing trees
And cast a silver net upon the seas.
Retrieve them from the depths where they were mined.
Then harvest me some waves (the not-wet kind):
Ensnare them as they drift upon the breeze,
Unthread them from the fuzzy legs of bees,
And tease them from the hedgerows they’ve entwined.
Collect it all in one fluorescent mound,
A massless mass of quanta piled high,
Entangled, incandescent, golden-bright.
Then pull up chairs, my friends, and cluster round.
This is the place to talk, to laugh, to cry,
To sit and celebrate in gathered light.

In prose: this is a thread to plan a Gathering of Light (or more than one) at Sasquan. Do the thing.

August 05, 2015
Open thread 207
Posted by Abi Sutherland at 04:44 PM * 489 comments

You might think that. I couldn’t possibly comment.

August 04, 2015
The SPOILER Affinities
Posted by Abi Sutherland at 04:05 PM * 4 comments

As requested, a space where folks can discuss Robert Charles Wilson’s The Affinities without having to mask or avoid spoilers.


July 27, 2015
Posted by Abi Sutherland at 05:46 PM * 139 comments

He said, “Kid, whadja get?”
I said, “I didn’t get nothing, I had to pay $50 and pick up the garbage.”
He said, “What were you arrested for, kid?”
And I said, “Littering.”
And they all moved away from me on the bench there, with the hairy eyeball and all kinds of mean nasty things, till I said, “And creating a nuisance.”
Then they all came back, shook my hand, and we had a great time…
—Arlo Guthrie, “Alice’s Restaurant”

Every work morning, I cycle onto the Buiksloterwegveer, the ferry that runs straight across the IJ from Amsterdam Noord to Centraal Station. Getting to it is a story in itself, an epic in miniature: the long straight ride toward the boat, usually into the teeth of the wind; the suspense in the way the signs block the countdown so that one can’t see how long it is till departure. The pilots often wait a minute or so past zero, picking a break in the incoming cycle traffic, delaying for a hurrying foot passenger or two. I always feel lucky when I’m one of the last to reach the deck before the red lights flash and the siren signals that boarding is over.

Then it comes, as the heavy clunk of the ramp coming up echoes through the vessel. All around me the people glance at one another, quickly, furtively, one flick of the eyes and away. And I taste the koinopoiēsis in the air, like the first rain after a hot week.

“Koinopoiēsis” is part of my idiolect. It’s a combination of two Greek words, κοινόν (koinon, community) and ποίησις (poiēsis, making). It refers to both the moment when a crowd becomes a community and the processes which create that transformation.

The ferry crossing takes about two minutes. We’re a mayfly of a community, and we know it. Our koinopoiēsis is so faint as to be unnoticeable unless you’re sensitive. Unless you’re addicted. It’s like the ghost of sweetness one gets from the nectar of a violet: enough to whet the appetite, but not enough to satisfy it.

We dock at Centraal. The alarm whoops, the front gate goes down, and I leave our ephemeral community for the murmuration of Amsterdam cyclists.

But that’s fine, because at the other end of my ride is the office, where I am swimming in community: the two teams I work with, the team I line manage, my department, my former teams, the loose communities of expats from the various countries I have allegiances to, the foreigners who speak Dutch, emergency responders, the complex network of long-term employees who move about the company… The Venn diagram of my workplace communities looks like a puddle in a heavy rainstorm.

And these groups are forever recreating themselves. There’s something called the Tuckman model, which lists a number of stages a new team goes through: Forming, Storming, Norming, and Performing. (The naming is terribly twee, but I find the model useful as a way to reassure teams that the initial conflict they experience is normal and not permanent.) But the model goes on to point out that whenever a team gains or loses a member, there’s a Mourning stage, and then the whole cycle repeats, because it’s effectively a new team. This is true and necessary on every level of community: nal komerex, khesterex.

So even when I don’t find myself in a new team (as I did a month ago), I am surrounded by the low murmur of social and organizational change, and with that change, little increments of community formation. If the ferry was a single droplet of koinopoiēsis, the office is a slow, wide river of it.

One of my roles is to tend that river the way our waterschappen tend our physical waterways. Sometimes it’s easy: a word here, an email there, a private chat over coffee or on a bike ride home. Sometimes it’s a bigger job, which usually means cookies. (I’ve talked about food and community before.) I have the good fortune to work with some gifted koinopoiēsis engineers: kind of a meta-community. We hold baking contests.

Although it wasn’t until I started moderating a long-lived and articulate community that I named this thing and made it a separate concept in my world, I was raised in an environment that values it, celebrates it, tells stories with it. We all were. My defining high-school movie was The Breakfast Club, which is basically an hour and a half of slow-motion koinopoiēsis with a Simple Minds soundtrack. But even if you weren’t a Brat Pack eighties kid, the thing is pervasive: it’s what turned Han into someone who would come back and help Luke destroy the Death star; Mal was looking for its traces before he let Jayne out of the airlock; Maia learns it in The Goblin Emperor; it’s the Scoobies and Leverage, Lethal Weapon and The Matrix, the larger arc of the Avengers movies, The Fellowship of the Ring, Fury Road.


July 06, 2015
The SPOILER Kings, a discussion thread
Posted by Abi Sutherland at 06:18 PM * 51 comments

I know there’s not really that much to spoil in The Philosopher Kings, but in the unlikely event that revealing some of the minor details that are not well-foreshadowed in the previous book might be upsetting to the broader community, here’s a thread for such discussions.

July 01, 2015
On sale yesterday: Jo Walton’s The Philosopher Kings, Book Two of Thessaly
Posted by Patrick at 08:37 AM * 27 comments

the-philosopher-kings.jpg On sale yesterday in hardcover and ebook in North America, on August 6 in ebook in the UK and associated markets, and sometime later in the UK as a trade paperback.

Excerpt here.

Author’s remarks about it on her own website:

The Philosopher Kings is the sequel to The Just City. Read that first! […]

It is my twelfth published novel. I wrote it betwen 20th June and 28th November 2013, in 28 writing days, and then revised it in early 2014. It’s set twenty years after the end of The Just City.

The Philosopher Kings is about…love and excellence. And responsibility. And art. And it’s about Apollo and his daughter Arete and Ficino and some other people going on a boat trip that leads them to end up somewhere you’d never have expected. The Just City uses the myth of Apollo and Daphne. The Philosopher Kings uses the myth of Apollo and Marsyas.

First line is “Not many people know that Pico della Mirandola stole the head of the Winged Victory of Samothrace.”

Read The Just City first, did I say that already? It seems to work for people reading it without, but it’s full of spoilers for the first book.

Some reviews

“[T]he gathered characters, their philosophical and practical discussions, and their character-driven decisions, along with Walton’s plain, declarative, and crystal-clear style, and the straightforward and probing dialogue (in both the Socratic and the fiction-writing senses), familiarize the high concept and make it seem plausible. […] Another of the reading pleasures here, and in all of Walton’s writing, is the intimate scale. Much as I love the more-is-more rush of [Neal] Stephenson’s work, Walton’s economical method is just as effective. The characters are just as complex, and perhaps more distinctive because they are not lost in the overwhelming detail about their environment. The environment in the Atlantean novels is detailed enough for us to supply the rest, and if we don’t know exactly how the robots work or how the ships are constructed, we still get the idea. This economy, along with the harmony among characters, events, and ideas, keeps her novels of ideas from seeming wooden or boring. Walton knows what to leave out as well as what to include. “
Joan Gordon, Los Angeles Review of Books

“[T]he science it deals with is moral science: it’s a science fiction of philosophy, as much argument as adventure, and its nature is such as to invite the reader to participate. That’s half the fun. More than half, over and above Walton’s agreeable prose and solidly believable characters—even Apollo is believable, and I have high standards for fictional gods, though that might be hubris. What does it mean to strive for excellence, as a person, and as a person among other people? What does it mean to be a hero, or a philosopher? What’s just? […] The Philosopher Kings is a very entertaining novel. It’s even more entertaining as an argument.”
Liz Bourke,

“Audacious … The end result is a satisfying conclusion, with room for more if desired.”
Kirkus Reviews, starred review

“One of my favorite parts of this book is the characters running into the rest of the world and having it be something of a shock, after all these years, that there are people who are not in any way attempting to recreate Plato’s Republic. It has come to seem utterly, indisputably normal to them. And…I think we can all come up with aspects of our unique lives that feel totally normal until we compare them with the outside world and remember. It’s done really well, the shock of the new coming from an unexpected direction and yet feeling entirely in-character.”
Marissa Lingen, Novel Gazing Redux

“The ending is a knock-out, tongue-in-cheek deus ex machina twist explicitly stating that no matter how much The Philosopher Kings departed from The Just City, the third and final book, Necessity, will move exponentially farther away — both literally and figuratively. If there’s one thing Walton is brilliant at — and there are roughly 1 million of those — it’s not letting you know quite what kind of story you’re in, and leading you to relish the discovery.”
Amal El-Mohtar,

The Philosopher Kings, sequel to The Just City, will be followed by Book Three of Thessaly, Necessity, slated for summer 2016. Follow Jo Walton’s blog for updates.