Linky Tunes (2017-07-31)

Rather than being inspired to post a link and throwing in a couple more or whatever has been the method for previous link posts, I actually bookmarked stuff that I thought was interesting from the 11th to now. This resulted in a lot more links and it might be a bit much to expect folks to read this whole thing (though you’re more than welcome to) but hopefully the headers and the shiny blue stuff will still let you find a thing or two that might interest you as well.

Also, a blog note: I’m behind on reading I need to get done for Tangent so I may be a little slow with the webzines at the start of this month but I’ll try not to be.

Politics

I don’t (and hopefully won’t) talk politics much because right-wing people think I’m a dirty hippie commie and left-wing people think I’m a racist sexist fascist and that’s not much fun for me but there have been a lot of articles recently on a subject dear to my heart and I want to pass them on.

Gerrymandering

I don’t care what wing you are, if you’re a little-d democrat and little-r republican, you surely understand that every citizen must count and every elected official must be responsive and that therefore all must fight gerrymandering as one of the greatest evils that can be perpetrated on a democracy. Whether you’re a Democrat in Maryland or a Republican in North Carolina, you should join with those outside your parties in condemning this and even voting against your party if your legislators persist in the villainy of gerrymandering (whether for racial or party or any other reasons). No American should want a one-party system (like Psoviet Russia and China) even if they think “their side” is going to be that party. Somehow many Americans seem to have gotten the idea that, if they aren’t happy all the time, they must be unhappy and need to wreck stuff until they are. But there’s a word for a person who gets everything his way all the time: “dictator.” The only people happy under dictatorial systems are those who agree with the dictator 100% of the time and don’t happen to get on his bad side anyway. Democracy, when functioning, means no one ever being completely happy but most people being mostly happy most of the time.

The articles I’m linking to mostly focus on my state of North Carolina but they’re applicable anywhere democracy is being subverted.

The most striking point in “NC elections don’t ‘look regular’ – and haven’t for a long time” (beside the colorful moonshiner story) is that 9% of the state representative and 0% of the national representative races in NC (the ones decided by districts which can be gerrymandered) were competitive in a state where senatorial, gubernatorial, and presidential races (the ones decided statewide) are regularly within single points (the last governor’s race being decided by a few thousand votes (0.2%) out of millions cast).

And so you say the fox ate your chickens? Well, we’ll fix that by putting the fox back in the henhouse, as these two articles detail:

And these two articles say the judges are not amused.

That sort of thing tends to make one feel hopeless but, on the other hand, there are things like this opinion piece: “I’m Republican, but N.C. legislature went too far“. It captures what can go wrong in irresponsible governments but provides hope that it can be corrected when people put state and country (and simple justice and good sense) ahead of party.

Two Other Notes and a Segue

Speaking of party, the fact that the “Democrats split with Jefferson and Jackson” gives me a chance to smack them as well as the Republicans. If they don’t want to be associated with the author of the Virginia Statute of Religious Freedom, the principal author of the Declaration of Independence, a prime mover behind the adoption of the Bill of Rights, the founder of the University of Virginia, a benefactor of science and exploration (and, oh, by the way, a two-term President who doubled the size of the country), then I’m sure glad I’m not associated with them. But, then, Jefferson’s better angel did make him say, “I never submitted the whole system of my opinions to the creed of any party of men whatever in religion, in philosophy, in politics, or in any thing else where I was capable of thinking for myself. Such an addiction is the last degradation of a free and moral agent. If I could not go to heaven but with a party, I would not go there at all,” so he’d probably be glad not to be associated with them, either.

To return to the idea of “responsive” politicians, here’s an example of where it’s completely broken (and note the influence of money – especially special interest money – extra-especially out-of-state special interest money – corrupting both the citizens and their representatives): “Lawmakers Strike Back Against Voter-Approved Ballot Measures.”

So. That’s my course of vegetables for this blog post. Remember, boys and girls, gerrymandering is bad. Your nation and state are more important than your party. Now on to some heaping helpings of a variety of desserts.

History

My favorite articles from The History Blog since the last one I noted:

Science

Now for some cool science, some of which is bittersweet (to say the least) but still neat in scientific terms.

The first post is just interesting.

The next two are yet more examples of how subtle and ever-decreasing the value of ne (the number of worlds suitable for life in the Drake equation) is. There are still innumerable galaxies and there are innumerable stars in each of those galaxies so it still seems like the odds are (literally) astronomical that we’d be alone but, the more we learn, the more the odds that we are seem to be approaching equality.

I’m repeating the last two from File 770 because that reminded me that, while I’ve linked to The History Blog before and it is a great blog, I’d somehow neglected to link to my very favorite blog, Centauri Dreams. These are very good posts on a great contributor to our progress toward interstellar flight.

Science Fiction

Hard SF at Rocket Stack Rank

Finally, to move from the science to the fiction, Rocket Stack Rank has an interesting and extremely number-crunching piece on the state of Hard Science Fiction in 2016. My problems with this piece are that it partly counts words vs. stories, its list of most important magazines is debatable, and the numbers after a certain point refer only to “recommended hard SF” which automatically makes it all even more subjective than it has to be and doesn’t actually address the state of hard SF generally. That said, it is obviously quite a labor of love and very interesting and I applaud the focus and effort.

(Skip to the next section if you don’t care about my story re-recommendations for or against.)

As far as the stories themselves, RSR ignores the ones that weren’t recommended by anyone and divides the recommended ones into those RSR recommended against and those it either didn’t or recommended favorably.

Of the ones RSR was neutral-to-positive on, I’ve recommended “The Art of Space Travel” but it’s only hard SF by omission – it omits all fantasy but doesn’t really include much science. Quite pleased to see “Chasing Ivory” recommended by Dozois but apparently he and I were the only ones.

I was indifferent to or mixed on “RedKing,” “White Dust,” “Something Happened Here,” “Those Brighter Stars,” “Induction,” and “Six Degrees.” Again, perhaps none are fantasy but they don’t generally make me think of Clement, Forward, or Egan.

On the ones RSR recommended against, I agree with RSR and disagree with Dozois/Horton on “Bridge of Dreams” and Dozois on “A Tower for the Coming World,” “Sixteen Questions,” and “Monuments.” I gave all those mixed to unfavorable reviews at Tangent.

However, one point of strong agreement with Dozois and disagreement with RSR concerns “Cold Comfort” which was one of my three favorite stories in Bridging Infinity. Another favorite (which seems not to have qualified as hard SF but, IIRC, was at least as hard as, e.g., “Bridge of Dreams”) was “Seven Birthdays” by Ken Liu. The third was one that may not have been recommended by anyone but me: “Mice Among Elephants” by Benford and Niven, which I admitted at Tangent was “[n]ot an entirely successful story” but “one that I really enjoyed.” So, admittedly, more of a “fun” rec than a “great story” rec, but I like fun.

Anyway – those are the ones it occurs to me to comment on. For the other stories, I either missed reading them or missed commenting about them if I have read them.

Ballantine’s “Best of” and Le Guin at Black Gate

Over at Black Gate, they’ve added some reviews of Ballantine’s “The Best of” series which, I think, is one of the best publishing achievements in SF history. Recently there have been at least reviews of the John W. Campbell and Cordwainer Smith volumes. For more, see the list at the bottom of the Campbell review or perhaps these (mostly relevant) search results.

Finally, if you’ve got the bucks and the inclination, Black Gate also informs us that Le Guin’s SF (Orsinia doesn’t count) has made the big time along with PKD and some 50s novels: “A Treasure Trove of Classic Ursula K. Le Guin: The Hainish Novels and Stories from the Library of America.”

Tunes

And now for the tunes – one with one of the best comments ever…

“You may be COOL, but you’ll never be ALDO NOVA stepping out of a helicopter under armed guard wearing a leopard skin body suit with cowboy boots COOL.”

Aldo Nova – “Fantasy”

Red Rider – “Lunatic Fringe”

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2 thoughts on “Linky Tunes (2017-07-31)

  1. The analysis makes a bit more sense when you realize that we’re trying to identify sets of stories for people to read (e.g. hard SF) and then doing some analysis on those sets. The thinking here is that some people would “add a star” for a hard SF story (or a portal fantasy, or a colony story, etc.) and so we want to make reading lists based on specific themes. Sort of like an anthology, except we’re not printing anything.

    Another point is that I did run the stats on all stories (not just recommended ones) and the numbers didn’t turn up anything interesting. We toyed with the idea of making the raw data available, but we’d need to reformat it to make it easy for people to use.

    As for the definition of hard SF, obviously that’s a famous question, and we keep tweaking it. For “Seven Birthdays” the question was whether it was hard SF because of the setting alone or if it needed at least some hard SF in the plot. “The Art of Space Travel” was the toughest call, since the SF element was so slight. However, it did depend on the Mars trip being essentially one-way, so although it’s barely SF, it’s definitely hard not soft.

    Finally, I actually did recommend “Mice Among Elephants” and I tagged it “Hard SF.” It’s omission from the list was an error. When we get back from Helsinki, we’ll have to look into how that happened. (Thanks.)

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    • It made sense and I got what you were doing – it was just the phrasing of what the numbers meant sounded more absolute. That said, I say stuff approximately like “there was more SF than F this month” when I’m speaking of my recs and not the totals of all fiction, myself. It’s just that if I were talking about the “state” of things I’d crunch all the numbers and talk about those. I was making more a “reader be aware” quibble than a “reader beware.” 🙂 However if you did crunch all the numbers and they were basically the same, that is interesting and answers a lot of my questions. (In other words, if 100 stories were published last year and 10 were recommended and 20 stories were published this year and 10 were recommended the idea that there would be just as much in both years would seem problematic. But if it’s ~90 or ~110 then that statement would work for me.

      As far as the definition of hard SF, I know what you mean. People refer to Asimov as hard SF a lot and, while I love him more than most anybody, I don’t generally think of him as hard SF in a strict sense. There’s the idea that “this lacks sorcery and even midichlorians and whooshing immediate right turns in space so it’s hard SF” and then there’s the idea of “this is all about physics and chemistry and, if we just had the money and engineering and could get to the danged planets, this would be fact today so it’s hard SF” which is more how I think of it. Absence of fantasy vs. presence of science. A lot of “SF” (and especially the bulk of shorter SF excluding (some of) Nature’s flash pieces) is “absence of fantasy” at most. That’s where I think the word count vs. story thing comes in. You would certainly know better than I but I suspect hard SF tends to have more words but fewer stories. For instance, the average length of your hard SF recs is 6638 words but the average length of all stories I’ve read this year on the web (which does tend to the shorter, admittedly) is 4469.

      Anyway, like I say, the main thing is that it’s a really neat article and I hope a lot of people see it.

      (Oh, and good to know you recommended the Benford/Niven, too. It really was chock full of fascinating ideas that moved along at a good clip. But I’ve looked at your review and agree with you – it does stop when you don’t want it to. I think it’s going to be part of the next novel in that “Bowl of Heaven” set (which I haven’t read but obviously must) so it will continue but the “excerptiness” (if I can coin a horrible word) does harm the story.)

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