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Open Thread 133.5

This is the twice-weekly hidden open thread. You can also talk at the SSC subreddit or the SSC Discord server.

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1,232 Responses to Open Thread 133.5

  1. imoimo says:

    What’s something you made by yourself that you’re proud of?

    • EchoChaos says:

      Not 100% by myself, because I worked with a good friend of mine, but I made my own AR-15 from an 80% lower.

      • Enkidum says:

        Is “an 80% lower” a typo or is there some way you can make a rifle out of whatever that means?

        • Phigment says:

          For a rifle, in the U.S.A., there are very specific laws about what a gun is.

          Modern guns have lots of interchangeable parts, and the part with the important serial number that is legally the “gun” for registration purposes is the lower.

          An “80% lower” is a lower which is not functional. It is only 80% complete for being able to work with other AR-15 components to make a functioning firearm, and thus not yet a gun.

          EchoChaos and his friend did the machining needed to take that lower from 80% complete to 100% complete, and then added and assembled the other parts to have a working AR-15.

          • EchoChaos says:

            Excellently explained.

            That is exactly what we did.

          • John Schilling says:

            and the part with the important serial number that is legally the “gun” for registration purposes is the lower.

            Nit: That’s “lower receiver”, and unique to the AR-15. “Receiver” is gun-speak for “frame” or “chassis”, and in the specific case of the AR-15, has separate upper and lower halves. The lower half is the part with the serial number, and at least for now is the only part the BATF vests with the legal attribute of gun-ness.

          • Enkidum says:

            Thanks. Sounds like a fun project.

          • EchoChaos says:

            @Enkidum

            It’s tremendously fun, and surprisingly easy to pull off. Highly recommended as a project for someone who wants to learn more about modern firearms.

            Plus at the end you have “your own gun” to a degree of uniqueness that you can’t get anywhere else.

    • Enkidum says:

      A software suite to assist in the generation of neuropsychological experiments. A wooden drawer for storing several hundred comics (made it thirty years ago, but it has disappeared at some point in the past twenty years along with said comics, much to my annoyance). A bedroom in the basement of my father’s cottage.

    • John Schilling says:

      When I was about thirteen and on an extended road/camping trip with our family, the main crosspiece of our tent broke due to fatigue. I made a replacement using my pocketknife and improvised materials, that functioned as well as the original for the remainder of the trip.

      Plus assorted stuff over thirty or so years as an engineer, but that was the first thing I thought of.

    • Phigment says:

      When I was teaching myself welding, I built a steel and granite coffee table that I still use.

      It’s crooked in spots, because I was not a very good welder and hadn’t figured out heat warping yet, but it still makes me smile. And it’s all but indestructible.

      It was also the first time I ever worked with granite, which was fun. Just cutting a piece of stone to the right shape and rounding the edges, but it’s a lot different than working with metal or wood.

      • imoimo says:

        How do you attach steel and granite? Can the granite be removed from the steel at this point?

        • Phigment says:

          Glue. Really strong masonry adhesive, in this case.

          The granite could be removed from the steel frame of the table because I glued it to a set of steel brackets, and those steel brackets bolt attach to the table frame with bolts.

          You probably could not get the granite off the brackets easily. That was the idea of glueing them like that, anyhow.

          • imoimo says:

            Gluing granite sounds bizarre to me, very interesting to hear that that’s possible, thanks.

          • Phigment says:

            It was a surprise to me, too.

            I basically decided to do the granite top on a whim, based on never having done anything with stone and it sounding fun. I had the exact same question about how to attach it to anything else, so I went and looked at professionally made furniture with granite components to see what they did.

            The answer was glue.

    • Mercurial says:

      I made a program where you’d give it a word and it’d write a poem vaguely connected to it. I’ve also written a few short stories I’m rather proud of.

    • CatCube says:

      I just built a PC this last week, which I haven’t done in a long time. My old one was from 2009(!), and was really slow to boot, had some display flickers and occasional bluescreens.

      The precipitating event for replacing it now was my video card fan had its bearings start to go. I took it out to try to oil it to try to get a little more life out of it, and ended up hard breaking it–so that kind of tempers the “proud” part of this story. I could still start the computer with the case open and a box fan blowing into it, but I wasn’t going to be running Crysis or anything.

      The thread here was invaluable. I was basically really happy with the link provided by @sharper13, and I ended up with a system pretty darn close to the one @DragonMilk was talking about.

      • sharper13 says:

        @CatCube, Glad that worked out for you!

        My own answer to the OP’s question is two-fold:
        1. When I was 18 I did finish carpentry and helped build the extremely detailed woodwork inside this building.
        2. My current work-in-progress novel, which might not quite fit the spirit of the question as it’s not done yet. I’ve made enough progress to know my Alpha readers really like it, though.

        • imoimo says:

          Wow, I have a friend who’s a carpenter but he hasn’t had any projects with near that level of detail. Really cool you got to be a part of that.

          The spirit of the question is very open! I like seeing people post their writing on the internet because if I had a knack for fiction I’d probably be one of them.

      • imoimo says:

        That’s awesome, glad it worked out well and thanks for the source of tips. If I ever have cause to own a serious computer I might follow your example.

    • FrankistGeorgist says:

      Thoroughly beneath many people’s standards of “making” due to impermanence, but I’ve made some really excellent 3 layer cakes, all of them delicious and from scratch. Some of them even managed to look good without ever using horrible horrible fondant.

      My woodworking days produced nothing that inspired quite as much pride as my Lemon Buttermilk cake with orange flower buttercream and passionfruit ganache.

      • imoimo says:

        As a person who prefers experiences to “owning things,” I value the ability to make a good cake quite highly. Also if you have a picture of that cake I’d appreciate the food porn.

        • FrankistGeorgist says:

          Alas, I am a terrible terrible photographer, on account of never taking pictures of anything.

          The effect of the golden ganache was similar to this, which is the recipe on which it was based, but with passionfruit inspirations from Valrhona. A smooth, shiny, geometric cake.

    • Plumber says:

      As part of my work I regularly brazen or solder up fixes, but they’re usually inside walls and soon forgotten, but when the side fence at my house collapses I bought $400 of redwood and built a new one, despite knowing little carpentry, and it isn’t great, but it’s mine and I’m happy with it.

      I didn’t quite “make” but I had machined at a local shop to my specifications a faucet with a high pressure spray diverted that I had attached to a good U.S.A. made faucet that I assembled and installed in my kitchen that I thinks works better than the stock options I know of, and I’m pretty pleased with it.

      • imoimo says:

        Any idea how much you saved by repairing your own fence? Regardless I’d value the pride in seeing my hand-built fence every day over having one that colors inside the lines.

        • Plumber says:

          @imoimo,
          Since I never asked for a quote I just don’t know but I’d be surprised if the labor was any less than twice the $400 I spent on the wood.

    • benjdenny says:

      I once wrote these two jokes:

      Did you hear about the world champion fluffer? They erected a statue in his honor.

      and

      Did you hear all the antagonists from the Back to the Future series of films got together and started a winery? The wine wasn’t any good: Too many Tannens.

      • Enkidum says:

        Are you sure you should be proud of those?

        • benjdenny says:

          Yes. I like them very much.

          • James says:

            The first one’s good, but the second one has a clumsiness to it in how long it takes to get set up.

          • Enkidum says:

            Just to be clear, my comment was trying to be the equivalent of eye rolling and groaning when people make terrible puns. I am in favour of terrible puns.

          • Randy M says:

            Just to be clear, my comment was trying to be the equivalent of eye rolling and groaning when people make terrible puns. I am in favour of terrible puns.

            Punsters really need to let go of this internalized self hatred.

      • HeelBearCub says:

        Oh, if writing counts I might have something to say … but it doesn’t seem in the spirit of things (and imagine we have loads of word artists here).

        • benjdenny says:

          I also restore cast iron, which satisfies the spirit but not the law; I’m sorta screwed either way.

      • imoimo says:

        I admit I laughed at the first one. The second one I don’t have the background for, but I suspect has a low payoff/setup ratio.

        • benjdenny says:

          The second one is probably a valid criticism with some tweaks. The set-up is about 4-7 seconds long; the actual usual hangup is if people don’t immediately know what makes red wine the way it is or don’t remember the BTTF movies that well, there’s some lag-time trying to sort out the punchline.

          I think it’s relatively funny, but to be honest I like it mostly because it was hard to write and only appeals to a limited number of people. It’s like that “Heisenberg gets a speeding ticket” joke, albeit the Heisenberg one is much better.

      • Tarpitz says:

        Did you hear about the Wild Hunt alarms Geralt had installed at Ciri’s house?

        The instructions say, “In case of Eredin, Bréacc Glas.”

        • Plumber says:

          Well I’m curious, but too lazy to research how that joke works as that went past me.

          • Tarpitz says:

            Eredin Bréacc Glas is the antagonist of the Witcher 3 and master of the Wild Hunt. He wants to make use of the magical properties of the protagonist Geralt’s foster daughter Ciri’s blood to launch an interplanar invasion. His last two names sound like “break glass,” a phrase I associate with fire alarms.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            The fact that the words “Jamaican accent” aren’t in your answer disappoints me.

          • Plumber says:

            @Tarpitz,
            Thanks!

            I haven’t read any of The Witcher novels, and I don’t play video games (but I often miss post ’80’s pop culture references).

            @HeelBearCub,

            ????

            Well, I think I’ve already used up my allotments of “What’s dat?” this thread.

          • Nick says:

            @Plumber

            I haven’t read any of The Witcher novels, and I don’t play video games (but I often miss post ’80’s pop culture references).

            I haven’t read them either, but I’ve heard they’re great!

          • Plumber says:

            @Nick,
            I think I saw Sapkowski’s works listed on some “If you like sword & sorcery” list, but I’m hesitant because:
            1) I already have a giant pile of books I “plan” to read.
            2) It’s a series not a stand-alone.
            3) It’s new.
            4) The protagonist is supposed to have some super powers and I prefer tales of normal humans defeating the supernatural (Moorcock’s stories have given me my fill of the reverse).

            But..
            .
            …if there’s a short story to sample I’ll give him a try (much of my reading has come from authors I’ve discovered in anthologies), and I value your opinion.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Plumber:
            Think of a Jamaican accent saying:
            “In case of everything, break glass”

    • Aevylmar says:

      I wrote a fantasy novelette about a wizard-bureaucrat adapting to the post-apocalyptic future. It was great and I love it so much, even the first, pre-editorial draft.

      I also wrote other things, but either I had too much help or they aren’t really good enough for me to be proud of.

    • Randy M says:

      Trying to think of something physical I created. I fixed more things than I’ve built from scratch; equipment at work or appliances around the house. Shop class was a long time ago.

      I’ve made some tasty dishes, Salmon Chowder, but those were from cookbooks.

      I’ve made three people that are pretty neat, but that was certainly not by myself.

      I’ll go back to intangibles and point back to the post from last week where I advertised my novel serial. So far I covered 125 years, from the conception of a space ship through it’s staffing and various difficulties aboard. I aim for a few more centuries at least.

      • Randy M says:

        Oh, there’s also the TI-83 calculator games in High School. ‘Cow Dealer’ was particularly popular. Farming sims before they were cool.

    • A Definite Beta Guy says:

      A crap-ton of work processes and report improvements to make life a lot simpler. At one point I designed a query and rebill process that saved something like $2 million annually for one major company, at this current position I’ve rejiggered most of our reporting to identify sources of variances a lot more quickly.

      On a personal level
      -My lawn was 50% weeds when we moved in, with tons of dead spots. It’s now mostly grass. It needs aerated and I over-water, but it’s a decent lawn now.
      -My old-fashioned and gin martini are both really good.
      -My braises and steaks are fantastic, and I’m pretty close to damn good burgers.

      • imoimo says:

        $2mil a year, that’s nothing to sneeze at!

        I would’ve to make a damn good burger, but also there’s so many burger places I love eating at that there’s no motivation to out do them.

      • Plumber says:

        @A Definite Beta Guy,

        If they don’t involve an outside grill, please shred your steak cooking secrets!

        Stove top?

        Oven then stove top?

        Stove top then oven?

        How long?

        What temperature?

        Help!

    • cassander says:

      my favorite spreadsheet takes a file our database kicks out every day and copies it into a the master dashboard. It’s not particularly technically challenging, it’s not even the most impressive spreadsheet I’ve built, but it works flawlessly and saves me a huge amount of time. I had to figure out a bunch of different things to get it to work right, and it makes me happy every time I use it.

      • imoimo says:

        I feel vicarious satisfaction just hearing about that. When I code for work I’m constantly re-evaluating the trade off between automating and just doing something manually. Some of my code that I’ve been using for years has been gradually automated so many little ways that when I come back to it after a while it’s A) Nearly unreadable but B) Smart enough that I don’t care.

    • J says:

      I made a mosfet and screw terminal board for my woodworker friend to pwm drive led lighting with. Kicad has really matured and was better than my last experience with eagle.

      I’ve also been using onshape lately to design parts for machining/printing, and it’s pretty great: web based and free to use if you don’t mind your designs being public.

      • imoimo says:

        I know mosfet is a transistor, but otherwise these sound like things I might understand if I were at all a hands on guy.

        • J says:

          Possible but still pretty far into electronics jargon. A mosfet is indeed a transistor, and screw terminals make it easy to attach wires to a board. Kicad and eagle are popular software packages for designing circuit boards. Pwm is a way to efficiently do variable intensity for things like lights.

    • Nornagest says:

      One of the martial arts I study involves swordsmanship, so I own a couple of swords. The scabbard for one of them split irreparably, and I made a new one to replace it.

      It’s much harder than it sounds. There’s hardly a single flat surface on the thing, but it’s not made from nice, regular, jiggable curves either; it has to be shaped freehand with a spokeshave from a blank cut around the blade, and woe betide you if you take off a little too much wood on one side. On the inside, the two have to mate very closely: it has to fit tightly enough to hold the blade firmly but still loosely enough that you can draw the weapon. Plus you don’t want wood to rub up against the edge, since that dulls it. This means laboriously chiseling out the blade channel, checking where the high points are by oiling the blade and seeing where the spots of oil go, and chiseling some more. Repeat fifteen or twenty times and then clean up the surface.

      The fittings are made out of buffalo horn, which ain’t too easy to work either (I went through something like five blanks for the scabbard collar) and smells profoundly bad when worked. Like burning hair, which it pretty much is.

      • imoimo says:

        Just wow. Why buffalo horn? And where would you get that?

        • Nornagest says:

          1. The factory scabbard used wooden fittings, but they’d failed on me a number of times and I wanted something more durable. Water buffalo horn is the traditional material. I wasn’t going too overboard on tradition — I used poplar instead of magnolia wood, which is just this side of unobtainable through even specialist lumber suppliers in the States, and if you look up how to work with urushi lacquer you’ll understand why I noped the hell out of that and went with spar varnish and carbon black — but American bison was close enough and readily obtainable, so why not.

          2. eBay.

        • Conrad Honcho says:

          Why buffalo horn? And where would you get that?

          My guess would be “from a buffalo.” Or, perhaps, from Buffalo.

    • WashedOut says:

      As someone fairly deep into Modular Synthesis, i’m proud of the individual modules i’ve built as well as the system as a whole. It is a unique instrument, within which unique signal paths are created and destroyed every session via patching.

      • James says:

        What modules did you build? Did you follow existing schematics, or design them yourself?

        • WashedOut says:

          I build from others’ schematics – im not an electronics designer and would rather spend time making music than studying electronics. I’m currently working on a Dubmix by Lowgain Electronics, a 5×5 matrix mixer for eurorack.

      • Lambert says:

        Cool.
        I’ve often wondered about getting into all that stuff, since I kind of know my way around EE and music theory.

    • ana53294 says:

      I made a lot of baskets as a kid. Hands down, basket weaving was the most useful thing I learnt in primary school. And we only had it because of our male*, now retired teacher, who also taught as crafts. I don’t get why so many people make fun of useless degrees by mentioning underwater basket weaving; basket weaving is clearly a lot more useful than a lot of other degrees, and you are supposed to submerge the branches you use in water to make them more flexible.

      I was also an adept user of beads, and I made crocodiles and dolphins and flower bracelets.

      Making baklava took me days (mainly due to peeling all those walnuts). I also like to make this layered Russian cake, but instead of the frosting they use, I use dulce de leche.

      *Female teachers somehow only use the crafts class for drawing and coloring, which, while it does make their life easier, is not cool. In the Basque country, there were many school teachers in the 80s who joined for political (language related) reasons, and many of them were highly capable.

    • SamChevre says:

      A nice 5-drawer cherry dresser – I made it when I was working for a cabinetmaker. It reminds me that I used to be good at wood-working, which I have done very little of in the last 2 decades.

      Professionally, I’m particularly proud to have done some of the initial modeling that made it into this paper on Financial Reinsurance. One of the best-ever moments at work was seeing this on my exam syllabus and recognizing figure 2 as “wait a minute that’s my graph.”

    • bean says:

      I’m coming up more or less blank for physical objects. Yes, I’ve made things, but nothing that stands out a lot. In intangibles, the blog, plus a couple of spreadsheets at work which have cut out annoying parts of my job.

    • James says:

      The only thing I’m proud of ever having made is a script/program I wrote—I never know quite what to call it—for performing semi-algorithmic, semi-improvised synth music with a MIDI keyboard, written in SuperCollider. I guess you could call it a ‘performance interface’. Irrationally annoyed by how often electronic music shows centre around performers looking at their laptops and playing pre-sequenced pre-sequenced parts, I wrote a script for playing not-already-sequences parts without a laptop.

      Not-already-sequenced in the sense that the parts were responses to what I was playing on the MIDI keyboard (mostly simple arpeggiations, but with some randomness as well), and not on a laptop in the sense that it ran as a boot script on a desktop in as small a case as I could find, which I would run without a screen, qwerty keyboard or mouse, and with only my MIDI keyboard plugged in as input. I just felt like controlling things from an actual instrument, rather than by looking at a screen and clicking on clips to trigger them, would feel more ‘live’, somehow.

      Technically it was neat, but aesthetically I’m not sure the results were up to much. It could have gotten better if I’d kept working at it, but even while I was developing it I was already becoming more interested in cohesive songs than in ambient synth noodlings, so it fell by the wayside as I decided to learn to write songs instead. (I’ve written some songs over the last year or two of which I’m proud, but I don’t really count those as candidates for ‘things I’m proud of’ because in my mind they’re not ‘done’ yet, in that haven’t come out into the world yet, either as a performance or a recording.)

      • WashedOut says:

        Neat. Ever played around with Max/MSP?

        • James says:

          Yeah, I started that project in Max, actually, but ditched it when I found that the complexity of what I wanted to do was pushing the limits of the ‘patch boxes together with lines’ model. I haven’t used it in a long time, but honestly it might be more fun than SuperCollider for noodling and doodling.

    • smocc says:

      I just made myself a shirt. I got a bolt of fabric and then copied a shirt I already own as a pattern. It turned out with more holes than I first thought, but I’m surprised and pleased at how well it turned out for my first try.

      A while back our mop head broke but the wooden stick was still sturdy so I repainted it and made a new head out of a towel and string.

    • Lambert says:

      I forged a poker with a dragon head a while back.
      Not completely ‘by myself’, since I was being instructed by a professional smith.

    • The Nybbler says:

      It’s hard to say what “made it yourself” means. I learned recently that there’s youtube videos on making an axe starting from iron ore. I’ve never come close to anything like that. (Not sure how they did it, since I believe a preliminary step in smelting iron is making charcoal, then coke from the charcoal. You need to cut down trees for this, for which you need an axe. Maybe they used a bronze or stone axe).

      I built a speech synthesizer once, a peripheral card for an Apple ][. I didn’t design it, though, I worked from a plan. I didn’t write the low-level software, but I did write a text-to-speech program in Applesoft Basic.

      I’ve written a lot of software, though I take it we’re referring to physical objects. Besides, I’d be officially outing myself if I mentioned the few (obscure but not unknown) which I’ve released.

    • S_J says:

      Not made by myself…

      But over the spring and early summer, I turned a non-running motorcycle into a running motorcycle. By figuring out how to detach the carburetor from the engine, clean the carburetor, and re-attach all the components.

      There was a feeling of visceral pleasure when I was able to get the engine to start up, and then took the motorcycle for a ride.

      EDITED: if anyone recognizes the description “metric motorcyle with an inline-4 engine”, that is the type I was working on. That is what made removal and re-attachment of the carburetor so challenging.

    • AG says:

      I made a Minecraft Headless Horseman cosplay. Had to toss it after a while, it takes up too much space, and I don’t attend conventions enough to keep it around.

      Also made a tent-sized stepped pyramid, out of nothing but cardboard and duct tape.

      I’ve made more than a few music mashups that I still enjoy on my music player.

      I’ve done some photoshop work that I’m pretty proud of, though nothing innovative.

    • Conrad Honcho says:

      Lots and lots of photographs.

    • Well... says:

      The cabinet and sink area in my laundry room.

      The shelves and treadmill desk in my garage.

      The mantel over my fireplace.

      The little A-frame birdhouse hanging in a tree in my back yard that I look out at every morning when I’m drinking my coffee.

      Dinner for my family, almost every night.

    • sentientbeings says:

      Great question. Seems like it’s geared a little more toward the physical side of “making” something, and while I am proud of my projects in that regard, none seem particularly noteworthy off the top of my head.

      I am proud of some speeches I’ve written (and delivered) in my life, though I don’t find the opportunity for it much anymore. There was one I gave, despite some organizational opposition at my selection as speaker, that resulted in a very substantial fundraising success for my [insert civil society organization redacted for privacy reasons] when I was in high school. That one definitely sticks with me. I think it qualifies under a reasonable interpretation of your question.

      • imoimo says:

        Huh definitely a cool one for its unusualness. I assume you were on student council or something? I don’t remember hearing speeches from student council in high school, only from the valedictorian.

        • sentientbeings says:

          I had to laugh at that. Student government is the last thing I would get involved in (I was an officer in plenty of clubs. I don’t really view council/gov. as the same sort of thing, though).

          That particular one was entirely unrelated to school activities. I occasionally wrote speeches for my friends for school-related (non-graded) purposes, though. It was fun. I could be creative without worrying about any real judgment. I wrote one for a couple friends to jointly deliver at an NHS induction ceremony that was interrupted – really interrupted – multiple times by applause. On the one hand, it was probably the most platitude-filled, cliche-ridden piece of prose I’ve ever put together. On the other, it managed an appropriate tone for the occasion, and probably didn’t sound trite to people hearing it just once.

          When I wrote for other people, I made a game of what subtle allusion or joke I could sneak in to entertain 2 or 3 folks in a crowd of a couple hundred.

    • Unsaintly says:

      I used to play Warhammer 40k, and I built a kitbashed Inquisitor that I was quite proud of.

      I’ve written several scripts for RPGs I play. In addition to a full dice roller/initiative tracker for Discord, I have:

      An Ars Magica library generator
      A Vampire: the Requiem script to track vampires across huge spans of time
      An Exalted Dragon-Blooded simulation that tracks the DNA and exaltation rates of thousands of individuals across generations

      • Randy M says:

        Oh, that reminds me of the excel 7th Sea character creator I made. Over time I added lots of custom elements, random name/ship/henchman generator, a graphical analysis of every swordsman school… and then my hard drive crashed and now I don’t want to play it without my spreadsheet.

  2. Nancy Lebovitz says:

    I was on the Philadelphia Science Fiction Society Hugo discussion panel. This means I was one of 5 people opining about the Hugo nominees for novel, novella, novelette, short story, drama long form, drama short form, and graphic story.

    There have been 39 of these annual panels, all run by Terry Graybill, and I respect her cat-wrangling ability both for getting free copies of nominees and for making sure all the panelists read/saw/heard everything.

    There were six nominees per category, a change from the previous five. I’m surprised there were no ties leading to a category or two with seven nominees.

    Let’s have a little culture war. One notable thing about the Hugos this year is that there no white male nominees in the fiction categories I listed. (Not counting drama, I think.) Charles Stross got a series nomination for The Laundry files, but panelists aren’t required to read the series because there just isn’t enough time.

    I’ve seen claims that it was just chance (which seems very unlikely) or alternatively that there’s been so much sf by white men that they don’t have as much interesting to say (which also seems unlikely, or at least that the effect would be so extreme).

    I’m inclined to think that enough potential Hugo nominators (members of the Worldcon) have been discouraged from reading stories by white men and/or liking them and/or admitting they like them to have affected the nominations. I’m quite curious about what will be on the long list of nominees that didn’t quite make the ballot.

    I’m annoyed because the purpose of the Hugos (and the Hugo discussion panel) is to draw people’s attention to things they might have missed, and there was probably some excellent work by white men in 2018 that I haven’t heard about. Recommendations are welcome. My standards for Hugo nominees are that the work should be extraordinary in some way rather than just a tolerably decent example of what’s usually done. Just choosing a thing because it sold well doesn’t add information.

    This being said, I wouldn’t call this an embarrassing slate– I liked a fairly high proportion and hated very little of it.

    I’m going to post my thoughts about the Hugos in separate comments to keep the discussion a bit organized.

    • The Nybbler says:

      After the Puppy Wars, those who do not believe “diversity” is the number one criterion for the awards mostly simply abandoned the Hugos as lost.

      • Nancy Lebovitz says:

        I don’t think diversity is the number one criterion for the Hugos (though it’s obviously important to a lot of people) and I don’t think the Hugos are lost.

        Anyway, is there any notable sf from 2018 (by white men or otherwise) that you’d recommend?

        • EchoChaos says:

          It reads to me from your article that diversity is #1 but quality is still important.

          I doubt there would be absolutely zero white men without diversity being the top criterion. Now, that doesn’t mean that nobody cares about quality at all, certainly. You said that you enjoyed what you read.

          As for notable 2018 Sci-Fi, I enjoyed the Iron Dragon series by Rob Kroese. Basically a bunch of people from the future crash land in Ninth Century Norway and have to build a spaceship. Well written and well researched from a historical perspective.

          • Randy M says:

            It reads to me from your article that diversity is #1 but quality is still important.

            To be fair, it might very well be that quality is #1 but diversity is still important. If you have more than one criteria, than the work that excels in the primary criteria might still be passed over for others that rate highly in that quality but also meet secondary qualities.

            Although that’s ‘diversity’ in this case, not diversity, since adding at least one white male author to a panel that had none would be more diversity in the literal, pedantic sense.

          • EchoChaos says:

            @Randy M

            “Diversity may not be number 1, but it is such an important secondary criteria so as to swamp all other criteria” is a bit more of a mouthful, though.

          • Randy M says:

            Yeah, it’s effectively the same thing.

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            Randy M,

            nitpick: this about diversity among the nominees, not on the panel.

          • quanta413 says:

            Yeah, it’s effectively the same thing.

            Or the spread in diversity could be high but the spread in quality low. It’s not quite the same thing.

            I agree the results would be the same, but since the idea is to explain the results, it’s kind of different.

        • Plumber says:

          @Nancy Lebovitz >

          “…Anyway, is there any notable sf from 2018 (by white men or otherwise) that you’d recommend?”

          I read far less science-fiction than I did in my youth, and the last “SF” work that I’ve recently read that wasmemorable to me was first published in 1920, and I can’t think of any 2018 “SF” works.

          As far as fantasy-fiction goes the most recent published book that I found that I’ve read and enjoyed was The Tangled Lands by Paolo Bacigalupi and Tobias S. Buckell.

          As far as “diversity” goes I’ve indeed noticed that more new “genre” authors on the shelves are women and “of color” and the quantity of books published is higher, with no change in quality from the ’70’s on that I’ve noticed.

    • littleby says:

      I enjoyed Skyward by Sanderson. It’s sort of the classic mecha anime plot, but it’s really well done.

    • Hoopyfreud says:

      I can’t think of the last SF release I was hyped up for, honestly. The ending of Seveneves soured me on Stephenson – the first two thirds of the book was much better – and Fall hasn’t sounded much better. Nothing new from Miéville, and the idea of new material from Gaiman is just a sad dream. Bacigalupi hasn’t put out anything for a while either. Gibson’s Peripheral sequel is perpetually pending. I don’t particularly like Scalzi, but I don’t think he has anything new. And it’s not like Lee, Novik, Rowanhorse, or Kowall are anything but good authors (the rest I don’t know). I can’t think of any outstanding short fiction from this year not by the authors nominated, either.

      As I’ve said elsewhere, I think it’s useless to rant about award season without alternatives to propose.

      Books that look interesting from 2018 I’ve discovered while writing this comment:

      Blackfish City, by Sam J. Miller
      Alastair Reynolds’ new Revelation Space book (but I don’t like Reynolds, so I won’t read it)
      The Great Chain of Unbeing, by Andrew Crumey (which looks to be a sort of anthology in the vein of Chronicles of Majipoor or Vacuum Diagrams of the sort I absolutely adore – I’ll be buying this one, most likely)
      The Rig, by Roger Levy
      The Freeze-Frame Revolution, by Peter Watts (straddles the line between novel and novella, for me)

      • Conrad Honcho says:

        Reynolds is my favorite hard sci-fi author, I read Elysium Fire and thought it was the weakest of all of them. I like space operas because they’re about Big Ideas. Alien invasions, conquest of galaxies, Deep Time, all that good stuff. It’s all about The Terrible Secret of Space. This one starts off with Mysterious Happenings with Big Implications, naq vg gheaf bhg vg jnf whfg n onfvp eriratr fpurzr jvgu ab jvqre vzcyvpngvbaf sbe uhznavgl/pvivyvmngvba/nalguvat. (note, this spoils the entire book, so don’t decrypt unless you never, ever, ever, ever plan to read it).

        That said, I’m halfway through Revenger and I like it so far. I actually care about the characters, which is something I can’t usually say in Reynold’s novels. I certainly wouldn’t put it up for a Hugo though.

    • John Schilling says:

      Can we stop pretending that the Hugos are about anything but Social Justice in SF? I’ve only been tracking Best Novel, but of the thirty novels nominated for the Hugo since 2013 without Sad/Rabid puppy support, a grand total of five have gone to white males. That’s two for John Scalzi, two for Kim Stanley Robinson, and one for Charlie Stross, all three of whom are basically self-avowed SJWs at this point. Same period, same thirty novels, and I count three with a clear white male protagonist. Given the demographics of the community, this is beyond the bounds of plausible coincidence.

      For about the same period, and retroactively to the beginning of the Hugos, I’ve been ranking the best novel nominees according to reasonably objective SJ-aligned criteria including “diversity” of authors and protagonists. We are now four out of four for the nominee with the highest SJ-alignment score winning the Hugo, and the only thing that stops it from being six for six is Cixin Liu’s dark-horse candidacy in 2015 after a previous nominee withdrew because they didn’t want the stink of a Puppy nomination on their record and Liu slipped in with an uvetted book that received acclaim from both sides of the Culture War.

      Yes, there’s a quality floor for nominations, but I think it corresponds pretty closely with the threshold for a hardcover print run by one of the major SF publishers. So these are mostly not-bad books and some of them are pretty good.

      “Most SJ-compliant not-bad SF novel, no icky white males allowed unless they’re willing to wear a dress for the cause”, is sufficiently narrow praise that I find it offensive for it to be labeled as “Best SF novel, as determined by the World Science Fiction Convention”. We’ve already got the Tiptree, Lambda, and Gaylactic awards, and there’s room for more if someone really wants them. Count me out. And count it as a big negative for the odds of my ever reading your book, if you think “Hugo Award Winner!” is a selling point worth real estate on the slipcover.

      • Nancy Lebovitz says:

        “For about the same period, and retroactively to the beginning of the Hugos, I’ve been ranking the best novel nominees according to reasonably objective SJ-aligned criteria including “diversity” of authors and protagonists.”

        This sounds like a substantial piece of research, and I hope you will post it or a link to it here.

        If you have recommendations for non-SJW sf, please post them.

        I’ve been reading Jon Maberry’s Joe Ledger thrillers, and I’m curious about what sort of SJW rating you’d give them.

        • John Schilling says:

          This sounds like a substantial piece of research, and I hope you will post it or a link to it here.

          It is at the moment just a poorly-documented spreadsheet, and I’m not sure where would be the best place to post it if I were to polish it to that level. But, yes, I probably should do that.

          Haven’t read the “Joe Ledger” series; sounds like maybe I should start. From a few online reviews and summaries it looks like it would get an SJ-alignment score of about -3 due to white male author and protagonist and being borderline MilSF. That’s on a scale that theoretically runs from -12 to +12, but in practice the one-standard-deviation range was from -4.3 to +1.1 in the pre-Racefail era and -1.6 to +3.6 afterwards.

          Other recommendations, white male authors publishing in 2018-2019:

          James S. A. Corey, “Persepolis Rising” and “Tiamat’s Wrath” (2018 and 2019 respectively) f you like space opera and have been following the series. If not, get thee to “Leviathan Wakes”.

          Derek Kunksen, “The Quantum Magician”, space-operatic caper story serialized in Analog, but now out in softcover

          Jack McDevitt, “The Long Sunset”, if you’ve been enjoying his “Academy” series (spacefaring archaeologists wondering why all the civilizations they find are dead or dying) so far.

          Alastair Reynolds, “Elysium Fire” if you’ve been enjoying the Revelation Space serieis so far, and “The Shadow Captain” follows 2016’s “Revenger” as an otherwise standalone YA-ish space opera that makes swashbuckling space buccaneers almost a sensible proposition.

          John Scalsi’s “The Consuming Fire” follows 2017’s Hugo-nominated “Collapsing Empire”, wherein a scientist has to tell a galactic empress that FTL travel is going to stop working real soon. Hints of a global-warming allegory, but not so heavy-handed as to ruin the space opera.

          Charlie Stross, “The Labyrinth Index”. Either you like the Laundry Files or you don’t, but if you like them this is more of the same (not Bob-and/or-Mo-centric, if that matters).

          Peter Watts, “Freeze-Frame Revolution”, novella about the indentured-servant crew of a starship trying to revolt against the AI that keeps putting them in suspended animation and tinkering with their memories.

          David Weber, “Uncompromising Honor”, not sure that I actually recommend this, but if you like the Honor Harrington series, this is the end of it, and if you’ve grown dissatisfied with the series, this is the end of it. Glad I read it, now I never have to read anything Weber writes ever again.

          C.J. Cherryh gets an honorable mention for “Alliance Rising”, on the grounds that it’s the sort of book that had her publisher tell her to hide her gender behind her initials even though that never really fooled anyone. If you liked the series centered on “Downbelow Station”, this fills in an interesting bit of backstory.

          And it’s not really science fiction, or even his usual alternate history, but Harry Turtledove’s “Alpha and Omega” is going to be marketed and reviewed as SF. Alternate-near-future in which we learn what happens when the Ark of the Covenant is found buried under the Temple Mount. From a mostly-secular-Jewish perspective, but with a diverse set of POVs and this is the no-shit Indiana Jones Ark, not the moldy wooden box ark.

          • Randy M says:

            Peter Watts, “Freeze-Frame Revolution”, novella about the indentured-servant crew of a starship trying to revolt against the AI that keeps putting them in suspended animation and tinkering with their memories.

            Sigh. It’s so hard to come up with a unique premise.

          • Deiseach says:

            Alternate-near-future in which we learn what happens when the Ark of the Covenant is found buried under the Temple Mount.

            Well dammit. I’ve never read any Turtledove (never been enticed by the blurbs) but since this hits my “religious SF” buttons with exactly the right degree of pressure, I may have to check this one out!

          • John Schilling says:

            The Catholic perspective, alas, is represented only by a lapsed-Catholic journalist among the major characters, and I don’t think we got an official statement out of the Vatican. Probably still stuck in committee, or else their people are still searching the secret vaults for the crate they thought was holding the Ark all along.

            The other Abrahamic faiths get the range from mostly-secular to devoutly faithful and layman to High Priest or equivalent. And yes, with an Ark at hand, the Israelis will come up with a High Priest and start looking real hard for a Messiah. Turtledove, IMO, plays fair with all of these.

          • Andrew Hunter says:

            David Weber, “Uncompromising Honor”, not sure that I actually recommend this, but if you like the Honor Harrington series, this is the end of it, and if you’ve grown dissatisfied with the series, this is the end of it. Glad I read it, now I never have to read anything Weber writes ever again.

            …I mean, it’s the end of the section about the Solarian war, but, wasn’t the plan always for him to write a dozen more about the (secret mustache twirling villain polity) that I don’t care about?

            (Though I’m with you on the good-lord-I’m-glad-we’re-done train. I will say this one was bad, but less bad than a few of the previous; we had several intricate space battles (the reason I read them) and almost no endless discussions of revolutions on obscure planets I don’t care about where he demonstrated that he looked at an encyclopedia for pick-an-ethnicity names (Christ that was bad.) And hey, I don’t think a single chapter was reprinted wholesale from a previous book, unlike the last, what five. Oh, and Victor Cachat didn’t show up that I remember, which means no two-page description of how cool and dedicated he is!)

            (At some point I think I went past the boundary of even damning with faint praise.)

          • DarkTigger says:

            @all
            I stoped reading Honor Harrington after the twelved or thirteened book. I was honestly surprised to find out that there where dozenz of books after that. Is there any reason for someone who was really anoyed be all the Mary -, and Gary Sues, and the CW heavyness of it all, to start to read the books again?
            (I mean I liked a lot of the world building, and the battles and stuff)

            @John Schilling

            C.J. Cherryh gets an honorable mention for “Alliance Rising”, on the grounds that it’s the sort of book that had her publisher tell her to hide her gender behind her initials

            Can you spread some light on what you mean by this?

          • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

            @DarkTiger

            twelved or thirteened

            This may have been a joke, in which case I hate you, but if not the correct terms are twelfth and thirteenth.

          • DarkTigger says:

            @Nabil ad Dajjal
            Nah, it was just a case of “second language and monday mornings don’t mix well”.

          • FormerRanger says:

            I notice a lot of the recommendations are of this or that “series.” That’s probably my biggest complaint about both SF and fantasy today. The idea of publishing a stand-alone book seems to have died (or been taken out and shot). I can understand the economics reasons for this, and it’s clear that a ton of people like never-ending series, but I find it really hard to commit to a series (or as is common in fantasy, a trilogy invariably followed by another) unless is it highly recommended and bounded*, especially if it is by a writer I have never heard or of read any work by previously.

            There are a few series I read, largely because I got hooked on them and don’t want to go cold turkey. Stross’s Laundry series is the main one.

            * Like A Song of Ice and Fire is bounded. Hahahahah, got me on that one, George.

          • The Nybbler says:

            @DarkTigger

            There are a few bright spots in some of the later Harrington books — IIRC, some of the action with Michelle Henke out in the Talbot Cluster, and the Solarian Navy getting its butt good and kicked. But it’s buried in enough crap that it’s just not worth bothering digging for it.

          • John Schilling says:

            @DarkTigger:

            Can you spread some light on what you mean by this?

            Sure. Caroline Cherry got her start writing basically military science fiction(*), in the 1970s. The bit where female SF authors were encouraged to use pseudoyms and initials to conceal their ovaries had mostly died out by the end of the ’60s, but IIRC it was her publisher’s suggestion that maybe some of her target audience would still be put off by having girl cooties on their outer-space war stories even if they were opening up to female storytellers in other contexts. So “C.J. Cherryh” was about the last in the field to use gender-blinding initials, at least until K.J. Parker in the other direction.

            Cherryh was really good at writing outer-space war stories, Hugo-winning good, which meant her gender was outed very early. And it turns out the boys didn’t mind the girl cooties on their war stories. And she’s since branched out from doing war stories and war-adjacent stories, but all under her original pen name,

            “Alliance Rising” is a prequel to her very first Hugo-winning outer space war story, “Downbelow Station”, a series she seemed to have abandoned about twenty years ago. It’s not technically a war story itself, because the war hasn’t started yet, but it’s a story about mostly (white-ish) men doing traditionally manly stuff like building and flying spaceships and some commerce and power politics and whatnot. Not the sort of stuff that would win a Hugo today, unlike 1982 or 1989.

            For those familiar with the earlier works in the series, this is set a couple generations after the introduction of FTL travel to the twenty-ish star systems settled by STL ships, before the reintroduction of Sol System and the Earth Company Fleet to that mix, and provides at least a partial answer to the question, “Why did people bother building and maintaining a bunch of giant space stations that seem to serve no purpose other than being places adventuring space heroes can fly starships to?”

            * Or at least martial quasi-fantasy; her very first works looked like bog-standard Tolkeinesque quests until you realize the questing heroine has a laser pistol and a portable wormhole generator.

          • The Nybbler says:

            Also S.C. Sykes (active starting 1981), who wasn’t very prolific but did get a Babylon 5 character named after her.

          • Nornagest says:

            There are a few series I read, largely because I got hooked on them and don’t want to go cold turkey. Stross’s Laundry series is the main one.

            I gave up on the Laundry books when they got mean-spirited. Sure, they’d already gone from homage to parody as early as book 2, but there’s parody and then there’s parody; it’s one thing to lightly mock something that everyone knows is silly, but at some point Stross talked himself into taking up premises that he clearly doesn’t like or respect, and then to working with characters that he doesn’t like or respect, and the whole thing started to drift into a kind of self-flagellating tone. I presume it went downhill from there but I’m not masochistic enough to find out.

          • Nick says:

            @Nornagest
            Can you elaborate? Out of the Laundry series I’ve only read the free shorts, Down on the Farm, Overtime, and Equoid. And it seemed to me like only the last of the three qualifies, which spends a good bit of time trashing Lovecraft.

          • Nornagest says:

            The shorts are generally fine, though as you say Equoid has some of that mean-spiritedness going on. And the first three or so full-length books are fine too. I didn’t like The Apocalypse Codex as much, which brings a couple of Modesty Blaise pastiches out of nowhere as secondary protagonists and leans a bit too heavily on lazy Bush-era evangelical tropes. But it’s still roughly in the spirit of the earlier books.

            That marks a turning point in the series, though: after Apocalypse Codex, Stross stops pastiching spy fiction and starts working with broad pop-cultural archetypes. The Rhesus Chart does vampires, The Annihilation Score does superheroes, The Nightmare Stacks does elves. And that doesn’t work for me from a couple of angles: it feels shoehorned, for one thing, but what’s worse, I didn’t get the impression that Stross was having fun with it. The characters get bitter and self-critical. Long segments are devoted to pointing out logical flaws in genre tropes. And when it’s over, the premise of the week usually doesn’t end up tying back into the Laundry universe in a satisfying way.

            The books start getting clumsily topical at around the same time, which I never like reading, but that’s just icing on the cake.

          • John Schilling says:

            What Nornagest says, mostly. The Laundry Files work as a parody/homage to the Cthulhu Mythos + Spy Fiction, and it’s clear that Stross actually has an affinity for those two. But Cthulhu Mythos + Spy Fiction + Genre of the Month gets too complicated, and Stross is now picking on genres that he doesn’t feel an affinity for. I thought Rhesus Chart worked well enough because vampires are moderately Cthulhu-ish and (with obligatory masquerade) moderately spy-thriller-ish, and I don’t think Stross dislikes them as much as some of the others.

            Also, he’s decided for whatever reason that the protagonist he invented at the start of this journey is now thoroughly reprehensible for various reasons, and that said protagonist’s wife is an omnicompetent and (for putting up with him) omnibenevolent saint unjustly tormented by all around her, and neither one of those is a good relationship for an author to have with a protagonist.

            At this point, the books with Bob and/or Mo front and center are a net negative except for plot continuity, the ones focusing on secondary characters are still in net positive territory for me, but I can see myself dropping the series if it continues on the present course. Or, as with the Harrington series, skimming most of it for plot continuity so that I can still enjoy the good bits as they come.

          • Deiseach says:

            The Catholic perspective, alas, is represented only by a lapsed-Catholic journalist among the major characters, and I don’t think we got an official statement out of the Vatican.

            I don’t mind any lack of Catholic triumphalism, as long as the faith(s) involved get proper representatives from all viewpoints, i.e. not everyone from Jews to Buddhists holding impeccable secular 21st century liberal opinions on everything, plus God(dess)/entity/symbol you may care to use as representing aspirational values loves everybody and nothing is bad and no Hell and all dogs go to Heaven and the Ark is some kind of repository of cosmic vibration crystals that enlighten everyone to be their better selves miraculously.

            But heck, even if it is Indiana Jones-style chasing around after the Ark, I don’t mind!

          • LHN says:

            her very first works looked like bog-standard Tolkeinesque quests until you realize the questing heroine has a laser pistol and a portable wormhole generator.

            And then it gets more Tolkienesque. (While the qhal of the first two books are various flavors of soulless, pitiless fae, the ones in the third book are pretty close to the Eldar, down to having to make a choice analogous to Galadriel and Elrond’s.)

          • John Schilling says:

            i.e. not everyone from Jews to Buddhists holding impeccable secular 21st century liberal opinions on everything,

            Well, a fair number of them hold such opinions at the start. But there’s this Ark that insists on floating six inches above any ground that isn’t the Holy of Holies of the Temple, and they mostly aren’t stubborn-minded idiots. And it’s set mostly in and around Jerusalem, so there’s plenty of devout Jews and Muslims and a few Christians – some but not all of whom are stubborn-minded idiots and find that the Ark isn’t bound to respect every bit of dogma they’ve invented in its maker’s name the past fourteen to twenty-five centuries.

            Also some Indiana Jones stuff, suitably updated for the 21st century. The bit where someone thinks opening the Ark would make for a nice global reality-TV special doesn’t go quite as badly as a straightforward extrapolation from Indy might suggest, but still not a good plan. Which, duh, RTFM.

            No more petty spoilers. Enjoy.

          • albatross11 says:

            It seemed clear to me that Weber lost interest in this storyline at some point, and I guess kept writing it because the money was good.

            He should have killed Honor off at the Battle of Manticore, with a final scene in which Hamish and Emily are taking Raoul to see the site on Haven where the unconditional surrender was signed, just before he leaves for Saganami Island.

            He wrote himself into a corner in at least two different ways–first, by giving Manticore unbeatable technology, and second, by giving us a bunch of sympathetic characters on the Havenite side who were going to have to die/be defeated if the main characters were to win.

            The new subplot (war with the Sollies and the Mesan Alignment) just wasn’t very interesting. I think it could have been done well, but everyone with any power on the Solly side was constantly carrying the idiot ball, and the Mesan Alignment were genetically-engineered supergeniuses with a centuries-old secret plot that looked like it had been cooked up by a 12 year old.

          • Andrew Hunter says:

            @John Schilling – can I read Alliance Rising never having touched Cherryh before?

          • John Schilling says:

            can I read Alliance Rising never having touched Cherryh before?

            Yes, I think it explains everything you need to know in-story, and it would actually make a decent entry point into the Alliance/Union universe.

          • DarkTigger says:

            @John Schilling
            Thanks for the answer I just looked at Alliance Rising and did not see that she basically started all the way back than.

          • LHN says:

            If Alliance Rising is your entry point into the Union/Alliance series, it’s probably worth noting that there are continuity issues that may be more visible if you go straight from it to, e.g., Downbelow Station vs. remembering the earlier book from a decade or three’s distance. (Not a new thing with Cherryh– IIRC Cyteen and DS also have some points at which their gears don’t mesh, Serpent’s Reach’s chronology doesn’t fit with the other books, etc.)

            I don’t think it’s a major problem. The books each work on their own, and the overall shape of the larger history fits together reasonably well. But specific events, timing, how and when important organizations were founded, etc. should probably be treated as more impressionistic between books, even though individually they’re very careful about date and time issues.

            Alternatively, read them as historical novels from different times and places based on the same fragmentary sources, with different choices for filling in the blanks.

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            I still like the Laundry files enough to keep reading them, but they’re somewhat less fun than they were.

            It seemed to me that the earlier books were insider humor about British bureaucracy, while the later books about American megachurches were necessarily outsider humor and less subtle.

            I’m not as sure about what happened with Bob and Mo, but I’m curious about whether his mistakes about their relationship were well foreshadowed. And I thought a large part of their problem wasn’t that he was a horrible person, it was Mo’s violin.

      • Le Maistre Chat says:

        I find that I’m much happier reading old books, so not only is “Hugo Award Winner!” not a selling point (though it was probably a mark of quality for sufficiently old SF), neither is “published in 2018!”
        Looking over at my bookcases, the most recently published fiction appears to be Tolkien’s The Children of Hurin (doesn’t really count), the Harry Potter series (not actually much of a fan as an adult), the Dinotopia series, and several genre books from the late 20th century[1] I only picked up because they were on sale for $10 or a bit more each in the Barnes & Noble leatherbound Collectible Editions series and haven’t even opened yet.

        [1]Anne Rice Vampire trilogy, Eye of the World AKA Time of Doorstoppers Describing Clothes vol. 1, Neil Gaiman’s American Gods and Anansi Boys, and the Michael Crichton dinosaur novels, which I did read.

      • quanta413 says:

        Liu slipped in with an uvetted book that received acclaim from both sides of the Culture War.

        I find this kind of hilarious. Liu’s work is incredibly politically incorrect by Western standards. He doesn’t map well to Western political buckets, but a lot of his work endorses a sort of technocratic authoritarianism where strong male characters sacrifice whoever has to be sacrificed for the survival of humanity and is pretty negative towards political ideals driven by compassion or caring. Although that’s more obvious in the sequels to The Three-Body Problem. Maybe not many had read his other work since not much had been translated into English or was popular in English yet.

        It’s not just the Three-Body trilogy that is that way too. A ton of his short stories explore similar themes.

        Of course, his personal views may not align with his work, but that doesn’t seem very relevant since it’s hard to determine his personal views.

        • Nornagest says:

          Maybe I’ll actually read Three-Body Problem, then. I’ve had a copy sitting on my shelf for a couple years, but l’affaire des chiots soured me enough that I haven’t actually opened it.

          Of course, I kept reading the Laundry books after that, so maybe I’m just stupid.

          • quanta413 says:

            The Three-Body Problem is pretty clearly different from most Western scifi (although I haven’t read much recent sci-fi) in the first book, but it much more strongly diverges from typical Western sci fi I’ve read in the second book and becomes more interesting. It’s relatively hard scifi too which is nice. I feel like many things labeled scifi are more space fantasy.

            I highly recommend the whole trilogy.

          • Nornagest says:

            Different from Western SF is fine with me. Actually, the last thing I finished reading, a few days ago, was The Thousand Year Beach by Tobi Hirotaka; I can’t really recommend it for various reasons, but it was interesting to see the differences from Western SF norms even though it’s got by any reasonable standards a clearly SF premise (it’s set in a virtualized environment and all the important characters are AI).

      • Deiseach says:

        You phrase it a bit strongly, John Schilling, but I think I agree mostly that the WorldCon committee has won over the Sad and Rabid Puppies and is now luxuriating in its victory. Well, good luck to them, may they enjoy it and the kind of writing they like to read.

        I really haven’t been keeping up with modern SF for a long time now, and the trouble is that the favourable descriptions of the winning authors doesn’t make me want to read their works. I’ve been told N. K. Jemisin is a great writer, and she may well be, but the critic’s reviews of, say, The Broken Sky trilogy have me going “Do I want to read a lecture? No, I don’t want to read a lecture”. Maybe the books aren’t a lecture, they’re great science fantasy novels, but the descriptions by those who are fans make me think they’re a lecture (about feminism and sexism and racism and colonialism and probably environmentalism while we’re at it).

        So at the moment I’m reading a fair amount of fantasy, a ton of Sherlock Holmes pastiches (all for a good cause, the restoration of Conan Doyle’s home Undershaw, which has now been taken over by a special educational needs school, up to volume XV of new stories with the proceeds going to this!) and waiting for the writers I like to produce the next books in their series.

        • FormerRanger says:

          I’m not a fan of heavy-handed SJW-ism, but I found The Broken Earth to be excellent, and I didn’t think of it as heavy-handed. Just think “orogenes are Slans.”

        • Two McMillion says:

          I can vouch for Jemison, though I haven’t read everything she’s written. She probably gets a boost for SJW-adjacent reasons, but even without it I think she’d still be respected.

        • ADifferentAnonymous says:

          Will also vouch for Jemisin. Broken Earth doesn’t read as a lecture unless you’re looking for one, which of course some people are.

          • LHN says:

            It’s not a lecture, and I found the story compelling. But there are definitely lecturey elements if one isn’t normally steeped in a certain sort of worldview.

            (I’d say it’s as least as intersectional as The Moon is a Harsh Mistress is libertarian, and there are definite “oh, here’s where I introduce a trans character, look!” moments.)

            But my main takeaway is that Jemisen must have really liked the dilemma set up for the mages and Templars in Dragon Age: Origins. (Not that there’s anything wrong with that.)

          • Deiseach says:

            I’m glad to hear all these recommendations, but I think I’ve been put off too much to try her writing because of all the reviews about “And when X happens, naturally this is a critique of Patriarchy and the history of men brutalising women, and Y is about slavery, and Z is the evils of colonialism and so on and so forth and the whole laundry list of correct thinking” which made the novels sound about as appealing as going to the dentist for a filling.

          • Hoopyfreud says:

            @Deiseach

            If you can find it in your heart, give this a listen. It’s 40 minutes, and it’s free, and it’s about an Italian cook.

          • Plumber says:

            @Hoopyfreud,

            I’m not @Deiseach but nevertheless I gave your link a listen and it made my commute better.

            Thanks!

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            I love L’Alchemiste.

            This being said, Jemison loves highly capable people to an extent which makes Rand look like an egalitarian.

          • Hoopyfreud says:

            Jemisen loves highly capable people to an extent which makes Rand look like an egalitarian

            This is completely, 100% true, but I like things like Ender’s Game, Dune, and Stranger in a Strange Land, so it doesn’t bother me.

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            It doesn’t bother me, I just think it’s funny.

            No immortality for you, you mediocre person!

      • Hoopyfreud says:

        I’ve only been tracking Best Novel, but of the thirty novels nominated for the Hugo since 2013 without Sad/Rabid puppy support, a grand total of five have gone to white males.

        You know, just because, here’s the breakdown.

        Non-puppies (2013): 3/5 male. 4/5 white.
        Non-puppies (2014): 1/3 male. 3/3 white.
        Non-puppies (2015): 1/1 male. 0/1 white
        Non-puppies (2016): 0/3 male. 2/3 white. If you count Seveneves as sufficiently cross-appealing, as we’ve done with 3 body problem, 1/4 male, 3/4 white.
        Non-puppies (2017): 2/6 male. 3/6 white.
        Non-puppies (2018): 3/6 male. 4/6 white.
        Non-puppies (2019): 1/6 male. 4/6 white.

        Men are consistently just under half of Hugo nominees. White authors are consistently the majority. From 1980 to 1987, we had:

        1980: 4/5 male. 5/5 white.
        1981: 4/5 male. 5/5 white.
        1982: 3/5 male. 5/5 white.
        1983: 5/6 male. 6/6 white.
        1984: 3/5 male. 5/5 white.
        1985: 5/5 male. 5/5 white.
        1986: 4/5 male. 5/5 white.
        1987: 5/5 male. 5/5 white.

        So yeah, the field has changed dramatically since then. The male/female numbers have not-quite flipped. Given that the SF readership is about even right now (find your favorite source, it’s somewhere between 60-40 and 40-60 by any figures I’ve seen), that doesn’t seem egregiously biased – the SF community has gained more women than men since then.

        For about the same period, and retroactively to the beginning of the Hugos, I’ve been ranking the best novel nominees according to reasonably objective SJ-aligned criteria including “diversity” of authors and protagonists. We are now four out of four for the nominee with the highest SJ-alignment score winning the Hugo

        Ok, I don’t see how this quite works. Here’s my breakdown:

        2013: NO – Scalzi, a white man, wins against Mira Grant, a white pansexual woman.
        2014: NO – Ann Leckie, a white woman, wins against Mira Grant again.
        2015: TIE – Cixin Liu, an asian man, wins against Ann Leckie.
        2016: YES – N. K. Jemisin, a black woman, wins against Leckie.
        2017: TIE – Jemisin wins against Yoon Ha Lee, a trans asian man, and Charlie Jane Anders, a white trans woman
        2018: TIE – Jemisin wins against Lee

        Now subjectively I’m gonna say that trans > gender > race > orientation for tiebreakers. Seems like you agree on gender > race at least, based on your assessment. In that case, we have all 3 ties turning into NOs, for a score of 1/6. If we crown Jemisin the most wokest of her years, we’re looking at 3/6.

        Same period, same thirty novels, and I count three with a clear white male protagonist.

        How many have protagonists with an ambiguous race or gender?

        But all of the above is really nitpicking, because the thing that really ticks me off about this is going from the statements above to saying that the Hugo award is actually the award for

        Most SJ-compliant not-bad SF novel, no icky white males allowed unless they’re willing to wear a dress for the cause

        Even if you were right about the Hugo awards being overwhelmingly woke, in order to substantiate a claim as inflammatory as this, you need to provide an actual counterfactual. What should have won instead? The Dragon Award winner for those years?

        • Nancy Lebovitz says:

          More generally, is anyone finding the Dragon Award to be a good source of recommendations?

          • Hoopyfreud says:

            Less than 50% of the nominees are what I’d call bad. There are better places to look IMO, but it’s also not The Larry Correia Show.

          • John Schilling says:

            The Dragon Award for Best Science Fiction Novel seems to be for “Best SF Novel according to the tastes of people who mostly read fantasy or watch TV”, though it’s a bit too early to be sure. There’s some good stuff, but also some dreck and I don’t expect them to consistently catch the good stuff.

          • Deiseach says:

            Once again I am in agreement with Mr Schilling; the Dragon nominations have their hearts in the right place, but because they’re still a small affair, right now it tends to be the Usual Suspects nominating their favourites and a lot of it is TV/Fantasy influenced.

            Give ’em time and more importantly a lot of new blood, and they should do better. I’m hoping they can survive, I’d hate to see them wither on the vine because the Hugos as currently oriented are really not friendly to “I don’t want to read Issue Fiction by any side, I just want some Thrilling Adventure In Space without tin-eared prose” readers like me. (Tor welcoming back with open arms and hearty embraces Irene Gallo after slapping her on the wrist over the Sad and Rabid Puppies ‘they’re all racists’ thing is a straw in the wind for me about this).

        • John Schilling says:

          If men are half the (non-puppy) nominees and white people are two-thirds of the nominees, then we should expect one-third of the nominees to be white men. They aren’t.

          If you offer or defend an award with the unwritten rule, “White men are not allowed to win this award”, then you are a bigot and I will call you out as a bigot no matter how many white women or colored men win the award.

          If you offer an occasional nomination to a token white man, then we can talk about whether that is just tokenism or an actual defense against a charge of bigotry. That will mean looking at the numbers and their statistical plausibility, the vote counts when it comes time to determine who actually wins the award, and the extent to which the men appear to be tokens who bend over backwards to appeal to the dominant group. If the best you’ve got is “look at all the white people (who are not men)” and “look at all the men (who are not white)”, then I’m betting you don’t actually have much of a defense to offer.

          • Hoopyfreud says:

            If you offer an occasional nomination to a token white man, then we can talk about whether that is just tokenism or an actual defense against a charge of bigotry. That will mean looking at the numbers and their statistical plausibility, the vote counts when it comes time to determine who actually wins the award, and the extent to which the men appear to be tokens who bend over backwards to appeal to the dominant group.

            True, IF the number of award-worthy works is large enough for us to be able to expect few outliers over a small period of time. I’m going to go ahead and say that there are almost always fewer than 5 SF books written per year that deserve to be immortalized in song. This scarcity is why I’m insisting on a counterfactual.

            If you can offer an unnominated white man who squares up against Jemisin from the past few years, then we can talk about whether his exclusion is anomalous or actual bigotry. That will mean looking at the works eligible for an award, not the numbers in a vacuum. If the best you’re got is, “look at all people who are not white men,” then you don’t have much of an offence to offer either and we’re just going end up shouting preexisting beliefs at each other until we’re blue in the face.

            From my perspective, the null hypothesis is, “the Hugo award voters try to award the best work eligible for each category,” because that’s what they claim to do. It’s worth noting that, of the books you listed for this year, most of them are sequels (and not sequels of Hugo winners like Jemisin’s were). That obviously isn’t disqualifying – so are several of the other entries – but it goes a long way to explaining, in my mind, their lack of representation. Does Provenance deserve to be nominated, while Elysium Fire isn’t? I don’t know. But that fact really isn’t budging my needle on “white men are not allowed to win this award.” Let me know when a work of Movement SF – something like The Windup Girl or Neuromancer or Lord of Light or Anathem or The City and the City – is ignored, and I’ll concede the argument. But that’s not what I’m seeing right now.

          • ADifferentAnonymous says:

            @Schilling I want to non-ironically suggest you use the word “intersectional” here but I can’t quite do it.

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            It looks so far as though there was no sf by men in 2018 which was so strong it was unfair that it wasn’t nominated for a Hugo.

            Now, it could be that this was the wrong place to ask, since it doesn’t seem like there are a lot of people keeping up with recent sf. And I think people are pretty much just replying about novels. What about shorter works?

            It also might be unfair to ask about consensus favorites. They’re pretty rare.

        • Deiseach says:

          2013: NO – Scalzi, a white man, wins against Mira Grant, a white pansexual woman.

          Okay, Hoopy, this is not against you in particular, but why the heck should I care about or be interested in what Ms Grant likes to do when she betakes herself to the privacy of her bedroom? Why not mention that Mr Scalzi is a heterosexual man (if he is that) if we’re going to drag in that as well? This is what steams my spuds about the whole “Representation!” stuff; I do not care a flying fig about pan, bi, homo, hetero or even asexual in the writers, whatever they do with the characters. If it’s pertinent to the plot that Jace F’dinqualdunk likes to play all six sides of the fence, fine. If it’s nothing to do with the insect overlords spreading their galactic empire across dimensional planes, then I don’t need or want to know about what exactly Mx Authoress in her spare time hitting the bars likes to throw a net over and drag back to her lair!

          EDIT: And before anyone yaps about “cis hetero privilege”, I’m asexual aromantic and would love to read more novels with effin’ ace/aro characters so we could skip the stupid effin’ romance subplots that require the characters to act like effin’ idiots, or the exotic sex scenes thanks a bunch but I’m not either holding my breath waiting for that or stomping my foot at the Worldcon committee to pick a slate to suit my preferences.

          (Okay, Chip Delany made me interested in whether Rat and Marq would have a happy ever after, but that’s Samuel Goddamn Effin’ Brilliant Writer Delany, not the rest of the bunch).

          • Hoopyfreud says:

            I mean I don’t disagree, but my overall point was that the claim was wrong and bad. I couldn’t give a shit.

          • axiomsofdominion says:

            I’m not even ace and I’m so over this stuff. Also so over sisters/wives kidnapped, traded, otherwise in sexual danger as a way to ramp up plot tension or even just, Books of Babel style, separated lovers where one may or may not move on before they reconnect/one finally tracks the other down only to find out they have a new person and/or they don’t but they had sex for some reason and have a baby and will the two be able to get over it stuff, read the book that won’t be published for 3 years to find out.

            If I wanted to have that stuff I would just go on Reddit and read the not actually real crazy ass 10 update sagas on r/relationships or something.

            I can do power fantasy, social commentary, and/or cool scientific/fantasy concept novel. But I’m so tired of the current trend where the book could have been written by Danielle Steel about a beach vacation with a kidnapping or something.

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            I’m also very tired of that moment when it looks as though the relationship which has been developing for a long time is over. No, it isn’t.

          • FormerRanger says:

            … why the heck should I care about or be interested in what Ms Grant likes to do when she betakes herself to the privacy of her bedroom?

            I grew up as a voracious reader of anything even remotely SF-ish. Until I was well into adulthood I had no connection with the world of fandom. I had no idea what the sexual preferences or political stances of SF authors were. (I’m old enough to remember the dueling Vietnam ads in F&SF — I think — back when that unpleasantness was going on. They were the among the first things that revealed that Politics existed in SF. Yes, I was naive.)

            Anyway, back in those ancient times, it took me a long time to notice that Andre Norton was a woman, as was James Tiptree, and that Samuel L. Delany was black (and longer before I discovered he was gay), and so on. I could go on and on; I’m sure there were tons of open secrets in the field, but until the internet, most SF readers weren’t clued in.

            I mean, one could infer some political stances (Heinlein comes to mind, but later on we learned he was more complex), or guess at social stances, from their writing, but we consumers of SF and fantasy were usually in the dark. In some cases, one learned this information very late, for example that Edgar Pangborn was gay, as was Tom Disch, as was Alice Sheldon. It didn’t lessen my interest in their works, although to be honest I think Sheldon did her best work when she was being “Tiptree.”

            The point is that back in the day I picked and read SF without in most cases knowing the authors’ SJW checkboxes.

            Anyway, this a discursive comment that boils down to a standard belief: the internet has ruined everything.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            @FormerRanger

            Your conclusion is spot on.

            About Heinlein, I never understood the political rumblings about him. Sure, one could read Starship Troopers and say “he’s a fascist!” But then you read Stranger in a Strange Land and think he’s a commie, and then The Moon is a Harsh Mistress and think he’s a libertarian, so isn’t it more likely that he just enjoys playing with different political premises? And of course hot young sexually liberated women who graciously make love with author’s grumpy old man self-insert.

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            I don’t think Heinlein was just playing with different political systems, I think he had preferences, though they changed with time.

            I believe without evidence that Heinlein thought of stories and scenes, and then chose governments that would fit the stories. Anyone know the actual sequence?

            Farah Mendelsohn’s The Fortunate Profession of Robert Heinlein is an examination of Heinlein’s politics through his fiction. It looks promising but I haven’t read it yet.

          • Plumber says:

            @Conrad Honcho,

            I remember reading “The Roads Must Roll” and feeling that Heinlein was clearly anti-union, but I’d long read his work and that didn’t really bother me, I’ve really enjoyed reading Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle, despite being pretty sure that I don’t agree with a lot of their politics, I’ve really enjoyed reading Fritz Leiber’s despite disagreeing with what seems like an anti-religion undercurrent in his work, but they’re limits to what I can take: Phillip K. Dick however can go to Hell for a Martian Time Slip.

        • littleby says:

          > Non-puppies (2013): 3/5 male. 4/5 white.

          This seems like sampling bias. If you’re throwing out all the nominees the puppies voted for, and if the puppies vote for the best white male authors in the field, shouldn’t we expect that the rest of the nominees should be not-white-males?

          (I don’t actually know if the puppies vote for the best white male authors in the field. The one time I looked at their slate, it seemed like they had some popular stuff on it, so I think it’s at least possible.)

          • Hoopyfreud says:

            Matter of opinion, but the only work I can trace back to the Puppies that was by a white man and deserved a shot at the award was Seveneves, as noted above. E: should clarify, among the best novel nominees analyzed above.

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            “The Hot Equations” by Ken Burnside was puppy-nominated, and I think it was very good.

          • Aapje says:

            @littleby

            The puppies had women and non-white authors on the slates.

    • JPNunez says:

      Have there been years where there were only white men nominees?

    • Deiseach says:

      One notable thing about the Hugos this year is that there no white male nominees in the fiction categories I listed.

      You weren’t joking, I looked up the list for 2019 and this part had me laugh (gender flip it and see if it works the same way the writer intends):

      Nominees this year are a diverse range of authors, including Mary Robinette Kowal, Rebecca Roanhorse, Catherynne M. Valente, Martha Wells, and three writers whose works were part of The Verge’s Better Worlds science fiction project: Kelly Robson, Rivers Solomon, and Justina Ireland.

      Imagine the reaction if that was “we have a diverse range of all male authors” – oh hang on, you don’t have to imagine, that actually happened a while back! Eek, all the way back in 1987? I was sure there was a more recent example, but Google is refusing to show me anything no matter what search terms I use.

      There is a white guy in the “Novelette” section and when you get to the Dramatic Presentations more of ’em – Hollywood too white? Plus some of the editors are long enough in the tooth to be around the field so long they were there when being a white guy was unremarkable.

      Two of the other names I recognise – and I apologise in advance for anything that sounds uncharitable – are P. Djèlí Clark, who wrote a short story I read (and greatly disliked because it was lazy writing) about, basically, George Washington Evil Slaveowner (this was before the Affair of the Mural, so prescient or simply reading the tealeaves?) and Bogi Takács whose name I recognise as a person (preferred pronouns: “e/em/eir/emself or singular they pronouns”) who had a public meltdown on Twitter over not being treated with the respect, deference, and accommodation they deserved as an invitee to Worldcon 2018 and extorted a grovelling apology from the organisers.

    • Plumber says:

      @Nancy Lebovitz,
      It’s hard for me to much care about ‘SF’ awards, including the Hugo’s after 1984’s Neuromancer swept them, that book just seemed so overhyped, good god I just don’t get it!

      Besides “cyberpunk” the other blight on science-fiction has been “transhumanism” I don’t want to read about any damn homo-superiors!

      But even earlier the Mariner space probes showing Mars and Venus being as lifeless as they are hurt the genre, without canals or jungle much of the romance is gone.

      Of works after the ’60’s Silverberg’s Lord Valentine’s Castle was okay, as was Niven’s The Intergral Trees, but (aside from a couple of short works by Ted Chiang) I’m drawing a blank on any good science-fiction written in the 21st century, maybe you have a suggestion?

      As I’ve said elsewhere the quanity of fiction is much greater than in the past, and the authors who get published is now more “diverse”, as far as I can tell average quality is unchanged, presumably with so much more published there’s more works now that I would like, but with the giant deluge of new works I have no idea how to find what I’d like other than if the words “cyber” or “virtual” are mentioned I likely won’t.

      • Nancy Lebovitz says:

        I didn’t get it about Neuromancer either– it seemed like fairly ordinary sf, but with an emotionally numb viewpoint character.

        I agree that losing desert Mars and jungle Venus was sad. There are collections called Old Mars and Old Venus, but I’m not sure how possible it was to bring them back.

        While we’re talking about plagues in current sf, I really don’t want every novel to have a murder mystery and a romance.

        At least Burke’s Semiosis (lost colony on a planet with intelligent plants) doesn’t have a romance. It’s a fairly old-fashioned idea-centered science fiction novel and I liked it.

        • axiomsofdominion says:

          Can you give a list of contemporary to Neuromancer scifi that was comparable? I’ve looked into similar statements before by people and they typically don’t hold up historically. Maybe something by Dick or Vinge might have been comparable? True Names came out in 1981. Electric Sheep was in 1968 as a possibly good example. Neal Stephenson was first published in 1984 and Snow Crash wasn’t til 92.

          Harry Potter spawned a massive craze even though dozens of good quality magic school books had existed beforehand all the way back to the 50s maybe?

          • johan_larson says:

            John Brunner’s “The Shockwave Rider” (1975) might be called proto-cyberpunk with mainframe-era computer technology.

          • Hoopyfreud says:

            The Stars My Destination (originally released as Tiger! Tiger!)

          • axiomsofdominion says:

            TSMD seems more like To Ride Pegasus to me. I’m not sure if that’s really cyberpunk per say.

          • Hoopyfreud says:

            @axiomsofdominion

            It reads a LOT like Gibson to me, but with Golden Age-flavored descriptions of megacorps. But think of the Mr. Prestos, or the shady government collusion with Preston.

          • Plumber says:

            @axiomsofdominion,

            No mostly because I really didn’t like Neuromancer, the only work of Gibson’s I liked was “”The Gernsback Continuum”, and the only work of ‘cyberpunk’ that I liked was When Gravity Fails by Effinger, I mostly wish the genre hadn’t existed nor do I much like the reality it’s visionaries have conjured up.

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            Not sure if this is what you want, but Delany’s Nova strikes me as proto-cyberpunk. It’s got the human machine interfaces, but not the grimness.

          • axiomsofdominion says:

            @plumber, you dislike the fatalism or nihilism? My comment was mostly directed at Nancy, where she said it seemed like typical sci fi to her. I’m not a fan of cyberpunk specifically but its surprising to me that people might consider Neuromancer as generic.

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            axiomsofdominion.

            Other people’s aesthetic preferences can be amazing. One of the most surprising things I’ve seen online was someone who liked Stockhausen better than Mozart.

          • gbdub says:

            Calling something “generic” or “ordinary” seems more like an assertion of fact than an expression of taste. Are you sure you aren’t doing the “Hamlet is so full of cliches!” thing where a a work that codifies a lot of tropes feels dated and cliched because you’re more familiar with the later imitators?

          • axiomsofdominion says:

            @nancy, as someone else noted, I’m not talking about thinking it was bad. That’s different than thinking it was generic.

        • Deiseach says:

          I didn’t get it about Neuromancer either– it seemed like fairly ordinary sf, but with an emotionally numb viewpoint character.

          It’s that thing about being married to the Spirit of the Age – Gibson managed to hit the exact sweet spot of writing about new technology coupled with the then popular notion of “Japan will take over the world due to its business dominance” and throw in a bit of the ol’ anomie of the disaffected and rootless urban youth facing an uncertain future in a heartless world of corporate ‘greed is good’ (ah, the 80s…)

          The trouble with being so exactly in tune with the mood of the moment is that when the moment passes, your work bursts like a bubble. And cyberpunk is more fun as a game concept or a movie, anyway 🙂

          • axiomsofdominion says:

            I mean cyberpunk, perhaps minus the Japanese part, still seems pretty damn relevant to me. But I suppose there is some relation to how your life is going. Perhaps Nancy isn’t living a life disaffected enough to relate to cyberpunk now that the time as a leading trend has passed.

            Although the current grimdark genre is basically just fantasy cyberpunk with a larger scope.

          • DarkTigger says:

            I only read Gibson when I was in my early twentys, some time in the late noughties. What hit me was that it carried a lot of the No-Future feeling that was still really noticeable to a child in the ninties, but is dead today.
            That is was Punk means to me, and really isn’t in all the other stuff that ist called *punk today.

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            I’m going to have to figure out the difference between disaffected and depressed.

            It may be that I still think it’s a pretty good world, I just have some trouble appreciating it and acting in it.

          • FormerRanger says:

            A fair number of Gibson’s characters seem emotionally numb, or at least emotionally suppressed. I’m not sure why, but it doesn’t bother me. It seems appropriate for his plots.

            I found Neuromancer awesome at the time, and actually re-read most of Gibson’s work every five years or so. (I may have to draw the line if it is really true that his upcoming novel is about an alternate reality where Hillary Clinton won in 2016.)

            I also regularly re-read (among others) Bruce Sterling and Neal Stephenson. For example, I re-read Reamde in preparation for Fall. Oddly, or maybe not oddly, I read and enjoy Scalzi and Stross, but I don’t re-read them.

          • Deiseach says:

            I may have to draw the line if it is really true that his upcoming novel is about an alternate reality where Hillary Clinton won in 2016.

            I don’t know what to think about that. On the one hand, if it presents the “awesome First Female Ever solves every human problem!” take that accompanied Obama’s first election victory (the LightWorker! the Indigo Child! And can anyone ever forget that he claimed in his nomination victory speech that “this was the moment when the rise of the oceans began to slow and our planet began to heal”, bless his heart?) then it will be So Bad It’s Good and I might have to indulge in it.

            On the other hand, if it’s a ‘realistic’ take where First Female Ever could solve every human problem except Sexism and the Evil Republicans block everything because they’re just that evil, forget about it, there’s already one of those websites I can read for free.

    • BBA says:

      The question is not who is reading SF or even who is writing SF, but who is writing the kind of “serious” and “thought-provoking” SF that wins Hugos. I can easily believe that white men are a vanishingly small minority among Hugo-bait writers, even though Hugo bait is a vanishingly small minority of SF as a whole.

      (Bird’s eye view from someone who doesn’t read much SF. Take with a few oceans’ full of salt.)

      • Le Maistre Chat says:

        (Bird’s eye view from someone who doesn’t read much SF.

        Hmpf! A penguin’s eye view is too non-central an example to fit the meaning of the phrase!

      • axiomsofdominion says:

        Hugo-bait circa mid 20th century and early 21st century are vastly different genres.

        • BBA says:

          Of course. Oscar bait has changed a lot too. But nobody accuses the Academy of having been taken over by entryists because they started preferring politically relevant dramas to splashy big-budget musicals. Times change and tastes change with the times.

          • Clutzy says:

            Plenty of people have accused the academy of becoming distant from normal humans. In fact, they doubled the number of potential best picture nominees to try and alleviate this perception (instead they just nominated more Oscar bait films). The last best picture that normal people really were enthusiastic for was 2003:

            The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King

            Even recently, the Academy has made blunders where an Oscar bait that people actually kinda liked could have been chosen, but instead they picked a more-baity one.

            2017: Dunkirck, vs. Shape of Water
            2016: La La Land vs. Moonlight

            Also, they made a huge blunder in 2010 that probably permanently hurt their reputations by not giving Toy Story 3, the best movie of the year by far, and the best movie in probably a decade, the Oscar. It was an obvious choice to everyone not in the voter class, but they failed.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            This seems to…I don’t know what the right idiom is. Something about “conceding the point while offering it as a refutation.” The accusation is that the Hugos are doing Culture War politics instead of just sci-fi. If the defense is that the Hugo award winners are writing Hugo-bait, and what qualifies as Hugo-bait is SJ Culture War politics, that seems to concede the point that the Hugo voters are doing Culture War politics. If they weren’t, Culture War politics wouldn’t be baiting them.

          • BBA says:

            That’s not what I’m saying. The argument I’m responding to is that the Hugos are biased against white men, and I’m saying that white men aren’t writing the kind of “ideas” science fiction that the Hugos like anymore. When the Puppies were able to stuff ballots they nominated a bunch of remainder-rack milSF and ranty blog posts that would never have been considered for a Hugo until then.

            If there were “serious” right-leaning SF, or even SF without much salience to our current political moment, that was getting repeatedly snubbed, then yes, I’d say there was bias. But right now the left is winning because the right isn’t even playing the game.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            Yes, and they’ve redefined “big ideas” to mean “race/gender/trans SJ culture war stuff…in space.” No nomination for the Revelation Space novels, which imagined a vast civilization (and its ashes) resultant from the implications of realistic physics and technology hundreds of years from now. I’d say that was a “big idea.” But it’s a big idea in fiction based on science, rather than fiction based on race/gender/trans SJ culture war stuff in space.

    • herbert herberson says:

      Is anyone here willing to entertain the idea that women may simply be better at writing at this particular historical/cultural place and time? I think most of us could (should) certainly acknowledge that women are better at doing well in English class by an overwhelming amount; how far downstream does that sort of thing go?

      • Protagoras says:

        Women are also overrepresented in writing fanfic. If women just write more, that’s going to help their representation, and practice never hurts. I’m definitely willing to entertain this theory.

        • axiomsofdominion says:

          While I’m open to the original theory, I don’t think fanfic is a good example. It is mostly trash. Royal Road is a great example. Even the most popular stories are mostly horrible from a writing perspective. And editing and formatting? Unheard of.

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            I’d say the best fanfic is very good. And fanfic is in an environment where writers get a lot of feedback.

          • Nornagest says:

            Fanfic is mostly bad, but that’s mainly because the barrier to publication of fanfic is just this side of nonexistent. The top 10% of fanfic is on par with most of the published original fiction I’ve read. The top 1% is on par with good published fiction. Multiply that by the huge volume of stories out there and you’ve got plenty of good fanfic to read.

            And yes, they’re mostly female-written. Successfuly making the jump from fanfic to professional writing is still somewhat rare, but it’s nonetheless plausible that the rise of fanfic has pushed the SF writing field more towards women in recent years. Yet that wouldn’t fully account for the gender skew in recent Hugos: the skew’s too big, and there’s still lots of white male incumbents writing good stories. Plus, it wouldn’t account for the racial skew at all (fanfic is not particularly racially diverse).

          • axiomsofdominion says:

            Well Nancy with 10000000s of people writing fanfic and it basically being the “Unity Engine” of spec fic where its super easy to get your stuff in front of eyes relative to the past, of course you have some that are amazing. Same for web novels and such in general.

            But I’m not sure there are more S+ tier authors than existed previously.

          • Two McMillion says:

            Most writing of all kinds, not just fanfic, is trash. The difference is that no publisher or editor has to read fanfic before it’s released into the wild.

          • Nick says:

            I’ve read a lot of fanfic, including a lot of the dreck, and I think Sturgeon’s Law is actually too generous. I’ve written about this before, but my impression is that writers are getting lazier and readers less critically engaged. The percentage of fluff and “drabbles” and the like is going up, and reviews are less and less contentful, more and more hyperbolic, performative positivity.

          • AG says:

            @Nick

            Nah, it’s just that more people are online now. The lowest dregs used to stay in people’s diaries and whatnot, private spheres. Now the default is to share all of that with the world.

            The argument that the average photograph and/or video is lower quality composition is the same, as we’re swamped in a deluge of amateur social media uploads.

            And that isn’t even a bad thing! The function of the shitty family photo or home video or fanfic is fundamentally different from that of professional productions.

            For fanfic specifically, I’ve found that the best fanfic-as-fanfic deliberately eschews being the best writing, because its function is to evoke the feel of its source material, and so is optimizing for the source material medium, and not for the medium of prose. I tend to be put off by fanfic that can become original fiction once the serial numbers are filed off, because it is no longer serving its fanfic function of recreating the enjoyment I get from consuming the source material.

          • Nick says:

            @AG
            That doesn’t ring true to me. Part of what lowering the barrier to publication does, when this sort of writing is such a social activity anyway, is increase how much and what is produced. It’s not like fanfic writers today are sitting around developing their best ideas to one day market; rather they’re in a tumblr community sharing ideas, and gifting each other stories based on the ideas that resonate best, then collecting that stuff and putting it on AO3. I’ve seen this pattern dozens to hundreds of times now; as a fraction of fic published there, it seems to be really common these days, if not still increasing. And all the writing in question is singularly terrible.

            Some of it would have existed regardless, yes, but I’m not convinced it’s all the same in the end. For one thing, I take serious issue with the format. Back in my FF.net days, young writers would publish what were in effect web serials, sometimes dozens of chapters, regularly and with advancing plots and consistent characterization. Not everyone lived up to this, of course—and some folks made the one-shot format work really well—but the standard was there, everyone knew what they were aiming toward, and reviewers could actually engage in constructive criticism, though even then, most reviews were a simple “This is great!”

            The pretense of standards is gone. I’m not going to visit AO3 at work, but last time I did, a particular work’s front page was almost entirely crap. Most of it wasn’t serial, and the one-shots were under a thousand words and nearly all fluff. Several were drabbles, sometimes as few as a hundred words. One might have even been a songfic—a gimmick I hate with a passion. Reviews, meanwhile, are hyperbolically positive, something like

            this

            this

            is SO GOODf

            HOW DO YOU DO IT?!????????

            I L❤❤❤VE YOU BAE

            Try improving as a writer when that’s all you receive.

            So 1. I simply don’t believe all these fanfics would have been on their hard drives anyway, or passed around on notebook paper in the days before web fiction. And 2. I think it actually matters what incentives are in play, and if the reviews I read are any indication, writing some lazy fluff will have a dozen people wetting themselves at its sheer existence. And 3. I don’t think anyone grows as a writer that way or is inclined to produce something the rest of us would like to read, so I don’t see how the situation improves with under current conditions. It’s gotten so bad that, even with the advanced filtering a site like AO3 allows, I’ve given up reading fanfic.

          • AG says:

            @Nick

            The incentives here are “fanfic is optimizing for its function as fanfic, and not its function as independent writing.” It’s a feature, not a bug. I don’t read fanfic and original fic with the same goals in mind. Again, it’s like going to Youtube, looking at what’s on the front page, and declaring moviemaking to have no pretense of standards these days.

            Your ff.net days are still subject to my first point, as well, which is that there was still a filter of who could get online, find ff.net, upload a file, etc. That people are deriving their fanfiction from community trends is also a function of that many more people being online.

            Thirdly, I highly question your memory of the ff.net days, and any associated quality. There was a post in the exact opposite direction, where someone wondered why, when they re-visited the fandoms and fanfic of their youth, what was good then was revealed to be garbage writing now. ff.net was notable for banning songfic and scriptfic after a certain time, meaning those formats were actually way more prevalent in the past.

            And finally, I think you have a skewed view of how much better or worse fanfic is than all of the slush pile manuscripts that editors thankfully filter for us. And even with that filtering, we can still have such delights as the Bad Sex in Fiction Award!

      • EchoChaos says:

        Is anyone here willing to entertain the idea that women may simply be better at writing at this particular historical/cultural place and time?

        It is absolutely a plausible theory. Sci-fi used to be the most male dominated, but as sci-fi has gotten less “hard”, it has gotten more female. Military fic is probably the more male dominated place than sci-fi these days.

        • AG says:

          Hard sci-fi is still male dominated, but hard sci-fi tends to be a bit colder on character and relationship writing. Given that most evaluators of fictional writing are taught that character and relationships are what you primarily evaluate writing on (something something “substance over style”), then of course hard sci-fi is going to get the shaft.

      • axiomsofdominion says:

        I would certainly be open to a theory that women are much better at writing what is popular these days, especially among the white middle/upper class female audience that dominates fandom.

      • Le Maistre Chat says:

        Women read more, and write more visual-media fanfic, which should logically lead to more published books.
        Since the other hypothesis proposed is that the class of people in charge are bigoted against white men, we could check the female-male ratio split up by race of authors to see if/how much women are over-represented.

        • Hoopyfreud says:

          Like I told John above, SF readership appears to be somewhere between 60-40 and 40-60. I’d assume authorship follows readership.

        • Deiseach says:

          Mmm – women SF authors is a tricky proposition; take Margaret Atwood, who writes some of her novels as standard SF tropes, but is treated as a Proper Literary Author instead of one of those dreadful genre types (and they can have her, as far as I’m concerned).

          I think it’s a combination of finally enough of a critical mass of women who read and watched and were fans of SF (yes, we’ve been there all along) finally breaking through as published and publishable authors, without the “use initials for your author name because boys won’t read anything written by a woman” nonsense, and definite agenda-pushing to fix the perceived imbalance of the past re: women, minority, and minority women writers.

          • Plumber says:

            @Deiseach >

            “….“use initials for your author name because boys won’t read anything written by a woman”…”

            C. L. Moore was an awesome writer who’s far too little known today.

          • The Nybbler says:

            Mmm – women SF authors is a tricky proposition; take Margaret Atwood, who writes some of her novels as standard SF tropes, but is treated as a Proper Literary Author instead of one of those dreadful genre types (and they can have her, as far as I’m concerned).

            Vonnegut did the same thing, so it’s not just women. (And except for Cat’s Cradle, the literary types can have HIM too. And I’ll throw in much of Bradbury too, though he was generally recognized as SF because it’s hard to get away from that _Martian Chronicles_ title.)

          • Deiseach says:

            And I’ll throw in much of Bradbury too

            Nah, Ray was One Of Us, whatever about the critics. I can’t speak to Vonnegut one way or another, but Russ Ballard was one of those who went the “Ackshully, I write speculative fiction, not science fiction” back in the days of the New Wave when he was getting mainstream recognition. Atwood uses staple SF plots but is very happy to be lumped in with Proper Writers, Bradbury never made any bones about being one of the Filthy Genre Fans as well as writers (see Ursula LeGuin’s piece for Ansible back in 2007).

          • LHN says:

            To be fair, Heinlein was the one who invented the term “speculative fiction”, and he was trying to push it (because he said he thought it was more accurate, which is fair enough, but given that it was first used when he was addressing librarians he was probably also trying to up the genre’s respectability) starting in the 50s.

      • benjdenny says:

        I *think* this is probably a big stretch. We don’t know that doing really well in English class correlates very well to writing the best book of the year in a way that’s comprehensible. I would guess doing OK in the sense that you “know where the commas go” is part of it, but English class isn’t very much about actual creative writing skill so much as it is technically correct use of grammar and punctuation.

        English class work also isn’t judged by experts in literature as such, but rather just other people who did well enough in English to get a education degree (read: just OK) and who in a lot of cases don’t have an English degree so much as 20 credits in English.

        After the part where you don’t actually have to be that creative or compelling to get an A in a high school English class from a non-expert in literature who grades mostly based on rule-following, we then have another big confounder: If it’s really about doing GREAT in English class, like if you are really substantially the best in English you have an edge, then we’d need to know who was really, really exceptional, and they don’t keep that data.

        So we then need to find a test that quantifies what one learned in high school re: writing and reading which then also tells us what proportion of people are in Writing Mensa. The closest I can quickly is here and says:

        If you look at the overall numbers, 3428 males scored above 99 percentile in writing while 3,980 females scored above that mark.

        The same data gives girls, overall, about a 2-3% edge on writing scores, so not much in terms of support for “well, but what if geniuses are the thing?” OR “well, aren’t they better on average?” and a whole lot of support for “boys don’t care as much about HS English class for whatever reason, but easily make up this gap on the first test they get to that has anything to do with their future”.

        • Le Maistre Chat says:

          If males achieve excellence more often because hormonal effects on the brain are a cause of ambition, “slack off until the first test that affects my future” totally fits.

      • John Schilling says:

        Is anyone here willing to entertain the idea that women may simply be better at writing at this particular historical/cultural place and time?

        Better, yes, probably. But 60/40 or maybe 70/30 better, not the alleged “42/0 better” that Nancy Lebowitz noted across the fiction-writing categories this year. At that point, we’re basically looking at a software shop with 42 all-male coders and saying “Yeah, but maybe men really are better at math”

        • LesHapablap says:

          Depending on the distributions it could be 42/0. The Fields Medal winners are 59 men to 1 woman.

          • John Schilling says:

            Right, but the Fields Medal was always mostly-men. That may say something about women and math, or maybe we just don’t want to talk about that. But it would say something very different if the Fields Medal had been 50/50 or 70/30 a generation ago and then suddenly shifted to 100% male.

      • Plumber says:

        @herbert herberson,
        Sure, I’ve noted that a lot more of the new-ish fantasy-fiction that I enjoy that has been published in the last 20 years has been written by women than is the case with the older fantasy-fiction I’ve enjoyed (though I still like some new works by men, and some old works by women).

        I can’t say that of science-fiction, but I’ve just plain haven’t read as many new “SF” works, some “SF” short stories by Gene Wolfe (white man) and Ted Chiang (Asian man) were good, at the urging of my wife I read much of the “Silo” trilogy by Hugh Howey (white man) which was mixed, and I started to read The Buried Life by Carrie Patel (Asian woman) but I just couldn’t get into it, Rainbow Mars by Larry Niven was good, but I’d consider that sci-fi flavored fantasy rather than straight science-fiction, and I liked The City and The City by China Miéville, but I really don’t know how to classify that work.

        “Cyberpunk” in the ’80’s really turned me away from science-fiction, and I just haven’t bothered to explore the genre as much as I did previously.

      • albatross11 says:

        I’m fine with entertaining this model for all sorts of surprising statistical imbalances in observed success, but my impression is that this isn’t so widely accepted in the big wide world….

      • Byrel Mitchell says:

        Relevant XKCD

        Any societal group with a writing hobby (no matter how lame/low quality) will end up with better writers from it, since it enables all proto-great-writers to identify their interest and talent early (and then provides a low social cost community practice environment.)

      • baconbits9 says:

        This seems fairly implausible for the speed of the shift. I am totally willing to entertain the idea that black people are better at basketball than white people as they make up 75% of the NBA currently, but that shift happened over many years despite relatively short careers of basketball players vs writers making it easier to dislodge basketball players. Even with this skew there is still typically a (or two) white player considered a top 10 in the league at any one time, and certainly over a decade there will be at least one.

        I would guess it unlikely that women have come to dominate sci fi writing to the degree or greater that black men have come to dominate the NBA but in a dramatically shorter time.

    • DinoNerd says:

      I’ve never paid much attention to the Hugos, though I’ve known plenty of people who do. In general, though, I suspect a difference between cognoscenti and people looking for something fun to read. Perhaps the Hugos have become “high brow”, at which point “doing something new” matters more than “doing something fun”.

      What I’d like to know, OTOH, is whether there was any science fiction published last year – i.e. something related to a plausible future, not a fantasy world – and with science/technology as a real factor. Or even speculative fiction – not warmed over medieval worlds with magic, American West with space ships, etc. etc.

      Maybe I should check whatever was on the lists you may have read. But that’s been the disappointment for me, in general. Plenty of fantasy, and no sci fi.

      At least some of the diversity authors do a lot of alternate social structures, unlike either what we’re living in or any of the bog-standard-SF-setups.

      • Nancy Lebovitz says:

        The Calculating Stars was a scientifically plausible past– that is, an alternate history with a good bit of science and engineering.

    • Clutzy says:

      Alastair Reynolds best works, Revelation Space and Chasm City never even got nominated. Harry Potter 4 won, which makes almost no sense. They have never made sense.

      • axiomsofdominion says:

        Harry Potter fans Bernie Sanders’s the Hugos. I say this as a long time Bernie supporter. At least ideologically. It is pretty easy. Worldcon is not that well attended really. And a large percentage of Harry Potter readers read literally, actually literally, nothing else, and another large percentage read only major popular stuff.

        There’s no objective measure for quality. It has pretty much always been, what is the popular thing at the moment?

        If you go to r/fantasy right now you can see a post by a Nigerian about how CoBaB, which is one of those hip African American writer writing about a culture that is from Africa but really has nothing to do with them, is actually almost offensively ignorant of Nigerian culture and history. Also very lazy world building.

        The target for the current sci-fi organizations/publishers is woke white women and the men who love them. And that tells quite a bit in the awards. Meanwhile the kind of men who were involved in the community have mostly moved on to video games and that has been the case for nearly 20 years. Meanwhile the audience of women who play non-casual games is not comparatively large. Reading is vastly more popular among women generally than men generally.

        • Clutzy says:

          I mean, I don’t mind HP4 winning, if HP3, 5 & 6 all also win or place highly. I like Harry Potter, even now as an adult. HP4 is a woeful slog in the middle of the series. Its the longest book (IIRC), and it doesn’t deserve to be at all. After 1 (which I think is magical and youthful) and 2 (which is universally derided as the worst book), HP4 is easily the worst book of the “mature” Harry Potter books.

          The rest is fair, I suppose. In my HS years us guys played more video games and read more scifi than the girls. I’m obviously older now, but I read more than my GF. She reads Neil Gaiman, I suppose, and I’ve moved to historic nonfiction as my preferred books, but IDK if thats the norm.

          • Tarpitz says:

            Chamber of Secrets is my favourite Harry Potter book (though it is the worst film, with the possible exception of the Visit Britain advert they distributed as Deathly Hallows Part 1).

          • JPNunez says:

            I’ll go to bat for 3, maybe 6. Goblet is a slog but has fun moments and the ending is strong. Phoenix is pretty much the worst one all around. Chamber is a repeat of Stone, which is a cool little book. Hallows is another slog.

        • Nancy Lebovitz says:

          axiomsofdominion

          You don’t have to attend Worldcon to nominate or vote for Hugos.

          You just need a supporting membership, which is much cheaper than an attending membership.

          A supporting membership will get you progress reports, the program book (a major production), the voting packet (a lot of free reading material and art– I’m not sure about things to watch, but in any case, there’s a lot of what’s nominated for the Hugos), the right to nominate and vote for the Hugos, and the right to vote on the location for the two-years-hence Worldcon.

          That was from memory.

          From the website.

          “Supporting members have the right to receive the current Worldcon’s publications, to nominate and vote on the current year’s Hugo Awards, to nominate on the previous and subsequent year’s Hugo Awards, to vote for the site of the Worldcon two years from now (subject to paying an additional fee that is the supporting membership to the two-years-hence Worldcon), and to propose changes to the WSFS rules through the Business Meeting. Supporting members cannot attend or vote at the Business Meeting”

          • axiomsofdominion says:

            Yes, yes, I’m aware of the various qualifications for voting. I discussed this issue here back when the puppy stuff was going on originally. I was just condensing rather than detailing all the possibilities.

    • Nick says:

      Looking at this from a bit different angle, I generally add books to my reading list if they’re from an author I’ve read and liked, or recommended by a friend or trusted source like SSC. It’s weighted pretty strongly as a result toward older writers, though I do read some contemporary ones. Glancing down my reading list, they’re mostly men and mostly white.

      • DinoNerd says:

        *thoughtful* I use a similar algorithm, supplemented by suggestions from LibraryThing.

        Recently I’ve been reading a lot of books that came out 20 years ago. But I’ve got a number of friends (or at least bloggers I follow) who are specifically interested in fiction by women of colour, so I’m not noticing a skew towards white or male. (And on the third hand, I don’t pay much attention to either attribute in a writer, unless it’s somehow relevant – half of them could be Martians for all I’d notice.)

        • Plumber says:

          @DinoNerd,
          I’ve generally found that if it was written more than 25 years ago and I liked it a man probably wrote it (but not always), and if it was written less than 25 years ago a woman probably wrote it (but not always).

          Since I mostly grab books based on title and covers first I haven’t built a system based on that observation, nor do I intend to, I do however tend to put books back on the shelf if I see that they’re part of a trilogy or longer series, though if I started reading from the first book in a series before the rest are published I tend to read the second book as well.

    • Nancy Lebovitz says:

      So, the Graphic Story category. It’s what I read first– a couple of months ago, which means (even more than in other categories) that there are things I don’t remember.

      Paper Girls, volume 4 by Vaughan and Chiang; Why does this even exist, let alone getting nominated for a Hugo? It’s completely undistinguished, though I grant I didn’t think there was anything especially wrong with it.

      Saga, volume 9 by Vaughan and Staples. A friend said it would be much better if I read the whole series, and I had enough time that I tried that. I love those comics. I found the weird inventiveness very satisfying and the interactions between many of the characters hit a sweet spot of alternating affection and hostility. (There were also bad guys who were pretty hostile.)

      This is one of those things which is sort of science fiction but mostly consists of just making things up. There is no logical reason to have people with monitors/television screens for their heads, but granting that, I’m pleased to say that the king has a wide screen head.

      This series influenced my criteria for voting in general– I decided to vote for what delighted me the most.

      To tell you the truth, I should have basically voted on the ninth volume, but I liked the series so much that it influenced me. I’m not sure that the ninth volume was the best, but it did bring the series to a satisfying stopping point. The creators are planning on taking a long break from the series.

      The artwork isn’t amazing, but it’s better than many and quite good enough to express the story and characters.

      It’s about a war between a planet and its moon– one has people with horns, the other has people with wings. A man and a woman from the sides fall in love and have a child with both horns and wings. There’s complicated family issues, an absurd variety of body types, ghosts, politics, economics…..

      I’m bewildered by Paper Girls which I liked so little and Saga which I liked so much being written by the same person.

      Monstress by Liu and Takeda, volume 3– the conclusion of a series. The artwork is stunning. And it doesn’t come through on a computer screen nearly well as it does on paper. The very rich colors are muted on a screen and the details aren’t as interesting. This is the only thing I feel so strongly about for screen vs. in person– you get a better fraction of a sunset on a screen than you do from this graphic novel.

      I’m told the art has a strong Asian influence, but I’m not seeing it. It’s more like art from a culture with a very literal take on three dimensional space, extreme richness of detail and ornament, and beautiful people from all over the world.

      However (and I read the whole series) I didn’t love the story. Too much confusion, too much pain, didn’t love the lead character. Authors should either tell me a story I can follow or pile on so much stuff I like that I don’t care.

      Abbott by Ahmed and Kivela, first of a series of unspecified length. A black woman reporter in the 1970s is up against an occult threat. This is a solid piece of work, thought the occult threat takes a while to show up. Nice to see a main character whose skills are intelligence and determination while not being a hand-to-hand fighter.

      Surprisingly, while the art is generally merely decent conventional comic book art, the black tentacles are disquieting, much more so than the black tentacles in Monstress.

      On a Sunbeam by Tillie Walden. This is a 500 page story complete in one volume or free online, and quite an achievement being written and drawn by one person.

      The artwork is striking, especially the landscapes. The people are a little stiff and anime-ish but at a level that didn’t really bother me. Unfortunately, the lettering is somewhat small and scratchy.

      It was a good idea to have the characters make their living by rehabbing old spaceships. It’s a fine excuse for having them run into weird shit.

      A good bit of the story has faded from memory, but I remember liking it enough to intend to read it again look up more of Walden’s work.

      Black Panther: Long Live the King by Okorafor and Coveington. This just didn’t work for me– undistinguished story, faces were flat. Setting sentient vibranium free would have been interesting if the story had done something with it.

    • Well... says:

      How do they verify which authors are white men?

      • Nancy Lebovitz says:

        Fair question, though I don’t think the proportion of people who aren’t obviously in one category or another is all that high. I could be wrong about this.

        I’ve been wondering about a related question. These days, would it be possible for a writer to have a career like James Tiptree’s? Years of well-respected work without ever being seen in public and with race and gender unknown. Even then, she was eventually tracked down, and the tools for tracking people down are much better now.

        • Matt M says:

          It might be “possible” in the strictest technical sense. I think we still don’t really know who Satoshi Nakamoto is, right?

          But it would be incredibly difficult to stay anonymous and become famous/successful in the creative arts. Without the ability to promote your own work in public, the work would have to be amazingly superior to other works.

          • Nick says:

            But it would be incredibly difficult to stay anonymous and become famous/successful in the creative arts. Without the ability to promote your own work in public, the work would have to be amazingly superior to other works.

            That’s my impression from hearing writers talk about this stuff. Publishers encourage you to have a social media presence if nothing else, and of course it helps to go to cons.

            Off the top of my head I can think of one author who doesn’t, Greg Egan. He claims there are no photos of himself on the Internet. Funnily enough, though, I still encounter him on social media, because he posts (posted?) in the comments sometimes at John Baez’s blog.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            Banksy would be the obvious counterexample.

            Perhaps the one that proves the rule… not sure.

          • Well... says:

            But it would be incredibly difficult to stay anonymous and become famous/successful in the creative arts. Without the ability to promote your own work in public, the work would have to be amazingly superior to other works.

            But what’s the minimum level of fame/success you need to be nominated for or win a Hugo? I would think it’s low enough that you can still viably conceal your gender and race. But I don’t know much about the Hugos…do they pretty much only consider people who’ve already been special guest presenters at sci-fi cons for ten years or more, etc.?

          • Nick says:

            Egan got a Hugo in 1999 for Best Novella for his work “Oceanic.”

          • John Schilling says:

            do they pretty much only consider people who’ve already been special guest presenters at sci-fi cons for ten years or more, etc.?

            Recent years have seen the best-novel Hugo awarded (not just nominated) for an author’s first published work, and for their first work published in English translation in spite of their never AFIK having set foot in an English-speaking country.

          • Well... says:

            So, it sounds like it would be a good idea for a white male sci-fi author with Hugo ambitions to simply use a pen name like “Shamika Ndelele”. The publishers have an incentive to help the author conceal his race and gender, since this would increase the odds they can boast having published a Hugo-winner. Plus this way the Hugo panel of judges can feel happy having given the award to someone named Shamika Ndelele rather than to someone named Allen Schellenberger. And the angry torches-n-pitchforks mob demanding the Hugos be given to women & minorities can feel victorious seeing the name Shamika Ndelele on the list of winners. And since the number of people with real names like Shamika Ndelele writing sci-fi are so relatively few they’re almost zero — and the law of large numbers works in reverse as the law of small numbers — nobody loses! It’s a win-win-win-win.

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            Well…:

            “do they pretty much only consider people who’ve already been special guest presenters at sci-fi cons for ten years or more, etc.?”

            Sometimes the Hugos are called a popularity contest, and I’m sure being well-known in person and well-liked helps, but I’m grateful to the people who listed Hugo winners who weren’t on the con circuit.

            These days, are there writers who are personally well-known fandom through text-only? This would include social media as well as being published.

          • lvlln says:

            So, it sounds like it would be a good idea for a white male sci-fi author with Hugo ambitions to simply use a pen name like “Shamika Ndelele”. The publishers have an incentive to help the author conceal his race and gender, since this would increase the odds they can boast having published a Hugo-winner. Plus this way the Hugo panel of judges can feel happy having given the award to someone named Shamika Ndelele rather than to someone named Allen Schellenberger. And the angry torches-n-pitchforks mob demanding the Hugos be given to women & minorities can feel victorious seeing the name Shamika Ndelele on the list of winners. And since the number of people with real names like Shamika Ndelele writing sci-fi are so relatively few they’re almost zero — and the law of large numbers works in reverse as the law of small numbers — nobody loses! It’s a win-win-win-win.

            I can’t remember the exact example, but I recall some white author did exactly something like this a few years ago, naming himself as an Asian woman and submitting poetry to some contest or journal or such. IIRC, he got published in part thanks to his deception (I believe he had submitted same works under his real name to similar places without success), but he obviously got found out and faced repercussions. I think the risk of the negative repercussions when such a deception gets found out completely mitigates all the win-win-win-win-ness of what you’re proposing, unfortunately.

          • Well... says:

            I wonder, did he get found out because he jumped out from behind his disguise and said “Ah HAH!” or did someone “dig up dirt” on him? If it was the latter, how did they do it? How deep did they need to dig?

            One upside of his getting found out was it maybe helps bring criticism to and thus erode the dumb racist/sexist system they’re using. If he plays his cards right, of course.

          • Randy M says:

            snippets from the 2015 edition of “The Best American Poetry” surfaced on the Internet. Edited by Sherman Alexie, this year’s selections include a poem titled “The Bees, the Flowers, Jesus, Ancient Tigers, Poseidon, Adam and Eve,” by someone named Yi-Fen Chou. A biographical note identifies Chou as the nom de plume of a middle-aged white poet from Indiana named Michael Derrick Hudson

            From here
            When the poems were reprinted in an anthology the truth was noted.
            How you can be savvy enough to know this is effective at getting an advantage but not enough to know people will resent you having that advantage under false pretense, I don’t know.

          • Matt M says:

            There’s also the Rachel Dolezal example. She seems to have been “hiding in plain sight” if you will. It’s less that she was skillfully masking her identity so much as it was that for several years, nobody was willing to question her about it…

          • Randy M says:

            Reading a little bit about Rachel Dolezal, it didn’t seem like she was after a job or other tangible benefit.. I think that, growing up in a black area with a black adopted sibling, she just basically saw her self as part of that culture/group. If it was deception, it was self deception.

          • baconbits9 says:

            As I recall it she outright lied on her admissions application and said she had a black father and took positions you would expect would give a leg up to a woman of color.

          • acymetric says:

            I think it isn’t terribly uncommon for white Americans to identify primarily with black culture. It is unusual for them to actually pretend to be black. Style your hair to look African American? Maybe. Apply something to your skin to make it look more African American? Probably not, but uh, I mean…I guess? Lie about who your parents are? That’s not just self-deception (she also supposedly asked her brother “not to blow her cover” which suggests she was well aware of what she was doing).

            Edit: @baconbits9 beat me to it

          • Randy M says:

            I’ll bow to your more up to date knowledge.

          • Well... says:

            The difference with Rachel Dolezal is, by pretending to be black she wasn’t trying to bring attention to the racism of a system that would have disqualified her simply for being white (the way she might have if she was trying to get her sci-fi novel nominated for a Hugo); rather, she was just sort of LARPing as a black person.

        • nkurz says:

          I was going to go the other way. In theory, it’s the story that’s being judged and not the author. Instead of the author concealing their race or gender, would it be possible to conceal the authorship from the reviewers?

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            Not for the Hugos. A lot of people will have read the story already, and it will have the author’s name attached.

            You could have an honor system (here’ the story, don’t look it up) for those who haven’t previously read the story, bu I don’t think it would work very well.

          • John Schilling says:

            In particular, I don’t see how you’d do blind nominations, and if we’re seeing male authors excluded from nomination across multiple categories, “,,,and you have to pinky-swear you won’t try to find out which female author wrote the story you are voting for” is not going to fix the problem.

          • nkurz says:

            @John Schilling:

            Yeah, you’re right that if the issue is selective nomination, blinding the reviewers to the author wouldn’t be much help, and there is probably no reasonable way to do the nominations blind.

            My instinct, although I’m uncertain if it’s true, is that authors aren’t actually being strongly discriminated against for being white and male, but rather that books are consciously being selected for because of the political viewpoint they espouse, and avoided if they present the wrong message. But I’d guess there’s a correlation between female and minority authors and certain social justice themes, making it difficult to distinguish negative discrimination by author from positive promotion by message.

            The existence of some smaller number of nominated white male authors with acceptable messages would appear to point in this direction. Do you see a way that one could tease apart these two effects?

          • John Schilling says:

            My instinct, although I’m uncertain if it’s true, is that authors aren’t actually being strongly discriminated against for being white and male, but rather that books are consciously being selected for because of the political viewpoint they espouse, and avoided if they present the wrong message. […] The existence of some smaller number of nominated white male authors with acceptable messages would appear to point in this direction. Do you see a way that one could tease apart these two effects?

            The ranking system that I have been using to try and track this has five author/publisher-specific factors and seven story/character factors, so I can pull them apart and score them separately. So, a bit of spreadsheet-fu, and

            [calculating]

            OK, for author-related factors in combination, there is a +1.1 standard deviation shift in the direction of pro-SJ credentials for novels nominated after 2010(*) compared to before. For story-related factors, the shift is +0.8 standard deviations. Considering both in combination, the shift is +1.2 standard deviations (because more raw data points means a smaller standard deviation).

            So, maybe slightly more of a concern with authorial SJ credentials than with the stories, but not to a statistically significant degree.

            * 2010 was the first set of nominations after Racefail ’09, an event which substantially transformed the character of discussion in the the major internet SF forums influential in any collective “what should we nominate this year?” discussions. It is as good a break point as I can find for when the character of the nominees changed.

        • John Schilling says:

          I’ve been wondering about a related question. These days, would it be possible for a writer to have a career like James Tiptree’s?

          K.J. Parker wrote, it looks like thirteen novels and an anthology’s worth of short fiction over, over a seventeen-year period, before being “outed” as a pen name of Tom Holt. And during that period, I believe actively courted the mismpression that “Parker” was a woman.

          But I think that was unique and mostly a marketing gimmick. Having one pen name for e.g. light SF/F comedy and another for dark and gritty quasi-historical fantasy is standard publishing-industry marketing practice, but usually with the connection between pen names openly acknowledged to anyone who gets as far as the title page or back-cover blurb. Never mind showing up for conventions. Holt and Orbit thought that throwing in an extra bit of real-world mystery, and the prospect that such dark and gritty and technically detailed fantasy was being written by a woman, would sell a few extra books, and they were probably right.

          Still, it is proof of concept that if an author needs to conceal their race or gender, they can likely manage a successful career within that constraint. Positively masquerading as a different race or gender would probably be harder; Holt never flat-out stated that Parker was female, nor hired a model to pose for author-bio photos or the like.

        • Nancy Lebovitz says:

          A tale of someone who probably could have maintained a secret identity if they hadn’t started a professional sf career.

          • Plumber says:

            Well that was depressing as was the comments section, but at least I saw my first use of “folx” which I had wondered if that was a figment of @Deiseach’s imagination.

          • Nornagest says:

            Deiseach rarely makes stuff up, but she does — or at least did — hang out on Tumblr, which historically harbored some of the fringiest, most extreme social justice culture anywhere on the Internet. If you can find a particular piece of moral entrepreneurship anywhere, you can find it there.

            Much like how one might end up with a distorted view of economic trends if one lives in a city run by well-meaning idiots in the center of an exploding housing market.

        • Aapje says:

          @Nancy Lebovitz

          These days, would it be possible for a writer to have a career like James Tiptree’s? Years of well-respected work without ever being seen in public and with race and gender unknown.

          If we don’t limit it to SF, then Elena Ferrante is the obvious example.

    • Plumber says:

      @Nancy Lebovitz,

      As an aside, in the ’80’s I had subscriptions to “Omni” and “Asimov’s”, and in the late ’90’s and early 2000’s I subscribed to “The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction”, plus I’d pick up Year’s Best anthologies, but that was then not now, and I’m really impressed with how “with it” you are with the new fiction.

      • Nancy Lebovitz says:

        I’m not especially with it about new fiction. I volunteered to read all the nominees for the Hugo panel. So I read them.

        Previously, I’d read two novels and three of the short stories. I’d seen four of the movies.

  3. johan_larson says:

    One quiet night you disappeared from your home. Anyone investigating your disappearance had little to work with, because there was no sign you prepared for an absence. You simply were there in the evening, and weren’t there in the morning. And no one saw you anywhere nearby that night. Six months later you reappeared with no memory of were you had been and what had happened to you.

    In this scenario, what would you think had happened to you? What would your friends, family, and any investigating authorities conclude happened to you?

    • metacelsus says:

      Definitely sounds like a case of alien abduction to me.

      I would definitely investigate my body for any signs of probing.

    • bzium says:

      I would guess that I experienced a dissociative fugue and wandered off somewhere, right before being abducted by aliens.

    • Randy M says:

      Probably a brain tumor with a tiny chance of hypnotism being a real thing.

    • Razorback says:

      Hmm, if I lost my memory how would I find my way back home? I guess I must have been kidnapped and drugged and brought back. Don’t know of any drugs that can produce this kind of amnesia. Whoever kidnapped me must have access to currently unknown drugs or technology. Aliens? Shadowy government experiment?

    • benjdenny says:

      Attempted suicide and brain damage from the same. Not terribly likely (don’t worry) but more likely than the alternatives.

    • GreatColdDistance says:

      Depends. I would immediately go to the relevant authorities and submit myself for testing. I had to be somewhere during that relevant period, and the exact state of my body would give me a lot of information as to where.

      In six months, I have to have been eating something. A stomach pump + examination of faeces and urine would tell me something about what I had been eating. Have I lost weight, gained weight, or stayed put? I am a fairly strict vegetarian, so my adherence to that diet would tell me something about whether I had been in control of my diet. A blood test would check for things like vitamins and iron. Have I been drinking alcohol?

      What do my hair (head, facial, and body), fingernails, and skin look like? Have my muscles built up or atrophied, or stayed the same? Is my hair the same length as it was when I vanished, or longer or shorter? Has it been recently cut? Is there my usual product in my hair and on my skin?

      The missing memories are also highly suspicious, given that my memory stops as soon as I disappear and restarts as soon as I return. This makes it highly unlikely that it was an accident, or coincidental amnesia. It is more likely that whatever made me vanish stopped my memories as well. Of course, if I reappeared somewhere far away from home, such a coincidence might be more likely.

      For one example, imagine my skin looks pale, I’m low on vitamin D, my muscles have atrophied, my hair is cut, and my diet looks like basic rations and has meat in it. In this case, I’d guess I’d been kidnapped by someone with some form of drug/device which prevents the formation of memories, applied when I disappeared and removed when I returned. Given my relative unimportance, I would assume that I was a test subject, as such a device blocking the formation of memories could be very usefully applied to all kinds of situations. Presumably the organisation wanted to test how long a subject could be subjected to the memory blocker, and is now observing me to watch for long-term effects.

      Different example, if my hair is still the same length but with no sign of being recently cut, my muscles/skin look the same as usual, my diet matches what I had picked up from the supermarket the week before I disappeared, and I still have the products I usually use on my hair and skin, I would assume that I had been in some kind of stasis field or time warp, likely applied by technologically advanced aliens. Would have no ability to speculate on how or why.

    • S_J says:

      I guess I would ask if anyone had seen me hiking into the Catskill Mountains, and whether anyone had heard tales of archaic-looking men drinking strange drinks and playing a game of nine-pin bowling in a lonely valley in those mountains.

      Did I have only one sip of the drink from their keg, rather than multiple mugs?

    • JPNunez says:

      Prolly went to live in Buenos Aires for a bit and came back when money ran out or got kicked out.

      Yeah uh I have amnesia. No idea what’s going on. No, I don’t have a funny accent.

  4. Joseph Greenwood says:

    If I wanted to learn (about) Stoic philosophy, where should I start?

  5. Jeremiah says:

    Podcast update, for those that care. I’ve been out of town at GenCon all last week, so the podcast is behind the blog, but I should catch up over the next couple of days. To tide people over I published another one from the top posts list:

    Who By Very Slow Decay (Original here)

    I quite enjoyed this one. I think it lended itself to an audio treatment. If for some reason you’re on the fence about listening I think you should.

    Also you may have noticed that this is the last of the current top posts list, there are other lists, which I’m going to start working on, but this is also the time to make requests.

  6. Scott Alexander says:

    Why is Julius Caesar so famous?

    He was a great general who took over Rome. But Pompey, Marius, and Sulla were also great generals, and Sulla also took over Rome, and nobody remembers any of them. Caesar ruled a few years, after which Rome plunged into the same kind of civil war it had been in on-and-off for decades – no lasting effect.

    Compare to Augustus, who succeeded where Caesar failed and founded the Roman Empire, but isn’t nearly as famous.

    So why is Caesar the one Roman who everybody knows? Is it all downstream of an Augustus-era PR campaign?

    • DeWitt says:

      I don’t know how old this phenomenon is, I really don’t, but there are a hell of a lot of people in Europe for whom the answer will be Astérix comics.

    • benjdenny says:

      First mover on a popular title and Shakespeare.

      • dodrian says:

        +1 to Shakespeare.

      • In a more just world, someone would make a box office hit movie about Augustus where Marc Antony is the bad guy.

      • Matt M says:

        First mover on a popular title

        I think it’s really this. Most people don’t know enough history to distinguish among various roman emperors. But “Caesar” as a title is something they know, so they lump pretty much everything they know into that, which also happens to be the name of Julius…

    • Protagoras says:

      Yeah, it’s all Augustus. Since being the first of a dynasty always makes your position precarious, he pushed the line that no, really, it was Caesar who was the first emperor, and Augustus was just carrying on his legacy.

      • Le Maistre Chat says:

        This. Julius Caesar legitimized Augustus, who changed the Marian constitution of Republic-with-a-generous-side-of-anarchy to the first stage of Empire, from which so many future monarchs traced continuity.

      • EchoChaos says:

        I think this is the most likely. With added firepower from later famous works cited, but mostly Augustus.

        Plus, the more Augustus venerated Caesar, the more impressive his reign became. Same as how in North Korea the cult of Kim Il Sung really kicked off under Kim Jong Il.

      • I don’t think this is right. I remember reading somewhere that Augustus was much more well known than Julius during the Roman Empire. He was an important political player for nearly his entire adult life and was the sole ruler for nearly three decades. His face was on every coin for that time and he made a pretty concerted propaganda campaign.

        I think that attributing Julius Caesar’s much higher fame to Shakespeare is probably right. Another reason might be that he was a much better military leader than Augustus, and that’s a very big deal in the ancient world. Later Romans, who we get our sources from, were much less likely to criticize a great general.

        • DeWitt says:

          Julius is the surname here, which Augustus received as he got adopted into the family. Caesar’s given name is Gaius, but half of Rome was named Gaius so it’s not helpful.

        • Is there a convention used to differentiate the two? Because when I hear “Julius”, I think of “et tu, Brute” Caesar even though they both shared that name. But when I hear “Caesar”, it’s ambiguous. In Adrian Goldsworthy biography, he would call Augustus “the young Caesar” for part of the time but it seems awkward to say that of a guy who lived to his 70’s.

          • DeWitt says:

            You call the older of the two Julius Caesar, and refer to his successor as Octavianus or Augustus depending on when he was doing things.

        • LHN says:

          Julius Caesar was one of the three pagan members of the medieval Nine Worthies along with Hector and Alexander the Great (but not Augustus), so his fame was strong in post-Roman Europe well before Shakespeare wrote.

    • Erusian says:

      There are a few things. Firstly, there was the Augustan PR campaign and that Caesar’s faction (unlike Sulla’s) won so completely it got to write history as it pleased. It also can’t hurt that the surname Caesar became a title that lasted, in some places, into the 20th century.

      Secondly, Caesar was an uncommonly good writer (though not sparklingly brilliant) and wrote in a very plain, easy to understand yet grammatically correct style. His own propaganda has been a Latin textbook since medieval times at least.

      Thirdly, Caesar was the direct predecessor of the first real monarch of Rome since the kingdom period. When monarchs in the early modern to modern period wanted to defend or praise monarchy, they often pointed out the chaos of the Roman Republic. They eagerly adopted the line that Caesar had founded a dynasty and ended the chaos. This served as a sort of anti-democratic propaganda that was in line the Ancient position in the Ancient-Modern debates. In contrast, the more democratic factions used Caesar as a sign of dictatorship. For example, British Prime Ministers who got overly cozy with executive authority were called Caesar in the 19th century.

      Also, I might be wrong here, but I think most people know who Caesar, Augustus, Marc Antony, and Cleopatra are. In other words, they know more figures from the Civil War after Caesar’s death (the one that did establish a monarchy) than about Caesar’s time.

    • John Schilling says:

      Julius Caesar is famous for founding the Roman Empire, which is a pretty big deal. He conquered a bunch of historically important places(*) in the name and to the expansionist glory of Rome, and then he conquered Rome in the name of Caesar, and then he conquered Rome in the name of Caesar, and then Rome wasn’t a republic any more but was an Empire that endured as such for hundreds of years.

      Pedantically, Caesar’s official title wasn’t “emperor”, which one might argue should disqualify him as the founder of the Roman Empire. But when the Romans got around to recognizing that yes, they were in fact an Empire, they backtitled their emperors “Caesars”. And they deified him, which had never been done before. And his rule was more like the emperors that followed than like the republican governments which had come before. So, technically, “first quasi-emperor of Rome before they made it official”, which most people just simplify to “first emperor of Rome”.

      Augustus, as you note, did much of the same stuff and he made it official. But he did it second, and he couldn’t have done it if Julius hadn’t done it first, and he pretty much officially said “Julius is the Man, I’m just following in his footsteps, you got a problem with that, take it up with him. He’s a God now.”

      * Especially where “Western Civilization” is concerned, and yes, the history books will count you greater for conquering England and France than they will for conquering Yugoslavia or Egypt.

      • bullseye says:

        Caesar and his successors were called Imperator and their domain Imperium before those words took their present meaning. They originally meant “commander” and “that which is commanded”, respectively. Later they came to mean the type of ruler that the leader of Rome was, and the type of state that he ruled.

        Modern historians have decided that Augustus was the first “Emperor” because he set up the Empire’s bureaucracy, but this usage does not correspond to any ancient title.

        (Caesar also claimed other titles: Dictator, which had been a special emergency executive under the Republic, Princeps Senatus (leader of the Senate, and the origin of “Prince”), and Pontifex Maximus (high priest, now one of the Pope’s titles).)

        • AlphaGamma says:

          Princeps Senatus (leader of the Senate, and the origin of “Prince”)

          Doesn’t the word ”prince” just come from princeps (”leader, chief”) generally, rather than the specific title of Princeps Senatus?

          • bullseye says:

            Could be, but I had the impression it was specifically because it was one of the Emperor’s titles.

    • FrankistGeorgist says:

      Caesar’s military victories are important not just because of his talents, but because his campaigns were invasions of Gaul and Brittania, two regions which went on to be Empires themselves, so they’ll naturally be more interested in their own legendary history for provincial reasons and propagate it appropriately.

      But yeah Augustus reigned a long long time so he got to really control the narrative.

    • Deiseach says:

      Because Caesar was a canny self-publicist. He produced The Gallic Wars specifically to burnish his reputation, and so successfully that for centuries students had (and have) to read it when learning Latin.

      And this wasn’t his only dabbling in the field of literature, he wrote one other major work and has a couple minor ones attributed to him.

      Pompey, Marius, Sulla and so on had others write about them, and those writings are slanted in one way or another depending on the author’s politics and allegiances. Caesar knew the value of publicity and creating your own image to embed in the mind of the masses (all that stuff about the descent from Venus via Aeneas and his son by Lavinia, Iulus was to establish family pedigree as Roman of the Romans from the start and blessed by the gods), and this is the result.

      Helps that as well as engaging in the usual Roman politics, he was also an astute, capable and successful general and his military victories would stand out even amongst other generals (not as unique as Alexander, but who is?). Things like the affair with Cleopatra also gives plenty of grist to the mills of later writers wanting romance and drama in their history. And having yourself assassinated by your best friend, amongst others, on grounds of wanting to re-establish the kingship is certainly one way to ensure your memory lives on in history!

    • Atlas says:

      Others have raised valid, central points, but here are my additional two cents:

      For the same reason that Martin Luther is more famous than John Wycliffe and Jan Hus?

      Also, I think that you might be underestimating how generally famous figures from Mediterranean antiquity like Pompey and Marius were in the past (at least to literate/educated people) and overestimating how famous Caesar is now. Like, the Fabian Society took their name from Fabius, Shakespeare wrote plays not just about Caesar but also about Mark Antony/Pericles/Coriolanus/Theseus, there are lots of people like Crassus and Pisistratus in the Divine Comedy, etc. The classical world was a major common reference point until, say, the end of WW2—considering e.g. the fact that most people don’t realize that Enoch Powell was referencing the Aeneid in his famous 1968 “Rivers of Blood” speech. (Although to some extent this is debatable because various stories/concepts like the “Midas touch” and “Siren song” are still widely intelligible references, even if people now don’t make as much of a show about how much they’ve read Virgil as they did in Dante’s day.)

      Is it all downstream of an Augustus-era PR campaign?

      If you’re “only” famous because your designated successor beat your rivals in a struggle to control a mighty empire, and then his designated successors and their designated successors had at least much, much better than chance odds of ascending to the throne themselves, so your claiming your legacy became a really important propaganda device…well, that’s a pretty damn good reason to be famous!

    • cassander says:

      The better question is why does everyone know about Hannibal and his elephants. His invasion didn’t work, wasn’t the only one who tried it, and he wasn’t even the only one with elephants. Caesar makes sense for the reasons articulated above, but why does everyone still know hannibal?

      • DarkTigger says:

        He brought Rome to the brink of destruction, no one else managed that after him, for five centruies.
        Also he was a great political reformer, who’s work was essential to the resurgence of Carthage which lead to the third Punic war.

      • bean says:

        Source dependence leading to a critical mass of knowledge in popular culture, probably. I suspect that popular knowledge of the classical world mostly traces back to classical educations. And I don’t think that the curriculum designers for those were terribly concerned with making sure that they had a properly balanced view of ancient history. If works were selected on a combination of literary merit, availability and tradition you can easily end up with a situation where Hannibal is much more famous than equally deserving generals because the story is interesting and someone wrote a good book about him. I suspect it may have been Polybius in this case, but I’m not sure.

        • The original Mr. X says:

          Polybius and Livy, I should think.

        • cassander says:

          right, but the classical education has been dead for, what, almost 60 years? If teenagers today know two names from ancient Rome, they’re Julius Caesar and Hannibal. Where’s it coming from in the modern world?

          • bean says:

            It’s a leftover from that time. Hannibal and Caesar got into popular consciousness from the classically-educated, and have stuck there even though those people are rare on the ground these days. I’d guess this has to do with them having prominent, interesting details (elephants across the Alps and “Et tu, Brutus?” respectively).

      • DeWitt says:

        Because it really very terribly freaked out the Romans and they made sure he lived on in infamy, intentionally or not.

    • DarkTigger says:

      The calendar that was used all the way to the 17th (20th in Russia) century was developed and implemented under him as Pontifex Maximus. Seems like a good reason to remember his name.

    • b_jonas says:

      As far as I can tell, both of them are more famous than other ancient roman leaders. A large reason why is that they managed to get months named after themselves, and most languages still use those month names.

    • FormerRanger says:

      A lot of reasons which have been mentioned, but also: Cleopatra. A little sex livens up your historical memory.

    • hls2003 says:

      In addition to what others have said – why is JFK such a famous American President when he only served for three years and accomplished very little of substance? I think the answer is the same.

      • DeWitt says:

        XKCD once cynically noted that a tradition is anything that happened to a baby boomer thrice. JFK doesn’t seem to have managed to get murdered three times just yet, but the answer is almost certainly ‘because it left an impression on the generation with the biggest cultural weight’.

        • Plumber says:

          @DeWitt,
          The boomers had their time in the sun for four decades, so far the millennials have had two decades, and we in “Generation X” got three weeks.

          • acymetric says:

            I would suggest that (culturally) Gen X had the late 80s and 90s. Still less than 2 decades, but a little more than 3 weeks.

            Part of the reason “millennial” will claim so much time is that people expand the definition of millennial to include like 3 decades of births.

          • DeWitt says:

            Millennial is code for young person doing thing the author dislikes, yes.

          • acymetric says:

            Where “young” can mean anything from 10 years old to upper 30s.

          • The Nybbler says:

            Gen X gets and got nothing, as we’re too small to matter.

          • DeWitt says:

            I dunno, South Park has been running for well over 20 years now.

          • acymetric says:

            @DeWitt

            I think the real problem is that some Gen X’ers didn’t like the dominant Gen X culture that won out (which is a perfectly reasonable position to hold).

            I’m not actually entirely sure what cultural dominance millennials have achieved, other than “Internet/Social Media culture” which is not uniquely millennial and was generally put into motion by Gen-Xers*.

            *Ok, this depends a bit on your source. Some sources place all people born in the 80s as millenials (this seems incorrect to me), in which case the social media part was largely built by millennials.

          • DeWitt says:

            I’m not actually entirely sure what cultural dominance millennials have achieved, other than “Internet/Social Media culture” which is not uniquely millennial and was generally put into motion by Gen-Xers*.

            Video games. It’s not as visible just yet, because it’s a much more recent medium, but watching people in their 20s whinge about kids these days doesn’t bode well for the future.

          • acymetric says:

            Are they whining that kids these days don’t play enough video games, that they play too much, or that the play the wrong ones/wrong way?

            In any case, the “kids these days” in this case would not be millenials, correct? (I’m assuming this is late 20s people complaining about early 20s people…the late 20s folk are millenials, the early 20s folk are whatever the next generation is going to be called).

          • DeWitt says:

            The kids in question are younger millennials or gen Z. The complaints tend to be that they tend to play Call of Duty or Fortnite or whatever the hell else, and that back in my day games were actually fun, or something.

        • acymetric says:

          Minor correction, it was “twice” not “thrice”.

          Not that it really changes the point.

    • AG says:

      Has anyone tried the explanation of Christianity’s influence? For a lot of people in modern times, their first exposure to old civilizations is from The Bible, so they get exposed to Rome first, as well as the name “Caesar.”
      And perhaps that first-mover advantage is why Shakespeare himself picked Caesar over another figure.

      Meaning that the thing that made it possible was that Caesar successfully made his name into a title, unlike the other dudes.

      • The original Mr. X says:

        Has anyone tried the explanation of Christianity’s influence? For a lot of people in modern times, their first exposure to old civilizations is from The Bible, so they get exposed to Rome first, as well as the name “Caesar.”

        I know Caesar Augustus is mention in the Gospel of Luke, but I don’t think Julius appears, does he?

        • acymetric says:

          How many people are aware there is a difference?

        • Evan Þ says:

          Augustus is named in Luke, Claudius is named in Acts, and Tiberius and Nero appear without being named (Tiberius was the Caesar with whom Pilate was threatened at the Crucifixion, and Nero was the Caesar to whom Paul appealed) but are repeatedly named in ancient traditions around and references to those scenes.

  7. Le Maistre Chat says:

    Has anyone here read Ferdowsi’s Iranian national epic Shahnama?
    The author purports to tell Iranian history from God’s creation of Man down to the defeat of the last Shah by a Caliph, and the contents can be really surprising. Ferdowsi started composing it in the last quarter of the 10th century AD, and earlier in the century Muslim historians like al-Tabari had tried to synchronize the Bible (and of course the patchy references to Biblical figures in the Quran) with indigenous sources of Iranian history. Ferdowsi was having none of that: he wanted to preserve the indigenous tradition in its pure form… and once you get past the most mythic times, it’s fascinating to see what Iranians had lost about their own history. The Achaemenid dynasty is collapsed to Kay Bahman (maybe Cyrus the Great), a mythical daughter who ruled for 32 years after him, and then Darab and Dara, the latter of whom is defeated by Alexander the Great in his Romance form. Ferdowsi knows that Alexander’s empire in Greater Iran was replaced by the Arsacids (Parthians), but he mostly has to skip from Alexander’s death to the Sassanids (about 550 years) with an apology for not having fuller sources!
    The earlier, more mythic part is fascinating too. Kingship starts with Keyumars, who lives in a time when humans are cavemen who wear animal skins, who start obeying him because God (Ahura Mazda) gives him a supernatural radiance. The second Shah is his grandson Hushang, who’s such a Culture Hero that the discovery of fire, all the elements of the Neolithic Revolution, and iron-working are all attributed to him. His son Tahmuras invented the spinning and weaving of wool, domesticated chickens, invented falconry and bred hounds: but way more exciting was his career as a slayer and enslaver of demons, defeating two armies of equal size with sorcery and the last third with his mace, then learning how to write thirty scripts from his demon slaves. His son’s name is Jamshid: from Avestan Yima Xšaēta, showing that he was originally the first man (Hindu Yama) or first of all beings (Norse Ymir).
    Jamshid eventually loses the kingship to Zahhak, a kind of serpent man based on the three-headed dragon Azi Dahaka. A pawn of Ahriman, he oppresses the world for a thousand years, killing two men every day so his chefs can scoop out their brains to feed the two serpent heads on his shoulders. At the end of his thousand year rule, he’s mystically imprisoned under a mountain by Fereydun. After he secures the kingship (circa 1779 BC), Iranian ethnogenesis takes place: his favored youngest son Iraj is murdered by his brothers Tur and Salm, who partition off Turan (the steppe) and Rum (“Rome”, meaning the Greek-speaking world).

    • axiomsofdominion says:

      This is awesome.

    • Aevylmar says:

      I read the first… 40% of it, in translation?

      I thought it was interesting, but the translator did too much of it in prose and not enough in poetry, so it felt more like the summary of an epic than an epic itself.

      I should say that I did not get out of the mythic bits. I’d made it to the person who’s apparently the central hero in them, Rustam, who goes around wearing a tiger skin and killing demons with a mace, but who is apparently still not Hercules, but I hadn’t gotten past his career.

      • Le Maistre Chat says:

        I thought it was interesting, but the translator did too much of it in prose and not enough in poetry, so it felt more like the summary of an epic than an epic itself.

        I think I know the translation you’re talking about. +1 to your take.

        I should say that I did not get out of the mythic bits. I’d made it to the person who’s apparently the central hero in them, Rustam, who goes around wearing a tiger skin and killing demons with a mace, but who is apparently still not Hercules, but I hadn’t gotten past his career.

        Another +1 to “Rustam is apparently still not Hercules.” 😀

  8. imoimo says:

    Has anyone tried taking seriously the idea “car crashes are the leading cause of sudden death, they should be publicized more than other causes”? That is, does anyone closely track and report on trends in traffic deaths, how different countries compare, which govt policies affect the numbers the most, etc?

    • Machine Interface says:

      French media certainly do so. We regularly get to hear about how many road deaths there were last month, or last semester, with comparison to last year at the same point of time, along with discussions of the trends and how/which government policies affect them, and how specific events lead to variation — the grand narrative these days is that the lowering of speed on intercity non-highway roads from 90 to 80km/h initially lead to a measurable decrease, but the effect was then lost as, in the wake of the Yellow Vests movement, a lot of automatic speed radar were destroyed.

      There’s also regular campaigns of advisory messages warning car users to be more careful and to mind speed limits for their own safety and the safety of others. These messages tend to multiply arround holiday times when a lot of people are travelling long distances.

      We get similar things for tobacco, and to a lesser degree for alcohol and other drugs. French libertarians have often mocked the France as a nanny state due to the strong proactive focus on these issues.

  9. johan_larson says:

    I have an odd problem with my mobile phone, a Samsung Galaxy S4. A week or two ago I began seeing various web pages open on the device when I hadn’t asked them to open. This happens approximately once per day, and the pages seem like pretty innocuous informational material. They also open using the Samsung Internet application, which isn’t the browser I usually use.

    I thought this might be caused by a couple of games I downloaded from Google Apps, but the pages keep appearing even after I have uninstalled the games. I also tried uninstalling Samsung Internet, but it comes with the phone, so it can’t be uninstalled.

    Suggestions?

    • The Nybbler says:

      Factory reset the thing. (“Nuke it from orbit; it’s the only way to be sure”)

      • Radu Floricica says:

        Second that. Older phones can get another 1-1.5 years of very useful life with a factory reset. Most of the degradation in performance is due to bloatware or old update data piling up.

    • Auric Ulvin says:

      Can you forbid the app from using data? I worked on a fairly spartan 100 MB plan for several years and forbade basically all of the background apps on my phone from using the internet.

      Of course this doesn’t work if you’re on wifi most of the time.

    • HeelBearCub says:

      You still should be able to disable an app that can’t be uninstalled.

      Or, at this point in the phone’s life, you might choose to unlock it or root it and strip it to a bare bones install as I imagine it’s pretty slow by now.

  10. FrankistGeorgist says:

    Are there examples anywhere of the space below elevated highways/freeways in urban areas being used for anything besides parking and homeless camps?

    It’s not exactly prime real estate so I’ll believe that such spaces are finding their best use given the circumstances/laws restricting it. Many American cities have been drawn and quartered by such highways and are faced with struggles like the Big Dig or Seattle’s Bertha incidents. I’m just wondering if you couldn’t build some storage units or something underneath. Something that doesn’t mind the noise/vibration/air quality.

    • bullseye says:

      There was an overpass in Atlanta where the Department of Transportation was storing “nonflammable” plastic tubing in a fenced-in area. Some homeless guys got in (the gate was locked but there was a large gap in the fence), which somehow resulted in the tubing catching fire and burning so hot it destroyed the overpass.

    • Evan Þ says:

      Here in Seattle, just south of the Ship Canal and somewhat north of the publicized homeless camps, I-5 overpasses a public skate and mountain bike park. I don’t go by there much, but the last time I did there were a few people using it for its intended purpose.

      • FrankistGeorgist says:

        Ooh, lovely, I can imagine an interesting paintball setup might work too.

      • Mark Atwood says:

        I walked through it a few weeks ago. Watch out for the piles of shit and the used injection needles, and watch for the mutterers who will follow you on the walking paths.

      • LesHapablap says:

        “Burnside” is a DIY skatepark under a bridge in Portland that has been there for a few decades.

    • BBA says:

      Here in Manhattan there’s a restaurant under FDR Drive, and a grocery store under the Queensboro Bridge.

      • FrankistGeorgist says:

        Something like grocery stores seem ideal, but the space under Queensboro was closed when I walked by. (Didn’t there used to be a dim sum place in a bridge?)

        The Boathouse (EDIT: Boat Basin, apparently which is a stupid name) restaurant was the inspiration for this question. Obviously not replicable in most places, but still I thought an interesting space and not unpleasant for being under a road.

        • BBA says:

          Hrm, there was a Food Emporium but it’s been closed since 2015…goes to show you how long it’s been since I was around there.

    • The Nybbler says:

      There’s an ice rink under I-95 in Philadelphia.

      • FrankistGeorgist says:

        Ah, brilliant. While we’re at it, why not a bowling alley? Loud crashes to cover the noise.

    • johan_larson says:

      Here in Toronto, the space under the elevated highway near the waterfront is another road.

    • Clutzy says:

      Storing salt for salting the roads.

    • crh says:

      In Boston there’s a skate park underneath some overpasses (and adjacent to railroad tracks).

    • In Hamburg there is the Isemarkt, which is an attractive farmers market and a popular tourist destination.

    • Lambert says:

      Not seen much under roads, but it’s quite common for the ends of railway arches to be bricked up and the space used for light industry/commerceial space.

    • Matt says:

      Here in Huntsville we’ve got a dog park where the fenced in area is about half under an elevated highway. The portion beyond the highway is where all the nice grass is, though.

    • Garrett says:

      In Pittsburgh there are some office buildings under the freeway.

  11. Atlas says:

    Possibly weird intuition regarding social norms:

    A common occurrence on crowded sidewalks or public transportation vehicles is that one person bumps into another. The bumper apologizes profusely, and the bumpee chooses to either graciously accept or angrily reject the apology. Seems reasonable enough.

    However, I have the opposite intuition. When I bump into someone, I really, really hate having to apologize (but I do anyway because I hate looking like a total jerk/weirdo in public more), and when someone bumps into me and apologizes my genuine knee-jerk reaction is to want to apologize to them.

    This is because the shame/guilt/frustration at having to be the weaker party when I am in the wrong in a minor situation weighs really, really heavily upon me, and I naturally though perhaps incorrectly intuit that others feel the same way. By contrast, I tend to shrug off minor inconveniences that are the result of accidents.

    Therefore, if I were to, say, bump into someone and spill their coffee, I would grit my teeth while reluctantly apologizing, because I would one hundred million times prefer to be the “aggrieved” party who gets to smugly feel morally superior and in full compliance with social norms while only facing a trivial setback than to feel the punishing shame and embarrassment of being the idiot in the moral wrong who broke the norms in front of everybody. And, by contrast, if someone spilled my drink and began profusely apologizing, I would really appreciate the sentiment but feel awkward accepting an apology when I feel like I’m in the preferable position in the situation. I would want to apologize to them for accidentally making them feel the shame/guilt/embarrassment of breaking the social norms and looking like an idiot.

    Does anyone else feel this way? Is this intuition correct or incorrect, and under what circumstances?

    • Randy M says:

      In some cases (depends on the temperature of the coffee, maybe) I’d rather be the person who was trampled than the buffoon embarrassing myself, sure. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t the buffoon who should be apologizing, it just means you don’t want to apologize. An apology is an attempt to rectify an actual harm, not to try to level the social playing field.

      But if you like, you can preemptively laugh off awkward situations with, “Oh, man, don’t worry about that, happens to all of us.”

      • Atlas says:

        An apology is an attempt to rectify an actual harm, not to try to level the social playing field.

        Sure, but I guess I have unusual intuitions about who is in fact harmed in these kinds of situations.

        But if you like, you can preemptively laugh off awkward situations with, “Oh, man, don’t worry about that, happens to all of us.”

        That’s approximately my current policy. But I feel like there’s an element of “I am genuinely sorry that I have made you look like an oaf, because I realize how painful that feels and I consider that far worse than the minor inconvenience you’ve caused me” that I’m not sure how to communicate concisely.

        • Randy M says:

          But I feel like there’s an element of “I am genuinely sorry that I have made you look like an oaf

          Have you? Were you standing where you shouldn’t be? Were you particularly unobservant? Did you call undue attention to the situation? If any of those are true, feel free to offer your own apology. But if you aren’t at fault, or even negligent in the matter, you can’t really apologize, but you’re free to offer sympathy (which conveniently use the same word, so you can say “Sorry about that” either way, I guess).

          Going on to say “Wow, this must be embarrassing for you” or anything similar, of course, will probably just compound the issue.

          • Atlas says:

            Have you? Were you standing where you shouldn’t be? Were you particularly unobservant? Did you call undue attention to the situation? If any of those are true, feel free to offer your own apology. But if you aren’t at fault, or even negligent in the matter, you can’t really apologize, but you’re free to offer sympathy (which conveniently use the same word, so you can say “Sorry about that” either way, I guess).

            Right—Scott had a good post (maybe on his old blog?) about the two definitions of “sorry” and how people annoyingly conflate them sometimes.

            So I guess I would want to say “sorry” in the “I want you to know that I recognize your suffering, even though I personally am not really morally culpable for it” sense.

          • acymetric says:

            I feel like people conflate them purely to be annoying, or as a defense mechanism because they don’t know how to properly respond to sympathy even though they identify it as such.

          • Randy M says:

            @acymetric
            Or to avoid an argument about who is actually at fault.
            I can say sorry, tell myself it was mere sympathy, and let you believe it was an apology.

            It helps not to have much ego, I suppose.

    • Clutzy says:

      If I’m alone I don’t avoid people who are obviously walking incorrectly and don’t apologize. I don’t really ever bump into people accidentally on the sidewalk because I am pretty aware of my surroundings. As such, I don’t really understand your problem all that much.

      I’ve never had your coffee situation occur to me, for instance. On either side.

      • Atlas says:

        If I’m alone I don’t avoid people who are obviously walking incorrectly and don’t apologize. I don’t really ever bump into people accidentally on the sidewalk because I am pretty aware of my surroundings. As such, I don’t really understand your problem all that much.

        I’ve never had your coffee situation occur to me, for instance. On either side.

        A bit of a surprise coming from username “Clutzy!” Sir, are you stealing valor from genuine klutzes?

        To be clear, the coffee situation was purely hypothetical—I got the idea from that episode of Lie to Me where Cal uses it as a ploy. I was trying to get at something more abstract about minor inconveniences and social norms, but I figured that if I described my feelings in purely conceptual terms they would be harder to understand. So I used what I thought would be simple and relatable examples of the phenomenon I was thinking of.

        • Clutzy says:

          Yes, but the thrust of my inquiry now is: Do you ever accidentally bump into people, coffee or no?

          If yes, does this mean you are a phone walker?

          • Atlas says:

            Do you ever accidentally bump into people, coffee or no?

            Sure. Not regularly, but at some point in all of “ever” I have.

            If yes, does this mean you are a phone walker?

            Never! Perish the thought! I usually walk around while listening to a podcast in one ear. (Unless I’m walking in a particularly roomy/empty area, in which case I might listen to music with both earbuds in.) I find that to optimally balance my desire to learn something/be entertained while walking and my desire to be minimally aware of my surroundings enough to avoid being the guilty party in a coffee-spill type scenario.

    • Enkidum says:

      I’m Canadian, so I apologize when someone bumps into me. (Canadian Bacon by Michael Moore is a terrible movie, but there is one scene where they make fun of that and it’s a reasonably funny 10 seconds.)

      I think shrugging off minor inconveniences is the correct thing to do.

      My take: Nobody likes apologizing, because nobody, as you say, wants to admit that they are in the wrong. We are a social species, and even minor social setbacks can result in strong emotional effects. So I think you’re correct to feel that the apologizer is, in some sense, the one who suffers the most (although I suspect you’re overstating the degree of the suffering for rhetorical effect). But that’s kind of the point. When you do something wrong, you indicate that you acknowledge your transgression as a sign that you can be trusted, etc. Which requires some kind of sacrifice on your part.

      You could consider this harmless situation practice for the cases when you do something that genuinely does cause others harm, I guess.

      • Tarpitz says:

        Brits also do this, and I’d be astonished if Kiwis didn’t too.

      • Atlas says:

        My take: Nobody likes apologizing, because nobody, as you say, wants to admit that they are in the wrong. We are a social species, and even minor social setbacks can result in strong emotional effects. So I think you’re correct to feel that the apologizer is, in some sense, the one who suffers the most (although I suspect you’re overstating the degree of the suffering for rhetorical effect). But that’s kind of the point. When you do something wrong, you indicate that you acknowledge your transgression as a sign that you can be trusted, etc. Which requires some kind of sacrifice on your part.

        That sounds sensible, and I agree.

    • MorningGaul says:

      Coming from a latino-germanic culture, apologizing serves the confessionnal prupose of “well i was i the wrong, but i apologized so everything is fine and over”*. I apologize to feel better about myself more than receive absolution from the other party.

      *: With an option for “stop being mad you FUCKING CUNT” if the other party keeps pushing the issue, so maybe there are some potholes in which the process falls apart as a conflict-defusing mechanism.

      • Atlas says:

        That’s often how I feel about apologizing to family members. I feel really, really guilty if I don’t at least make an attempt to reconcile, so whether things are patched over or not (though realistically they always are) I feel much better having at least made the attempt.

    • FormerRanger says:

      For well-brought-up people, bumping generally produces apologies from both bumper and bumpee. Of course, few people these days are well-brought-up.

      • acymetric says:

        This is definitely what I do.

        More interesting than “who apologizes” is the conundrum of who is supposed to move out of the way when two people are approaching each other in a space (like a harrow hallway) where it isn’t wide enough for them to pass without one person turning to the side/hugging the wall.

        I usually apologize by saying something along the lines of “my bad” though, so maybe not well brought up enough 😉

    • littleby says:

      When someone bumps into me, it’s probably because I wasn’t paying attention and walked right in front of them, so I usually feel like it’s appropriate for me to apologize.

      I don’t think I’d feel unhappy about apologizing in either direction, because (a) there’s a good chance I’m actually in the wrong, and (b) even if I’m not in the wrong, incorrectly taking blame isn’t going to hurt me in the long run because I’ll never see this person again.

    • Byrel Mitchell says:

      The purpose of these sorts of ritualized apologies isn’t to admit you’re in the wrong, and they typically don’t have much (if any) dominance content. The ritualized apology is actually just a signal that the error was made without malice. It’s there to disarm suspicions that you’re attempting to provoke a dominance conflict.

      It’s also somewhat common for the stationary person to apologize as well, since it’s also possible for someone to attempt to provoke a dominance conflict on that end as well (by intentionally obstructing or tripping the mobile person.)

    • Deiseach says:

      A common occurrence on crowded sidewalks or public transportation vehicles is that one person bumps into another. The bumper apologizes profusely, and the bumpee chooses to either graciously accept or angrily reject the apology. Seems reasonable enough.

      Well, if it’s an accident and you get an apology, I think the “angry rejection” is the wrong way to go, but this is simply because my intutitions are that this is all part of common civility. It’s a rule of behaviour to help lubricate social interactions in situations where space is crowded, things like this are going to happen, and you need to reduce friction and keep things from escalating like the gang-members feeling disrespected and pulling out guns or knives to attack the offender.

      I don’t think you should feel so extremely about it whether you’re the ‘offender’ or the ‘offended’ but I can’t tell you how to feel, and if this is your reaction that’s valid for you. Maybe don’t think about it in status terms? It’s all just a social game that we all learn our parts: knock into somebody, apologise, accept apology, carry on – nobody need feel bad (unless they’re a jerk who deliberately or carelessly knocked your coffee all over you because they weren’t paying attention, then they don’t apologise because they don’t accept they should have been more careful) or that they’ve got one over on the other person.

    • ADifferentAnonymous says:

      I have a half-baked thesis that this is a broader issue in modern blue-tribe culture: the importance of moral high ground has lost proportion to the object level issues, to the point that being a victim is often far preferable to being a perpetrator, so we end up in tons of generous conflict illusion situations.

      • Atlas says:

        That’s an interesting observation. There might be some connection to Bertrand Russell’s “The Superior Virtue of the Oppressed.”

        • Nancy Lebovitz says:

          That Russell piece is remarkable. I’m not sure the modern version is quite like that– it’s more like oppressed people are superior because they understand their oppression and they don’t have the history of being evil.

    • AlexOfUrals says:

      Not quite this way, but I have a similar inversion of preferences in a different situation. When someone holds a door for me (am male, but that hardly matters in 2019 California), this is supposed to be nice on their part, the more they go out of their way to do it the nicer. But instead I perceive it as them being a jerk proportionally to the amount of inconvenience they go into. If someone just goes through the door right in front of me and holds it just for a second longer just enough for me to pass that’s fine. But if they are way ahead of me, and stand there holding the door waiting for me to pass, I feel like I’m obliged to accelerate so that I don’t make them to wait longer than necessary. Which amounts to the fact that someone makes me go faster for no other reason than their desire to be seen as polite – it adds literally zero value to my life, opening a door is zero effort. Even worse when someone comes to a door just ahead of me, opens it, and invites me to come first. “First come first served” is a convenient commonly accepted Shelling point in such situations. By letting me to go first that person destroys it which results in confusion and delays for everyone involved (there may be more than us two before the door) – again for no other reason than their desire to show off their politeness.

      After much of frustration and confusion I adopted the policy of never altering the pace when someone holds a door for me, always coming first when suggested, and only thanking if the other person went to zero inconveniences to hold the door. And of course I myself hold a door only insofar it’s possible without altering my course.

      • Randy M says:

        I feel this way when cars wait for me to cross on street corners. It’s polite, but since it’s a 3-4 second wait for me and up to a minute wait for them, I’ll usually just wait and prefer they go, feeling bad for pushing my prerogative. That changes if there’s a long line of cars, of course, and as a driver I understand waiting if there’s unpredictable kids involved just to minimize risk.

        • acymetric says:

          This almost certainly makes me a jerk, but I almost always wave for the cars to go ahead unless I can tell they’re moving aggressively to make sure I don’t have the chance to go.

          The “let cars go first” also goes all the way out the window if it is raining. It is dry inside the car, let me get where I’m going as quickly as possible (people usually seem sympathetic to this).

          • Randy M says:

            This almost certainly makes me a jerk, but I almost always wave for the cars to go ahead unless I can tell they’re moving aggressively to make sure I don’t have the chance to go.

            I don’t know whether it’s a jerk move, but I’m reminded of the Driver’s Ed advice: Don’t be dead right.

          • acymetric says:

            I don’t actually just run in front of moving cars.

            I do make it appear that I’m going to do so.

        • Nick says:

          As a frequent pedestrian, I have grown to hate everything to do with street crossing. There are intersections in my area where even if I use the pedestrian signal, wait until it’s my turn, look both ways, and start crossing, lunatics will begin accelerating right through. I have tried playing chicken with them, seeing just how far they’ll let me go into the intersection before stopping, and they never stop. So sorry, but f$%^ no am I obeying road crossing etiquette, it’s going to get me killed. I wait until there’s no traffic and jog across.

          I’ve been in your position where a car wants to let me pass even though it’s not my turn. If I see the driver wave me across I’ll generally go. But most of the time I have my phone up, pretending I’m not paying attention, in which case they never try to wait for me. And I keep an eye on things and cross when there’s no traffic.

          In both cases this lunatic state of affairs only occurs because no one respects pedestrian crossings.

          • Randy M says:

            For sure, it’s a different matter if there is a signal or not.
            When I’m with my kids, I’ll hold their hands or bikes, not because I don’t trust them, but to signal to the drivers that the children won’t make any unpredictable moves. If they still want to wait, we’ll cross, but that can be a veritable parade at times.

          • ana53294 says:

            In Spain, everybody respects zebra painted crossings. Unless there’s a traffic light, pedestrians always have priority.

            In the UK, they seem not to have them. They also don’t respect pedestrians.

            In Russia, traffic lights are a suggestion.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            @ana: In Russia, traffic laws obey YOU!

          • Plumber says:

            @ana53294 > “…In Russia, traffic lights are a suggestion”.

            In Russia YOU stop the light!

            ETA: I was too late on the draw and I like ninja extraordinaire @Le Maistre Chat’s one better.

          • Plumber says:

            @Nick,
            One frustrating thing for this driver is often I’ll stop on Sacramento Street in Berkeley
            (four lanes with a grass median) on my way home to let pedestrians pass, and other drivers keep going getting within inches of the pedestrians I’ve stopped for, terrifying them.

            Do other motorists think I stopped for no reason?

          • Lambert says:

            They have zebera crossings here (UK), and they’re ususlly respected.
            But I think they’re highly clustered. Some towns have none, some have a dozen.

          • ana53294 says:

            I haven’t seen them anywhere in North Wales.

          • Lambert says:

            North Wales is a bit of a hinterland.

          • AlexOfUrals says:

            Couldn’t help clearing some common misconceptions about Russia in this thread.

            Myth:
            In Russia traffic lights are a suggestion
            Fact:
            It’s mostly true only of the traffic lights guarding zebras. As with Russian laws, their multiplicity is compensated by weakness of enforcement.

            Myth:
            In Russia, traffic laws obey YOU!
            Fact:
            In Russia traffic laws obey the police officer who pulled you over. But he usually doesn’t mind to change them to your convenience, either for a small fee, or just because he’s a nice fellow and genuinely likes such a simple honest blind drunk child of the local governor as yourself.

            Myth:
            In Russia YOU stop the light!
            Fact:
            In Russia NOBODY can stop the Light Of Putin’s Wisdom And Glory That Shines Brighter Than The Sun!

          • Plumber says:

            @AlexOfUrals,
            This thread has gems, but none has made me laugh as much as your post!

            Thank you.

          • Paul Zrimsek says:

            Not only do they have zebra crossings in the UK, but one of them’s a tourist attraction.

        • AlexOfUrals says:

          Yep, that too. That also kind of promotes false and unsafe expectations that all cars will yield to pedestrians even where they don’t have to.

    • Nancy Lebovitz says:

      I find that sort of apology is very low cost for me, and I’m wondering whether it’s a gender thing.

      I even apologize if someone bumps into me, and it seems weird but I’m not upset by it. The underlying reflex seems to be that an apology ought to happen and if the other person doesn’t supply it, I do.

    • Nornagest says:

      Wow. That’s really weird. I mean, I’m not trying to call you a weirdo here, it’s just totally alien to my experience.

      I don’t even think of it as an admission of moral culpability in this case. It was an accident, accidents happen, but they don’t make you a bad person unless they’re happening so often to imply negligence on your part. Your “I’m sorry” is just there to clarify that it was an accident and smooth any ruffled feathers.

      It happens to use the same language that you’d use when you are culpable, but that’s more or less coincidental.

  12. benjdenny says:

    Does anybody by chance do green-sand casting, particularly with iron?

    • FLWAB says:

      I don’t but I gotta say, casting iron is difficult, difficult business, especially in sand. You have to get that metal hot hot hot! Most home-made smelters can’t handle that kind of heat. I mean you’re going to need to get that almost a 1000 degrees Fahrenheit hotter than smelting copper, and casting copper is tricky enough as it is.

      • benjdenny says:

        Oh, for sure. The actual “building something that can melt iron” part of things isn’t really the part I don’t have a firm grasp on, believe it or not; it’s more the “keeping things from exploding unexpectedly” part.

        It’s not something I’m going to be doing particularly soon, it’s just something I’d like to do before I die so I work on plans for blast furnace construction and similar during my free time.

        • Phigment says:

          Keeping things from exploding unexpectedly seems like a really important part.

          I dunno. I weld stuff now and then, but I’ve never tried to cast anything.

    • tossrock says:

      I’ve cast aluminum into delft clay / petrobond, but not specifically green sand, and obviously aluminum melts much easier than iron.

      To prevent the explodey, my recommendations include making sure everything is really dry (steam explosions are bad), making sure the mold is properly insulated (resting on ceramic / concrete, etc), and having an up-to-code fire extinguisher, or preferably multiple (ie a class-D dry powder and maybe also a class-B CO2) nearby.

      • sentientbeings says:

        making sure everything is really dry

        Green sand casting involves not really dry material. I don’t have the experience with it to say how far you can push it in the drier direction, but some intentional moisture is part of the process in order to get the right consistency to prevent the mold from collapsing. It might be possible to use a drier mold if combined with the lost-foam method.

  13. dodrian says:

    @Deiseach, responding here because I can’t fork the discussion in an already max depth thread:

    this hits my “religious SF” buttons with exactly the right degree of pressure, I may have to check this one out!

    I’m interested in comparing reading lists with you, as this too sounds like something I’d enjoy. A couple of my favorites:

    A Canticle For Leibowitz, Walter Miller, where after the apocalypse an order of monks seek holy relics in the fallout shelter of Saint Leibowitz (former electrical engineer).
    The Sparrow, Mary Doria Russell, whereupon the discovery of signals indicating intelligent life around Alpha Centauri leads the Jesuits to scramble a secret Mission mission to make first contact.
    Eifelheim, Michael Flynn, where a statistical research historian puts together records that indicate the abandoned medieval town of Eifelheim may not have been visited by demons, but was definitely visited by something
    That Hideous Strength, CS Lewis, which you really won’t like if you thought that the Narnia series was a bit on the nose, but is is pretty good for how he lampoons Modern Education.

    And of course there’s Orson Scott Card, particularly in Speaker for the Dead which takes place on a Catholic colony world and the Ender’s Shadow series which has an interesting subplot about the rise of a Caliphate.

    • sfoil says:

      The Solar Cycle books by Gene Wolfe, of which The Book of the Long Sun is by far the most explicitly religious. Uploads of earthly bigwigs set themselves up as gods aboard a generation ship; a priest of this cult receives a vision from the true God telling him the ship has arrived at its destination.

      Lord of Light: The officers of a colony ship use their privileged access to high technology to re-create the Hindu caste system on their mostly-primitive new world, with themselves at the top as the gods themselves and the planet’s fantastic indigenes as rakshasas. The renegade titular character instead assumes a Buddha-like role. A subplot concerns the fate of the ship’s (Christian) chaplain.

      Out of the Silent Planet: CS Lewis’ Christian re-telling of HG Wells’ The First Men in the Moon, more or less. Part of a loose trilogy with That Hideous Strength (which you mentioned) and Perelandra, which is great but I couldn’t define it as “science fiction” in good faith.

      Count to a Trillion: A series of seven books by John C. Wright. This series has a lot of flaws including many very strange choices regarding focus and tone, but contains (among many other things) some serious if implicit attempts to reconcile Christian beliefs with radical transhumanism.

      The Divine Invasion by Philip K. Dick. A sort of Gnostic fable about Yahweh being brought back to Earth, from which he was exiled after the fall of Masada in 74 AD, by space colonists.

      • Evan Þ says:

        I think you’re the third person I’ve seen recommend me Count to a Trillion. I think I’ll actually put it on my To Read list now.

      • Hoopyfreud says:

        Lord of Light

        Beat me to it, god damn.

        There’s also Anathem if your tolerance for bricks made entirely out of weapons-grade jargon is high.

        • Evan Þ says:

          I liked Anathem even though I thought it dragged itself out far too long, but I wouldn’t consider it religious sci-fi. Its philosophy, as its characters steadfastly insist, is not “deolatrous.”

          • Hoopyfreud says:

            Its philosophy, as its characters steadfastly insist, is not “deolatrous.”

            Isn’t it, though?

          • Evan Þ says:

            @Hoopyfreud, in what way? At most, it talks about the relationship between the universe and certain other universes.

      • Nick says:

        Count to a Trillion is really good, but I liked the early to middle books better. The last book is the weakest of the series.

        • sfoil says:

          Architect of Aeons should have been written from Azarchel’s PoV.

          Wright fell out with Tor over Sad Puppies or something around Book 5, and David Hartwell died immediately after that. The last book reads like it was dashed off except for the ending and not edited much at all, which was particularly disappointing because “the moral” of the series was nearly glossed over. The ending was pretty well done, though.

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            I’m not going to read the series (I can’t take Wright’s prose, even in his early books, which is a shame because it seems like he’s writing about things I’m interested in), so I don’t mind just being told the moral.

          • Nick says:

            Thanks, sfoil. I knew about his falling out with Tor but did not know Hartwell died.

            As far as “the moral,” introducing it in the seventh book was a serious mistake, and it amounts to a lazy analogy for religious faith. And since it’s an analogy for Catholicism in particular, I’m going to have to take issue with Rania as Space Jesus. Wright has pedestalized women before, but this truly takes the cake. This was around the same time, no less, that he started self-identifying as a “philosopher.” So color me unimpressed with the ending to an otherwise great series.

          • sfoil says:

            @Nancy Lebovitz
            If you can’t stomach Wright’s prose, don’t even think of trying to read Count to a Trillion. I think I can sum up what happens for you well enough however.

            The series concerns two Great Men with dueling visions of the universe (the characters literally duel, with some twist or another, in each of the books) as well as competing claims on the Space Princess, Rania, although Montrose is validly married to Rania and Azarchel, by exclusion, obviously is not. The protagonist, Montrose, is tl;dr a democrat/libertarian and his enemy, the bad guy del Azarchel, is an authoritarian/monarchist.

            Throughout the books, the actions of Montrose and del Azarchel form a sort of dialectic, in which their efforts cancel each other out. The standard logic of escalation as well as the threat of pre-existing superintelligences lead the two men to continually scale up their attempts to control history/people/space/everything, so that we go from struggling for control of the Earth in the first book to the observable universe in the last.

            The “moral” concerns the fact that gurfr gjb punenpgref’ pbasyvpg fhccbfrqyl obvyf qbja gb na bcgvzvmngvba ceboyrz: vs gur bofreinoyr havirefr vf nyy gurer vf, be zber trarenyyl vs rkvfgrapr vf obhaqrq, gura gur bcgvzny fbyhgvba vf gb pbafbyvqngr barfrys vagb gur Bzrtn Cbvag, naq pbyyncfr gur havirefr vagb n fgngr fhpu gung vg cebivqrf nf zhpu raretl nf cbffvoyr gb pbagvahr fbzr rhqnvzbavp rkvfgrapr ohg fhccerffrf gur rzretrapr bs nal pbzcrgvgvba. Ba gur bgure unaq, vs rkvfgrapr vf vasvavgr (v.r. vs Urnira vf erny, nygubhtu arire rkcyvpvgyl chg vagb gurfr grezf), gura fhpu mreb-fhz guvaxvat vf vapbeerpg naq frys-qrsrngvat. Ubjrire, fhpu na vasvavgr-nohaqnapr fgngr, vs vg rkvfgf, zhfg qb fb bhgfvqr bs gur svavgr bofreinoyr havirefr.

            N ehaavat gurzr vf gung zrtnfpnyr vapernfrf va pbzchgvat cbjre/vagryyrpg qba’g npghnyyl nyybj Zbagebfr naq Nmnepury gb erfbyir gurve qvfnterrzragf. Ng gur irel raq bs gur frevrf, guvf vf gnxra gb vgf ybtvpny pbapyhfvba: gur ragver havirefr vf pbagnvarq va fbzr fbeg bs Qlfba furyy naq gur ragvergl bs nyy culfvpnyyl cbffvoyr gubhtug vf pbafbyvqngrq vagb n srj “Frencuvz” jubfr pbapyhfvba ertneqvat gur ceboyrz va gur cerivbhf cnentencu vf: vg pbhyq tb rvgure jnl. Guvf vf n ceboyrz orpnhfr gurer’f abguvat yrsg gb qb ng nyy rkprcg qrpvqr jurgure gb tb vagb rgreany fheiviny-ohaxre zbqr be qvffbyir gur havirefr naq zbir ba gb gur Urernsgre.

            Fvapr gur frencuvz pna’g qrpvqr, gurl unir Zbagebfr naq Nmnepury svtug bar ynfg qhry. Ivn Enavn’f fnpevsvpvny vagreiragvba, Zbagebfr jvaf ohg qvrf zvahgrf be frpbaqf nsgre Nmnepury. Gur phegnvaf snyy.

            Gur zbeny, gb chg vg va gur zbfg erqhpgvir jnl cbffvoyr, vf gung Ybir Jvaf orpnhfr Tbq vf Erny naq ivpr irefn, naq nyy gur vagretnynpgvp fpnyr genaf/cbfg/fhcre uhzna qrivprf naq fpurzrf gung pbhyq rire cbffvoyl rkvfg ner whfg jvaqbj qerffvat. Irel yvggyr bs guvf vf rira uvagrq ng orsber gur ynfg obbx.

            @Nick
            I don’t think Rania was, or was intended to be, Space Jesus. She’s a highly idealized vision of the Perfect Catholic Wife maybe, but there’s quite a bit more to being Christ than fnpevsvpvat lbhe yvsr.

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            Thank you.

          • Nick says:

            @sfoil

            I don’t think Rania was, or was intended to be, Space Jesus. She’s a highly idealized vision of the Perfect Catholic Wife maybe, but there’s quite a bit more to being Christ than fnpevsvpvat lbhe yvsr.

            Vg’f abg whfg gung fur fnpevsvprq ure yvsr. Svefg, fur’f gur svefg cbfguhzna va gur fgbel. Frpbaq, fur znxrf vg ure zvffvba gb fnir rirelbar ol crefhnqvat gurz gb gnxr gur Urnira fvqr bs gur qvyrzzn, naq vf fhcreuhznayl fhpprffshy ng vg, pbafvqrevat fur crefhnqrf fhcreulcretvtnoenvaf. Guveq, fur’f abg whfg fnpevsvpvat urefrys sbe nal pnhfr, fur’f qbvat vg gb fnir rirelbar, rireljurer. Gung’f zber yvgreny guna lbh znxr vg bhg gb or.

          • John Schilling says:

            Yeah, I think those paragraphs of rot13’d text saved me from several increasingly-unreadable books and what would have been an inadequate reward. Balancing the pretty good story and the neat ideas against Wright’s prose and one-dimensional characters, I count only the first book as being good in its own right and was debating whether I should struggle through to the end. So, as Nancy says, thanks.

          • Deiseach says:

            I don’t think Rania was, or was intended to be, Space Jesus. She’s a highly idealized vision of the Perfect Catholic Wife maybe

            Rania is a Christ-bearer, as all the Redeemed and Blessed are, and as we the faithful are meant to be to each other. To quote you some criticism on the character of Beatrice in “The Divine Comedy”:

            Before we see her face, one of the holy Prophets calls out a line from the Song of Solomon: “Come, bride, from Lebanon” — an allusion to Beatrice as a bride of Christ, but also a line that echoes the transformation of eros into something more holy. A hundred messengers of God shout, “Benedictus qui venis” — “Blessed is he who comes.” This is what the crowd welcoming Jesus into Jerusalem shouted. The commentators point out that even though these acclamations herald the arrival of Beatrice, Dante uses the masculine form of the Latin, directly quoting from the Gospel of Mark. The meaning is clear: Beatrice comes as a bearer of Christ. As a saint in heaven, she is perfected in Him, and is a mirror of His likeness. Where Beatrice is, there is Christ also.

            Rania is a post-human, a Swan, and though she is not divine, she has more nearness to the ideal of Unfallen Humanity (see what Tolkien did with the Elves re: this and and the union of mind with body so that the will and the reason rule the appetites and the desires are controlled, not controlling, and the spirit tunes the body to be its perfect instrument; see Catholic teaching on concupiscence) as we would have been, had not our First Parents fallen (not by her nature as such, since she is under Original Sin like all humans, but post-baptism she has better avoided sin than the rest of them) . So she has characteristics of a saint, the same powers and abilities to influence, because her will is conformed to the will of God more perfectly than ordinary humans; it is therefore not strange that she should mirror Christ in what she does and what she has come to do. This is, in one sense, the Orthodox idea of theosis, as from the epistle of St Paul – “Do you not know that we are to judge angels?”

          • Nick says:

            That’s really interesting background material, Deiseach, and would come a long way to redeeming the last book if any of it were in there, or even better, set up in the earlier books. But none of it is! In fact, Montrose suggests just the opposite—that no matter how big your brain gets, you never leave your humanity behind, and your faults scale up right along with everything else. His certainly do, and so do Del Azarchel’s, and we even see it in some of the alien powers, like the one that hid in the sun. So Rania’s posthumanity seems to me to be a red herring. If on the other hand she’s only mirroring Christ because she’s more perfectly conformed her will to God, you would think we’d hear a little about that, and why it is imperative that the superhypergigabrains accept Christ as their Lord and Savior, but we get talk of infinite games instead. Look, I see the cleverness of translating the concept of salvation when death only threatens at the end of the universe, and it is genuinely clever. At the same time, this is not a Catholic eschatology; where’s the Second Coming, if it isn’t Rania?

      • Deiseach says:

        Oh yes, definitely “Lord of Light”, Zelazny in general is fantastic. Gene Wolfe is also fantastic, in the “the effect of this book is that my brain just melted and ran out my ears but this is good, this is fine, I like it this way” fashion 🙂

        I loved “Count to a Trillion”, which is not to say I loved every single thing in it, and it certainly has its flaws, but man. I love a good redemption story where the villain repents in the end, and that series has several villains which badly need to do some hard-core repentin’. And Menelaus is so smart that he’s stupid, and continues to do “well that was dumb” things throughout history, but it all works out in the end. The sheer gigantic scale of space and time is staggering, and I mean that.

        Also, I love Mickey the Witch and Sir Guy for different reasons 😀

    • FormerRanger says:

      A Case of Conscience, James Blish. About a planet with no original sin, but there’s more to it than just that.

    • Nancy Lebovitz says:

      And R. A. Lafferty. Catholic, with a tall tale background and a fondness for scammers.

      Past Master (Thomas More is brought out of the past because people are abandoning a society based on his Utopia to live in slums– has programmed mechanical people, hinting a giant hydra, the ansels who walk on two legs or four or none and play fan tan), Fourth Mansions</i (the four conspiracies which run the world– brain weavers, patricks who know a lot but God just won't let them into the Castle, immortal ghosts which take people over, and fascists (not like modern fascists)). Nine Hundred Grandmothers and the recently published The Best of R. A. Lafferty are good sources for short stories.

    • Nick says:

      I really liked Eifelheim. Have yet to read Leibowitz or The Sparrow.

      The Ball and the Cross is slightly antiquated religious SF.
      Tim Powers’ Declare is more religious spy thriller, but there’s some overlapping appeal.

      • EchoChaos says:

        The Ball and the Cross is slightly antiquated religious SF.

        Still absolutely amazing. Second vote.

        • Nancy Lebovitz says:

          And also The Man Who Was Thursday.

          For that matter, there’s Charles Williams, the third Inkling.

      • Phigment says:

        I don’t know that I consider The Ball and The Cross to be sci-fi; it’s kind of got a framing device, but most of it is pretty contemporary.

        It’s great, though. I really want to see it made into an episodic TV show or a miniseries or something. It’s got the perfect odd-couple pair of bozos who go around having weird adventures for contrived reasons.

        Also The Napoleon of Notting Hill. That’s an amazing story.

    • SamChevre says:

      A short story, but Arthur C Clarke The Nine Billion Names of God is memorable.

      More fantasy than SF, but Bujold’s “World of the Five Gods” starting with Curse of Chalion is one of my favorites.

      • Skeptical Wolf says:

        If we’re including short stories, The Star by Arthur C Clarke and The Last Question by Isaac Asimov both bear mentioning.

    • Deiseach says:

      Ones that I have read that you mention:

      The Sparrow – didn’t like it that much, though I could see why it won awards and critical praise.
      Eifelheim – enjoyed it immensely and the setting (mediaeval Germany) was fun.
      The Space Trilogy – liked them all, though like many I think I like “Perelandra” best and “That Hideous Strength” the least, which is not to say I don’t like it, just not the highest-rated. “Out of the Silent Planet” is the most traditional SF one, and my only objection is that we never got to meet the Pfifltriggi the same as the Hróssa and the Sorns.

      Others:
      A Case of Conscience, by James Blish – part of his “After Such Knowledge” trilogy and which is very good (the last volume, which is two novellas cobbled together, is very unsatisfactory). This particular story sags a bit in the middle but picks up for the end very strongly.
      Various short stories from Asimov to Bradbury to Chiang (we’ve discussed his “Hell is the Absence of God” on here previously), including Harry Harrison’s The Streets of Ashkelon which is in the vein of Arthur C. Clarke’s “The Star”; I think stories grappling with theodicy from the non-believer’s side count just as much as more conventionally religious tropes. Way too many of these to remember.
      The Divine Comedy – what? he journeys to the centre of the Earth, visits the other hemisphere of the globe, then travels to the Moon and other planets of the solar system before going beyond space and time altogether! that counts! 😀 Particularly as later SF writers have no problem riffing on Inferno etc.

    • albatross11 says:

      Orson Scott Card’s _Memory of Earth_ series is pretty good, has a lot of religious themes, and is apparently based on the Book of Mormon. (I don’t know the Book of Mormon, but I thought the series was pretty good.)

      His Speaker for the Dead and Xenocide are also quite good, and feature various interesting ideas about religion.

      • Randy M says:

        His Speaker for the Dead and Xenocide are also quite good, and feature various interesting ideas about religion.

        I like the scene where the strict Catholic priest is martyred while preaching to the trees.
        (makes sense in context, really).

  14. Plumber says:

    @Hoopyfreud,
    I’ve got some pretty incoherent thoughts right now and come Wednesday and the 133.75 thread I’m hoping you’ll help me get them together, maybe with the help of @HeelBearCub as well.

    -Thanks

    • Hoopyfreud says:

      Sure. I’m flattered.

      • Plumber says:

        @Hoopyfreud,
        In the wake of the El Paso mass shooting (so soon after the Gilroy one) I had a bunch of thoughts that I wanted your take on, but with Dayton so soon after that I’m mostly just sad now and discussion of it seems pointless.

    • HeelBearCub says:

      As you wish.

      Not sure what exactly you are looking for, but if you post on Wednesday I’ll be happy to add my thoughts. But Scott isn’t exactly regimented (AFAIK) about when he makes the OT available, so it’s not a great coordination point. It’s not unlikely you will get a fair number of responses before we end up replying.

      • Plumber says:

        @HeelBearCub,

        Thanks.

        Suffice it to say the three-day-tragedy-window was involved but at this point I’m despondent regarding the use of saying much.

  15. jpp says:

    Has anyone of you read The Technological Society (1954) by Jacques Ellul? If yes, what are your thoughts?

  16. johan_larson says:

    The webcomic XKCD has a fun challenge. Find a movie you genuinely like, that came out during your adult life, and is rated below 50% on Rotten Tomatoes. The idea here is that few people have truly unconventional taste.

    I’m finding this exercise quite hard. The best I have been able to do is “The Cutting Edge”, a 1992 sports romance film. I was 22 when it was released, so it counts, and it is rated 55% on Rotten Tomatoes. I thought Terminator 3 might qualify, but it’s rated 69%.

    • Machine Interface says:

      My first try was We Own the Night (2007), but this is rated 57%; I got it right on my second try with Only God Forgives (2013) at 41%.

    • Sagar Apte says:

      I really liked The “Amazing Spider-Man 2”, which seems to be hated by most. Turns out its 52% on RT. Damn it!

    • EchoChaos says:

      Trivial for me. Act of Valor (2012).

      Got absolutely panned by critics, but its audience score was 72%.

      Honestly, this one is basically just “Find a place where critics and audiences are disconnected”.

      The harder challenge is finding something you like that both audience AND critic are under 50%.

      • Machine Interface says:

        Only God Forgives is still a win for me under that criteria: audience score 37%!

        • EchoChaos says:

          Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets is close (48 critic, 53 audience).

          Ah, got one!

          Resident Evil: The Final Chapter (38% critic, 48% audience). I liked the whole franchise, but most of it was too high in audience to qualify.

          • EchoChaos says:

            Ooh, another one: Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within (45% critic, 48% audience)

            Apparently I like a lot of bad movies. I have no shame.

          • Lillian says:

            Pretty sure The Spirits Within isn’t actually a bad movie, it just triggered the uncanny valley effect on a lot of people so they instinctively hated it. Personally i liked it a lot, but my uncanny valley effect sense seems to be both weaker and misaligned in comparison with most people’s.

          • EchoChaos says:

            As a heavy gamer, I was used to the mediocre special effects at the time, so that didn’t kill my enjoyment at all.

      • Kindly says:

        “Blood and Chocolate” (2007) gets 11% from critics and 52% from the audience, so it’s barely off from your mark but okay on average.

        (I really liked how the werewolves looked, and didn’t mind the extremely stupid title so much, I guess.)

    • Anatoly says:

      Got it on my first try – Eurotrip (2003, 47%).

      Next, Max Landis’s films – American Ultra (2015, 42%), Mr Right (2015, 44%). I think Bright (2017, 26%) also qualifies – I genuinely liked it, though I haven’t rewatched it.

      After some more searching: The Net (1995, 38%), though it technically violates the post-2000 requirement in the XKCD comic.

      • C_B says:

        Wait Eurotrip has <50% on RT? That movie is a goddamn classic! There's no justice in the world!

        • Lillian says:

          That’s just the Critic score, the Audience score is 75%. It seems to me that picking movies that critics hated and audiences liked seems contrary to the spirit of the exercise, which is to have a truly unpopular opinion in liking something lots of people hate. So we really should be using Audience scores for all of these.

        • Well... says:

          “Eurotrip” is one of only two movies I ever walked out of the movie theater on. The other was “Stranger Than Fiction.”

    • MorningGaul says:

      Uwe Boll trump card: Postal with 7%, but it’s more a “not as bad as I expected with some good bits”

      Martyrs almost cut it, with 58%

    • MrApophenia says:

      Jupiter Ascending is a work of genius and should have inspired a ten movie franchise.

      • jgr314 says:

        I would have watched a sequel, at least.

      • Phigment says:

        Jupiter Ascending was pretty and fun.

        Also, the central idea that all the ID in this futuristic society was based on DNA, and WHOOPS RANDOM DUPLICATE DNA person is pretty hilarious.

      • FLWAB says:

        That’s one of mine! I think about that movie way too much because I keep trying to figure out what Jupiter’s next move should be. At the end of the movie the galactic aristocracy recognizes her as the legitimate owner of Earth, an extremely valuable planet. Why is it valuable? Because it’s almost ready for harvest and harvested human cells are the currency of the galaxy. But Jupiter isn’t going to harvest the Earth, so she is essentially “land rich and money poor.” So what is she going to do? She has the de jure right to the Earth but since she won’t harvest it she doesn’t have the resources to project power or meaningfully defend her assets in the case of hostile action from other aristocrats. So what’s her game plan? She seems to have one spaceship and a few animal-people servants: is she going to give the Earth advanced technology? If she reveals the existence of the galactic aristocracy to the people of Earth, will she be accepted as owner of the Earth? Doubtful: the US isn’t going to submit to her just because some aliens think she owns the planet. So what’s the right play to make? Become rich by “inventing” alien tech? Arm the Earth so it can defend itself? Take over he Earth in earnest? She has to do something: since its unlikely she will use the human cells to stay immortal for ethical reasons, she will get old and die and then the aristocrats are going to be jumping over themselves to get their hands on the Earth. Maybe she could get around that the old fashioned way by having kids and starting a dynasty, but the fact remains that without cash or capital she’s going to be at a major disadvantage in protecting the earth from galactic machinations. It’s such an interesting problem!

        Of course the movie isn’t interested in any of that, but by gum I sure am!

        • John Schilling says:

          Figure out which Earth-humans she hates the most(*), and lease the right to very selectively and secretly harvest those. Exploit the resulting artificial scarcity to at least partially alleviate the “money poor” part of her situation. Use the resulting galacti-cash to invest in a few more spaceships and a covert-operations force.

          W/re the rest of galactic civilization, we know that the police/military forces will defend her legal claim to Earth against any violation that comes to their attention, so she just needs to make sure infiltrations don’t go completely unnoticed and are met by a token cutter or gunboat. A few spies in her major enemies’ camps, and a PR campaign about the plucky barbarian princess who made good, would also be useful.

          W/re Earth and the Earth-humans who presently think they rule it, a little bit of alien tech goes a long way, particularly in orbit. Maybe also surveillance technology, but that’s not clear from the movie. But it seems pretty clear that with a modest bit of galacti-tech she could spray-paint “Jupiter Rules!” across the solar arrays of every high-value military satellite in the great power constellations and there’s not much they could do about it. Let them stew on the implications of that for a bit, then offer herself as Earth’s covert representative to the galactic community while they pretend that they still rule their respective nations and aliens don’t exist.

          Then, yes, go about quietly introducing galactic technology to the terrestrial economy.

          * She used to clean toilets for a living; I doubt this will be an insurmountable obstacle.

          • FLWAB says:

            The big problem is your first point: harvesting a selected group of humans. That is to say, its a problem because we’ve been led to believe by the movie that Jupiter is a standard good person who will not be okay harvesting any humans whatsoever: but if she doesn’t get some cash somehow then she can’t buy any more spaceships! There’s the rub.

            I considered maybe secretly harvesting people who are terminally ill or on death row or something like that, but putting aside the logistical challenge involved in doing that secretly, I’m not sure how much money a single human is worth. I mean the movie leads us to believe that there are multiple planets that have gone through this cycle over thousands of years: harvest planet of all humans (potentially billions), seed a few primative humans on the planet, wait several thousand years for them to multiply to the billions again. We know that Earth is extremely valuable, in no small part because it is an investment that is just about ready to be cashed out, a “ripe” planet of over 7 billion. So we know that 7 billion humans are worth quite a lot in galactic terms. But what does that mean for the price of a single human, or a dozen humans, or a hundred, or a thousand? How many humans do you need to harvest to afford a quality spaceship, or some of those cool battle mech suits? Probably a lot.

            Also, are old people and sick people cells worth as much as young people cells? Or are old people cells just by-catch in any harvest operation? This movie is kind of stupid and yet it raises so many interesting questions!

    • Bobobob says:

      Road House! (39%). But I don’t know if that counts, because I only liked it ironically.

    • Plumber says:

      Oh that’s easy: Hudson Hawk was released just before I turned 23 years old and I thought it was fun when I saw it in the theater, “Rotten Tomatoes” gave On Rotten Tomatoes, the film has a 26% ‘TOMATOMETER’, 57% ‘AUDIENCE SCORE’, but in looking at the XKCD link I see that the criteria isn’t just “Adult life” but is also “post-2000” which is a bit harder as I just haven’t seen as many movies in the 21st century as I did in the 20th and the movies just haven’t been as memorable, I’ll try Dude, Where’s My Car? which had the guy who played “Data” from Star Trek: The Next Generation ranting about ostriches in a ‘French’ accent: 17%
      TOMATOMETER
      Total Count: 58
      47%
      AUDIENCE SCORE
      User Ratings: 367,383

      Haw!

      Oh wait, it can’t be “SO BAD IT’S GOOD”

      Oh dagnabbit, I don’t have time to scroll through every post 2000 movie and see if I remember watching them and liking them, I’ll try three that I saw recently and thought were good;

      Locke
      90%
      TOMATOMETER Total Count: 209
      72%
      AUDIENCE SCORE User Ratings: 27,826,

      Alright, I’ll try ’71:
      96%
      TOMATOMETER
      Total Count: 135
      81%
      AUDIENCE SCORE
      User Ratings: 17,34

      Last try, Widows:
      91%
      TOMATOMETER
      Total Count: 384
      61%
      AUDIENCE SCORE
      User Ratings: 4,762

      Well, that’s it then, I’m out.

      • johan_larson says:

        I don’t see a lot of reason to obey the post-2000 rule. Randall Munroe is 14 years younger than I am, so his idea of recent times is just plain different from mine.

        • acymetric says:

          I agree, the spirit of the challenge probably suggests any movie that came out after you [turned 18, 16, graduated high school, something along those lines].

          On the other hand, there might be good reason not to go too far back before 2000, because the kind of people who go back to retroactively rate movies from the 80s or early 90s on Rotten Tomatoes…seems like an even less representative group than movie critics generally.

          • imoimo says:

            I think that’s one reason the post-2000 rule is good. Also cultural attitudes change so you may not have been a maverick for liking it when you saw it, and now you like it nostalgically. Also RT was launched in 1998.

      • imoimo says:

        I think I liked Dude, Where’s My Car unironically (despite it having plenty of dumb parts), but I was under 18 so womp womp.

    • souleater says:

      This one is easy for me
      Sahara (2005) 38% on rotten tomatoes.

      The plot is kinda meandering, but I really love the dialogue, and soundtrack.
      It just generally has a very laid back, fun feel to it.

      • Matt M says:

        I randomly found this on streaming and watched it with my girlfriend when we first started dating. Nothing amazing about it, but we basically enjoyed it!

      • Watchman says:

        I’d agree with this: even if looking back on it I seem to remember two different films (one which should have been from 1985), I’d be happy to watch it again.

        • Nick says:

          I saw the second half of the movie on TV one day and it seemed decent. I’d be up for watching the thing through.

        • souleater says:

          It definitely feels like 2 films. There is this weird subplot about the water being polluted but it feels like it was just shoehorned in. IMHO It would have been much better if they focused on the confederate battleship in the middle of africa.

      • Ehh, the book was better.

    • March says:

      The Reckoning (2004), 39% critic score and 57% audience score.

      Though I haven’t seen it in a while, maybe it’s been visited by the Suck Fairy since.

    • roystgnr says:

      Can I cheat by looking for loopholes in “came out” and “rated”? “Three Amigos” came out on Blu Ray for the first time post-2000, and that’s how I greatly enjoyed it for the first time as an adult, and although its audience score is 67% it’s got a tomatometer of 46%.

      Without cheating … I guess The Angry Birds Movie counts? 2016, 44% and 46%, and although it’s obviously not great cinema I did like it overall, got it for my kids, and might watch it again myself someday.

      I bet I could find more if I had an easier time finding quick-to-skim lists of low-ranked movies. https://editorial.rottentomatoes.com/movie-tv-scorecards/ has a few years of blockbusters, but for the most part the web’s only “worst movies of X” lists are the *worst* of the worst, not the slightly-below-mediocre stuff that I might have actually seen.

    • Matt M says:

      I am a huge fan of Dude, Where’s My Car. I think it’s basically the perfect archetype of a dumb, fun, stoner comedy.

      *looks up*

      17% tomatometer, 47% audience score.

      Come at me, critics!

      • Nick says:

        Hey, this one works for me too!

        • Matt M says:

          Also on my list here was the early 90s romantic comedy with some bizarre dark philosophical elements, Joe Versus the Volcano. Although I was surprised to see that RT treats that one pretty well…

      • acymetric says:

        The challenge probably should have excluded “dumb comedy” movies, maybe comedies entirely (so that we don’t have to argue about which ones are “dumb”). Those are almost universally panned by critics (who crave substance) but loved by people (who crave entertainment).

        Having said that, Dude, Where’s My Car was bad and you should feel bad.

        • EchoChaos says:

          Which is one of the reasons I proposed “both critics AND audience under 50%”. Bad comedies that are still fun and entertaining will get above 50% for audience.

          Dude, Where’s My Car is below even that bar, and definitely qualifies for the challenge.

        • johan_larson says:

          Well, the rules do exclude “so bad it’s good”, which is pretty close to that. It seems clear these are supposed to be movies we actually like, not just stuff we consider fun trash or “good” with irony quotes or could be persuaded to watch on a long flight with no other entertainment available.

          • Matt M says:

            I want to be very clear on this. Dude Where’s My Car is not “so bad it’s good.” I don’t enjoy it “ironically”. I legitimately consider it one of my favorite comedies ever made, and I cannot, for the life of me, understand why it gets panned while far-more-mediocre teen comedies like, say, American Pie, get at least a modicum of respect.

          • Plumber says:

            Unlike say Plan Nine From Outer Space (which may be the best/worst movie) Dude, Where’s My Car?‘s silliness was intentional, and I had fun watching it.

            If they’re being ridiculous on purpose does that still count as “so bad”?

            Regardless, Dude is the only unpopular film that someone else has listed so far that I’ve actually watched

          • Nick says:

            I have to back Matt up here. I’ve seen Dude, Where’s My Car several times, and it’s just really funny.

          • Matt M says:

            To me, the major point in favor of Dude Where’s My Car isn’t even that it’s “funny”, which it is. I just think it’s well structured, for that sort of movie. It integrates several different groups of characters, all of whom represent generic “teen movie” plot points and stereotypes, into a coherent (but still silly and enjoyable) plot about saving the universe from an alien invasion, which the main characters basically stumble their way through.

            And in the end, it all sort of just comes together, like a late-season episode of Seinfeld or something.

            It’s not necessarily the greatest work of fiction to ever do something like that, but most of its competitors in the “teen stoner comedy” genre don’t even try.

            Also it has Brent Spiner with a thick French accent screaming at and threatening torture upon Andy Dick. You can’t tell me that’s not entertaining!

          • Nick says:

            Or for another, how is the Chinese drive thru scene not gold?

          • Plumber says:

            @Matt M,
            I can remember expressing approval for Dude to a young lady and she told me that “That’s really only a guy’s movie”, and I asked her “You didn’t like French Data?”, and she admitted that was good.

          • John Schilling says:

            I legitimately consider it one of my favorite comedies ever made, and I cannot, for the life of me, understand why it gets panned while far-more-mediocre teen comedies like, say, American Pie, get at least a modicum of respect.

            I’m going to stop several tiers below “favorite comedies ever made”, this one doesn’t deserve to be mentioned in the same room as e.g. Young Frankenstein or even the original Ghostbusters. But it is a solid attempt at a straight-up comedy, without the pretense of social relevance that many more “respectable” comedies try to attach to their jokes, and it is a legitimately funny movie. Mostly in the places where it is trying to be funny, so not “so bad it’s good”.

          • Matt M says:

            I don’t think the original Ghostbusters made me laugh even once, but I’m almost certainly too young to appreciate its cultural context.

            Young Frankenstein is good, but it does strike me as one of Mel Brooks’ more high-brow efforts. For pure comedy, I’d probably go with something like Men In Tights myself!

          • LesHapablap says:

            Hot Shots and Hot Shots Part Deux are the greatest silly comedies ever made, and Lloyd Bridges as Admiral / President Benson was the greatest comedic performance ever.

            Lloyd Bridges in Hot Shots 1 and 2

          • Matt M says:

            I always preferred “Top Secret” to “Hot Shots” myself…

      • JPNunez says:

        Where was the car, anyway.

        • Plumber says:

          I’m not going to rot13 anything, but I’ll give you the hint that something outside of what’s usually in the teen stoner commedy genre was involved.

          • JPNunez says:

            *checks wikipedia*

            what the fuck

          • Plumber says:

            @JPNunez,

            For what it’s worth as fun as Dude was, I think a movie with some similar themes that was even better was 1984’s Repo Man, which is a movie that the closer you are to a teenager the better it is so don’t delay!

          • Matt M says:

            Hard to believe, I know, but the film is even better than the Wikipedia plot summary implies!

      • johan_larson says:

        Well, you like what you like, right?

        But having tried to watch “Dude, Where’s My Car?”, I can see why few critics approved. I just can’t stand the two protagonists. They’re such doofuses, and not in a fun way.

    • JPNunez says:

      Speed Racer (2008) at 41% IIRC

      Is there an easy way to see a fuckton of movies rated less than 50%?

      • EchoChaos says:

        You can go to movies on DVD/Streaming and filter by tomatometer. This only affects critic, so you’ll have to check if the audience score is also bad, but it gives a headstart.

        • Matt M says:

          What I’d really like is to set up an automatic filter to exclude anything where the critics score is >15% of the audience score.

      • Watchman says:

        Late night on obscure TV channels works pretty well…

        • acymetric says:

          If you have a broadcast antenna, also regular daytime obscure channels (the secondary channels *.2/.3/.4 etc).

    • Garrett says:

      DOOM (2005).
      The Expendables was rated 42% by the Tomatometer but 64% by audience score. I don’t know if that counts.

      This would be a lot easier if there was a way to query for movies matching criteria so I could see which ones I like.

    • fion says:

      Depending on whether we can pick-and-choose critic vs audience score, I can have The Last Jedi. Fun fact, the Last Jedi has 91% critic score and only 44% audience score. The latter fits my intuitions, the former does not!

      • Matt M says:

        the Last Jedi has 91% critic score and only 44% audience score. The latter fits my intuitions, the former does not!

        I am very jealous of the fact that you don’t know why this is the case, and I choose to improve your life by not telling you…

        • fion says:

          Well, my biased explanation as somebody who enjoyed the film would be that it was “objectively” not that bad, but a lot of Star Wars fans were upset that it didn’t do what they hoped it would.

          • Nick says:

            it was “objectively” not that bad

            Did you happen to read some of the SSC threads about it when it came out? The film has plenty of negatives even setting aside fan concerns.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            @Nick:

            The film has plenty of negatives even setting aside fan concerns.

            Even the first Disney Star Wars was atrocious, its much better audience reception notwithstanding.

          • acymetric says:

            @Le Maistre Chat

            I felt like the first one was bad overall, but the tone was enjoyable and it set up the potential for good or at least decent followups. TLJ, in addition to being bad, was not enjoyable and didn’t really appear to set anything up other than “throw out all the stuff that happened so far, we’re basically starting from scratch in the third installment”.

          • Thegnskald says:

            The Last Jedi had some interesting ideas which could have been developed into an interesting third movie. Unfortunately it wrecked all of those ideas just a few minutes after introducing them.

            “Beyond light/dark” was an interesting direction for Star Wars to move in; a maturing direction. Which it scrapped almost as soon as it suggested it by splitting back into clear good and clear bad guys.

            Luke as a burned-out hero was likewise an interesting idea. Which it also trashed by having that character arc close before the end of the movie.

            Whats-her-face as a nobody – also kind of interesting.

            What’s interesting is that TLJ could probably be turned into a good 90 minute movie with basically no additional footage, just by removing an hour of nonsense.

          • Nick says:

            @Thegnskald
            I basically agree. Every time they introduce something like “beyond light and dark” it seems promising for a moment, but next thing I know, I’m nursing my head from the whiplash of the stupid twist that follows it.

          • Phigment says:

            I think The Last Jedi was really badly paced, and that killed the normal amount of leeway it would have gotten for being a flashy Star Wars movie.

            Like, you can get away with a lot by being fun and moving fast enough that people don’t stop to ask questions.

            But Last Jedi had, like, four or five major sequences that felt like they should have been movie climaxes, but then were not. Rey and Kylo fight the not-Emperor! It doesn’t affect the primary plot driver of the movie. Finn and Rose infiltrate the enemy fleet! They actually make things worse, then it doesn’t matter when the ship is blown up without their intervention. Hyperspeed ram is super-awesome! (It really was, that was an amazing bit!) Doesn’t accomplish anything; the rebels are still chased down by overwhelming force.

            I really think it’s a movie that could have been made pretty solid action sci-fi just by trimming it down a bunch. Tighten up the Finn/Rose plot line, cut out a bunch of the mutiny subplot, and end the movie right after the hyperspace ram, with a bunch of rebel shuttles escaping a damaged and disorganized enemy fleet.

            The end, accept your dump trucks full of money.

          • souleater says:

            @fion

            I was really excited to see it in theatres. But honestly… I remember about half way through I was thinking “How much longer is this going to run?”

            Nothing to do with expectations… it was just the first Star Wars film I was actually bored with. I should never be bored while watching a Star Wars movie for the first time.

      • broblawsky says:

        Yeah, I think I’ll claim this one for mine.

    • AlesZiegler says:

      Clash of the Titans (2010 version!) has 27 % Tomatometer and 40 % audience. I quite liked it.

      The Cell (2000), which I remember vividly as very good movie, altough it is too old too count by “during my adult life” has 45 % Tomatomater but 57 % audience.

    • acymetric says:

      I think I might have the lowest critic score so far (at least for legit, Hollywood type productions): Knockaround Guys

      I love this movie. Supporting cast includes Seth Green, Vin Diesel, and John Malkovich. Mob movie. Good fun.

      Critic score: 21%
      Audience score: 51%

      • EchoChaos says:

        Oh, I really enjoyed that one. My friends still quote Vin Diesel’s line about being in five hundred fights.

    • John Schilling says:

      “John Carter” just misses the mark at 52%. But “13th Warrior” is rated 33%, so got it on my second try. Both classic fantasy tales, done right by Hollywood in the filmmaking department but not so much in the marketing.

      • DarkTigger says:

        Wait, 13th Warrior has 33%, “I feel like I can’t quote every sentence of 13th Warrior from memory anymore, time to watch it again”, is like a standard joke around here.

      • Plumber says:

        Oh!

        II didn’t see John Carter (but zIp liked the book when I read it years previously), but I did see really liked 13th Warrior.

        I thought I was alone.

        Thanks!

      • Enkidum says:

        Huh, I can’t imagine why 13th Warrior scored so low. It was perfectly fine, I thought, as is the Crichton book it’s based on.

        Apparently I like middlebrow action flicks.

        • DarkTigger says:

          I know some people who for some reason take offense, at the “their Mother” line. Because they took it literally.
          Why anyone can make the mental leap from “the Dragon” to the snaking column of cave men, but does not get that “their Mother” was meant figuratively is beyond me, but you know, people.

      • johan_larson says:

        “The 13th Warrior” is a good catch. 33% is just a weirdly low rating for that film.

        “In the Mouth of Madness” comes in at 59%. Damn it.

        And I finally found a qualifier of my own. “Bloodsport” (1988), a martial arts movie with JCVD. 39%. I was 18, which just barely qualifies.

        • broblawsky says:

          Bloodsport is a legitimately great martial arts movie. I don’t understand how it could have 39%.

          • acymetric says:

            I mentioned in another subthread, but movies released significantly before Rotten Tomatoes launched, and especially in this case where the movie was released before the Internet was really even a big thing, are going to have weird/non-representative RT reviews.

    • Jake Rowland says:

      My first try: Lucky Number Slevin (2006) at 51%, just missed it.
      2008’s The Incredible Hulk got 67%, this is hard.
      Found a website that lets you filter movies by rating: https://flickmetrix.com/
      Baywatch (2017) fits at 17% Critics, 55% Audience, but part of why I liked it was that it was so self-aware about how dumb it is to have lifeguards solving crimes. That probably counts as ironic.
      The clear winner is Be Cool (2005). 30% Critics, 42% audience. I thought it was hilarious.

      • acymetric says:

        I checked Lucky Number Sleven after checking Knockaround Guys…the critics are so wrong there. Lucky Number Slevin was freaking great.

        • Jake Rowland says:

          I know a lot of people I’ve talked to hated how the dialogue didn’t sound the way anybody talks in real life. To me it sounded how people would talk in real life if they were way more badass.

          • acymetric says:

            That…seems like a terrible reason to dislike a movie. A lot of movie/TV dialogue* would sound ridiculous if someone talked that way in day to day life. Conversely, if they scripted movies and TV with the way actual normal people talk to each other, that would probably be…pretty awful.

            *Edited to use the contextually appropriate spelling

          • Matt M says:

            Yeah, I always thought the whole deal with Quentin Tarantino was that he wrote dialogue that was actually similar to how people talk in real life.

            … with the implication being that all other movies are clearly and obviously NOT like that…

      • EchoChaos says:

        Be Cool is solid gold. How is that at 30% Critics, 42% audience?

      • Enkidum says:

        Ooh I was assuming I wouldn’t be able to find anything, but I did quite like Lucky Number Slevin. Also Smoking Aces, which gets 30% critic / 62% audience, which must be one of the highest differences I’ve ever seen.

        • EchoChaos says:

          Act of Valor is I believe the highest on Rotten Tomatoes at 26% critic/ 72% audience.

        • Nick says:

          I think The Last Jedi topped 50% difference for a time, but it’s currently only 47%. Still beats EC’s example.

          • EchoChaos says:

            Very true in the opposite direction. I was working with obsolete data!

          • Enkidum says:

            Yeah but I think that its audience score should have an asterisk beside it.

          • The Nybbler says:

            Why should _The Last Jedi_ audience score have an asterisk? There’s no way it’s external manipulation.

          • Enkidum says:

            I thought there was a very concerted campaign to give it low ratings? Or am I confusing two different things?

            FWIW I thought it was highly flawed but overall decent and quite entertaining, like every other Star Wars film ever made, except the prequels which didn’t manage to be decent.

          • Aapje says:

            @Enkidum

            That’s what HuffPo claims, but Rotten Tomatoes denied it.

          • Matt M says:

            I mean, there are various degrees here.

            What RT denies is that there was some kind of well coordinated hack/botnet spamming the site with “fake reviews.”

            What seems intuitively obvious is that a whole lot of people went out of their way to leave negative reviews based primarily on the politics of the film rather than their estimation of the overall quality of it, and that they likely encouraged others to do so as well.

            Didn’t they disable reviews entirely for Captain Marvel for a time over something similar?

          • The Nybbler says:

            Lots of films get reviews bot-spammed. Captain Marvel got it from “both sides” (though I suspect false-flagging for publicity purposes as well). Being able to detect and remove most of that sort of thing is part of the price of doing business for review sites. Actual meat-based political audience reviewers might be able to affect a niche film, but there’s no way there would be enough of them be able to affect a Star Wars film.

          • Nick says:

            My impression, though I may be misremembering, is that the backlash against TLJ was led more by “fanboys” while the backlash against Captain Marvel was more over politics. There was definitely some of the latter with TLJ, though, like the problems with Admiral Holdo’s character.

          • acymetric says:

            @Nick

            I think the amount of dislike for TLJ driven by racism/sexism or whatnot got massively overblown because

            a) That story played will in the media
            b) Disney encouraged that narrative because “the people who didn’t like this movie are sexist” sounds a lot better than “a lot of people just didn’t like our movie”

            It was definitely something that visibly existed, I don’t think anyone can deny that, but I don’t think it accounts for more than a small minority of the people who didn’t like the movie. There were several articles I saw written specifically about this (that all the publicity of people disliking the movie for those reasons made it hard to publicly admit you disliked the movie for real reasons, because people would accuse you of secreatly disliking it for the bad/stupid reasons).

            I think your recollection of Captain Marvel is accurate as well, although I haven’t seen the movie. I will admit, though, that if the movie had anything in common with how she came off/was used in Endgame I’m skeptical it could have been anything better than average.

          • Nick says:

            I’ve asked a few coworkers who saw Captain Marvel and they said it was all right, above average for the Marvel Cinematic Universe even. From what I’ve heard the politics in it is pretty subdued—unlike Brie Larson’s tour for the film, which I where I remember a lot of criticism being directed.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            When I got around to watching Captain Marvel, I was pleasantly surprised that the politics were only “female Air Force pilots face discrimination in the ’90s” and “I have nothing to prove to you [Kree man]!”
            As a story, it was serviceable superhero/mindless SF stuff. I don’t think it contributed anything positive to the worldbuilding that’s Marvel’s selling point, though.

      • jgr314 says:

        Thanks for mentioning that one. I will go re-watch it.

    • Simulated Knave says:

      The Producers (the new one) is rated exactly 50%.

      Mr. Right (2016) is delightful, but has a score of 43%.

      Passengers was good (if obviously flawed), but has a score of 30%.

      • Jake Rowland says:

        +1 Mr. Right, it was very good. I read the screenplay before I saw the movie, and I think the original script was even better. I didn’t like the changes to Tim Roth’s character.

      • Protagoras says:

        I remember liking the new Producers, but I didn’t think it succeeded in justifying its existence; rewatching the original would have been at least as pleasant. But it is the first one people have mentioned in this thread that I definitely remember enjoying watching.

      • Don P. says:

        Upon actually watching Passengers (the Chris Pratt/JLaw thing, I assume; there’s at least one other movie with this title) I was impressed that the trailer told you “what happens” but withheld the circumstances that gave it an emotional point.

        • John Schilling says:

          I didn’t get around to watching that one until I was on a long airline flight with inadequate reading material, precisely because the trailer and other marketing suggested a much lesser story than the movie delivered. Definitely well done, and deserves much better than 30%.

          • Thomas Jorgensen says:

            Passengers is really annoying, because it could have been so much better with very minor changes.
            Option 1: Make it a not-creepy romance. This is easy: Pratts character wakes up Jennifers character because she has a skill set he does not, but which is required to fix the ship. He does not lie about this. Still plenty of drama in “Sorry, I kind of sentenced you to life in space for the greater good”.
            Option 2: Go all fucking in on making it horror.

          • John Schilling says:

            Instead we got a story about why a generally decent person would commit a truly unforgivable sin, and what can happen when the victim offers forgiveness anyway. Plus a decent SF adventure on a doomed starship, and a bit of Laurence Fishburne. I’m OK with that.

    • James says:

      I love Chappie from 2015, which gets an abysmal 32%.

    • hls2003 says:

      Tried Justice League, but that’s got a 72% audience score. I thought for sure I’d be safe on Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice, but the audience score is still 63%. I didn’t like Suicide Squad, so it wouldn’t have counted anyway, but even that got 60% audience score. Trying to beat the self-selected audience score really is a challenge, especially for big-name tentpole films.

      • hls2003 says:

        Aha, if I stretch the category slightly to include “movies I am glad I saw even though I probably wouldn’t go so far as to say I strictly ‘liked’ it,” then Tomorrowland gets me 50% critic, 49% audience score.

    • Fitzroy says:

      “Movies featuring Buffy the Vampire Slayer Alumni” seems to be a rich vein:

      Eurotrip
      Soul Survivors
      Wrong Turn
      The Grudge

      • Protagoras says:

        Ooh, this reminded me! I found one! I was definitely an adult when the original Buffy the Vampire Slayer movie came out, and I definitely liked it. 35% tomatometer and 43% audience score. I still think Kristy Swanson was a better slayer than Sarah Michelle Geller.

        • HeelBearCub says:

          Wait what? Buffy is a modern classic of camp. It’s worth it for Paul Reubens death scene alone…

        • Plumber says:

          What?

          I was 24 when I saw the Buffy movie, it was great!

          I brought three dates to it (not all at the same time though).

          Yeah, I’m not trusting “Rotten Tomatoes”!

    • JohnNV says:

      Joe’s Apartment (1996) was fun, campy, and had good musical numbers. No cinematic tour-de-force, but deserves more than it’s 17% rating

    • Lambert says:

      Dragnet is 50% exactly.

    • DeWitt says:

      The idea here is that few people have truly unconventional taste.

      A movie with a score of 49% would qualify, at which point almost half the audience already likes it. Unless it’s consistently the same people liking the less popular movies, this idea already can’t hold water.

      • HeelBearCub says:

        Mmmm, that’s not quite correct.

        The set of people who go and see, random example, The Fast and the Furious, is highly selected for the people who like that kind of movie. You know from the trailer and the marketing and the title that it’s action and racing cars and presumably there is some plot, maybe.

        75% of the the public may be predisposed to not like the movie, but they won’t be but a tiny fraction of the people who go see it.

        • HeelBearCub says:

          … as for an answer to the question, I recall liking Showgirls well enough when I saw it a long, long time ago. Yeah, Berkley can’t really act, but you knew that going in if you saw Saved by the Bell.

          Not that I’ve ever seen it since, and I’m not going to sit here and defend it. I didn’t find it memorable enough, except that I thought Gina Gershon was another in a long line of supporting actresses who stole the show.

          Not being willing to defend it may be part of this, actually.

        • DeWitt says:

          Hmmh. Fair enough, I suppose.

    • Nornagest says:

      Van Helsing (2004) might count — 24% critical, 57% audience. I’d never call it a good movie, but I had fun watching it.

    • Skeptical Wolf says:

      Bunraku (2010, 17% critic, 49% audience) – A heavily stylized post-apocalyptic martial arts movie. One of my all time favorites, I highly recommend it to anyone who hasn’t seen it.

      Stolen (2012, 20% critic, 34% audience) – Nick Cage robs a bank with a flamethrower, because that’s the sneaky way that won’t be noticed. Come to think of it, any Nick Cage movie I genuinely enjoyed might be a contender here. Let’s see…

      Ghost Rider (2007, 27% critic, 48% audience) – Yep, this seems to work because the internet hates Nick Cage.

      This thread contains several movies that I very much enjoyed, but never thought to look up because I didn’t think they could possibly have a low score. 13th Warrior and Valerian are the best examples here (especially 13th Warrior).

      This challenge is also harder than Munroe implies because the median score on Rotten Tomatoes is substantially higher than 50%.

      If my pick for best movie ever made has a 66% rating from both audience and critics, that fails this challenge but still seems to refute Munroe’s thesis. On a related note, watch Cloud Atlas. As far as I can tell, motion picture was invented so that this movie could exist, and the recent slump (that we seem to be coming out of) was an entirely reasonable response to fulfilling its purpose and needing to find something else to live for.

      And just for fun, I’ll throw out two of my all-time favorite movies that are only disqualified by the release date requirement:

      Cuthroat Island (1995, 38% critic, 40% audience) – Gena Davis is Erol Flyn’s only modern competition for the mantle of best big-screen pirate.

      The Postman (1997, 9% critic, 50% audience) – This is the movie that convinced me that the words “post-apocalyptic” and “terrible” were not synonyms in the context of visual media.

      • Nornagest says:

        You’re not the first person to mention Valerian. Can I ask what you liked about it? The intro was outstanding, and I really dig the Euro SF comics aesthetic, and the plot and script were cookie-cutter but not actually bad, but the acting and casting were literally some of the worst I’ve ever seen in a big-budget film. Bad enough that being a spiritual successor to The Fifth Element, which is one of my favorite movies, couldn’t save it.

        (13th Warrior was okay, though. The costuming ticked off my inner medievalist [16th-century Spanish breastplates on Vikings!], but that’s more of a pet peeve and not enough to ruin it for me.)

        • Skeptical Wolf says:

          The intro was definitely part of it, strong emotional high-points like that can lead me to forgive a lot of mediocrity elsewhere in a film. That also set them up to get a lot of mileage out of interesting implied world-building and spectacular visuals.

          I also liked the way it played with the the “bumbling male partner, hypercompetent female partner” spy movie trope, presenting it in the first act, inverting it in the second, then subverting it into balance for the finale.

          I also thought the shapeshifter subplot was well-executed (if a little predictable) and the action scenes were generally enjoyable.

          I may just have a higher tolerance for bad acting; I can see in retrospect how that label fits here, but it didn’t bother me during the movie.

          • John Schilling says:

            I also liked the way it played with the the “bumbling male partner, hypercompetent female partner” spy movie trope, presenting it in the first act, inverting it in the second, then subverting it into balance for the finale.

            But they threw away the part from the original comic, where the female partner is hypercompetent in a way that usually outshines her partner in spite of his being a trained galactic secret agent and her being a (very smart and determined) peasant girl from 13th-century France. Not sure it was possible for them to fit that into the movie, and maybe they made the right decision leaving it out, but I’d have liked to see them pull it off.

            As is, I liked the intro and the aesthetic, but the rest was utterly forgettable.

        • BBA says:

          Valerian just felt like a waste. Visually it’s a delight, all kinds of cool settings and wacky action sequences… but we’re stuck watching those two cardboard cutouts in the lead roles. I really wanted to like it, I’d love to see more blockbusters based on obscure foreign comics (and original ideas, but that may be too much to ask).

    • Hoopyfreud says:

      Iron Sky. God that movie made me laugh.

    • A Definite Beta Guy says:

      I like Battlefield Earth, the Happening, and Babylon AD. These have audience scores of 12%, 24%, and 26%.

    • Well... says:

      Roman Polanski’s “Pirates” has a critic score of 33 and an audience score of 52, which is pretty darn close. I wasn’t an adult when it came out, but I was an adult when I first learned about and watched it, so that should count dammit.

      “Bio-Dome” (critic score: 4) came out when I was a kid but I friggin love that movie. I’m disqualified by age already, but its audience score is 51 which is even closer than “Pirates.”

    • Lord Nelson says:

      This is harder than I expected. My first two picks — king Arthur legend of the sword, and hansel & gretel witch hunters — both got above a 50% audience rating. But just barely in the latter case, and its critical score is 14%. Both were ridiculous but in a very fun way.

      Gnomeo and Juliet almost qualifies, with ratings in the 50’s for both scores. (That movie is far better than it has any right to be.)

    • sty_silver says:

      Going down my list of favorite movies, Lucky Number Slevin is fairly high and almost made it. It has 51% on RT, as mentioned in an earlier post. It didn’t come out during my adult life, but I still like it a lot today. The point that it’s difficult and most are high rated on RT is certainly valid.

      Also, I would not have predicted a low score on RT for L#S, I was just trying out a bunch.

    • Faza (TCM) says:

      My biggest challenge here was to find a movie that satisfied both:
      a. genuinely like, and
      b. came out post-2000

      This does not compute.

      (Okay, there are some post-2000 movies I actually enjoyed and I’ll get to one in just a second, but overall I’ve mostly soured on cinema over the past couple of decades. The rot set in around the Star Wars prequels/LOTR and we’ve only been on a downward trajectory since.)

      Given that any post-2000 movies I enjoyed are likely to have been well-rated, I was just about to ditch the millenial qualifier and go for “adult life”, which gets me the first Mortal Kombat (1995), 46% Tomatometer, 57% audience, but the my wife saved the day by reminding me of Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides, that not only satisfies the period requirement, but is actually rated lower than MK (33% TM, 54% A).

      I actually like POTC IV better than any of the previous ones (to say nothing of just liking it). For me, the winning POTC formula would be to put Johnny Depp and Geoffrey Rush on a boat with a fun supporting cast – Penelope Cruz most certainly qualifies – throw trouble at them and let it run for two hours. Hell! It would probably work even better as a monster-of-the-week TV show.

      Crucially, the movie should contain not a hint of Orlando Bloom, Keira Knightley or anyone even vaguely resembling them. POTC IV fails in this respect, but that particular little subplot is ignorable.

      Speaking of ignorable and keeping with the spirit of the challenge, I – honest to God – enjoyed Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith (can’t really say the same about TPM), even if:
      a. I consider them inferior to any of the original movies,
      b. I don’t understand why anyone thought Christiansen or Portman were good choices for a Star Wars movie. Both are terrible, with Christiansen proving to be just what was needed to make Bloom look good in POTC. (Neither Portman nor Knightley have any redeeming features, so I won’t even try.)

      Funnily enough, I don’t really mind Jar Jar Binks. He is what he is. Not something I would have done, but whatever…

      Aside: Munroe is, of course, right about the fact that hating popular stuff is easier, but I want to know why I should have been the one to stumble into the bizarro universe where Fury Road is an irredeemable pile of shite, but that nevertheless gets Rotten Tomatoes from the universe where it is a great movie.

      I mean, inside every Mad Max film there’s a much better Mad Max film struggling to get out – except Fury Road where the only hope is to fire everyone involved, burn the script, destroy any remaining properties and start entirely from scratch.

      I understand space-time is particularly convoluted around this nexus, so if you happen to read this from the universe where it is a great movie, be thankful for your blessings.

    • Tarpitz says:

      It’s a long time since I saw it, but I genuinely liked I Know Who Killed Me (9% critics, 26% audience).

      Now I’m a development exec. What could possibly go wrong?

    • rajbanerjee says:

      I liked Last Knights. I know it was panned by critics. Checked RT. 13% Tomatometer, 46% Audience Score. There are quite a few Nic Cage movies that I like too, but guess those are in the “so bad that they are good” category.

    • onyomi says:

      I agree with others that it’s super easy for me to find movies I liked that critics hated but audiences liked; pretty sure there are quite a few I love that are disliked by both critics and audiences (e.g. Toys starring Robin Williams). The lowest critic Tomato-meter I can find for a movie I unironically loved is Oscar, starring Sylvester Stallone. 12% on Rotten Tomatoes. Related, I haven’t seen it, but a friend whose taste I trust says Dark Phoenix is the best X-Man movie.

    • Trofim_Lysenko says:

      Tank Girl (38%)
      Act Of Valor (26%)
      The Sorcerer’s Apprentice (40%) – Nicolas Cage cosplaying Harry Dresden with a decent budget. It’ll have to do until we get an actual -good- Dresden Files show.

      I could keep going, probably, but I think I’m going to stop with Soldier, starring Kurt Russell (12%!).

    • Doctor Mist says:

      Ishtar (1987) – 38%. I don’t know why it is so hated; I thought it was a scream. It’s a bitter herb.

      • BBA says:

        According to a podcast I listen to, Ishtar was beset by delays and budget overruns and the usual litany of Hollywood disasters during its production, which led to lots of bad press well before it was released. So everyone was just expecting it to be awful and didn’t let the actual finished movie change their expectations. Elaine May has quipped that if everyone who hated Ishtar had seen it, she’d be rich.

        • Plumber says:

          @BBA,

          I saw Ishtar when it was in the theaters, and I remember almost nothing about it, so it couldn’t have been that bad or I’d be slamming it like I do Neuromancer (which to be fair I don’t remember much from when I read it in the ’80’s either, but I do remember being bored, and thinking “Not much of this is far from existing reality, I can open my front door for this!”).

          Now The Return of the Jedi I renember and I’ll gladly slam: What’s with the smirk Skywalker, that’s the plan to save Han?
          Stupid freakin’ Vietcong Teddy Bears!
          Luke should’ve fought with the rebellion not hob nob with his Dad and his Dad’s boss!

          Lord of the Rings: Aragorn and Frodo are ponces, Sam’s the hero!
          And Aragorn, what kind of choice is that? The blonde.lady is a women, that Elf chick is a girl, c’mon man!

          • HeelBearCub says:

            The Ewoks were supposed to be Wookies, damnit.

            I was denied having wookies actually tearing some damn arms off.

          • Randy M says:

            “Can you find a way we can reduce the plastic in our action figures for this film by 50%?”
            “Heck, I can reduce your vowels by 50% while we’re at it.”

          • Nick says:

            If you want to see more wookiees, you can always watch the Holiday Special.

          • Plumber says:

            @HeelBearCub & @Randy M,

            Preach it!

            @Nick, the Holiday Special was very disappointing, but I think it only pre-empted the Muppets or Sha-na-na, so it wasn’t a big loss.

        • Doctor Mist says:

          Ishtar was beset by delays and budget overruns.

          Yeah, I remember that. When I gave the video to my wife (she liked the movie, too), I made a fake wrapper with a fake review:

          If I had been given this movie’s budget, I could have made a much better movie. Better still, I could have moved to the south of France and resigned from my horrible, soul-deadening job as a movie critic.

          But it’s not like it cost me extra money. And it was actually my first awareness that Warren Beatty could, you know, act.

          I had completely forgotten that it was written and directed by Elaine May.

    • Unsaintly says:

      Grumpy Cat Worst Christmas Ever (27% critic 38% audience) was actually good. It wasn’t really original or deep, but it was a fun cheesy comedy. Kinda reminds me of Sharknado (nobody was expecting this to be good, so may as well make it fun) except better executed

  17. Matt M says:

    Rate your favorite settings for fictional media, among the following options:

    Modern/familiar (current time, location and cultural context relatively familiar to intended audience)
    Modern/unfamiliar (current time, but location and/or cultural context assumed to be unfamiliar to intended audience)
    Historical/realistic (takes place in a historical setting, specific events may be false/exaggerated but there’s no, like, magic or anything)
    Fantasy (not historical, low level of technology, likely includes magic, elves, dwarves, etc. but doesn’t necessarily have to)
    Science fiction (not historical, high level of technology, likely includes space travel, aliens, lasers, etc. but doesn’t necessarily have to)

    • Plumber says:

      @Matt M,

      Gladly!

      Modern/familiar (current time, location and cultural context relatively familiar to intended audience)

      If it’s a comedy film (Raising Arizona) this is a favorite, otherwise meh.

      Modern/unfamiliar (current time, but location and/or cultural context assumed to be unfamiliar to intended audience)

      If it’s a comedy film Hot Fuzz, Tropical Thunder yes! a favorite, otherwise? I can’t think of many examples that I’ve liked. The Secret History was a murder mystery with an east coast Ivy-ish college setting (so unfamiliar to me) that I don’t remember much about other than that I liked it and nothing else comes to mind.

      Historical/realistic (takes place in a historical setting, specific events may be false/exaggerated but there’s no, like, magic or anything)

      Old movies (The Third Man, The Seven Samurai, Double Indemnity, The Grapes of Wrath, Billy Budd, The Maltese Falcon , et cetera, are a favorite, as are films that take place in the past (Saving Private Ryan, ’71, A Knight’s Tale), so are old books, and I enjoyed Cornwall’s Agincourt, so high rated by me.

      Fantasy (not historical, low level of technology, likely includes magic, elves, dwarves, etc. but doesn’t necessarily have to)

      The 7th Voyage of Sinbad was the first movie I loved, and Grimm’s Fairytales,.and The Arabian Nights strongly imprinted on me, and I loved The Hobbit cartoon when I watched it at nine years old (the book was good too), probably the genre I most love.

      Science fiction (not historical, high level of technology, likely includes space travel, aliens, lasers, etc. but doesn’t necessarily have to)

      Star Trek, and Lost in Soace where the first television shows that really grabbed me, as for films? Planet of the Apes and Logan’s Run. Books? Foundation and The Martian Chronicles. Recently though Gattaca is the most recent science-fiction film that I thought was really good, and I just can’t think of any science-fiction novels that were first published after the ’80’s that I was really impressed by (“the golden age is 12”)..

      So:
      1) Fantasy
      2) Historical
      3) Science Fiction
      4) Modern familiar
      5) Modern unfamiliar except for film comedies as Hot Fuzz and Tropical Thunder were hilarious and favorites.

      • Atlas says:

        A Knight’s Tale

        Glad to see that someone else likes that movie!

        • Plumber says:

          @Atlas,
          A Knight’s Tale was just plain one of the most fun films that I’ve seen, I’d like to see more movies like it.

    • Randy M says:

      Science fiction>fantasy>modern
      There’s a genre I like that is somewhere between historical and fantasy, where you have a realistic setting but in an invented place. KJ Parker’s Engineer trilogy fits here; the technology of the time is realistic, as far as I can tell; something like early industrial. But the sociology and geography are new, while there is nothing non-human or supernatural. It’s kind of like past sci-fi or historic fantasy.

      If we’re talking movies, I like the kind where weird stuff starts happening, but then there is a reasonable explanation that makes everything make good sense. But most of the movies that start looking like this end up being weird stuff happens, then a bad excuse is offered that doesn’t make sense of much.
      The good ones usually involve time travel or messing with people’s brains. Occasionally a supernatural element will be satisfying enough to accept.
      So, to put a setting on it, these tend to be neear term sci-fi.

    • Sci-fi
      Modern Unfamiliar
      Historical
      Fantasy
      Modern Familiar

      I generally care less about the setting than what they do with that setting. If it’s just a set piece in your generic story, then it’s not very interesting. It’s just easier to make a sci-fi setting interesting than 2019 America.

    • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

      My favorite settings may be strange, because they don’t really overlap with my favorite media for the most part. A lot of settings are clearly tailored to the specific story they’re a part of, which may be good writing but also means that there’s not much to explore outside of the narrative. If you’ve ever tried to run an RPG in Tolkien’s Middle Earth, for example, you’ve quickly realized that there’s very little room for interesting adventures to take place within the canon timeline.

      That said, my #1 pick would be the world of A Song of Ice and Fire. Westeros in particular feels absolutely massive, where just riding from one end to the other makes for a book-length exciting adventure. Essos is much more poorly sketched, and consequently feels smaller and less interesting, but even then it’s bigger than a lot of author’s entire worlds. You could pick virtually any time and place and set an interesting story there as long as you have a basic respect for the themes and style of the source material (looking at you D&D…).

      After that, my #2 pick would be the world of Amazon’s two-season run of the Tick. I liked earlier versions of the Tick but I had never really cared about the setting, because it previously had only existed to set up gags. This one is different because, in tapping into the Marvel Cinematic Universe zeitgeist, they built a deep and consistent superhero universe. Even bit characters feel like cameos by established heroes or villains, as though the show had been made in an alternate universe where there were twenty movies worth of shared continuity to draw on.

      My #3 pick would be Hellboy. Everyone and their mother has made a contemporary setting with a secret occult history by this point, but Hellboy is particularly dense and interesting. The main reason that the 2019 remake failed, in my opinion, was because they tried to incorporate too much of that backstory to the detriment of the pacing and focus. But there’s an enormous amount of room in that universe to have fun without worrying about messing up continuity.

      • Randy M says:

        After that, my #2 pick would be the world of Amazon’s two-season run of the Tick

        Arthur’s step-Dad going to see the book signing by the talking dog gets even more interesting with the context of the second season. And if that strange sentence doesn’t sell you on the setting of the show…

    • DeWitt says:

      The best work in the modern time I know of is Breaking Bad, if only because it knew how and when to end. Unsure if you’d call the business of producing metamphetamines familiar to the viewers though.

      Modern/unfamiliar.. Man, I don’t even know what would count for this. Don’t know what to say without examples.

      For historical settings, the 2010 Romance of the Three Kingdoms series is impressive for being much more honest a depiction than most other works about the era. In gaming media, I’ve played Crusader Kings and Total War religiously enough that I’m obliged to mention them, though the former does realistic better than the latter.

      My favorite fantasy setting is Runequest’s Glorantha, hands-down. I know of very few other ones that have had such extensive effort put into making such high magic settings seem realistic. Very excellently done.

      • Matt M says:

        I’d say the setting of Breaking Bad was about as familiar as can possibly be. The whole genius of the show was applying unfamiliar circumstances (the details of running a large drug operation) to an incredibly familiar setting (an average middle class family with various problems)

        The setting becomes increasingly unfamiliar as the show goes on and as Walt has to adapt to weirder and more abnormal circumstances, but that’s the whole point. Seasons 1 and 2 are almost entirely familiar though.

        • Plumber says:

          @Matt M.,

          Me and my wife watched a few episodes of the first season of Breaking Bad and we just couldn’t get into it (we also watched a few episodes of Vikings together and she vetoed more, I sorta agreed with her as except for the protagonist vs. the actor from The Usual Suspects conflict it was dull and “Floki” was annoying, but I wanted to see more because of the setting.
          Jeremy Irons television show The Borgias was good, as of course The Soprano’s and Game of Thrones was mostly good (until it just became just about the visuals with the scripts not adding much).

          Mostly “prestige”/water-cooler television has been disappointing though.

    • DinoNerd says:

      I don’t think I have a favourite setting, or if I do, it doesn’t match what i generally end up reading. That’s because themes seem to be strongly correlated with setting. I’d like to read more modern/unfamiliar and historical, because of the opportunity to learn things I don’t know, and read a lot of historical fiction as a child, before discovering that biographies scratched many of the same itches.

      But what I read in practice is fantasy, and the kind of sci fi that has a future theme but little or no scientific premise. That gets me more adventure, and hero-overcomes-adversity, and less angsty-person-displays-emotions-introspectively or critique-of-subcultural-norms-that-aren’t-mine. Occassionally I find something fun in other genres, e.g. my current adventures with An Irish Country Doctor – which probably qualifies as historical, rather than modern/unfamiliar, even though the setting is still within living memory.

      One sub-genre I like is otherwise-historically-accurate fantasy (or sci fi, for that matter). Medieval Europe, except their religion is true – saints do intervene, etc.. Roman Empire with some technology discovered centuries earlier than in our past. Medieval army kidnapped en masse by aliens to act as a miltary force dealing with other primitives. This doesn’t really fit in your categories above – or disappears into sci fi or fantasy. Likewise the related genre of “Connecticut Yankee” – modern transported to past, adds modern ideas. But of course these are all more than just a setting – they are the key to whatever story ensues.

    • Atlas says:

      My absolute favorite kind of fictional setting is retrofuturism, which is sort of a mix of different options on your list but I think is distinct enough to include. That is, it’s a combination of the aesthetics of the past with futuristic/fantastical technology. It’s a frequent feature of 0451 games, like Bioshock, Prey and Dishonored. The various “-punk” genres often fit into this, with my personal favorite being dieselpunk.

      Then, from your provided list:

      Sci-fi>Historical/realistic>Fantasy>Modern/familiar>Modern/unfamiliar.

      My top 5 favorite films in no particular order (except that the first one is #1):

      The Social Network
      Blade Runner: 2049
      Mulholland Drive
      Apocalypse Now
      The Dark Knight

  18. DinoNerd says:

    This is probably a bizarre idea, but I’ve been thinking about “consumer confidence” as in “you ought to buy more; that would be good for the economy,” with the implicit idea that a good economy will tend to result in you having a job, or a better job. It’s a bit paradoxical, and subject to the free rider problem – if you buy more, it’s just as good for the economy as if I do, except I also get to save against a rainy day.

    Somehow, the average American may or may not buy the logic, but they spend enough that they can expect a desperately poor retirement, if they should live that long – even those who are solidly middle class+ durign their working lives.

    Meanwhile, the idea of vaccinating one’s children – which prevents epidemics if enough people do it, and provides real benefits to the children concerned, if herd immunity levels are not reached – but at the same time requires effort, and carries a fairly small risk – doesn’t seem to be anywhere near so popular.

    Of course this thought came to me as I ignored yet another phone call, almost certainly from some auto-dialer programmed to either advertise or solicit donations. I guess the problem is that there aren’t many people who profit by other people’s health, whereas there are plenty who profit by other people’s spending, so there just isn’t the profit motive to support incessant advertising about health ;-( (And don’t look at the health insurers. They try to promote healthy living, doubtless in the hopes of reducing their future costs, but are singularly inept at it – they do a much better job saving money by forcing the insured through kafkaesque hoops, and even there often shoot themselves in the foot – as with me, on a more expensive med after United Health denied my perfectly effective prior medication, trying to force me onto something both cheaper and ineffective.)

    • baconbits9 says:

      Somehow, the average American may or may not buy the logic, but they spend enough that they can expect a desperately poor retirement, if they should live that long – even those who are solidly middle class+ durign their working lives.

      Household debt in the US has fallen from 99% of GDP in 2007 to 70% now, on the whole households have been more prudent recently than they have been given credit for.

      • broblawsky says:

        2007 was a historical extreme; The debt to GDP ratio is still well above pre-2001 levels.

        • Matt M says:

          Yeah… I read this a few days ago and it does NOT seem encouraging…

          • The Nybbler says:

            Just because it’s the Wall Street Journal doesn’t mean it’s not pushing a narrative. Household debt service as a percentage of personal disposable (after-tax) income is at a long-term low. This is dominated by a drop in mortgage debt, other debt seems to be in a fairly normal range. As for the family in that WSJ article who decided that right after a significant loss of income was a great time to finance two new cars… well, there’s no accounting for foolhardiness.

          • Matt M says:

            well, there’s no accounting for foolhardiness.

            Perhaps what we need to be accounting for is what percentage of our peers are fools.

            I’m not that experienced with using FRED. But you seem to be linking to stats about debt service and debt payments. I thought the article suggested that those may be down because of low interest rates.

            As in, just because your debt payments look sustainable given low rates doesn’t necessarily mean you haven’t borrowed entirely way too much and you’d be able to weather a recession without some defaults.

            I mean, I suppose one could say “yeah but the fed will just keep rates this low forever so it won’t really matter” which I suppose is possible? I’m not sure how but they seem to have found a way to keep printing money without inflation going up.

          • The Nybbler says:

            Perhaps what we need to be accounting for is what percentage of our peers are fools.

            And the answer seems to be “about the same percentage as usual”, at least with regard to non-mortgage debt.

            As in, just because your debt payments look sustainable given low rates doesn’t necessarily mean you haven’t borrowed entirely way too much and you’d be able to weather a recession without some defaults.

            That would depend on how much of the debt is variable rate. Revolving credit is generally variable rate, but credit card rates are not really low at this point. About 3/4 of outstanding consumer credit is fixed-term, but I don’t know how much of that is fixed-rate. You might find more by digging into the source data.

          • broblawsky says:

            Just because it’s the Wall Street Journal doesn’t mean it’s not pushing a narrative. Household debt service as a percentage of personal disposable (after-tax) income is at a long-term low. This is dominated by a drop in mortgage debt, other debt seems to be in a fairly normal range. As for the family in that WSJ article who decided that right after a significant loss of income was a great time to finance two new cars… well, there’s no accounting for foolhardiness.

            Debt service payments are low because interest rates are low. The actual amount of debt itself is still pretty high. In fact, consumer debt as a percentage of GDP is at a historical high.

          • baconbits9 says:

            Debt service payments are low because interest rates are low. The actual amount of debt itself is still pretty high.

            Debt with lower payments is an easier burden to bear, debt should (theoretically) be higher with lower payments. That debt has reduced while payments have remained low/decreased is plausibly significant. Ideally we would also have net assets vs debt vs payments of course.

        • Ghillie Dhu says:

          …debt to GDP ratio…

          Dividing a stock by a flow results in a meaningless quotient.

          • The Nybbler says:

            I’m not sure that household and nonprofit debt to GDP is that important a ratio, but the quotient isn’t meaningless. It’s not the unit-less quantity it appears to be, however — the units are time. If the debt to GDP ratio is 1, it means outstanding debt is equal to a year of production.

          • baconbits9 says:

            If I buy a rental house then that property is a stock, and the rental payments is a flow, so knowing what my rate of return is on that property is meaningless?

          • broblawsky says:

            Dividing a stock by a flow results in a meaningless quotient.

            Disagree. The velocity of money is GDP divided by the money supply, and it’s considered (in most orthodox economic theories) to be very important. Debt-to-GDP is similar, just inverted.

    • Randy M says:

      Somehow, the average American may or may not buy the logic, but they spend enough that they can expect a desperately poor retirement, if they should live that long – even those who are solidly middle class+ durign their working lives.

      Meanwhile, the idea of vaccinating one’s children – which prevents epidemics if enough people do it, and provides real benefits to the children concerned, if herd immunity levels are not reached – but at the same time requires effort, and carries a fairly small risk – doesn’t seem to be anywhere near so popular.

      It seems to me that lots of people spend lots of money, perhaps more than they should, but few if any of those are doing it for the economy. Generally they are doing it so that they can get whatever good is promised in exchange. Which is for the best, because you want the money to go to producers making goods people want and need, not whatever promises to recirculate it fastest.

      Whereas, I think plenty of people both get and promote vaccinations for the public as well as personal good. I don’t know whether vaccine abstainers are greater than spending abstainers, but the latter don’t generally seem to get regarded as particularly virtuous or admirable, while the former are admired–even if not envied until the metaphorical rainy day.

    • Matt M says:

      It’s a bit paradoxical, and subject to the free rider problem – if you buy more, it’s just as good for the economy as if I do, except I also get to save against a rainy day.

      The entire premise is wrong.

      The economy grows via savings and investment, not via consumption. It is the savers who are selfless sacrificers benefitting us all, and the consumers who are the free riders.

      • baconbits9 says:

        This is wrong, without consumption at the end investment returns would be negative and economic growth wouldn’t exist. The economy grows because of savings, investment and consumption, cut investment and there is no growth, cut consumption and there is no growth.

        • Matt M says:

          Savings and investment cannot exist, in the first place, without a cut in consumption.

          I’m not suggesting that if you cut consumption to literally zero we’d live in some sort of fantastical utopia. Only that growth comes from savings, which requires one to consume less than they otherwise would.

          • baconbits9 says:

            No, it requires one consume less NOW than they otherwise wood, but they can consume more LATER. GDP is literally calculated in final sales, and for good reason. Production itself isn’t a good metric (see goods produced in the Soviet Union), end consumption is a necessity. This isn’t about hyperbolicly talking about zero consumption, if you cut consumption to save you do so with the expectation of higher consumption later. If that higher consumption never materializes then growth is negative.

          • Matt M says:

            Whether or not consumption ultimately rises or falls as the result of any particular investment is simply based on entrepreneurial skill.

            The only actual decision you can make NOW is to either save or consume, and of course the reason you save is to increase consumption later. That much is obvious.

            What DinoNerd is implying at top is that somehow, people who consume less now in order to invest (because they think they can increase consumption more later) are somehow being selfish and free riding on the backs of all of the people who are consuming everything they possibly can right now. This is absurd. Particularly given that a whole lot of our capital structure (most notably, but not exclusively, intellectual capital) is passed down via generations, ultimately in a way that rewards all of society, rather than the original saver or entrepreneur.

            Steve Jobs didn’t make society poorer by deciding to build a company rather than buy luxury cars. The opposite is true.

          • baconbits9 says:

            Your claim was

            It is the savers who are selfless sacrificers benefitting us all, and the consumers who are the free riders.

            Which is equally absurd. Neither exists without the other, no free rider exists in general on either side.

          • acymetric says:

            In Matt’s defense, he was responding to a post that explicitly mentioned free-riders (going the opposite direction) but I think you’re spot on…both are needed, if it swings too far one way or the other it can be bad for the economy.

          • A Definite Beta Guy says:

            Consumption is its own reward, you don’t do it for the good of the economy. Saving is its own reward, too, you do it so you can have more consumption in the future.

            “Do it for the economy!” is kind of alien.

            To the extent there is a problem, it is when there is a sudden scare in the economy (blah blah blah Animal Spirits) and desired investment goes down while desired savings goes up. That’s describing a depressed economy, not a full-employment economy.

        • Paul Brinkley says:

          This is wrong, without consumption at the end investment returns would be negative and economic growth wouldn’t exist. The economy grows because of savings, investment and consumption, cut investment and there is no growth, cut consumption and there is no growth.

          Is it closer to truth to say that investment and consumption are like two dimensions of a 2-D space, whose area we wish to maximize? Both are measured in money/time, and come out of a fixed pool at any given time. Set either to maximum, and the other goes to zero, so the area is zero.

          So the real discussion ought to be how much to allot to each dimension, in light of real world irregularities of the 2-D “space”.

          • baconbits9 says:

            Its an ok first approximation, but you need time in there. Successful investment = more consumption in the future, but 100% savings rates will lead you to starve in the winter and never get to plant all that grain in your basement, so you don’t have successful investment. Then everything needs to be weighted, if you are hungry a hamburger now is worth more than a hamburger tomorrow, but if you are full a hamburger tomorrow is worth more than one now. It is maddeningly complicated, but we can say, pretty safely, that neither consumers nor savers should be treated as free riders as a group..

      • Plumber says:

        @Matt M,
        “One mand spending is another mans income”

        “One mans savings is another mans job”

        I suppose there should be a rejoinder to “the paradox of thrift”.

    • secondcityscientist says:

      Meanwhile, the idea of vaccinating one’s children – which prevents epidemics if enough people do it, and provides real benefits to the children concerned, if herd immunity levels are not reached – but at the same time requires effort, and carries a fairly small risk – doesn’t seem to be anywhere near so popular.

      I’m gonna need a citation for this one. If you take your kids to the doctor on schedule, they get shots as part of their regular checkups. If you want to enroll them in public school (and many private schools), you need either a record of them being vaccinated or a valid reason for them not being vaccinated. When I was looking for a daycare provider, I asked if they required vaccinations. Since there was a recent measles outbreak in IL, one said “yes, we do now” and the other said “of course we do” and looked at me like I might have grown an extra head. I haven’t checked if our public school district offers vaccination coverage for low-income kids (because we aren’t low income and our kids are vaccinated) but I suspect they do.

      That said, not every state is rigorous about requiring vaccinations and the anti-vax population isn’t randomly distributed, so you’ll get outbreaks because anti-vax people cluster together. But overall vaccination rates for the DTaP vaccine are between 80%-95% for most states, and higher for MMR.

    • “Somehow, the average American may or may not buy the logic, but they spend enough that they can expect a desperately poor retirement, if they should live that long – even those who are solidly middle class+ durign their working lives.”

      Is this true, though? Consider the lifestyle that most retired people live: they aren’t trying to impress a mate or climb mount Everest or raise a family in a neighborhood with “good schools” or do any of that trendy stuff. I think it’s not unreasonable to decide to just live off of social security and medicare and consider the fact that so many other people are adopting the same strategy as insurance against anything really bad happening.

      “It’s a bit paradoxical, and subject to the free rider problem – if you buy more, it’s just as good for the economy as if I do, except I also get to save against a rainy day.”

      And then you’ll spend the money eventually, giving the same “benefit of spending” as the spender. It’s productivity growth that causes economic growth, not spending growth: you can only consume more if you can first produce more.

      • DinoNerd says:

        I may be biased by living in an area where social security, even at maximum, really doesn’t provide enough to live on – at least not when you start factoring in medical expenses (generally increasing as you age) and the need to pay someone else to do things you can no longer manage.

        And for many of us, society is atomized enough that expecting younger family members to drive you to the doctor, pick up groceries for you, etc., is just not realistic. (This bridge partner is likely to be an exception; at least one of his grown sons is working for a tech firm locally, though not in tech.)

        One of my bridge partners, a widower who raised 4 boys, and has worked in tech most of his life, told me yesterday that according to a Schwab advisor his savings wouldn’t last for 10 years of retirement.

        Or I may just be biased by oft-repeated headlines about total lack of savings ;-(

        Either way, you have a point, and I do know people who retired (from here!) to a mobile home in a small town far away, with much lower prices.

        • DeWitt says:

          I may be biased by living in an area where social security, even at maximum, really doesn’t provide enough to live on

          Another advantage of retirement is that you don’t have to live where the work is – you can move to cheaper pastures. There are some who do this, though I understand that a substantial amount of people prefer not to.

          • John Schilling says:

            though I understand that a substantial amount of people prefer not to.

            Right, but the biggest reason not to is the social network that you’ve built in the community you live in. If you live in $Expensive$Cosmopolitan$City$, and you don’t have friends you can hit up for a ride to the doctor or a grocery run, then your case for needing $bignum$ in retirement money to pay $Cosmopolitan$City$ rents is looking pretty weak. If it’s just that you enjoy the view and the ocean air, yeah, great for you if you saved enough or bought early enough to keep enjoying that into your golden years, but the rest of us probably aren’t going to lose any sleep over it if you can’t.

          • DinoNerd says:

            Yeah. There are significant advantages for me in staying right here – notably California’s proposition 13, in combination with a paid-off house that I purchased more than 20 years ago. But also the weather – no worries about snow and ice, and excess heat is manageable – highly relevant for an eventually frail oldster.

            But at the same time, I’m also checking out places I might move in retirement. I haven’t found a compelling answer yet – and I really don’t want to move. But if I were expecting to have social security provide most of my resources, I’d pretty much have to move, and I’d probably have to settle for a place with significant disadvantages.

  19. Buttle says:

    …debt to GDP ratio…

    Dividing a stock by a flow results in a meaningless quotient.

    I would think the quotient would be a time.

    • Joseph Greenwood says:

      A time which answers a specific question. “If our economy’s size holds constant, and we devote all our production to paying down the debt, and we pay no interest, how long will it take to completely pay it off?”

      Of course, adjustments for the real world need to be made for the growth of our economy, the growth of our debt, and because we have to pay interest, and because no one can pay 100% of production to debt. But notably, three of these four modification push “Time to pay off debt” back, so it seems at least reasonable to treat this ratio as s lower bound for how long it will take to pay off our debt.

      • baconbits9 says:

        A time which answers a specific question. “If our economy’s size holds constant, and we devote all our production to paying down the debt, and we pay no interest, how long will it take to completely pay it off?”

        This isn’t a very useful question to answer, but there are useful questions that you can answer with it. Knowing you stock of debt to gdp means you can (better) understand the impact of interest rate changes, a 1 percentage point rise in rates obviously has a larger impact on the economy if debt is 100% vs 50% of gdp.

        • Joseph Greenwood says:

          I agree! I don’t think this is a very intrinsically useful question, but I do think it is a meaningful one, and it can provide useful intuition for other more actionable considerations.

        • Joseph Greenwood says:

          Also, to properly answer the useful version of this question, you need to be omniscient use stochastic differential equations.

    • A1987dM says:

      Yes, when people talk of a debt to GDP ratio of 133% they mean 1.33 years. (Which peeves me both because of the wrong dimension, and because I find it pointless to use percents for numbers which are not small.)

  20. Scott Alexander says:

    I sometimes write things like “Even if you support this position, it’s easy to compromise in a way that gives your opponents most of what they want.”

    For example, in today’s links, “even if you want strong borders, you don’t have to detain illegal immigrants in camps”. Or a few weeks ago, “even if you don’t care about global warming, you can just allow a carbon tax and cut other taxes the same amount”.

    I notice both of those are liberal. Is there a conservative version of this – ie something conservatives really want, where it would be easy for liberals to compromise in a way that doesn’t cost them much of what they want?

    • “Even if you oppose Trump’s internal immigration policies, you can support a wall”. The wall doesn’t actually hurt leftists stated goals in any way. The reasons given for their opposition is cost and symbolism. The idea that anyone cares about its cost is laughable and the idea of the symbolism being wrong doesn’t mean anything materially. In a less dysfunctional government, immigration would be an easy issue to forge a compromise on.

      • onyomi says:

        If anything wouldn’t the wall help denecessitate the camps? The camps are someplace to put people who’ve broken the law by getting in without permission. By making it harder to get in, the wall makes it harder to break the law that results in the (perceived) need to detain.

      • albatross11 says:

        This is a good example of why this kind of exercise is harder than it looks–symbolic victories matter a lot in politics. Trump wants a wall, and Democrats don’t want him to build one, almost entirely for symbolic reasons. A wall probably wouldn’t have much effect on immigration enforcement (certainly not if the next administration doesn’t want to enforce immigration law), but it’s a symbol that Trump could use to claim a victory, and for that reason, the Democrats were never going to be in favor of it.

        • sty_silver says:

          More concretely, I suspect the wall would increase Trump’s chances to be re-elected, and that could lead to a lot of things liberals don’t want at all.

    • Clutzy says:

      “even if you want strong borders, you don’t have to detain illegal immigrants in camps”.

      This is pretty false unless there is massively increased funding to detain them in nicer areas.

      • Garrett says:

        I believe the idea (and research shows) that those seeking asylum are highly likely to show up for their trial. So releasing them into the community is likely to work. It’s unknown how well this scales, though, and what kind of post-trial results there are.

        • Clutzy says:

          Those favorable statistics that I see are consistently misleading in 2 ways.

          1. They look at old stats before the asylum surge, so it was generally far more meritorious cases where the seekers were winning over 80-90% of cases.

          2. They only look at stats for those showing up at the first hearing. I haven’t seen anyone show favorable stats for self-deportation of asylum seekers who have had their claims denied.

          • Well... says:

            Plus, isn’t there a huge difference between detaining people so that close to 100% of them, presumably, will show up to their court dates, versus only getting 85% or whatever showing up when you let them just wander in and pinky-swear? How many people does that translate to who never show up and disappear inside the country each year?

            TLDR: I don’t see why even the generous 80-90% figures are supposed to make us feel good.

          • DeWitt says:

            That’s an argument against bail and locking people suspected of all other crimes up, too. It’s an argument some are in favor of, but are you?

          • Well... says:

            Some people are flight risks, so there are greater restrictions around letting them out. I would say most illegal immigrants seem to qualify as flight risks, don’t they?

            Besides, it’s not an apples to apples comparison. Criminals suspected of crimes and let out on bail are US citizens/residents with certain rights granted to them by our constitution. Foreigners trying to illegally enter the country are not protected by all of those same rights.

          • DeWitt says:

            Someone showing up at the border claiming asylum is not doing anything illegal. A bunch of them show up with fraudulent claims, at which point the illegal part is in falsely claiming asylum, not in showing up to in fact do so.

            Do you think all foreigners suspected of any crime should be detained until court as a matter of policy?

          • Clutzy says:

            Bail is also set based on the assumption that if you skip out on it its a pretty big punishment. And, often, if you are a rich person or criminal thought to have profited off criminal activities, your money is frozen. There is no such leverage on an asylum seeker you release, unless you make them pay a bail bond. Which most of them probably can’t do unless you set it too low for it to be useful.

          • Faza (TCM) says:

            @DeWitt:

            That’s an argument against bail and locking people suspected of all other crimes up, too.

            False analogy.

            As I mentioned to our host in the links thread we’re asking two things here: is the person present in the U.S. and do they have valid title to be there?

            Clearly, we cannot presume the second is true, because most people living in the world do not have the right to enter and reside in the U.S. You may object to the laws that make it so, but nevertheless that’s what the situation is right now.

            On the other hand, if we take any particular crime – even one we know for certain that occured – and take a random person present in the area at the time, the chances are overwhelmingly that they are innocent, unless we’re talking about a mass pogrom, or equivalent.

            So how does bail figure in all of this? Once you’ve detained someone pending a trial to determine if they’re guilty of whatever it is you’re charging them with, you’re already causing harm – because not being detained is the default state. Given how heavily the odds are weighted in favour of any particular person being not guilty of any particular crime, this harm may be expected to overwhelmingly fall on innocent people, unless the bar for detention in the first place is set very high (essentially, we don’t arrest anyone unless we have a rock-solid case against them).

            With immigrants in general and asylum seekers in particular, the reverse is true. We’re perfectly justified in asking someone to prove their right to be present in the country – once they’re already there – because most people don’t actually have that right. If you do have the right – you are a citizen, have a visa, etc. – it shouldn’t be hard for you to prove it (and if it is, you have a different problem), in which case you do so and go your own way. If you can’t prove your right to remain, we’re perfectly justified in sending you back where you came from pretty much immediately.

            It gets interesting if you’re an asylum seeker, because at that point you’re only just attempting to establish that you do have a valid title to enter and remain in the country.

            Someone showing up at the border claiming asylum is not doing anything illegal.

            Of course they aren’t, but just showing up and making a claim doesn’t mean anything. For a start, it does not mean that the person making the claim has a right to enter and reamain in the country. That is yet to be established, by due process of the law.

            Whilst going through the process, it is not unreasonable to propose any of the following:
            1. that the person remain outside the U.S. until it is established that, yes, they do have a valid asylum claim, or
            2. that the claimant remain in a government facility, pending a decision in their case; such facilities probably shouldn’t be straight-up prisons (we’re not seeking to punish anyone, yet), but they don’t necessarily have to provide more than a modest standard of living.

            It isn’t immediately clear that “let them go and hope they show up for the hearing” is a reasonable proposition. Bona fide asylum seekers might, but as soon as word gets around that “I want to claim asylum” is the magic get-out-of-jail-free card, you may well find that bona fide asylum seekers are the minority.

            As I’ve said on the original post: if you’re a bona fide asylum seeker, you’re running away from some pretty terrible things. Having to wait around in a processing centre should not seem like a huge price to have to pay for what you’re trying to get in return.

            Unlike bail, there’s no prima facie harm to the asylum seeker while they wait in such a facility. Their chief interest, qua asylum seeker, is to get away from the oppressing entity in their country. That box is ticked. Any additional benefits – such as the right to live and work in a particular country – are just that: benefits, perks. Not getting a particular benefit at any particular time is not harm, given that not having that benefit is the default state.

            It’s probably also worth pointing out that nothing herein speaks to what the actual facilities are like. People being locked in cages, ‘coz that’s what there is, is a completely separate issue from people not being free to leave the facility and/or its immediate surroundings until their claim has been approved.

          • EchoChaos says:

            Note that all the people who are being held are not “people who showed up at the border and claimed asylum”. Such people are vetted at border crossing stations and allowed in temporarily while their claim is processed if the border guard determines they will plausibly be granted asylum. They have a very high rate of showing up to court and can be released on their own fairly safely.

            The people being held are those who crossed the border illegally, were captured by the Border Patrol or ICE and have made a defensive asylum claim. Making a defensive claim is legal, but such claims are far less likely to succeed (or they would have shown up at a crossing) and therefore the risks of letting them go, given that they have already attempted to evade US law at least once, are much higher.

            The argument can be made that we don’t have enough officers at crossings to check all the asylum claims that are being made, but it’s not exactly like Democrats are willing to give more money for the border.

          • nkurz says:

            @EchoChaos:

            > The people being held are those who crossed the border illegally, were captured by the Border Patrol or ICE and have made a defensive asylum claim.

            I feel like this is an essential point, and wonder if much of the disagreement here is because some people are assuming this is true, and others are assuming it is false. Personally, I have much greater sympathy for the person who illegally crosses a border and voluntarily reports to the authorities to claim legal asylum than someone who crosses illegally and at some later point is involuntarily arrested.

            Are there reliable numbers for how many people fall into each of these categories? Do others here agree that a distinction between these two categories is useful?

          • EchoChaos says:

            @nkurz

            Personally, the distinction between the two is irrelevant to me. The people who show up at a legal border crossing and make an asylum claim haven’t illegally crossed at all and are doing it the right way and I want our law to encourage that.

            Once you’ve taken the step of illegally crossing the border, I would be in favor of permanently banning you from all asylum claims in order to deter that method of trying to get asylum and moving people to legal border crossings, which is safer for them and more likely to result in just outcomes.

        • Conrad Honcho says:

          This is no longer the case.

          Acting Secretary of Homeland Security Kevin McAleenan testified Tuesday that 90 percent of asylum-seekers tracked under a recently instituted program skipped the hearings in which their cases were to be adjudicated.

          Yes, people who were legitimately seeking asylum from political or religious persecution from war zones in the middle east or something were likely to show up for their hearings. Economic migrants from south America, where there is no significant political or religious persecution (except maybe Venezuela?) are abusing the asylum system. Perhaps Units of Caring can be afforded legitimate asylum seekers unable to make their claims because economic migrants are abusing the system?

      • John Schilling says:

        This [we don’t have to detain immigrants in “camps”] is pretty false unless there is massively increased funding to detain them in nicer areas.

        Putting every detained immigrant in the United States in a Motel 6, two to a room, with meal vouchers for McDonalds’ Happy Meals breakfast, lunch, and dinner, would cost less than $0.5E9/year. That’s a whopping 6.5% of ICE’s budget.

        Also, you’d think that “Gosh, I just discovered that the last POTUS has left a bunch of people locked up in literal concentration camps on US soil”, even if not the most central example of such, might qualify as an “emergency”. You know, the kind of thing that allegedly allows a POTUS to shift gigabucks of federal money by fiat, not that this should really matter after two years with a border-focused POTUS having his party control both houses of congress for two years. Yet, crickets chirping, children crying.

        It is true that, to maintain reasonable control of the US border, some finite number of children will need to be “locked in camps” or “ripped from their parents’ arms”, broadly defined. But to hear Trump and some of his more vocal supporters talk, I think even here, this isn’t considered a necessary evil but a virtue of the current system, in that the enhanced suffering of the children will punish and deter their damn dirty illegal-border-crossing parents. So long as that is the case, you’re probably going to want to be extra careful with explanations of how it is technically necessary to sometimes detain children, because for now those arguments are going to be less convincing than they perhaps ought to be, and more likely to tar you as the sort of person who punishes innocent children over politics than you deserve.

        • Conrad Honcho says:

          Yes, catch and release is cheaper than holding people in detention facilities, but then 90% of them don’t show up for the asylum hearings, so we’re back to open borders.

          If you want to make the case for open borders, great, I’ll listen. But if not I don’t know what to tell you.

        • souleater says:

          For the record, I don’t think the children ARE suffering. As far as I know, they are in a safe. climate controlled facility where they under 24/7 monitoring by qualified adults, and are being fed regular meals. If any of that is untrue I advocate for federal law to mandate that that is made true.

          I think where you and I disagree, is I consider many/most of these asylum claims to be economic based and therefore fraudulent. The parents choosing to violate immigration law means the parents need to be held accountable.

          Sadly, with the parents being detained the children need to be either sent home to a guardian, or taken care of by the government. But having dependents is not a “Get out of jail free” card.
          I am all in favor of funding ICE in order to take better care of the children. But can’t agree to look the other way on the parents crime.

          • thisheavenlyconjugation says:

            Yes, all these claims about children suffering rely on stupid right-wing propaganda about some kind of “parent-child bond”. Rational socialists like ourselves know that purported benefits of nuclear families are at best misguided nonsense originating in religious fairy tales. The current behaviour of the ICE is a step in the right direction, but for societally optimal results we should extend it by putting *all* children in the US “in a safe. climate controlled facility where they under 24/7 monitoring by qualified adults, and are being fed regular meals”. Replacing randomly chosen unqualified parents with care workers who have been trained and regulated by the state cannot fail to improve outcomes.