Linkblogging for 24/04/15

Sorry for the lack of posts the last couple of days; my insomnia has been particularly bad, and I had to do two hustings this week, on Wednesday and yesterday, as part of the election campaign. I don’t like public speaking, it’s not my political strength, and it used all my brain power for the week.
I hope to get an early night tonight and then write up a backlog of posts this weekend, so those of you who are missing my Cal Dreaming, Cerebus, or Batposts, or wondering what happened to the Heinlein and Pratchett reading guides (Sid & Doris Bonkers), will be pleased. I also want, probably tomorrow, to post something about how the Lib Dems deal with coalition-forming, because everything I’ve seen from supposed professional journalists has been at best a misunderstanding and at worst outright lying. Between life stuff and the Rabid Puppy fiasco, I’m about a month behind where I wanted to be with blog posts — I still need to review The King In Yellow, The Locksley Exploit, and Liberating Earth on here as well.
But right now, you get links, as I’m too sick with exhaustion to write:


An Amnesty petition to stop the drownings in the Mediterranean
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Jonn Elledge on what he wants politicians to say
. Warning to some: this is on a New Statesman-affiliated site, but it’s not actually on the New Transphobe itself for those boycotting.
An oral history of the making of Airplane!
On autism, the Big Bang Theory, context, labels, and responsibility
Andrew Rilstone has released a short ebook about Winnie The Pooh for his Patreon subscribers. He’s also reviewed the Superman vs Batman trailer.
I’m sure you’ve already seen a link to Phil Sandifer’s 13000 word piece on the Rabid Puppies, but if not, here it is.
And speaking of the Rabid Puppies, here’s Charles Stross on hippo arse leeches

Flash Fiction: The Fair Folk

[Chuck Wendig’s latest flash fiction challenge is to take an opening sentence from his previous challenge and write a story, under 2000 words, based on it. I chose one submitted by Catkins. Like all these flash fictions, I’m writing this without knowing where it’s going, and I’m trying to complete it in half an hour…]

Let’s see, yes, I think this is where it starts.
It starts, as these things so often do, with a promise. A promise I made to a girl, a long time ago.
No, I don’t remember her name. As I say, it was a *very* long time ago.
But she was pretty, as all the girls were back then, or at least as they were in my memory, and she was willing, and she was there.
Blonde, I think. “Golden tresses”. Well, not golden as such, more straw coloured, probably. But the memory cheats.
So there was a promise, and a pleasant spring day in the field, and a few months later a bump.
I’m sure you know where the story goes from there. I take her down to the river, for to wash her pretty hair, and in that lonely river did I drown that maiden fair.
With a too-ra-lally-ay on a bright and shiny day. You know how it goes.
But promises, you see… promises had meanings to her people.
No, I didn’t know she was an elf. She wasn’t even full-blood, just a bit elvish on her grandmother’s side. If I’d known, I wouldn’t have touched her. I wasn’t that stupid, not even then.
I found out that night, in my dreams.
She came to me, that night, and said “My darling Johnny, you promised that together we would be”. I’d kind of expected a dream like that, to tell you the truth. I’m not a… sorry, let me rephrase… I didn’t normally feel very guilty about anything much, but I’d never killed anyone before and… well, you expect *something*, don’t you? I mean, it’s murder we were talking about.
They found the body the next day. I hadn’t gone to any great pains to hide it, after all. There was no real need — there was a gypsy camp not two hundred yards from where I killed her, and they[‘d hanged one of the gypsies for it practically before the body was cold.
I went to the funeral, of course. All the village did. What a tragedy, et cetera.
And again, that night, I had the dream. “My darling Johnny, you promised that together we would be”.
My hair started growing lighter the next day. Not going white with shock, though. Just… a little lighter. But then it *was* the summer, and I was spending a lot of time out in the sun, because there are always more willing girls and more promises. Your hair does get lighter in the sun.
It was when my ears began to grow that I started to worry.
Only slightly, mark you. But there was a noticeable point to them. Much like the one on the girl’s ears, actually.
A few days later… well, my trips to the fields suddenly stopped. There would have been questions. Serious questions.
I started asking some questions myself, in those dreams. But all she would answer was “My darling Johnny, you promised that together we would be”. Nothing else would she say.
Within a week, I was hiding indoors all the time. I looked like her. I sounded like her. I spoke to no-one and saw no-one, except for her, in the dreams. I begged and pleaded for an explanation, and got none.
None, that is, until that night.
That night I dreamed that I was walking down to her grave. I knelt on it, and I said “I made of you a body, so a body you may have”. I dreamed that I lay down, and that I sank into the ground, as I felt something rising.
And yes, I think that’s an end, of sorts.
She comes to visit the grave, you know. Every day. Elves, even part-elves, have very long lives, and she’s been doing it for so long that I’ve lost count completely. Could be a hundred years, could be a thousand. What does it matter?
I think… I hope… that when she finally does die, I’ll be allowed to pass away as well. But how long that will be… well, who can tell, with elves?
And every day she calls me by the name I told her, the name by which I made the promise, the name as false as I was.
“My darling Johnny, you promised that together we would be”.

Heinlein On The Puppies

Since he’s the writer they seem to cite most often (for example Correia’s “even Starship Troopers wouldn’t win if it came out today”), this quote from him about critics he dislikes seems apropos:

He will permit any speculation at all — as long as it is about gadgets only and doesn’t touch people.He doesn’t care what mayhem you commit on physics, astronomy, or chemistry with your gadgets… but the people must be the same plain old wonderful jerks that live in his Home Town. Give him a good ole adventure story any time, with lots of Gee-Whiz in it and space ships blasting off and maybe the Good Guys (in white space ships) chasing the Bad Guys (in black space ships) but, brother, don’t you say anything about the Methodist Church, or the Flag, or incest, or homosexuality, or teleology, or theology, or the sacredness of marriage, or anything philosophical! Because you are just an entertainer, see? That sort of Heavy Thinking is reserved for C. P. Snow or Graham Greene. You are a pulp writer, Bud, and you will always be a pulp writer even though your trivia is now bound in boards and sells for just as much as Grace Metalious’ stories… and you are not permitted to have Heavy Thoughts. Space Ships and Heavy Thinking do not mix — so shut up and sit down!

The rule is: Science Fiction by its nature must be trivial.
This of course rules out… a large fraction of my work — and all my future work, I think.

(Via C.A. Bridges in the comments on Scalzi’s latest post)

Proper post tonight.

Why Vote: It Encourages Them

I’m seeing a lot of people at the moment saying that they’re not planning on voting this year, because their vote will make little difference. And I can certainly see the point they’re making.

We have a crappy electoral system, one which leads inevitably to governments either solely formed by, or completely dominated by, two huge parties whose views are almost identical to each other and who are pursuing an agenda that is frankly vile.

In those circumstances, it’s easier to not bother to vote, and to channel one’s political energies into non-Parliamentary campaigning.

And, indeed, non-Parliamentary campaigning is vital, and *is* probably more important than the electoral system in actually getting things changed, given the current sorry state of Parliamentary politics. And this is why I give time or money to Amnesty, the Open Rights Group, the Howard League for Penal Reform, and other such campaigning organisations. Those groups are all pushing at the Overton Window, and that can only be a good thing.

But at the same time, if you want to change something about the way the world works, yes, you should push the Overton window in your direction as much as possible, but at the same time, once your issue becomes within the realms of political possibility, there will be a party standing in your area who will find it easier to modify their positions towards the ones you want. If your big issue is, for example, lowering the tax rate on rich people to 20%, the Tories would be more likely to go for that than the other parties. If you want to ban cars because they’re too polluting, the Greens will be most likely to go for it. Re-nationalise the energy providers? Labour. Land Value Tax? Lib Dems. Deport all immigrants? UKIP. And so on.

So in your constituency, there is undoubtedly a party standing which, while you don’t agree with them, will be more likely to take on the positions you want as soon as it becomes political expedient than any of the other parties will. So while voting will not make much of a difference, *as part of a broader range of activities* ranging from signing petitions to giving money to campaigning groups to joining parties and influencing them from the inside it may make a difference.

Now, I’m very fortunate in that where I live I don’t have to compromise my vote. Our local Lib Dem parliamentary candidate, Dave Page, is someone with whom I agree on about 90% of the issues we’ve discussed, who’s as active and effective a campaigner as you can imagine, and who I trust enough that he has a spare key to my house. I’m not quite as sure about this Andrew Hickey bloke the Lib Dems are standing for council in my ward, mind, but even if he’s useless he can’t actually be *worse* than the current lot…

So I don’t have to compromise at all — I can go into the polling station and know that I’ll be voting for people who will do the right thing as I see it — and so it’s easy for me to go on about how everyone should vote. I won’t be standing in judgment over anyone who doesn’t — as I’ve said above, I can understand people’s reasons. But I do think that given the opportunity to give politics a tiny nudge in the right direction, whichever direction you think that is (and I hope it’s a liberal and democratic one), you might as well take it.

Another Opinion I’m Sick Of

And one I’ve seen again today: “the wife of $male rock star is a controlling harpy bitch and is wrecking his music. She just doesn’t understand him like I do! *sniff*”

Yoko Ono is obviously the most prominent example of this, but it happens *all the time*. Just off the top of my head:

Brian Wilson’s wife Melinda gets attacked on a regular basis by people saying she controls him and is using him — this despite the fact that Wilson has been obviously happier, more content, more mentally well, and more productive in the last twenty years than at any time in the thirty before that. Most of the attackers don’t seem to know anything about her other than that she may have had plastic surgery, she has a lot of pet dogs, and all the Wilsons’ adopted children have names starting with D. This seems to be enough to make her history’s greatest monster.

Rumours went round in the Monkees fandom before Davy Jones died that his wife was evil and controlling. In particular, she was called an egomaniac for “insisting” on touring with the band and dancing with them. She was definitely going to spoil the show.
In fact she was a professional dancer before she met Davy, and a good one. She appeared on stage for two songs — Can You Dig It, and Daddy’s Song — and in both of them replicated dances that were performed to those songs in the film in which they appeared. She added a lot to the show, which was the most critically acclaimed tour the band had ever done to that point.

Frank Zappa’s widow, Gail, gets this treatment a lot both from his fans and his ex-bandmates. The Zappa tribute band The Muffin Men released their first original track a couple of years ago — it was called Cold Winter Gale. Ho ho ho.

And today, Mike Love has just announced that his bass player Randell Kirsch will be replaced by Brian Eichenberger, who’s played with Brian Wilson and the Four Freshment. Immediately all over Beach Boys fandom come posts saying that the line-up change in Mike’s band is some sinister move on the part of Jacqueline Love, who apparently has some sort of evil control over the touring band and toys with them at her whim, hiring and firing with no regard for anything other than her evil evilness.
If so, given that every single line-up change in the band up to this point since Mike & Bruce first started touring as The Beach Boys in 1998 has been a positive one that’s made the band sound better, I can only say hooray for Jacqueline Love’s caprice. Over the last eighteen years the touring band have gone from being a sloppy, out-of-tune, corner-cutting mess to being a fantastic live act with the best drummer and the best vocal harmonies that you could imagine.

[EDIT — just to clarify, I think Randell’s a great singer, a very good bass player, and in the brief interactions I’ve had with him a very nice person. I don’t think him leaving Mike’s band would be a good thing for the band, and I hope it was his decision rather than him being fired. I’m talking here about a pattern, not that individual instance.]

I’m sure you can all think of your own examples — Courtney Love, both Paul McCartney’s first two wives, and on and on. This is the absolute normal, standard story told about any woman who dares to want to be involved, however peripherally, with her husband’s actual life if he’s a musician. It’s vile and it needs to stop.

Opinions I Am Sick Of: A Short List

“I don’t like $votingsystem, because it makes $party more likely to win.”
Every voting system has plus and minus points, but they should be evaluated on how democratic they are, not on which party, if any, they favour. If you’re going to do the latter, you might as well just advocate a dictatorship, since that’s what you really want.

“The left-wing ex-SDP part of the Lib Dems should split away from the right-wing ex-Liberal Party part”
Anyone who says this doesn’t have a clue what they’re talking about, in many, many, different ways.

“There are no security problems with electronic voting. I know this because I have thought for a whole ten seconds about it”

“If you think Brian Wilson’s new album has autotune on it, it’s because you have a secret agenda to do down Brian and you’re working for Mike Love”

“I don’t like AV because I don’t like party list systems”

Most of these can basically be summed up as “I’m going to loudly and confidently express an opinion despite having never investigated the facts and having no interest in doing so.”