2016-08-30 11:33 am

political question

Should the US and other countries accept political refugees from Heaven and Hell?
2016-05-19 06:40 pm
Entry tags:

Mind Control Anonymous

Fictional, so far as I remember....
2016-05-07 03:38 pm

No, They Won't Get It Right

No, They Won't Get It Right

I asked what mistakes historical fiction writers will make about our time. Someone replied that they won't make mistakes, because there will be too much information available.

Yes, but will they use the information?

"I don't have to look that it up; I know the answer."

There's a fantasy story in which it's snowing for Christmas in every city in the world; including Honolulu. A weather/climate expert says -"It never snows in Hawaii."-

It does snow in Hawaii, though only at altitudes considerably above Honolulu's. This information is readily available; and an expert would be aware of it.

A science fiction novel set in the US, by a Canadian writer, has the American President listing organizations which can help deal with The Big Problem. Among them: "...the Scouts, the Guides...."

The writer was unaware that in the US, the female counterpart of the Boy Scouts is called Girl Scouts rather than Girl Guides.
2016-05-05 04:23 pm

(no subject)

What is the best dating app for werewolves?
2015-10-27 04:00 pm

Suggested sf Anthology

Old Earth: a possible science fiction anthology

Old Mars and Old Venus are anthologies of new stories set in those worlds, as they were seen in old science fiction. Martian cities far older
than any on Earth, extensive Venusian seas, etc. (I suspect some good old tropes have been left out or toned down; for example, racism.)

Old Earth would be an equivalent. Geology and geography wouldn't be as divergent from current sf norms; but much else would be different:

Humans originated on Mars, or in another solar system. (Alternatively, our species evolved from Neanderthals.)

In Manhattan, no major buildings will be constructed or demolished during the next thousand years.

England will be a world power forever. (More common from British than American authors.)

The appallingly efficient Soviet Union will be powerful for centuries to come.

The United States is the only real country in North America.

Hiroshima is afflicted with superhuman mutants.

Tobacco is harmless to humans. And the smoke causes no problems on spaceships or space stations.

Multiple personality and schizophrenia are the exact same thing.

In the 21st Century:

There are plenty of jobs for washroom attendants and elevator operators in the US.

Men are more intelligent and reasonable than women. We are in charge, as we should be. (Or women have taken over and
men are submissive.)

Tin Pan Alley music rules.

The first Black US President was at or near the bottom of the Line of Succession. He got to the White House after everyone ahead
of him died or otherwise became ineligible.

US bohemians look, talk, dress, and act like the Beats.

Flying cars took over from ground cars some time in the second half of the 20th Century.

Of course, assumptions common in today's sf won't become similarly old-fashioned. Will they?
2015-08-16 01:23 pm
Entry tags:

(no subject)

I'm now settled in at the new place. (687 5th St E, St. Paul, MN 55106)

I'm not giving the full story; there were intersecting soap operas, not all as believable as TV soap operas.

Capsule description of one character: the kind of person who cheats at solitaire and comes in third. And an Irish saying: "He's such a liar, you can't even believe the opposite of what he says."

The new place is up a couple flights of stairs, and the last flight is steep. I mostly consider this an advantage, since I can use the exercise. But it does make moving stuff in the wrong kind of interesting.

Thanks to the Green Line light rail, some places in Minneapolis are easier to reach than when I lived in Minneapolis. And various stores along the Green Line in both St. Paul and Minneapolsi are more convenient to reach than stores near where I now live.

****Books Read include: Ann Leckie, Ancillary Sword. If you want something different in space opera, this series is for you. The protagonist/narrator used to be a military spaceship with auxiliary human bodies; she's been reduced to one human body. (Note: In Breq's culture, "her" is used for everyone; no distinction between persons with male genitals and persons without.) There is a civil war within the multi-bodied ruler. Breq is on one side, though her loyalty is dubious. After a while, things get strange.

This is the second in a series. The first, Ancillary Justice, I'll read when the 25 or so people ahead of me on the library waitlist are done with it.

***Books Not Read include: James Patterson, The Cradle Will Rock. Two virgins are pregnant; one with the Christ, the other with the Antichrist. And no human knows which is which.
2015-06-27 01:19 pm

Rushed update

I'm preparing to move on July 1; from the Southeast Como neighborhood in Minneapolis to Dayton's Bluff in St. Paul.

Will need to do some catching up next month.
2015-06-13 12:02 pm

(no subject)

There are people who believe conservative science fiction and fantasy have been unfairly slighted in the World Science Fiction Society awards (aka the Hugos.) As some of you know, this year two groups have tried to remedy the problem they see.

Perhaps there should be a list of older sf which Sad Puppies, Mad Puppies, and those inclined to agree with them might find objectionable.
Here is a start:

Robert A. Heinlein, Revolt in 2100. A strongly Christian US government is overthrown, with the author's obvious approval.
Robert A. Heinlein, The Puppet Masters. The future setting has term marriages.
Robert A. Heinlein, "Delilah and the Space Rigger." Blatant feminism.

H. G. Wells, The Time Machine. In the far future, descendants of the upper classes are exploited by the dictatorship of the proletariat. (Marxists might also find this novel objectionable.)

Harry Turtledove, Guns of the South. A victorious Confederate government deprives many citizens of their property.
2015-06-11 04:20 pm

(no subject)

Saturday May 29, 2015 Thnidu: "Let's take a train to Bermuda"?

Gonna need quite a tunnel for that.

[I was thinking of a bridge.]

Let's Get Away From It All
And thanks for prompting me to look up the lyrics. I've had bits of this floating around inside my cerebrum for, probably, well over half a century.)

***Thnidu: "Wednesday May 6, 2015 NYTimes opinion piece on Catholicism had 666 online comments when I looked at it."

When I lived in Massachusetts, my phone number was, no [organic fertilizer], 508 877-6666. My kosher butcher said, "One of my other customers also has a phone number ending in 6666. I'll bet when you moved in, somebody at the phone company looked at your last name and said 'That looks Jewish. Maybe _they_ won't scream and rant about "6666".'"

For a while I had a real pain-in-the-[rear] caller, a teenage-sounding boy who would call up and ask "Is Satan there?" Eventually I called the phone company, who set up a trace... but then they said they couldn't get the number from it because he was calling from a different area. WTF? The _phone company_ can't trace past their own boundaries? They just gave me the usual advice, "Don't say anything, just hang up."

Well, for a few more weeks I kept taking it, but it bugged me more and more. (Bugs... six legs... 666... sick, sick, sick...) Finally one time this dick called, I'd had enough. Unpremeditated, I dropped to a low, growly, evil voice ( I did lots of voice-acting reading Lord of the Rings to my kids and playing D&D with them) and answered


Then I hung up the phone.

And I never heard from the sonofabitch again.
2015-06-09 03:11 pm

(no subject)

Thursday May 28, 2015 Recommended fantasy story: Yoon Ha Lee, "Two to Leave" http://www.beneath-ceaseless-skies.com/stories/two-to-leave/

***Fred Lerner: Dan,

I've often wondered what would happen if one of the states adopted a parliamentary system. So far as I can see there's nothing in the U.S. Constitution to prevent a state from doing this.

[So far, the most radical experiment is Nebraska's unicameral legislature.]

***Lee Gold: On 5/28/2015 3:58 PM, Daniel S. Goodman wrote:
Monday May 4, 2015 One of the other two tenants left, absentmindedly taking the other's car.

How did he get the key?

[Car owner was too trusting to bolt his door while he slept.]

***Thursday May 7, 2015 National Day of Prayer, proclaimed by the President. Free story idea: What happens if the US ever has an openly agnostic or atheist President? The tradition would probably continue.

If you check out https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Religious_affiliations_of_Presidents_of_the_United_States#The_irreligious you'll find that #27 Taft was Unitarian and -- Before becoming president, Taft was offered the presidency of Yale University, at that time affiliated with the Congregationalist Church; Taft turned the post down, saying, "I do not believe in the divinity of Christ." On the other hand he apparently wasn't an atheist. It might be worth researching this.

***Adult Children Anonymous meeting. This night's talk was on Step Two.

I consider my higher power to be myself as the best I could be.
2015-06-06 01:45 pm

(no subject)

"An election is coming. Universal peace is declared, and the foxes have a sincere interest in prolonging the lives of the poultry." George Eliot; Felix Holt
2015-05-28 06:22 pm

Some catching up

***Monday May 4, 2015 One of the other two tenants left, absentmindedly taking the other's car.

***Tuesday May 5, 2015 The bad tenant was back, not bringing the car.

I think this was when I began to feel I was in a soap opera. Without the sex.

***Wednesday May 6, 2015 NYTimes opinion piece on Catholicism had 666 online comments when I looked at it.

***Freelancers Union event: "Branding Yourself as an Expert."

***Thursday May 7, 2015 National Day of Prayer, proclaimed by the President. Free story idea: What happens if the US ever has an openly agnostic or atheist President? The tradition would probably continue.

***UK elections. Whenever I begin thinking the US would be better off with a parliamentary system, either the UK or Canada will helpfully prove this wrong.

***Linden Hills Adult Children Anonymous meeting.

***Sunday May 10, 2015 "The United States could relearn a thing or two from British politics -- specifically, how to relocate the pragmatism that once prevailed on this side of the pond." Subheading of opinion piece in the Star Tribune (Minneapolis daily paper.) The continuation is headlined "Polarization is less present in British politics." Author? "Lawrence R. Jacobs is director of the Center for the Study of Politics and Governance at the University of Minnesota's Humphrey School of Public Affairs."
2015-05-23 02:04 pm

Harry Turtledove, Joe Steele

Harry Turtledove, Joe Steele. ROC, 2015

Alternate history: Stalin's parents emigrate to the US, and he's born here rather than in the Tsarist Empire. He changes his name to "Steele" rather than the Russian equivalent.

He gets the 1932 Democratic Presidential nomination, after Franklin Roosevelt's unfortunate death. Wins the election, stays President till his death.

After an interval in which it looks like the US will stop being a dictatorship, a worse man takes over: J. Edgar Hoover.

Do I recommend it? If you're a history buff or a political junkie, yes. Otherwise, worth a look to see if you want to continue reading.
2015-05-21 04:03 pm

(no subject)

Googled for fantasy quidditch leagues. There are several.
2015-05-16 01:29 pm

May 2-3 2015

Friday May 1, 2015 Saw an American Indian parade.

***At Steeple People Thrift Store, saw The Mammoth Book of Dickensian Mysteries. Dickens characters as mammoths might be interesting; alas, that's not what this book contained. I read part of one story, "The Death of Little Nell." In this re-imagining, Little Nell was a long way from being an innocent girl; and the death people thought she had died was faked.

Other books of this kind include Pride and Promiscuity, which purports to contain the sex scenes edited out of Jane Austen's fiction. I don't understand the appeal of such reworkings.

***Saturday May 2, 2015 Rivendell Group of the Tolkien Society meeting at Southwest Library. Topic: Ruth Berman's translations of fairy tales from 1722: Louise Cavelier Lesque, "The Prince of the Aquamarines" and "The Invisible Prince."

I'm used to the meeting room being crowded; but this time, only four of us showed up.

The reading of part of the book was followed by discussion of, among other things, translation difficulties in finding the right words.

***Mnstf meeting hosted by Jonathan Adams and Carol Kennedy.

***Sunday May 3, 2015 Minnesota Speculative Fiction Writers. First, a smaller group discussed world/future building; including critiquing one story section.

The main meeting's topic was "Critters." That is, nonhumans; mostly intelligent ones.
2015-04-28 02:58 pm

Condensed writing workshop zine

Excerpted from: They're Moving Father's Sewer to Build a Graveyard. For Link On Line, March 15, 2015. Dan Goodman, dsgood@gmail.com or dsgood@iphouse.com. 612-298-2354

Books read include: Elizabeth Benedict, The Joy of Writing Sex: A guide for fiction writers. Henry Holt, 2002. The good parts: there's advice which seems useful; and a quote from Smilla's Sense of Snow contains an act I had never heard of before.

However, the intended readership is writers of literary fiction. And reading this reminded me of why I don't care for most literary fiction. Too much technique, too little life.

Ben Aaronovitch, Foxglove Summer. Ballantine, 2014. Part of the Rivers of London series. (Each river has its god -- except the Thames, which has two who don't get along well.) Peter Grant is half the staff of Scotland Yard's division devoted to fighting magical crimes. In this book, he's sent to a small town to help investigate the disappearance of two young girls.

There are twists I didn't expect. And I've been reading mysteries and fantasies long enough that I often spot surprises long before authors reveal them.

Aaronovitch is up on police procedures, and gets assistance from working cops. (I don't think he consults working magicians.) I recommend this book, and the entire series.

Note: This is the second book with carnivorous unicorns I've read recently. (The other is Charles Stross's Equoid.) Anyone who looked forward to being first with the idea will need to find another one.

A few months ago, four men were arrested for cheating at poker at Canterbury Racetrack. (One played, one peeked at other players' cards, the other two blocked surveillance cameras.) Their earnings were given as "above $200."

Say they grossed $60 each. Three of them traveled to Minnesota from Florida; add in other expenses, and they can't have netted much. Even if they'd gotten away with it, doesn't seem worth it to me.

If I recall correctly, three were in their 70s and one close to it. They had previous records. If they were smart, they would've gone into another line of work.

[Names of workshop members commented to are replaced by pseudonyms]

Lord Bearer: SF editor John Campbell once speculated that nitroglycerin had been invented before gunpowder -- several times, by alchemists who didn't live to document their results. As I recall, Campbell took for granted that gunpowder was a European invention; but it seems possible to me that it was invented before Muslims brought gunpowder to Europe.

Latin Herder: Actually, some genre stories begin slowly. For example, a group of men are playing cards; and after a while one begins telling the story. This used to be much more common, as did men sitting around in a bar.

A good recent fantasy story which starts off slowly: Neil Gaiman, "To Weep Like Alexander."// I'm used to seeing song lyrics quoted like this:

There was an old woman in our town,
In our town did dwell.
She loved her husband dearly,
But another man twice as well.

She went to the doctor
To see what she could find,
To see what he could give her
To make her old man blind.


First time I seen Darling Corey,
She was standing in the door.
.45 pistol in her hand,
And a dead man on the floor.

Each line of the song on its own line.

//Much of my thinking is in multi-sensory diagrams; usually in three dimensions, sometimes four, occasionally five. Which is rather difficult to get down on paper. //An immortal woman might consider anyone with an age less than a few thousand years young. Even if she's relatively young herself. //I remember things much better if I write them down; and often I don't need to look at them again. My ticker tape synesthesia is less useful, but will do in a pinch. (Ticker tape: Seeing spoken words printed out; in my case, also words I think out. Thankfully, I don't notice it unless I "look." Such things can be distracting. )

People have different kinds of memory, with more differences than can easily be imagined.

Former Medic: I found out I had diabetes by mentioning to my doctor there was an itch between two toes which wasn't going away. (Which is better than the first indication being a coma, as happened to someone I know and to someone I knew when he was alive.) Thought about a relative who had diabetes and wasn't controlling it; I then lost enough weight to be merely prediabetic.
2015-04-09 06:07 pm

(no subject)

"Anarchy isn't the best form of government, but it's better than no government at all."
2015-03-31 02:03 pm
Entry tags:

(no subject)

stardreamer 2015-03-14: "Are you seriously suggesting that increased awareness of consent issues is a temporary moral panic, and that (say) 30 years from now, date rape and acquaintance rape will be back to 'business as usual'? Would you have said the same thing 30 years ago about child sexual abuse?"

Thirty years ago, child sexual abuse was taken much less seriously than it is now. My guess: thirty years from now, it'll be somewhere in between being routinely covered up, and it being a very bad idea to post a picture of your child taking a bath.

Consent issues: I don't think it will go all the way back to the way it used to be. (And I very much hope not.)

Just as the back and forth movement of attitudes on racial discrimination hasn't included a return to legal slavery. And has included the possibility of a Black being elected President. (A few decades ago, fictional Black Presidents didn't reach the White House by election; they were in the line of succession.)

***Lee Gold: " 'If you graduated from high school thirty years ago, don't take for granted that nothing has changed. Check.'

"Dan, let's start by discussing whom and what data sources you check with. Asking the nearest teenaged relative is probably not good enough."

I would begin by reading magazines for teens. They're an imperfect mirror; but they do show startling differences.

"'Places you haven't been to in a while have undergone change. In 1965, some Paris restaurants had hectographed menus in their windows; this is probably no longer the case.'

"I didn't see this in 1971. But maybe I was just looking at the wrong Paris restaurants." Or maybe copy machines had become more familiar in the meantime.

"'When "Jennifer" became the most popular girl-baby name in the US,


" ' it was easy to predict that in a bit less than twenty years there would be a lot of college women named Jennifer.

"Or perhaps domr og yhrm eoulf [sic] have changed their names to Jenny and Jen."

One member of Twin Cities sf fandom is called Seven. She was the seventh Jennifer in her Star Trek club.

"'By the late 1980s, it should have been obvious that the Soviet Union was in no shape to successfully invade the US.

"As opposed to bombing it to a glowing nuclear wasteheap." Maybe. The Soviet Union was sufficiently badly organized that such orders might not have been carried out.

"'Take account of moral panic cycles.'

"I'd have thought that network TV shows fading in viewership and cable and web shows gaining and help start niche panic cycles gaining. So far I haven't heard of a TV / web medical or legal show favored by anti-vaxxers but I expect to do so eventually. (I am fervently pro-vaccination. That's not the point here.)"

Most niche Viewing With Alarm doesn't become mainstream (or large minority) moral panics most of the time.
2015-03-16 04:04 pm
Entry tags:


In which Planet of the Apes movie do gorillas celebrate National Human Suit Day?

Which Dr Who episode has aliens called Kardashians?

Which Peanuts character is highly interested in the Wester Bunny?

What conspiracy novel "reveals" that Popes never die, and former Popes are kept in the secret Vatican basements?
2015-03-14 01:04 pm
Entry tags:

writing future-set fiction

Notes On Writing Future-Setting Fiction

-"Fiction always reflects the time in which it's written, not the time in which it's set. So what's the problem?"-

The same is true of Shakespearean criticism. But that's not what it's supposed to be about; it's supposed to be about Shakespeare in his own time and place. And it's true of historical nonfiction, academic or popular.

And: some people, including me, read fiction set in the future hoping to find something new. To us, "just like today" is no more satisfying than "They realize neither of them is interested in sex and both prefer to live alone" would be to most romance readers.

Not to mention that things might change before a story is published. For several months after the Soviet Union fell, "Soviets invade America" novels were still turning up in bookstores. There were probably others in the pipeline or being written which no one will get to read.

It's not possible to predict the future with total accuracy. But there are ways to cut down on bloopers.

1) If you graduated from high school thirty years ago, don't take for granted that nothing has changed. Check.

If you graduated last year, it still might be a good idea to check.

Yes, teenagers will still act like teenagers. But they won't wear the same clothing, listen to the same music, use the same slang. And for how long has it been possible for a lesbian couple to be elected Homecoming King and Queen? (See the March 2012 issue of Seventeen.)

Places you haven't been to in a while have undergone change. In 1965, some Paris restaurants had hectographed menus in their windows; this is probably no longer the case. (This wasn't mentioned in any guidebook I read. If you visit any place, and don't notice anything which isn't in guidebooks, I recommend an immediate medical checkup.)

2) Look at what's already happened which will have highly-predictable consequences.

When "Jennifer" became the most popular girl-baby name in the US, it was easy to predict that in a bit less than twenty years there would be a lot of college women named Jennifer.

It should have been obvious that the Baby Boom meant larger college classes down the road. I think most college administrators realized this around 1964, but it might have been later.

3) Certain predictions keep being made, and keep being wrong. "In a few years, everyone will have at least one flying car." "Once this law is passed, the problem will be solved forever." (If you want to write alternate history in which ground cars became obsolete in 1960, and Prohibition resulted in all Americans giving up alcohol, that's another matter.)

4) Check to make sure you know what's really happening now that will affect the future. By the late 1980s, it should have been obvious that the Soviet Union was in no shape to successfully invade the US.

5) Take account of moral panic cycles. Right now, nonconsenting sex is A Big Problem: in US colleges, in science fiction fandom, in religious organizations. Drunken driving is also seen as more of a problem than used to be the case. Such jokes as "If you drink, don't park. Accidents cause people" are no longer as acceptable as they once were.

Tobacco use has become much more restrictive. And there are no longer ads like "Reach for a Lucky instead of a sweet."

Conversely, marijuana has become acceptable enough to be legal in several US states; and various other countries (Portugal, for example) have decriminalized it.

And there are reciprocal cycles. In certain times, even clueless hard drug users realize that heroin is Bad News. Many turn to nice, safe cocaine. Later, such people realize that cocaine is Bad News and turn to nice, safe heroin. (Any resemblance to political cycles is left to your imagination.)

6) Eating habits will change. Once, most Americans had never tasted pizza. Pasties weren't always a Finnish-American dish in the Upper Midwest.