Quotulatiousness

April 24, 2012

An excerpt from John Scalzi’s latest novel, Redshirts

Filed under: Books, Humour, Media — Tags: — Nicholas @ 08:15

John Scalzi felt some sympathy for the poor lads and lasses who wear the Redshirt … the ones who only show up for the first few minutes of the show and die gruesomely, leaving the heroes to carry on. His latest novel is a bit of payback for all the members of the “away teams” who never came back.


Click the image to see the first five chapters at the Tor.com website

November 27, 2011

Scalzi tweets the Lord of the Rings movies

Filed under: Humour, Media — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 11:28

Stream of consciousness tweets as John Scalzi has an at-home movie marathon:

“The Mimes of Moria” is the name of my next band.

Wife is at a rock concert tonight. I’m watching cable TV at home. Thus are illustrated the differences between us.

OSHA clearly has no jurisdiction in Moria.

[. . .]

The Two Towers now I on. I hold the minority view that it is the best film of the trilogy.

That said, I’d’ve trimmed back the ent scenes pretty severely.

I SWEAR I did not realize I was making a tree pun in that last tweet.

I am suddenly aware of just how little difference there is between Orlando Bloom’s Legolas and certain sparkly vampires one could name.

Orcs vs. Stormtroopers. GO. On second thought, never mind. Neither side aims well enough for it to be interesting.

[. . .]

Fun fact: Shadowfax, the horse Gandalf rides, had a younger, hipper sibling named “Darktweet.”

I wonder what dentists think when they look at Orcs. I suspect “that’s a sailboat right there.”

They could have just distracted the Wargs by throwing a bunch of red bouncy balls and yelling “fetch.”

The orcs would be awesome in a Road Warrior movie. The orcs probably WERE in a Road Warrior movie.

November 10, 2011

John Scalzi on the Penn State child rape cover-up

In four points, John Scalzi walks us through what should have happened at Penn State when the first incident was discovered:

1. When, as an adult, you come come across another adult raping a small child, you should a) do everything in your power to rescue that child from the rapist, b) call the police the moment it is practicable.

2. If your adult son calls you to tell you that he just saw another adult raping a small child, but then left that small child with the rapist, and then asks you what he should do, you should a) tell him to get off the phone with you and call the police immediately, b) call the police yourself and make a report, c) at the appropriate time in the future ask your adult son why the fuck he did not try to save that kid.

3. If your underling comes to you to report that he saw another man, also your underling, raping a small child, but then left that small child with the rapist, you should a) call the police immediately, b) alert your own superiors, c) immediately suspend the alleged rapist underling from his job responsibilities pending a full investigation, d) at the appropriate time in the future ask that first underling why the fuck he did not try to save that kid.

4. When, as the officials of an organization, you are approached by an underling who tells you that one of his people saw another of his people raping a small child at the organization, in organization property, you should a) call the police immediately, b) immediately suspend the alleged rapist from his job responsibilities if the immediate supervisor has not already done so, c) when called to a grand jury to testify on the matter, avoid perjuring yourself. At no time should you decide that the best way to handle the situation is to simply tell the alleged rapist not to bring small children onto organization property anymore.

For “organization”, feel free to substitute “Catholic church” for “Penn State University” as required.

April 1, 2011

Tor Books announces John Scalzi’s next book series

Filed under: Books, Humour, Media — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 11:33

For those of you not interested in fantasy, how can you possibly resist this:

Tor Books is proud to announce the launch of John Scalzi’s new fantasy trilogy The Shadow War of the Night Dragons, which kicks off with book one: The Dead City.

Night had come to the city of Skalandarharia, the sort of night with such a quality of black to it that it was as if black coal had been wrapped in blackest velvet, bathed in the purple-black ink of the demon squid Drindel and flung down a black well that descended toward the deepest, blackest crevasses of Drindelthengen, the netherworld ruled by Drindel, in which the sinful were punished, the black of which was so legendarily black that when the dreaded Drindelthengenflagen, the ravenous blind black badger trolls of Drindelthengen, would feast upon the uselessly dilated eyes of damned, the abandoned would cry out in joy as the Drindelthengenflagenmorden, the feared Black Spoons of the Drindelthengenflagen, pressed against their optic nerves, giving them one last sensation of light before the most absolute blackness fell upon them, made yet even blacker by the injury sustained from a falling lump of ink-bathed, velvet-wrapped coal.

With the night came a storm, the likes of which the eldest among the Skalandarharians would proclaim they had seen only once before, although none of them could agree which on which one time that was; some said it was like the fabled Scouring of Skalandarharia, in which the needle-sharp ice-rain flayed the skin from the unjust of the city, provided they were outside at the time, while sparing the just who had stayed indoors; others said it was very similar to the unforgettable Pounding of Skalandarharia, in which hailstones the size of melons destroyed the city’s melon harvest; still others compared it to the oft-commented-upon Moistening of Skalandarharia, in which the persistent humidity made everyone unbearably sticky for several weeks; at which point they were informed that this storm was really nothing like that at all, to which they replied perhaps not, but you had to admit that was a pretty damn miserable time.

Which is to say: It was a dark and stormy night.

January 23, 2011

John Scalzi on Facebook

Filed under: Technology — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 13:18

John Scalzi has been online for a long time. He even “handrolled his own html code and then uploaded it using UNIX commands because he was excited to have his own Web site, and back in 1993 that’s how you did it.” He’s not excited about Facebook. Not at all:

A friend of mine noted recently that I seemed a little antagonistic about Facebook recently — mostly on my Facebook account, which is some irony for you — and wanted to know what I had against it. The answer is simple enough: Facebook is what happens to the Web when you hit it with the stupid stick. It’s a dumbed-down version of the functionality the Web already had, just not all in one place at one time.

Facebook has made substandard versions of everything on the Web, bundled it together and somehow found itself being lauded for it, as if AOL, Friendster and MySpace had never managed the same slightly embarrassing trick. Facebook had the advantage of not being saddled with AOL’s last-gen baggage, Friendster’s too-early-for-its-moment-ness, or MySpace’s aggressive ugliness, and it had the largely accidental advantage of being upmarket first — it was originally limited to college students and gaining some cachet therein — before it let in the rabble. But the idea that it’s doing something better, new or innovative is largely PR and faffery. Zuckerberg is in fact not a genius; he’s an ambitious nerd who was in the right place at the right time, and was apparently willing to be a ruthless dick when he had to be. Now he has billions because of it. Good for him. It doesn’t make me like his monstrosity any better.

[. . .]

I look at Facebook and what I mostly see are a bunch of seemingly arbitrary and annoying functionality choices. A mail system that doesn’t have a Bcc function doesn’t belong in the 21st Century. Facebook shouldn’t be telling me how many “friends” I should have, especially when there’s clearly no technological impetus for it. Its grasping attempts to get its hooks into every single thing I do feels like being groped by an overly obnoxious salesman. Its general ethos that I need to get over the concept of privacy makes me want to shove a camera lens up Zuckerberg’s left nostril 24 hours a day and ask him if he’d like for his company to rethink that position. Basically there’s very little Facebook does, either as a technological platform or as a company, that doesn’t remind me that “banal mediocrity” is apparently the highest accolade one can aspire to at that particular organization.

I have a Facebook account, but only really check it every few days. Twitter, on the other hand I’ve found to be an excellent tool for a blogger: lots and lots of interesting stuff has come to my attention first through a Twitter update from journalists, bloggers, celebrities, and just ordinary folks. And it doesn’t try to worm its way into everything I do.

Some folks felt John was being too harsh on Facebook users, rather than the site itself, so he posted an update later that day:

* In comments here and elsewhere there was interpretation of me saying that Facebook wasn’t for someone like me, but it was for normal people as a) a way to signal that I am awesome and smart and also awesome, and b) normal people are stupid and suck, and that’s why they use Facebook. Yeah, no. It’s not for me because the functionality doesn’t map well for what I want to do or have for my online experience, and “normal” in this case doesn’t mean “stupid people who suck,” it means “people who don’t want to make the time/energy commitment to run their own site.”

It’s always a problem with written work . . . some people will misunderstand or misinterpret what you’re saying — deliberately or otherwise — and it’s difficult to make something so clear that it can’t be twisted. Did I say difficult? I should have said impossible.

August 29, 2016

Debunking “the 1950s as some sort of golden age of progressivism”

Filed under: History, USA — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 02:00

James O’Brien selects a few imaginative historical myths for debunking:

Here are a few facts about U.S. life 60 years ago, in 1956:

  • The top tax rate was largely irrelevant. The average household income in 1956 was about $4,800. Only 8 percent of families earned more than $10,000 per year. The 91 percent top tax rate (and that really was the top tax rate – a holdover from World War II) kicked in at $400,000 for married couples, or the equivalent of about $3.2 million today). While few individuals made that much money in 1956, people who did earn large sums of money could deduct everything from interest on auto loans to sales taxes, and could – and did – structure things so that their income was funneled through tax shelters at much lower rates.
  • There was a lot less money overall. Adjusted for inflation, that $4,800 average household income would be about $42,000 today. That is roughly 20 percent less than current average household income of about $53,000. Even in 1956, when a Harvard education cost $1000 per year, $400 per month hardly afforded a riotous existence for a family of four. One of the most striking things about 1956 was how little people at the top of their professions earned. Yogi Berra – the highest paid player in Major League Baseball that year – received $58,000. That would be a little over $500,000 today, essentially minimum wage by MLB standards.
  • Tax revenues as a percentage of GDP were about the same as they are today. Since 1945, tax revenues as a percentage of GDP have fluctuated within a fairly narrow range of 15 to 20 percent. The state of the economy, not tax rates, has determined how much the government takes in. Despite the high marginal rates of the 1950s, the tax intake as a percentage of GDP was just 16.5 percent in 1956. It was 18 percent in 2015, so we are actually taking in more, rather than less money, although we are spending it in many new and different areas.
  • Government spent less on everything but defense. The U.S. Federal budget for 1956 might best be described as “Spartan”, not in the sense of being frugal (although it was that) but in the sense of being primarily devoted to preparations for war. In the Cold War climate, defense spending soaked up 60 percent ($47 billion) of the total $76 billion Federal budget – about three times the current percentage — and spending on “social programs” was essentially nonexistent. There was no Department of Education, and total Federal spending on education was just $1.5 billion. Healthcare expenditures were just $1.0 billion; there was no Medicare, (which now represents 15 percent of the total Federal budget), no Medicaid, and certainly no Obamacare. The Interstate Highway Program – so beloved by liberals – was conceived as a defense spending measure and was designed to be self-funding through diesel and gasoline taxes.
  • Opportunities were anything but equal. Racial discrimination was rampant and gender bias was everywhere. Many fields were essentially closed to women and to people of color, while quota systems deterred talented Jewish students from pursuing careers in fields such as engineering and law. We can argue all we want about white privilege in 2016 but in 1956 it was endemic, and bred not just economic but social and cultural inequality.

When we look at the United States in 1956 we see a country with high (but largely irrelevant) marginal tax rates, no social programs to speak of, and a massive defense budget. With Europe still recovering from World War II, the economy is strong, and companies are willing to spend and hire. The country’s focus, however, is not on the welfare of its people, but on its survival in a grim ideological and geopolitical struggle with a ruthless and determined opponent. Those who portray the 1950s as some sort of golden age of progressivism are writing historical fiction, not history.

The 1950s for the United States (and for Canada) were, to borrow a notion from John Scalzi, run in “easy mode” — in game terms, the lowest difficulty setting. There was no peer-level competition in manufacturing or even in services and this provided profit levels that allowed both corporations and workers to enjoy unrealistic long-term conditions that finally came to an end in the gas shocks of the 1970s, after the devastated economies of the defeated Axis powers finally were able to compete again. Twenty-five years of minimal competition left the major corporations totally unable to cope with even minimal competitive pressures from overseas … but willing to use whatever political levers were available to try to quash those foreign upstarts.

But as the courtiers of King Canute were finally obliged to accept, even the King can’t order the tide to recede when it’s convenient.

June 10, 2015

QotD: The Rabbits and the Evil League of Evil

Filed under: Books, Liberty, Media, Politics, Quotations, USA — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 01:00

On the one hand, you have a faction that is broadly left-wing in its politics and believes it has a mission to purge SF of authors who are reactionary, racist, sexist et weary cetera. This faction now includes the editors at every major SF publishing imprint except Baen and all of the magazines except Analog and controls the Science Fiction Writers of America (as demonstrated by their recent political purging of Theodore Beale, aka Vox Day). This group is generally frightened of and hostile to indie publishing. Notable figures include Patrick & Theresa Nielsen Hayden and John Scalzi. I’ll call this faction the Rabbits, after Scalzi’s “Gamma Rabbit” T-shirt and Vox Day’s extended metaphor about rabbits and rabbit warrens.

On the other hand, you have a faction that is broadly conservative or libertarian in its politics. Its members deny, mostly truthfully, being the bad things the Rabbits accuse them of. It counteraccuses the Rabbits of being Gramscian-damaged cod-Marxists who are throwing away SF’s future by churning out politically-correct message fiction that, judging by Amazon rankings and other sales measures, fans don’t actually want to read. This group tends to either fort up around Baen Books or be gung-ho for indie- and self-publishing. Notable figures include Larry Correia, Sarah Hoyt, Tom Kratman, John C. Wright, and Vox Day. I’ll call this group the Evil League of Evil, because Correia suggested it and other leading figures have adopted the label with snarky glee.

A few other contrasts between the Rabbits and the Evil League are noticeable. One is that the Evil League’s broadsides are often very funny and it seems almost incapable of taking either itself or the Rabbits’ accusations seriously – I mean, Correia actually tags himself the “International Lord of Hate” in deliberate parody of what the Rabbits say about him. On the other hand, the Rabbits seem almost incapable of not taking themselves far too seriously. There’s a whiny, intense, adolescent, over-fixated quality about their propaganda that almost begs for mockery. Exhibit A is Alex Dally McFarlane’s call for an end to the default of binary gender in SF.

There’s another contrast that gets near what I think is the pre-political cause of this war. The Rabbits have the best stylists, while the Evil League has the best storytellers. Pick up a Rabbit property like Rich Horton’s The Year’s Best Science Fiction and Fantasy 2014 and you’ll read large numbers of exquisitely crafted little numbers about nothing much. The likes of Correia, on the other hand, churn out primitive prose, simplistic plotting, at best serviceable characterization – and vastly more ability to engage the average reader. (I would bet money, based on Amazon rankings, that Correia outsells every author in that collection combined.)

Eric S. Raymond, “SF and the damaging effects of literary status envy”, Armed and Dangerous, 2014-07-30.

August 5, 2014

ESR on “requesting orders from the International Lord of Hate as to which minority group we are to crush beneath our racist, fascist, cismale, heteronormative jackboots this week”

Filed under: Books, Liberty, Media, Politics — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 15:10

ESR discusses the ongoing civil war in the SF community that most non-fans — and even many actual fans — may not be consciously aware of:

On the one hand, you have a faction that is broadly left-wing in its politics and believes it has a mission to purge SF of authors who are reactionary, racist, sexist et weary cetera. This faction now includes the editors at every major SF publishing imprint except Baen and all of the magazines except Analog and controls the Science Fiction Writers of America (as demonstrated by their recent political purging of Theodore Beale, aka Vox Day). This group is generally frightened of and hostile to indie publishing. Notable figures include Patrick & Theresa Nielsen Hayden and John Scalzi. I’ll call this faction the Rabbits, after Scalzi’s “Gamma Rabbit” T-shirt and Vox Day’s extended metaphor about rabbits and rabbit warrens.

On the other hand, you have a faction that is broadly conservative or libertarian in its politics. Its members deny, mostly truthfully, being the bad things the Rabbits accuse them of. It counteraccuses the Rabbits of being Gramscian-damaged cod-Marxists who are throwing away SF’s future by churning out politically-correct message fiction that, judging by Amazon rankings and other sales measures, fans don’t actually want to read. This group tends to either fort up around Baen Books or be gung-ho for indie- and self-publishing. Notable figures include Larry Correia, Sarah Hoyt, Tom Kratman, John C. Wright, and Vox Day. I’ll call this group the Evil League of Evil, because Correia suggested it and other leading figures have adopted the label with snarky glee.

A few other contrasts between the Rabbits and the Evil League are noticeable. One is that the Evil League’s broadsides are often very funny and it seems almost incapable of taking either itself or the Rabbits’ accusations seriously – I mean, Correia actually tags himself the “International Lord of Hate” in deliberate parody of what the Rabbits say about him. On the other hand, the Rabbits seem almost incapable of not taking themselves far too seriously. There’s a whiny, intense, adolescent, over-fixated quality about their propaganda that almost begs for mockery. Exhibit A is Alex Dally McFarlane’s call for an end to the default of binary gender in SF.

There’s another contrast that gets near what I think is the pre-political cause of this war. The Rabbits have the best stylists, while the Evil League has the best storytellers. Pick up a Rabbit property like Rich Horton’s The Year’s Best Science Fiction and Fantasy 2014 and you’ll read large numbers of exquisitely crafted little numbers about nothing much. The likes of Correia, on the other hand, churn out primitive prose, simplistic plotting, at best serviceable characterization – and vastly more ability to engage the average reader. (I would bet money, based on Amazon rankings, that Correia outsells every author in that collection combined.)

All this might sound like I’m inclined to sign up with the Evil League of Evil. The temptation is certainly present; it’s where the more outspoken libertarians in SF tend to have landed. Much more to the point, my sense of humor is such that I find it nearly impossible to resist the idea of posting something public requesting orders from the International Lord of Hate as to which minority group we are to crush beneath our racist, fascist, cismale, heteronormative jackboots this week. The screams of outrage from Rabbits dimwitted enough to take this sort of thing seriously would entertain me for months.

July 13, 2013

Charles Stross on the inspiration for Saturn’s Children

Filed under: Books, Media — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 11:03

It’s rather fascinating — especially if you’re also a fan of Robert Heinlein:

Now, I have a love/hate relationship with Robert A. Heinlein’s work. I am not American; much of his world-view is alien to me. I did not grow up with his 1950’s juvenile novels, and I don’t like them much. Some of his work is deeply, irredeemably flawed and should probably be taken out back and shot. (Does anyone have a kind word to say for Sixth Column or Farnham’s Freehold? I’ll try: 6thC was written to an outline supplied by famously racist editor John W. Campbell, at a point when Heinlein needed the money, and he is alleged to have watered down the racism as far as he could; as for FF, here was a privileged white male from California, a notoriously exclusionary state, trying to understand American racism in the pre-Martin Luther King era. And getting it wrong for facepalm values of wrong, so wrong he wasn’t even on the right map … but at least he wasn’t ignoring it.) Ahem. Nevertheless, it’s impossible to ignore Heinlein unless you’re going to ignore all American SF, and as that’s my main market and my main publishers are American, that’s not an option.

So I decided to pick a Heinlein novel and do a homage to it. One of my two favourites would do: that narrowed it to Glory Road (not really an option because: space opera contract) or Friday (problematic, later work showing flashes of earlier brilliance but impossible to read now without much head-clutching or making excuses for the author’s lack of a language with which to tackle issues of racism and child abuse, which is what underpins that book). This made things both easier and harder, because Friday is a late period work — distinctly different from his early and mid-phase novels (although it was something of a return to his mid-period form).

Then everything came together in my head in a blinding flash of enlightenment, thuswise:

I was going to write a late period Heinlein tribute novel, because everybody (I’m looking at you, Scalzi; also John Varley, Spider Robinson, Mike Ford, Steven Gould …) else who does Heinlein tributes does early Heinlein. And if you want to stand out, the best way to do it is to look which way the herd is stampeding in, then go somewhere else.

Heinlein in his dirty-old-man phase seemed to have a nipple obsession. Worse: an obsession with nipples which, as piloerectile tissue, made an implausible noise — “spung!” Thus, the word “spung!” becomes the centerpiece of any successful late-period Heinlein pastiche.

We in the reality-based community are aware that real human nipples do not do “spung”. But under what circumstances might a nipple go “spung”? Well, if it was some sort of pressure-relief valve on a robot, that sound wouldn’t be totally implausible.

Nipples … on a robot. Why would a robot need nipples? The answer seemed obvious: it was a sex robot. A sex robot in the shape of a Heinleinian omni-competent and beautiful yet sexually submissive heroine. (There is nothing politically correct about Heinlein: he was a product of a different age.)

June 26, 2013

Buh-bye, DOMA

Filed under: Law, Liberty, USA — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 12:59

I was away from my computer for about an hour this morning and when I came back online, my Twitter feed had exploded with news and opinion links about the US Supreme Court striking down the Defence of Marriage Act. While I’m delighted with the result (check my posts tagged Same Sex Marriage if you’re curious), it’s interesting to watch the reactions on all sides of the issue.

May 22, 2013

Fan fiction goes mainstream with Amazon’s Kindle Worlds

Filed under: Books, Business, Media — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 12:54

People tend to have strong opinions on fan fiction (well, people who know it exists, anyway). This development will polarize fan ficcers very quickly:

The Twitters are abuzz today about Amazon’s new “Kindle Worlds” program, in which people are allowed to write and then sell through Amazon their fan fiction for certain properties owned by Alloy Entertainment, including Vampire Diaries and Pretty Little Liars, with more licenses expected soon. I’ve had a quick look at the program on Amazon’s site, and I have a couple of immediate thoughts on it. Be aware that these thoughts are very preliminary, i.e., I reserve the right to have possibly contradictory thoughts about the program later, when I think (and read) about it more. Also note that these are my personal thoughts and do not reflect the positions or policies of SFWA, of which I am (still but not for much longer) president.

1. The main knock on fan fiction from the rights-holders point of view — i.e., people are using their characters and situations in ways that probably violate copyright — is apparently not at all a problem here, since Alloy Entertainment is on board for allowing people to write what they want (within specific guidelines — more on that in a bit). Since that’s the case, there’s probably a technical argument here about whether this is precisely “fan fiction” or if it’s actually media tie-in writing done with intentionally low bars to participation (the true answer, I suspect, is that it’s both). Either way, if Alloy Entertainment’s on board, everything’s on the level, so why not.

2. So, on one hand it offers people who write fan fiction a chance to get paid for their writing in a way that doesn’t make the rightsholders angry, which is nice for the fan ficcers. On the other hand, as a writer, there are a number of things about the deal Amazon/Alloy are offering that raise red flags for me.

[. . .]

4. This won’t spell the end of unauthorized fan fic, and I’m very sure of that. For one thing, the Kindle Worlds program says it won’t accept “pornography” which means all that slash out there will still be on the outside of the program; likewise crossover fan fic, so those “Vampire Diaries meet Dr Who” stories will be left out in the cold. And besides that, there will be people who a) have no interest in making money and/or b) don’t write well enough to be accepted into the Kindle Worlds program (there does seem that there will be some attempt at quality control, or at least, someone has to go through the stuff to make sure there’s nothing that’s contractually forbidden). So if this was an attempt to squash fan fic through other means, it’s doomed to failure. But I don’t suspect that’s the point.

Update:

February 21, 2013

From the sublime to the ridiculous, warship edition

Filed under: Humour, Media, Military — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 09:56

One of the most influential propaganda films of all time meets one of the least. BATTLESHIP POTEMKIN: a mashup trailer created by Josh Nelson.

H/T to Mary Ann Johanson, via John Scalzi.

February 6, 2013

You can say “Space” and you can say “Marines”, but you can’t say “Space Marines”

Filed under: Books, Gaming, Law, Media — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 11:40

Apparently Games Workshop owns the trademarked term “Space Marines”, so nobody else is supposed to use it:

For years, there have been stories about Games Workshop being trademark bullies and sending threats to people who use the term “space marine” in connection with games. But now that they’ve started publishing ebooks, Games Workshop has begun to assert a trademark on the generic, widely used, very old term “space marine” in connection with science fiction literature.

[. . .]

A few important notes:

* Amazon didn’t have to honor the takedown notice. Takedown notices are a copyright thing, a creature of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. They don’t apply to trademark claims. This is Amazon taking voluntary steps that are in no way required in law.

* Games Workshop’s strategy is to make “space marine” less generic by launching high profile, bullying attacks on everyone who uses it, so that there will come a day when people hearing the phrase immediately conclude that it must be related to Games Workshop, because everyone know what colossal dicks they are whenever anyone else uses the phrase

* Trademarks only apply to commercial works. You can and should use “space marine” in your everyday speech, fanfic, tweets and so on. For one thing, it will undermine Games Workshop’s attempts to homestead our common language.

Update: John Scalzi clearly feels the claim lacks merit:

I am not a lawyer, so factor that in here. That said: Games Workshop, really? You know, a simple search on the term “space marines” over at Google Books shows a crapload of prior art for “space marines” in science fiction literature, from the 1936 Amazing Tales novelette “The Space Marines and the Slavers” by Bob Olsen, to Robert Heinlein’s novel Space Cadet, to the very recent use of the term in The Sheriff of Yrnameer by Michael Reubens and So You Created a Wormhole: The Time Traveler’s Guide to Time Travel by Phil Hornshaw and Nick Hurwitch. There is no lack of evidence that the phrase “space marines” has been used rather promiscuously in science fiction literature up to this point.

To argue, as Games Workshop must, that the phrase “space marines” has a distinctive character in science fiction literature relating only to their product involves, shall we say, a certain studied ignorance of the field. Table top games? Possibly; I’m not an expert. Science fiction literature? You have got to be kidding. It’s pretty damn generic in this field, and was long before 1987, when Warhammer 40,000 was created in game form . Nor does it seem, as far as I know, that Games Workshop attempted to claim trademark on the phrase “space marine” before, despite a veritable plethora of Warhammer 40K tie-in literature using the phrase.

November 18, 2012

Having (in)famous ancestors

Filed under: History, Humour, USA — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 11:40

John Scalzi is having mixed reactions to all the Twitter updates about Lincoln and theatres:

And he wrote about his infamous relative a few years ago:

Every family should have an interesting skeleton in the family closet. In my family, it’s John Wilkes Booth, assassin of Abraham Lincoln, who, of course, was the President of the United States during the American Civil War. Booth assassinated Lincoln not long after the cessation of hostilities between the Union and the Confederacy, by sneaking into the President’s box at Ford’s Theater (the show: Our American Cousin) and shooting him in the back of the head with a pistol. Booth then leaped from the box to the stage, shouting “Sic semper tyrannis” (“Thus it is with tyrants”) and “The South is avenged.” He broke his leg but managed to escape nevertheless. However, eleven days later, he was discovered in a barn, burned out, and then shot (by himself or by a soldier, it’s unclear). He died shortly thereafter. Some maintain that Booth’s body was never positively identified, so it’s possible he actually escaped. Either way, he’s dead now.

For the record, I’m not a direct descendant — my line goes through one of his nine other siblings, making him something along the lines of a great-great-great-great-great-grand-uncle. Whenever I mention my relationship to him, though, people’s eyes get wide, their jaws go momentarily slack, and some people actually back up a step, as if a long dormant assassination gene might suddenly fire up, and they’d be the unlucky recipient. I get a kick out of that. Then I go for the extra point my mentioning that John Wilkes and I have the same birthday: May 10, 131 years apart. By the time I mention I get edgy handling pennies and five dollar bills, people begin to wend their way to the nearest door.

February 2, 2012

Repost: A tribute (of sorts) to Wiarton Willie

Filed under: Cancon, Humour, Media — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 00:01

John Scalzi, several years ago, wrote a tribute to Wiarton Willie, who was in the news in an unaccustomed way at the time:

To tell you the truth, the most disturbing thing is not that the groundhog died — certainly this animal earned his eternal rest — but that his handlers couldn’t think of anything better to do but tell a festival crowd that he had croaked. Those kids in the crowd will be forever traumatized. Groundhog Day will no longer be a happy time, but a constant reminder of death and mortality in the bleak midwinter. 10 years from now, I expect that Wiarton, Canada will become the new North American epicenter of dark, gothic teenage poetry.

Lying frozen in the snow
The groundhog soul resides far below
Gone to a place of doom and gray
Now winter will always stay.
Die Groundhog Die!
Mommy and Daddy Lied!

But wait, there’s more:

Now, on to the groundhog Wiarton Willie, who, as you know from yesterday’s entry, died before Groundhog Day and whose body was photographed lying in state in a dinky little pine coffin. Or was it? Now news comes from the sordid little burg of Wiarton, Canada, that the rodent corpse in the coffin was not Wiarton Willie at all, but a stuffed stand-in. The real Willie was apparently found so decomposed that the gelatinous remains were unsuitable for public display. So the town elders found a stuffed groundhog that just happened to be lying around (apparently the body of a previous “Wiarton Willie,” who was no doubt poisoned by the current, and now rotting, Willie in an unseemly palace coup), plopped it into that Barbie coffin, and presented the remains to a horrified public. Here’s the groundhog you’ve all been waiting for! And he’s dead! Winter for the next ten years!

The people of Wiarton meant well, I’m sure. But I’m having serious doubts as to their combined mental capacity. First off, the real Willy was found in a state of advanced decomposition, which means he had been dead for weeks. Weeks. How could that happen? This rodent is the cornerstone of Wiarton’s entire tourism economy for the month of February, and no one bothers to check on him from time to time? Did they just stick him in a cage after last Groundhog Day and then forget to feed him? Every kid in the world had a hamster they forgot to feed, but you’re usually, like, five at the time. These were actual adults. They say he was hibernating when he died. Sure he was. I used that excuse about the hamster.

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