Quotulatiousness

November 16, 2017

Frankenstein: The Sorrows of Young Werther – Extra Sci Fi – #3

Filed under: Books, History — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 04:00

Extra Credits
Published on 14 Nov 2017

Frankenstein’s monster discovered three books that shaped his understanding of the world, including the Sorrows of Young Werther. Werther’s unrequited love for a woman eventually leads him to commit suicide. Frankenstein’s monster wants to experience love as well, but Mary Shelley has her own critique of this idea of love.

November 9, 2017

Frankenstein: The New Romantics – Extra Sci Fi – #2

Filed under: Books, Europe, History, Science — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 04:00

Extra Credits
Published on 7 Nov 2017

Industrialization and the Age of Reason benefitted society in many ways, but also created an atmosphere of dehumanizing mass production. The Romantic literary movement rose up to assert the value of emotion in a modern world, and praised science as a marvel whose discoveries bounded on magic made real.

Lois McMaster Bujold interview

Filed under: Books — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 03:00

It’s apparently a reprint, but since I missed it the first time, it’s a new one to me:

Ellen Cheeseman-Meyer: You published a Star Trek fanzine in the 1960s, while the series was still on the air. It’s the fiftieth anniversary of Star Trek, so I can’t resist asking you about it. What was it like to be a fan writer in the 1960s?

Lois McMaster Bujold: It was a lonelier enterprise back then than it is now. I go into it a little in this recent interview.

Other than that, I expect it was like being a newbie writer at any time, all those pictures and feelings churning around in one’s head and latching on to whatever models one could find to try to figure out how to get them down on a page. Besides the professional fiction I was reading, my models included Devra Langsam’s very early ST fanzine Spockanalia, and Columbus, Ohio fan John Ayotte’s general zine Kallikanzaros. It was John who guided Lillian and me through the mechanics of producing a zine, everything from how to type stencils (ah, the smell of Corflu in the morning! and afternoon, and late into the night), where to go to get electrostencils produced, how to run off and collate the pages — John lent us the use of his mimeograph machine in his parents’ basement. (And I just now had to look up the name of that technology on the internet — I had forgotten and all I could think of was “ditto”, a predecessor which had a different smell entirely.)

Fan writing, at the time, was assumed to be writing more about SF and fandom, what people would use blogs to do today, than writing fanfiction. So an all-fiction zine seemed a novelty to some of our fellow fans in Columbus.

[…]

ECM: Miles Vorkosigan is an amazingly resilient kid (and then an amazingly resilient adult), but it sometimes seems like moving to Escobar or Beta Colony, or staying with the Dendarii, would make his life much easier. His attachment to his home planet is a little mysterious. What are Miles’s favorite things about Barrayar?

LMB: I actually put off this question for last, as it was strangely hard to answer. (I may be overthinking it.) Partly it’s that it requires me to reboot a character I haven’t written in some years, and hold his whole 43-years-book-time character development in my head at once. Why does anyone love their childhood home, or their family, if they do? (Not a universal given among F&SF readers, I observe; it’s a very anti-domestic genre. Don Sakers’s Analog review of Gentleman Jole and the Red Queen touched on this.)

Miles’s favorite place on Barrayar is easy to tag: the lakeside retreat at Vorkosigan Surleau, and the wild Dendarii mountain range backing up behind it. Actually including its obstreperous people. As ever, Miles is a conflicted hybrid, half city boy and half country, half Betan and half Barrayaran, half future and half past, stretched between in a moving present. Family, friends, landscapes; all made him and all hold him. And from his very beginning, with all those painful medical treatments as a barely comprehending child, he’s been taught that he can’t run away when things get hard. But which also taught him that painful things can get better. It’s a lesson he’s taken to heart, and not only because it validates his own questioned and criticized existence.

(Miles being Miles, he may also take this a step too far, and confuse pain with hope, which would make him not at all the first human to stray down such a path.)

November 8, 2017

QotD: The second coming of SF’s depressing and neurotic “New Wave”

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

Back in the mid to late 70’s the “New Wave” was in full force. Downbeat endings, “black and gray morality” (which can be good if handled well, at least as a change-up from more clear cut items) or worse “black and black.” Those were the tone of Science Fiction.

Then, fairly close to each other, two movies came out which took an entirely different approach: Lucas’ Star Wars and Spielberg’s Close Encounters of the Third Kind. The rogue was given back his heart of gold. The callow youth could be the hero of the piece, not ground down by the world weary cynics. Heroes who are actually heroes fighting bad guys who weren’t so “sympathetic” that you couldn’t tell hero from villain.

It was a refreshing change. And the result was that, for a time, it became OK to have good guys who were good guys. Bad guys who were actually bad and not just “oppressed” or “victims of their backgrounds”. You didn’t have to wonder who to root for.

Today we’re kind of in a similar position. One of the best selling series, for young people is The Hunger Games. Black and Very-Dark-Gray morality, little really to choose from in the sides, and (no spoilers) that’s shown pretty clearly in the ending. And in printed SF? So much “humanity is a plague” stuff. Bleah.

David L. Burkhead, “Star Wars and the Human Wave”, The Writer in Black, 2015-10-21.

November 3, 2017

QotD: Perhaps we were lucky that Firefly got cancelled when it did…

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

This cult classic made the list not for being overtly “conservative”, but mainly for being “not liberal”. The universe of Firefly is some other solar system with “dozens of planets and hundreds of moons”. Some of these are closer than others to the “core” planets, which are under control of the “Alliance”, a plus-sized, technologically-advanced and repressive system of government. The outer planets and moons have less technology, and even less law, i.e Alliance control, but subsequently greater freedom. Firefly producer Joss Whedon, a stereotypical Hollywood lefty, somehow (inadvertently?) imbued Firefly with a heavily libertarian sensibility, which may not be exactly conservative, but it definitely isn’t liberal. Progressive fans of the show may be tempted to fantasize about the Alliance being an oppressive right-wing government, but that would make the “Browncoat” rebels rat bastard commie revolutionaries, and that makes no sense. The Browncoats are not interested in destroying civilization and putting a new one in its place, rather, they just want to be left alone. Their motto can best be described as “Don’t Tread On Me”, not “Workers of the World, Unite”.

Almost every science fiction fan, to a man, bemoans the fact that Firefly was yanked after only 11 episodes, and their dreams are filled what could-have-beens. I, however, take the contrarian view that the cancellation of Firefly was A Good Thing, a blessing in disguise that helped preserve it when it was still a quality show. For it would not have continued a quality show. I believe that Joss Whedon’s perverse Hollywood lefty views would have eventually seeped into Firefly the way a dead rat behind the baseboard will stink up the entire kitchen. A similar thing happened with Battlestar Galactica, as Jonah Goldberg argues in this Commentary article from 2009.

“Whither Conservative TV Shows? [OregonMuse]”, Ace of Spades H.Q., 2016-03-19.

November 1, 2017

Frankenstein: The Modern Prometheus – Extra Sci Fi – #1

Filed under: Books, Europe, History, Science — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 04:00

Extra Credits
Published on 31 Oct 2017

Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein launched the entire genre of science fiction. What made it unique? What did Shelley create, and how did her view of the possibilities of science shape the way we imagine our world even today?

October 2, 2017

QotD: Maxims 61-70 of Maximally Effective Mercenaries

Filed under: Humour, Military, Quotations — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 01:00

61. Don’t bring big grenades into small rooms.
62. Anything labelled “This end toward enemy” is dangerous at both ends.
63. The brass knows how to do it by knowing who can do it.
64. An ounce of sniper is worth a pound of suppressing fire.
65. After the toss, be the one with the pin, not the one with the grenade.
66. Necessity is the mother of deception.
67. If you can’t carry cash, carry a weapon.
68. Negotiating from a position of strength does not mean you shouldn’t also negotiate from a position near the exits.
69. Sometimes rank is a function of firepower.
70. Failure isn’t an option. It’s mandatory. The option is whether or not to let failure be the last thing you do.

“Link Weimar” (aka Howard Tayler), Seventy Maxims of Maximally Effective Mercenaries: 301st Anniversary Annotated Edition, 2017.

October 1, 2017

QotD: Maxims 51-60 of Maximally Effective Mercenaries

Filed under: Humour, Military, Quotations — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 01:00

51. Let them see you sharpen the sword before you fall on it.
52. The army you’ve got is never the army you want.
53. The intel you’ve got is never the intel you want.
54. It’s only too many troops if you can’t pay them.
55. It’s only too many weapons if they’re pointing in the wrong direction.
56. Infantry exists to paint targets for people with real guns.
57. Artillery exists to launch large chunks of budget at an enemy it cannot actually see.
58. The pen is mightiest when it writes orders for swords.
59. Two wrongs is probably not going to be enough.
60. Any weapon’s rate of fire is inversely proportional to the number of available targets.

“Link Weimar” (aka Howard Tayler), Seventy Maxims of Maximally Effective Mercenaries: 301st Anniversary Annotated Edition, 2017.

September 30, 2017

QotD: Maxims 41-50 of Maximally Effective Mercenaries

Filed under: Humour, Military, Quotations — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 01:00

41. “Do you have a backup?” means “I can’t fix this.”
42. “They’ll never expect this’ means “I want to try something stupid.”
43. If it’s stupid and it works, it’s still stupid and you’re lucky.
44. If it will blow a hole in the ground, it will double as an entrenching tool.
45. The size of the combat bonus is inversely proportional to the likelihood of surviving to collect it.
46. Don’t try to save money by conserving ammunition.
47. Don’t expect the enemy to cooperate in the creation of your dream engagement.
48. If it ain’t broke, it hasn’t been issued to the infantry.
49. Every client is one missed payment away from becoming a target.
50. Let them see you sharpen the sword before you fall on it.

Howard Tayler, quoted by Rodney M. Bliss in “New Maxims Revealed For The First Time”, Rodney M. Bliss, 2015-12-18.

September 29, 2017

QotD: Maxims 31-40 of Maximally Effective Mercenaries

Filed under: Humour, Military, Quotations — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 01:00

31. Only cheaters prosper.
32. Anything is amphibious if you can get it back out of the water.
33. If you’re leaving tracks, you’re being followed.
34. If you’re leaving scorch-marks, you need a bigger gun.
35. That which does not kill you has made a tactical error.
36. When the going gets tough, the tough call for close air support.
37. There is no ‘overkill.’ There is only ‘open fire’ and ‘I need to reload.’
38. Just because it’s easy for you doesn’t mean it can’t be hard on your clients.
39. There is a difference between spare parts and extra [parts].
40. Not all good news is enemy action.

Howard Tayler, quoted by Rodney M. Bliss in “New Maxims Revealed For The First Time”, Rodney M. Bliss, 2015-12-18.

September 28, 2017

QotD: Maxims 21-30 of Maximally Effective Mercenaries

Filed under: Humour, Military, Quotations — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 01:00

21. Give a man a fish, feed him for a day. Take his fish away and tell him he’s lucky just to be alive, and he’ll figure out how to catch another one for you to take tomorrow.
22. If you can see the whites of their eyes, somebody’s done something wrong.
23. The company mess and friendly fire should be easier to tell apart.
24. Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from a big gun.
25. If the damage you do is covered by a manufacturers warranty, you didn’t do enough damage.
26. “Fire and forget” is fine, provided you never actually forget.
27. Don’t be afraid to be the first to resort to violence.
28. If the price of collateral damage is high enough, you might be able to get paid for bringing ammunition home with you.
29. The enemy of my enemy is my enemy’s enemy. No more. No less.
30. A little trust goes a long way. The less you use, the further you’ll go.

Howard Tayler, quoted by Rodney M. Bliss in “New Maxims Revealed For The First Time”, Rodney M. Bliss, 2015-12-18.

September 27, 2017

QotD: Maxims 11-20 of Maximally Effective Mercenaries

Filed under: Humour, Military, Quotations — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 01:00

11. Everything is air-droppable at least once.
12. A soft answer turneth away wrath. Once wrath is looking the other way, shoot it in the head.
13. Do unto others.
14. “Mad Science” means never stopping to ask “what’s the worst thing that could happen?”
15. Only you can prevent friendly fire.
16. Your name is in the mouth of others: be sure it has teeth.
17. The longer everything goes according to plan, the bigger the impending disaster.
18. If the officers are leading from in front, watch out for an attack from the rear.
19. The world is richer when you turn enemies into friends, but that’s not the same as you being richer.
20. If you’re not willing to shell your own position, you’re not willing to win.

Howard Tayler, quoted by Rodney M. Bliss in “New Maxims Revealed For The First Time”, Rodney M. Bliss, 2015-12-18.

September 26, 2017

QotD: Maxims 1-10 of Maximally Effective Mercenaries

Filed under: Humour, Military, Quotations — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 01:00

1. Pillage, then burn.
2. A Sergeant in motion outranks a Lieutenant who doesn’t know what’s going on.
3. An ordnance technician at a dead run outranks everybody.
4. Close air support covereth a multitude of sins.
5. Close air support and friendly fire should be easier to tell apart.
6. If violence wasn’t your last resort, you failed to resort to enough of it.
7. If the food is good enough, the grunts will stop complaining about the incoming fire.
8. Mockery and derision have their place. Usually, it’s on the far side of the airlock.
9. Never turn your back on an enemy.
10. Sometimes the only way out is through … through the hull.

Howard Tayler, quoted by Rodney M. Bliss in “New Maxims Revealed For The First Time”, Rodney M. Bliss, 2015-12-18.

September 14, 2017

The art of leadership and other secrets

Filed under: Humour, Military — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 03:00

In Taki’s Magazine, Steve Sailer remembers the late Jerry Pournelle, including a helpful leadership tip he once shared:

I didn’t meet Jerry until 1999, but I’d known his son Alex in high school. The Pournelle family asked me to go with them to Kansas City in August 1976 to the science-fiction convention at which Heinlein, the central American sci-fi writer of the 20th century, received his lifetime achievement award. (But I had to be at college that week.)

But Jerry, one of the great Southern California Cold Warriors, had a remarkable number of careers, starting as a teenage artillery officer during the Korean War, which deafened him in one ear. (At the lunch table, he’d choose his seat carefully to position his one remaining good ear next to his guest.)

He once recalled a question from the Army Officer Candidate School test:

    Q. You are in charge of a detail of 11 men and a sergeant. There is a 25-foot flagpole lying on the sandy, brush-covered ground. You are to erect the pole. What is your first order?

The right answer is:

    A. “Sergeant, erect that flagpole.”?

In other words, if the sergeant knows how to do it, then there’s no need for you to risk your dignity as an officer and a gentleman by issuing some potentially ludicrous order about how to erect the flagpole. And if the sergeant doesn’t know either, well, he’ll probably order a corporal to do it, and so forth down the chain of command. But by the time the problem comes back up to you, it will be well established that nobody else has any more idea than you do.

He also quotes Dave Barry’s breakdown of Pournelle’s monthly columns for Byte magazine:

In 1977 Jerry paid $12,000 to have a state-of-the-art personal computer assembled for him, supposedly to boost his productivity. By 1980 that led to his long-running “Chaos Manor” column in Byte magazine in which he would document his troubles on the bleeding edge of PC technology. As fellow word-processing aficionado Dave Barry explained jealously, Jerry got paid to mess around with his computers when he should be writing:

    Every month, his column has basically the same plot, which is:

    1. Jerry tries to make some seemingly simple change to one of his computers, such as connect it to a new printer.

    2. Everything goes hideously wrong…. Sometimes there are massive power outages all over the West Coast. Poor Jerry spends days trying to get everything straightened out.

    3. Finally…Jerry gets his computer working again approximately the way it used to, and he writes several thousand words about it for ‘Byte.’

    I swear it’s virtually the same plot, month after month, and yet it’s a popular column in a magazine that appeals primarily to knowledgeable computer people.

I like to imagine Steve Jobs circulating “Chaos Manor” columns to his executives with scribbled annotations suggesting that some people would pay good money to not have to go through all this.

September 9, 2017

Dr. Jerry Pournelle, 1933-2017

Filed under: Books — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 08:14

I saw this brief notice at Instapundit last night and shared it with my Facebook friends:

ALEX POURNELLE TEXTS:

    Hi
    I’m afraid that Jerry passed away
    We had a great time at DragonCon
    He did not suffer. Please feel free to post this news.

Rest in peace, Jerry. You will be missed.

I met Dr. Pournelle at SF conventions a couple of times, but you can’t say you knew someone on the basis of fleeting contacts like that. We did have a few minutes of discussion at one convention on the topic of why Harrison Ford’s portrayal of Indiana Jones was/was not a faithful characterization of how most people viewed archaeologists … which was highly entertaining. Although I enjoyed his SF writing, I actually thought of him more as a computer journalist, as I was a huge fan of his Chaos Manor columns in Byte magazine. As with George Orwell’s “As I please” columns, Pournelle didn’t let himself be limited to just bits and bytes and the range of topics was sometimes far outside the normal range for the magazine.

Here is his Wikipedia page.

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