Apr 112021

The Sudden Appearance of Hope, by Claire North

Synopsis: A woman that no one can remember once they stop paying attention to her discovers a conspiracy to control the minds of society’s more influential people.

Book Review: We picked this book based on the strength of The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August, also written by Claire North, and my favorite book of last year. It’s fascinating reading multiple unrealted novels by the same author, you can often quickly pick up the themes and worries that trouble the author. For North, based on these two books, I would venture that lonliness/isolation and purposelessness are foundational experiences she keeps returning to, and that really resonates with me, so of course I love works that explore this. :)

Harry August focused a bit more on purposelessness, I think, since having everything you accomplished wiped out every time you cycle is a pure, distilled concentration of nothing mattering. And he wasn’t completely alone, because he had a society of others who remember and befriend him. Hope focuses more on the isolation, because if no one remembers you once their attention is diverted (and everyone has to sleep) you will never have any friends or loved ones in your life. A perpetual stranger, an outsider to every group. The amount of self-reliance Hope has to develop just to continue living is astounding, and watching that is interesting in itself. But the truely fascinating thing about this book is watching how this destroys her mentally/emotionally, and how she keeps finding ways to shore her psyche up and continue on, regardless. It is an intense emotional charge every time she crumbles and/or breaks, and you feel so fucking hurt as she scrambles to keep the threads of herself from fully dissintegrating.

There are some benefits to being completely immemorable, which any rationalist reader is probably already munchinking in their heads. Hope has done the same munchinking, and she exploits these advanatages in order to live. It’s damned cool to watch, and it’s particularly exciting when people start to suspect something weird is happening and begin developing countermeassures. Because even though she personally is a blackhole in memory, her effects can still be seen. Catching the attention of an increadibly wealthy conspiracy group that has strong motivation to find out what the hell is messing with their schemes gives the novel a worthy opponent.

In addition to the isolation and purposelessness themes, there is also a lot of attention given to what it means to fit into a group, to get others’ approval, and to internalize unrealistic and downright harmful expectations. And, much like in Harry August, there’s a very interesting friend-foe dynamic, where the people who most strongly oppose you also become those who learn who you are most deeply, and thus grow to respect/admire you even as they fight against you (a very Ender’s Game sort of situation). Honestly, there’s so much cool stuff in here, and such great writing, that it’s hard for me to not recommend it. But….

But the book goes on way too long. What appears to be the climax happens when we’re still 100+ pages from the end. First there’s an extended section where Hope slowly recovers from her injuries and contemplates her lot in life, without showing us anything new or exciting. After that there is a very long travelouge,with an almost dreamlike quality to it. It’s… not bad. It just doesn’t do anything. It feels very much like North wasn’t sure how to end the book, or else didn’t want to leave this world just yet, and so she extended it past where it should have finished. To be fair, it’s not a flaw so glaring that it should sink the whole book. But due to the stupid peak/end phenomenon, with this section being at the end of the story it sticks out in the memory and makes my overall impression seem lower than it objectively should be.

Honestly, there was so much that was so good in the first 3/4ths of the book, that I can’t NOT recommend it. I think it would be a far better book if the last section was greatly abridged, though, and maybe new readers would be advised to read the first paragraph of Chapter 96, then jump to 104? I dunno, it feels like hackery to just go sawing out sections of someone else’s child like this. I wouldn’t advise it to 2-weeks-ago me, but I also would look-of-disapproval at any reviewer who said large parts of the end could be skipped, but then didn’t say which part to skip. At any rate, while this isn’t as devestatingly amazing as Harry August, it’s still quite good. Recommended.

Book Club Review: Another good book for book clubs. There is a lot to talk about here, North really dives into a number of themes, some of them timeless and personal, some of them very relevant to the modern world and our reliance on technology and social fragmentation. A group can talk for a long time about these things, depending on where the interests of its individual members lie. The strength of the writing, becoming downright poetic in areas, also makes it a joy to discuss. And it was nice to get a sanity check of half a dozen other people also saying “Yeah, it’s not just you, that extended ending really was an issue.” :) Again, Recommended.


Apr 042021
A lot of regulations in the labor market nowadays are pushed by established giant companies that are trying to restrict competition. By making it very expensive for new business to start and compete with them, they can charge much higher prices. It’s like a government-imposed Monopoly Lite. It’s why things like Hair Braiding Licences exist.
I think Amazon has pulled this sort of genius-evil move with their $15 min wage.
First, they raised their own minimum wage for all employees to $15/hour. Among some people, this got them a lot of good will. Amazon is profitable enough that they can afford to pay $15 to everyone. In their industry, it also meant they could lure away much of the most productive workers from other employers.
Now they are lobbying Washington to raise the minimum wage for the entire nation to $15/hour. I think they’re betting that there are a lot of Amazon competitors who cannot afford to match that wage. Amazon has incredible efficiencies that smaller businesses can’t leverage. This would put those competitors out of business, leaving Amazon to reap their customers. Furthermore, the other business in their industry have lost some of their most-productive workers to Amazon, the ones who could be profitbly employed at $15/hour. If they’re mostly left with lower-productivity workers who they can no longer pay lower wages to offset this, they will have an even harder time staying solvent.
This likely won’t change much for city-dwellers, as many urban areas already have wages higher than $15/hour. But rural towns where a significant portion of the population is working at Walmart, and making less than $15 was fine beceause cost of living is low out there? They’re going to have a bad time. If those Walmarts are forced to shut down, the people who previously shopped at Walmart are going to have to turn to Amazon for their goods. Which is exactly what Amazon wants.
Apr 022021

This thread about falling in love with the spouse you’re in a marriage-of-convience with and trying to figure out how to come out to them is the most wonderful thing I saw in March. I’m sorry you have to have an FB account to see it, I couldn’t find any other format that preserved this thread in all its glory.


Here’s the exact opposite, an entire thread that’s just :(

“15 years ago, I co-led a team trying to give 100% free Internet access to all of San Francisco starting with the poorest neighborhoods first. The network would be anonymous, with no ads, no cookies, etc. Approximately a $20-25 million gift. The result? We were chased out of town.”


“We can now show that if you count all government transfers (minus administrative costs) as income to the recipient household, reduce household income by taxes paid, […]Not only is income inequality in America not growing, it is lower today than it was 50 years ago.
While the disparity in earned income has become more pronounced in the past 50 years, the actual inflation-adjusted income received by the bottom quintile, counting the value of all transfer payments received net of taxes paid, has risen by 300%. The top quintile has seen its after-tax income rise by only 213%.”
(a note from a friend: “the real wealth inequality is between the top 1% and the bottom 99%, so this hides that by using quintiles.” Maybe so. At least this functions as a proof of concept.)
“Bugs Bunny accidentally transformed the word nimrod into a synonym for idiot because nobody got a joke where he sarcastically compared Elmer Fudd to the Biblical figure Nimrod, a mighty hunter.”
Dippin’ Dots saves us all from COVID — “This is it. This is the future that it’s the ice cream of.”



16 months ago, I logged into World of Warcraft Classic the day it launched, created a level 1 mage, and created a raiding guild called <The Tail End>. Yesterday, 40 of us marched into the final dungeon in the game and finaly beat the final boss. There were several times over the ~1.5 years where the guild almost came apart, and I wondered if it was worth the stress to keep this thing going. But here we are. I know it’s just a game, but it was a heckin’ cool experience. :)


Al Jazeera to launch rightwing media platform targeting US conservatives. If this can restore sanity to the Right Wing of America, I’m sooooo for it.


An interesting post about the diversity of political opinion. Includes exerpts from “Black Voices for Trump 2024”


Another FB-only photo thread. This one of house of questionable taste. Personally, love this. These people knew what they wanted, and they pursued it all the way to the end, and damn the haters. :)


New Industries Come From Crazy People

“Men like Young are necessary for any industrial society. As stewards of the major businesses and institutions, they keep the lights on and drive incremental progress. It is fortunate, then, that nearly every society encourages or tolerates the ambitions of such men. […]

However, if we wish to achieve industrial breakthroughs and large-scale economic innovations, then we must also tolerate men like Boulton and Edison. Most societies will not do this. The natural reaction is to shut them down as dangerous threats to social order and economic life, and this is not completely wrong.”

Mar 202021

A quick note about two new things I’m doing, for the few people who follow the blog that may not follow me other places.

1. My novel, “What Lies Dreaming,” is now available as an audio book! Most of the audio for this was recorded by fans of my podcast, for which I am immensely grateful! Thank you all so much. <3 You can listen to the whole thing free a chapter at a time at WhatLiesDreaming.com, or you can get the full thing as one book at Audible/Amazon.



2. I’m now one half of the podcast “Not Everything Is A Clue.” This is an analysis podcast of Alexander Wales’ “Worth The Candle” webfic, which we read a few chapters of and then discuss every week. It’s a fantastic story, and I hope we do it justice.


Mar 152021

The Iron Dragon’s Mother, by Michael Swanwick

Synopsis: Framed for treason, the pilot of a military dragon must dodge the law while trying to clear her name.

Book Review: That synopsis is really, really inaccurate, but it’s the best I could do with a single line. There’s two reasons for this.

The first is that it gives the impression of a fantasy world. The world of this book is far closer to a Final-Fantasy-style JRPG than a standard fantasy world. It contains battle mechs with dragon spirits in them, sniper rifles and magic swords, elves and wraiths and cell phones and Coca-Cola in aluminum cans. It is a glorious mashup of everything cool that constatly keeps you off-balance, and if you like that sort of thing (and I do) it’s fan-freaking-tastic.

The second reason is that it gives the impression that this book is a standard narrative story. You know, one that follows a single character (or group) as they acheive some goal across the span of the novel. This is not that, and at first it hurt my enjoyment. By the third time the story seemed to go off on a strange digression that was ended abruptly (sometimes with a Deus Ex Machina) and didn’t have much to do with what I thought the plot was about (ie: what’s in my synopsis) I was beginning to get grumpy. I kept reading though, until it finally clicked.

This isn’t a traditional narrative. It is, instead, a collection of individual stories that are loosely woven together by having a single character moving between them to serve as our POV. And not just any individual stories either, these are basically modern fairy tales and/or myths. In this regard, Iron Dragon’s Mother feels very much like Bridge of Birds, which also featured many dissparate fairy-tale-style stories that our main character moves across.

Once I realized that’s what this was, I very quickly started to love this book again. Taking each individual story by itself, we get a rich variety of fascinating charecters, cool worlds, and intruiging conflicts. That they don’t have much cohesion between them doesn’t matter, as long as we’re taken from one to another with a deft hand, and we basically are. The writing is snappy, and getting brand-new fairy tales that have never existed before is actually really dang cool! There are a ton of little narratives in here that I won’t forget for a long, long time.

If you liked Bridge of Birds, and you like crazy Final-Fantasy-mixed-genre worlds, you are going to really, really enjoy this. Plus there’s the joy of exploring something novel, something very different from most of what’s written. Recommended!

Book Club Review: An interesting book for a book club, because it is so weird. People’s enjoyment of the book seemed to hinge quite a bit on whether they discovered the “series of fairy tales” angle while reading it, and whether they accepted/enjoyed that aspect if/when they did. While no one hated it, several found it’s lack of focus exasperating. The scattershot aspect of the novel also made it difficult to identify a singular theme to serve as topic of conversation. The many sparkly facets of the novel do make up for this a fair bit. In the end, I think it comes down to if your book club is looking for something novel to throw into the mix. If so, Recommended. If not, probably not.

Mar 132021

I’m getting older. Specifically, I feel like I entered a different type of life after my back injury. Things are different now, harder in general. Physically, I’ve recovered quite a bit, significantly more than when the prior post was written. Yet I’m not who I was before. Maybe it’s the toll of over a year of near-isolation as well, but it’s harder to get motivated for things. I was drinking more, for a while. I’ve cut back on it now, and it’s helped a lot.

The realization that the flesh I’m stuck in has begun to fail, and this will only get worse, has really dug in it’s teeth, though.

Here’s something I wrote while I was drunk. It’s… not great. But it’s an expression of emotion that is true. We’re all dying, but I’m more aware of it now then I was before, and I hate it so much. Since half the function of this blog is me shouting my emotions into the internet so they aren’t just eating away at the inside of me, I’m posting it here. Be ye warned I was not fully in my right mind when writing this, but I can’t find any reason to deny it now.


Beauty. Is there any other reason to live?

Here’s Germaine and Bret from Flight of the Concords in 2006:



Here’s them in 2019:

They are still brilliant, fun entertainers. They are probably better at their craft now then in 2006, since they’ve had 13 years to refine it.

I dunno about women, but I’ve heard that male attraction puts a lot of weight on appearance of youth. And when I see the 2019 video, I want to cry. Because they’ve aged so much. They were beautiful in 2006, and they aren’t now.

I was an adult (technically) in 2006. I can only assume I was more beautiful then, than I am now.

It makes sense that people are attracted to youth. Youth means health. It means you can DO THINGS with your body that older people can’t. What does it mean to be attracted to an older person?

It means they will have more troubles you have to deal with. It means the person you’re attracted to will be less able to create wealth because they have less time to do interesting things, and less energy to pursue their interests. They will spend more time resting, because their bodies are worn down. It means the person you are attracted to will drain your resources and energy as you try to care for them while their meatsuit deteriorates. It means you will invest your life in someone who will die, and leave you alone in the world, simply because bodies degrade and you picked one later in the cycle than you could have. You want to pick a body that will last at least as long as yours.

I guess there’s some advantages to older people. Some of them have built up resources in reserve. I hear women can find healthy older men attractive. George Clooney seems to have aged well

I wonder how will this affect mating habits in the transhuman future. Will people stop finding youth attractive, when everyone is youthful? Or will we simply all be more attractive at all times, and thus make everyone’s joy increased, because everyone is so pretty?

I guess what I’m saying is — Kurt Cobain died *fucking hot*. It’s GODDAMN BULLSHIT that he died so young. Would we still think of him the way we do if he’d lived? Would he be another Jemaine Clement (not that there’s anything wrong with that)? We’re all such fleeting embers, dying in the night. Is it worth dying a few decades early, if you’ll always be remembered as beautiful and tragic? How many decades of life is it worth to live forever in memory?

Assuming there will be no singularity in my lifetime, of course. Nothing is worth missing the “rapture of the nerds”. But fuck… Jesus missed the rapture too. I can’t believe any amount of inspiration to the rest of humanity is worth losing your eternal life for. But, if you are gonna miss it (and there’s no guarantee any of us will make it)… being Jesus or Cobain, forever an icon of adoration — it’s the next best thing, no?

Aging is shit. The slow, inexorable decay of our bodies is shit. Youth is beauty, and we should all be young forever. Kill god, kill Him forever if He exists, for letting this injustice stand.



Mar 032021

The City We Became, by N.K. Jemisin

Synopsis: Five people become embodiments of the five boroughs of New York, as the city struggles to awaken and become sentient, while being opposed by an interdimensional evil.

Book Review: Look, you don’t need me to tell you this is a well-written book. It’s N.K. freakin’ Jemisin, one of my favorite contemporary authors. She wrote one of the top-five most moving books I’ve ever read. She’s a master of the craft, and giant in the genre. But I’ve been putting off writing this post for weeks. I’m dreading posting it. But… we really have to talk about “The City We Became.” Because “The City We Became” is one of the most racist novels I’ve ever read.

I will admit, I haven’t read a lot of racist novels. I tend to avoid them. But the last time I read something this unapologetically racist, it was written in the 70s and I was unable to finish it. Unlike Lucifer’s Hammer, I forced myself to finish this one, because it felt important to be informed on this. It was hard to do.

In “The City We Became” all people can be placed into two groups. Those who “actually love New York” and “those merely occupying and exploiting it.” The former are human beings that may have flaws, but can be empathized with and dealt with as people. The latter are parasites and vermin whose internal experience consists solely of a drive to dominate and degrade all the good people. Fortunately, it’s super easy to tell who belongs to which group. All you have to do is note the color of their skin.

The rest of this review contains spoilers for “The City We Became” because I can’t discuss this without massive spoilers. If you’d like to read the book and be shocked by its overt racism without spoilers, please do so before continuing.




Without fail, every white person in this story is a monster, and all monsters in the story are white. Not just in a passing way, it is explicitly their whiteness that makes them monstrous, and makes them want to destroy and exploit all that is good in the world. In “City”, the only thing you really need to know about someone is the color of their skin to know their moral character. It got to the point that one can tell when a new antagonist or ally is being introduced as soon as their skin color is described. It got to the point of farce when hairstyles that are popular among young white men are called literal signifiers of evil in the same manner that goatees are such in comedy and satire. No, it’s not presented as a joke, it’s presented as bitterly ironic that now such a signifier exists in real life when before it was just the sign of campy script writers.

This isn’t just a subversion of tropes. Having The White Woman be the big bad evil, and having her be the whitest white woman in existance — that’s subversion of tropes. Introducing many supporting characters and side cast who are white specifically to show them being intentionally malicious over and over… that’s not trope subversion, it’s just the standard demonization any hate group engages in

The one attempt to portray a white person in a “sympathetic” light focuses on a mentally handicapped white woman, because I guess only a mental handicap can be considered a plausible excuse for the moral sin of being white. Nonetheless, she ultimately gives in to her hateful white nature, and by narrative fiat Staton Island is ejected from what is the True New York City and replaced with a borough that has the correct racial demographics for a “good” city.

I know it’s hard to believe. Please read it yourself to confirm.

This is a shame, because there are some really interesting ideas growing beneath the pall of hatred in the text. For example, the heroes are presented with the possibility that they might be able to save tens of thousands of lives, at the expense of sacrificing their own families. They reject this option out of hand, but it does make one stop to think… why was it rejected so readily? This is a classic trolley problem, wouldn’t heroes at least agonize for a bit over pulling the lever?

Cleverly, this is a set-up for an even bigger reveal later, where we discover that a city becoming sentient requires the annihilation of tens of thousands of universes. Not planets, not even galaxies, but full *universes.* Uncountable trillions upon trillions of people will die, if our heroes succeed and New York awakens. If they fail, consequences are bad for our heroes — the wiping out of Pompeii happened when it failed to wake up, and the erasure of Atlantis happened for the same reason. On the other hand, the evil White Woman seems to have been getting better at stopping cities from awakening with lessened consequences. Her last victory was preventing New Orleans from waking up. The devastation wrought by Katrina as a consequence of failing to awaken was awful for that city and its people, but it was a far cry from being wiped out. And importantly – even if New York was completely annihilated, it’s still an insignificant harm when compared to killing *tens of thousands of universes* of people. It seems that the White Woman is the true hero, in an objective sense, and our protagonists are the monsters willing to kill any number of innocents to protect themselves. This is a brilliant narrative twist, and it’s exactly the sort of fantastic moral complexity that I expect from Jemisin after reading her Broken Earth trilogy.

And yet, this takes a distant back seat to the constant racial animus. Instead of focusing on the emotional twisting of choosing to become a monster to save your family, we are treated to the spectacle of tolerance being portrayed as a vicious character flaw that evil people delight in.

This leads me to…


Why?: What was the purpose of writing a novel-length racist screed? I have a very hard time imaging the author of the Broken Earth trilogy as someone who is committed to racism!

My best guess is that this was done as an homage to Lovecraft. The book itself dons the mantle of a Lovecraftian horror. It names the Lady In White as such in those exact words. The evil city from the other dimension is named R’lyeh. This isn’t a subtle hint, it’s in the actual text. And the thing that Lovecraft is most known for in pop culture (behind C’thulu) is his rampant racism. If one was trying to fully recapture the Lovecraftian experience, but for a modern day audience, one may very well attempt to make it as racist as possible, to really get that Lovecraft stink on it. If this was the intention, bravo. It was pulled off magnificently.

I’m torn as to whether this is a good thing, though. On the one hand, I personally find it distasteful, and I think there are some things we’d be better off leaving in the past. On the other hand, the essence of horror is to make the reader uncomfortable. You are supposed to be squicked out and repulsed by a good horror novel, right? You’re supposed to be fascinated by the depravity, in a “I can’t look away from this horrific thing that’s happening” sort of way?

But then… why are the more standard forms of racism not acceptable when used in that manner? Maybe it’s just because they’re so passe. When I read regular old “Lucifer’s Hammer”-style racism, I throw some invective at the bigotted author and I stop reading. I even said in my review that “it’s always fun to rip on bigots for a while.” I guess that’s only true when they’re in your outgroup. This review was NOT fun to write. I feel kinda sick writing it. If that’s the goal of a horror novel, the goal was accomplished.

I think this wouldn’t have affected me as much if I hadn’t recently read Jemisin’s “Emergency Skin.” A complaint of several other readers was that Emergency Skin felt like a serious representation of the author’s views. I held that it was obviously satire of bad message fiction. It was so blatantly over the top and absurd that it could only have been meant as satire. After all, there’s no way I could imaging the author of the Broken Earth trilogy seriously supporting *exterminationist rhetoric of a minority demographic.*

And yet, I’ve now found myself saying that I can’t imagine something like that twice, and I’m starting to get nervous. I’m starting to feel like the guy at the party who thought we were all laughing at Steven Colbert’s caricature of a racist talk show host, and is starting to realize everyone else is laughing at the joke about how awful minorities are for real.

I dunno. I think we all went a little crazy over the last four years, living under Trump. Everyone’s stressed out, everything is more polarized, the world’s on edge. We’ve had a pandemic and a coup attempt, and people were circling the wagons. Maybe now that Orange Man is gone and the pandemic’s about to be crushed, things will cool off. The last thing I want to see is a resurgence of racism in SF.


In summary: Not Recommended.

For book clubs: Still Not Recommended, but you can probably get a lot of discussion out of it if your group is willing to tackle a problematic novel.

Mar 012021

Back in 2016 I had a heckuva Chuck Tingle kick. In admiration of his style, I tried my hand at writing my own Tingler — Amazing Man 2: Love Conquors All. It was great fun to write, I tossed it up online, and I thought that would be the end of it.

In the intervening years it seems to have accrued a few fans, which is flattering and awesome. A few of them even got together and made an audio version of the story! It’s really good, and I loved it, and I’m sharing it with all y’all now. I’m really honored and grateful that this was done. Many many thanks to Johnny, GSV, and Hobodemon! :D

For those unfamiliary with Tinglers, this is extremely NSFW. Unless your boss has a very raunchy sense of humor, I suppose. :)


Feb 222021

Antediluvian, by Wil McCarthy

Synopsis: A series of four novelettes in stone-age settings exploring technological advancement.

Book Review: This is a hard novel to summarize. It would be called “historical fiction” perhaps, except that it happens in literal pre-historic times, so that technically doesn’t apply. :) Also, historical fiction usually focuses a fair bit on the actual historical events/people/places that we know from that era, which isn’t a primary focus of Antediluvian.

What Antediluvian does focus on is a sense of wonder, surviving cosmic forces, and technological advancement. It does this from the perspective of very ancient humans, though. So I think rather than pre-historical fiction, it would be most accurate to call this Cave Man Science Fiction. It takes the conventions and interests of classic SF, and puts them in a primitive human perspective.

In this regard, it feels very much like Roots of Progress, or Primitive Technology. Like both of those projects, this novel is fascinating. I know it’s not everyone’s thing, but seeing how our ancestors slowly made their way from banging rocks together to creating cities and sea-faring states that smelt iron is a wonderous thing to experience. There are many ways that telling this sort of story could have been boring, and McCarthy manages to avoid most of them. We get to experience what it could be like to work out how to make floating craft, and discovering that putting a spear tip in a fire can make it harder than before. We even get a peek into what it might have been like to be around when the very first technology was being invented, a tech I won’t spoiler here, but one so basic that it could arguably called that which made us human, and was partially evolved as much as it was created.

Every single one of these stories was engaging and felt like old-school SF to me in terms of tech-dependance, exploration, and wonder. However, it’s not all good. There is a framing story about a guy in the near future with some past-seeing device which, to be honest, seems completely unnecesssary. It felt like a distraction to me every single time. I didn’t care about this professor or his invention, and the framing device felt like something that was tacked on after the fact to tie the dissparate stories together. I didn’t need this, the stories were interesting on their own, and the professor’s story never had any stakes or tension. I just wanted to get back to the good stuff.

Likewise, like the classic SF this reflects, there isn’t much in terms of “characters” in these stories. There is enough to keep you interested and move you from one cool dicovery or action to the next, but they aren’t a major concern. I only vaugely remember any of the characters now, or the personal journies they went through. Normally this would be bad, because that’s usually what novels are written for. But not in this case. The heroes of these stories aren’t the individual characters, they are the human race as a whole. Our continued progress to know more of the world, and make it more managable and livable. In the style of Utopian SF that shows us how amazing the human race can be when we defeat death, conquer physics, and spread out to the stars, this novel shows us the first faltering steps in those processes, as we were first beginning to understand that we can make the world better and safer as we learn how it works and how it can be altered. Ultimately, I don’t need every story to be angst and drama. When its done well, the joy of exploration and science can carry an entire book.

I have to put in a personal disclaimer here – I know Wil McCarthy IRL, and I quite like him. He even wrote a guest-post on this blog when this book releasted. I have no illusions about the fact that this must inevitably color my reading of any of his works. I have strived to be as objective as I can, but there are limits to how much one can disentangle personal emotions when judging something that’s specifically designed to evoke emotions (like all art does). So, that’s a thing to keep in mind? Though if the book was bad, I either would have said that outright, or just not reviewed it at all to prevent hurt feelings.

As for recommendation — my metric is always “would I recommend this book to the me of the past that hasn’t read it yet as a good use of my time?” Initially, I was kinda torn on this. Antediluvian is a fine story, but it doesn’t have the pathos and drama that I so adore in fiction I read. It isn’t like the best thing I read in 2020 or anything. But on the other hand, it’s a lot better than much of what I did read in 2020. And, crucially, it has aged very well in my memory. A lot of novels that are fun at the time fade from my memory very quickly, and I can’t tell you much about them even after six months. Antediluvian, OTOH, still comes up in my mind from time to time, as something unique with an interesting perspective. I am glad I read it. I would put several things before this one in a strict ordering, but I would certainly include this on a list to myself of things I will be happy that I spent the time to read. Thus – Recommended.

Book Club Review: This is a harder call to make. The major problem with this book is expectations. Based on the cover, and the framing story that opens the book, almost everyone in our book club was expecting a near-future SciFi work. It’s not that — it’s prehistory novellas — and the clash of reality with expectation really threw a lot of readers off. They were frustrated by the back-and-forth of the novellas with the framing story, the feeling that whenever they were in the past it was a distraction from the “main story” (even though the prehistory novellas are the large majority of the word count), and the fact that the framing story didn’t have much substance. Again, I believe this would have been a better novel if the framing story was excised completely. After our discussion, several people said “I probably would have liked this if I thought I was reading prehistorical fiction, rather than expecting SF.”

I think, if you can set these expectations, there is a lot in here to talk about in terms of human developement and the history of technological advancement. Sadly, we didn’t quite get to that point. So, as is, probably Not Recommended. But with some initial intervention – possibly! If someone gets a chance to do this, please let me know how it goes, and I can updated this page.

Feb 172021

There’ve already been a dozen+ well-written and thought-out pieces about the complete moral deprativity of the NYT’s Scott Alexander piece, and I can’t add anything of value to those. However I can pass on an observation of just how low the NYT has sunk.

Scott Alexander has haters that congregate online. Some of them hate him personally, some of them merely hate the community he belongs to and the way he speaks eloquently for and about them. Regardless, for multiple years there have been groups of people that spend a lot of time online discussing their shared hatred of Scott Alexander and posting about how terrible he is (Sneerclub and RationalWiki come to mind immediately).

And yet, even these internet trolls, basically dyed-in-the-wool internet shitlords, had the decency to use his psyduonym of Scott Alexander and not doxx him. It took the paragons of social responsibility at the New York Times to doxx one of the most socially generous and intellectually charitable writers of the modern day. It wasn’t until several days after NYT shit themselves that RationalWiki finally updated their entry on Scott Alexander to include his full name.

Good work, NYT. You’re literally worse than the internet.