During the past year I didn’t completely give up on getting published, continuing to send out stories and even writing another one. As a result, I had two stories published in the later half of 2020! For those interested, here they are:
“Give Me My Wings” is published in Gotta Wear Eclipse Glasses. It’s a very short story (only 2000 words!) about not fitting into the world, and a human-created afterlife. Like most of my stories, I have very mixed feelings on the choices the protagonist makes, but this one moreso than most.
The anthology is full of optimistic stories in a bright future. Before you ask, I don’t know what’s up with that cover… the pay rates for the writers were really good, so I don’t think it’s a lack of funding? I asked about that, but I think I offended the publisher, so…. :/
“Not Fade Away” is published in Aurealis #136. It’s a piece about remaining useful even as you age and degrade. It’s one of the first stories I wrote, and it took a fair bit of polishing and rewriting to get it to the state it’s at today. I’m glad I didn’t give up on this one.
Most people know that Cyberpunk 2077 is based on the Cyberpunk 2020 RPG. I still have my old copy, and I decided to take a look to compare how the last 30 years actually went vs how they would have to go to get us to the neon & chrome cyberpunk future.
To the left – the cover.
To the right – what Johnny Silverhand looked like before he was Keanu Reeves.
Before we begin, one interesting note about the present’s view of the future —
The copyright of Cyberpunk 2020 is 1990/1991. That means it was considered plausible for this setting to be 30 years in our future. Cyberpunk 2077 came out in 2020, putting the plausible window for the setting 57 years into our future. That’s nearly twice as long. This means people are more pessimistic about the speed of technological improvement, and estimate that we’re progressing at HALF the rate we used to! Quite a change in the zeitgeist.
However it also means people are more optimistic about the rate of civilizational collapse, and think it’ll take us twice as long to get to Night City. Seeing as the cyberpunk genre was born before the 1990s rennasaince, when everything seemed to be spiraling, this isn’t surprising (the collapse of the USA was slated for 1996, just 6 years out from publication!). And since CP2077 was born in Trump America, this means that even in Trump America people on average didn’t feel as anxious about everything coming apart at the seams.
Anyway, on to the Timeline!
First Arcology built in 1991
EU established in 1992
New York gets nuked in 1993
Collapse of USA in 1996
Middle East destroyed in full nuclear exchange 1997
Plague kills 100s of thousands in US/Europe 2000
Orbital war in 2008, Colorado Springs is wiped out
Humans on Mars in 2011
First true AI in 2013
Human cloning in 2017
Orbital colony revolt in 2018
It’s been a bit of a year. Not just politics-wise and corona-wise (though those have been huge), but personal-health-wise as well. But a couple weeks ago Google mailed me to say that I’m still getting 1k visitors a month to this site, and I’m like “wtf? Really? I haven’t updated it in months, who are these people?” And it turns out I have some new comments on some old posts, and well, that’s kinda cool. So I’m gonna get back into blogging. Just a little bit at a time, maybe catch up on the book club book reviews I haven’t posted, maybe archive my FB links again, maybe a rant here or there. Thanks for still being around, even sporadically. :)
I do podcast with a couple friends of mine twice a month, if anyone’s into that sorta thing, over here.
I was appalled to discover this is the standard policy of the New York Times. Doxxing anyone is considered default harmful among all people who have taken the time to consider the question, and is not done in civilized forums without strong extenuating circumstances. That such a pro-doxxing policy is still on the books at a major institution in these days is scandalous, and I can only hope that it is the result of a lapse in attention, rather than intentional malice.
Scott Alexander is a leading thinker of the modern day. He has produced more influential work attracting many otherwise-mutually-hostile audiences than nearly any traditional journalists. He has done more to influence my life in the last five years than any other person I do not personally know. His blog is one of the cultural touchstones of my community, and the loss of it will be felt as a bleeding wound for years. It is astounding to me that such a loss of human insight and knowledge, including all the lost future decades, is being done in the name of upholding a policy that is itself a vicious holdover from a crueler time.
Please reverse the decision to dox Scott Alexander, and update your policy to one that doesn’t perpetrate violence upon the vulnerable. Thank you for your time.
I was remiss in sharing this when I reviewed Player of Games — A friend of mine has a reaction-style podcast where he and a friend are reading through the entire Culture series together. He’s read it before, the friend has not. For those familiar with We’ve Got Worm, it’s that style of podcast. The whole series can be followed at the Discord under the #more-art-than-science channel, or the RSS.
If you are like me, and you love the Harley Quinn character, I strongly recommend going to see Birds of Prey and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn. I, personally, LOVED it. It was exactly what I had hoped for – a cartoonish slapstick comedy with ultraviolence throughout. :D Very reminiscent of the Tank Girl movie, which I loved for the same reason. Every minute of this was pure joy.
I had someone ask if it’s a lot like Deadpool, since that one is also a lot of cartoonish fun and violence. It sounds like they would be, but they have very different souls. Deadpool has a snarky teenage smirk. It’s fun in a jaded way. Harley takes childish glee in mayhem. It’s a purer form of emotion, IMO. I like Harley more, though I loved Deadpool too.
Anyway, this is the most fun I’ve had watching a movie in a LONG time.
Also I’m so glad they embraced an R rating. Trying to do this as PG13 would have been so pathetic.
“the replacement of algorithms with a powerful technology in the form of the human brain is not without risks. Before humans become the standard way in which we make decisions, we need to consider the risks and ensure implementation of human decision-making systems does not cause widespread harm.”
“Our problems are different now, but Joker remains a product of a different era. Arthur Fleck lives in a fragile system on the brink of collapse, whereas we live under a system that only gets more stable and entrenched, so much so that the most powerful nation on earth can have an childish yet vicious know-nothing serve as President and continue prospering.
Perhaps the ebbing of chaos and crime left our psyches wounded in a special way.”
Of particular note is that CyberPunk was basically this setting with cool cyber stuff on top of it.
“the trouble with obsessing over terms like “quantum supremacy” is not merely that it diverts attention, while contributing nothing to fighting the world’s actual racism and sexism. The trouble is that the obsessions are actually harmful. For they make academics—along with progressive activists—look silly. They make people think that we must not have meant it when we talked about the existential urgency of climate change and the world’s other crises. They pump oxygen into right-wing echo chambers.
But it’s worse than ridiculous, because of the message that I fear is received by many outside the activists’ bubble. When you say stuff like “[quantum] supremacy is for racists,” what’s heard might be something more like:
“Watch your back, you disgusting supremacist. Yes, you. You claim that you mentor women and minorities, donate to good causes, try hard to confront the demons in your own character? Ha! None of that counts for anything with us. You’ll never be with-it enough to be our ally, so don’t bother trying. We’ll see to it that you’re never safe, not even in the most abstruse and apolitical fields. We’ll comb through your words—even words like ‘ancilla qubit’—looking for any that we can cast as offensive by our opaque and ever-shifting standards. And once we find some, we’ll have it within our power to end your career, and you’ll be reduced to groveling that we don’t. Remember those popular kids who bullied you in second grade, giving you nightmares of social ostracism that persist to this day? We plan to achieve what even those bullies couldn’t: to shame you with the full backing of the modern world’s moral code. See, we’re the good guys of this story. It’s goodness itself that’s branding you as racist scum.” ”
“You don’t get better at life and rationality after taking one class with Prof. Kahnemann. After 8 years of hard work, you don’t stand out from the crowd even as the results become personally noticeable. And if you discover Rationality in college and stick with it, by the time you’re 55 you will be three times better than what you would have been if you hadn’t compounded these 3% gains year after year, and everyone will notice that.
What’s more, the outcomes don’t scale smoothly with your level of skill. When rare, high leverage opportunities come around, being slightly more rational can make a huge difference. Bitcoin was one such opportunity; meeting my wife was another such one for me. I don’t know what the next one will be: an emerging technology startup? a political upheaval? cryonics? I know that the world is getting weirder faster, and the payouts to Rationality are going to increase commensurately.”
“This is an area where I think informing people about what is actually useful might really shift their behaviour. They’ve mostly just been misinformed and never stopped to research it. After all one can never directly see what is actually causing the most emissions.”
I saw the first episode of The Witcher on Festivus, and boy did that unintentionally fit the holiday theme. tldr is that the writers are just phoning this in, and hoping the strength of the fight choreography will keep people watching.
Full Spoilers below.
The problems start right out the gate, where we see a stranger fighting a monster. Why do I care about this monster, and whether it wins or not? Or is it the stranger I’m supposed to care about, because he’s human? There are no stakes in this fight, I don’t care about either participant, so I’m already bored. Also, since I know that’s Geralt, I also know I’m *supposed* to care if he wins (lazy writing!), and that he will win because they aren’t killing off the lead in the first 4 minutes of a series.
Geralt struggles to reach his sword when it’s been knocked from his grasp, but fails to do so, and must go back to grappling. I guess this is suspense? He then reaches for it, and fails to get it, AGAIN. Oh my god. I was on pins and needles, seeing a close up of a hand failing to close around a sword for several grasps. How many times will this incredibly suspenseful gambit be reused? *At least once more*, because we have run time to pad!
Most of the rest of this episode is mumbled exposition in boring locations while two characters look at each other. This also fails to draw me in. I don’t know what kingdom you rule, or why I am in support of it. I don’t know who the Nilfgardians are, why they are coming, or what bad things will happen if they are not thrown back. Sure, the nobility will likely have some bad times, maybe execution, but they’re nobility–they probably deserve it. Sic Semper Tyrannis! Like, I really just can’t feel any anticipation at the revelation that the enemy army is already within your borders if I don’t give a damn about you or your borders yet.
Same for your weird dissection of people born during an eclipse. That could’ve been spiced up with ominous music and flashbacks, or something. Just having two dudes mumbling at each other stoically about mutations had me actually zoning out.
Lets talk about the big skirmish between the two… armies? First of all, I don’t know where the hell it happens. Is this nearby? Just outside the city? Several days’ march away? Does this field even exist in the world? Because I swear before all the gods that if felt like a Green Screen Room that everyone was teleported to, and then later teleported back from. It’s implied the battle goes on for at least a couple days, but I have no sense of time passing as well as no sense of location. And the CGI is the worst I have seen this decade. When we got distance shots of cavalry moving, or infantry rushing each other, it almost looked like I was playing Myth again. Well, ok, maybe not that extreme, but it was reallybad. The CGI in the Witcher 3 video game was strikingly better, which is just not something I expect from a Netflix show.
There were two really good things about this show, however. The first was Renfri, the maybe-demon lady. She has an actual personality, with motivation and everything! Her dialog is fun, she gets our sympathy very quickly, and she’s a freakin’ bad-ass. The actress portraying her does a fantastic job. I was willing to keep watching this series on the strength of what would be done with this character and her arc alone — and then they killed her at the end of the episode. Y’all removed the only good thing about your show in the pilot, dammit. Screw this whole thing.
The other really good part was the two fight scenes we get at the end. They were beautiful. A high-budget call back to the ridiculously over-the-top Xena-style fighting from my childhood. It was pure bombast and awesome eye candy. I had so much fun watching them.
(I did hear a friend say that someone told him this was “very realistic fighting,” which made me choke on my Comed-Tea. This is the opposite of realistic fighting. I don’t care, because it was wonderful and super fun. But the only universe were someone could think this was realistic is if their only exposure to fight scenes is Marvel movies.)
Unfortunately, this is 2-3 minutes of screen time at the end of a 56 minute slog. It is not worth the loss of 1/16th of my waking hours for the day. I will be watching the fight scenes on YouTube, and that’s it. I’m disappointed that a series with such potential was tanked by people who don’t care to do any writing work.