May 302022
 

A couple things about yesterday’s post.

Again, I know there were similar things happening before the cancellation of Roseanne. It was after this incident that cancelling became the default weapon that is wielded to punish political enemies, and the knowledge of how to weild it became widespread and culturally acceptable.

Cancel Culture and Wokeism are not the same thing. I realize they’re often conflated, but they’re seperate phenomena. Wokeism often uses Canceling as a weapon, but so do the assholes on the Right.

Also, I’m not saying there shouldn’t be any consequences for tweeting something racist like that. Some type of censure was definitely needed. In the case of Roseanne, at the time this happened, I thought it was justified. But in retrospect, the rush to destroy her, and the fear that silenced anyone who would say anything in her defence, were definitely bad things. Due process was created to temper passions and prevent us from doing things we may regret after the initial fury has died down, and that seems like it was a wise thing to invent.

May 292022
 

Today is the 4th birthday of Cancel Culture. On May 29, 2018, ABC cancelled the reboot of Roseanne after a racist tweet by it’s star & creator, Roseanne Barr.

America was at a social tipping point in early 2018. The left wing, having been sent reeling after the surprise win of Trump a year and a half earlier, was looking for a way to fight back. Pussy Hats and marches felt good for a day or two, but accomplished nothing. No matter what anyone did Trump was still in power. The people who had put him there were still smug and self-assured. The establishment left and its supporters were deeply frustrated and entirely impotent.

I know, I was one of them.

In the middle of this Roseanne had been rebooted, a working-class family sitcom from the 80s/90s. Roseanne Barr, despite being the head of a feminist sitcom and a one-time Green Party presidential candidate, had infamously voted for Trump in 2016. Despite or perhaps because of this, her show pushing progressive ideas and attitudes remained popular among working-class Americans. It had an immensely successful first/tenth season in early 2018, and ABC signed for an 11th season. Shorty after the season completed, in an unrelated incident, Roseanne Barr tweeted “muslim brotherhood & planet of the apes had a baby = vj.” VJ was Valerie Jarrett, the black woman that Obama called his “best friend” on at least one occasion, and who worked as a senior advisor to Obama during his presidency.

Within hours producer (and famous comedian) Wanda Sykes leaves the show. Right on her heals, several of her costars posted renunciations of Barr and publicaly quit the show. Less than 24 hours after Roseanne’s tweet, ABC cancels the reboot. Some networks pull the old show’s reruns from syndication as well.

I cheered when this happened. As we all knew, Trump and his supporters were open racists, it was one of their most prominent defining traits. At last someone had taken a stand to say “no, racism is not OK” and had lashed out against the bigots and bullies running roughshod over our government. Using only the power of our voices, our outrage and condemnation in every form of communication we had, we had struck a blow against evil. We had at least deeply hurt one of the powerful haters at the top. Her show was cancelled, her power gone, her reputation in tatters. Importantly, also hurt all the bigots who enjoyed what that hater had been producing. Not only had they been stripped of a popular TV show, but now they knew we can do this to you, so don’t fuck with us. We, the decent 80% of the population that still respects civility, still have a way to strike back, even if you took the White House from us for a few years.

With this act, modern social warfare was revolutionized. It had existed before, but now we knew how to do it right. Immediate and uncompromising denunciation. The entire mob must act as one, and at once. The target cannot have time to apologize or explain. It must be swift, and the sanction must be the harshest possible immediately, as every hour that passes is another hour someone might dig into circumstances or nuance, and the outrage may peter out. Strike hard, strike fast. (Anyone who advocates for slowing down, considering broader factors, or letting the accused defend themselves, is literally sabotaging this blitz. They are introducing time dealy, and have revealed themselves as an enemy. Treat them as such.)

Cancel Culture was born that day, via a literal cancellation of a TV show. That’s where the name comes from.


In retrospect, it’s hard to believe it’s only been four years. It feels like an entire lifetime ago, to me. The world has changed drastically since then, and so have I. I loved watching this happen, at the time. I, too, needed a victory, a blow dealt against the deplorable racists in charge, and I was happy to accept Roseanne as that victim. I had never watched the original Roseanne show (it was too low-class for my aspirations, which I am ashamed to admit today). I didn’t watch the reboot either. It’s cancellation didn’t hurt me in the least. Some millionaire would lose her show? Oh boo hoo, cry me a river.

When Roseanne said she’d tweeted that under the influence of Ambien, a sleep medication with strong side effects known to cause halluciations and spark bizarre behaviors. The side effects are so pervasive that Ambien users have a mascot for their hallucinations, the Ambien Walrus, that they joke about. I knew this, but when Ambien’s makers tweeted “While all pharmaceutical treatments have side effects, racism is not a known side effect of any Sanofi medication” I laughed and laughed, and shared it with others. Was Roseanne on Ambien at the time? Is that an excuse even if she was? I dunno. Maybe not, to both. But I didn’t even bother to think about this, I was just happy someone gave me a reason to mock it and ignore it.

Was the tweet racist? Yeah, I think so. But is Roseanne Barr racist? I did a bunch of research in putting together this post. During the original 1988-1997 run, under the direction of Barr, the show normalized and championed progressive ideals to working class viewers. In addition to being feminist, had black, gay, and lesbian charecters. Roseanne berates her son for refusing to kiss a black girl in a school play, saying “Black people are just like us. They’re every bit as good as us, and any people who don’t think so is just a bunch of banjo-picking, cousin-dating, barefoot embarrassments to respectable white-trash like us!” And, famously, Roseanne Barr pushed hard to air a same-sex kiss, which was nearly unheard of at the time. ABC almost pulled the episode, and several smaller markets did refuse to air it. This kiss made headlines at every entertainment beat at the time. Roseanne Barr was very progressive, and probably did a lot to spread the ideals of liberalism into working-class America.

Roseanne herself apologized profusely, and pleaded for a second chance. Later, after the cancelling was complete, some of her costars spoke up in defense of her. They said Roseanne made a mistake, but she was not a racist. At the time I wouldn’t have believed them. Having seen how cancellations actually work over the last four years, I know assume they were telling the truth.

Eventually, the people who cancelled Roseanne recreated the show without her. Calling it “The Conners,” they kill Roseanne off-screen in the first episode. The fictional removal mirrors the real-life removal in a chilling way.


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May 282022
 

It seems there is confusion as to what “woke” means.

 

I. What Woke Isn’t

It was said to me “No other movement made efforts to understand the danger of being out as queer or trans, or the discomfort of being racialized; no other movement made any effort to make spaces safer or more comfortable for us.”

I was asked to consider “if something needs to be built to replace it in order to further egalitarian human flourishing”

Initially I assumed that these comments came from a very young person in a very regressive country (or area of the US), who literally did not know about the civil rights movements that existed prior to 2012-ish. Upon further consideration, though, it is plausible that such a belief could come from the idea that wokeism is just another term for the liberal civil rights movement. It would be a much better world if this was true, but sadly we need the word “woke” to differentiate a new movement from the liberal civil rights movement.

The liberal civil rights movement is predicated on the idea that all people should be treated without discrimination or prejudice based on immutable characteristics. People should be treated as individuals, and judged on what they actually do. Not treated as instantiations of a group’s stereotypes. “Content of our character rather than color of our skin” kinda stuff. This is the movement that not only understood the dangers of being gay/non-white, but actually created the changes in the world that made the US significantly safer and fairer for such people.

Also, they’re still around, so unless one is living in a benighted country, there are already institutions dedicated to further egalitarian human flourishing that aren’t burdened by the rot of wokeness.

 

II. What Woke Is

I try to keep my definition of “Woke” as simple as possible, to avoid distractions. To me, Wokeness is the ideology that teaches that:

1. All humans have recognizable immutable characteristics – things like sex, race, ethnicity, sexuality, gender identity.

2. These characteristics are the most important defining facts about most people.

3. People should be treated differently based on these characteristics. Specifically, women are to be accommodated over and protected from men, racial & ethnic minorities from majorities, gays from straights, and trans from cis.

 

III. Differences from Liberalism

This interacts with liberalism in some interesting ways. First of all, #1 is simply a physical reality. Can’t nobody argue with that.

And #3 is basically the traditional Liberal Civil Rights agenda (which may be the cause of the confusion).

The difference is in #2. The liberal civil rights movement holds that the immutable characteristics identified in #1 are basically meaningless noise. Knowing those characteristics about someone gives you almost no information about that person*. They should be ignored and treated as non-issues in all but the most extreme cases. The civil rights movement recognized that many official policies (as well as personal opinions) did NOT treat these characteristics as value-neutral. Therefore, they advocated for policy that would protect people with minority characteristics from the prejudice of others. They were often successful in this, and mostly this improved the world.

Wokeness takes the opposite view. They believe a person’s immutale characteristics are extremely important. Crucially, they allow you to rank people on a scale from Oppressed to Oppressor. Official policy should be to punish the Oppressors and recompence the Oppressed. To strive to eliminate bias and prejudice is actually a bad thing, because that would leave the Oppressors un-punished, and the Oppressed un-avenged.

 

IV. Ramifications

In the end, wokeness is mostly just people’s natural tendency to hate an outgroup and enrich thier ingroup finding a new outlet. Some humans will always have this need, and it was clever of them to hide it under an aegis of righteousness. Unfortunately, this is having some massive fallout for liberal society.

The majority of both liberals and conservatives are moderate, and yet believe that most people of the opposite persuasion are extremists. It is a disaster that liberals in the United States are being represented by a very vocal extremist fringe. Everyone not belonging to this fringe can see that it is rife with bigotry, even if they can’t say that out loud, and they are moving away from it. Some of them are leaving the Democratic party entirely.

This results in the Right Wing of American politics gaining more power relative to the Left Wing. Having fewer people on the left wing means the right increases as a percentage in a system where only two parties have any significant power.

This is already causing harm to the groups traditionally defended by liberals. Enough institutions have been captured by wokeism that turning this around is going to take a lot of effort and at least a few years.

There is a significant cohort that seeks to slow the growing renunciations by accusing anyone who leaves the extremist left of being “racists” and “rightists” and even “Nazis.” (Despite the fact that the liberals are leaving because of the wokes’ bigotry). They can see that the right is gaining power, and blame those who are leaving their ranks with the “If you aren’t with me, I will treat you as my enemy” tactic. The primary result of this is to push everyone who isn’t in the extreme-left even further away.

(The insane overreach by the Right wing in response is the only thing that’s keeping the Left from crumbling entirely)

 

V. But…. Religion?

Oh, yeah, I compared wokeism to religion, that’s what started all this. That’s a deeper kettle of fish, due to the specific way wokeism has played out in the US. I first wanted to get out my core objection to wokeism, since it seemed there was a basic confusion as to what was even being discussed. Wokeism as a para-religious memeplex coming up in the next few days.


*  –  This is actually wrong, but it’s an order of magnitude less wrong than the woke position that they are of overriding importance.

I’m moving to SubStack. Eventually this blog will no longer be updated, so switch on over.

May 272022
 

For those following along, Lackey posted an “apology” which was basically not an apology. It also quoted Delany (the author she refered to as “colored”) replying to the kerfuffle saying he was cool with the word. I applaud her decision to pretend to apologize without actually doing so. :)

Also, I am aware that she claimed cancel culture doesn’t exist a few years ago. I still feel sympathy for her. It can be very hard to keep up as you get older. You lose touch with the zeitgeist, your faculties slow, and it’s easy to get confused. When the people you trust are lying to you and creating a false world for you to inhabit, I don’t feel you can be held entirely responsible for repeating what they’ve told you. The main reason I consider what SFWA has done to be so shameful is because she IS old and declining. :(

In addition, when the epistemic enviroment is hostile (as it is in America) and the elites you used to trust are earnestly repeating lies (which they are), it can take a while to realize this is happening. I was woke for many years myself. I, too, mocked the unenlightened. It wasn’t until I saw just a bit too much stupidity and cruelty, started pushing back against it, and then found myself cancelled for this heresy, that I realized the anti-SJWs (the term “woke” wasn’t popular at the time) had been on to something. You often don’t realize they’re gunning for you until you’re starting down the barrel of the gun (metaphorically).

So, sure, it feels good to say “Hey, if you lie with wolves, don’t be surprised when they turn on you.” But it’s not uncommon for people to not realize that the mob around them are the wolves. They make very convincing sheep noises, after all.

 


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May 242022
 

SFWA cancelling Mercedes Lackey is disgusting and shameful. But I had assumed Lackey wouldn’t be notably harmed personally. She’s established and has her fan base, after all.

Turns out I was wrong. I forgot not everyone is jaded internet denizens like ourselves. Some people are old and vulnerable and don’t understand that the internet is a hive of scum and villainy that doesn’t really matter 🙁

The whole thread is devestating


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May 222022
 

Mercedes Lackey is a grand dame of Fantasy fiction. She’s published over 140 novels, and might be one of the most prolific professional SF/F authors of all time. She’s of an older generation of writers as well. Born in 1950, she’s over 70 years old at the time of this publishing.

SFWA is the Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America. They are the trade organization that represents authors interests in the publishing industry. They host an annual conference, and at that conference also give out one of the most prestigous annual SF/F writing awards. They have also succumed to woke capture, several years back.

Yesterday, at the annual SFWA conference, Lackey was on a virtual panel. The panel was “Romancing Sci-Fi & Fantasy.” Lackey praised Samuel R. Delany, a revered grandmaster of SF/F. She refered to him as “colored.” The panel continued without incident.

Afterwards, SFWA removed the panel from the internet. They censured Lackey, kicked her out of the conference, and removed her from all the other panels she was scheduled for. They are having further discussions as to what to do next, including possibly re-running the full panel without Lackey.

Lackey obviously meant no harm. She is older, and likely was confused by the changing lingo, and mixed up the “colored” of her youth with the “of color” that is the standard now.

This confusion is intentional. Woke is the new cool. The whole point of rapidly changing language is to make sure that the old and out-of-touch can’t keep up. That’s how you can tell who’s cool. It would certainly be a travisty if Lackey was still cool.

But it’s spiteful and ugly to expel and shame someone for not being cool. Especially when that someone is a revered elder of your tribe. SFWA has done a disgusting thing here, and they likely won’t acknowledge it for several years (if ever).

Lackey will probably be asked to grovel and beg forgiveness, and won’t be readmitted into the cool kids club even if she does so. Meanwhile, the grieving and shaking cool kids continue to claim that Lackey’s misstep is “illustrative of the power differentials at play in SFF,” bemoaning how powerful Lackey is, and how oppressed they are. Despite the fact that they had one of the most powerful SF/F organizations in the country excommunicate a famous author in a matter of hours for a trivial mistake.

At least I can take solace in the fact that cancel culture isn’t real.


I’m moving to SubStack! Eventually this blog will no longer be updated, so switch on over.

May 192022
 

Rich Man’s Sky, by Wil McCarthy
and
Poor Man’s Sky, by Wil McCarthy

Synopsis:  In the near future, humanity takes the first steps to creating off-Earth colonies. In Rich Man’s Sky, government agents are sent to infiltrate (and possibly capture) a rapidly-expanding solar-harvesting factory at L1. In Poor Man’s Sky, a detective (and ex-Navy Seal) is sent to the toe-hold Lunar Station to investigate the first off-Earth murder.

Books Review: This is a single review because these novels aren’t just stories, they are a thorough exploration of how, actually literally in real life, we might get off this planet. They take place in the very near future (RMS opens in 2051, less than 30 years from now). All the tech used is either already available, already in prototype, or a single-step extrapolation of such and realistically possible. Wil McCarthy is an actual rocket scientist, formerly from Lockheed Martin.

The primary movers in Rich Man’s Sky are mega-wealthy entrepenuers. There is an obvious Elon Musk stand-in, having taken the SpaceX stand-in to its final form. There’s a Richard Branson equivalent, trying to keep up but aging out. There’s a ruthless Russian oligarch that controls the off-world Helium-3 trade, who I’m sure has a current-day analog that I would recognize if I knew anything about IRL Russian oligarchs. I, too, think the most likely way we’ll get humans living off-planet is via private actors.

The political ramifications of these expansions into space are a major source of narrative conflict. The governments of the world are pissed off, but they don’t have the ability to do much expanding of their own. They do, however, have the power to really bring the hammer down planet-side, and to send elite agents into space. This also seems like an extremely plausible forecast.

Interestingly, the Catholic Church has a stake in a small Lunar station/monestary. The really fascinating part is how convincingly McCarthy portrays the Church’s motivations for doing this, and how they’d execute on it. A nice touch!

The first book (Rich Man’s Sky) has a main plot line of spy-thriller espionage. The second book (Poor Man’s Sky) is a murder-mystery. They share quite a few characters in common, but each one can be read completely stand alone without needing to read the other. They are fully self-contained stories. In this way, they remind me a lot of the early MCU, when each movie stood on its own merits and didn’t assume any outside knowledge from the viewer, but which all existed in a single internally-consistent universe which grew richer with each addition. I really like this model. Come to think of it, it reminds me of Discworld as well, in that structure.

While both of the books have strong primary plots, and likable protagonists with real depth, they have a quirk to their structure. Probably over a third of the page count of both these novels isn’t really focused on the primary plot or protagonist. This is because they aren’t just novels telling a story… they really are thorough explorations of how we might get off this planet. This means there are many short side-chapters that focus on how current tech could mature to make space travel feasible. Or the social impacts these advancements bring. Or how the economy of off-world energy trade finds an equilibrium, and then how it reacts to sudden supply shocks. Or how the most powerful people in the world interact with menial laborors when they live next door to each other.

For me, and for people like me who are really excited into seeing a possible road to off-world colonization actually being fully thought through and put on paper, this is absolutely fantastic. It answers “OK, but how the hell do we get to Star Trek from here? How can I see myself personally, or my friends and neighbors, actually doing this?” It’s wonderful and inspiring, and I love it. But for anyone who isn’t into all that stuff, this will be a drag. It’ll probably be very boring for them, and feel like meaningless world-building that doesn’t advance the plot or develop character. These books are probably not for people like them, and so I wouldn’t recommend it for anyone who thinks this sounds lame.

For myself, and people like me, though — Highly Recommended!

Book Club Review? n/a. This was not read in book club, I was reading it in my spare time. Please see Conflict of Interest, below.

Potential Conflict of Interest: I know Wil McCarthy personally. I think he’s a great guy. He’s also in my monthly Writer’s Workshop group, which is why I have already read Poor Man’s Sky — I was a beta reader for it. PMS isn’t in print yet, and you can’t buy it at the time of this publication. I know that this colors my reading of his books, it would be impossible for it not to, and I would laugh at anyone who claimed otherwise.

That being said, I really do think these are very good novels, and people who are also excited about current tech advances and about getting us off this rock would really like them as well. I do still have some ability to see bad writing, even when it comes from my friends, and in those cases I don’t write blog posts saying otherwise. I do value my reputation a little. :) Also I can’t be too terribly off track, because Rich Man’s Sky is a finalist for the 2022 Prometheus Award For Best Novel. So there.


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May 172022
 

In some regions of some states, gender reassignment is over-prescribed, both by self-assessment and by affirming clinics. In those places, at this time, it is a solution that is jumped to over-eagerly, because we know how to treat gender dysphoria. That makes the mental health problems of the dysphoric tractable. Gender dysphoria has overlapping symptoms with depression, and other mental maladies. We’re very fortunate that gender can be changed! Living in an unjust world with non pater non mater nihil supernum, where millions suffer for no reason, our bodies suck, love is terrifying, and we’re all gonna die… that’s a lot harder to treat. Anti-depresants only do so much.


I’m moving to SubStack! Eventually this blog will no longer be updated, so switch on over.

May 092022
 

There are people who think abortion (outside of specific exceptions for rape/incest/medical necessity) is morally impermissible. One of their defenses is that one can just not get pregnant.

This is a bad argument.

First, using protection is incredibly important, and everyone should do it, and anyone who doesn’t is being an idiot.

Most people’s sex drive is comparable to their food drive. It’s not something you can just ignore. If it’s not met, it starts to overwhelm your entire life. You won’t die from not having sex, but constant, consuming hunger is a horrible way to live. Even if you aren’t hungry often, there are times when hunger can be inflamed and magnified.

I have a lot of sympathy for people who got pregnant accidentally. Being very horny, and being seduced by someone, is as mind-altering as being drunk. Even when totally sober, while under the influence of those hormones it’s like being intoxicated. Normal decision-making processes are short-circuited. I’m pretty sure this is by design (damn you Azathoth!).

It doesn’t even have to be an intentional seduction. Two people attracted to each other can spiral into a deep mind-deranging lust if they follow natural incentives without extraordinary strictness of control.

So telling someone “Your brain and decision making was compromised, to the point that being on drugs can be less deranging, and this is because your body is designed to betray you at exactly this time in this way, but we’re gonna pretend you intentionally sat down and signed a contract while in a reasonable state of mind, so get fucked” is absolute bullshit. Every discussion about abortion rights should be done under direct acknowledgement that the participants were literally not in their right minds. Trying to treat them as if they were is straight-up fraud.

There are other possible arguments for/against abortion rights. But “people who don’t want to carry a child can just not get pregnant” is a terrible one.


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May 082022
 

I’m moving to SubStack.

I’ll continue posting all posts here as well as there for at least the rest of this month. Maybe next month too. This site will stay up as an archive for as long as I can afford the yearly fee.

I was convinced by Bryan Caplan’s post Who Should Switch to Substack? He’s a pretty convincing fellow.

I not planning to charge for any posts. It’ll be the same thing as always, just in a more central location, and with easy email subscription.

(note: This is a pinned post. There’s newer posts below it.)