Monthly Archives: March 2006

Coining a Phrase: “Christian Victim Front”

Since we seem to be talking about it here today, allow me to coin a phrase for the type of Christians who irrationally believe they and their values are constantly under attack and that they are the underdog in some vast moral scuffle here in the United States, even though 8 of 10 Americans identify as Christian, Christians comprise the vast majority of elected positions in the United States at the local, state and federal level, and the wide majority of the members of the US military consider themselves to be Christian, and the United States Constitution guarantees them the perfect right to practice their religion (although not to foist their religion on others, which, frankly, seems to confuse a great number of them):

Christian Victim Front. Perfect for the Christian with an overdeveloped sense of moral persecution in the absence of actual persecution.

Mind you, this is not to say there is the occasional example of Christians erroneously being told they can not practice their religion as they see fit; ironically, an aggrieved Christian’s best friend in this regard is the ACLU, who has a history of making sure Christians get their rights under the Constitution. This probably makes members of the CVF turn an apopleptic shade of purple. But as to a systematic, orchestrated war against Christian relgious expression and practice here in the US? Well, apparently it’s possible to believe it, but its ironically something you have to take on faith, because the facts are not in evidence.

It’s also not to suggest that every Christian is a member of the Christian Victim Front. My personal experience is that most Christians are perfectly sane on this subject, as they are on every other subject one might care to name, and joyously practice their faith secure in the protections of US Constitution and in the assurance of the tolerance and good wishes of their neighbors, even the ones who don’t share their faith (or have no faith at all). As with so many loudmouthed paranoids, the Christian Victim Front is not especially representative of the group it claims to represent.

What the existence of Christian Victim Front shows is an institutionalization of the victim rhetoric and a willingness by members of comfortable majority groups to use the rhetoric of groups who have been legitimately victimized over time, and use it to prop up their unearned privileges, even at the expense of the genuine rights of others. Christians aren’t the only one to use this trick, of course; there is also a Male Victim Front, a Caucasian Victim Front and a Wealthy Victim Front as well. In each case, it’s a more than a little unseemly. But it’s useful to use the rhetorical tools of the opposition against them, and with one’s base of support, it’s easier to keep people in line if you can give them the illusion that they’re constantly under attack.

The best way to combat this is to point out its inherent silliness. Thus: Christian Victim Front. Use it. Love it. Share it.

Also, it would make a kickass name for a punk group.

DeLay’s War

Oh no! Tom DeLay says there’s a war on Christianity! To the bunkers! With the crucifix!

There is no war on Christianity, save, perhaps, the one being perpetrated by “Christians” who by their deeds show themselves to be either ignorant of or manifestly opposed to the ideals espoused by Jesus, against the Christians who are somehow under the impression that what Jesus was really about was charity, compassion, justice and love; you know, all that stuff you’ll find in that New Testament thingy you hear so much about. The idea that Tom DeLay, whose track record on the Hill is appallingly unChristly, is somehow a model spokesman for Christian values of any sort is one that is best met with a giggle and a remembrance of Matthew 7: 21-23. For Mr. DeLay in particular, remembrance of Matthew 6:19-24 is also fervently advised.

Speaking as a non-believer, I’m not for a War on Christianity, since religious tolerance is a cornerstone of our Bill of Rights, and you know how fond I am of that document; it certainly does come in handy. Even if I were, I wouldn’t advise the war, because in this country Christians have both the guns and the numbers. I certainly wouldn’t mind a war on hypocrisy, however, and Tom DeLay looks like a ripe target for the first salvo on that front. Naturally, I encourage DeLay’s co-religionists to lead that charge. It’s people like him who give Jesus (and his followers) a bad name.

Adding Accelerando

For those 2006 Hugo/Campbell voters out there, I’m happy to note that our 2006 Hugo/Campbell voters electronic edition package has been sweetened by 50% with the addition of Charlie Stross’ 2006 Hugo-nominated novel Accelerando. Click here for the update to the original entry, plus information on how you can get Accelerando if you’ve already downloaded the package.

w00t! Charlie’s in!

Adding Accelerando

For those 2006 Hugo/Campbell voters out there, I’m happy to note that our 2006 Hugo/Campbell voters electronic edition package has been sweetened by 50% with the addition of Charlie Stross’ 2006 Hugo-nominated novel Accelerando. Click here for the update to the original entry, plus information on how you can get Accelerando if you’ve already downloaded the package.

w00t! Charlie’s in!

Interesting But Unverifiable Facts About the 2006 Campbell Class

campbellb06.jpg

Here’s the Campbell Class of 2006, or at the very least, books representing each of us. While I’ve been catching up on my reading, I’ve also had my crack team of private investigators create dossiers on each other Campbell nominee this year, in, of course, wholly legal and non-intrusive ways. In this way, I’ve discovered some interesting facts about each of them, which I will share with you now. Because this group of nominees is undeniably modest and self-effacing, I won’t say which fact goes with which Campbell nominee — and I’ll also include an equal number of facts about myself, just to keep things on an even keel. Have fun trying to match the fact with the nominee!

Did you know:

* One nominee’s favorite color is ecru.

* One nominee’s secret ambition is to be a guest star on The Muppet Show, but lack of access to a time machine prevents this.

* In college, one nominee played bass in a Bauhaus tribute band called Gropius Schmopius.

* One nominee was born with an extra toe.

* One nominee’s favorite antebellum president is Millard Fillmore, and because of this the nominee will often find a way to work into conversation that president’s last words: “The nourishment is palatable.”

* One nominee can simultaneously write classical Greek with one hand, and Klingon with the other.

* One nominee is known to smell of fresh-baked white chocolate and macadamia nut cookies, which makes the nominee immensely popular with small children and baked goods fetishists.

* One nominee holds the world record for catching the largest number of grunion in a 15-minute period.

* If one particular nominee ever needs a kidney, they’ll be glad to know one other nominee is a match.

* One nominee is allergic to certain forms of plastic, which is why the nominee never drinks soda from two-liter bottles.

* As a child one nominee rescued so many pets from being run over that the mayor of the town in which the nominee lived declared a day in the nominee’s honor. Ironically, that day, the nominee’s pet kitten Chocolate was hit by a school bus.

* One nominee has a mild case of synesthesia, and thus has not only found the rainbow connection, but has also painted with all the colors of the wind.

* One nominee shudders involuntarily at the sound of the word “loquacious.”

* Whatever you do, don’t ask one nominee to explain to you the events of April 23, 1994. Or what happened to the shoes afterward.

* Rumor has it that if you look in the mirror and say this nominee’s name three times, the nominee will magically appear behind you, and offer you donuts.

* One nominee finds it impossible to sleep unless everyone else in the building is asleep first. This makes staying at hotels extremely difficult.

* At a Model UN conference in high school, one nominee, in the position as the model Ambassador from Camaroon, managed to convince the model Ambassador from Great Britain to launch the country’s nuclear arsenal at Argentina, thus precipitating a model 30-minute World War III in which a model 1.6 billion humans died during the resulting model nuclear exchange. This nominee was not only subsequently banned from further participation in Model UN, but was placed on a list of people who are not allowed to visit various United Nations facilities, including the headquarters in New York.

* One nominee can not only tie a cherry stem in a knot with their tongue, but if you give the nominee three cherry stems, they can make macrame.

* One nominee cries everytime Coldplay’s “Yellow” is played within earshot. No, the nominee doesn’t want to talk about it.

* One nominee’s first word as an infant was “booger.”

* In elementary school, one nominee wrote a semi-autobiographical short story for a contest in the local newspaper, with a prize as a party at the local skate rink. Before the nominee could submit the story, however, it was submitted by another student at the school. The story won, and the other student didn’t invite the nominee to the skate party. The name of that other student: James Frey.

* Due to a childhood brain trauma, one nominee, while otherwise completely normal, is unable to tie shoes, and therefore never wears shoes that require bows.

* One nominee’s mother gave up her own life’s ambitions to help her child learn and grow as a writer. However, since this nominee’s mother’s life ambition was to watch every single episode of General Hospital, this sacrifice was not terribly onerous, especially after the nominee’s mother learned how to program the VCR.

* One nominee has a concealed weapons permit. So don’t piss this nominee off.

Are these facts true? Well, if nothing else, they are all equally true.

Interesting But Unverifiable Facts About the 2006 Campbell Class

campbellb06.jpg

Here’s the Campbell Class of 2006, or at the very least, books representing each of us. While I’ve been catching up on my reading, I’ve also had my crack team of private investigators create dossiers on each other Campbell nominee this year, in, of course, wholly legal and non-intrusive ways. In this way, I’ve discovered some interesting facts about each of them, which I will share with you now. Because this group of nominees is undeniably modest and self-effacing, I won’t say which fact goes with which Campbell nominee — and I’ll also include an equal number of facts about myself, just to keep things on an even keel. Have fun trying to match the fact with the nominee!

Did you know:

* One nominee’s favorite color is ecru.

* One nominee’s secret ambition is to be a guest star on The Muppet Show, but lack of access to a time machine prevents this.

* In college, one nominee played bass in a Bauhaus tribute band called Gropius Schmopius.

* One nominee was born with an extra toe.

* One nominee’s favorite antebellum president is Millard Fillmore, and because of this the nominee will often find a way to work into conversation that president’s last words: “The nourishment is palatable.”

* One nominee can simultaneously write classical Greek with one hand, and Klingon with the other.

* One nominee is known to smell of fresh-baked white chocolate and macadamia nut cookies, which makes the nominee immensely popular with small children and baked goods fetishists.

* One nominee holds the world record for catching the largest number of grunion in a 15-minute period.

* If one particular nominee ever needs a kidney, they’ll be glad to know one other nominee is a match.

* One nominee is allergic to certain forms of plastic, which is why the nominee never drinks soda from two-liter bottles.

* As a child one nominee rescued so many pets from being run over that the mayor of the town in which the nominee lived declared a day in the nominee’s honor. Ironically, that day, the nominee’s pet kitten Chocolate was hit by a school bus.

* One nominee has a mild case of synesthesia, and thus has not only found the rainbow connection, but has also painted with all the colors of the wind.

* One nominee shudders involuntarily at the sound of the word “loquacious.”

* Whatever you do, don’t ask one nominee to explain to you the events of April 23, 1994. Or what happened to the shoes afterward.

* Rumor has it that if you look in the mirror and say this nominee’s name three times, the nominee will magically appear behind you, and offer you donuts.

* One nominee finds it impossible to sleep unless everyone else in the building is asleep first. This makes staying at hotels extremely difficult.

* At a Model UN conference in high school, one nominee, in the position as the model Ambassador from Camaroon, managed to convince the model Ambassador from Great Britain to launch the country’s nuclear arsenal at Argentina, thus precipitating a model 30-minute World War III in which a model 1.6 billion humans died during the resulting model nuclear exchange. This nominee was not only subsequently banned from further participation in Model UN, but was placed on a list of people who are not allowed to visit various United Nations facilities, including the headquarters in New York.

* One nominee can not only tie a cherry stem in a knot with their tongue, but if you give the nominee three cherry stems, they can make macrame.

* One nominee cries everytime Coldplay’s “Yellow” is played within earshot. No, the nominee doesn’t want to talk about it.

* One nominee’s first word as an infant was “booger.”

* In elementary school, one nominee wrote a semi-autobiographical short story for a contest in the local newspaper, with a prize as a party at the local skate rink. Before the nominee could submit the story, however, it was submitted by another student at the school. The story won, and the other student didn’t invite the nominee to the skate party. The name of that other student: James Frey.

* Due to a childhood brain trauma, one nominee, while otherwise completely normal, is unable to tie shoes, and therefore never wears shoes that require bows.

* One nominee’s mother gave up her own life’s ambitions to help her child learn and grow as a writer. However, since this nominee’s mother’s life ambition was to watch every single episode of General Hospital, this sacrifice was not terribly onerous, especially after the nominee’s mother learned how to program the VCR.

* One nominee has a concealed weapons permit. So don’t piss this nominee off.

Are these facts true? Well, if nothing else, they are all equally true.

Spin, Accelerando and Old Man’s War: The 2006 Hugo/Campbell Voters Electronic Editions

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8/1/06: Hugo voting for 2006 is now closed. I regret we may no longer offer electronic versions of Spin and Old Man’s War.

For the duration of the 2006 Hugo and Campbell campaign, Tor Books has graciously reverted certain electronic rights to John Scalzi and Robert Charles Wilson concerning their Hugo-nominated novels Old Man’s War and Spin. This allows the two of them to make special electronic editions available at request to 2006 Hugo and Campbell voters. The authors have put together a package of both books for the voters’ convenience. Where can they get these special editions? Well, right here, of course!

(Update, 3/29/06 2:30pm — Charlie Stross has given a thumbs up to adding his 2006 Hugo-nominated novel Accelerando to the package as well! That’s three out of the five Hugo nominees, all in one place for Hugo/Campbell voters.)

And now, the questions:

Who is eligible to receive this collection?

2006 Hugo/Campbell voters are eligible. To be a Hugo/Campbell voter, you must be a member of LAcon IV, this year’s Worldcon. If you are not yet a member, you can become one here.

Is there a cost to these electronic editions?

No. The authors do hope if the 2006 Hugo/Campbell voters enjoy the books, they might consider picking up physical copies of Spin, Accelerando and Old Man’s War; their mortgages will thank you. However, these electronic editions are provided without cost to eligible voters.

I’m a member of LAcon IV, and I’m going to vote for the Hugo and Campbell! How do I get these electronic editions?

Send an e-mail to hugo@scalzi.com requesting the editions.

IMPORTANT: Your e-mail MUST include the following information: The name under which you are registered for LAcon IV, your membership number, and your home state/province/country (if not US or Canada). This is so we may confirm you are, indeed, an LAcon IV member and are thus eligible to vote for the 2006 Hugo/Campbell Awards. DO NOT PROVIDE YOUR PIN NUMBER. We don’t need that, and as per your bank card, that’s not a number you need to share with anyone else.

Information sent to the “hugo@scalzi.com” address will be stored by John Scalzi for the duration of the nomination process. After the final day for voting is over, it will deleted. None of this information will be seen or used by anyone other than John Scalzi, nor used for any purpose other than verifying LAcon IV membership and providing 2006 Hugo/Campbell voters with the eligible texts.

(Update, 5:51pm — we’ve already had more than one person ask if they really have to provide that information. Yes, you really do.)

Why are you not making these editions available to anyone but 2006 Hugo/Campbell voters?

Tor reverted these electronic rights back to the authors under these specific conditions; they are legally obliged to honor them. Tor is currently working industriously toward making commercial electronic editions of these and other fine Tor books available to the general public, hopefully sooner than later.

What format are these editions of the novels?

All texts are in rich text format (.rtf) in order to be opened on the widest number of computers and electronic readers. 2006 Hugo/Campbell voters may feel free to reformat the texts in whatever manner they choose. The texts are packaged in a .zip file which also includes a brief “read me” note from the authors.

Are these editions of the novels locked down with any form of Digital Rights Management (DRM)?

Robert Charles Wilson and John Scalzi are asking 2006 Hugo/Campbell voters who receive these editions of their books not to share them outside their households. Outside of this polite request, there is no DRM applied to any of the text files. Other forms of DRM implicitly suggest 2006 Hugo/Campbell voters cannot be trusted, and that quite obviously sends the wrong signal. The authors prefer to trust the voters.

I’m a 2006 Hugo/Campbell voter and I’ve sent in my information. What now?

John Scalzi, who is administering this program on behalf of himself, Charles Stross and Robert Charles Wilson, will verify your LAcon IV membership and then either e-mail you the .zip file containing the texts (~880kb), or provide you with a URL from which you may download the .zip file. Depending on the volume of requests, this may take a couple of days.

Your request may be denied if you have not provided adequate information to verify you are an LAcon IV member, so please remember to provide the information as specified above. If your request has been denied due to lack of information, you may resubmit with the additional information.

If more than 7 days has passed since you submitted your e-mail and you have not received either the file, information on how to download the file, or a denial, please first check your spam filters (your e-mail client or ISP may decide that someone sending you a 880kb .zip file is up to no good); if there’s nothing there please feel free to resubmit your request. E-mail does sometimes slip through the cracks.

While the authors do intend to fulfill every legitimate request for these electronic editions, they do reserve the right to refuse to send the texts to anyone, for any reason.

I asked for a copy of the package before Accelerando was added in! How can I get Accelerando too?

Write in again and ask for it — or, alternately, go to Charlie’s Accelerando site, and download a free copy there. Accelerando is also available for download by non-2006 Hugo/Campbell voters.

Any additional comments or questions? Feel free to drop them into the comment thread.

“Coffee Shop” and Subterranean Scalzi Sale

Hey! I have book news, and sale news, and they are magically interrelated. So let me tell you about both. Prepare for pimpage, people.

Book news first: Subterranean Press is now taking pre-orders for You’re Not Fooling Anyone When You Take Your Laptop to a Coffee Shop: Scalzi on Writing. As you may have guessed from the title, this is my book on the writing life, featuring many essays and entires on the subject from this very Web site: all my blatherations on the subject from my “Utterly Useless Writing Advice” entry back in 2001 through to “The Money Entry” this month, including some writing essays and entries which no longer exist on the site (which means that unless you’re willing to trawl through archive.org, the book is the only place to get them). In all, an interesting snapshot of what it’s like to be a writer, right now.

To remind folks, this book originally started out as part of Your Hate Mail Will Be Graded, the upcoming collection of Whatever entries, also from Subterranean, but there was enough interest from Whatever readers for a stand-alone collection of writing entries that we went ahead and spun it off into its own signed, limited hardcover edition. The book is about 75,000 words (pretty hefty for a book on writing) and is divided into four meaty chapters:

1. Writing Advice, or, Avoiding Real Work the John Scalzi Way
2. Yo Ho, Yo Ho, A Writer’s Life For Me
3. The Schadenfreude Needle is Buried Deep Into the Red: On Writers
4. Science Fiction, or, Don’t Skip This Chapter, You Goddamned Writing Snobs

Yeah, it’s not your average book on writing, that’s for sure. The book is currently scheduled for an August release.

To celebrate the announcement of the book and to encourage you to pre-order, Subterranean Press is running a special two-day only deal for Whatever readers: Pre-order Coffee Shop now and get 30% off. And if you feel like getting anything else from Subterranean while you’re there, you’ll get 30% off the entire order.* That’s any Subterranean release, not just the ones from me (although I’d note that Subterranean is down to the last couple dozen copies of Agent to the Stars…).

Subterranean has some truly excellent books out now and in the near future, including short story collections by Tad Williams, Robert Silverberg and Philip Jose Farmer, a limited two-volume edition of George RR Martin’s A Storm of Swords, illustrated by Charles Vess*, and limited editions from Jonathan Letham and Charlie Stross. You can also pick yourself up the Cliche issue of Subterranean Magazine.

In short, lots of really cool stuff, all 30% off* when you pre-order Coffee Shop today (March 27, 2006) and tomorrow (March 28, 2006).

(Now the details: When you check out, you must mention “WHATEVER” in the comment area. The shopping cart and automatic email confirmation won’t reflect the sale price. Subterranean will catch that when processing the order (so don’t panic!).

If you want to pay through Paypal, e-mail subpress@earthlink.net with your selections rather than checking out via the shopping cart. Subterranean can then email an invoice for the proper amount.

Any questions? Drop them into the comment thread)

I think you’re going to like Coffee Shop, and if you’ve never looked through Subterranean’s stuff before, I hope this encourages you to do so. Enjoy!

(* Here’s what the asterisk means — one or two things are not available as sale items, including the Storm of Swords set. You’ll be able to note what they are on the Subterranean site because the product description will mention it. But these are in the minority.)

“Coffee Shop” and Subterranean Scalzi Sale

Hey! I have book news, and sale news, and they are magically interrelated. So let me tell you about both. Prepare for pimpage, people.

Book news first: Subterranean Press is now taking pre-orders for You’re Not Fooling Anyone When You Take Your Laptop to a Coffee Shop: Scalzi on Writing. As you may have guessed from the title, this is my book on the writing life, featuring many essays and entires on the subject from this very Web site: all my blatherations on the subject from my “Utterly Useless Writing Advice” entry back in 2001 through to “The Money Entry” this month, including some writing essays and entries which no longer exist on the site (which means that unless you’re willing to trawl through archive.org, the book is the only place to get them). In all, an interesting snapshot of what it’s like to be a writer, right now.

To remind folks, this book originally started out as part of Your Hate Mail Will Be Graded, the upcoming collection of Whatever entries, also from Subterranean, but there was enough interest from Whatever readers for a stand-alone collection of writing entries that we went ahead and spun it off into its own signed, limited hardcover edition. The book is about 75,000 words (pretty hefty for a book on writing) and is divided into four meaty chapters:

1. Writing Advice, or, Avoiding Real Work the John Scalzi Way
2. Yo Ho, Yo Ho, A Writer’s Life For Me
3. The Schadenfreude Needle is Buried Deep Into the Red: On Writers
4. Science Fiction, or, Don’t Skip This Chapter, You Goddamned Writing Snobs

Yeah, it’s not your average book on writing, that’s for sure. The book is currently scheduled for an August release.

To celebrate the announcement of the book and to encourage you to pre-order, Subterranean Press is running a special two-day only deal for Whatever readers: Pre-order Coffee Shop now and get 30% off. And if you feel like getting anything else from Subterranean while you’re there, you’ll get 30% off the entire order.* That’s any Subterranean release, not just the ones from me (although I’d note that Subterranean is down to the last couple dozen copies of Agent to the Stars…).

Subterranean has some truly excellent books out now and in the near future, including short story collections by Tad Williams, Robert Silverberg and Philip Jose Farmer, a limited two-volume edition of George RR Martin’s A Storm of Swords, illustrated by Charles Vess*, and limited editions from Jonathan Letham and Charlie Stross. You can also pick yourself up the Cliche issue of Subterranean Magazine.

In short, lots of really cool stuff, all 30% off* when you pre-order Coffee Shop today (March 27, 2006) and tomorrow (March 28, 2006).

(Now the details: When you check out, you must mention “WHATEVER” in the comment area. The shopping cart and automatic email confirmation won’t reflect the sale price. Subterranean will catch that when processing the order (so don’t panic!).

If you want to pay through Paypal, e-mail subpress@earthlink.net with your selections rather than checking out via the shopping cart. Subterranean can then email an invoice for the proper amount.

Any questions? Drop them into the comment thread)

I think you’re going to like Coffee Shop, and if you’ve never looked through Subterranean’s stuff before, I hope this encourages you to do so. Enjoy!

(* Here’s what the asterisk means — one or two things are not available as sale items, including the Storm of Swords set. You’ll be able to note what they are on the Subterranean site because the product description will mention it. But these are in the minority.)

Writing Memes and Hal Duncan

Two writey-like things:

1. Elizabeth Bear rather unintentionally started a “10 Things I Know About Writing” meme, which has prompted folks like Hal Duncan and Meg McCarron and Jay Lake, among others, to drop in their own thoughts on the matter (and Nick Mamatas to snark on the whole lot of them). I’d jump in myself, but I already did this a couple years back, so rather than repeat myself, here’s 10 things I’d tell you about writing. Bear’s original 10 specified fiction writing, but these 10 things work perfectly fine for fiction and non-fiction writers.

2. Speaking of Hal Duncan, I’ve finally had a chance to start reading his novel Vellum, which will be out here in the states in about a month, and I have to join in on the chorus of people who’ve found it to be really excellent dark fantasy, on the same thematic street as you’ll find the work of fellows like Neil Gaiman, Jeff VanderMeer and China Mieville, but with its own distinct voice, which if I had to sum up in two words, might be called “skankily elegant.” And of those two words, the emphasis would be on “elegant,” written as if by someone who picked up his pen after a certain fall from grace (which is not to presume anything about Duncan, whom I’ve met only briefly).

Vellum works on its own, but I’ve also noticed that certain strains of dark fantasy hit the reading pleasure button in my brain, and I don’t doubt the book benefits from that as well. I’m trying to figure out why that is so. One thing simply might be some latent gothiness in me; I’ve never been able to pull off the goth thing myself (I’m just a little too chipper for that), but I’ve got the Siouxsie and Fields of the Nephilim albums to suggest a certain fascination with the ankh-and-kohl lifestyle. What can I say. I guess I like ankhs.

But I think the other more relevant thing is that I like writing that does things with words in ways I don’t and possibly couldn’t. Duncan’s relationship with language is different than mine, more argumentative and pointed and crafty, in more than one sense of that latter term, and that’s something he shares with the previously-mentioned writers, although each exhibit it in their own way. This is a non-jealous admiration, mostly, since I don’t particularly want to write like Duncan (or Gaiman, or Mieville) does, and there are places I want to take my own writing voice they don’t go. But this is not to say I can’t appreciate or even learn from them, and this is my point with Duncan: His style is strong enough that as I’m enjoying the story as a reader I’m also paying attention as a writer, trying to see how he’s put together his edifice. I don’t do this with every writer, mostly just the folks who do things I don’t. So on that level, it’s interesting to watch him work.

In any event, I imagine fans of dark fantasy have already been twigged to Vellum’s upcoming US debut (it’s been out in the UK for some time). If you didn’t know about this book yet, well, now you are, and if dark fantasy rings your bell, this book’s going to set you ringing.

Feeling Patriotic

You know, I couldn’t possibly give a crap about college basketball, so I just surprised the hell out of myself by yelling “all right!” when I read that George Mason beat Connecticut to make it to the Final Four. I guess I’m a sucker for an underdog just like everybody else, particularly one from an area I have a house in. Also, you know in Hollywood someone’s already started pitching a movie about this one. Good for George Mason.

Krieg des Alten Mannes und Die Geist Brigaden

Some nice news from other continents: We’ve sold Old Man’s War and The Ghost Brigades in Germany, to Heyne, who also publishes Robert Charles Wilson, Charlie Stross, George RR Martin, but sadly not Ken MacLeod, thus depriving Heyne of a clean sweep of this year’s Hugo nominees. Drat the luck. In any event, nice to see that OMW and TGB are getting out into the world.

I am reminded that I took German for seven years in high school and college and so far as I know never learned to read or speak a whit of it. I got through high school German because my German teacher wanted me to date her daughter (both her daughter and I felt differently about it, although we were good friends) and I can’t quite remember how it was I passed the language in college. I do believe it was on the philosophy that “D is for Diploma.” Nevertheless, I’m tremendously excited about the prospect of my writing in the language. Hopefully my books will do better in German than I did.

Krieg des Alten Mannes und Die Geist Brigaden

Some nice news from other continents: We’ve sold Old Man’s War and The Ghost Brigades in Germany, to Heyne, who also publishes Robert Charles Wilson, Charlie Stross, George RR Martin, but sadly not Ken MacLeod, thus depriving Heyne of a clean sweep of this year’s Hugo nominees. Drat the luck. In any event, nice to see that OMW and TGB are getting out into the world.

I am reminded that I took German for seven years in high school and college and so far as I know never learned to read or speak a whit of it. I got through high school German because my German teacher wanted me to date her daughter (both her daughter and I felt differently about it, although we were good friends) and I can’t quite remember how it was I passed the language in college. I do believe it was on the philosophy that “D is for Diploma.” Nevertheless, I’m tremendously excited about the prospect of my writing in the language. Hopefully my books will do better in German than I did.

Two Suns in the Sunset

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Sunset, March 25, 2006. This is an interesting version of a sun pillar; the extended pillar is obscured from view by the presence of lower-lying clouds in the foreground. So rather than a pillar of light extending upward, you get what looks to be a second sun. I’ve been semi-conscious today at best (the flu is shaking me around like a rag doll, it is, and made me sleep through most of the afternoon), so I’m glad I happened to look out the window and catch this.

Two Suns in the Sunset

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Sunset, March 25, 2006. This is an interesting version of a sun pillar; the extended pillar is obscured from view by the presence of lower-lying clouds in the foreground. So rather than a pillar of light extending upward, you get what looks to be a second sun. I’ve been semi-conscious today at best (the flu is shaking me around like a rag doll, it is, and made me sleep through most of the afternoon), so I’m glad I happened to look out the window and catch this.

Caught Unawares

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The missus, while we were out to dinner last night. I don’t think she caught me snapping a picture of her with the cell phone this particular time, although I got a couple of other snaps in which she was fully aware.

In other news, I’m finding the cell phone (which most of you will remember I’m getting for free) to be useful, although not magically so. It’s stuffed with a bunch of extras but I’m mostly using it for Web surfing and picture taking, with the occasional phone call. In each case it’s the third best option I have for each — it’s nice to snap a picture with one’s cell phone, for example, but I’d rather use my camera; it’s fine for calling someone but I’d rather use my home phone or Skype if I’m on the road. It’s primary advantage is being portable, and overall I guess I can blame it for being a jack of all trades and master of none. And it’s my understanding relative to other cell phones, mine is pretty damn cool. This is what I get for being so late to the cell phone party, I suppose. I don’t really have a frame of reference.

What I would like to see, of course, is something that actually does everything with some measure of competence. One of the things that appeals to me about those upcoming “ultra-mobile PCs” is that they seem to have the capability to do everything I’d want a portable device to do, with a useful form factor. If someone would build a cell phone in one those things, that’d be something I’d want to have. In the meantime the cell phone is nice, but I haven’t decided whether it’s something I’d keep after the six month free period is over.

One nagging feeling I have is that I’m not adequately exploiting the “free” aspect of this phone. Everything about it is free, including the premium services. I should be downloading scads of music off of Sprint’s music store so I can own it later when the lights go out. But, eh, I already have iTunes and Rhapsody. Again, the third best option. But perhaps I’m just not looking at it the right way.

Fred Phelps and Free Speech

A question from the e-mail:

Your opinion has always shown to be thoughtful and expressed very well, even for those few instances where I disagree with you. For that reason, and I know request week is over, that I feel obliged to seek your own particular view on something. Recently, a lot of attention has centered on Mr. Fred Phelps. Several states have begun legislation to ban his protesting at the funerals of soldiers. A recent article, which was submitted at fark.com discusses the legal implications of the legislation and the precedence for and against it.

I always have respected the right to free speech, despite whether I agree with the protester. However, being a soldier myself, I find the fact of Mr Phelps protesting funerals of soldiers and causing such grief on their families to be horrible. The personal freedom of Phelps vs the right of the families is a delicate one with the right to privacy and speech both threatened by a situation such as this one.

So, basically, what do you think? Is this man invading the families’ rights? Your opinion would be much appreciated.

First off, as a procedural note, you don’t have to wait until a request week to ask me about my thoughts on topics — shoot me off an e-mail any time. Every time someone suggests a topic, that’s an entry where I don’t have to wonder what I’m going to write about. And that makes me happy.

Now, on to Fred Phelps: Personally I think Fred Phelps is a rat-bag son of a bitch, and if someone decided that pummelling the bastard into a coma was worth a stint in jail, I wouldn’t shed a single tear for Phelps, and would possibly bake the assailant some cookies. Having said that, I’ve also said that I believe the best test of free speech is one’s willingness to let the most odious person you know shout vile crap at the top of his lungs. Phelps is easily one of the most vile people around, and Lord knows he shouts a lot of crap.

My own feeling on the matter is similar to Eugene Volokh’s in the article linked to above (which is on the National Review site, not on the Fark.com site, although I’m sure it was indeed linked to there). I think it’s reasonable for states and/or communities to legislate some distance between the funeral and the protestors, but I think you have to let them protest. Volokh worries particularly about expanding the home-based ban on protesting (carved out in Frisby v. Schultz) to apply to funerals because of the slippery slope problems it entails, and I would have to agree with that — it’s one thing for a presumption of peace in one’s home, but it’s another at a funeral in what is essentially an open and public space, and being laid to rest isn’t the same as being at home. I see the slippery slope here as being pretty slippery.

From a legal point of view, as much as Phelps disgusts me, and regardless of how much I look forward to him and his odious clutch of followers feculently rotting in Satan’s rectum for all eternity some time in the geologically near future, I don’t see how you can deny him his right to protest. However, there is nothing to say that Phelp’s protests can’t and shouldn’t be counteracted, and indeed this has been something that’s been done. For example, a group of motorcycle riders known as the Patriot Guard Riders attends the services of fallen service members (at the invitation of the families), and shield the families thought the clever use of flags, songs and motorcyles. Makes me want to go out and buy a motorcycle, it does.

Is Fred Phelps invading the privacy of these grieving families? Of course he is; that’s his intent. And Phelps, while being a tightly-puckered sphincter of pure hate, is also not exactly stupid; he knows what he can get away with. No matter what restrictions are placed on funeral protests, Phelps and the babbling pack of fecal smears whom he claims as followers will sit right at the legal edge and do their thing. Short of their bus careening wildly off the Interstate on their way back to Topeka, crushing the lot of them into a howling mass of insensate tissue, their souls pulled screaming toward Hell, there’s little that will stop them.

What is heartening is that people like the Patriot Riders and others will show up on their own dime and stand to remind the families of the fallen that the vast majority of Americans, whatever their political beliefs or feelings about the current conflict, honor the service these men and women have given to their country and the sacrifices that they made — and that the vast majority of Americans stand with the families of these fallen, and grieve for what has been lost. That’s why Fred Phelps loses every time he shows up. There are more good people than people like him, and they’re happy to show up to make that point. And that’s a fine use of free speech, I think.

News, Various Thoughts Thereof

Some thoughts running through my head about various things I’ve seen in the news and on blogs:

* The totality of my thought about the Afghani who is likely to be killed for converting to Christianity, is, gee, it sure is nice we spent so much in time, money, and human life ousting those intolerant Taliban! This is admittedly not a sufficiently complex line of thought on the matter, but I’m willing to live with that at the moment. I’m pretty consistently for religious freedom and against religious intolerance, no matter where it is, and I’m not impressed by a bunch of jackassed imams hooting that Allah gets His feelings hurt every time someone converts from Islam, and therefore someone has to die. I’m even less impressed with a government that has that as a baked-in practice. And even less impressed yet that this is a government we helped establish, and then ourselves hooted about democracy flourishing, and so on, and so on.

* As an aside this reminds me again of a little rule of thumb I use to decide just how seriously I need to take a religious or political leader, which is know at what point he decides women have had enough of that whole “rights” thing. If the answer is “at some point less than the rights of men,” then I don’t entirely feel the fellow has the moral standing to lecture me about a single goddamned thing. The fellows above, hooting for the death of this convert, strike me as the sort who would get concerned about the evils of women wearing slacks, so you can imagine what I feel is their level of moral authority. Of course, let’s not get too proud over here, shall we. We’ve got lots of folks who are happy for women to wear slacks, true enough, but don’t trust them to run their own bodies.

* Speaking of which, the hot new thing on the Internet is how the President of the Oglala Sioux Tribe on the Pine Ridge Reservation, Cecilia Fire Thunder, has said she’d open up a Planned Parenthood clinic on the reservation to serve South Dakota’s women, and there’s not a thing the South Dakota government could do about it because the reservation is sovereign land. This is a lovely story; alas, not every state has a reservation in it. But I also suspect that if this came to pass (and, additionally, that the Supreme Court, in a fit of madness, reversed Roe v. Wade and allowed the South Dakota law to go into effect) that South Dakota would try to find a way to get around it; the state and the US have a very casual relationship with the sovereignity of the reservations within their borders, if memory recollects correctly. Although the sight of armed South Dakota law enforcement invading the Pine Ridge Reservation to take over a Planned Parenthood clinic would certainly be a hint to people that women were once again second class citizens, both in the US and in the territories in which it could exert its influence.

* Somewhat related, the jackassed “Roe v. Wade for men” thing, in which some schmuck named Matt Dubay wants not to have to pay child support because he didn’t want to have a kid, and his girlfriend said she didn’t want to have a kid, but then she became pregnant and decided that she did. Aside from assuring that he will never again have heterosexual sex with any woman who is not clinically bugfuck insane, Dubay is a perfect example of how people seem to have forgotten that sex isn’t fun with the incidental side effect of producing kids, it’s fun because the primary purpose is to produce kids.

Guys, here’s the deal: If you have a sex with a fertile woman, you may just fertilize her. It’s implicit in having sex, even if you’ve done everything short of not having sex to avoid it. If you want to have sex without the risk of fertilization, get a vasectomy, boink post-menopausal women, or have sex with men. Those are your options. Lord knows I’m not a prude, but I’m also not stupid, and as a practical matter my personal rule of thumb regarding heterosexual sex (which is, I must admit, my preferred sort) has always been not to have it with someone I wouldn’t want to have a kid with. This has kept me from having sex I could have had, I admit. On the other hand, I’ve never regretted being with anyone I’ve been with, either, so there’s that benefit — and also there are no little Scalzis running around that I don’t know about, which is even better.

The argument here, as I understand it, is that if a woman has the choice to end a pregnancy, a man should have the choice not to pay support for a child he didn’t want. The problem is that these are not equivalent issues. A woman can end her pregnancy because it involves her person, and every person should have the right to say what happens to his or her body, up to and including hosting another human inside it. Paying child support has not a single thing to do with that; it has to do with some twit not wanting to deal with the consequences of his actions. Certainly the woman has to deal with the consequences of her actions: she must either have the child, and then support it or put it up for adoption, or she must end her pregnancy. For some dick to walk away from all responsibility on the weak excuse of “hey, I didn’t want that,” is monstrous. God knows men already do that; the last thing we need to do is give them legal cover.

The good news is the chance of this lawsuit not getting stuffed is almost non-existent. Personally I think the judge should up Dubay’s monthly child support payment as punishment for attempting to be such a weasel in the first place; that and to be made to wear a T-shirt that says “I filed suit to be a deadbeat dad” at least once a week for a year. Yes, I’m into creative sentencing.

* I’m not a huge fan of Dick Cheney, but I admit to being confused as to why his hotel room requests are such a big deal. For being the second most powerful man in the world (de jure), his requests are charmingly modest: Some fresh-brewed decaf, some soda, water, newspapers and lots of light. Fair enough. There seem to be some chuckles at the idea that he wants all the TVs in his suite tuned to Fox News, but aside from it being utterly unsurprising that a member of this administration watches that particular “news channel,” if this is the most extreme of his demands, as celebrities and VIPs go, Dick Cheney is the proverbial cakewalk. Cut the man some slack, already. Lord knows there’s enough legitimate reason to snark on him.