Daily Archives: April 2, 2008

Reader Request Week 2008 #9: Polygamy

Not everyone sends reader requests through the comments (although you should, hint, hint); some send them through e-mail. Here’s one of the e-mailed ones, from Tristan:

You’ve been very vocal about your support for gay marriage. Do you also support polyamory?

To start, I think we might have a bit of term confusion. I suspect Tristan is asking if I support polygamy, which is marriage (presumably legal) among multiple partners, rather than polyamory, in which a person has multiple emotional/sexual relationships. Nearly all polygamists are polyamorous, I would imagine (otherwise what’s the point); but not everyone who is polyamorous is a polygamist, nor to my understanding would necessarily choose to be even if polygamy were legal. Some would; others not so much.

Be that as it may, being as I am in science fiction/nerd circles, I have a fair number of friends who are openly polyamorous, and some who are in functionally polygamous relationships, which is to say, there’s more than two of them who live and function as a household. Would I support these folks having legal rights and responsibilities to each other as well emotional/romantic ones? At the risk of making sure I’m absolutely, positively never elected to any public office in the land (and this may be a feature, not a bug): Sure. Why? Because it would make them happy, it would do me no harm, and in a general sense I’m a fan of people who care for each other being afforded the legal right to make sure they can care for each other, which when it comes down to it is one of the big attractions to being in a legally codified relationship.

Do I expect polygamy to become legal here in the US in my lifetime? No. Leaving aside some obvious arguments, here’s some other reasons why:

1. Polygamy comes with some seriously bad cultural baggage, which is to say that in the public mind polygamy is synonymous with polygyny, in which one dude gathers up a lot of wives to him. The history of polygyny in the US (at the very least) is not a happy one, since so often its practitioners are of the “marry yet another 14-year-old, knock her up and keep her uneducated” variety. And I think this is a very real and substantive concern, although ironically, most of the functionally-polygamous relationships I know about personally are polyandrous — which is to say that that there’s generally one female and two male partners. I don’t know enough about the relationships to know whether the guys are also involved sexually with each other, which of course would add another dimension to things — and which, not coincidentally, brings up to point two:

2. It’s just another way for gays to totally marry other gays. The day three gay males show up to the courthouse to codify their delightfully threesome-tastic relationship is the day certain heads pop off and blood fountains from the neck (again, some people would see this as a feature, not a bug). Even worse, what if there’s a woman involved but the guys are, like, bisexual? They could be totally going at it without her as the sandwich filling! And that’s… well, that’s just going too far. Basically, everyone who has gay panic now would devolve into full blown hysteria (or testeria, if you prefer), and would run about making hand-wringing motions.

3. Businesses would oppose it on cost grounds. Here in the US, most people get their health insurance and other critical benefits through their work. Anyone who has had to argue with an HR department about getting their spouse on a health plan that’s (slightly) better than the one the spouse gets through their own work knows how dealing with spousal benefits is like pulling teeth; how do they think the HR department is going to react to an additional spouse on the plan? Or another spouse after that? Yeah, business would hate hate hate the idea of polygamy, although I guess you could argue this would be the thing that finally pushes the US to universal health care (i.e., businesses offloading the cost onto the government). Which of course would just make polygamy Yet Another Socialist Plot.

4. The current set-up of mistresses and serial monogamy works just fine for people in power. What? Instead of screwing around I have to have another wife? Insanity! Lots of folks just want to screw around, you know. They don’t want to have to drag a relationship into it, and they’re not sure why anyone else would want to, either. The idea of people actually loving (as opposed to simply boinking) more than one person makes them uncomfortable.

5. Dude, same-sex partners can get married in only one commonwealth in the US as it is – and even then those married couples are explicitly not married in the eyes of federal law. Thus we have same-sex marriage in the US and don’t have it, all at once. There’s no way for polygamy to jump the line ahead of same-sex marriage, either practically (since that’s a struggle in process) or theoretically (for the reasons noted above). Maybe if “polygamy” were strictly defined as “one husband, multiple wives,” it might have a chance, but I don’t think most of the potentially polygamous folk I know would want that particular set-up.

Leaving aside the issue of whether polygamous partners will ever be able to marry in groupings of more than two people at a time, the theoretical posits of the mechanics of group marriages are interesting (and a bit intimidating) to consider: Whether every existing spouse has to approve a potential spouse; whether one person could be married to two (or more) people who would not also be married to each other; what happens if one spouse wants to divorce a second spouse but a third spouse wants to stay married to both, and so on. Pre-nups will be totally off the hook. And no matter what happens, divorce lawyers would be fruitful and multiply. I’m surprised they haven’t started lobbying for legalized polygamy already.

So, yes: At the end of the day, I would support polygamous partners all being married to each other. But on a realistic level, I don’t see how we would get there from where we are now. I wouldn’t mind if this were merely a lack of vision on my part.

(there’s still time to ask questions for Reader Request Week 2008: Post your question here.)

Reader Request Week 2008 #8: Politics and the Olympics

Ohako asks:

Are the Olympics purely a sports contest, or do international politics enter into the equation at some level? Should a country boycott the Olympics because China is mean to Tibet?

Clearly international politics enter into the equation, and have for some time. In 1976 a bunch of African countries boycotted the Olympics to protest New Zealand’s participation (New Zealand played competitive sports with South Africa, which was under apartheid at the time); in 1980 the US and several dozen other countries boycotted the Olympics in Moscow to protest the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan; in 1984 the USSR and some of its client states boycotted the Olympics in Los Angeles because apparently the USSR thought the US was a big meanie. So it goes.

Should a country boycott the Olympics in Beijing because China oppresses Tibet and/or its own people? Sure; I think if you’re going to have a boycott, that’s a perfectly valid reason to do so. Should a country be obliged to boycott the Olympics for those reasons? No, because any savvy country could reel off good realpolitik reasons to engage China via the Olympics. Whether one feels those reasons hold water is another question altogether, mind you. But we all do what we do to get through the night.

I’m irritated with the IOC about this year’s Olympics mostly because I’m flummoxed how they couldn’t see all this coming. What? Give an autocratic government an Olympics and suddenly everyone’s up in arms about its human rights abuses? Who knew that could happen?!? Yes, well. Surprise, assholes. I suppose the thinking here was that giving the Olympics to Beijing would spur the country into being friendly and open and whatnot, but if China were a person, it would be a type-A controlling paranoid with a handgun and a tendency to blame “enemies” when under stress. Enemies like, you know, the dog and five-year-old. I do believe that China should be encouraged to see the benefits of being more politically free, and as it happens I do believe that engagement with the country should happen. Like Nixon, I would go to China. However, I don’t think giving Beijing a tight summer 2008 deadline to build billions of dollars worth of construction, clean up the chewy particulate soup that is Beijing’s air, and prepare its country for the harsh critical gaze of every other country in the world was really the smartest way to do that. I could be wrong here; I don’t pretend to be an expert on China. But on this end of things, it certainly does look like they’re getting a little implody.

That said, I would like to hope that someone sits China down, gives it a reassuring hug to let it know it’s all going to be okay, and talks it off that ledge it’s on, so it can focus on finishing up its Olympic plans without crushing all those who oppose it, and so the athletes who come to visit during the summer don’t feel like they now have an inkling what it was like to compete in the 1936 Summer Olympics. I would like China to succeed, and for the Olympics to actually be a sporting event, not a political football. We’ll see if that happens.

(there’s still time to ask questions for Reader Request Week 2008: Post your question here.)

Whateveresque Registration Open

For those of you wanting to join the conversations over at Whateveresque, the Whatever reader forum, registration is now open through midnight. We may crack 1,000 members today, which I find exciting.

As always, help an administrator out in approving your membership request by choosing a member name that is recognizably NOT a spambot name (here’s a primer on how to do that).

Also, once you sign up, swing by the “All About You” section and introduce yourself — we like new folks.

Brasyl, Halting State, The Last Colony and Rollback: The 2008 Hugo Voters Electronic Editions

For the duration of the 2008 Hugo campaign, Ian McDonald, Robert J. Sawyer, John Scalzi, Charles Stross and their respective publishers are making special electronic editions of their Hugo-nominated works available at request to 2008 Hugo voters. The authors have put together a package of their books for the voters’ convenience. Where can they get these special editions? Well, right here, of course!

And now, the questions:

Who is eligible to receive this collection?

2008 Hugo voters are eligible. To be a Hugo voter, you must be a member of Denvention 3, this year’s Worldcon. If you are not yet a member, you may become one here.

Is there a cost to these electronic editions?

No. The authors do hope if the 2008 Hugo voters enjoy the books, they might consider picking up physical copies of Brasyl, Rollback, The Last Colony and Halting State; their mortgages will thank you. However, these electronic editions are provided without cost to eligible voters.

I’m a member of Denvention 3, and I’m going to vote for the Hugo! How do I get these electronic editions?

Send an e-mail to hugo2008@scalzi.com requesting the editions.

IMPORTANT: Your e-mail MUST include the following information: The name under which you are registered for Denvention 3, your full membership number, and your home state/province/country (if not US or Canada). This is so we may confirm you are, indeed, a Denvention 3 member and are thus eligible to vote for the 2008 Hugo 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 “hugo2008@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 Denvention 3 membership and providing 2008 Hugo voters with the eligible texts.

Before you ask if you really have to provide that information: Yes, you really do.

Why are you not making this package available to anyone but 2008 Hugo voters?

Because this is the agreement by which the publishers are allowing the distribution of the texts.

My edition of this package is missing Halting State.

We were able to secure permission for Halting State from its US publisher but not its UK publisher. Therefore we are not able to provide Halting State to Denvention 3 members from outside the United States. If we receive permission from the UK publisher, we will post an update and add Halting State to subsequent non-US packages.

Where is The Yiddish Policemen’s Union, the fifth Best Novel Hugo nominee for 2008?

We were not able to secure permission for it to appear in this package. An online excerpt of the book is available on the Harper Collins site.

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. 2008 Hugo voters may feel free to reformat the texts in whatever manner they choose. The texts are packaged in a .zip file.

Please note that in some cases the editions you are receiving may be the author’s original final draft and thus may contain copy errors that have been corrected in the published versions.

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

We are asking 2008 Hugo 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 2008 Hugo voters cannot be trusted, and that quite obviously sends the wrong signal. The authors prefer to trust the voters.

I’m a 2008 Hugo voter and I’ve sent in my information. What now?

John Scalzi, who is administering this program on behalf of the writers, will verify your Denvention 3 membership and then either e-mail you the .zip file containing the texts, 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 Denvention 3 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 big .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.

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