Daily Archives: October 14, 2008

Talking About “Voter Fraud”

In the comment thread to the last post, Whatever commenter JJS has practical things to say about voter fraud and decertification, which I am am reposting wholly now to give them bigger play:

The problem with voter fraud and “decertifying” first time registered voters is that if any charge of either of these is made, everyone in the other party leaps on it as absolute proof, will not even listen to any kind of explanation of what actually happened, and spends the next 4 years in hissy fits about how, “No, he is not my president. I voted for the one that would have been elected legally.” Mistakes are made, usually on the party of the new person registering, but sometimes by poll workers. However, as Mr Scalzi pointed out, the one certified by the Electoral College and House of Representatives is president. There is no provision in the constitution for overturning that, or for having a “revote” in one or more areas.

I have said this before in other threads, but in every one of the elections I have worked in as an election judge, there are people who claim to be registered but aren’t. Some think it was done automatically when they got a drivers license (not in this state it isn’t) or when they turned 18, or when they registered for the draft. No. Some filled in a registration form and mailed it in, but didn’t sign it, or had no address so there was no way to contact them to fix problems, or made other errors. Some were registered back in the 70s, the last time they cared who was president, and think they should still be registered in spite of having moved 4 times. This is why you must always check to make sure you are registered. If you are new, don’t just trust voter registration drives because they aren’t official, and all they do is accept your form and take it in. Go ahead and register there, but verify later that you are registered. What they say means nothing official.

If you move or change your name, change your registration to match. When you vote, go to the right place. No, you can’t go vote close to where you work if you live in the other end of the county. You have to be in the right precinct, because the ballots are different in different places. You might be in a different state legislative district, or school board district or whatever. There might be a bond issue that only impacts one area, and so is on the ballot in that area but not elsewhere. Salt Lake County in Utah has over 900 precincts due to the different boundary lines of legislative, city council, county government, etc etc districts. I hate to think how many there are in larger places. You have to go to the right place. If you live in one town, and try to vote in the next town, and they refuse you, that is YOUR fault, not the fault of someone trying to “decertify” you. If you didn’t register properly, that is YOUR fault, not a plot. State legislatures make laws about how registration must be carried out, and what information must be given. You don’t give it, you aren’t registered. It isn’t the fault of some poor poll worker who never heard of you before and is certainly not trying to cheat you.

There might be a long line. That is not a filthy plot to keep you from voting. It is difficult to get as many qualified poll workers as are needed. It is a very long day with no breaks, for little or no pay. If you are free all of election day, you should consider being a poll worker. (Probably too late this year though.) If early voting or voting by mail is available where you live, take advantage of it. That reduces the line for you and for everyone else. If not, try to go as early in the day as possible. If everyone who can vote early in the day does so, then there aren’t as many in the after-work rush.

One President at a Time

Via Instapundit, I found this, from Rick Moran, on the matter of what the proper response should be if the “other guy” (in his case, Obama) wins the election:

You can talk about “voter fraud” and “stealing elections” all you want but the fact remains that if Obama is certified by the electoral college and the House of Representatives as President of the United States, that ends the discussion in our republic. There is no more important aspect of democracy than the minority accepting the will of the majority. The constitution gives the minority certain protections against getting steamrolled by the majority. But it doesn’t give the minority the right to torpedo the legitimacy of the winner.

This is more than a question of “fair play” or being a “sore loser.” The Constitution says we have only one president at a time. Given the importance of that office, it is stark raving lunacy to seek to destroy the man occupying it.

Yes. This is exactly right. And this is why, you’ll notice if you crawl the Whatever archives, I have made a point of noting that George Bush is my president. Here’s a representative quote on the matter, from 2005, on the subject of Bush’s 35% popularity rating (which at the time seemed, you know, pretty low):

You’ll note, however, that I did not say that I was happy that Bush has such a God-awful rating. I’m not. Having a weak and deeply unpopular president makes us vulnerable as a nation, particularly when we are engaged in a war, and especially when engaged in a war that it is becoming increasingly clear the origins of which are best described as an administration misadventure. I don’t like Bush, and I wish he weren’t president; nevertheless he is my president, and my country is ill-served at home and abroad by his weaknesses, both real and perceived.

At this point in time, it seems rather likely that the candidate I support will be the one that wins; after two elections of things going the other way, I’m all for this. However, in the unlikely event that in the next three weeks McCain makes a stunning comeback and wins the election, I will do two things:

1. Accept the fact that the will of the American people has made him the 44th President of the United States;

2. Get sweet, sweet religion so I may pray to high holy God every single day and twice on Sunday that he remains healthy for the entire run of his candidacy, because the thought of a President Palin makes my bowels want to liquefy.

And if McCain did kick off, guess what? Palin would be my President. And then in 2012 I would do everything I could to get her out of that office. Because that’s the way these things work.

One of the reasons I have always registered as an independent voter is that I believe my highest allegiance as a voter is not to a political party but to the Constitution of the United States, the foundational document of our law. Our Constitution sets up the system we use to choose a president. If a candidate — any candidate — fulfills the requirements of that system to become our president, then I believe it’s my duty to acknowledge that, yes, that candidate is now my president. I can criticize that president, argue with that president, loathe that president and work to replace that president in the manner allowed for by the Constitution… but what I can’t do is deny that he or she is my president. That’s wrong, factually and morally, and it’s dismissive of the Constitution of the United States.

So, if the other guys wins the election this year, what I hope you will do is acknowledge that he is your president, and wish him well in guiding the nation through the next four years. Be in opposition, but be a loyal opposition, with your loyalty to the Constitution and the nation it allows to be. It’s just a thought for you as we go into the last weeks of this campaign.

The Big Idea: Matthew Stover

Here’s why I know that “handselling” — the act of someone saying to you “Dude, you have to buy this book” and then putting the book into your hands — actually works: A couple years ago, when I did an appearance at the Joseph-Beth bookstore in Cincinnati, the science fiction buyer for the store and I were talking about books (no surprise) and he mentioned Matthew Stover and his book Heroes Die, featuring a badass character named Caine. I allowed that I’d never heard of it, and the buyer stopped the conversation, went into the shelves, retreived the book and said, “Here. You must have this.” Well, who was I to argue? I took it.

And the guy was right, because Caine, and Heroes Die, was a heaping plate of kickass kickassery with a side of kickass sauce. Caine himself was a perfect anti-hero: tough, smart and ready to take part in a series of truly excellent action sequences, set in a world that’s half science fiction, half fantasy and all brilliantly conceived and pulled off. I got sucked right through the book and when I was done, I did not stop at “go” or collect $200, but instead went directly to Blade of Tyshalle, the sequel. So, yeah, I’m a fan, of both Caine and Stover.

So when I learned that Caine was coming back in a new book, Caine Black Knife, I emitted what I have to admit was a most unmanly squee. But it was worth it: Caine Black Knife is yet another heaping plate of kickass kickassery with a side of kickass sauce. If you like your fantasy both smart and violent — and I really do – you’re going to want this book. When Stover asked if he could write a Big Idea piece about the book, my response to him was, and I quote, “Dude, if you don’t, I’m totally gonna throw things.”

Fortunately nothing’s been thrown. And here’s Matthew Stover to talk to you about Caine, and Caine Black Knife.

MATTHEW STOVER:

What do you do after you save the world?

That’s most of the Big Idea of Caine Black Knife, right there. Simple enough, right?

Well . . . apparently I don’t do simple. Neither does Caine.

Lately it seems like I’ve become more interested in the consequences of actions than in the actions themselves. Or maybe not so lately; looking back on them, it seems like the Acts of Caine have always been about consequences.

Let’s start at the beginning.

The first of the Acts of Caine, Heroes Die, is set a couple hundred years from now, when the dominant form of entertainment is a virtual-reality-from-hell thing where you can get the illusion of actually being your favorite fantasy hero, in real time, as he or she has real adventures and quests and all that good stuff, not to mention real fights where he or she might really die. The actors who play your favorite characters are translated to an alternate universe—with a fair amount of Mystic SciFi Hand-Waving—that more-or-less operates the way we expect a fairly standard medieval fantasy world to work. The central character of Heroes Die is the #1 star of this form of entertainment, an actor named Hari Michaelson who plays an obscenely popular High-Fantasy-James-Bond type named Caine.

The plot in Heroes Die is framed as a consequence of one of Caine’s top adventures. At the climax of that one, he murdered a ruler, triggering a bloody war of succession. The guy who finally ends up on top is a superhumanly powerful sorcerer, who has come to realize that the greatest threat to his empire’s stability are certain otherworldly demon-spawn who infiltrate society and create havoc for the entertainment of their demon-spawn brethren back home. He calls them Aktiri, and sets about exterminating them—and anyone who even looks like them. The story begins when Caine’s estranged wife, also an actor, goes missing while trying to rescue innocent people falsely accused of being Aktiri.

With me so far?

The story was supposed to end with that book. However, my publisher foolishly offered me a bathtub full of dollar bills to write a sequel, and I foolishly agreed. Thus was born Blade of Tyshalle.

Blade of Tyshalle follows four different protagonists (and a host of secondary characters) as they wade through the catastrophic aftermath of the events of Heroes Die.

It’s actually four novels in one, as each protagonist follows his own individual plotline within the overall story, and the plotlines intertwine and break apart again, influencing each other both directly and indirectly until they all braid together for a Big Bond-Movie Blow-off. (It’s four novels in one because I was, at the time, young and stupid enough to look at the narrative strategy of War and Peace, and think Hey, I’d like to take a swing at that. Like I said: young and stupid.)

Blade’s BBMB involves, by the way, the End of the World As We Know It. It rips apart the whole context of the story and kicks the pieces off a cliff, because Blade of Tyshalle was absolutely, positively, amputate-intimate-body-parts-if-I-so-much-as-dream-of-changing-my-mind, the final book to feature Caine.

But, y’know, best-laid plans and all that.

The thing is, I really like the guy. Kind of like George Lucas and Jedi, I guess. I’ve had Caine living in my head for so long that he’s an old friend. We’re comfortable with each other. So I found myself wanting to write another story about him. This brings us back to the original question: what do you do after you save the world?

More pertinently: what do you write after your series-carrying central character has saved the world? Because—no offense to any of my colleagues out there—I think the dumbest, most obvious thing an author can do is whip up a new Dark Lord to Threaten All That Is Good In the Universe (or, worse, bring back the one your hero just got finished beating). So what’s left?

The obvious answer is that same one George Lucas came up with: Prequel, for the win!

But it’s never that easy. I call it Caine’s Law: Everything is more complicated than you think it is.

Caine, as a character, only gets really interesting (to me, anyway) at the end of his career, when he’s a little older, a lot slower, and grown up enough to be haunted by some of the nasty things he’d done when he was a young homicidal sociopath with a wide streak of malignant narcissism. The younger Caine is mainly interesting, to me, in the context of who he will eventually grow up to be. (Hmm, more of an echo of Anakin Skywalker here than I had realized until just now . . .)

So I thought: why not put the younger Caine in exactly that context? Show him as he is, in his declining post-Epic Hero years . . . and show where he came from. What set him on the road to become who he is.

Without really meaning to, I have, in the Acts of Caine, undertaken a sort of smorgasbord of genre. Heroes Die is Hard SF plus Romance (the protagonist’s struggle is to Win the One He Loves, and the solution to his problem involves creative application of the story’s central speculative technologies). Blade of Tyshalle is Epic Fantasy plus Tragedy (the protagonists’ struggle—all four of them—is to Save the World From the Forces of Darkness, and their commitment to this goal leads inevitably to the destruction of all they hold dear).

Caine Black Knife is Bildungsroman plus hard-boiled detective story.

The hard-boiled detective story follows a double narrative: the (tacit) story of the crime itself, and the story of the hero’s gradual (and usually violent) uncovering of the crime’s story. The Bildungsroman involves a pivotal episode or episodes in a young man’s life—the moment or moments where, through acquisition of self-knowledge and rejection of conventional mores, he sets himself on the path of manhood.

In Caine Black Knife, that Bildungsroman moment is an unforgivable crime… committed by Caine himself. The two narratives unfold in parallel: the Young Caine’s life-defining crime, and the Older Caine’s struggle to face the consequences of that crime.

Not to mention the consequences of being the Guy Who Saved the World. And the consequences of what he did to Save the World. Not to mention the consequences of what he did to become the Guy Who Saved the World in the first place.

Because he is, after all, Caine.

Everything is more complicated than you think it is.

Caine Black Knife: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Powell’s

Read an excerpt of Caine Black Knife here. Visit Matthew Stover’s blog here.