Monthly Archives: February 2012

Redshirts Auction for Con or Bust

I’ve been told that Tor has offered up an ARC of Redshirts for Con or Bust, the fundraiser to help fans of color attend science fiction and fantasy conventions. So if you’d like to bid to try to get that copy for yourself, the auction is going on here. If you’d like to check out the other auctions going on for Con or Bust, try here.

Last Minute 80s Dance Music Suggestions: Hit Me With Your Best Shot

Hey guys:

As you know I’m DJing an 80s dance tonight. I’m pretty well situated for 80s dance music (500 tracks on the playlist) BUT there’s always a chance I’ve completely blown past a “wow you should really have that in the mix” track.

SO: Suggest one of YOUR favorite songs from the 80s that you would want to dance to. The “that you’d want to dance to” part is important, because it’s a dance.

Any genre works.

Do me a favor and focus on no more than five songs. I don’t need laundry lists; I need awesome 80s songs I might have overlooked.

Got it? Good. Go!

Final Breast Cancer Screening/Education Tally

As you all remember, and in the wake of the Susan G. Komen thing, last week I and Subterranean Press pledged the income generated by one week of sales of my SubPress eBooks to support Planned Parenthood’s breast cancer screening and education efforts. I’m delighted to say that in the end we raised $5,200. (Well, $5,196.30, but then I tossed in $3.70 to even it up). As promised we’ll specify that the funds go exclusively to Planned Parenthood’s breast cancer-related initiatives, which help poor and underserved women in early detection and treatment. $5,200 is a relative drop in the bucket, but you put enough drops together and you’ve got something useful.

Thanks to everyone who picked a SubPress eBook in the last week; I hope you’ve enjoyed what you’ve been reading. And thanks for helping women learn about, detect, and fight, breast cancer. You’ve done good, and you’ve done well.

The Big Idea: Matt Ruff

A world in which 9/11 is 11/9 -- and that’s not to only reversal Matt Ruff brings to The Mirage, which features terrorist attacks and a struggle between the Arabic and Western worlds, i.e., the same recipe as events in our world, but with a few important changes. Ruff’s alternate history is getting noticed (“entertaining and provocative, exactly what the best popular fiction should be,” says the starred review in Publishers Weekly), but in today’s Big Idea, he explains that there’s more going on than just asking, “what if?”

MATT RUFF:

What would the War on Terror look like if the U.S. and the Middle East traded places?

That was the question that started me off. I’d been searching for a narrative hook that would allow me to explore some of the political and moral issues around America’s response to the 9/11 attacks. I wanted something that would be thought-provoking without being preachy—something that, first and foremost, would work as a story. Eventually I hit on the idea of turning the world upside down.

The Mirage is set in an alternate reality in which the Arab states of the Middle East and North Africa are united in a democratic superpower—the UAS—while America is broken up into small, mostly third-world dictatorships and theocracies. September 11 happens in reverse—on November 9—with Christian fundamentalists flying hijacked planes into buildings in Baghdad and Riyadh. The Arabs respond by invading and occupying Washington, D.C., in an ill-fated attempt to bring democracy to the Americans.

Not everything is a simple reversal. One of the earliest worldbuilding decisions I made was that people’s basic characters wouldn’t change at all. So Saddam Hussein, a villain in our reality, is still a villain in The Mirage—but a different kind of villain. Since Iraq is a democratic state, he can’t be a dictator, and instead becomes a gangster: a labor racketeer and bootlegger (the Arabian War on Drugs being primarily a war on alcohol). Osama bin Laden is a corrupt politician, a war hero who makes patriotic noises in public while secretly conspiring against his own country. Al Qaeda is a government anti-terror squad that’s gone rogue. And Muammar al Gaddafi is, well, Muammar al Gaddafi.

As for my protagonists, they represent the vast majority of Arab Muslims who are neither terrorists nor criminals, but ordinary citizens just trying to make it through the day: Mustafa al Baghdadi, a senior Homeland Security agent who serves as the novel’s moral center; his best friend, Samir; and a new recruit, a woman named Amal bint Shamal, whose mother was mayor of Baghdad during the 11/9 attacks. My goal with these characters was to try to humanize the people who’ve borne the brunt of the real War on Terror, and also to create the sort of believably flawed heroes you can identify with and root for even though they don’t always make the right choices.

It would have been easy to turn The Mirage into a straight-up Message novel. But that’s not really my style, and I thought it would be much more interesting to follow the SFnal strategy of exploring this looking-glass world I’d created, while trusting readers to draw their own conclusions about what it means. To that end, I threw in one more twist, the one that gives the novel its name. Early in the story, Mustafa interrogates a captured suicide bomber who claims that the United Arab States is a mirage, imposed by God as a punishment on the Americans for their lack of faith. In the real world, he says, America is the superpower. Mustafa’s initial skepticism gives way in the face of physical evidence from that other world, and he and his colleagues set off on an investigation that takes them from Sadr City to the Green Zone in Washington to the insurgent stronghold of Virginia before looping back to Baghdad for a final showdown between Homeland Security, Al Qaeda, and the Republican Guard.

I should mention one more thing for the alternate history buffs out there. It would certainly be possible to construct a realistic scenario in which Arabia became the cradle of modern democracy. The Mirage takes a more funhouse approach to alt-history—but it’s a funhouse with rules. If your head explodes at the thought of Ibn Saud as a Founding Father, you’re going to have to trust that I know what I’m doing. There is an explanation for all this, and by the end of the novel, you’ll know what it is.

I hope you enjoy the ride.

—-

The Mirage: Amazon|Barnes & Noble|Indiebound|Powell’s

Read an excerpt. Visit the author’s blog. Follow him on Twitter.

Proof I Am a Complete Sadistic Bastard

There’s a writer named John Mierau who asked me to retweet his campaign to crowdsource a novel:

I retweeted, he made his goal, and he ate a Bolivian Rainbow pepper while reading The Eye of Argon. If you want to go straight to the pepper eating, it starts at about 9:30. At about 10:24 he bites into it. Watch his face. Just watch it.

Eventually he starts rubbing his eyes with the hand he’s holding the pepper in. I’m not sure about the wisdom of that.

Anyway, yeah: The Bolivian Rainbow causing this poor man’s tongue to melt? My doing. What can I say, I’m a jerk. On the other hand, it’s the spiciest reading of The Eye of Argon, ever.

Congratulations, Washington

The latest state to legalize same-sex marriage! That is, as soon as the governor signs the bill, which she’s said she plans to do.

Meanwhile, back at the Scalzi Compound:

Me: Washington just passed same-sex marriage! How is our marriage?

Krissy: Last time I checked, still pretty solid.

So, that’s, what? Seven times my marriage has been threatened by same-sex marriage? And yet it’s still managed to survive each time. Somehow. And that’s not even counting Washington, DC!

 

The Return of Con or Bust

My friend Kate Nepveu has pinged me to remind folks that this year’s Con or Bust auctions are soon to begin — these are auctions of cool science fiction and fantasy related stuff, with the funds raised from the auctions going to help fans of color attend science fiction and fantasy conventions. Auctions include ARCs, signed editions, posts by notable bloggers on the subject of the auction winner’s choice, and other such cool and interesting stuff. Also, if you have something you’d like to offer to the auction, in the way of goods or services, you can do that too.

The auctions begin on the 11th (that’s this Saturday), so there’s time to browse the current auctions to see if there’s anything you like and/or do a last minute auction contribution.

Here’s the general details of the auctions, and here’s the front page of the site — start scrolling to see the auctions on offer.

Agnosticism Without Pain

Slate (reprinting from the Financial Times) has a story on how difficult it is to be an atheist in the United States. I read the piece with the same attitude that I have regarding most pieces about how difficult it is to be atheist/agnostic in the US, which is with a mild sense of dissonance. I have been the sort of agnostic that shorthands into “atheist” for all of my thinking life, and I haven’t made any secret of my lack of faith. The negative consequences for such a lifestyle choice, so far, at least, have been pretty minimal and indeed close to non-existent. I’m not saying other agnostics and atheists have not suffered negative consequences for their lack of belief; I’m sure they have. What I’m saying is that I haven’t, and it’s mildly curious to me why I have not.

Naturally, I have theories.

The first and most obvious: I am white, male, heterosexually paired, educated and financially well-off — i.e., the advantages I have are substantial and immediately apparent in our culture, so that even if being agnostic somehow offers a disadvantage, it’s swamped out by other factors. I have privilege in ridiculous amounts and I know it.

Second, neither in my social nor in my work life is being an agnostic a penalty. I write for a living; the writing I do is consumed by a class of people (science fiction and fantasy readers) who generally are not only not scandalized by my agnosticism, but might be mildly surprised if I did have strong religious beliefs. Likewise, my social peers are currently other writers and people who tend toward professions where a lack of strong religious belief is not a problem (science and tech-related fields, with some overlap in creative professions). So again, my lack of faith is really not a penalty.

(One interesting wrinkle on this: I live in a rural, conservative community and have for more than a decade. Rural conservative communities are just the sort of place where atheists and agnostics aren’t supposed to fit in. But in eleven years living here I can’t remember it ever being an issue. I suspect one reason for this is that many of folks here are from churches which have an active policy of tolerance and an emphasis on one’s good works. I suspect that another reason is that people here know I’m a writer and just assume writers are odd ducks anyway.)

Third, as far as being agnostic goes, while I’m perfectly open about it, I’m not aggressively so, nor am I generally antagonistic toward the concept of faith. I’m perfectly happy for others to have faith, and generally speaking I don’t take offense at the display of faith around me, or stand against it so long as that expression of faith does not encroach on my own rights and prerogatives. If having faith and/or being religious gives you joy, then have it and be it; for myself, I’ll pass, thanks. I think it also helps that, from my own personal interest, I know a fair amount about a number of faiths and can speak with at least passing knowledge about them (and am often curious about the things I don’t know). People with faith assume those without it have no knowledge, interest or respect for faith. If you let them know you do, in my experience a lot of suspicion goes away.

Fourth, I’ve been lucky. I grew up without a religious background, so I didn’t have to rebel against it. My education was at schools that actively encouraged pluralism and tolerance for faith, including the absence of faith — I was on my high school’s “Faith Gang” as a representative of secular humanism, for example. I’ve gotten through life largely surrounded by tolerant people, both of faith and without it, which allowed me to develop my own views on faith without undue defensiveness or division. Not everyone has that.

Add it all up and you get an agnostic experience without ostracism or penalty, at least so far. I am led to believe that my lack of faith will keep me from being President of the United States, but inasmuch as that’s not actually a life goal for me (and Krissy wouldn’t let me anyway), this is not a huge setback. Otherwise, essentially, it’s not been a problem for me. I wish others who choose not to believe were as fortunate as I have been.

The Santorum Solution

Photo by Patrick Gensel, via Flickr. Used under Creative Commons License

Wow, I gotta tell ya, I really suck at prognosticating this GOP primary season. Just this weekend I mentioned how it was a two-man race between Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich, and here it is Wednesday and Rick Santorum has just won the caucuses in Minnesota and Colorado as well as the Missouri primary, with Mitt a distant second in Missouri and Colorado and third in Minnesota (with Ron Paul second!), and poor angry Newt third in CO, fourth in MN, and not even on the ballot in MO at all. If predicting GOP results were my job, I would totally fire me. But then again, after last night I would not be the only person who would have to be fired. There would be a lot of unemployed people today. Which would drive down employment numbers! And that’s good for the GOP’s chances this year. Sorry, I’m rambling.

I also have to tell you that I like this GOP primary season. It’s exciting. By this time Romney was supposed to be blandly cruising his way to the nomination, held aloft by large stacks of money and the air of inevitability cash manufactures, but here on February 8, Santorum has won as many states as more states than Romney has, and while Romney has twice the delegates as Santorum (thanks to Florida’s “winner take all” primary), his lead is not unassailable. Now Romney will have to spend even more money! To fight off Rick Santorum. Who in a rational universe would have been packed away long before now.

Meanwhile: Newt Gingrich, who at this point is not in the race to win it but to hurt Mitt Romney as much as possible between now and the day, hopefully in the late spring, when Romney drags his battered carcass over the 1,144 delegate line he needs to take the nomination. Newt will be sniping Mitt all the way, and Mitt will be distracted by having to deal with Santorum while he does so. This is my new scenario. Because why not.

And yes, I still think Romney’s going to take it, eventually (and yes, probably sooner than later). But, hey, who knows, right? It could be Santorum! I find him a querulous bigot, but apparently “querulous bigot” in Scalzi World equates to “genuine conservative” in GOP Land, and the genuine conservatives out there apparently aren’t happy with Romney and his actual governing track record in Massachusetts. Could Santorum capitalize on his victories last night? Sure. Could GOP voters become increasingly disenchanted with Romney? Absolutely. Will Gingrich stay on mission to stab Romney through the eyeballs at every possible opportunity? You know he will. Santorum could drag it out! And pick up delegates! And win the nomination!

And then get slaughtered in the general election, since outside of GOP circles, querulous bigots are probably bad presidential candidates here in 2012. But if the GOP wants to try the Santorum Solution, then I wouldn’t be the one to try to stop them. Please, GOPers, run Rick Santorum for president. Indeed: Santorum/Bachmann 2012. It would be the best ticket ever. For values of “best” that don’t mean what “best” usually does, mind you; even so.

Anyway, as I said: exciting. Good for the GOP or the nation? Probably not so much. But this is where we are at the moment. I couldn’t tell you where we go from here. The suspense is killing me! I hope it will last!

The Chronicle of a Super Bowl Weekend Success

Over at FilmCritic.com this week, I look at the success of Chronicle in the theaters over Super Bowl weekend, and what lessons, if any, we may glean from its box-office topping performance. Hint: there are lessons to be learned, otherwise my column would be very short, and I don’t get paid for very short columns. Go! Read! Now!

Proposition 8 Overturned

Well, yeah. As the federal court of appeals panel noted, “Proposition 8 served no purpose, and had no effect, other than to lessen the status and human dignity of gays and lesbians in California.” And that’s not a nice thing to do.

I’ll have more thoughts on this in a bit, when I get caught up on the details. In the meantime, here’s the actual text of the ruling for you to peruse.

Update: Okay, just read the ruling. As I read it, this basically boils down to something I’ve noted before, which is that Prop 8 existed for the sole purpose of taking away from a particular group of people a right they already had (and which, in the case of the state of California, 18,000 couples availed themselves of), and that’s pretty easy to mark as a violation of the Constitution.

The ruling also takes a bat to what passes for the justifications the pro-Prop 8 had for keeping Prop 8 on the books; the court says two things, which are “You guys aren’t actually aware of California law, are you?” and also “If the text of law doesn’t say it, than the law doesn’t do it,” the latter being a response to the idea that Prop 8 was designed to put a pause on same-sex marriage when in fact the text makes it clear that a “pause” was not part of the plan.

Upshot: You can’t withdraw from people a right they already have just because they’re getting their gay cooties all over the institution of marriage. As I said earlier: well, yeah.

I’ll additionally note the judges did a fine job of keeping the ruling as limited as they possibly could, passing up every opportunity to widen the scope of the ruling or make larger constitutional pronouncements. This might disappoint folks who were hoping for a grand gesture that said “same sex marriage for all!” but I think the court recognized that this ruling would almost certainly be appealed all the way up to the Supreme Court, and wanted to give the SCOTUS as much of a reason as possible not to take the appeal, or if they do take it up, to let it stand. A narrow ruling dealing only with California is better likely to achieve that than a wider ruling. Thus, the focus on California law, dropping in federal law only when necessary and studiously avoiding any larger constitutional implications. I think it’s probably a smart way to go but I also acknowledge it’s not my ability to be married that’s up for discussion here.

In sum, I am (not surprisingly) pleased with this ruling. I hope it sticks.

The Business Case Against Karen Handel

Susan G. Komen Senior Vice President for Public Policy Karen Handel, the presumed designated sacrificial executive for the Komen folks, on account that outsiders suspected she was behind the plan to stop funding Planned Parenthood (and certainly appears to have pushed for it enthusiastically), has indeed resigned from that foundation, although she seems not particularly inclined to fall on her sword in doing so. Instead she looks to be planning to make as much trouble for Komen folks as she can on her way out the door.

And, well, look. If Ms. Handel was indeed brought in after certain decisions regarding Planned Parenthood were already made, and the Komen folks decided they just needed someone who’d be happy to manage and execute the plan, then it’s perfectly reasonable for Handel to cry foul as she’s shown the exit. And as Handel is declining a severance package (and its likely non-disparagement clause), she’ll be able to rend her garments and beat her chest about how awful the Komen folks were to her to the anti-abortion crowd, which will make them even less inclined to support Komen in the future. So don’t cry for Karen Handel; I think she’ll be just fine in all of this.

But it does once again bring into focus just so spectacularly blunderheaded this whole adventure by Susan G. Komen has been from a policy point of view, and this is something that Ms. Handel, as the VP of Public Policy, should have been on top of for her organization. Leaving out any direct issues of morality or politics (I know, I know, go with me for a minute here), what’s basically happened is that on account of $700,000 worth of grants, the Susan G. Komen Foundation in just one week wrecked a billion-dollar brand identity that took decades to develop. Solely from the point of view of policy and brand strategy, it’s impressive in an entirely horrifying way. While I fully believe the Komen folks have brought this on themselves (“oh, no one will mind if we withdraw our support for Planned Parenthood if we reverse engineer this totally obvious excuse to do so!”), my business mind cringes in sympathy for them.

(There is a gripe in some quarters that the Komen folks should be able not to fund whomever they wish. I agree with this 100%, of course, and have consistently said so. I think where I diverge with the gripers is that I also understand that actions have consequences. Komen was perfectly within its rights not to give funds to Planned Parenthood; the people who complained about it — many of whom had previously donated time and treasure to Komen — were also perfectly within their rights to do so, and to withhold their donations, plan to boycott companies that allied with Komen, and to look for new organizations to support. This is what one would call the free market at work.)

The Komen folks erred in lots of ways, but from a business point of view, where they erred the most is in understanding what their brand stood for and who supported it, and for not developing a messaging strategy regarding their new funding policy that was more than one response deep, just in case that response failed spectacularly, as it did in this case. From a purely business point of view, Karen Handel deserved getting canned not because she supported (or drove) the decision to have Komen drop its support for Planned Parenthood, but because as its Vice President of Public Policy she completely failed to do her job. Komen got its ass handed to it. That Handel didn’t anticipate that better, or help her organization respond to it better, and indeed seems to have exacerbated the situation, is why she should be shown the door. And she has. As often happens when one does a bad job.

The Big Idea: Saladin Ahmed

Influences aren’t just things as a writer that you pull from — they can also be things that you push against. And sometimes you do both at once. Saladin Ahmed knows about this; in his widely acclaimed debut Throne of the Crescent Moon (which has garnered starred reviews from Publishers Weekly, Library Journal and Kirkus Reviews) he’s looked at his favorite works both as inspiration and things to rebel against. What are those works, and what are their qualities and flaws, as Ahmed sees them? He’s here to tell you.

SALADIN AHMED:

The Big Idea behind Throne of the Crescent Moon had to do with writing something that was both an homage and a response to the heroic fantasy I grew up reading and watching. I was born in post-race riots Detroit at the beginning of the slow social and economic meltdown of that city. I grew up down the street, in the working-class Arab American enclave of Dearborn, MI. My Dad was a union activist and community organizer who instilled in me pride in my Arab heritage and a strong sense of social justice, but also a deep love for fantasy and science fiction.

Fast forward 30 years, and these things are still a big part of my consciousness. Sometimes, over the years, they’ve bumped up against each other, and Throne of the Crescent Moon is my first attempt to…transcribe the sound of that bumping, if that makes any sense.

But concrete examples are sometimes more useful than such abstraction – voila!

- I love Arya Stark and Tyrion Lannister from A Song of Ice and Fire. But I don’t like that royalty and nobles – or royals and nobles in disguise – are almost always the main POV heroes in fantasy. So my characters are mostly lowborn.

- I love the Aiel from The Wheel of Time (and that Rand is one by blood!). But I don’t like that Fantasyland’s pseudo-Arabs are usually depicted in a marginalizing manner. So I put the pseudo-Middle East at the center of my series.

- I love Sturm Brightblade from Dragonlance . But I don’t like that fantasy novels have tended to depict holy warriors/paladins as noble and inspiring when wearing pseudo-European garb but scary when wearing pseudo-Muslim garb.

- I love Star Wars (indulge me, please, by calling it fantasy), but I don’t like the way youth and self-discovery are so often the focus on fantasy plots. So I wrote a 60-something main character who damn well knows who he is – and just wants the world to leave him the hell alone.

- I love Aragorn… But I don’t like the way heroic fantasy celebrates hereditary power so uncritically. So I slapped my heroes in the middle of a plot to usurp a dynasty.

And so on. Throne of the Crescent Moon is, in a sense, a tightrope walk. Might be I’ve fallen a few times, but I hope I’ve taken some entertaining – maybe even thrilling – steps along the way.

—-

Throne of the Crescent Moon: Amazon|Barnes & Noble|Indiebound|Powell’s

Read an excerpt. Visit the author’s blog. Follow him on Twitter.

In Which Author Nick Harkaway Sits For An Interview of a Very Specific Type, or, What Authors Use Twitter For

It started with a standard publicist e-mail, letting me know author Nick Harkaway was available for interviews in conjunction with the upcoming release of his new novel Angelmaker.

Is he? I thought? Is he really?

To the Twitters!

And so I have.

Angelmaker, by the way, out March 20 here in the US. No guarantees as to any content regarding stoats. But you never know.

Science Fiction and Fantasy Fans: Suggest Your Nominees, Please

The Nebula Awards nomination period is rapidly coming to a close (it ends on February 15) and there’s about five weeks left to nominate works for the Hugo Awards (including the Campbell Award). As I am involved in both awards this year — I’m the president of SFWA and the toastmaster of Chicon 7, this year’s Worldcon — I want to encourage everyone who is eligible to nominate for either of these awards to do so. One way to do that is to ask folks to suggest potential nominees. Last month I gave space to writers/artists/editors to suggest the works they did that are eligible; today I’d like to open it up to science fiction and fantasy readers and fans.

Why here? Because up to 50,000 people read the site a day, and many of them are Nebula and/Hugo nominators, and some of them would really appreciate some suggestions. This is a good place to make such recommendations.

Before we begin, a couple of quick rules:

1. Please make sure that what you’re suggesting, work or person, is actually eligible for awards consideration this year. Generally speaking that means the work was published (or otherwise produced) in the last calendar year (i.e., 2011). If you’re not sure what you’re suggesting is eligible, please check. Otherwise you’re wasting your time and the time of everyone reading the thread for recommendations.

Also, it’s helpful if, when making a suggestion, you identify the category the work would be eligible for; so if you were going to suggest a novel, writing “Best Novel: [name of work, author of work]” up front would be awesome. This is especially useful in short fiction categories, where there are short stories, novelettes and novellas.

2. If the work you’re suggesting is (legally) readable online, feel free to provide a link, but note that too many links in one post (usually three or more) might send your post into the moderation queue, from whence I will have to free it in order for it to show up. If this happens, don’t panic, I’ll be going through the moderation queue frequently today to let posts out.

3. Only suggest the work of others. Self-suggestions will be deleted from the thread. If you want to suggest something you created, use the creators thread instead.

4. Don’t suggest my work, please. I’ve already posted here about what of mine is eligible; this thread is for everything else.

5. The comment thread is only for making recommendations, not for commentary on the suggestions others are making or anything else. Extraneous, not-on-topic posts will be snipped out of the thread.

So, readers and fans: This year, for the Hugos, Nebulas and other science fiction and fantasy related awards, what (and who) would you suggest other people keep in mind when they fill out their nomination ballots? Please tell us in the comments!

Three Musical Prompts for Your Monday

They are:

1. Patrick Nielsen Hayden is not only a Hugo-winning editor over at Tor, and my editor, but he’s also a damn fine guitarist, and plays in a rootsy rock band known as Whisperado. That assemblage of musical ne’er-do-wells have just released their first full-length album, I’m Not the Road. If you wished, you could purchase it, in physical form at CD Baby, or in non-corporeal form either at CD Baby or iTunes.

Here, have a listen to their song, “Over You”:

If you’d like to hear more, PNH has put up more samples on his own site.

2. Brian Francis Slattery is not only a writer of complex and interesting science fiction, but is also a damn fine musician, which I know first hand because he and a group of his friend provided musical accompaniment for me, Lev Grossman, Cat Valente and Scott Westerfeld at our group reading at the New York Public Library last year; he and his friends did me in 7/8 time, or as I like to call it, “Sting’s favorite time signature.” Slattery and the band (now known as the “Slick Six Five”) also have a new release out, Pictures From a Liberation, with lyrics derived from Slattery’s novel Liberation: Being the Adventures of the Slick Six After the Collapse of the United States of America. The album’s up for a listen and download over at Bandcamp, and it’ll be one of the more adventurous musical listens you’ll have today.

3. Joe Rybicki is not only one of my former editors, but also a damn fine guitarist (sensing a theme here, are you) who puts out music under the nom de rawk of Johnny High Ground. But before that, he was in a punk band called “Whatever…”, and you may imagine I get a kick out of that. Fans of that band (and those who just enjoy old school punkishness) will be glad to know Whatever…’s discography is now available on Bandcamp. It’s just like moshing, in digital form.

There, you’re all music’d up and ready to face your Monday. Go get ‘em, tiger.

Signed ARC of Redshirts: Now Part of Pat Rothfuss’ Worldbuilders Fundraiser

I mentioned a few days ago that I’d received my ARCs of Redshirts and that all of them were claimed except one, and that I would do something cool with it as a giveaway. Actually, it wasn’t 100% accurate. It’s not me who is doing something cool with it, it’s Pat Rothfuss. He’s giving going to give it away (signed!) as part of his Worldbuilders fundraiser.

What is Pat Rothfuss’ Worldbuilders fundraiser? It’s his annual and rather spectacular way of getting folks to kick into Heifer International, the charity that helps people in third world countries improve their lives through the power of livestock. Or as Pat puts it, “They don’t just keep kids from starving, they make it so families can take care of themselves. They give goats, sheep, and chickens to families so their children have milk to drink, warm clothes to wear, and eggs to eat.” The deal is that for every $10 you donate to Worldbuilders, you have a chance to win prizes. Donate $10, one chance. $100, ten chances. The math is pretty simple, actually.

So far this year Pat and the folks contributing to Worldbuilders have raised an incredible $250,000 for the cause… but there’s always more to raise. Thus the contribution of Redshirts. I’ve been a big fan of Worldbuilders since it’s started and it’s a honor to put my work into its service.

Mind you, it’s not just Redshirts that’s up for grabs. There’s literally hundreds of books, DVD, graphic novels and other goodies to be given away, including stuff from Neil Gaiman, Elizabeth Bear, Ernie Cline, Kate Elliot, Peter S. Beagle, and of course Pat himself, much of it signed and/or rare. Plus I have a few more things in there as well, including signed copies of Fuzzy Nation. This is all tip of the iceberg stuff; for the whole loadout go to that Worldbuilders link above.

Here’s the thing: The Worldbuilders fundraiser is only through February 7, so if you want in on the action, make your move. It’s well worth it, both for the premium stuff available and, you know, to help folks better their lives.

If you’ve not already clicked through to donate (and why have you not?), I’ll mention that I gave Pat an early sneak at Redshirts. He talks about it a little here on his blog and gives it a full review (without spoilers) on Goodreads. I encourage you to click through and see what he thinks and why in the end he threatens me (in the nicest possible way, of course!) with an axe handle. Oh, Pat. I love you too. Don’t make me set Krissy on you.

Romney and the LDS Church

Photo by Infrogmation, via WikiNews

Question from the gallery:

How much do you think it will matter that Mitt Romney is a Mormon? And does it matter in your own thinking about him?

Since I think at this point it’s all but certain Romney will be the GOP nominee, I’m not sure it’s mattered greatly in a negative sense. I’m pretty sure in a couple of cases it will work to his advantage; for example, tonight, in the Nevada caucuses, as Nevada is the state with the 7th largest population of LDS folk (4th biggest per capita), LDS folk tend to skew Republican/conservative, and in the 2008 Nevada caucuses, LDS folks who voted GOP went 90% for Romney and were 25% of the caucus voters. So, yes, in Nevada? Not a problem.

Is it a problem with the GOP elsewhere? Possibly, although I don’t have the stats at my fingertips. I will say it’s possible it may have been more of a problem if Romney had been in a more competitive field of candidates, but he got lucky in his GOP opponents this time around. With apologies to Santorum and Paul supporters, at this point it’s between Romney and Gingrich. While you can’t count Gingrich out unless you stake his heart, chop off his head, fill his mouth with garlic and bury him at a crossroad, I think most GOP voters realize at this point that the vampire treatment is exactly what Obama would do to Gingrich in the general election. There’s also the very real possibility that in going down, Gingrich would take all of the modern GOP with him, on the thinking that as he was the one who birthed it, he might as well kill it off, too. Romney, whatever his other flaws or advantages, at least won’t immolate his entire party if he loses the election.

At the end of the day, Romney has consistently been the GOP frontrunner in this election cycle. Gingrich spikes up past him now and then, but that’s just it: He spikes. Then people remember Gingrich is Gingrich (Romney spending millions in attack ads helps) and then it’s back to status quo. I know of grumbles of Romney’s LDS affiliation among some evangelical GOP voters, but it seems like it’s been just that: grumbles. There’s also this: When it comes right down to it, do these evangelical GOP voters dislike the idea of an LDS member in the White House more than they dislike Obama? I’m gonna go with a “no” here.

Regarding the general election, I think Romney’s major problem is not his religious belief but everything else about him, starting with the fact he’s socially clueless about how obnoxious he is about his wealth, and (conversely) how much the electorate is becoming sensitized to the fact he’s a clueless rich dude. I’m not going to suggest his LDS affiliation won’t matter to some voters; it will. I just don’t think it’s going to land in the top five concerns that most voters have about him.

Does Romney being a member of the LDS church concern me personally? No. Readers here will recall that of all the GOP candidates this cycle, the one I liked best (and even sent money to) was Jon Huntsman, who is also a member of the LDS church. So my recent track record on this particular aspect of a candidate’s profile is at the very least neutral.

In a larger sense, on a purely personal and anecdotal level, my overall feelings about LDS church members defaults to vaguely positive. This is mostly because I know a fair number of LDS folks, and the ones I know personally tend to be good people whose company I enjoy. I allow that this may have less to do with their church affiliation and more to do with the fact I like good people and don’t tally church affiliation of any sort as an automatic negative. Good people you like are hard to find and you should cherish them without the use of a checklist. Be that as it may, that’s my initial default, so it doesn’t hurt Romney any.

Regarding the LDS Church as an entity, there’s a lot about its political and social positions I dislike and disagree with, and I think its theological underpinnings are a heaping stack of nonsense. This puts it on a par with a number of churches, including the Catholic church, a whole pile of protestant churches (particularly evangelical churches), and pretty a fair number of non-Christian religions (and/or their various sects) to boot. I certainly could not be an LDS church member now; if I were born into it I’m pretty sure I’d be apostate. But again, that’d be true regardless of church. Luckily for me, aside from a baptism I didn’t have a vote on and wasn’t followed up on in any event, I’ve never had a church affiliation. I don’t have to be apostate; I can just be not religious.

I don’t automatically hold official church positions against church members, regardless of religion. I assume individual church members have brains and agency and may or may not agree philosophically with every single proclamation that comes out of their particular hierarchy. People who assume that Romney will take orders from Salt Lake City are on par with the voters of 1960 who assumed that Kennedy would take orders from Rome. I have no intention of voting for Romney in the general election. But when I don’t vote for him, his being a member of the LDS church won’t be a part of it.

Would I ever vote for a member of the LDS church for public office? Sure, if their political positions were aligned with mine for the office they were seeking. Romney’s don’t, which is why he won’t get my vote in November.