Daily Archives: June 7, 2013

Hey Scalzi, Don’t You Have Anything Angry to Say About That PRISM Thing?

Uh, mostly not, because apparently I was the only person in the US who assumed the government was already doing something very much like this? Because it was doing it under Bush, and if Obama had gotten around to stopping doing it, his administration would have made a big deal about it, no? And since the Obama Administration never said a single word about it that I can recall, it was probably still going on? So I guess what I would say is, yeah, seems not surprising in the least, why are you suddenly freaked out about it?

This is separate and independent from the question of whether the government should be vacuuming up every single bit of information out there in our communication channels, to which my reflexive answer is, oh, very probably not. Seems like a bad idea, for all the usual reasons involving rights and civil liberties, and the fact that our government, while nominally seen as liberty-loving, is not forever guaranteed to be so (and of course there are many who do not believe it is that way now). With that understood, again, since this has been happening since the early days of the millennium, it seemed to me unlikely that it had suddenly had stopped. Our government doesn’t have a whole stratum of secret legal and operational apparatuses for nothing, you know. It’s being used. It hasn’t stopped being used, because, again, if it had stopped, the current administration would have made a fine show of not using it.

I’m not personally thrilled with the possibility/probability of everything I do online being strained through the government’s baleen, as it were, but I’ve assumed it’s been doing so for the last decade at least. Inasmuch as I live my online life with the assumption that nothing I do there is private and unknown anyway (i.e., it’s all discoverable at some point, and in some way), this did not require a huge adjustment on my part. The question I usually ask myself before I do anything online is this: Is this something I can tell my wife about, and she would be cool with? If the answer is “yes,” then if someone else finds out, meh.

(This doesn’t mean I’m keen to share all the (generally really not all that exciting, sadly) details of my online life with all y’all, “all y’all” including the NSA, and I think quite honestly most of you are probably happy with that arrangement as well. But if it happened, there’s nothing there that would surprise Krissy, and at the end of the day she’s actually the one that matters.)

On a related note, I’m also aware of how much privacy I’ve already given up on a daily basis to private corporations. For example, I’m nestled fairly deep into the Googlesphere at this point; I use its GMail service, have an Android phone and tablet and otherwise use a fair number of its services. Google knows where I am all the time (so long as I have my phone and/or tablet), reads my email and tracks a lot of what I do online, and in return it does a lot of things that make my life somewhat easier (I don’t get lost anymore when I go on the road, for example).

This constitutes a loss of privacy, to be sure, but it’s also varieties of privacy that I don’t feel terribly awful about compromising because a) I understand what’s being compromised and what I get out of it, b) Google doesn’t actually give a shit about my e-mail or other private information other than for keywords to offer me ads and services (and again I’m aware of that particular trade), c) a decade plus of dealing with Google has given me a good idea what I’m in for. Likewise Apple, Microsoft and Verizon, all of whose devices I use on a regular basis and have for years, and whose user agreements I actually do read.

Do I want Google (or anyone else) to allow the government access to their information on me without appropriate legal procedures? No (note Google’s flat denial of participation in a PRISM program here). On the other hand, again, simply as a matter of course, I have assumed the US government was getting my data one way or another. At the end of the day, the Internet  was born out of ARPANET, and the US government has never been keen of letting the Internet go entirely private. Once more, I’m slightly surprised people seem surprised.

And again, this lack of surprise is separate and independent from my thoughts on whether this assumed suctioning up of my data is correct, just or right. What I’m saying is that I’m not especially outraged at the moment. It’s hard to be outraged for an entire decade. At least it is for me.

I Need a Better Class of Panicked Dude Leaving Comments

Because I gotta tell ya, the ones that are posting here are letting me down. Consider this latest comment, expunged from its original place in a comment here but presented for your delight, from “ManCaveThrust”:

This place is horseshit. Anyone who tells the TRUTH about alpha game or feminism suddenly becomes a prime target for Scalzi’s black helicopter squad. Take your self-righteousness and stuff it. You and your rabbit poops can stay far away from me and my tight ass life.

Notes:

1. Tired rhetoric — “rabbit” references been done to death in terms of me, handwringing about feminism likewise, all this “alpha” stuff, game or otherwise, is just boring. Yes, yes, alpha this, rabbit that. Where’s the originality? Where’s the pop? Where’s the craft?

2. For that matter, this fellow is clearly not keeping up with current events, otherwise he’d know that at the moment I’m (fairly, to be sure) not exactly in the finest possible odor with many feminists. I want my ranting comments fresh and contextually aware, thank you.

3. A single all capped word? If you’re not going to commit to an all-cap lifestyle in your comment, don’t bring the all caps at all. And again, here we are with the craft issue.

4. Metaphor usage is not up to snuff. “Black helicopter squad?” If this dude was paying any attention at all, it would have been “pastel helicopter squad” — most people would have realized it was a play on “black helicopters” but the “pastel” bit would have more in line with the attempt to frame me as an emasculated tool of the matriarchy; real men won’t ever be seen in pastels, they’re clinically proven to shrink one’s testicles.

Now, granted, if I were actually an emasculated tool of the matriarchy, I would not be allowed helicopters at all, pastel or otherwise. But let’s not overtax this fellow by asking him to think his metaphor all the way through. Asking him for a little surface consistency, however, is not too much.

5. “Rabbit poops”? Really? I get this this is supposed to be insulting, but, honestly. It sounds like an eight-year-old unfamiliar with how swearing works jamming words together, Mad Libs style. It doesn’t really sync with the swaggering, hypermasculine tone this dude was clearly intending. I mean, he uses “horseshit” earlier, so we know he’s down with the swearing thing; “rabbit poop” is a bit of a come down. This is the opposite of sticking the dismount.

6. I’m not sure what kind of vibe this fellow was intending to send by calling himself “ManCaveThrust” and discussing his “tight ass life,” but I am pretty sure it’s not the same one I got.

7. Going to someone’s site to tell them to stay away from you? Dude. Come on.

Verdict:

Sloppy. Lazy. Inchoate. Any actual attempt to assert alpha-ness, or to accentuate my not-alpha-ness (or whatever) undermined by complete lack of composition, flow or sense. In short: Disappointing effort. But as with so many of these dudes, “disappointing” seems the best he can manage.

To be fair, I wouldn’t have let this comment stay in the comment thread even if it was brilliantly composed, because I have better goals for the site than to have it cluttered up with panicked boys trying to be all tough on the Internet, where they don’t actually have to look anyone in the eye as they type out their posturing. But at least I would have been entertained before I deleted the comment. All I get out of this one is a sense of pity, and a desire to put the fellow through a writing workshop. And that’s just not enough.

The Big Idea: Bradley P. Beaulieu

Author Bradley P. Beaulieu wraps up his “Lays of Anuskaya” fantasy trilogy with novel The Flames of Shadam Khoreh, and on the occasion of its release, he’s moved to look back on the entire trilogy and think on what it means to him, and how it relates to our own real world.

BRADLEY P. BEAULIEU:

The Flames of Shadam Khoreh concludes a trilogy that began, at least in my head, some eight years ago. In it, a prince and princess of a Russo-inspired Grand Duchy join forces with members of a violent extremist group whose stated goal for decades has been to destroy the Grand Duchy and its influence in the region. Unlikely allies indeed. Much of the story is about healing a world that is broken, but another part, a much more layered and nuanced part, is about seeing the world as your enemy sees it.

The Lays of Anuskaya is centered on a group of three elemental sorcerers who centuries ago attempted to bring the world to a place of enlightenment. They not only failed, they failed in spectacular fashion, and the world itself paid the price. As the trilogy opens, one of those very sorcerers has been reborn. Through his dreams, and through the brave efforts of others, we find the source of the world’s ills: the fabric between the material world and the world of the elemental spirits has been weakening. Rifts have begun to form.

The true nature of these rifts, and how they might be fixed, is a matter of some debate. The rifts are causing blight and disease and war throughout the Grand Duchy and the neighboring empire, and still the dukes bicker amongst themselves, causing delays at a time when the world can least afford it. The Flames of Shadam Khoreh begins as the pain and destruction from these rifts is becoming dire. Everything now depends on the ability of one boy, the sorcerer reborn, in finding the truth of how the rifts might be healed once and for all, for if he doesn’t, the entire world will suffer the consequences.

One thing I’ve rarely talked about is the fact that 9/11, the Iraq War, and the surrounding conflicts were one of the primary sources of inspiration for this story. Like so many people—not just Americans, but people all over the world—I was greatly affected by the events of 9/11. There was rage and confusion and a deep desire to “get to the bottom of it,” to understand why the perpetrators of that crime had done what they’d done. The more I searched for answers, however, the more I realized that it’s an endless story with endless causes and endless consequences.

Look, I’m a pragmatist. There are hard truths in our world. I’m fully aware that there are legitimate reasons to use violence to achieve an end, but it also seems that too often violence (or the threat of violence) is the first thing we reach for in our arsenal (a funny word to use when you’re trying to broker peace, but somehow it seems apropos; and by the way, when I say we, I mean the entire human race). So much of our politics is posturing and refusing to give in for fear of being seen as weak or “appeasing” the enemy.

This is true in many conflicts around the world and was true of the conflict in the Middle East, and as I watched the conflict unfold, it built within me a frustration that was hard to reconcile. It was in that frustration that the seeds of The Winds of Khalakovo, the first book in the trilogy, were laid down. Those seeds started to bear fruit as I fleshed out the conflict that’s told in the story, one that has roots in generations past but that’s coming to a head just as Winds opens.

The heart of the story—a tale of irreconcilable differences—didn’t change very much in the telling. It continued to be the primary driver of what happened. But I was able to show where some people, if they try hard, can meet in the middle, and I was able to bring that new perspective to several different characters. That was one of the more gratifying things for me, to show a tale in which the characters learn and come to understand another culture from a perspective that was beforehand very limited. Not everyone ended up agreeing with the other side—that wouldn’t be a truthful story—but they certainly understood more if nothing else, and all of that came from my inner desires for us, in this world, to do the same.

So what’s the Big Idea? The Lays of Anuskaya isn’t about our world. It isn’t about the conflict in the Middle East. But it was born there, certainly, and so it’s hard to escape some parallelism. I suppose if I had to formulate the roiling of inner desires that led to this book, I’d say it’s a plea for us to look further than today.

It’s a plea for peace, as told through a tale of war.

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The Flames of Shadam Khroeh: Amazon|Barnes & Noble|Smashwords

Read an excerpt (scroll down for links). Visit the author’s blog. Follow him on Twitter.