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Uncategorized

Announcing Midnight Star: Renegades!

So here is today’s super-cool news I get to share with you: a new video game I’m involved with is on its way! It’s Midnight Star: Renegade, a sequel to Midnight Star, last year’s mobile-based shooter from the fine folks at Industrial Toys. It’s a ton of fun.

Here’s a bit from the press release that was just sent out about it:

Industrial Toys, the team behind last year’s ground-breaking Midnight Star, today announces a brand new shooter for mobile, Midnight Star: Renegade. Set 120 years in the future after the events of the first Midnight Star game, Renegade puts players at the center of a mystery left behind by a space-faring civilization that went missing 22,000 years ago.

The new game builds upon the innovative touch controls of Midnight Star and introduces all-new features like free movement, jump boots and guided rockets. Fans of the 1st game will find amped up action and tons of new features, but the biggest change for the franchise is how Renegade fits into the mobile gamer’s lifestyle. Levels are short but plentiful – 150 in the first campaign installment and most are under a minute in length. A multiplayer mode offers quick head-to-head battles for rank. And improved touch controls make an airborne circle strafe second nature.

Players also get to build their own characters, craft their own weapons and design their own armor and look. Prefer to snipe from long range? No problem. Rather jump headlong into the fray, dual wielding rocket pistols? Then jump!

Midnight Star: Renegade is entering soft launch this month and should be available everywhere on the App Store and Android this Summer.

To learn more about Renegade and Industrial Toys, follow @industrialtoys on Twitter, ‘Like’ the Facebook page at www.facebook.com/industrialtoys and join the Renegades at renegadeprogram.com.

I’ve played it (I mean, obviously), and it presses all my gamer buttons: It’s fun and fast and full of action, and it really is perfect for the “I’ve got a minute while I’m standing in this line” situations we all get into during daily life. I think you’re going to enjoy the hell out of it.

Again, if you want more detail, click over to renegadeprogram.com and catch up on all the coolness. It’s coming, as noted, a bit later in the year.

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Uncategorized

Dear GOP: We Can’t Save You If You Won’t Save Yourself

Art by Chris Piascik, used via Creative Commons. Click picture for original.

And now is the part of the election cycle where the pundit class comes forward and begs the rest of the US electorate to help save the GOP from itself. In the Atlantic, Peter Beinart argues that liberals should support Marco Rubio over Trump, and over in the Washington Post, Michael R. Strain of the American Enterprise Institute is flat-out begging for people to vote for someone, anyone, but Trump. “We all have to stop him,” reads the headline to the article.

We? We? I don’t know if Michael R. Strain is up on the news, but Trump is polling at 49% nationally among Republican voters. He’s outpolling Rubio, Ted Cruz, John Kasich and Ben Carson combined among the people who are actually going to go to the polls to vote Republican. Likewise, Beinart’s suggestion that liberals throw in with Rubio, who aside from his pandering antediluvian positions appears to dissolve into a stammering puddle of flop sweat when people are mean to him, which is a quality I know I always look for in a potential leader of the free world, is actively insulting. Hey, liberals! Save the GOP from Trump by supporting the establishment’s hand-picked empty suit, which it will use to shore up shaky senatorial races and then push and pass a political agenda massively antithetical to everything you believe in! Yeeeeah, thanks for the hot take, there, Pete. Let me know who you buy your weed from, because that’s clearly some primo shit you’re smoking.

News flash, pundit guys: No one can save the GOP from Trump but the GOP, and its voters clearly have no intention of doing that. To repeat: Trump currently outpolls every other GOP candidate in the race, combined. What, pray tell, do you want any of the rest of us to do about that? The answer may be “vote against Trump in the primaries,” but this is where I point out that the rest of us are not GOP primary voters for a reason. Some of us may want to vote in the Democratic primaries. Some of us may be independents and have to wait to see what dumbasses the parties elect. Some of us may belong to third parties because we’re political idealists/masochists. The point is, we have other plans for the day. They are legit plans. They don’t involve keeping the GOP from setting itself on fire.

Also, you know. If I were the paranoid type, I’d look at the pundit class begging the rational portion of the electorate to save the GOP from itself as a suspicious bit of political theater orchestrated by the shadowy cabal that really runs the nation. We can’t let the GOP implode yet, we still have to pay taxes! I know! Convince the liberals to vote against their interests to save a political party whose goals oppose theirs in every relevant way! And as a bonus, that way they don’t vote for that commie Sanders! Quick! To the pundits! I’m not saying that’s what’s happening. But I’m also not not saying it, nod, wink, nod, hand signal, wink.

Even if liberals (to Beinart’s point) and everyone else (to Strain’s) decided to vote against Trump in the states that allow open primaries — or changed their registration to Republican to vote in closed primaries, because, yeah, that will happen — again, Trump has the support of half the GOP voters right now. Folks, it’s Super friggin’ Tuesday. Half the GOP delegates needed for a nomination are getting sorted out tonight (595 of the 1,237 needed, of which Trump already has 82), and it’s a fair bet that Trump is taking every state except Texas, which will go to Ted Cruz, an odious fistula that walks the earth in a human skin.

Now, most of these states as I understand it will allocate delegates proportionally, so Cruz and Rubio are likely to take some. But most are going to Trump. He’s likely going to end the night so far ahead that even the active intervention of everyone else won’t keep Trump from chugging along to Cleveland with a plush stack of pledged delegates. Neither Cruz nor Rubio is going to drop out of the race — Rubio because the establishment’s assassins will murder his future if he does, Cruz because his monomaniacal sense of manifest destiny doesn’t allow for quittin’ — and neither of them is likely to poll substantially better than the other. They’re Tweedle-Dee and Tweedle-Dum all the way down the line. You want to choose between these two embarrassments to the name of Generation X? After you.

But that’s why Beinart tells liberals to vote for Rubio! To get him ahead! Oh, you dear, sweet, precious jewel in the firmament of heaven. Yes, I’m sure that if liberals do cross the line, hold their noses and vote for Rubio in primaries, that absolutely positively won’t be used against him by either Trump or Cruz, two gentlemen who are celebrated worldwide for their probity and graciousness in all things political. Indeed, I see no way this fantastic plan of Beinart’s could ever possibly go wrong, or work to Trump’s advantage with his core constituency of angry white people who may or may not be flaming bigots, but who certainly hate friggin’ libruls.

Folks, I’m the first to admit that my political crystal ball is not exactly piercingly clear, but here’s what I believe: It’s too late to stop Trump. Probably from getting the GOP nomination, but at the very least from being a significant and possibly controlling force at the Republican convention. Is anyone under the impression that, in the case of a contested convention, Trump’s pledged delegates — or his actual supporters — are suddenly going to abandon him after the first ballot? Bless their hearts, but no one’s in love with Rubio, and no one actually likes Cruz. Trump’s people, on the other hand, are in love with him in the way that only the simple can pine for a demagogue. If you want to see what a middle-aged riot looks like, wait until the GOP tries to torpedo Trump at the convention.

But somebody needs to do something! Well, yes. Those “somebodies” should have been the GOP, but it didn’t want to, and then when it wanted to it couldn’t, because it realized too late that its entire governing strategy for the last couple of decades, but especially since Obama came to office, has been designed to foster the emergence of a populist lectern-thumper like Trump. The GOP has made its electoral bones on low-information, high-anxiety white folks for years now, but has only ever looked at the next election, and not ever further down the road, or where that road would lead too. Well, it led to Trump.

And now the GOP wants a bailout, and people like Beinart and Strain are arguing we should give it to them, because the GOP is apparently too big to fail (and yes, this means that Trump is a festering ball of subprime loans in this scenario). And, well. We bailed out the banks in ’08, but no one was punished and no one on Wall Street apparently learned anything from the experience, because why would they? No matter how hard they fucked up, someone would come along to save them, and after a couple of years of grumping about smaller bonuses, they’d be back on top, sucking up even more of the wealth of the nation while everyone else muddled along on a glide path that slowly slides them into financial insecurity.

If the rest of us somehow could bail out the GOP by saving it from Trump, what would we get out of it? The GOP establishment certainly isn’t in the mood to learn — shit, it’s shoving all its chips onto Rubio, whose arms are probably already fitted with the titanium eye screws through which they’ll loop the strings once he’s elected. There’s no percentage in saving the GOP from itself; its policies are already inimical to good governance and have been for the last several election cycles. Saving the GOP from Trump doesn’t change the fact that the GOP is by conscious and intentional design primed to create more Trumps — more populist demagogues who will leverage the anxious discontent of scared and aging white people into electoral victories. That won’t be fixed. The GOP doesn’t want it fixed. It just wants the demagogue to be someone it can control.

The good news is that there is a way for everyone else to stop Trump: It’s called voting in the general election for the candidates who are not him. At this point as a practical matter that probably means voting for Hillary Clinton. This won’t solve the GOP’s problems, but again, maybe from the point of view of everyone else, the GOP’s problems aren’t solvable. Maybe it really does need to blow up and start over. Otherwise we’ll be back here four years out. And eight years out. And twelve years out. And so on.

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Big Idea

The Big Idea: Robert J. Sawyer

Robert J. Sawyer is one of the most prolific and celebrated modern authors of science fiction (with Hugo, Nebula and Campbell awards among others to his name), but recently Sawyer took some time between books. It was not time idly spent, as Sawyer relates in this Big Idea: It laid much of the groundwork for his newest novel, Quantum Night.

ROBERT J. SAWYER:

I wrote the first paragraph of Quantum Night on September 11, 2012—and the next day, my younger brother Alan got in touch to say he was dying of lung cancer.

I finished my work on the novel, returning the marked-up page proofs to the publisher, on November 30, 2015. My 90-year-old mother, then already in intensive care, died a week later.

There are three years between the beginning and end dates. With a two-decade track record of writing a book a year, that struck me (and my accountant!) as crazy. But my brother’s illness and death took a lot out of me, and for most of 2013, I wasn’t up for doing anything other than just reading.

And read I did, working slowly but surely toward the core idea for Quantum Night. I started with an absolutely riveting book called Evil: Inside Human Violence and Cruelty. Its author, Roy F. Baumeister, tries to make psychological and evolutionary sense of our basest instincts.

Next, I tackled Hitler’s Charisma: Leading Millions into the Abyss by Laurence Rees. With all due respect to the corollaries to Godwin’s law, it seemed to me that the Hitlerian template was horribly commonplace: a handful of psychopathic manipulators whipping up mindless followers.

And perhaps, it occurred to me, they were literally mindless: exemplars of the entities proposed in Australian philosopher David Chalmers’s thought experiment about beings externally indistinguishable from you or me but with no inner life, creatures he termed “philosopher’s zombies.”

I’ve long been familiar with the work of Oxford physicist Sir Roger Penrose and his collaborator Stuart Hameroff, which asserts that consciousness arises from electrons in quantum superposition in little doodads called tubulin dimers within neurons (see, for instance, Penrose’s classic Shadows of the Mind: A Search for the Missing Science of Consciousness).

Mashing up my reading about the nature of evil with Penrose and Hameroff’s theory led me to the central conceit of my novel, namely that human consciousness comes in three successively more complex varieties, based on the number of electrons that are in quantum superposition in each tubulin dimer.

If one electron is in superposition, I say the person is a philosopher’s zombie—the lights are on, but nobody is home.

If two electrons are in superposition, there is indeed self-awareness and an inner life, but such individuals literally think only about themselves; they have no empathy and are therefore psychopaths (callous manipulators, although not necessarily violent).

And if three electrons are in superposition, then there is a reflection upon the inner life—not just consciousness but conscience.

My novel proposes that each cohort is half the size of the one before: the majority of humans are philosopher’s zombies; a large minority are psychopaths, and only a precious few are empathetic beings.

Of course, all my speculation is wrapped up in a very human story about a man who has transitioned through all three quantum states during a difficult life and is now trying to come to terms with the things he did while devoid of conscience.

While pulling all this together, I consulted with some of the world’s leading thinkers on the science of consciousness (including Hameroff and Chalmers), psychopathy (including Kevin Dutton, author of The Wisdom of Psychopaths), and quantum physics (including John Gribbin, the author of In Search of Schrödinger’s Cat). My hat is off to them, and all the others who helped me on this journey.

My late mother always said, “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.” Ultimately, despite its exploration of why evil exists, my novel does say something nice about the human condition; in the end, Quantum Night is an optimistic book. After all, it’s always darkest before the dawn.

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Quantum Night: Amazon|Barnes & Noble|Indiebound|Powell’s

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

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