The Tragedy of the Squid Farms

There is a well-night unanswerable question that “progressives” ask in every arena. Say, for instance that politicians in Chicago are beyond corrupt and this has a lot to do with the Chicago machine and in turn is responsible for the raging violence on the streets (because elected officials know it won’t wash back on them) and they’ll come back with “yeah, and if there wasn’t a machine, who should have been elected?”

The same thing with the Hugos, where over and over the bright enough to be stupid puppy-kickers ask “Oh, yeah, who should have won the Hugo instead, then? If the process hadn’t been the playground of insiders and whisper lists this whole time?” (And please, don’t try to deny it. When Gerrold told Brad that he’d never win a Hugo it was an admission. And besides, we saw the effects of it.)

This is their “defense.” It amounts to “If you have no knowledge of a better parallel world, then your argument is invalid” but they’re very happy with it because the question is unanswerable, and therefore they presume that the best work won, and can strut around about how fair they are.

Dave Freer did a post on Monday on the “quality” of quality in writing. He writes better than I do, so I won’t repeat his argument, just give you a link to it.

The take away for TL/DR readers is “you can’t say ‘this is good’ because humans have individual tastes and enjoyment of a book as a work of art has nothing to do with the minimal requirements of “Words and grammar are used properly.”

I’ve known this for a long time, because my tastes are, to put it mildly, weird. I read just about everything, but rarely (except in some romance subgenres) do I like the bestsellers in the genre. The books that leave me resonating like a bell are often things the world didn’t notice. When I joined the Don Camillo fan group on line 10 years ago I was the only person there under eighty. I might still be.

It extends to other media too. For instance, in movies, I like Second Hand Lions, a movie almost no one ever heard of.

This is so prevalent for me, that usually when a friend pushes a book at me, I know I’m going to hate it. I read Harry Potter at last when I was too sick to leave my big armchair and those books were the only ones within reach.

So I’ve known for a long time that “won an award” was almost an anti-recommendation for me, since the mid-nineties at least. I still liked Connie Willis’ books, but most of the others that won awards left me going “Say the what?”
And here I need to qualify that notwithstanding the typos in these posts (I write them very fast and don’t proof, since I don’t really get paid for them – yes, the donations help, but it’s not the rate I get for books – and today is probably speshul because I’m slammed under raging allergies and con crud acquired via husband. So I had to take Benadryl and I’m extremely sleepy) I have a natural fluency with words.

When it comes to writing, words are what I do. Maybe words and characters, and yep, still working on plot, but words I get for completely free. I came at writing via poetry and come from a long line of poets, so perhaps there’s something hereditary there.

For years, at least since I’ve been aware of awards and what is considered “quality” in the field, it seems to revolve around wording and how beautifully ideas are framed. There is a reason for this, I think, in that since only certain writers/ideas were acceptable to award committees and publishing push teams, the competition was in “how beautifully it’s written.” Which is fine. It’s like the court painters in France before the revolution, all copying the same casts and competing on how realistic they could make the drawing.

Unfortunately, because this was the way to get awards, which are often all a book can get in the way of publicity (The Prometheus Award did wonder for my career, for instance) in these days of declining print runs and premium shelf space, it meant that the entire field oriented towards “more prestige/beautiful prose” books.

Now before someone misunderstands me (rolls eyes) this doesn’t mean nothing else got published. No one can accuse the 10th incarnation of werewolf romance of being a prestige book.

What it means though is that if you had it in you to write beautiful prose, both your agents and publishers tried to push you towards doing just that. The only way this makes sense – literary fantasy sells way worse than adventure fantasy – is if they’re chasing awards and the boost of credibility they give.

Sure, you might burn ten author’s careers by pushing them towards the literary end of the spectrum, but if you hit the award-and-recognition jackpot with the eleventh, you’re going to be collecting for text book excerpts and such for a long, long time.

I got pushed to write literary fantasy and by and large avoided it, because the Shakespeare trilogy had taught me I became very unhappy working in that vineyard.

However most people who got pushed that way probably didn’t feel as strongly about lit fic as I do and just went along and did it, limiting their audience and sometimes (because bad numbers are always the writer’s fault) losing their career along the way.

So, what does that have to do with the question of “What should have won instead?”

The same thing that if I said “If we’d spent less on the war on drugs and channeled that money to space exploration we’d be much better off now” and someone said “like how? What would we have?”

To which the only answer is “Squid farms on Mars.” And then your interlocutor can point out how ridiculous that is, since Mars has never had squid and probably can’t be colonized by even humans.

To which the answer is “Sure. Now. But if we had started 40 years ago…”

Because you can visualize a pathway of incremental improvements in science that would lead to thriving squid farms on Mars if we hadn’t used the money on the war on drugs or the great society or any of the other boondogles into which we’ve poured our money and effort.

In the same way, if there hadn’t been an unspoken push towards “literary” in the awards, a lot of writers who tanked their careers might still be around and writing (almost anything sells better than lit. fic.) And a lot of people who are writing the “bit words, safe ideas” branch of our field might be writing something far more exciting, something that brought print runs out of the doldrums. Something that would engage the public, restore the value of the award as a signal, and in general be good for all writers of sf/f.

Is this sure? No. How could it be. We might have come up with another way to sink the field.

The sad truth is that those squid farms on Mars never existed, so I can’t point at them and go “See what you killed?” (Though there are a ton better books than those that won the Hugo every year, too, but that’s part of how the awards were oriented. I can answer with some, but mostly I’ll trip up in not knowing WHEN they were published. For instance, F. Paul Wilson’s Hosts should have won in that year. I just don’t remember what the year was. And it’s possible if the win went to Connie Willis, I’d be divided.)

BUT the most important effect of a corrupt award, that is given to right-think told in beautiful words is not that some books will be ignored for the award. It’s that many books will never get written, or never get that boost of attention that makes the author successful and allows for more, better books written in the future. (For instance, I found out about Ender’s Game when OSC won.)

The field, little by little, becomes diminished. Long before the award becomes meaningless for sales, the field has become narrow enough to not attract a broad slice of readers. And the print runs fall.

The tragedy of the commons is nothing to the tragedy of the squid farms on Mars. At least the commons got to exist.

Instead what we have here is a field in which masterpieces were never written or – as Dave Freer puts it – are moldering in a drawer.

Life isn’t fair, and we’ll never have a perfectly fair process. Some brilliant writers (maybe most) are bassawkwards on how to promote, let alone how to submit books for publication. But breaking up the “academic” and “lit crit” idea of what is good in sf/f might at least allow us to reorient the thrust of the field towards one that is likely to attract newer and more abundant readers.

And we’d all be better for it.

After all, squid farms on Mars could feed a hungry world.

372 responses to “The Tragedy of the Squid Farms

  1. “It extends to other media too. For instance, in movies, I like Second Hand Lions, a movie almost no one ever heard of.”

    If someone around here hasn’t seen this movie already, go get it right now! Robert Duvall, Michael Caine, and (IIRC) Haley Joel Osment are the leads. It might be my favorite Robert Duvall movie, period. It is one of the few movies I actually own on DVD.

    • What Bruce said.

      • Another unknown movie that is beautiful, funny, and inspirational, with a MC 14 year old boy who is sexually stimulated by everything: Saint Ralph. If you watch this and don’t like it, I will personally refund her movie rental fee. Set just after WWII, Ralph needs a miracle for his mom, so he enters the Boston Marathon.

    • Yep, enjoyed that movie

      • Great movie. One of the few I bought a copy of.

        I still wish I could hear the entire man speech, though.

          • I bet Duvall can give that speech, without aid of a scriptwriter.

            I knew he was a military brat, so I checked Wiki:
            Duvall was born in San Diego, California, the son of Mildred Virginia (née Hart), an amateur actress, and William Howard Duvall, a Virginia-born U.S. Navy admiral. He has English, and smaller amounts of French Huguenot, German, Scottish, Swiss-German, and Welsh ancestry. His mother was a relative of American Civil War General Robert E. Lee and a member of the Lee Family of Virginia, while his father was a descendant of settler Mareen Duvall. Duvall was raised in the Christian Science religion and has stated that, while it is his belief, he does not attend church. He grew up primarily in Annapolis, Maryland, site of the United States Naval Academy. He recalled: “I was a Navy brat. My father started at the Academy when he was 16, made captain at 39 and retired as a rear admiral.”
            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robert_Duvall

            About Mareen Duvall, Wiki tells us:
            He was born Marin Duval, at Nantes, France in 1625 and arrived in the Province of Maryland on August 28, 1650. He received a patent from the first proprietors of the Maryland Colony, the Calvert family on that day for La Val, named after his family’s estate in the County of Laval, an independent county created in the 15th century in the County of Maine, on the south side the South River in Anne Arundel County, Maryland.
            He became quite prosperous and his Middle Plantation in Davidsonville, Maryland and La Val were “as luxurious and courtly as any of the manors of the English gentry.”
            [SNIP]
            His notable descendants include U.S. Presidents Harry S. Truman and Barack Obama, American Vice-President Dick Cheney, Wallis Simpson (for whom Edward VIII gave up the throne), and actor Robert Duvall.

            Other descendants include U.S. Associate Supreme Court Justice Gabriel Duvall, billionaire Warren Buffett, Confederate General Bradley Tyler Johnson, and Confederate spy Betty Duvall.

    • Ohh, obscure movie time! How about Better Off Dead, starring John Cusack?

      • Diane Franklin – is it me or did she kinda look like Emma Samms, particularly when she did Shrimp on the Barbie?

      • After seeing that movie I kept hoping to take language lessons.

        • In keeping with the actual topic of this post:
          Monique Junot: I figured if we had nothing to say to each other he would get bored; go away. But instead he uses it as an excuse to put his testicles all over me.
          Lane Myer: Excuse me?
          Monique Junot: You know, like octopus? Testicles?
          Lane Myer: Ohhhh. Tentacles. N-T. Tentacles; big Difference.

    • It is a good movie. Love the ending.

    • Is there a collection of the strips Berke Breathed did for Second Hand Lions? I’m a big Bloom County fan.

    • Absolutely, loved that movie. Won’t snerk, but talk about an ending with a twist!

    • It also features Christian Kane as Young Hub. A marvelous film about what it means to be a man.

      • The Other Sean

        Kane’s been great in “The Librarians” and was awesome in “Leverage,” which was the first time I’d encountered him before.

        • I heard just the other day that they are now filming season 2 of Librarians.

          • Most excellent!
            Loved all three TV movies and was quite taken with the first season of the series.

            • I found that the Librarians episodes directed by J. Frakes seemed best. I never warmed to whassername (Rebecca Romijn) as the Guardian, though. If they’d gotten Yvonne Strahovski … Wowserrrrrrr!!! I understand Romijn has fan cred from some earlier shows (X-men?) but she seemed too stiff in the role.

              Sigh. Used IMDb to look up the spellings and now I want a Chuck movie: Chuck vs Chuckie.

              Yes, I want to see Adam Baldwin throttle a puppet.

              While on the subject … if you haven’t seen Baldwin’s film debut in My Bodyguard you need to correct that ASAP. Wonderful performance.

        • I wouldn’t necessarily recommend Angel (although if you’re a Buffy fan you’ve probably seen it) but Kane is very good in that series.

    • Music for me especially (I not author). One of my favorite songs by a favorite artist was released on one album, ever. Haven’t come up with the fifty bucks to get it. I mean, ever other track on that album is on at least one other compilation that I already have. Geez.

    • For several years (good ones) I worked for Suncoast, the video arm of what was once Sam Goody. Every year, when Fathers’ Day loomed on the horizon, I would recommend SECONDHAND LIONS to dozens of families. Never had a complaint, and caught lots of thanks.

    • adventuresfantastic

      It’s been years since I’ve seen it, but I loved that movie. Two old men who refuse to act their age and insist on enjoying life. And I loved Robert Duvall lecturing the punks on how to be a man. If they made more movies like this, I would go to the movies more often.

      • RealityObserver

        Ah, *now* I remember it (I am horrible with movie titles, which is sometimes humorous; and with people’s names, which is almost never so…).

        Great movie.

    • Second Hand Lions rocks! Fantastic movie, can’t recommend it highly enough. Need to go home and watch it again tonight.

    • Sara the Red

      I didn’t know about it until it came out on DVD, but I *love* Secondhand Lions. It is an utterly charming movie.

      • I find it odd that people didn’t know about it. It seemed to be advertised quite solidly before it came out. Possibly it was geographical, or possibly we were simply watching the shows it was advertised on, I suppose.

        • Yep, until yesterday I had never heard of it. Of course I don’t watch TV and rarely watch movies, so unless it is advertised on the radio, or I happen to see it in passing at a friends place, or here, I probably won’t hear of it.

    • It’s a wonderful movie. I have a tender memory of watching it with my grandpa before he passed away.

    • It’s an awesome movie, I wish more people had heard of it.

    • Second Hand Lions is one of the few movies that we’ve watched multiple times at our house. Every couple-three years it comes back to play.

    • Yes. A most excellent movie.
      “There was this one traveling salesman…”

    • …my favorite Robert Duvall movie

      Robert Duvall, like James Stewart, is one of those actors who even when I end up not liking the project, or possibly even have troubles with the character he portrays, I can appreciate his performance.

      My favorite? What a challenge! Ned Pepper, Maj. Frank Burns, Tom Hagan, Peachy Carnehan, Lt. Col. ‘Bull’ Meechum, The Apostle Ned E.F., Hub? There is an embarrassment of riches. I am kind of partial to the film in which he made his debut as Boo Radley, which is on my list of near to perfect movies, but I guess that really is a Gregory Peck movie.

    • My favorite “unknown” Robert Duvall movie is “A Family Thing,” co-starring James Earl Jones.

  2. Sometimes I think the reason that they want to kill Science Fiction is because Science Fiction is what fueled the space program. So no SciFi, no ‘wasted money’ on stupid things like rockets and exploration and science!
    No, instead that money can go towards buying votes (welfare, great society, etc) and controlling the populace (war on drugs, war on ‘terror’, homeland security, etc).

    • And glowbull warmin’!

    • You are sooo right!!
      Shuttles grounded and sent to museums (Texas was left out but New York got one).
      Spaceflight has always been dangerous but now astronauts have to fly Russian!!?!
      NASA’s primary mission now is to raise the self-esteem of Muslims around the world because they have not contributed anything to science, math, or technology in a 1000 years.
      The left’s hate for NASA was always based on protecting the USSR from American imperialism. The left considers the planting of the American flag on the Moon an affront to all of humanity, another sign of naked American imperialism. I could go on for hours.

      • And the Russian program is having issues, so soon no more rockets period.

      • I’m really surprised (and more than a little pleased) that SpaceX hasn’t been subject to the death of a thousand bureaucrats.

        Yet.

        It makes me wonder if at some point Musk bought some influence to get cosy with people in DC and said: “Here’s the gig. You can either let me work on SpaceX so the US has access to space, or some of my friends in the search engine business will arrange for every single search on your name for the next two decades to go DIRECTLY to sites you very much don’t want to be associated with. So – I get SpaceX, you don’t get embarrassed. Win-win?”

  3. On the off-chance Dave Freer reads this: if you can’t say “this is good,” how can you justify giving each other awards for it?

    And Second-Hand Lions is a wonderful movie.

    • 🙂 I’m sort of lost here. You can certainly say ‘I think it is good’ and hope a lot of people also think so (the Hugos). You could even set up measures to say ‘a lot of people think this is good’. If you were someone who had vast experience with judging correctly what many people will think good (say you were a geniunely successful acquiring editor – a very rare person) I suppose you could make a reasonably accurate judgement call that many people would. Most of us just aren’t that skilled or experienced. I can say a friend whose tastes I know well would probably enjoy a book – whether it is ‘good’ or not.

      • Apology, Dave, I was responding more to a point Sarah made where I thought she was referencing you. My bad, if I have misinterpreted you.

        On the other hand, her point and your response would actually seem to me to justify one of the main objectives of the Sad Puppies, which is to get more people involved in the Hugo nominating and voting process. I see people complaining that this would somehow dilute the value of the award. But more, and more diverse, voters seem to me more likely to broaden the value of the award for readers looking for something they would like to read, As it stands, a Hugo award is an actual DISincentive for many folks to read the winning work, which is, I’m sure, NOT what the original founders intended for it.

  4. In the spirit of Second-Hand Lions:

    Once I saw mountains angry,
    And ranged in battle-front.
    Against them stood a little man;
    Aye, he was no bigger than my finger.
    I laughed, and spoke to one near me,
    “Will he prevail?”
    “Surely,” replied this other;
    “His grandfathers beat them many times.”
    Then did I see much virtue in grandfathers —
    At least, for the little man
    Who stood against the mountains.

    (Stephen Crane)

  5. amiegibbons15

    I paint “literary writers” with the same brush as hipsters. They’re pretentious fops who care more about appearances than substance, are weird strictly for the sake of saying they’re different (even though that makes them exactly like everyone else in that genre or group) as opposed to just being themselves, and act like that makes them better than everybody else.

    • I actually enjoy the best of the “New Wave” and literary stylist SF, the ones who have some actual substance to go with their style. That’s pretty rare though.

  6. I have so wanted to go into space for so many years that I have had to stop the (shoulda, woulda, coulda) and write instead. I feel gypped of adventures.

    • How can you be gypped? You have thousands of worlds of books instead, and now you’re adding to that. The first adventure always happens in the mind.

      • Jerry Boyd

        Can’t speak for anyone else, but the NASA guy came to our school in second or third grade with his big long recruiting movie and his slick pitch, and more or less promised that if we worked hard and got good grades, and went into a STEM field when we hit college, a job in space was ours for the taking. So, yes, GYPPED!!

        • Being gypped by a salesman/recruiter is… to be expected.

          • “Go into SATCOM, young soldier. You remember the movie “Enemy of the State”? Remember what Jack Black was doing in the van? That job will be yours. You’ll even work with NASA.”

            Don’t ever trust a military career-counselor…

            • “The top 10% of graduates of Naval Nuclear Power School are sent into college programs.”

              I was young, dumb, and full of … and had just had to drop out of college. I was supposed to ship for the reserves to become a corpsman (to help get into medical school) and got talked into going nuclear power (a six year minimum) because as smart as I was I’d go to college on the Navy based on that above statement.

              Never, ever trust a recruiter.

              • I knew a guy who took that route, Naval Nuke to college engineering. Turned out his professors were mostly full of crap, ten or more years behind on their tech — and he couldn’t challenge or correct them in class because what he knew was classified.

                • I graduated top 10% (was top ten for over half of the school and quit caring when I realized top 10 plus $5 feed me at Steak and Shake…if I didn’t have the top 10 the $5 alone sufficed) but still went to the fleet.

                  In the end it was good for me. I got enough done that college only took two years afterwards. I also grew up a lot along the way. I won’t say I regret the choice but I still am not happy about making it due to a lie. Who is to say doing a short hitch as a corpsman or going back to college locally as a reserve corpsman wouldn’t have lead to just as good of a life.

                  Which I guess is kind of Sarah’s point writ small: we can’t see what our choices foreclosed so at least those choices need to be informed by honest information.

                  • I got kicked out of the nuke program in boot camp (I told the truth during Moment of Truth). Still had to do six years active, but as a fire controlman. And you should always avoid becoming a corpsman, unless you really want to be a Marine, but couldn’t get accepted by them.

                    • At the time I enlisted to ship reserves (I was still in college, after I had to leave I requested to get out of the reserve commitment and go active duty) I wanted to go to medical school. It was suggested to me to find a way to demonstrate actual work in the medical field to stand out as an applicant. Given that I had always planned on going into the Navy (at the time I hoped to use the medical corp’s program as my method to pay for medical school) being a corpsman in the reserves seemed like a good idea at the time.

                • Cryptology classes were like that for me. Good theory, but someone would say “this is intractable” and I knew how to do it — but it was codeword.

              • Martin L. Shoemaker

                Suddenly I understand my Navy friend’s career a little better. When he was in ROTC, his advising officer told him to take ANY major but nuclear engineering, insisting the Navy would teach him that when he graduated and got on a sub. The advisor instead pushed him into Russian studies to give him more options in the future.

                When it came time to apply for nuclear sub duty, the admiral in charge took one look at his transcripts and said, “Where the hell are your engineering courses? Rejected!”

                Those of you in the Navy know two things: graduating from ROTC means you’re an officer; and the only officers who serve on nuclear subs are nuclear engineers. So the adviser had guaranteed that the one place my friend would never serve was on a nuclear sub.

                I always assumed he had the one idiot adviser in the service. Now you’ve got me wondering.

                • My recruiter wasn’t an idiot. He was a man with a quota to fill in a field that was hard to fill. Plenty of guys lacked either the basic aptitude (nuclear field qualifying test and ASVAP scores) or required HS background (algebra and physics).

                  Enlisted ranks in Naval Nuclear Propulsion is sustained (okay, this is nearly 30 years ago so it might have been different before or after) by binge drinking and free sex in college.

                  Seriously. Roughly 60% of my entering class were college dropouts mostly due to drinking their way out (raises hand) or getting a wife who usually had their first child 1-3 month premature. The rest were guys who ran out of money or ambition. The rest were mostly just out of HS.

                  When we graduated six months later we were nearly 75% college drop outs. The high school guys didn’t want to keep up and dropped out winding up doing a hitch as straight MM, EM, or ETs. Us college dropouts had f*cked up our lives once and were going to pooch screw our second chance.

                  So his lie was the very specific kind needed for someone like me who he really, really wanted.

                  • The only difference between then and now is that now the attrition rate in the pipeline is only around 5%. It shows in the fleet.

                    • That leaves me less than sanguine. I know how much of a f*ckup I was back then and I made it through relatively high attrition days given graduated Nuke School in 87 and Prototype (S1C for the win) in 88.

                      They don’t need as many now given the carrier count is pretty much fixed (we had more carriers back then but most were conventional, only the E is gone among the nukes) and more submarines (my first boat was SSN-585 and there were boats in the 750s when we decommed although there were numbers not active in between) then plus we had all the nuclear cruisers active, the three one offs and the two multi-ship classes.

                      Given that why is the attrition rate so low? That attrition rate served a purpose tighter inscreening won’t solve (a lot of our rockouts were in the top half capability wise).

                    • Blame the Peace Dividend. Back in the late 90’s NR got sick of wasting all the money on teaching people who later washed out of the pipeline, so Admiral Demars declared a war on attrition. The curriculum was revamped, students were given more chances and more intrusive assistance.

                    • Would have started about the time I got out (1995) as Billy DeMars hadn’t been in charge of NR that long (a couple of years) I think. Wonder if the last few guys we got on the Providence came up through the modified program.

                    • Probably the very beginning of it. I’m pretty sure we’ll see a significant nuclear accident coming out of the Navy in the next few years.

                    • One of the things about the Navy nuke program that’s worth remembering is that it served as a de facto “bait and switch” program for years to get high-quality recruits into the Navy, a lot of whom could be predicted to fail the program and who would then be recycled elsewhere at the need of the Navy.

                      There were a lot of shenanigans about that program, some of which the guys actually running the nuke program had no clue about. The asses running the recruiting end of the business were doing things that the nuke program would have been aghast at, had they known.

                      I know this because one of the Navy recruiters in our joint office was a former Nuke program instructor, who’d wound up in Recruiting due to a long, drawn-out death in his family. Went out there on a compassionate, and eventually wound up transferred. The crap he found on the recruiting side of things wound up going to his bosses in the nuke program as a series of “Memorandums for Record”, and stirred up a bunch of shit with the recruiting side of the house. Prior to his winding up out there, someone with his background just did not do recruiting, at all–They were too scarce a resource, so that when he wound up out there dealing with everything, that was really the first window the nuke program had into what was going on with the things the kids were being told, and how it was handled. This happened back in the late 1980s/early 1990s, and from what I picked up, the information he sent back led to a bunch of changes being made.

                    • Kirk, I saw that stuff in classmates. I was in one of the early nuke field A school classes (as opposed to going to traditional A school and nuclear power pre-school). We had a guy in our class who had a wavier for HS algebra, HS physics, and something else. Rocked out in 3 weeks (the first rock out) with a four year commitment (you got a year added each after A school and Power school). Our advisers did as right as they could by him in that he got the A school of his choice instead of hitting the fleet as a Fireman.

                      Thing is he had no business being there. He had the smarts but his background was too light to keep up with the pace in the math classes. He were there to fill a double quota: a body for the nuclear field in general and a minority body for the nuclear field.

                      Wonder how many guys lacked advisers who saw the recruit was screwed to make recruiter numbers and wound up with a four year paint chipping enlistment.

                    • Thing is he had no business being there. He had the smarts but his background was too light to keep up with the pace in the math classes. He were there to fill a double quota: a body for the nuclear field in general and a minority body for the nuclear field.

                      This is precisely the argument made against Affirmative Action by liberal authors law professor Richard Sander and journalist Stuart Taylor, Jr. in their 2012 book Mismatch.

                      … draw[s] on extensive new research to prove that racial preferences put many students in educational settings where they have no hope of succeeding. Because they’re under-prepared, fewer than half of black affirmative action beneficiaries in American law schools pass their bar exams. Preferences for well-off minorities help shut out poorer students of all races. More troubling still, major universities, fearing a backlash, refuse to confront the clear evidence of affirmative action’s failure.

                    • On the other hand, there was a guy in my A school and Power School class who had a real hard time staying awake. We actually put his name placard on one of the podia in the back – and yes, he rode it down once. It turns out he was exhausted because he was coming in when the schoolhouse opened at 0500 and staying until they shut the doors at 0000 every day studying. He made 2.5 overall on comp, but I’d take him over a dozen 3.8 students. He might not get it the first time, but he would never quit.

                • Never ever assume that the military idiot you’re talking to is the only one in that area.

              • One of the most disgruntled sailors on my sub had joined the Navy to be a cook. I don’t remember if he had ambitions to open a restaurant, or just to work at a summer camp (cooking large amounts for many people was specifically what he wanted). In any case, they told him, “You’re too smart, we’re gonna make you a nuke.”

                He resented it, and was an attitude problem until his enlistment was up. Then again, it was the Carter years – a lot of people in the military had attitude problems back then.

                • During that time frame, I really have to cut the powers-that-were some slack–Numbers-wise, the military was sucking wind in those days, especially for finding high-quality people for the technical jobs. I know some people who were recruiters in that era, and the stories they had about trying to make numbers were insane. A lot of people got screwed, but that was because the services really had no choice.

                  • I realize we are talking about national defense, the single most essential function of government, but I can’t entirely imagine any other organization using that as a defense against fraudulent inducement.

                    “Yes, we told your daughter we were hiring her to just play the piano in the parlor, but we ran short of a few of the girls upstairs and really needed her up there to pitch in. It is still a customer service position.”

                    • You’re absolutely right. The only caveat that I’d throw out there is that the people at fault were not necessarily the ones who got blamed, though: We gave an essentially impossible job to the services, and then didn’t give them the resources to actually do the right thing, which was increase the incentives to serve to the point where you could get enough quality recruits in.

                      Stuff that was normal, and accepted became anathema in the recruiting world after the Reagan fixes for pay and college money came online, at least in the Army. Of course, some of that lack of integrity was kinda institutionalized, as well, but it did improve.

                      I do love your example, though. Cogent, to the point, and amusing. As a counter, though, I will throw out that the Madam running the place is very likely to look at you as though you were mad, and point out “Hey, this *is* a whorehouse, you know… What were you expecting? Besides, she seems to have developed a taste for it…”. 🙂

                      Which is precisely what happened with a bunch of folks who were “dragooned” into various jobs the military needed filling. One should remember that initial ambitions often don’t have much basis in reality–I remember one friend of mine who enlisted with the aim of becoming an officer via OCS, discovered that he absolutely loathed the job they did, and hated most of the people who would have been his peers. That guy wound up retiring as a CSM with 28 years of service, and would have likely stayed longer except for his back giving out on him. You don’t always know what’s best for you, and the lie his recruiter telling him about an easy path to OCS actually did him some good, in the long haul.

                    • I hate to defend some of the known scum, but— they do all tell you to READ THE CONTRACT. They’ll tell you five, ten times– if it’s not in the contract, there’s no assurance it will happen. It’s right there on the contract you sign, too.

                      I’ve been in rooms where people later assured everyone they’d been “lied” to– when the only one who’d gotten them to believe a dang thing was them, themselves. They took possibilities, and with further qualifications and similar things, and slotted themselves into the “well, of COURSE I can do that” slot.

                      This is before we run into things like local commands not following the rules, and sometimes the law. I know my detailer didn’t lie to me about my first overseas command– because he took the chief slot in the same department, going off of the same information he gave me! We just ran into several local commands who…uh… should have been held accountable, we’ll say.

                    • Sometimes, you could verify the contract said exactly what you wanted and still get screwed. I knew several people who re-upped on the condition that they got to go to some service school. They’d get their orders to report to the school, show up there, and be given a new set of orders sending them somewhere else, instead.

                    • and legal changes made later can mean that things happen in violation of the contract you signed. Just ask anyone who was in before ’96 for less than two years and got a service connected medical discharge.

              • We had 50/50. The head recruiter was a lying scumbag who would try to scare people into the Navy– and then left to go drink in town while the guy under him actually talked to people. Tried to tell everyone that there were no jobs to be had in the nearest college town, and I looked up from the book I was reading to inform the class that not only were there jobs, they’d been trying to hire me off the street when I’d been there the week before. (One of our classmates had just lost a brother in a military accident, so the lie wouldn’t have worked, but I don’t like lies.)

                Really surprised the junior recruiter when I was one of the few who was interested; he was startled enough to mention he’d assumed I didn’t like the military, and I told him I really liked the military– I just don’t like lies, and that one would just mean that those classmates would put off even looking at the new town until college started, because they’d assume they couldn’t get party money.

              • Stay offline for a day…

                My recruiter didn’t get away with telling lies to me. But since I wanted what he wanted to sell, he didn’t have much opportunity to. Walked into the office and told him I wanted to be a nuke MM. He tried to talk me into nuke ET or EM or the 6 year AEF program… until in frustration he says “Everyone else walks in and wants electronics, but isn’t qualified. You are qualified, and you want to be a machinist mate? Why?” Long answer, but since I wouldn’t sign without the papers saying MM, got what I wanted. And I knew about travel pay and travel time. And told him I wanted boot camp in Orlando in SEP, when all my friends would be off to college. Nope, no openings in Orlando 2 months either side of when I wanted to join, but Great Mistakes on the day I wanted. Before my foot was even at the door threshold, had a date in Orlando mid-September.

                And in boot camp kept my mouth shut when all the other nuke recruits said their recruiter told them he wasn’t allowed to guarantee ET or EM, but that could strike for it if they did really well in boot camp and “A” school.

            • Missile mechanic. 443 AFSC in the early ’70s. Gateway to NASA they said.

              Gateway to Cheyenne, Wyoming and points north… Minot, Grand Forks, Malmstrom, Ellesworth… and flippin’ holes in the ground for the Minuteman System.

              Could have been worse, I guess. We might have needed to use those for their intended purpose as a counterstrike.

          • Jerry Boyd

            I know that NOW.

          • Jerry Boyd

            Maybe I have unrealistic expectations, but applying adult standards to a socially inept 8 or 9 year old seems a little extreme to me.

            • No, you have unrealistic expectations of the government not trying to influence socially inept 8 or 9 year olds.

              • Jerry Boyd

                You seem to be implying, at least, that I should have enough on the ball to see it for a load of crap at the time. I fail to see how that is realistic.

          • In the military case, the recruiter is often an innocent bystander to the whole thing. The people you want to actually blame are the so-called “guidance counselors” down at the MEPS who do the actual contracting and MOS management/assignment. Those guys are the ones who really deserve all the oppobrium and hatred.

            The way it works is that the local guy, the recruiter everyone blames for it all, is just a schmuck the military branch puts out there to act as a shill and a huckster, working to get people into the MEPS. Nine times out of ten, when you start talking to folks, the people they’re really pissed at are the guidance counselors, who are also the ones who told the most lies. All too often, they’re working off an entirely external agenda: Is the Army short of cooks, this week? Well, by God, every kid with Infantry dreams who comes in the door is going to get told that a cook is the same thing, and the height of coolness.

            When I was recruiting, the number of times I’d be left going “WTF?!?” at the actions of the guidance counselors was quite high; they’d do stuff like take a young man whose sole interest in the Army centered on combat arms, like infantry, tell him he wasn’t qualified, and offer him reams of jobs he had no interest in. And, then, when that kid blew the Army off and enlisted Marine, it was somehow my fault for “not selling the Army, instead of a job…”. Motherf****r, I didn’t sell this kid a damn thing–He grew up on family tales of Infantry glory, and that’s all he was ever interested in, which I clearly told you. Just because you wanted the bonus points you get for putting someone into a support MOS that week, don’t blame me when you have it blow up in your face. Dear God, did I hate those asses with a passion when I was recruiting. Bunch of sanctimonious pricks, who usually left us dirtbag detailed recruiters holding bags of excrement at the end of the day.

            Yeah, a lot of lies get told, but it’s generally not the recruiter himself who’s responsible. Most of what those poor bastards do is damage control, after the guidance counselors get done screwing things up. And, you have the other side of the coin–You want answers about what it’s like to be in the Infantry? Don’t ask your recruiter, because that poor bastard was never in that branch. All he may know is water purification, and anything he tells you about the Infantry is going to be purest conjecture and/or guesswork. It’s like that across all branches; the Air Force recruiter we worked around when I was out there was essentially a VIP flight crew stewardess, who’d spent her entire career shuttling VIPs around on business jets. She had not one ‘effing clue about the rest of the Air Force, and I can’t say I blame the couple of recruits who got stuck into career fields she’d described to them as wonderful for being a little pissed-off. Of course, a few minutes alone with her and they were lapdogs, yet again–That young lady had the snake-charmer’s knack with guys. Probably developed from years of dealing with drunken Congressmen, some of whom still owed her favors. Or, who she had blackmail material on–She got a kid a slot at the Air Force Academy with a single phone call to a downstate Representative, and the gist of that call was “Hey, how ya doin… Remember the last time we flew together? Oh, yeah… Good to hear. I want so-and-so to get a recommendation for the Academy. Can you make it happen? Yes? Too cool, thank you…”.

        • Once I found out that I was too tall to be an astronaut (6′ 3″ won’t fit in the spacesuits), I settled for a degree in Computer Science so that I could at least make a contribution to sending a manned mission to Mars. Then they took that away from NASA. Gypped might be too kind to what has been done.

          • Reading all these experiences… I feel like I am in distinguished company. *sigh… Lies… Damn Lies.

            • Distinguished company? (Blushes) Dear lady, you honor us, we’re merely Odd.

              • Don’t get too big a head, distinguished is just a polite way of say old.

                • That fits entirely too well today. I ran out to grab a bite for lunch and I graduated high school with the guy that was in line in front of me. Sat down and had lunch with him, probably talked for 20 minutes or so. Still can’t remember his name – recognized him right off, but I can’t remember his name for anything! 🙂

                • Not old. ‘Experienced’. My 20-year old inner geek takes exception to the 55+ year old body it finds itself in.

        • Yeah, me too.
          BTW, I don’t know why there is such a push to get people into STEM degrees, they are the WORST CAREER field out there! You have to compete with 3rd world indentured servants who are paid extremely low wages (H1B visa people) and there are more people with degrees than there are jobs.
          And MBA’s with no science or tech training are the ones who make the decisions in all cases.
          You are far better off with a business or law degree. I would never recommend anyone go into any of the STEM fields, there’s no money in it anymore (sometimes I wonder if there ever was).
          Oh, I have a BSEE, and close to 40 years experience, and I haven’t done any real engineering in almost 20 years.

          • Best advice I’ve ever heard anyone give was for STEM students to double major in Business – and that was from a retired Engineer.

            • Hubby double majored in IS and Accounting. Some days he says that he wishes he’d become a plumber instead.

              • Yep. And I still do plumbing, electrical, and carpentry on the side. Though, that’s become a more occasional thing now.

              • I’ll freely admit until I got my current position I regretted going to college instead of tech school for welding after the Navy (or having finished my HVAC apprentice hours while in the Navy).

          • amiegibbons15

            Whoaaaaaa, lets not get carried away there. I can’t speak to the STEM field, but I can speak to the legal one. You want to talk more grads than jobs? (Not to mention the spanking new pile of debt for most grads.) That’s the legal field right now. There are less jobs, with less pay on average, than before 2008. The only reason the field’s on the upswing now is because the college kids realized the legal field has sucked since 2008 and went into something else (probably business), so law school grads in 2014 dropped dramatically (sorry, look up the numbers yourselves, I don’t feel like it 🙂

            I will say this, I don’t regret it, I loved (and hated! 🙂 law school. I love that type of thinking and the rigor of the law. A career is like writing. Go into what you love, don’t go chasing whatever the hot new career is or where everyone says the money is, because by the time you get there, it might have changed. And if you don’t love it, do you really want that to be your life anyway? 🙂

            • RealityObserver

              Good advice. 1968 – my (then future) brother-in-law was going to be an aeronautical engineer. In vo-tech (what he could afford), he actually got to work on the flight testing program for the 747. Had high hopes for a scholarship. I can’t imagine his feeling when that went into free-fall.

              (I have high respect for him – he eventually got his MSEE, ended up as VP for safety at the local electric company. But going the wrong way initially, plus two years on the Korean DMZ, did scramble his early life much more than it should have been.)

          • I’ll do you one better, and not recommend anyone go to college. However the government has stuck it’s nose where it doesn’t belong and requires degrees in order to legally practice in certain fields. But unless your heart is absolutely set on one of those jobs, I would recommend either a tech school, or simply getting off your duff and going to work.

            • I hear that the skilled trades have more job than people. As the Boomers retire there aren’t enough people to replace them.

              • Sara the Red

                Indeed. I could have had a well-paying job a dozen times over if I were a certified electrician, or mechanic, or plumber, or…

                But of course, I (and all my classmates) were told that we *had* to get a college degree if we wanted a good job…and we were all too young and dumb at the time to the math on THAT line.

              • Joe in PNG

                Had I to do things over again, I’d either become an A&P mechanic or a CPA.

                • Oh, definitely Accounting over an A&P ticket. I’ve never even heard of an out-of-work accountant out here in Silicon Valley other than by choice, even in the really horrible downturns.

                  The only STEM fields that I’ve seen with comparable continuous employment opportunity to a CPA are Analog or RF Electrical Engineering. Digital EEs are a dime a donzen, plus you have tons of H1B competition as mentioned above.

                  On the other hand, according to the instructors at the single remaining local JC A&P program, most of the newly minted A&P holders walk out the door of the testing facility and immediately get a job wrenching at a local car dealership, as the pay is better and the hours are -way- better. GA mechanics basically make squat, and while the airline maintenance guys get paid a bit better, they get to work nights, as that is when the line maintenance bases do most of their work to try and get the planes back up for the next day.

                  Maybe the job market is different in Seattle or wherever Boeing is building jets these days, but elsewhere, you have to be driven with a love for aviation to put up with the baloney.

              • Masonry… The numbers my husband quoted, we’re loosing around 3000 masons nationally per year that are not replaced. From what I understand most of the trades are in similar states.

              • Yep. The Navy used to be the primary input into the stationary engineer/boiler operator field. There are a handful of steam ships left; most combatants are gas turbine, auxiliaries large slow speed diesels. In my area of the country, all the boiler plants are short one or more operators. And the youngest operator I know of is in their 40’s. Utilities train their own operators, but you have to know someone to get in. All the other small plants in hospital and other settings don’t. They’re hurting.

            • Sara the Red

              If I’d been wiser, I’d not have bought the lie that said I had to have a 4-year (which took me a far sight longer than that) degree, and been happy with my Associate’s in Graphic Design. As it was…well, the field is dismal, and even though they all want to hire folks with Bachelor’s degrees and (usually 5+) years of experience, they surely don’t want to pay them for it. I took the day off work and went to see about a job in my chosen field, only to be told sorry, they could only (maybe) offer $10/hour and no benefits at all. (And sure, they’re a small business, so I get that…but they’d best be fine with hiring high school students for that job…)

              I’m seriously considering looking into computer programming. MIT supposedly offers free classes for those who wish to teach themselves…

          • Depends on the engineering. There is far less H1Bs for civil or mechanical engineering. They seem to be primarily for computers and to a lesser degree EE. From what I’ve seen most engineers do very little real engineering. My degree is ME but I work in construction which is technically CE though really more contract management.

            • I’m a Mechanical Engineer specializing in thermal hydraulic analysis with special emphasis on power plant efficiency. I’ve done nothing but engineering work my entire 36 years in industry. I’ve also done (and am currently doing) nuclear plant design work in piping and I&C. There are too many kids getting an engineering degree and not spending enough time doing the work, wanting to go into the management track immediately. Engineering work is FUN and I have absolutely NO desire to go into management, other than to lead a team of fitters, welders, mechanics and I&C techs on a startup effort on a new nuke plant with a rookie engineer tagging along to learn.

              Most of the guys they bring in on H1b visas are incompetent engineers capable of cookbook applications only. I would consider them barely competent design technicians. Back in the 80’s Bechtel/Stone&Webster/United Engineers brought in so many Indians to do pipe hanger design we had a joke about hiring graduates of the Bombay School of Piping Design and Motel Management. There were gems among them, but most could barely do the cookbooks design work of pipe hangers.

              • “Most of the guys they bring in on H1b visas are incompetent engineers capable of cookbook applications only.”

                That isn’t any different than most of those newly minted engineers, with a degree from one of our US 4 year colleges. I realize that is what the EIT program is supposed to assist with, having someone work under an experienced engineer for a while after graduating, before they can be licensed themselves. Unfortunately, they usually think they know it all, and most of the licensed engineers that hire them simply want a reasonably priced drone who can punch numbers into AutoCAD.

          • Not all STEM careers are equal. Sure, they are importing software guys at horrendously low wages, but there still aren’t enough mechanical or chemical engineers for the demand, and they aren’t churning them out in India, either. Makes me wish I had gone that route, though EE’s are still doing okay.

            • The Other Sean

              Major US engineering firms are pushing much design and increasing amounts of engineering to India. In the past 10 years every plant engineering job I’ve seen of any significant size has had 20-70% of engineering done in India. Including structural and mechanical engineering, in some cases. Not chemical, yet, but give that another 5-10 years and I wouldn’t be surprised.

              • Most of the work you get back from India is substandard and buggy. I’d say 70% of what we get from there has to be re-done, or verified to such a degree it’s been re-done for all practical purposes. I’m speaking from personal experience…..

                • The Other Sean

                  Which is why we end up with a small number of engineers and senior designers stateside for each engineering discipline reviewing and offering feedback on a regular basis – and a few more designers cleaning up the mess. It doesn’t always run very smoothly, but the cost reduction is desired by clients.

                  • Of course, that leaves no room in the pipeline for beginning engineers (like myself) to get the experience needed to check the designs coming from abroad.

                  • Go into civil engineering, as a surveyor who has worked off of engineered plans for years, I’m pretty sure that civil engineers don’t waste time reviewing and checking for errors. After all they have surveyors to clean up the mess, on the ground.

          • the only STEM jobs they don’t fill with H1Bs are the ‘seasonal’ jobs (i.e. in season when a president has to undo the gutting of the military by the previous administration) that may disappear in three years…

      • Well – my mental self enjoys the books… but the body is more willing to actually be DOing it.

        • My body wanted to create magic, but physics said no. So I pretend, and put those imagings on paper, and share them with a few people, who can then hopefully learn to curse physics like I do 🙂

      • There comes a time when that energy has to be redirected or you go sour, which is why I am still bitter about the SPACE program. Yes, my energy is redirected… what little I have now.

    • Gypped. Yeah. Exactly.

      I know one person actually in the space program–in fact, he would be in space right now if the mission hadn’t been delayed. Kjell Lindgren is on Expedition 45 to the ISS, planned mission start date 7/23/15. I shall live vicariously through him. And he shall let me, for he is family.

  7. Actually what killed the Squid Farms was the Title IX ruling and the subsequent rash of big-ticket sexual harrassment and hostile workplace environment lawsuits.

    • sabrinachase

      Filed by the squids. They achieved sentience, read the Workplace Regulations bulletin board that nobody else remembered was in the tank room (hey, they were really, really bored!) and realized they didn’t HAVE to be felt up by scientists. Then they just waited for a researcher to leave a computer logged in, reached out a few tentacles, fired off a few emails…and voila.

      • There is some potential here for a parody on Japanese hentai cartoons involving tentacles. (My then teenage daughter accidentally bumped into this when she was in a manga/anime phase. It’s one of those ‘if it exists, it must be possible’ moments. Clearly some things about the Japanese male psyche are entirely beyond even my warped imagination.)

        • sabrinachase

          Oh, and they are filing a class action defamation suit for all the hentai. They say they NEVER feel up Japanese schoolgirls, and rather resent the constant misrepresentation. Something about “not into simians”…

          • Except for that one Kardasquid youngling. She is making bank by posing for explicit hentaiesque photos.

          • Don’t know if this is true: I’ve heard that dolphins are rapists. I think that some of the squids became Diane Duane’s Sulamids. (giant squid like aliens in her Star Trek novels.

        • From memory, it’s a folktale/mythological theme. I think it’s called “The Fisherman’s Wife.”

          I have rather avoided finding out anymore about it.

          • The Dream of the Fisherman’s Wife

            Written in 1814, so yes, Japan has been rather warped for a long time.

            Though there was no squid in the story (it was an Octopus).

        • A website I can no longer find (I don’t remember the name, and searches don’t come up with it) used to have a post category called “Reasons We Are Insufficiently Afraid of the Japanese,” that highlighted some of the stranger cultural artifacts available on the internet.

          Small Dead Animals has a category named “The Japanese: Nuked Too Much or Not Enough?” that is similar, but not quite the same.

    • No, that is just the tool they used. The real murderer of the Martian squid farms was Big Sushi, desperate to block the threat to their market cartel.

      If you check the records of the Clinton Foundation you can find the millions of dollars they contributed, and the $500K payment for his speech to the Hentai Producers Conference in 2011.

      • Considering the recent Splatoon video game and all the squiling kids as characters, it looks like Nintendo rounded up the survivors as fodder for the collesiums…

  8. Martin L. Shoemaker

    You do realize that you’ve now got probably 15 authors writing squid farm stories…

    • Tut, tut, tut. SF is supposed be squids IN SPACE.

      • Sorry, but isn’t that just about every space book written by Weber? 😀

        • The Huns are getting a lot of coffee on my monitors today.

          • There was just no way an army brat like myself could let that one pass.

            • And from the Weber I’ve read they are all Skimmers when we all know warships in space will be much more like submarines just substituting heat discipline for sound discipline.

              • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

                Depends on the technology.

                A space warship under power may be very noticeable to opposing warships unlike submarines.

                Any sort of reaction drive likely would “light up a flare” saying “here I am”.

                Of course, in the Honorverse the “Bad Guys” have warships with a drive that makes them very hard to spot especially compared to the “standard” Honorverse spaceships.

                Thus David Weber has introduced the submarine to the Honorverse.

                Fortunately for the Good Guys these “subs” don’t have the same level of protection that the standard warships have.

                So once the “subs” are spotted, they’re dead. [Very Big Evil Grin]

                • A space warship under power may be very noticeable to opposing warships unlike submarines.

                  Hence my heat discipline comment. I am, aware, however the degree of impossibility present in real world heat discipline although the physics of the Honorverse are pretty much against that level of physical accuracy so “heat discipline” is back in.

                  Any sort of reaction drive likely would “light up a flare” saying “here I am”.

                  Forget the drive, life support is going to stand out against the background radiation. Any waste heat dissipation is going to stand out.

                  So once the “subs” are spotted, they’re dead.

                  As we used to say, there are two kinds of ships: submarines and targets. 🙂

                  My heat disciplined ships of the far future will be the submarines.

                  That said, to my mind the real submarine thing I haven’t picked up in space navies is the sense of enclosure, isolation, and boredom. Being locked in that space for weeks or months on end where you can’t get more than 50ft (at the very, very best) from anyone else wears on you psychologically. The ability to be in open air does the same. I see very little of that in military sci-fi.

                  • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

                    Write it. [Very Big Grin]

                    Seriously, I suspect that by the time we are able to develop practical space warships able to spend weeks or months away from “port”, there will be a few factors to consider.

                    Because of our experience with subs, such warships would be larger than necessary for their mission just to allow for “private” spaces and larger areas intended to give the crew “breathing room” on board.

                    For example, even on a warship there might be Hydroponic systems compartments where the crew could visit even besides the compartments use in oxygen and food production.

                    Of course, if the main warships are seen as “carriers” that don’t meet in the “line of battle” but launch smaller vessels which do the actual fighting, large compartments may not be seen as a danger in terms of “taking damage”.

                    In that sense, the larger warships aren’t seen as true warships but as mobile bases.

                    Of course, space warfare (especially within our Solar System) could have one major difference than naval warfare on Earth.

                    It may be very likely that space navies could create asteroid bases in areas of “interest” but outside of somebody else’s territory.

                    Such bases could very likely have “Liberty” asteroids associated with the main base and such asteroids could be designed with large open areas.

                    Final note, while I see your point about the similarity between subs and long-range warships, generally the writers of MilSF may see the problems of being in an enclosed space as secondary to the over-all story that they are telling. [Smile]

                    • Many of these issues are considered in Ringo’s “Troy Rising” series.

                      Which is not to say others cannot mine the issues with equanimity. Heck, Heinlein expressed that need for open areas, in The Menace From Earth.

                      Fly me to the moon
                      Let me play among the stars
                      Let me see what spring is like
                      On Jupiter and Mars

                    • Write it? I have trouble writing blog posts and 8 bar melodies.

                      You’re probably right about the writers of MilSF seeing it as secondary. For one thing, I suspect there aren’t many ex-sub guys writing military sci-fi. Sub qualified is a pretty small fraternity. Back of the envelope I figure even in the decade after the Cold War, when the number of active and former submarine sailors probably peaked the worldwide population of submarine qualified sailors had a ceiling of no more than 750,000 and at best half are English speaking. There may not be even one sci-fi writer in the bunch.

                    • Not just the Troy Rising, but also Ringo and Travis Taylor in Vorpal Blade make it a point on how hard it is to keep people in that environment.

                    • *especially* Miriam 😀

                    • Anyone who wants to have Miriam kept, has their work cut out for them.

                    • There are submariners who write. “Rig Ship For Ultra Quiet” was written by a shipmate. Don’t know any who write science fiction. However, Spider Robinson did get a personal guided tour of a boomer visiting Halifax… so you can’t say sci-fi writers know nothing about submarines.

                    • I would expect something with a name like “Rig ship for ultra quiet” to be written by someone off the boats.

                      Bonus points if in the process of rigging a chief tells some seaman he has more time answering a backing bell at test depth using the EPM while eating strawberry ice cream on the s*****r than the seaman had in the Navy.

                      I know sub guys have written books. My favorite is “Iron Coffins” by Herbert A. Werner. I just don’t know if any have written sci-fi.

                  • What thermodynamics supports “heat discipline”?

                    • Hush you…I conceded that above.

                      It’s a byproduct of ftl drive and reactionless thrusters.

                      On a more serious note, some ideas:

                      1. Heavy insulation and well designed cooling systems that use specific radiators to limit general brightness due to the people tank.
                      2. A way to turn off the radiators and store heat for limited times before you have to dissipate some. That could be an interesting fictional analog to snorkling.
                      3. Position: a bright ship won’t show up as easily if you stay between the local primary and your opponent.
                      4. A “heat chaffe” system to provide decoys. These might be a product of #1 & #2.

                      You won’t be perfect but you might be able to reduce IR detectability.

                    • “2. A way to turn off the radiators and store heat for limited times before you have to dissipate some. That could be an interesting fictional analog to snorkling.”

                      This one, at least, was a major McGuffin in the Vorpal Blade books.

                    • You should be able to redirect your heat to a comparatively small, shielded object somewhere on the ship, and allow it to radiate heat into space, but in a highly-directional fashion, by using a mirror-covered chamber with a small opening, so that the heat can be directed away from any enemy ships.

                    • Also, you could postulate some extremely endothermic chemical reaction whereby the heat would be used to synthesize a chemical (which would likely also be an explosive, similar to C4) to absorb the heat.

                    • Remember that you don’t always know where your enemies are. If you just want to be secret, there’s a risk in pointing it anywhere.

                • I recommend John Hemry’s Paul Sinclair series, which gets into that.

              • One of the t-shirts remaining from my Navy days (the t-shirt is now at least 35 years old) has a photo of a submarine on the front, with the legend, “There are only two types of ships: Submarines”

                On the back, it has a photo of a carrier with a superimposed reticle, and the phrase, “and targets.”

                A contemporaneous t-shirt that I didn’t buy had a drawing of a surface warship and the greeting, “Hi, skimmers!”

                On the back, it had a picture of the same warship sinking, and the words, “Bye, skimmers!”

          • Success!

          • There’s a built-in spew warning here. Learn it. Live it. Learn to love that your monitor stays dry. 😈

        • Arggghhh! It’s John Ringo who wrote about squids in space. He did also write about Marines in space.

          • The Other Sean

            They’re squids,
            squids in space!
            Defending the great
            human race!

          • How much does it cost to mount a giant space squid?

            I’d probably need a bigger house.

          • Honor Harrington and Mutineer’s Moon came along well before the ASS Vorpal Blade. Or When the Devil Dances, for that matter (which has a reference to the Hedren in it). Having said that, I think John was the first one to actually lay out (that I’ve read in a fiction book) why the Navy seems to be favored choice for the military branch responsible for space operations.

            • Because they are used to managing large vessels during extended battles of maneuver where damage control is a major activity?

              • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

                That’s one.

                IIRC another is that Navies have a history of handling large crews far from home.

                Going along with that, Navy Captains had to make decisions when communications with High Command would take weeks or months.

                One that I don’t know if Ringo mentioned is that Navies operated in an environment that could be dangerous if somebody made mistakes or even if nobody made mistakes.

                • Yes, he did. Although he pointed out that space was even worse.

                  “Sir, if we have a major engineering casualty we cannot correct, we are as dead as a sub at the bottom of the Pacific. Deader. They could at least retrieve our bodies from there.”

                  This was supposed to go here.

                  WordPress delenda est.

                  • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

                    Thanks. I just didn’t want to put words in John Ringo’s month. He might “treat” me worse than Joe Buckley. [Wink]

                • And extended trips in confined spaces and how taxing that can be mentally.

                  • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

                    I was thinking that was included in “handling large crews far from home”. Still, it’s worth mentioning. [Smile]

            • Because Space Is An Ocean. Everyone knows that.

      • Space Squids Attack Pigs In Space! Film At 11!! Jim Henson responds!

      • Randy Wilde

        SF is supposed be squids IN SPACE

        That’s kind of what most of “Temporary Duty” was… enlisted sailors on a spaceship.

      • Any fan Anime, even those who do not watch that certain sub-genera of Hentai, already knows this. If not exactly squids, per se, something close, i.e., tentacle monsters.

    • Not me, I’m going on a . . . nagdabit! I do NOT need ideas right now, not, get down, not, not, no, down! Shoo! Arrrrgh! *runs as fast as four feets will permit*

      • Is Rada Ni Drako your real name Tex?

        • I will neither conform nor deny that there are a few similarities. But she’s smarter, a much better shot (I can’t use rifles because of my eyes), and has a body fat percentage that makes me green with envy. We also share a similar lack of verticality. *shrug* I tend to write short characters, what can I say.

          Rumors that we share a similar philosophical outlook when dealing with obnoxious boors is strictly an unfounded rumor. Despite what the witnesses might claim.

      • Martin L. Shoemaker

        Ten tentacles are faster than four feet…

    • BobtheRegisterredFool

      a) It seems sort of ridiculous when you consider energy cost of transportation from Mars to Earth. It is again one of those better the Moon than Mars, and better dug deep into the ground than on the Moon ideas. Unless you are writing Aldnoah fanfic.
      b) The long term chronic recreational drug user is effectively dead as far as technical advancement is concerned. Whereas if they had instead been encouraged to stay far away from such, they may have been able to accomplish some amount of technical work. Depending on various confounding factors that are at least difficult to calculate, resources shifted from discouraging drug use to tech advancement might cost tech advancement more in lost manpower.

  9. I want my Calamarsi!

  10. Birthday girl

    An certain acquaintance used to give me books as gifts, all of which I read, and none of which I enjoyed, due to lack of plot or characters I could care about. This person once rhapsodized about a certain author because of a passage in which a lantern was described. I asked what the plot was about and the answer (in different words) was there was no plot. Excuse my crudeness, but this is just linguistic m**turbation, not a novel.

    • Which is fine if you’re experimenting with a poetic form, but it should be marketed as an exercise in a poetic form not as a story.

      • What about novel length character studies? I saw a movie once that was 2 hours of 2 guys at a table talking.

  11. I’m kinda dubious about these Martian squid farms. I hear squid doesn’t travel well.

  12. One of my last tasks with the Agency was on Constellation. Its two vehicle approach would have given us easy lunar access. Our team took a couple weeks at a remote location to consider our best approach for manned Mars. We concluded that it was doable either with nuclear engines or with current technology chemical rockets. We did identify three significant capabilities that needed further development to enable a successful mission. Not major breakthroughs, you understand, just areas that needed further engineering for a proven solution to an identified problem.
    So naturally Constellation was cancelled. I retired shortly thereafter.

    • Your comment reminds me of a book I read a few years ago. The author’s name escapes me atm, but it was about how NASA had failed in its mission. Lost in Space was part of the title. And then there was G. Harry Stein’s Halfway to Anywhere. Good read, imo. Yeah, DC-X died, but the way wrote about her, and the commercial possibilities, breathed some hope back into my heart.

    • I won’t go into my theory of why Constellation was actually cancelled.

      • Too expensive and it was another Apollo type “all-in-one-shot” type mission profile. Use smaller rockets with more frequent launches (Falcon/Falcon 9) with orbital refueling depots and dedicated spacecraft for trips to the moon that are not used for re-entry.

        Rand Simberg has a lot of the details.

        • Ok, I trust your expertise. I just think its just as likely that the current administration didn’t want the evul booosh associated with anything positive.

          • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

            According to Stephanie Osborne, that’s one of the problems with NASA.

            Good projects are “killed” because the prior administration started it and the current administration doesn’t like it because the “other guy” started it.

            Oh, if I remember her comments correctly, this has been done by Republican Presidents as well as Democratic Presidents.

  13. Eamon J. Cole

    It’s been awhile, so I’ll just be down here tightening up a few turtles. Might polish a couple.

    If I can squeeze the time outta RL I might dust…

  14. Eric S. Raymond coined the term LSE (Literary Status Envy) on his blog. http://esr.ibiblio.org/?p=6085 and actually considers this more nefarious to the genre than message fic. VD of course promptly bowdlerized the term to Literary Penis Envy (which is how I misremembered ESR).

  15. “notwithstanding the typos in these posts”
    Sweetie, you forget that some of us have seen your unedited commercial work, sometimes as bad or worse than what you do here. And that’s perfectly fine. Keep letting the words and ideas flow. As I’m starting to realize as I research that article on first and beta readers, copy edit is and rightly should be a final polish done just prior to publication. Agonizing over small mistakes whether on the blog or in rough draft format is counter productive to the real goal, to let the creative juices spew across the screen and page.

    • OMG do I wish I could follow this advice. I CAN NOT stop myself from correcting typos as I’m typing… unless I miss them which does happen sometimes. It’s like an addiction.

  16. Long ago I explained to the Daughtorial Unit that a major difference between Socialism and Free Markets is that in the former, benefits are overt and costs covert, while in the latter costs are overt but benefits covert.

    We can see the books encouraged by the corrupted awards structure; we cannot see the books discouraged. For a sense of the effects of this, look at the Comic book industry. In 1983, DC had a comic called Swamp Thing, a banal horror pastiche of a Ted Sturgeon short story published to exploit a Wes Craven film tie-in. The comic’s sales were slumping so badly that it only continued being published to save a slot in the production and distribution runs. Then they brought in a British writer, named Alan Moore and basically told him, Go wild; nobody’s reading this and nobody cares what you do with it while we wait to come up with something to go in its slot. Magic happened.

    Saga of the Swamp Thing #20, Moore’s first issue can be bought on EBay now a couple hundred dollars. Moore went on to change the concept of comics and their marketing. It also led to the introduction of such influential British writers as Grant Morrison and Neil Gaiman.

    So, if DC had played it safe and let Swamp Thing run its natural course, no Alan Moore, no British Invasion of comics writers and possibly Neil Gaiman keeps his day job churning out trite rock band reviews.

    Then there was the time Marvel said, Eh, this book is barely viable, let that Miller kid do whatever he wants with Daredevil.

    Looked at another way, Socialism gave us 100 years of AT&T with phones that lasted forever which you leased from the company and paid through the nose for Long Distance calls. We never saw the innovations that were waiting to be unleashed.

  17. Squid farms? What are they going to grow? Squid ranches now, that sounds better. I can just see them driving a herd of millions across an endless prairie of red grass to the local spaceport. Making chaps that fit might be tricky, but I’ll bet they’d be expert at lassoing.

    • anachronda

      If we had squid ranches on Mars, I’m sure we’d have 3D printers that could handle naugahyde so that A) it would be easy to step and repeat multiple legs and 2) no innocent naugas would have to give their lives, making the process totally green (red?).

      • Innocent naugas? You must know a better class of nauga than I do. Make a porn star blush most of them.

    • Sure, but will they be able to sing?

      I’m an old squid hand,
      from the Barsoom brand …

      • Don’t see why not. Sons of the Squidoneers doing Cool Water would probably go platinum, just imagine the pathos.

        • Of course have Texans terraforming Mars and you’ll have all kinds of ranches there. You really must read Lone Star Planet by H. Beam Piper. It’s hilarious. They breed SuperCow which requires tanks, airplanes and artillery to keep the herds in line. I’m a recent Texan, having only immigrated less than 10 years ago.

        • anachronda

          Maybe, but we’ll wind up being drowned in stuff like “We’re Whalers on the Moon” from the Lunar theme park, which, as everyone knows, is the only reason anyone ever goes to the moon.

    • Squid ranches? Do they raise cultists?

      ::The Bad Idea Fairy is working overtime…::

      • The Other Sean

        No, but they’re being operated by KFC. By which I of course mean Kids For Cthulu, not that chicken place. Unless it was really the octopusses.

        • I have a T-Shirt with that on it; I’ll bring it to Libertycon. I’ve actually worn it into KFC several times / places. Most of the employees are clueless; a couple have fallen to the floor laughing.

  18. Yesterday upon the stair,
    I read a book that wasn’t there.

  19. This reminds me of Bastiat’s essay “What is Seen and What is not Seen.” A broken window “creates jobs” fixing it; this is seen. Other possible work goes undone instead; this is not seen.

    We can imagine, though, what we do see, but would not have seen in a different world. What if one particular soldier died at the Somme, and never became J.R.R. Tolkien? No Middle-earth, certainly; no Narnia, probably; no fantasy genre as we know it, quite possibly. What if another particular soldier of that war never lived to become Adolf Hitler? That, the alternate history authors may argue about.

    • Reminds me of the question of whether The Lord of the Rings could get published today.

      To which my answer is, would depend on whether it or an equivalent had been published at the right time. That would create a fantasy field in which it would be another epic fantasy, the question is whether it would stand out. Of course, if fantasy had developed without the impact, it might have grown on the trellis provided by, oh, Conan the Barbarian or Three Hearts and Three Lions or Lud-in-the-Mist, in which case it might appear as a breath of fresh air.

  20. reddragonhawk

    A) Second Hand Lions is awesome. I’m starting to like you more and more. B) I am going to shamelessly steal “Squid farms on Mars” next time I get into an argument with one of these yahoos.

  21. Sounds like you are talking about lost opportunity costs. Those things you didn’t/couldn’t get because you wasted/lost resources elsewhere.

    An example in the computer world that would probably enrage a lot of people is the incredible lost opportunity costs that Microsoft created with their business practices. Buying up better software and killing it, strong arming distributers and resellers to only sell Microsoft if they wanted to sell at all so competition was restrained. We have no way of knowing what would have been the face of computing today if Bill Gates hadn’t spent more time killing competitors than in creating better products and winning by being the best innovator.

    • Microsoft has killed a number winners that they came up with as well. Some were just too early, others just got left to rot. Windows Mobile and the platforms for it. Windows Tablet – they couldn’t buy a good review on something that sucked just because it was different. Zune, Nokia Lumia…may they rot in squid farm on Mars…

      • MS-Dos 2.0 – “We’ve got hard drive support!”
        MS-Dos 2.1 – “Now we’ve got a hard drive backup feature! Save to diskette!”
        MS-Dos 2.2 – “Now we have a RESTORE program!”
        MS-Dos 2.3 – “”Now we fixed that bug in the backup that had all diskettes as ‘Disk 1 of X!”

        Microsoft. It’s been very good to me over the years… lol…

    • BobtheRegisterredFool

      On the other hand, perhaps the market share gained that way was critical to getting enough businesses using computers for use to get into mainstream.

    • Take it a somewhat different direction:

      The cost difference* between an incandescent bulb and a green bulb would pay for a measles vaccination for a third world kid. Every “green” bulb in this building represents one third world kid dead from measles! How many kids must die for your so-called green light bulbs????

      Sometimes I feel like shouting at them that so-called green cars are just a distraction to keep us from noticing they’ve bought the rights and suppressed development of the 150-mpg carburetor.

      *I have no idea. If it bothers you, do the research and the math and find the numbers that make this work; maybe it’s ten bulbs for one vaccination, maybe it’s ten vaccinations for each bulb, maybe it’s smallpox or whooping cough or some other communicable disease. When they stop pulling numbers out of their butts for internet arguments is when I will worry about facts. Besides, the number feels right and we all know that is what really matters.

      • ::sigh:: “They” aren’t suppressing the 100 mpg carburetor. That carburetor was able to achieve high efficiencies by bubbling the intake air through a bowl of fuel, rather than spraying liquid fuel into the airstream. As you might guess, the restrictions on airflow (air is the working medium for internal combustion engines) and the small amount of fuel vapor that air can carry results in a VERY low power density from the engine. When you provide excellent numbers for a aspect consumers don’t care much about at the expense of terrible numbers for aspects they do care about, you lose on the market. That isn’t suppression.

        • You’re well informed. So what’s the deal with cow magnets?

          • First I’ve heard of them, but it’s pretty interesting. Cows are dumb (we don’t breed for smart food) so they eat pretty much everything that’s around their feed. That includes things like wire scraps and fence staples, which can pierce the GI tract of the cow – which isn’t good. The magnet causes those metal pieces to stick to it, preventing them from stabbing the cow from the inside.

            • This is what cow magnets are designed for, I found this immensely interesting as a kid. We once hired a butcher to kill one of our steers when I was about kindergarten age (I no longer remember why, possibly because my dad was busy, and the butcher would kill, skin, quarter and hang in our cooler for a reasonable fee, while hauling off the offal) and he was somewhat stunned when I asked him to cut open the stomach and find the magnet, so we could see what kinds of metal stuff the cow had eaten.

              I think Jerry is asking about a different use for them (anyways their designed usage seems to be totally unrelated to the subject) but I have no idea what he is asking about.

          • It keeps them from falling off the refrigerator.

          • a mechanic told me they were used to get the gasoline to flow more smoothly in the feed. He did not understand it and he was a trained Mercedes tech, and I don’t understand it. Somehow it has to do with something something something in the trans-alaskan oil pipeline. The mechanic felt that if it had a result it was something that would be marginal when you are bulk shipping crude oil across a continent but not in your Honda.

            • You feed your cows gasoline? No wonder beef is so high!

              • anyangyangyang to quote a friends’ pissed off Coon Cat.

                Feed line from the tank to the engine.

                • SheSellsSeashells

                  Poking my head in to note that my Maine Coon makes this precise noise when he is Irked with me. His default communicate-with-stupid-monkey noise, however, is “frrrrrp”. It makes a surprisingly good all-purpose swearword…

                  • Yeah, mine too. And when he doesn’t feel like voicing his displeasure, he huffs, walks away, and lies down with his back turned to me. Most of the time that results in a sigh of relief from me as I finally have that 20lbs weight off my chest, making breathing so much easier.

    • In the glorious world of the Early ’80s – between UCSD Pascal, CP/M, Commodore’s OS, Amiga’s OS and Microsoft DOS, with pretty much every computer brand having their own internal operational architecture – usually proprietary – and the interoperability just plain sucked. Programs had to be specifically coded to run on a system, and something that’d work on BrandX Ver A Mod 1 would quite often crash & burn on BrandX Ver A Mod2…

      Microsoft, for all their evil, ‘insulated’ the software from the hardware enough so programs like WordStar didn’t have to be rewritten for every brand and model. Other programs started to come out like WordPerfect, Word, Lotus 1,2,3 and Excel – depending on the compatibility that MS-DOS provided. (Then Windows came along – THAT was… interesting.)

      But it was Microsoft that provided a workable (if not optimal) standard for software and file formats. Frankly, I think they did good enough. They could certainly have done a lot worse.

      Plus, ‘better’ is usually in the eye of the beholder. Was a Studebaker better than a Ford? The Edsel, as advanced as it was for the times, wasn’t seen as ‘better’ by the buyers. Who’s to say that the competitors Microsoft bought would have provided a ‘better’ software environment for the user?

      • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

        That was part of IBM’s big mistake with their PC.

        IBM asked this small operation called Microsoft to create the operating system software for their PC *but* didn’t forbid Microsoft from selling the software to other manufacturers.

        So when other manufacturers started creating the PC clones, Microsoft had a ready operating system software to sell the manufacturers.

        Then people who had other software products to sell only had to make them work on one major operating system.

        Thus the “Evil” Giant of Microsoft was born! [Grin]

        • Oh, don’t forget how IBM looked at the PC architecture and went “You know, we’re never gonna sell a lot of these things. Might as well make the hardware and software specs ‘open source’.” (Not quite the term used at the time, but that was essentially it.)

          Then the computer revolution happened and everyone and their brother-in-law started making PCs and accessories. Who could forget the AST 6-Pack Plus, which incorporated a memory expansion, serial port, parallel port, game port, and clock? (Two serial ports, for the ‘6-pack’.) Stuffed a lot of chips into those, back in the day…

          Poor IBM. If they’d just kept it proprietary… 😉

          But they tried again later with the PS/2. ‘Faster’, sleeker (good design work for the time) and incapable of using any non-PS/2 components, or add-ons that IBM was going to charge out the wazoo for licensing… that one failed miserably.

          • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

            IIRC the hardware wasn’t *completely* “off the shelf”.

            While most of the hardware for the first IBM PC was standard electronics, they had one “part” that was proprietary.

            The problem was that their competitors “reversed engineered” it.

            IE one team tested it out to develop specs for the “part” which another team used to develop a part that “did the same thing”. [Evil Grin]

  22. This is one of the bugaboos of libertarians in general. analogkid already mentioned the broken window fallacy (You see the window getting repaired and benefiting the window-maker, but you don’t see the shopkeeper having to wait a few more months to benefit the suit-maker). Beyond that, however, whenever someone advocates private roads, or the removal of public school, or the elimination of government welfare, and the response is “but what will replace it?”, the answer is, of necessity, “I don’t know”, because it’s impossible to predict what will happen in the free market, once you release the imagination of the individuals involved.

    Libertarians nonetheless create models of how such things *might* work, to satisfy the “what will replace it?” types, but the reality is, we can’t predict the future.

    Sometimes I think a good response to “What will replace it?” would be, “Could you have predicted Facebook at the turn of the century, five years before it came into being?”

    • the interesting thing is that in a vacuum governments appear. Whether they are good or bad is up to the people who make them.
      The New England town meeting is an example of this, both good and bad. The Provisional Government of the Oregon Territory (1846 – 1849) was another – basically town meetings, an ad hoc probate court and an agreement about setting bounties on wolves turned into a unicameral legislature, judiciary, marshal service and circuit court.

      • I think it’s more complicated than that. We had roads before government took it upon itself to build them; we got along fine without licensing carts; heck, before we licensed radio, station rights were being established based on common law.

        A lot of times governments will *make* a vacuum, or claim there is one where it isn’t, and then move in to take more power–and a lot of times, it is a major change that allows the goverment to make that change. Hence, the introduction of the car opened the door to government roads and licensing, and the radio to station licensing.

        • Depends on how governmental you want your government to be to count it as such.

          One anthropologist recounted the tale of when a !Kung murderer (several times) got out jail. He was ambushed and shot to death, with the archers continuing to shoot long after he was dead, and then every adult, male and female, in the vicinity lined up and prodded the corpse with a spear, establishing that this was a corporate decision of society.

        • It was the problems that came with those private solutions, usually when they got bigger than interpersonal relationships would allow upkeep for, that made the vacuum for the government to fill.

          The folks who wrote complaints about the government coming in are often those who really liked how it was before, sort of like with that idiotic pool riot. Everything was fine until the people who actually owned the pool expected to have ownership rights!

          • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

            Imagine the “fun” if everybody who wanted to protect their property had to either shoot people themselves (with or without their friends) or hire some “goons” to shoot people. [Sad Smile]

  23. Good L-rd. Isn’t it Alma who has the history degree? Can we PLEASE get an explanation of what “arguing the counterfactual” is and why we shouldn’t do it? I’m afraid I’m having a rough day and I’m not capable of keeping my cool about this ATM. If one she (or any of you) could help me out I’d appreciate it.

    • I’m one of the ones with a history degree, but I’m also trying to finish packing and getting the place ready for the Schloss sitter before I leave this afternoon. SO I’m afraid I don’t have the brain cells free for more than drive-by snark, and your question demands a serious answer. Sorry 😦 RES, Mary, and FireFox (sorry about the misspell) can do a better job.

    • “Of all sad words of lip or pen/the saddest are these, what might have been.”
      Also the most useless, because you can always make up a way that stuff would turn out better, but the unknown unknowns will bite you– especially since people tend to ignore a lot of relevant facts. In fairness, that may just be the problem of knowledge; I had no idea how many people simply didn’t know how nasty drug gangs are when they’re not opposed.

      Saw a really funny example where someone insisted that Thomas Jefferson would have been horrified at the idea of striking ISIS. He didn’t get it when the friend that shared it with me asked him if he really, really thought Jefferson had an inherent problem with striking Islamic terrorists, and if he’d double-checked with the Marines about that…..

      To pick an example a bit closer at hand, a realistic response to Alpheus’ challenger about what happens when we get rid of public roads is that… we get public roads back, rather soon, because the utility is simply too high. Same thing that happens if we abolish all gov’t or whatever over-simplified thing is being debated. The real meat is usually at what level is the organization going to be happening— the poison of there only being the individual and The Huge State Blob tends to kill off any rational discussion.

      Arguing the counter-factual is just telling a story. It can be useful or useless or actually harmful, depending on the argument– it just can’t be “if we didn’t do X, then Y would have happened.”

      • I’m not really convinced we are talking about the same thing here. I can see arguing that something will be better if not x or if y is indulging in fantasy. But that wasn’t really the point that I must have made poorly…and a bunch of other stuff I was going to say that looked like gibberish when I reread it. Suffice it to say that I wasn’t saying everything would absolutely be better…I was trying to say that having a market where the “price” of things is distorted ends up with people making choices in one way that they may not have made. From a free-market perspective price or cost is really a signal as to the worth of a good or service. Anything distorting that price or cost creates loss of fidelity in the signal and horks up the correct functioning of a free-market.

  24. Christopher M. Chupik

    The Left has turned against space travel because they fear the frontier. It’s a lot harder to control people’s lives from a hundred million miles away. Not to mention that space pioneers struggling to survive on another planet won’t have the time or patience for the absurd SJW fad of the moment.

    • They also allege that it will make us careless of the Earth.

      • Jerry Boyd

        Isn’t the point to move heavy industry off-planet, so they can have their silly global park?

        • Long term that is a very compelling argument, but since when has the Left thought past the narrative of the moment?
          The other detail that drives their meme is the fixed pie concept. What we have is all there is, some people have too much, since everyone must be equal those having too much must have stolen it, a benevolent government is necessary to redistribute the wealth fairly. Thus the concept of unlimited resources up there in space ours for the taking is anathema to the committed progressive.

          • Jerry Boyd

            Could you explain where they get the fixed pie idea? That’s one part of their philosophy that just doesn’t make sense to me.

            • Christopher M. Chupik

              The pie will get increasingly fixed if all we ever develop is the Earth. Move beyond it, and the sky’s no longer the limit.

              • John Ringo deserves Hugos. He’s got massive writing chops in my opinion. I’m going to see if he has anything eligible for next year. If he does I’m going to nominate him.

                • Ringo has stated, on his FB page and probably elsewhere, that he would refuse any Hugo nominations of his work, over the lack of recognition of Jim Baen’s efforts in the industry.

                  (VERY summarized version. I don’t have the link to his post immediately handy, though, and Ringo’s not much less prolific on FB than he is on the publishing schedule, so that’s a lot of stuff to search. 😛 )

            • Sarah can probably do a better job than me, but for whatever reason the idea that wealth can be created through innovation and hard work is anathema to the left. I suspect a part of it is that if the pie really is fixed and they get control of all of it then they win, their control becomes absolute.
              Of course this assumption is fallacious on its face, just look at how successful underground economies become when humans have draconian regulation imposed on them.
              Then again, if wealth can in fact be created then its intuitively obvious that some people are better at it than others. Such inequality must not be permitted.
              In any fair and open free market transaction both parties are better off after the transaction takes place than before. Both sides value what they receive more than what they had. To the progressive left this is simply unacceptable. Only they and the governments they impose on the great unwashed may pick and choose who gets what and what is a fair exchange. Them being elite and better than us conservative and libertarian scum.

              • Jerry Boyd

                If I understand correctly, you’re saying that the fixed pie is not a conclusion they come to by logic, but rather an axiom they accept without proof, that they then reason from?

                • it’s built in to MARXIST economics, where all you do is distribute and redistribute endlessly. If you remove that aspect of it, then the whole thing collapses. One reason Marxism has issues with distribution wherever implemented is that Marx didn’t see transportation and convenient offering of goods as a value-ad. Redistributors were therefore “stealing.”

                  • Okaaay, that explains bunches. Now all I have to do is stretch my brain around that.

                  • Which is why they denounce profiteering rather than praising the role of pricing to signal market demand.

                    They are also very bad at the concept of pricing according to replacement cost rather than purchase cost. Don’t get me started on methods of inventory valuation. Better you should ask LC — he could explain it in the form of a lecture by Owen, which would be far clearer and much funnier than anything I could concoct. (Although I am contemplating discussing depreciation methods using the business model of a cat house as an example.)

                    Face it, these twits can’t grasp the simple concept of alternative options, such as a hamburger joint eventually buying a robo-flipper for the grill if labor cost rises sufficiently, or Fantasy fans switching to Gaming when their thud & blunder starts reeking of eau de literature. They’re like an aging over-weight hooker who thinks she’s still the only gamin in town.

                  • The Other Sean

                    There is a related anthropological theory known as the “limited good” which postulates a pervasive fixed pie conception of resources and wealth among traditional societies, including the peasantry of feudal societies. That theory is used to explain both envy toward the successful (“He’s taking my share!”) and a variety of redistributionist and social-leveling customs the successful were expected to observe in many such societies. I’m not totally sold on the theory, but it does offer one potential explanation for why many cultures failed to advance economically. Fixed pie thinking (including Marxism) seems quite hostile to the economic advancement.

                  • Marx focused on how the various stake-holders – labor, suppliers, and capitalists – divvied up the wealth they created together. He ignored the fact that they in fact created wealth, but only when they cooperated.

                  • Throughout most of history, a relatively “fixed” pie was pretty much true. When almost everything you produce is based on agriculture, or hunting/gathering, there’s likely to be a limit to production per acre. That’s especially the case before the invention of modern technology.

                    I suspect the “fixed pie” is genetically programmed, for that matter. It’s the attitude you’d expect, for territorial animals.

                    • It’s not so much that there’s a limit, it’s that it’s hard to increase the amount– kind of like how various stages of physics are good enough for what they’re used for.

                      The social setups that allow for the extra you can get to be big enough to be seen are pretty advanced.

                • It isn’t an area in which I have done extensive reading, as I value my brain cells more than to fill them with that kind of data, but …

                  Their primary political-economic model is based upon (at least) two flawed premises, that there is inherent conflict between labor and capital and that some means of distributing wealth is necessary. If “growing the pie” is on the table, then policies must be evaluated not upon how they equally share the pie but upon how much they grow more pie.

                  This leaves less pie for the redistributors and reduces any justification for their function. It also leaves less room for social agitators to stir up envy, such as by decrying a politician’s purchase of a “luxury speedboat.”

                  It also means more people who understand exactly how much luxury and speed can be bought for $80K.

                  Ultimately, the Left’s agenda is that “somebody needs to be distributing alla that wealth, an’ that somebody should be us” and policies are evaluated by the degree they embed Enlightened Progressives as wealth distributors (keeping a tidy piece of the action for their trouble and sacrifice.)

                  A societal organization which encourages wealth creation leaves too little room for them to profit from the energies of others (note that the Left is rarely involved in creation wealth, only its redistribution.) The main (if not sole) exception to this is when they are able to leverage political capital to finance crony capitalism, using government power to allocate funds to projects the marketplace doesn’t value, with a nice kickback honorarium for the expediters.

                  • Courtesy of Power Line (quoting Politico), here is a picture and description of how the NY Times defines “Luxury” — one hopes that their advertisers take note:

                    [W]hile Rubio did indeed spend $80,000 on a boat, the vessel in question is not the glamorous “luxury speedboat” the Times article portrayed. It is, in fact, an offshore fishing boat.

                    On Tuesday, Rubio spokesperson Alex Conant sent POLITICO a link to a website showing the make and model of the boat Rubio owns: an EdgeWater 245CC Deep-V Center Console. The manufacturer, Edgewater, notes that the boat is perfect for “safety-minded family boaters and avid anglers.” In a place like Miami, home to billionaires and stars who have multimillion-dollar yachts, an “$80,000 luxury boat” can seem like a contradiction.

                    No word on whether it is suitable for a three-hour cruise.

                    • If I had the editorial board of the Slimes with me, three hours would be more than enough. No guarantee that the number of passengers returning would match the number departing. The Sea is a harsh Mistress.

                • There is also a thread of the idea that the only measurable value in a manufacture or act is the labor to commit it, and the corollary that all labor is, by its source, equal only to itself.
                  Add to that the theory that all trade interactions have to be equal in outcome if they are not to be a form of exploitation.

                  This brings some secondary conclusions that the more labor you have the more it is divided (sort of one man, one erg – and yes I couldn’t figure out how to use “volt” in that) so the amount due to each individual remains the same no matter what the labor pool is, and, that if someone who organizes or sells or engineers a product gets more out of the agreement than the people who merely supply the labor, that is also a form of exploitation.

                  That leads to the idea of fixed pie, and the moral course of making sure everyone shares equally in spite of the contribution.

                  • It is worth noting that under the current (mal)administration:

                    Nonfarm business sector labor productivity decreased at a 3.1 percent annual rate during the first quarter of 2015, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported today, as output declined 1.6 percent and hours worked increased 1.6 percent. (All quarterly percent changes in this release are seasonally adjusted annual rates.) The decline in productivity follows a decline of 2.1 percent in the fourth quarter of 2014.
                    http://www.bls.gov/news.release/prod2.nr0.htm

                    Put “1st quarter productivity falls” in your search engine and enjoy the schadenfreude.

                    In Proglodyte circles (aka, Krugmaniacs) this is likely considered a good thing, putting more money on laboring pockets while requiring less work from them.

                • Blond-Engineer

                  And this, in turn, validates their hatred and desperate need to punish the successful business people they don’t have the brains to emulate. Those business people are not actually creating more wealth, more jobs, more opportunities, but are stealing from the poor, the middle class, the down-trodden masses. The money -must- be taken from these evil manipulators and returned to the innocent, helpless, low-information voters that keep the progs in office.

                  Try pointing out that their veiw of economics would mean that there was exactly the same amount of money/goods/services floating around now as there was when Zog first figured out how to strike a flint against a rock.

            • I think that’s an unexamined assumption of their. They understand a concrete thing like a pie. They don’t understand free market economics. They don’t understand money. They don’t understand how value is created.

              • BTW – this dichotomy can be discerned as far back as the Founding era of America. Southern agrarian interests were deeply in debt to English merchants because they couldn’t grasp the financial flaws inherent in selling their cotton to a broker for resale into the world market and then borrowing against returns on those cotton sales in order to pay the broker to purchase and ship their desired luxury goods to the colonies. It takes a mighty poor broker to not make a profit on both sides of that arrangement, something Washington figured out which is why he was one of the rare Southern planters to diversify and he refused to borrow to import luxuries, preferring to invest in local industry.

                Hamilton, who had a) grown up in the trading ports of the West Indies b) been mentored by Washington during the War and c) served as lawyer and financial adviser to Yankee mercantile interests was superbly suited to serve Washington as first Secretary of the Treasury, and Washington was experienced enough to understand Hamilton’s advice.

        • Their silly global park is going back to the stone age for all humans.

          I realized the ultimate truth of that when the same people demanding an end to fossil fuels in support of renewables were arguing for ending hydro-electric and removing existing dams[1] due to the environmental effects. They are winning in this fight.

          So the most practical renewable is bad for the environment.

          I promise you when wind or solar start pulling enough energy out of the wind or from incipient sunlight to power modern civilization they will have environmental effects as well. In fact, I suspect (can’t prove, just semi-educated guess) that sufficient wind power to power the US would have an observable affect on weather.

          And then they will condemn those well.

          The real heart, exposed more every day, of environmentalism that isn’t of the watermelon style is anarcho-primativism. Personally, part of me want those demanding it to have live the rest of their (probably very, very brief and terrified) lives under it.

          [1] http://www.economist.com/node/518246

          • BobtheRegisterredFool

            Actually, you can easily calculate that the acreage of solar panels that would supply US power. Leaving aside the cost of manufacturing, where would you put the things? The desert and pretty much every other place would have consequences.

            One gets the impression that Green energy is simply those concepts that are least feasible from an economic and engineering perspective.

            • Ayah — you put solar panels up and now you’ve got ground that is covered by the panels and not absorbing energy. Kills off the plant life and the animals but leaves a terrific hidey-place for varmints

              • Varmints like wallabies? (OW! OW! OW! Stop hitting me! I was just teasing! Honest!)

              • The Other Sean

                Or you put them up somewhere that already lacks vegetation. For example, like over your parking lot, and then you can shelter the parked cars from the rain, snow, and sun while generating electricity. Mind you, tax credits did play a part in getting the project financed, but the panels produce electricity that cost just slightly less than from the coal-fired plants supplying power from the local utility.

                http://cincinnatizoo.org/blog/2011/05/09/largest-publicly-accessible-urban-solar-array/

                Somebody from the zoo gave a presentation today at work on their sustainability efforts, and how the vast majority have had led to an immediate or long-term cost savings.

                • When they did the same thing out here at the Air Force Academy it came out that, while the panels would provide substantial electricity, it will take longer to pay for them, if you include all the costs, than their rated life expectancy.

            • I did the math once. Turns out that you’d have to pave Delaware to supply the US.

              • What were your numbers for efficiency, average solar coverage, storage loses, and transmission loses.

                I think we’re looking at more like Georgia at a minimum.

                • It’s been a while, but I think I used 20%. I think I also ignored the effects of atmosphere.

                  • Yeah, I’m used to hearing greens claim “We’d only need the area of Delaware/Rhode Island”. I know you know better but when I hear it from them I think, “You’re not an engineer are you”.

                    I’m still waiting to hear their storage plan, although with 19th century tech you could do a carbon neutral high efficiency hydrocarbon storage cycle. Given Zubrin worked out the basics for Mars Direct I’m surprised no greens can provide it as an answer. Then again it involves hydrocarbons so they can’t.

                    • Two reservoirs, one uphill from the other; pump water from the lower one to the uppoer one using solar powered pumps in the daytime, then run the water downhill at night through turbines to generate electricity.

                      Of course, this completely inverts the daytime/nighttime demand curves, but what the heck.

                    • Possibly a simpler process would be to use the solar energy to separate H2O for fuel cells?

                    • Well, Mike, that works great until somebody fails to do the maintenance on the upper reservoir. Taum Sauk washed away most of a town.

            • Feather Blade

              That’s why you put the solar panels on the roofs of buildings.

              Puts the generation source close to the end user, doesn’t take up land in such a way that it can’t be used for other things.

              The trick is to get the power companies to not see it as competition and revenue loss.

              • “The trick is to get the power companies to not see it as competition and revenue loss.”

                And you are going to do that by what? Passing out peyote? It IS competition to the power company, and is a straight up revenue loss, most power companies have a monopoly in their area, so it isn’t like you are going to get your power anywhere else… unless you use an alternative like solar panels.

              • The trouble is you cannot do it economically without huge subsidies. If it requires a subsidy to be built or to operate, then it is not economically viable. Period.

        • But then the pie is not fixed in size, and we might not even need them to divvy it up.

    • Another reason they fear space travel is because in that arena competence trumps what shirt you wear.

  25. “Dave Freer did a post on Monday on the “quality” of quality in writing. He writes better than I do, so I won’t repeat his argument, just give you a link to it.

    The take away for TL/DR readers is “you can’t say ‘this is good’ because humans have individual tastes and enjoyment of a book as a work of art has nothing to do with the minimal requirements of “Words and grammar are used properly.”

    This doesn’t mean that you can’t recognize quality, even if you don’t like it. I have been reading through the Hugo packet, so I’ll take my examples from there. Frankly I didn’t like The Deaths of Tao, and will probably never read another Wesley Chu book, but I still think he is a good writer, and not just in the ‘mechanical’ strings words together well sense. He managed to suck me right through a story I didn’t enjoy, and past the frequent whiplash of hypocrisy and contradictions in his worldview (as evidenced by blasé assumptions in his worldbuilding) in order to see what was going to happen next. Granted he reads like a communist with a very limited contact with reality, and his politics in his writing are so blatant as to make Tom Kratman appear subtle… in Kratman’s afterwords; but the talent or ‘quality’ of writing is there.

    I see the ‘quality’ in John Wright’s work, I’m much more comfortable with it, his worldview is much closer to mine, and enjoy it quite a lot more than Chu’s, but it still isn’t one of my first choices for an entertaining read, unless I am in an unusual mood. I probably will read more of his, because I do like it when I am in a contemplative mood, but it isn’t my usual fodder. Still and all the quality is there. Although I doubt many of those who pushed for Chu’s nomination will admit any such thing.

    There is another nominated author (whom I won’t name) who comes up with plots that are much more to my taste, and who I enjoy reading on occasion, but quite frankly I don’t believe they have the talent, the ‘quality’ simply isn’t there. I read their books (again on occasion, they aren’t a favorite) despite their lack of quality, because they are close to my tastes, and available. Like a person will eat a Big Mac because they like beef. The quality of a good New York steak, cooked medium rare isn’t there, but When going through town in a hurry, the McD’s drivethru is handy, and while the quality of a Big Mac isn’t comparable to the quality of a five star restaurant’s vegetarian sampler, when what you want is a hunk of red meat, the Big Mac is preferable.

    • Birthday girl

      I believe I understand your unnamed author problem. I feel the same way and I’m thinking it might be about the same author. The more “beautiful” writers can’t seem to make me give a hoot about their characters (in one nominee, I wished the MC would just get killed off, painfully) or their world. In the case of a sequel, that’s a tough one, though. Then there are the authors who are more “hacky” in the sense of unrefined technique, but who have great ideas. I’m not yet finished with the nominated novels, but I might end up voting for a “hack” over the beautiful guys.

  26. What I have read in the last month: (OK, it isn’t *that* interesting, but I’m trying to make a point, so suffer through this with me).

    Larry Correia Monster Hunters #1 (2009) to #5
    John Van Stry Portals of Infinity #1 (2014) to #4
    Nathan Lowell Trader’s Tails from the Golden Age of the Solar Clipper #1,#2 (2012) to #6
    Stephanie Osborne et. allia Cresperian #1 (2008) to #3

    The numbers for the first printing of the book are in ().
    My point is I considered all these novels to be outstanding works of Fantasy or Science Fiction. Where were their Hugo Nominations? Why hasn’t that wonderful award winning editor over at Tor read and offered contracts on any of these novels?
    Admittedly, the first 2 sets are fantasy ‘war porn’ as the APs like to call it, but Lowell’s are a fascinating collection of Interstellar Trade, and I don’t remember any shots being fired. The Osborne set has tremendous physics and genetic manipulation science, a great plot of the US being the good guys and some, but very limited war scenes.

    I have commented that I had decided all good authors were dead, and given up looking for new authors, based on what… why my reading of a few Hugo nominees in the 2005-2012 time period. Now, I discover that there were indeed talented outstanding authors, that the publisher’s black hole hold on the awards are the basis for the crap being nominated.

    While I don’t think my frustration would have helped the Squid Farms of Mars to live long and prosper, it would have giving more starving artist a little support when they needed it, and most importantly, give awards to authors (and editors) that deserve it.

  27. SQUID FARMS ON MARS FOREVER! Raise the banner high! Enjoy the pleasure of telling scoffers “You. Just. Don’t. Get. It. You poor clod, you don’t have the intellectual capacity to think about even beginning to understand. In the immortal words of Mr. T, “I pity you, fool.”

  28. *waves* I’m off. Have fun, have a lot of fun those going to LC, and please don’t break any blogs while I’m gone. (I would appreciate a few book reviews, though.) Y’all stay healthy and safe (within reasonable limits of safe.)

  29. Sarah, how many tickles does it take to make a squid laugh?

  30. This kind of reminds me of Reason TV’s argument about how the laws protecting landmarks in NYC were bulldozing the future. They took that law and shifted it back 100 years, and pointed out all of the buildings that wouldn’t have been built if that law was done then, pointing out that the law will do that to future buildings…

    • That’s the thing about historical preservation. We only have so much space, but we insist on accruing history at the exact same rate. Pretty soon our cities are going to be architectural versions of “Hoarders.” Except for those that follow Detroit into devolution.

      • Actually, Detroit looks more like Hoarders than most other places. There is a ton of crap all mashed together and it’s all broken.

        • Depends on where you look. A lot of the outlying areas have been nearly cleared of houses and look darn near rural.

  31. So the “Squid Farms on Mars” analogy is somewhat flawed. When someone asks “Oh, yeah, who should have won the Hugo instead, then?”, there are possible answers.

    For Best Novel of 2011, “Count to a Trillion”.

    Any other suggestions?

    • It should be reasonably simple — it seems every year I come across articles about Alternative Oscars, listing what won Best Picture as opposed to what time has proven actually was a better picture, so somebody with thorough knowledge of SF over the last thirty years* could go down the winners from each year and select an alternate, un-nominated work with a short paragraph explaining why.

      *And way, way, waaaaaaaay too much free time.

    • For Best Novel of 2015: Strands of Sorrow. Best Novel of 2011: Citadel. Both by John Ringo

      • I’m a fan of Ringo. But stacking Strands of Sorrow up against Skin Game…I gotta go with Butcher.
        Citadel might win the 2011.
        Most everything in the main thread of the Ring of Fire series should have at least been nominated.

        • Ringo does at least deserve nominations if not wins. He writes good stuff that’s popular with a lot of people. He writes different types of stories.

        • Sorry, I can’t see how you can even place Butcher in the same Ballpark as Ringo, much less claim he is better.
          Honestly, Butcher is a good writer, his books don’t interest me much, but he is a good solid writer, but he is not in either Ringo’s or Weber’s (who I don’t believe has been nominated either) class.

          • I find your choices similarly incomprehensible, so we’re even.
            Although I do agree with you on Weber. In Fury Born should have gotten at least a nomination.

  32. c4c (before I miss too much catching up)

  33. Yes, he did. Although he pointed out that space was even worse.

    “Sir, if we have a major engineering casualty we cannot correct, we are as dead as a sub at the bottom of the Pacific. Deader. They could at least retrieve our bodies from there.”

  34. Ahm Cephalopoda: they’re the ninja class of my favorite phylum. They just make everything better. Even blog posts!