The post is delayed and it’s not my fault.
Athena Hera Sinistra woke me up at 5 am to dictate. I’m now heading for bed. Will post when I wake.
The post is delayed and it’s not my fault.
Athena Hera Sinistra woke me up at 5 am to dictate. I’m now heading for bed. Will post when I wake.
Solar, Space, and Terrestrial Weather: Some Reflections
By Stephanie Osborn
Our gracious hostess, Sarah Hoyt, has kindly asked me to write a bit about this subject, because, she told me, I was the most expert, most knowledgeable in the subject, of everyone she knew. For myself, I make no claim to expertise on certain of the topics, but my background and training does, perhaps, position me well for understanding the matter, and explaining it to others.
For those who don’t know me, or who know me only by my books, I suppose a bit of introduction is in order. I’m a bit of a Johnny-come-lately with respect to professional writing. I started off as a scientist. Specifically, I’m a polymath. I have graduate and undergraduate degrees in astronomy, physics, chemistry, and mathematics. The astronomy specialized in spotted variable stars. The mathematics included a crap-load of probability and statistics. Also got an undergraduate minor and graduate sub-concentration in geology. And since I walked out with those particular sheepskins, I haven’t stopped; I’ve gotten various advanced studies and certifications in additional subjects. That includes being a NWS-certified storm spotter.
I begin with all this not to brag, but so you will know me better. So you will know that I have verified the things I am about to say.
There are some…issues…with anthropogenic global warming.
Please note that I specified “anthropogenic.” Human-caused. Why? Because there has always been global warming…and global cooling. Earth’s climate has cycles. It was warmer than it is now, 600 years ago during the Medieval Warm Period. It was warmer than it is now 2300 years ago during the Roman Warm Period. It was warmer 3400 years ago during the Minoan period; 4250 years ago during the Old Kingdom period; 10,000 years ago at the beginning of the Holocene epoch; and 350 million years ago at the beginning of the Carboniferous period. And many of these periods ended colder than they started. Given that there weren’t even any humans of any variety during the Carboniferous, it cannot be said that the climate change at that time had anything to do with humans. Nor can it be said that humans made any significant changes in their actions to cause the shift during any of the other historic and prehistoric shifts. So we know that climate has changed…naturally…in the past, but there’s NO evidence that humans had anything to do with it.
And when you start looking at the modern data, things get really squirrelly.
Different satellite systems show different things, and they all show different things from the ground-based data. One satellite system looking at sea level variations has internal errors so large that they exceed the amount of change they are supposedly recording. Another satellite system shows sea levels FALLING, and it takes a substantial, manually applied “correction factor” — which has no legitimate antecedent — to get it to show a rising sea level at all. And most of the glaciers which are supposed to be melting, to provide all of this, are in Antarctica and Greenland, and are not monitored at all. Translated: we have no clue if those glaciers are advancing or receding.
And then there’s the ground-based data.
You see, there are at least three different official databases on global temperatures: the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Global Historical Climate Network (GHCN); the Remote Sensing Systems (RSS) database; and the University of Alabama Huntsville (UAH) database. And they do not agree.
How so? Well, for instance: the GHCN says that 2014 was the hottest year on record. The RSS and UAH databases don’t show anything of the kind. Further, to quote Christopher Booker writing for The Telegraph in April of this year, “Careful analysts have come up with hundreds of examples of how the original data recorded by 3,000-odd weather stations has been ‘adjusted’, to exaggerate the degree to which the Earth has actually been warming. Figures from earlier decades have repeatedly been adjusted downwards and more recent data adjusted upwards, to show the Earth having warmed much more dramatically than the original data justified.”
The situation is so bad that the Global Warming Policy Foundation (GWPF) has initiated an independent investigation. The investigators are — get this: experts only in climatology, because only climate experts can understand? No. The chairman of the investigatory team is a physician/biochemist. There’s TWO physicists, a statistician, a climatologist specializing in applied environmental physics, and a meteorologist/climatologist. Surprise.
The concern is not just in the adjustments, but in the fidelity of the data versus the model predictions. A model, in scientific terms, is an algorithm (usually programmed into a computer) which takes the data and cranks out a prediction. Properly done, the model is developed by initially using data with a known result, and tweaking the algorithm until you get the known result. When you can produce known results for several different database sets, you know you have a good model. It probably isn’t perfect, but it should be reliable.
The problem here is that not only do we NOT get known results, previous predictions have been drastically wrong. Moreover, there’s a little matter of significant figures to consider. Dr. James K. Woosley is an old friend of mine, going back to graduate school. He has a doctorate in particle physics, which is a field in which huge quantities of data must be analyzed using probability and statistics. In private communiques, he and I have discussed the problems, he having originated the discussion, so the idea, while yet-unpublished, is his.
You see, significant figures, in scientific data, pertains to accuracy and error bars. If, for example, you have a measurement that is accurate down to a tenth of a unit, you cannot then present results that are accurate to finer than a tenth of a unit. If you have data of mixed accuracy, some of it being accurate to a whole unit, some to a tenth, and some to a hundredth, your result can only be accurate to a whole unit; that is to say, it is accurate only to the largest error bar in the data. (It is possible, if there is only one data point accurate to a whole unit, to do some statistical computations and get final accuracy to, say, half a unit.) It is NOT possible to have a legitimate result that purports to show changes (“deltas,” in scientific terms) of less than the error bars of the data, i.e. you cannot state that there is a change occurring of 0.02 units per second, if the data is only accurate to 0.1 units.
Yet this is consistently what the climate models are producing. They are producing deltas to the worldwide average temperature with so many significant figures that, according to Dr. Woosley, “predicting the type of warming that the models claim requires 10 ppb data or better, based simply on error propagation of dQ = CpMdT, with dT/dt = 1 degree C/century with 0.3 degree C error. That is an oversimplification…but the claim… is that they can detect a trend in that temperature that the negative feedback doesn’t compensate for.” (NOTE: “ppb” stands for “parts per billion,” and is accurate to 0.000000001 units. Moment-by-moment fluctuations in temperature caused by breezes, cloud cover, etc. is MUCH larger than this.) He goes on to say, “One contention [against his argument] which I can’t per se disagree with, is that the climate includes a number of feedback mechanisms, such that with appropriately accurate models (which we lack), we could with reasonable confidence say that in the absence of perturbations the temperature would be stable to within about 1 degree Celsius…My 10 ppb accuracy is based more or less on the idea of an initial value problem.”
More, there are problems with the monitoring stations themselves. As we build, we often incorporate areas that were once rural, surrounding older stations with structures and pavement. The reflected radiation skews the results from that station, causing it to read hotter than it should (there are rules regarding how far away from a building, road, or paved area the station must be placed, but these are often ignored, especially where construction is going on around established stations). This has even happened in Death Valley, where an extant station had a welcome center, parking lot, and road built next to it. Unfortunately, the additional station that was installed to help compensate…was set up with a wraparound bluff face (within the distance limits) on two sides, and a paved road (within the distance limit) on a third side — so that didn’t help provide more accurate data.
The notion that the last couple of decades has continued a purported warming trend is patently false. Temperature deltas have flatlined for nearly two decades now. And this is demonstrated by examples of unusually severe winter weather (sometimes NOT in winter) all over the world. Here are a few headlines as examples.
May 2015: Antarctic snow and ice storm blankets parts of New Zealand! This is a huge storm, folks. “A storm blasting Antarctic weather over New Zealand is currently the biggest storm on earth according to WeatherWatch. The low stretches from just south of Fiji to Antarctica’s ice shelf, but only 20 per cent of the storm is affecting New Zealand. WeatherWatch.co.nz said the forecast air pressure at its centre over the next 24 hours would be greater than that of Hurricane Katrina when it made landfall in 2005.” Do note that winter will not officially begin in the Southern Hemisphere until June. This would be something like a monster blizzard hitting the Southeastern USA in mid-November. I live in the Southeastern USA and I’m often out in shirtsleeves on Thanksgiving weekend.
February 2015: Rare snowstorm blankets Jerusalem, Israeli desert! They do well to get 4” of snow a year.
November 2014: Biggest Snowfall of the Year in Patagonia! During the Southern Hemisphere Spring!
December 2013: Antarctica ship passengers prepare ice helipad after latest rescue bid fails! A research vessel — ironically, studying global warming effects on the Antarctic, among other things — gets stuck in the ice off the Antarctic coast — during their SUMMER — and three attempts by at least two different icebreakers to reach the stranded ship failed.
July 2011: Rare Snow in Atacama Desert, Chile!
August 2013: It happens again! A rare snow falls in Atacama desert of Chile!
And let us not forget the nasty polar vortex weather of the Northern Hemisphere winters of 2013/14 and 2014/15.
So if the data is fiddled-with, and the models are wrong, what’s going on? Why DOES the climate go up and down over centuries and millennia? Well, let’s look at something else for a few minutes.
The Sun is a spotted star. It has a known spot cycle. Actually, it has two: the 11-year cycle, and the 22-year cycle, because sunspots are magnetic in nature, and at the end of 11 years, the polarity of the fields has reversed; it takes two 11-year cycles for the fields to return to their original configuration. Hence, a 22-year cycle. But there is also evidence for longer cycles, because there are things called “extended minima,” when solar activity bottoms out for decades at a time. And a recent study indicates that in general, other stars (stars that aren’t considered to be variable stars) don’t show such periodicities. This points strongly in the direction of our Sun being a variable star, even if only slight.
The Roman Warm Period ran from roughly ~250BC-400AD. This was followed by a cool period, and then the Medieval Warm Period, ~950-1250AD. Then came the Little Ice Age, ~1350-1850AD, during which time we had the Year Without A Summer in 1816. In the late 1800s it began to warm up again, reaching a peak roughly in the 1960s. The last two decades (roughly) have seen moderating to cooling temperatures again.
The Oort extended solar minimum ran roughly ~1010-~1080AD, followed by a period of high solar activity called the Medieval Maximum from about 1100-1250AD. That ended with back-to-back-to-back extended minima:
And the Modern Maximum started ~1900AD.
So we have a very interesting correlation here. Active Sun and Warm Periods seem to go hand in hand. Extended Minima and Cold Periods also seem to go hand in hand. And the Little Ice Age seems to correlate very nicely to the extended inactivity of the closely sequential Wolf, Spörer, Maunder, and Dalton extended minima. If we throw in a decade or so of lag time for the energy differential to work its way through Earth’s equilibrium systems, it matches very nicely, actually.
AND the last 3 solar cycles have been weak and getting weaker, with the current cycle the weakest since the Dalton minimum. “I would say it is the weakest in 200 years,” said David Hathaway, head of the solar physics group at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala back in 2013. And lo and behold, we’ve entered a flattening to cooling phase climatically.
More, the clues that the sunspots for the NEXT cycle have started forming…are more than half a cycle late in showing up, and still haven’t shown yet. This means that the next sunspot cycle will likely lag by just as long as it takes for the new spots to show up. These clues include observations of the solar polar “jet streams” through helioseismology, and structures and movements within the corona. More, the magnetic fields of each cycle’s sunspots have been decreasing in strength for the last couple of cycles. We’re running around 2000 Gauss now. At the point where the spot field strength drops below 1500 Gauss, they’re predicted to go away entirely. All of these clues, and more, are some 5-7 years behind schedule in showing up. And there is no sign they are imminent even now. Many astronomers are predicting the Sun to produce the barest bump for the next cycle, or possibly flatline.
A further complication is that this lessened activity then reduces the solar wind, allowing cosmic rays entry into the solar system. Cosmic rays impinging on the atmosphere generate condensation nuclei, which tends to increase cloud formation. Cloud formation in turn regulates nighttime radiative cooling. But we don’t have a good cloud formation model, because we don’t understand cloud formation well enough. So there is a possible feedback loop/equilibrium cycle (of which Earth has an abundance) that would affect the situation.
Now, correlation does not necessarily imply causation. This is an old axiom in science and especially statistics. However, when the correlation becomes strong enough, a wise scientist starts looking for possible causation. And I, personally, see high correlation, far higher correlation for a solar-climate connection than I do for a civilization-climate connection.
 Private communique, Dr. James K. Woosley
 Additional private communique with Dr. Woosley.
So, this might possibly be another Human Wave Post.
Recently someone – okay, okay, Dave Truesdale – posted a bunch of pictures of conferences in the seventies, which still had – in attendance – a lot of people from the Golden Age.
I was particularly struck by pictures of a young Jim Baen, who looked nothing like I imagined him as a young man, which goes to show you we’re all prone to thinking that those we knew at a certain age were never young.
As someone who is now – has confronted pictures from Comicon – no longer young, this is somewhat problematic because I realize many people will never know I was once a young woman. Eh. That is just plain weird. However, since inside I’m still 12 years old, that young woman is no more representative of the real me than the middle aged curmudgeon I now am.
Anyway, when Dave posted those pictures, a lot of people said they wished they could have been at those cons. Like who doesn’t? A lot of those men (and women) marked our adolescence and had more influence on us than close family friends. I, for one, will forever regret that I never got to meet Poul Anderson [Yes, I routinely misspell his name. Partly because in Portugal editors often helpfully corrected his spelling to Paul.] who had a signing not a mile from my house when the kids were little. I could have gone, I could, but the kids had some sort of stomach flu going on and I thought I didn’t want to give that to the nice writer. And then I thought “He’s relatively young. There will be other chances” which just proves that I’m an idiot.
There were other snuffled replies about “I wish I had lived in the Golden Age.”
You know, I’ve seen the pictures too, the small, intimate gatherings with all the names we’ve grown to revere. The air of collegiate comradery. I’ve heard the stories about beginning writer x being taken under the wing of writer y, sight unseen. (I think that’s why so many of you send me your manuscripts to read. For the record, if you’re a friend – and a few of you are – I’ll get to them. I’ve just been slammed under illness so long that the ability to follow a thought for more than a page eluded me. Hence a lot of re-reading or those non-fiction books that are a sort of fact per page. I’m now all right – doctor gave the all clear – but have been REVELING in reading for pleasure around getting the other house ready for sale. As soon as that is done I’ll make some time to read your stuff, because paying it forward SHOULD be part of the ethos of the field. Strangers, OTOH, who contact me for the very first time to send me a story to read… I might never get to.)
We know the air of collegiate comradery is a lie, to an extent. Note I said to an extent, and I’ll explain later.
Part of my amusement at the reaction to the whole Sad Puppies thing has been the very same people saying there were never politics in SF being the very same people who once told me that there were rifts I didn’t see in the field and that some people in the early two thousands still didn’t talk to each after arguments over the Vietnam war back in the day.
And anyone who has read Heinlein’s bio knows about the other rifts in fandom and among professionals way back before that, a lot of them political.
But this is to an extent, because to another extent… Well, guys, we’re all pretty weird. We spend our days writing about worlds and futures that don’t exist.
Older son who aspires to medicine (and is engaged in preparation to practice it) tells me that only people with a compulsion to work at healing (and he says it’s a compulsion) understand other people with the same issue. Well, guys… Yeah, same for writers, and to an extent for fans.
I’m not going to tell you that I love all my colleagues. There are many I loathe, many I cordially detest, many I tolerate, and, yes, many I love dearly. Weirdly, this doesn’t rift across political lines (of course, my politics being what they are, they are at best cross-sectional to real world politics) or even correlate to those I like to read. Yeah, curse it, some of the ones I loathe write pretty good stuff. (Shakes fist at great novelist in the sky, who has a sense of humor.)
The truth is we’re all creative people, opinionated and passionate and about as sociable as a skunk convention. Rifts, political and others (I had issues with one of my colleagues on sartorial grounds. No, REALLY) are to be expected. But to an extent we band together because only our crazy kind understands our crazy kind. Same as with fandom. Which explains the violence of our quarrels, since it’s exactly like siblings squabbling over the dinner table. (There were days I was sure my kids were destined to do the Cain and Abel thing.)
Still with all that, I’ll admit there’s a … “glow” to the early conventions that I think goes beyond the patina given by time and death (which as we all know dress people in their best smile.)
That “We’re all weird together” and that feeling of banding together was there. Plus there was the glow of the “Golden Age.”
Sneering people have said that the golden age of science fiction is 13 years old. That is, that all of us fall hard for it at that age, after which it loses some of that patina.
Sneering people are justifying the fact that SF has lost a lot of its glow as time goes by. But I don’t think they’re quite right about it. There was up through about the mid sixties, if I’m right (remember my perception was distorted by when things were translated to Portuguese, which means my inner perception of the field is all out of order), a daring, a near-insanity to SF/F which was what attracted me to it.
There were books that hinted at a greater destiny for humans in the stars, and some that explicitly drew it out. Humans in those books were pretty hot stuff. Sometimes we came from the stars, and were going back to them. And sometimes we were what was needed to make the Galaxy work. Big stuff that. SF was like a child dreaming of growing up and being first man on Mars or on another solar system. There is no logical reason a kid – any kid – should be. And there is no reason that humanity should be the hope of the Galaxy. But the kid dreams it because he’s that kid. (You really don’t daydream for other people. Well, I do, but I’m a writer.) And there is no reason he shouldn’t do it. And though he might never make it, perhaps he’ll design propulsion systems for the ships that will enable our colonizing space. Or perhaps he’ll contribute minimally to our future colonies on Mars.
In any case, no one should deny that kid those dreams. And no one should deny humans the dreams either.
Which is where the golden age ends. Humanity right now is like those poor little boys and girls raised by “responsible adults” ™ who clip their wings early. “No, little Tommy. You can’t grow up to be a Space Trader because at the rate of current development of science—” And then little Tommy tries to be sensible and studies accounting and ends up working for the IRS or the EPA, ends up growing up trying to “contribute” by making it impossible for other people to do things, to dare, to dream, by enforcing every petty little rule, every dot on the law (even if it’s a fly spec) and grows up to teach his kids not to dream, not to fly. And then that entire family (or species) becomes stodgy, hidebound, small. And in a self-fulfilling prophecy, none reaches higher.
And this is what Science Fiction (and to an extent fantasy, but mostly SF) has become. It has become a literature of dire warnings and brow beatings.
To an extent that was the result of the Cold War and the panic over MAD. To another it was the result of a literary theory made by killjoys who couldn’t understand that literature was good for something unless it was good for “reflecting the present.” (They suffer from the same delusions in art, heaven help us all.)
And then there are the killjoys of “known science.” “Humans can’t have come from the stars, because—” or “We could never colonize space because—”
For the sake of Bob (Heinlein) people, SF is a literature of dreams. It’s a literature where known science should be able to be waved away with “this is the future. They know things we don’t.”
Okay, not ad infinitum, no. There needs to be SOME rationality and some “well, maybe, but not that we can see.” Waving away the ansible with “never possible” is the pettiness of little minds. Waving away flying to the moon on a chariot drawn by a flock of geese, otoh, is not petty unless the book is a fantasy or written for little kids. If there’s no rationality, no veneer of possibility, then it should still be written, and can be sold under fantasy.
(Science being indistinguishable from magic at a certain point, it’s even possible our future will resemble fantasy more. BUT it’s a different headspace and I’m okay labeling it differently.)
Somewhere along the line sociologists got hold of our books and started pulling long faces and talking about how SF is supposed to reflect the problems of our time.
Really? REALLY? There aren’t enough contemporary books for that? And what if little Tommy doesn’t want to grow up to be a bureaucrat?
I’m here to tell you differently. SF/F is supposed to reflect the dreams of mankind. No, you’re not to contradict known science in SF/F unless you come up with a REALLY COOL WAY to wave it away.
Uncle Lar, one of my first readers, pointed out to me that there is no known way to design either the anti-grav wands I call brooms nor the laser guns I call burners in the Darkship series UNLESS our knowledge of physics is completely out of whack.
That’s fine. (And he didn’t tell me I couldn’t have it, because he doesn’t want little Tommy to grow up to be a bureaucrat!) Because our knowledge of physics MIGHT be completely out of whack. And this is five hundred years in the future.
And besides, it’s my world and my inner 13 year old tomboy wants brooms and burners. So there.
In the same way I loved Ric Locke’s work partly because of his hints that humans had come from the stars. Does this accord with known facts? Well, no. But landsakes, people, if we came from the stars, the record could have been confused by advanced technology or time traveling or mumble mumble mumble.
At comicon I listened to my colleagues (note, not Kevin Anderson, who I’m fairly sure also writes for his inner 13 year old) talking about how their novels dealt with this current problem, or highlighted this current issue, or…
And it sounded to me as dreary as when my teachers talked about how we should read this or that book because they were good for us and would “raise our consciousness.” Oh, for crying in bed. I know this is Colorado, but sometimes you have to admit consciousness might already be high enough, and encourage dream and imagination instead.
Meanwhile I described my novels as fights for freedom and a world with these really cool things that made me happy.
And you can too.
Fortunately things have changed and we can. Be your novel ever so daring, be it not even vaguely reflective of current day’s “hot issues” you can always indie-publish it and reach your readers. (This is not the same as not being about immortal principles, inherent human characteristics or other things that matter to you – I’m not calling for only happy stories. The world of DST is after all a brutal dictatorship. I’m calling for fun mixed with the “issues” and also for freedom to engage “issues” that don’t obsess NY editors.)
We can’t go back in a time machine and meet the writers of the golden age. But we can be the writers of the new golden age. (And I don’t say this only because my paint-chip color is spun gold.) We should be the writers of the new golden age. And the fans of the new golden age. The internet allows us to recreate some of that cozy, intimate, interesting atmosphere of the old conventions. For instance, on this blog, you all interact with me (and get fish flung at your heads. How much more intimate can it get) in a way that would be possible in those early, small cons. And I can let my guard down and speak frankly with you, as if you were all in my living room. Also word of mouth among fans is now more potent than at any time since the early days. You can review, you can go to Good Reads and talk about what you love, and you can write social media posts to alert a dozen or a hundred of your closest friends to this cool new book you found.
More than at any time since the golden age, we’re free of the shackles of literary criticism, and the sneering dictates of the glitterati.
We’re free, writers and fans, all, to lift humanity up on golden wings of dream and encouraging it to fly.
Go and do it.
I don’t like to be manipulated. Mind you, I don’t know anyone who thinks it’s loads of fun, but some people don’t seem to mind much. “I wuz taken” gives them an excuse not to think too hard. In fact people like claiming vast conspiracies against them (“the man”, “the patriarchy”, “the illuminati” – don’t laugh at the last one, you should see the comments I don’t approve.) It gives them an excuse not to do anything much. It also makes them important. After all it takes a vast conspiracy to hold them down. They’re that important.
I’m not sure I believe in vast conspiracies. I’ll admit to you that things like Jornolist and the fact that no one, not even a hungry cub reporter has dared reveal our current president’s grades or even what courses he took, specifically, have me raising an eyebrow and wondering if I’m wrong.
However, being wrong would including doubting both Heinlein and my dad, both of which emphasized that two can keep a secret if one of them is dead.
The communist three to a cell system worked pretty well at keeping secrets, mind, but only by walling-off potential damage. And by and large we’ve come to know everything they were up to. It’s just no one believes it, and it’s largely not reported on.
Which brings us to the crux of the matter in this.
Humans are social animals. And, for my sins, I went to an all girl high school. (I don’t know what my sins were, but they must have been terrible. Or terribly fun. Too bad I can’t remember them.)
I know all about ruling by “controlling the cool.” And I know that the outcasts simply aren’t listened to. I wasn’t precisely an outcast. More of a self-out. Even in the gifted form I attended 8th through 11th, I was odd woman out. More or less on purpose.
I don’t like being manipulated, and I’d rather be outside the hierarchy than have to swallow hard and nod along with things that revolted me, to be in.
Being an outsider, when you choose it yourself, is not a bad thing. You get to watch the dance, mark the way the wires are being pulled on the puppets who live and die for social approval.
But you pay a penalty. If you’re an outcast, even a self outcast, they won’t listen to you. You’re written off as “crazy” or “smart of insane.”
Which is okay. Been doing that for a long time. I heard some prophets had the same rap. I can deal.
We know – this is not an if, not once the archives of the Soviet Union opened up – that the Soviet Union and International Communists expended an enormous amount of time and attention to commanding the heights of the field in certain areas: news reporting, publishing, the arts, education.
I think they did it the old clumsy way, by bribery and subversion. I don’t know (haven’t read most of the stuff on it, mostly because it’s published in dribs and drabs) if they picked people of outsized influence who were low echelon but commanded the “cool.” But they got them all the same.
They were aided in this by the rot that started crumbling Western Civilization after WWI. (WWI never ended, really. You know, sometimes I think we’re in one of the crazy cycles, like the wars of religion, playing itself in a million guises, all of them pernicious.) Oh, and by human nature. You see, humans are social animals (did I mention that already?). People who achieve high status tend to be good at manipulating “the cool.” And “the cool” by the time WWI happened had turned against Europe. In a move that went back to before the French Revolution, “the cool” had turned against civilization itself and the mores of Judeo-Christianity. Instead of believing the accumulated history/victories of civilization were “the cool”, members of the civilization turned on itself, including idealizing humans in a supposed natural state and past, barbarous stages of their own civilization.
A little bit of this is a good thing. Civilizations can get too effete and disconnected from real human nature (as we have proof daily.) Checking your assumptions is a goodness. Kind of like doing mathematical proofs. Our own country comes from questioning some of those assumptions and going back to a not-really-ever-like-that republic, before the medieval rule of kings.
But World War I tore at the foundations of Western Civilization, the easy going assumption that because we were more prosperous we were more civilized than all the past. The dreamers and the crazies who had been questioning and asking, and pointing out problems were still (unless they were really crazy) by and large members in good standing of Western Civ. They came to reform, not to destroy.
Suddenly the sparrows who had been pecking at the moss growing on the more calcified parts of the civilization became vultures, impatient and tearing apart the not-quite-yet-dead body politic.
Now we’re in the curious situation where the cool is to turn against that which makes it possible for you to be you; to be wealthy; to be comfortable.
The very people at the pinnacle of our system of rewards ridicule the very virtues that allowed them or their ancestors to get there – thrift, hard work, drive, commitment – as bourgeois. Nostalgie de la Boue? Baby, we have a hard on for the dysfunctional, the crazy, the broken.
And civilizations that – objectively, if you know anything of their history – were far bloodier, dirtier, more genocidal than our own are held up as paragons and victims for one reason alone: we won. They lost. They never got to inflict their evil on the world at last.
I keep expecting, any minute now, the hagiographic rehabilitation of Hitler. After all, he lost. And those WWII propaganda movies sure made him “the other.”
Because that’s how loonie it’s got.
I don’t believe in conspiracies. I believe however that humans will do anything to acquire social status and power. We’re social animals.
What this means is that a few well placed people can command “the cool.”
And “the cool” has now come to the place you knew it would. Having elevated all the other “victims” of Western civ to the pantheon, it’s now concentrating on elevating the most powerful (in terms of cool) group in our societies to “victim.” Yep, wealthy and well educated white women. (Even if some of them have a fractional amount of other blood. Like who doesn’t?)
The problem with this is that women, though held back somewhat by biology, have definitely been on the march since the pill has become available and common and lifelong pregnancy stopped being the destiny of every sexually active woman.
And the other problem is that even before that liberation from the chains of oppressing biology, there were always women who made it to the reaches of power. Not even noble women. There was after all that peasant girl, Joan of Arc (my patron saint, as we often both find ourselves in a war that’s not what it seems, led by forces we can’t even define.)
In the eighties when I came to the states I realized the history women here knew – even educated women – was not what I’d studied. It was the little things that jostled me. Like a friend saying that women hadn’t been allowed to hunt or work outside the home ever. Ah. Peasant women always (more or less) worked outside the house with their husbands, if their husbands did. And as for hunting… you did what you did to survive. (Though women mostly set snares, but so did most peasant men.) Other things, like a recent college graduate 20 years ago assuring us there had always been famous women fighters, women in the ranks of the fighting men, since always. How did we not know about them? Ah, well, it was a patriarchal conspiracy. A conspiracy maintained for centuries by groups of unrelated men and women and supported by researchers into history, many of them women. Yep. That’s how powerful patriarchy is. Because magic.
Then there is the whole “idyllic and lost matriarchy” an idea so dumb only academics could believe it and fail to see in it the obvious reflection of the Christian lost Eden.
All of this puzzled me, but it was above my paygrade to fight it. I made jokes about it on panels, and grinned in the face of people saying it (mostly because there’s a level of shock that translates itself to chuckles.) I thought it was a moment of madness, but it would pass, culturally speaking.
I was being a wishful thinker. The women who believed that half backed stew of nonsense raised daughters who believe them too. And now with the force of revealed wisdom.
Except that revealed wisdom collides with reality. There have always been women in science fiction/fantasy/comics/gaming. Some have been held down, true, mostly by other women. And that biology thing held them down too, until the seventies or so.
Now fantasy has a lot more women than science fiction. And while I know bloody nothing about comics (my fandom is Disney comics, okay? You should be happy I don’t cos-play.) I have heard that in gaming some work/games have more women than others. This is because women are different from men and statistically more women or more men will gravitate to certain things. You doubt that, you try being a male nurse or secretary.
I know when I was growing up it made me an odd duck among odd ducks that I not only liked science fiction but that I was a WOMAN who liked science fiction. Yeah, it got me sneered at, but mostly by people who didn’t like science fiction. The geeks were just glad to see a woman share their interests.
I’m not saying it was easy. It’s never easy being odd man (woman) out. I’m sure in the early days of science fiction, just because of rarity, the women who broke in had to be faster, smarter, better.
I know that the publishing establishment tried to keep me from writing science fiction. But that’s humans being humans and stupid. The tin said “Woman” and therefore “fantasy writer.”
(That’s fine. I’m told fantasy sells better, anyway.)
However that’s not to say you couldn’t do it. Or that women didn’t do it. But these are the women other women don’t see.
Go read the article (which coincidentally has almost the same title as my article for PJM on the same theme.) He lays out how the history of science fiction keeps changing to claim it used to exclude women until some arbitrary date that makes the new generation the pioneers “speaking truth to power” and all that rot. I’d quote him, but this is already too long.
Anecdote isn’t data, but I know when I came in, there were three women for every man I met who’d just broken in. Not brave pioneering, not only because it had gone before, but because writing is a badly paid, indoor work that can be done while watching kids. That’s all. Or that can be done on the side of an academic career. And because it required years of unpaid work to break in, a luxury most men don’t have.
But these women – and some men who claim to fight for women (rolls eyes) – need to invest their actions in coming into a field that now belongs pretty much to women with “the cool” and tones of heroism.
So history must be re-written so that women are victims and cool. The current generation of women, mind, not the ones who did the real work of breaking in, who often paid for it by not having personal lives, or who were considered odd ducks by everyone inside and outside SF. No. Their pampered, overeducated, molly-coddled would be granddaughters, who want to believe the Man is holding them down, rather than admit they’re the Man.
It finally dawned on me why Malzberg and Resnick had to be silenced and the innocuous, slightly gallant term “ladies” had to be made into an insult.
It wasn’t because there was anything objectionable in their columns, but because the only way people who aren’t victims can claim victim status and self ennoble; the only way those who continuously put others down and engage in vicious wars of emotional destruction can claim to be bullied; the only way the queen bees can claim they’ve been denied power and deserve it now is to silence those keeping the history of the field alive.
Each one of those lady editors and lady writers threatened these ideology-blinded, ambition-motivated “Social Justice Warriors” personally, by making it clear they were trying to conquer territory already conquered, and that they aren’t a patch on the previous generations, male or female.
Which is why the history had to be stopped. (Fortunately there’s twitterstorms and internet outrage for that, which allow one or two queen bees to make strategic decisions the drones echo unthinkingly.)
Because in the current day and age, we live in a crazy version of soviet history.
We know what the future holds – more “oppressed women” forever conquering the fortress that never falls because it can be re-written to never have fallen – it’s the past that keeps changing.
Recently I’ve come to the conclusion that humans are golems. Note these are the golems of Terry Pratchett and not the golems of Jewish myth. They are clay robots, with lines in their head – the chem – that both animate them and give them purpose.
When I was a very young writer, knee high to a short story, I was told – and experienced – that you should never, ever, ever make a character do something that broke it. By this, it was explained, they meant taking some line you’d clearly drawn with the character “the character will never do this” and then make him do it.
A lot of writers interpret this way the injunction to find out what your character is afraid of, then make him do it. So they take clear lines in their character’s head and violate them. And then the book and character are broken, though sometimes neither writer nor publisher realize it.
I don’t know how to explain this, except you’ll know it when you do it. I did this by having a character have sex (in a book, duh) with someone she wasn’t more than casually interested in. Even though this was okay for the culture (early, unpublished work) it wasn’t okay for the character, and the character broke, and that book got abandoned. The character broke because one of the bright lines in HER head was that she didn’t do that, so when I forced it, the character became someone else I wasn’t interested in writing.
Recently I’ve realized it’s the same thing with humans, though since we’re human and twisty, our chem, our lines in the head are multiple, overlaid, and sometimes (though not often, I think) contradictory. (Contradictory directives I can think of are “I will never hurt anyone else” and “I will do anything to defend my children.”)
I became aware of mine recently, when an “opportunity to my advantage” appeared and I had to turn it down, because I couldn’t write something that I now only don’t believe in, but which I violently disagree with, and which I think would be one more “pull” towards what I consider despair and giving up on the human race. I realized then that one of the directives of my work is “Snatching brands from the fire” not “piling on coals of destruction.” Even when I write dark stuff, my characters are (usually) still fighting.
There are other lines in my head, and you guys know some of them. Like for instance, I choose to believe in the individual rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. This stops me short, often, when I’m about to say things like “there ought to be a law” but it also gives me moral qualms at most inconvenient times. Such as when the kids were little I didn’t give them an allowance (I believe in TANSTAAFL) but I also didn’t make them clean. The cleaning thing was a value for me, not for them, so I figure instead of yelling at them to do stuff, I’d post a blackboard (ran across it recently, with the prices still on. At some point cleaning became THEIR value too, so at least they take care of their stuff. And they got their own work/pay, so the scheme went by the way side.) with tasks and their pay. This meant that 5 year old Robert accumulated a tidy bank balance, and that was fine by me. Yes, I do know it’s a weird way to raise kids, but I had to do it without violating the words in my head which both said I shouldn’t pay for nothing and that I shouldn’t require my kids to do conscript work the benefit of which they couldn’t see. It was nuts, but it worked, I think.
There are other lines and when I violate them – unintentionally – I carry around a boat load of guilt. One of the lines is “I will hurt no innocents” and innocents is a flexible term in this case. As in “I will hurt no one that isn’t trying to hurt me.”
So, Sarah, why are you telling us of this little problem?
Because from observation, I’ve gathered other people have lines in the head they can’t cross either. I don’t know how they get in there, but I can guarantee it’s not all early childhood and inculcated before perception. Some of the lines we chose to have in there, ourselves.
This is why after the fall of the wall the communists in Europe were like ghosts of their former selves, unable to integrate the lines in their head with the events they’d witnessed. It’s also why, ultimately, the events got re-written and instead of the decades they’d spent holding up various ditactorships as an example of freedom, they rewrote the events to “real communism has never been tried.” Though they still hold existing communist – or fascist, see China – dictatorships like Venezuela as paragons, and take their side reflexively.
This is because humans in the end will choose not to break themselves. If to keep the lines in the head intact, reality must be deconstructed, then reality gets deconstructed. If your lines in head say you’re a communist because you care about injustice and the little people, evidence must be ignored that those regimes result in massive injustice, mass graves and ultimately a neo-feudal order with party apparatchiks on top (and often not very neo. In Europe most such are descended from the “good, old” families.)
It also explains why so many women in science fiction today refer back to the mythical era where women had no clout in the sf/f writing field (even though women, yeah, under their own names were present in the field since the forties at least, and were usually made much of, because geeks like women) and where men in a conspiracy (sometimes I wonder if these people ever met any men) deliberately held women down. The chem in their heads, probably implanted by mothers or grandmothers who went to work during or right after WWII, tells them they’re not just equal to men, they’re supposed to be the conquering wave that shows this. If others did it before you, you’re not the conquering wave, and you’re going to look more than a little silly. So, history must be rewritten in the familiar mold of deserving people held down by all powerful evil oppressors. Because that fits their chem.
So why does this matter?
It matters because you should be aware of your chem. There will be a sense of bridling, a sense of rearing up – as it were – of needing to protect something, when you’re about to violate it, or believe something that contradicts it.
Can you violate your chem, if it needs to be violated? I don’t know. I think it takes something supernatural or near supernatural to do so. A – pardon me for evoking a religious story here, but it’s appropriate – road to Damascus experience. Something so big, so glaring; something you live through, something that traumatizes you to such an extent that you cannot continue preserving the chem and you rewrite it.
If you can find figures who have completely changed – political orientation, religion, etc – you usually find that level of traumatic event at the root or around the time of the change. It has to be very traumatic and hit them personally, in a way that can’t be rewritten.
So, what is all this in the name of?
Your chem is your ultimate blind spot. Whether you wrote it or someone wrote it, it’s the one thing that threatens to unravel you if it’s challenged.
Find it and figure out what assumptions were made in building it.
Because sometimes events and circumstances (like those mentioned above) require you to change your chem. Sometimes you have to amend it and rewrite it.
The alternative is to rewrite and amend reality so that your chem has you doing the opposite of what you think it does.
And that makes you a dumb golem indeed.
With no pictures, because those are in my camera and I’m only half awake. Also in my camera are dorky (trust me) pictures of younger son and husband in the time-traveling delorian and since they paid to pose with that, if I accidentally delete them I’ll NEVER be forgiven, not even after I die.
So, this was my first comicon. I’ve been aware it was going on, but you guys know what the last 5 (10) years have been health wise, so I kept losing track of where/when it was, and didn’t go.
As I was trying to collect my thoughts, I ran across a facebook post from my son who said that the difference between this and cons he’d attended before is not one of scale, but one of intrinsic makeup.
That is, comicon isn’t worldcon, or world fantasy, or a local con scaled up. Comicon is its own animal, a different creature entirely.
Now, I spent most of the time inside the Wordfire booth (it’s where my publisher wanted me to be and I take that seriously) but I saw a lot of the con go by, and I got reports from the boys as they came to check in/see if I needed anything/escort me to panels.
Imagine a typical science fiction con. Most of the people who attend those are habitués. Science fiction and fantasy are at the center of their entertainment choices. They either have attended a con before, or have wanted to. They are part of a relatively small and incestuous community that means they probably know three or four writers by first name, and that meeting writers is not an earth-shaking event.
Comicon is… different. It’s like taking that small con, and then throwing open the doors and inviting the world in. It’s the equivalent of shouting “If you even read a couple of sf/f books, or play a couple of sf/f games, or love a couple of sf/f movies/series a year, come on in, we love you.”
The most common answer when someone came to the Wordfire booth looking for something to read and we asked “What do you like to read?” was “Everything.”
It’s been said that SF/F won the culture wars and the vast masses are all geeks now. This is not… Precisely true. More accurate would be saying that due to tech jobs and other perks of an increasingly technological society, it’s hard to despise those who make it work and, unbelievably and often sideways, a certain patina of cool has associated to geek pursuits. This means people have integrated some of SF/F geekdom into the potentials for their amusement. They are not SF/F geeks as the ones who used to attend conventions are. This is not their life and heart. It is just something they enjoy. That means they might also enjoy mystery or romance or even stuff that’s unclassifiable.
I realize this is at the heart of the trufan/not trufan controversy, but here’s my take: for some of those people, over time, SF/F MIGHT become the favored means of entertainment. And even if it doesn’t, it will be one of their means of entertainment. Which means the field, including books, games and shows, will be wide and healthier and more diverse (in the real sense of appealing to a multitude of tastes) and therefore attract better writers and game designers and producers, which means for those who are trufen there will be better and more varied fare and you might not be looked at quite so askance for your geekdom obsession.
Is that enough justification to let the great unwashed in? Rolls eyes. They’re not asking your – or even mine, which is good, since I don’t care – permission to come in. They are in. And it doesn’t matter how much you love something, you can’t demand someone love it as much in order to share it. That is a kindergarten dispute, and you should have got over those feelings of possessiveness over your toys around the time you were potty trained.
Like them or not, the people who are only part-time sf fans are in. You can sit in your corner with your hands over your ears saying “lalalalalalala” or you can get to know them. Having spent the weekend hanging out with them, I can tell you they’re fun.
And now a quick and incomplete summary, before I shower and go paint walls.
Diversity: if you’re looking for the only type of diversity you can track visually, this is possibly the most diverse con I ever attended. My skin tone when normal (right now I’m sort of pale, the result of illness and WAY too much time indoors) tracked around medium, I think.
Denver is not an incredibly racially diverse city, and I think that Comicon was MORE diverse than the city.
Acceptance: Okay, so Comicon had more normal people, more of what our forebears in fandom would call “mundanes” even if in costume, but our calm acceptance of the odd and the very odd remained. I saw more same-sex couples holding hands there than anywhere else I’ve been. And no one really gave a d*mn. And mixed-fandom couples too. (I’m still trying to get over Thor and zombie nurse holding hands.)
Youth: I felt old. No. I mean that, and not only because I’ve been so busy running between houses that I haven’t had time to color my hair, (it’s been gray since I turned 28.) No. My kids in their twenties tracked median age for that con. There were any number of kids wearing the “adult” pass who probably had to be driven there, due to being too young.
Readers: This surprised me. I expected a lot less enthusiasm for reading/books/literary track. As is, I’d say about half the people there were avid readers. (This is judging not just by interest at the booth, but by conversations overheard.) What this means is that outside the hard-core of SF/F dedicated readers there’s a MASS of readers wanting to find SOME SF/F works to read.
As someone who reads everything, including the back of cereal boxes and instructions for machines she never owned, I don’t care what else they read if they read my books. It’s not my job to police other people’s lives.
The bad is mostly personal. I found out that in these years when I’ve been ill and not doing cons as much I’ve become a true introvert. Being around people just beat the ever loving tar out of me. I’d get back to the hotel room and feel like I’d run a marathon. I think painting walls and sanding floors is less tiring. I don’t remember being that tired since I came back from Portugal with younger son and due to delays and reroutings was up for almost 48h straight.
This bad is of course a solvable problem and I’m ALMOST recovered. (Instead of showering, I might head back to bed after this post.)
Panels are angled differently -This was harder for my sons to adjust to. The how-to-write and how-to-do-art panels were far more …. Amateur oriented. I had to explain to them that anyone going to one of those at worldcon and world fantasy is “committed.” They’ve probably read how to books, might have attended other panels/workshops/etc. A lot of the people attending these at Comicon are just attending to see if they had an interest. Of course not just the level but the thrust will be different.
Accessibility – You’d think with that many people attending, the artists and writers would be less willing to spend time talking to you. However, this was the opposite, and Robert got a very nice art lesson from a professional illustrators. She took time to show him how to merge the forms to draw a tiger-girl construct.
The energy – It’s very fast, all the time. Which is probably why I’m so beat.
Quickpass – being newbies we didn’t know about these, which meant younger son couldn’t get into the stuff he really liked.
They had a “Diversity” track. Yes, I realize this is a fad. You have to talk about the lack of diversity to be diverse, or something. (Rolls eyes.) This was probably the most diverse con I’d ever seen, (not just in terms of skin shades, but in terms of who the attendees were) and it boggles my mind that anyone would feel a need to go talk about how things needed to be more “diverse” (by which they mean mostly external characteristics) and microaggressions and stuff. However, whatever floats your boat. The con seemed very accepting of different fandoms, and I guess fans of racial/gender/other grievance are welcome also. I don’t know if there were enough of them to justify a whole track, but whatever.
Writers were stars – I got more of the “I am never going to wash the hand you shook” treatment there than anywhere else I’ve attended. It startles me more than a little, first because I’m not that big, and second because eh. I’m just a chick who writes stuff.
On the good side I got to meet any number of you. Sean Golden for some reason kept ducking under my radar and I forgot who he was from one time to the next. And I don’t remember the names of every Hun I met, mostly because see how the whole thing was exhausting, but I remember Byron and his little daughter cosplaying Murphy in Dresden files.
Those who identified themselves as blog readers got carped. There will be more of this at Liberty con. (Wicked grin.)
Big Enough to Distort business for miles around – I loved all the signs that said “welcome geeks” or “Denver is nerdtown” or whatever.
My Son – No, seriously. Apparently my older son is weird. He escorted me into the con yesterday morning. (Because if you send me in alone you’ll never see me again, unless you happen to cross my path as I’m completely lost, living off fountain water and dropped snacks for months.) He was wearing his normal attire: button down, dark pants, tie, fedora and trenchcoat. I was wearing a t-shirt with a vest embroidered on it (last day of con and trying to be comfortable.)
As a car slowed down for the crosswalk near us, someone looked out the window and said, “Oh, yeah, comicon is this weekend.”
And that was the unkindest cut of all, because we were wearing what we might have worn any other weekend in Denver.
Perhaps one of Robert’s former teachers was right and we ARE comic book characters.
Being an adult is more than simply reaching the twenty-first year of age – or any other arbitrary line in the sand that is culturally determined.
Being an adult is being willing to do anything, everything, to help your children succeed in life. Even when ‘everything’ means being willing to step back and let them fall down a little.
Being an adult means not buying oneself toys when one’s babies are in need of food.
Being an adult means knowing that one day you will have to tell your children to check their credit when they turn 18, because chances are their other parent will have used their social security numbers to buy toys and other ‘necessities’ for themselves. And knowing that you will then have to explain that the only way for your children to clear their name is to press charges against that other parent. Being an adult is knowing you ought to have this same conversation with your ex’s new spouse, but that the trust bridge you are building there is too frail to risk, and they won’t hear that you are offering in love, not a desire to slander.
Being an adult sometimes means giving up your happiness, so that others may be happier.
Being an adult means that you are willing to attempt to understand the motivations of others and to be empathetic to them, even though your peers are sneering at you for not denouncing them. But this is difficult, all of this is difficult, and perhaps more than anything else, this willingness to be responsible for one’s own actions, not to blame them on someone else, or something else, this is being an adult.
My dear man, when we were talking about this not too long ago, shared a story of the first time he knew he was an adult.
“I was sitting in the bar when we heard an accident outside. We all ran out, and I immediately started telling people to do the things that my military training told me to do. Get the road blocked off, call an ambulance, send someone for a cop, first aid. Simply because no one was taking charge and it needed somebody in charge. At least until the adults got there. So we’re doing things, and people are looking to me, and asking me what to do. I’m still waiting for the adults to show up, and I suddenly realized that we’re the adults, no-one else is coming to tells us what to do. And wasn’t that a horrific shock.”
I think we all have moments when we wish we weren’t the grown-ups. When we would give anything to turn it all over to a parent who could sort out this tangled mess we’d made of our lives. I grew up being taught that you had to ‘turn it all over to God.’
Well, yes. And no. Being an adult means facing up to what you have done, and asking for forgiveness if that is needed. But it also means understanding that there are consequences for every decision you make, and that simply saying ‘I asked God to fix it’ is a cop-out. That’s not being an adult, that’s being a child.
We are the ones with boots on the ground, and it’s up to us to keep going even when the path gets rough and steep. We can seek counsel, sure. I do all the time, silently, and from those I trust. I didn’t intend this to be religious, and while it is, it’s also not. Even an agnostic knows they can seek strength from external sources, they just don’t call it praying. So it applies whether you are a believer or not.
Face it, life can be farcical at times. Being an adult means knowing that when you get knocked down hard, you have to get up, laugh it off, and gut it out. You can’t run whining to some higher authority about it. You certainly can’t run around whining that you’re being bullied and won’t Someone do Something? Because adulthood doesn’t work that way. This isn’t a playground, life isn’t always fair, and no-one is going to force Billy to give the ball back because you only had it for two minutes and he’s had it for five now.
Being an adult means learning how to share. How to share your life with first a mate, and then later, children. Sharing your life means you can’t demand perfection from someone else, especially if you aren’t offering them a perfect person in the form of yourself. And no, you aren’t perfect. Stop being absurd and don’t make me get religious at you again. You’re flawed, the one you chose is flawed. Accept it, and help them. That’s what partners do, they offer one another support. Remember how I just talked about getting counsel when your life is snarling up worse than a kitten with a ball of yarn? Ideally, this other adult in your life is the best one to help with that.
Which means that part of being an adult is choosing another adult to share your life with. Don’t pick someone who will blame you for everything they do wrong. Don’t entrust your health and sanity to someone who will tell you that you’re mentally unstable while they show all the signs of classic narcissism right down to self-medicating behaviours of addictions to anything from food to sex to gaming. None of those things are harmful in moderation, but we have all seen the damage they can do to a person with the mind of an adolescent who takes everything to an extreme.
Presuming that you have found that other adult who completes you, know that an even greater challenge is choosing to share your life with children. Loving them isn’t always easy, and it certainly doesn’t just happen. Love is hard work and being an adult means you are no stranger to hard work, and that you know hard work brings great rewards. It might sound trite, but that’s because it’s true. Parenting is the hardest job you will ever face, and it is the one with the most enduring results.
Being a parent of a teen brings new challenges. Colic, dirty diapers, sleepless nights, none of these compare to the anger only a teen can bring against their parent. One of the cruelest and most ironic taunts that can be hurled against an adult by their teenager is ‘I’m more adult than you are!’ but being an adult means that you don’t lash back at them. You know what being an adult is, and you know they don’t have a clue yet. So you love them, and you take a step back so they can stretch their wings. Because in this transition to being an adult, you know there will come a moment when you shouldn’t step in and take over, or they will never learn to truly be an adult.
Icebergs on the Starboard Bow . . . – Alma Boykin
And port, and behind us, and where on Earth is that global warming they promised us? And what’s with all the jokes about trees in Siberia, anyway?
People have been complaining about the weather, and noting that no one in the village/court/monastery can remember the last time X happened or it being as cold/hot/wet/dry as it is today, since the ninth day of Creation. But it was not really until the 1700s that we had the tools and resources to keep track of weather events and slowly, gradually, start compiling a picture of larger patterns, if there were any. We had stores of knowledge about local conditions and now-casting built into catches such as “wind before rain/sun shines again;/ rain before wind/the topsails take in,” and “a ring around the moon means rain,” or “red skies at morning, sailors take warning;/ red sky at night, sailors’ delight” (some places use shepherds instead of sailors.) Out where I live, we have rules such as never plant tomatoes until the mesquite blooms (because then you are safe from frost) and that if the wind goes calm during the day it signifies a major wind shift is about to occur. But these kinds of observations are not good for looking at climate, just local short-term weather.
The advent of the telegraph made some longer term forecasting possible, at least in the US. People noted that if Philadelphia reported a weather change, the next day New York City and Boston would probably have a weather change as well. But it was only after WWI, when Vilhelm Bjerknes began collecting large amount of observation that he discovered the large scale, hemispheric cold-meets-warm weather makers, which he called fronts, after the long lines of colliding soldiers in France and Belgium. Weather forecasting had stepped into the next phase. Climate forecasting remained a way off, as did climate reconstruction.
Archaeology and the Annals School of History combined to bring us climate history. Louis Agassiz, a Swiss geographer, had broached the idea of an Ice Age in the 1840s, theorizing that the galloping glaciers of the late 1700s-early 1800s had advanced and retreated before. But geologists and others had downplayed his ideas for various reasons, including differing interpretations of the evidence he presented. Eventually a few historians and archaeologists began looking at evidence of past human activities and observed that the weather had to have been different, and that perhaps people had responded differently. In the late 1800s George Perkins Marsh, a US ambassador to [country] had looked at the “modern” Mediterranean, looked at his classical history texts, and produced the book Man and Nature, a study of the effects of farming and other human activities on the Mediterranean Basin. He is considered the father of environmental history. However, he could not include any information about if the weather patterns had been different back then, because he had no way of obtaining the data. That came in the 1940s-1960s.
It was not until historians, working with multiple small-scale regional studies like those pioneered by the Annales School in France (including Emmanuel le Roi Ladurie), in North America, the Low Countries, China, Scandinavia, and archaeologists and astronomers combined their data that we realized a pattern did exist, and that the climate had changed in very major ways, although not on a strictly repeating schedule (although some hold that a 1500-year cycle does exist.) The Roman Warm Period encouraged population growth and expansion into areas that became marginal when the cold phase of the “Dark Ages” (roughly 500-850) kicked in and kicked off the Volkerwanderung, possibly the Plague of Justinian, the loss of North Sea coastal settlements, and terminated the vineyards of England (and may be remembered in the folk tales that became the Mabinogion).
The Medieval Climate Optimum encouraged a return to the uplands. Combined with the development of the heavy plow and three-field rotations, food became relatively abundant again, and the mild weather helped make major trade and building projects possible. This is the age of Chartres Cathedral, the great Champaigne Fairs, and the Germanic expansion east into the Polish and Lithuanian Marches. This is also the time of the troubadours and the Angevian Empire. But decreasing solar energy output encouraged cooler temperatures and wetter weather in Europe, ending the Medieval Warm Period and ushering in the Little Ice Age in the early 1300s. People weakened by cold and hunger succumbed easily to the Black Death, and Europe saw on aggregate a 25% population loss, with some areas suffering complete devastation and abandonment. The Four Horsemen rode over the Northern Hemisphere, and parts of the Southern Hemisphere as well, with “low” points between 1600-1650 and in the late 1700s. We are (or were) currently in a warm phase again, one that will perhaps be called the 20th Century Warm Period.
All of this would be only of interest to historians, archaeologists, and weather nerds, except that climate and energy consumption became a big political deal, with lots of money available for (the right kind of) research starting in the 1960s. The 1970s were also a time of cooling weather, which led to cries that we were all going to “freeze to death in the dark” if we were not crushed under galloping glaciers or irradiated out of existence then frozen by a nuclear winter (late 70s – early 80s version). Calls for population limits, government energy rationing, and other checks on the western economies alternated with pleas to save the whales/rainforests/black-footed ferret, and to give a hoot and don’t pollute resounded, and Earth Day (also Lenin’s birthday) became “a thing.”
Then solar energy increased, the weather grew warmer for a while, and Global Warming!!!!!! became the crisis. The Greenhouse Effect was going to turn Earth into another Venus as CO2, methane, water vapor, CO2 and the ozone hole baked us to death. That CO2 lags behind oceanic warming because as the oceans warm, they release CO2 just like warm pop gets rid of its fizz was ignored. Research funds went towards proving Anthropogenic Global Warming (AGW). And into this hot-house atmosphere came Dr. Michael Mann, then of UNC, later of the U of Pennsylvania, and Hansen of NOAA with a hockey-stick shaped graph demonstrating how global temperatures had abruptly started increasing around the time of the Industrial Revolution. The UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) picked up on Dr. Mann’s models and produced reports.
Except the climate shift shown in Dr. Mann’s research contained a few problems. I won’t go into them, in part because there is a lawsuit underway involving Dr. Mann, but among other things a number of people questioned the emphasis put on tree rings from a particular tree-ring sample from Yamal, Siberia. And the graph eliminated the Roman and Medieval Warm Periods, which were warmer than the modern warm period.
And to make things worse, the climate stopped warming in 1998. When “corrections” and urban heat island effects are removed, the global climate has actually begun cooling, in part due to declining solar radiation. The last sunspot cycle wasn’t, once you get down to cases. CO2 production globally has decreased (aside from China and India, and China has a whole lot of other environmental problems. Communism and environmentalism only go together in the West, not in the USSR or the PRC). We are likely in a cool phase that will extend into the 2030s and a little beyond, just as the US, UK, and Europe are cutting back on energy production and raising prices in order to “save the planet.”
And fluctuations in solar energy are not humanity’s fault.
The climate changes, it always has, for various reasons. It seems probable that a massive volcanic eruption in what is now the Sunda Strait ended the Roman Warm period. The sunspot lows of the Maunder and Dalton minima wreaked havoc on a global scale by causing crop losses, droughts, flooding and thus contributing a few elements to human political and social upheaval. Not that humans need an excuse to behave badly, but famine and pestilence exacerbate our tendency to mess with each other. Going even farther back, the Altithermal/ Atlantic Climate Phase that peaked roughly 7,000 years ago dried parts of the Great and High Plains out so much that even the buffalo headed off to greener pastures – literally – for decades and possibly even centuries.
If there is a lesson from all this it is: beware of science chasing political money. And be aware that the climate has changed since this planet first developed an atmosphere, and will continue changing until the Sun starts to die and burns off that atmosphere.
Shameless author plug – if you want to read something lighter, try my books at Amazon, B&N, and Kobo! And buy Sarah’s stuff, too. Lots of Sarah’s stuff.
*Note from 2015 Sarah – I’m at Comicon in Denver this weekend. If you’re in the area come and say hi or get something signed at the wordfire press table.
Also these books are for sale for 2.99, Death of a Musketeer till Monday, and Here Be Dragons till Friday.
And this is for free for the next four days:
-Sarah Hoyt 2015 OUT*
Okay, not really. And you should be glad, truly. Instead I read my short story, Another George from my collection Crawling Between Heaven And Earth.
For those who’ve never heard me in person, the accent might drive you nuts.
This is an experimental thing. I was testing the hardware. Next I test the editing software. And then, if there is still interest, I do more of these. 🙂
I hope you enjoy.
Also for those of you who haven’t been exposed to the sheer insanity of my oldest’s LJ, here is:
DO NOT have anything in mouth while reading. The management is NOT responsible for spattered keyboards, monitors or self.
Getcher Hun Books Here – Free Range Oyster
Books, getcher books here! Hello, beloved fellow figments of Sarah’s imagination! While our beloved Beautiful but Evil Space Princess and her entourage of
Mad Addled Scientists are gallivanting about at conventions and bestowing the dubious terrifying illustrious grace of her presence on the attendees there, you can do some gallivanting of your own through the pleasures of a good book. And would you look at that? We have new books this week! So go read a new book, and may all you lovely phantasms enjoy your weekend.
As always, future entries can (and should!) be sent to my email. Happy reading!
Jason Dyck, AKA The Free Range Oyster
Purger of the Unclean, Purifier of Dross, and Broad Spectrum Disinfectant
Storm clouds build behind the Dividing Range, but only three men feel the storm wind starting to blow.
The Eastern Empire defeated the Turkowi at the Great Plate River, shattering them forever. Now Emperor Andrew turns his attention to more important matters—rediscovering the Landers’ lost secrets. But far to the south, trouble brews. For the Turkowi sense weakness, and the Rajtan sees a land ripe for conversion—or conquest.
When interest turns to obsession, empires fall.
The Laredo Resistance fought the Bactrian invaders to a standstill, but shattered itself in the process.
Through battle, bloodshed and murder, Dave Carson became President of Laredo’s Government-in-Exile. Now he must dodge assassination attempts by his enemies while fighting the war on new fronts – with a little unorthodox help from Steve Maxwell of the Lancastrian Commonwealth Fleet.
Gloria Aldred, former head of the Resistance, has plans that run counter to everything Dave’s trying to achieve – and she’s not about to ask his permission to pursue them.
Satrap Rostam is trying to cut Bactria’s losses and rebuild his exhausted planet, but his generals and nobles have lots of guilty secrets to hide – and they don’t mind burying him right along with them if necessary.
They’re all looking for a critical advantage… until the forgotten survivors of Laredo’s Resistance surprise them all.
Baroness Talisa leads the last few surviving members of her household through the mountains in the dead of winter, fleeing the changeling hordes that have destroyed the kingdom. In that world of white and gray she stumbles on an oasis of green: a garden sacred to Treva, goddess of the wild things of the world. There, Talisa encounters the mysterious guardian of the place, who possesses great and mysterious magical power and who claims Talisa’s life as forfeit for trespassing in Treva’s Garden.