TNH's Particles
* THIS TOOK FOREVER.
* When rhinestones and skeletons collide.
* "There's nothing vain about water in a desert."
* Why women love Jupiter Ascending.
* Witz Surfsafe Sportcases.
* Amaro gold-plated tiara.
* Yoga Fhtagn.
* Let's talk about category structure and oppression!
* Cornify: unicorns and rainbows on demand.
* Behind the Mask: Revealing the Trauma of War.
More...
PNH's Sidelights
* One more time: Fuck. The. Police.
* And just in case you were still unclear: Fuck the police.
* Let us make this perfectly clear: Fuck the police.
* NYPD spokesman: Not the cops' fault, crazy people off their meds just use the police as a way to commit suicide
* The mass murderer on the US's $20 bill
* Bringing It All Back Home
* "Just Checking In": Emails of Dread
* Kids age 7-12 rocking Led Zeppelin on marimbas and xylophones
* Jon Stewart was great, and it's good to see him go.
* It's never not time for more Sister Rosetta Tharpe
More...
Abi's Parhelia
* The curious case of the disappearing Polish S
* Snoppen och snippan (YouTube video, probably NSFW)
* Ship your enemies glitter
* An examination and taxonomy of Organized Pseudolegal Commercial Argument litigants
* Bruegel's Dutch Proverbs, Annotated
* Salt Potatoes
* Building banknote bridges in the Netherlands
* This Old House Erotic FanFic (SFW)
* Lap Sangsouchong
* Stain Solutions
More...
Jim's Diffraction
* Angelus ad virginem 14th century Irish carol
* Christmas on the Theremin
* Kinect eye patch for Xbox One will protect what's left of your privacy
* Real-Time Wind Map
* IS-907: Active Shooter: What You Can Do
* Smithsonian museum artifacts can now be 3D printed at home
* PunditFact
* A Display You Can Reach Through And Touch
* The Craigslist killers: the full story
* Proposed Museum of Science Fiction
More...
Avram's Phosphenes
Definitely-Not-Filthy Sailing Terminology
Paul Ford on The Dress
The End of Libertarians (via)
I won’t fear Muslims
Higgledy piggledy / Benedict Cumberbatch…
Six hit country songs separated at birth
Halfway There: A Few Words on the 2010s
The War on Jewish Christmas must be stopped
Yellowstone Park’s “Zone of Death”
The Triumphant Rise of the Shitpic
More...
Recent Comments
Jenny Islander on Open thread 203
Tom Whitmore on It is not logical, but it is often true
Doctor Science on It is not logical, but it is often true
KayTei on Open thread 203
Inquisitive Raven on It is not logical, but it is often true
David Harmon on Open thread 203
Naomi Parkhurst on Open thread 203
Tom Whitmore on It is not logical, but it is often true
OtterB on Open thread 203
Doctor Science on It is not logical, but it is often true
Steve C. on It is not logical, but it is often true
Elliott Mason on Open thread 203
Jenny Islander on Open thread 203
Jacque on Open thread 203
Jacque on It is not logical, but it is often true
Jacque on It is not logical, but it is often true
Jacque on It is not logical, but it is often true
Avram on It is not logical, but it is often true
Avram on It is not logical, but it is often true
Stefan Jones on Open thread 203
See last 1000 comments...
See last 2000 comments...
See last 4000 comments...

Making Light Archives
March 2015 * February 2015 * January 2015 * December 2014 * November 2014 * October 2014 * September 2014 * August 2014 * July 2014 * June 2014 * May 2014 * April 2014 * March 2014 * February 2014 * January 2014 * December 2013 * November 2013 * October 2013 * September 2013 * August 2013 * July 2013 * June 2013 * May 2013 * April 2013 * March 2013 * February 2013 * January 2013 * December 2012 * November 2012 * October 2012 * September 2012 * August 2012 * July 2012 * June 2012 * May 2012 * April 2012 * March 2012 * February 2012 * January 2012 * December 2011 * November 2011 * October 2011 * September 2011 * August 2011 * July 2011 * June 2011 * May 2011 * April 2011 * March 2011 * February 2011 * January 2011 * December 2010 * November 2010 * October 2010 * September 2010 * August 2010 * July 2010 * June 2010 * May 2010 * April 2010 * March 2010 * February 2010 * January 2010 * December 2009 * November 2009 * October 2009 * September 2009 * August 2009 * July 2009 * June 2009 * May 2009 * April 2009 * March 2009 * February 2009 * January 2009 * December 2008 * November 2008 * October 2008 * September 2008 * August 2008 * July 2008 * June 2008 * May 2008 * April 2008 * March 2008 * February 2008 * January 2008 * December 2007 * November 2007 * October 2007 * September 2007 * August 2007 * July 2007 * June 2007 * May 2007 * April 2007 * March 2007 * February 2007 * January 2007 * December 2006 * November 2006 * October 2006 * September 2006 * August 2006 * July 2006 * June 2006 * May 2006 * April 2006 * March 2006 * February 2006 * January 2006 * December 2005 * November 2005 * October 2005 * September 2005 * August 2005 * July 2005 * June 2005 * May 2005 * April 2005 * March 2005 * February 2005 * January 2005 * December 2004 * November 2004 * October 2004 * September 2004 * August 2004 * July 2004 * June 2004 * May 2004 * April 2004 * March 2004 * February 2004 * January 2004 * December 2003 * November 2003 * October 2003 * September 2003 * August 2003 * July 2003 * June 2003 * May 2003 * April 2003 * March 2003 * February 2003 * January 2003 * December 2002 * November 2002 * October 2002 * September 2002 * August 2002 * July 2002 * June 2002 * May 2002 * April 2002 * March 2002 * February 2002 * January 2002 * December 2001 * October 2001 * 10 Sep 2001 - 1 Oct 2001 * 23 Jul 2001 - 15 Aug 2001 * 27 May 2001 - 22 Jul 2001
Electrolite Archives
May 2005 * April 2005 * March 2005 * February 2005 * January 2005 * December 2004 * November 2004 * October 2004 * September 2004 * August 2004 * July 2004 * June 2004 * May 2004 * April 2004 * March 2004 * February 2004 * January 2004 * December 2003 * November 2003 * October 2003 * September 2003 * August 2003 * July 2003 * June 2003 * May 2003 * April 2003 * March 2003 * February 2003 * January 2003 * December 2002 * November 2002 * October 2002 * September 2002 * August 2002 * July 2002 * June 2002 * May 2002 * April 2002 * March 2002 * February 2002 * December 2001 * November 2001 * October 2001 * September 2001 * August 2001 * July 2001 * June 2001 * May 2001 * July 2000
Commonplaces
“We are prophets of a future not our own.” (Oscar Romero)

“Peace means something different from ‘not fighting’. Those aren’t peace advocates, they’re ‘stop fighting’ advocates. Peace is an active and complex thing and sometimes fighting is part of what it takes to get it.” (Jo Walton)

“You really think that safety can be plucked from the arms of an evil deed?” (Darla, “Inside Out”)

“Forgiveness requires giving up on the possibility of a better past.” (unknown)

“The whole point of society is to be less unforgiving than nature.” (Arthur D. Hlavaty)

“You don't owe the internet your time. The internet does not know this, and will never learn.” (Quinn Norton)

“Great writing is the world's cheapest special effect.” (Teresa Nielsen Hayden)

“Everyone gets so much information all day long that they lose their common sense.” (Gertrude Stein)

“Very few people are stupid. It’s just that the world really is that difficult and you can’t continually be careful.” (Quinn Norton)

“Armageddon is not around the corner. This is only what the people of violence want us to believe. The complexity and diversity of the world is the hope for the future.” (Michael Palin)

“Just because you’re on their side doesn’t mean they’re on your side.” (Teresa Nielsen Hayden)

“The fact that ‘there are only a handful of bad cops’ cuts no ice with me. If ‘only a handful of McDonald’s are spitting in your food,’ you’re not going to McDonald’s.” (Ta-Nehisi Coates)

“Young men and women, educated very carefully to be apolitical, to be technicians who thought they disliked politics, making them putty in the hands of their rulers, like always.” (Kim Stanley Robinson, Red Mars)

“The poor have been rebels, but they have never been anarchists; they have more interest than anyone else in there being some decent government. The poor man really has a stake in the country. The rich man hasn’t; he can go away to New Guinea in a yacht. The poor have sometimes objected to being governed badly; the rich have always objected to being governed at all. Aristocrats were always anarchists.” (G. K. Chesterton, The Man Who Was Thursday)

“When liberty is mentioned, we must observe whether it is not really the assertion of private interests.” (Hegel)

“History is the trade secret of science fiction.” (Ken MacLeod)

“But isn’t all of human history simultaneously a disaster novel and a celebrity gossip column?” (Anonymous LJ commenter)

“I see now that keen interest can illuminate anything, and that anything, moreover, has something worth illuminating in it, and that without that interest gates carved by Benvenuto Cellini from two diamonds would merely look chilly.” (Lord Dunsany)

“I grieve for the spirit of Work, killed by her evil child, Workflow.” (Paul Ford)

“The opposite of ‘serious’ isn't ‘funny.’ The opposite of both ‘serious’ and ‘funny’ is ‘squalid.’” (R. A. Lafferty)

“Ki is, of course, mystical bullshit. That’s why it works so well, both as a teaching idiom and a tool of practice in martial arts. It’s as nonexistent as charm, leadership, or acting. Humans are all about bullshit.” (Andrew Plotkin)

“We act as though comfort and luxury were the chief requirements of life, when all that we need to make us happy is something to be enthusiastic about.” (Charles Kingsley)

“Nobody panics when things go according to plan. Even when the plan is horrifying.” (The Joker)

“Hope has two daughters, anger and courage. They are both lovely.” (attributed to St. Augustine)

“Plot is a literary convention. Story is a force of nature.” (Teresa Nielsen Hayden)

“This movie has way too much plot getting in the way of the story.” (Joe Bob Briggs)

“If there is no willingness to use force to defend civil society, it’s civil society that goes away, not force.” (Teresa Nielsen Hayden)

“Always side with the truth. It’s much bigger than you are.” (Teresa Nielsen Hayden)

“Listen, here’s the thing about politics: It’s not an expression of your moral purity and your ethics and your probity and your fond dreams of some utopian future. Progressive people constantly fail to get this.” (Tony Kushner)

“I don’t want politicians who are ‘above politics,’ any more then I want a plumber who’s ‘above toilets.’” (Ta-Nehisi Coates)

“Plans are nothing; planning is everything.” (Dwight D. Eisenhower)

“People never lie so much as after a hunt, during a war, or before an election.” (Otto von Bismarck)

“Every organization appears to be headed by secret agents of its opponents.” (Robert Conquest)

“Not forgiving is like drinking rat poison and then waiting for the rat to die.” (Anne Lamott)

“Nothing makes one so vain as being told that one is a sinner.” (Oscar Wilde)

“Life isn’t divided into genres. It’s a horrifying, romantic, tragic, comical science-fiction cowboy detective novel.” (Alan Moore)

“See everything, overlook a great deal, improve a little.” (John XXIII)

“You will never love art well, until you love what she mirrors better.” (John Ruskin)

“They lied to you. The Devil is not the Prince of Matter; the Devil is the arrogance of the spirit, faith without smile, truth that is never seized by doubt. The Devil is grim because he knows where he is going, and, in moving, he always returns whence he came.” (Umberto Eco, The Name of the Rose)

“I can hire one half of the working class to kill the other half.” (Jay Gould)

“I’m a leftist. I don't argue with anyone unless they agree with me.” (Steven Brust)

“Adam was but human—this explains it all. He did not want the apple for the apple’s sake, he wanted it only because it was forbidden. The mistake was in not forbidding the serpent; then he would have eaten the serpent.” (Mark Twain)

“Details are all that matters; God dwells there, and you never get to see Him if you don’t struggle to get them right.” (Stephen Jay Gould)

“Tradition is not the worship of ashes, but the preservation of fire.” (Gustav Mahler)

“But this kind of deference, this attentive listening to every remark of his, required the words he uttered to be worthy of the attention they excited—a wearing state of affairs for a man accustomed to ordinary human conversation, with its perpetual interruption, contradiction, and plain disregard. Here everything he said was right; and presently his spirits began to sink under the burden.” (Patrick O’Brian, Master and Commander)

“Hatred is a banquet until you recognize you are the main course.” (Herbert Benson)

“For a Westerner to trash Western culture is like criticizing our nitrogen/oxygen atmosphere on the grounds that it sometimes gets windy, and besides, Jupiter’s is much prettier. You may not realize its advantages until you’re trying to breathe liquid methane.” (Neal Stephenson)

“‘There are no atheists in foxholes’ isn’t an argument against atheism, it’s an argument against foxholes.” (James Morrow)

“And after the fire a still small voice.” (1 Kings 19:12)

“The man who tries to make the flag an object of a single party is a greater traitor to that flag than any man who fires at it.” (Lloyd George)

“The United States behaves like a salesman with a fantastic product who tries to force people to buy it at gunpoint.” (Emma of Late Night Thoughts)

“I’m a fuzzy-headed warm-hearted liberal, and I think fuzzy-headed warm-hearted liberalism is an ideological stance that needs defending—if necessary, with a hob-nailed boot-kick to the bollocks of budding totalitarianism.” (Charles Stross)

“The real test of any claim about freedom, I’ve decided, is how far you’re willing to go in letting people be wrong about it.” (Bruce Baugh)

“As with bad breath, ideology is always what the other person has.” (Terry Eagleton)

“Only he who in the face of all this can say ‘In spite of all!’ has the calling for politics.” (Max Weber)

“No, it’s not fair. You’re in the wrong universe for fair.” (John Scalzi)

“I don’t understand death, but I got hot dish down pretty good.” (Marissa Lingen)

“Skepticism is the worst form of gullibility.” (John “adamsj” Adams)

“We have a backstage view of ourselves and a third-row view of everybody else.” (Garrison Keillor)

“The Reign of Sin is more universal, the influence of unconscious error is less, than historians tell us.” (Lord Acton)

“All human progress, even in morals, has been the work of men who have doubted the current moral values, not of men who have whooped them up and tried to enforce them.” (H. L. Mencken)

“Tomorrow never happens. It’s all the same fucking day, man.” (Janis Joplin)

“Words are always getting conventionalized to some secondary meaning. It is one of the works of poetry to take the truants in custody and bring them back to their right senses.” (W. B. Yeats)

“It is a little embarrassing that, after 45 years of research and study, the best advice I can give to people is to be a little kinder to each other.” (Aldous Huxley)

“Never believe in a meritocracy in which no one is funny-looking.” (Teresa Nielsen Hayden)

“Probably no man has ever troubled to imagine how strange his life would appear to himself if it were unrelentingly assessed in terms of his maleness; if everything he wore, said, or did had to be justified by reference to female approval [...] If he gave an interview to a reporter, or performed any unusual exploit, he would find it recorded in such terms as these: ‘Professor Bract, although a distinguished botanist, is not in any way an unmanly man. He has, in fact, a wife and seven children. Tall and burly, the hands with which he handles his delicate specimens are as gnarled and powerful as those of a Canadian lumberjack, and when I swilled beer with him in his laboratory, he bawled his conclusions at me in a strong, gruff voice that implemented the promise of his swaggering moustache.’” (Dorothy L. Sayers)

“Grown ups are what’s left when skool is finished.” (Nigel Molesworth)

“If you don't like the ‘blame game,’ it’s usually because you’re to blame.” (Jon Stewart)

“Slang is for a war of signals.” (Unknown semiotician/palindromist)

“Science fiction is an argument with the world. When it becomes (solely) an argument within science fiction, it breathes recycled air.” (Ken MacLeod)

“All worthy work is open to interpretation the author didn’t intend. Art isn’t your pet—it’s your kid. It grows up and talks back.” (Joss Whedon)

“I really don’t know what you do about the ‘taxes is theft’ crowd, except possibly enter a gambling pool regarding just how long after their no-tax utopia comes true that their generally white, generally entitled, generally soft and pudgy asses are turned into thin strips of Objectivist Jerky by the sort of pitiless sociopath who is actually prepped and ready to live in the world that logically follows these people’s fondest desires.” (John Scalzi)

“So whenever a libertarian says that capitalism is at odds with the state, laugh at him. It’s like saying that the NFL is ‘at war’ with football fields. To be a libertarian is to say that God or the universe marked up that field, squirted out the pigskins from the bowels of the earth, and handed down the playbooks from Mt. Sinai.” (Connor Kilpatrick)

“True religion invites us to become better people. False religion tells us that this has already occurred.” (Abdal-Hakim Murad)

“There is a machine. Its program is ‘profit’. This is not a myth.” (Joss Whedon)

“There's always romance at the top of a system.” (Will Shetterly)

“Power always thinks it has a great soul and vast views, beyond the comprehension of the weak.” (John “Second US President” Adams)

“There is a document that records God’s endless, dispiriting struggle with organized religion, known as the Bible.” (Terry Eagleton)

“There comes a time when the operation of the machine becomes so odious, makes you so sick at heart, that you can’t take part, you can’t even passively take part; and you’ve got to put your bodies upon the gears and upon the wheels, upon all the apparatus, and you’ve got to make it stop, And you’ve got to indicate to the people who run it, the people who own it, that unless you’re free the machine will be prevented from working at all.” (Mario Savio)

“Racism is not merely a simplistic hatred. It is, more often, broad sympathy toward some and broader skepticism toward others.” (Ta-Nehisi Coates)

“To live is to war against the trolls.” (Henrik Ibsen)

“There is at the back of all our lives an abyss of light, more blinding and unfathomable than any abyss of darkness; and it is the abyss of actuality, of existence, of the fact that things truly are, and that we are ourselves incredibly and sometimes almost incredulously real.” (G. K. Chesterton)

“Perhaps all the dragons in our lives are princesses who are only waiting to see us act, just once, with beauty and courage. Perhaps everything that frightens us is, in its deepest essence, something helpless that wants our love.” (Rainer Maria Rilke)

“It’s just a ride and we can change it any time we want. It’s only a choice. No effort, no work, no job, no savings and money, a choice right now, between fear and love. The eyes of fear want you to put bigger locks on your door, buy guns, close yourself off. The eyes of love instead see all of us as one.” (Bill Hicks)

“I don’t think we have a language, will ever have a language, that can describe transcendence in any useful way and I am aware that that transcendence may be nothing more than the illusory aspiration of a decaying piece of meat on a random rock. The thing is to be humble enough to be content with that while acting to other people as generously as if better things were true, and making art as if it might survive and do good in the world. Because what else are we going to do with the few short years of our life?” (Roz Kaveney)

“No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better.” (Samuel Beckett)

“Fuck every cause that ends in murder and children crying.” (Iain Banks)

“If it doesn’t connect with people around you who aren’t like you, it isn’t politics.” (Teresa Nielsen Hayden)

March 01, 2015
It is not logical, but it is often true
Posted by Abi Sutherland at 09:54 AM * 97 comments

I’m still quietly reeling from Leonard Nimoy’s death on Friday.

This isn’t some excessive fangirl reaction, some indulgence in popular over-emotion in the wake of an Officially Sanctioned Sad Event. It’s simply that one of the trellises on which I grew my character is gone, really gone. I felt the same way twelve years ago (to the day) when Fred Rogers died. It’s an inward-looking moment, an understanding that I have to be a grownup and make my own choices, because so many of my leaders and teachers are washing away before my eyes.

It’s simple, but that’s not the same as easy. Reinventing, or rediscovering, yourself never is.

But inventing myself the first time wasn’t easy either. I was always looking for models for interacting with the world and dealing with unacceptable emotions, trying to understand how to care about people who were different than me, looking for reassurance that they would care back. I was four years old when I started watching Leonard Nimoy use the character of Spock to teach those lessons.

There are lots of articles out there about how he, and Star Trek, affected people: how they grew onto, over, and beyond the trellis of those stories and characters. I don’t have anything that I want to add to them. But it sounds like there’s discussion to be had in the community, and I’d be interested in reading it.

February 10, 2015
Fanfic at The New Yorker
Posted by Teresa at 09:26 AM * 74 comments

I feel like I should mark it on my calendar: four days ago, The New Yorker published The True History of Jewish Wizards at Hogwarts by Nathaniel Stein. There’ve been earlier edge cases at the magazine, like their Bill Gibson/Sabermetrics mashup, but all of them have had plausible deniability. Stein’s piece is clearly fanfic. Arguably, it’s self-insertion.

Why does our beloved genre and its epiphenomena keep breaking through into the mainstream? IMO, because we have so many cool toys, and writers have near-zero resistance to them. The privileging of the mainstream was a social construct built around a distribution channel, and Main Street’s been in bad shape for a while now, but there’s nothing theoretical about a case of the plot bunnies. Ask any writer who’s had one. The only way to get rid of a plot bunny, even a disreputably fannish one, is to write it.

February 08, 2015
Omnia Mutantur, Nihil Interit
Posted by Abi Sutherland at 08:57 AM * 100 comments

When I first got started in bookbinding, the person who inspired me the most was Thomas J Cobden-Sanderson. He was one of the foremost figures in the great flowering of the British Arts and Crafts movement, as a bookbinder, a printer, and a type designer.

Although it was his masterful bindings that first caught my attention, his personal story held it. He’d been a solicitor, focusing on railway law, when he suffered a nervous breakdown in his early forties. He went to Italy to recuperate, and ended up doing more than that: he met and married Anne Cobden (and combined surnames with her; he had been born Sanderson). Through her he met William and Jane Morris, and they convinced him to give up the law and become first a bookbinder, and then a printer. He was extraordinarily talented at all of it.

As an adult taking up an art, I found this tremendously heartening. I’m no Cobden-Sanderson, neither in talent nor in need for a change, but what he did in 24-point bold, I could certainly do in 8-point roman.

And the way he struggled with depression spoke to me, since I do as well. It was probably that depression that led him to what I can only call a work of artistic despair: when the future of the Doves Press that he had founded looked bleakest, and further control of his work less and less likely, he gradually took all of the type from the press to Hammersmith Bridge and threw it into the Thames. It was an incalculable loss: the Doves type was unique and beautiful.

There’s a powerful statement here about the tension between consent and preservation, between individual and collective good. I completely understand his desire to retain control of his work, and his revulsion at the idea that it could be used in the mechanical processes he so despised. It would be like Treebeard watching the ents be set on on treadmills to power Saruman’s monstrous works at Isengard. But still, the loss of the type has always seemed like a crime, or perhaps a sin, to me. It was a lessening of human knowledge and a diminution of the beauty in the world.

(We struggle with this always. Virgil asked that the Aeneid be destroyed when he died. Are we right to read it now, given his deathbed wish?)

If it was a kind of sin, there is now a sort of redemption: Robert Green, a designer working on a digital version of the Doves type based on printed examples, went looking and found some 150 pieces. But it’s probably not usable, and there will never be a complete set, so perhaps Cobden-Sanderson is also satisfied in the end.

(There remains the question of the Green’s digital work, but that falls, at least for me, into the long tradition of using earlier examples of lettering as a basis for new fonts. I think, or hope, that the work of translation and interpretation required to make a digital typeface from the Doves printed matter would form enough of a remove for Cobden-Sanderson’s peace of mind.)

(Thanks to Cadbury Moose for the heads-up on the story, and Sisuile Butler for the link to the article.)

February 06, 2015
Everything is now fandom and fandom is now everything
Posted by Patrick at 05:35 AM * 94 comments

Just the other day I noted in the sidebar my bemusement that heated lettercolumn exchanges in the New York Review of Books now resemble nothing so much as those found in fanzines like Richard E. Geis’s The Alien Critic, back in the day.

In further bemusement, I see that the New York Times Magazine is running a profile—in next Sunday’s issue—of the late Andrew J. Offutt. By his son Chris, focussing on Offutt’s prodigious lifetime output of pornographic novels.

Like most people who were involved in the subculture of science fiction fanzines and conventions in the mid-to-late 1970s, I remember Andy Offutt as an SF writer with a large presence in fandom and a reputation for approachability and generosity. And I remember his wife Jodie as an ever greater presence in printed fanzines.

But I have to admit that my first reaction was to be startled that the article doesn’t so much as mention Offutt’s two years as president of SFWA (1976-78). Immediately followed by the realization that I was mentally recapitulating the logic of Field and Stream’s legendary 1959 review of Lady Chatterley’s Lover (“One is obliged to wade through many pages of extraneous material in order to discover and savor these sidelights on the management of a Midlands shooting estate, and in this reviewer’s opinion this book cannot take the place of J.R. Miller’s Practical Gamekeeping”), the difference being that Field and Stream was joking and my brain was not.

February 02, 2015
The joy of continuity
Posted by Teresa at 11:08 AM * 146 comments

Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and Agent Carter have been pandering to me expertly. (Humongous Spoiler Alert: if you don’t want spoilers, skip this entry entirely.)

Some examples:

The substance that brought Coulson back from the dead came from the preserved corpse of a blue alien:

TNH: The effing Blue Kree are mixed up in this?

PNH: Kree as in Kree-Skrull wars?

TNH: Sort of. Blue Kree are the Kree Empire equivalent of Batista-era super-right-wing Cuban refugees: blah blah blah no surrender, blah blah blah they will be avenged.

Agent Coulson finally decodes that weird diagram and displays it as a 3D blueprint of a city:
Coulson: We don’t know where this city is.

TNH: It’s in the Blue Area on the moon.

PNH: What?

TNH: The Inhumans moved their city there.

PNH: What?

TNH: Black Bolt and Medusa’s guys.

PNH: Oh.

TNH: Also, Uatu the Watcher.

PNH: What?

TNH: I think he’s there. I can’t keep track of Uatu.

When Agent Carter’s friend Dottie the Waitress is threatened by the sinister, trigger-happy Mr. Mink, she unexpectedly pulls some spectacular martial arts moves and drops him cold:
TNH: Red Room!

PNH: Huh?

TNH: She’s Russian.

PNH: Red Room?

TNH: Sinister Cold War-era organization that trained Natasha Romanov. Dottie’s using the same moves as Black Widow.

Watching the shows has reminded me how much pleasure there is in piecing together continuity, even when that continuity is derived from some fairly cheesy ancestral narratives. Story is greater than the sum of its parts.

What happens in my head when I spot one of these Marvel universe connections feels like a bigger version of the little burst of pleasure you get when you figure out an inobvious word in a crossword puzzle. It’s a physiological response: your mind rewards your success.

I’ve since learned that the term for this kind of thing is “continuity porn”. Someone’s bound to point out that it can be overdone, which is true; but in general, I’m for it. It makes stories more interesting, and multiplies the payoffs the reader or viewer gets in return for assimilating some bit of exposition.

One of the more useful properties of interconnected continuity is the way it provides a bridge for new exposition, making it easier to assimilate. Say I’m looking at a comic book panel that shows an unfamiliar superhero team. What I find myself automatically doing is scanning the picture for characters I’ve met elsewhere. If any are present, who they are and how they’re drawn will tell me a lot about this new team and their storyline. If no characters overlap with my previous reading, I feel it as a slight additional burden: I’m going to have to figure these guys out from scratch.

Note: I’m not saying any of this is good or bad. I’m saying this how something works.

January 27, 2015
On sale today: Greg Van Eekhout’s Pacific Fire, the sequel to California Bones
Posted by Patrick at 08:50 AM * 6 comments

pacificfire.jpg On sale today in hardcover and e-book. Excerpt here. Author website here. West Coast tour schedule here.

(Making Light post about the previous book, California Bones, here.)

My flap copy:

I’m Sam. I’m just this guy.

Okay, yeah, I’m a golem created from the substance of his own magic by the late Hierarch of Southern California. With a lot of practice, I might be able to wield magic myself. I kind of doubt it, though. Not like Daniel Blackland can.

Daniel’s the reason the Hierarch’s gone and I’m still alive. He’s also the reason I’ve lived my entire life on the run. Ten years of never going anywhere near Los Angeles. Daniel’s determined to protect me. To teach me.

But always hiding, always traveling gets old. I’ve got nobody but Daniel. I’ll never do anything normal. Like attend school. Or date a girl.

Things are happening back in LA. Very bad people are building a Pacific firedrake, a kind of ultimate weapon of magical destruction. Daniel thought only he could stop them, but now he’s hurt. I managed to get us to the place run by the Emmas. (Yeah. Lots of women. All named Emma. It’s a long story.) They seem to be healing him, but he isn’t going anyplace soon.

Do I even have a reason for existing, if it isn’t to prevent this firedrake from happening? I’m good at escaping from things. Now I’ve escaped from Daniel and the Emmas, and I’m on my way to LA.

This may be the worst idea I ever had.

Some reviews and quotes:

“Half crime caper, half heroic quest, Greg van Eekhout’s Pacific Fire pulls the reader into an inventive, compelling, fully-textured urban fantasy world, mixing SoCal culture with magic so ingenious and convincing you can practically smell it, and feel it crunch between your teeth. A real treasure, not to be missed.”
—Kurt Busiek, author of Astro City

“Tense action and great worldbuilding.”
Library Journal

“Van Eekhout switches his POV from Daniel to Sam in a generational kind of move, and the tactic pays off. Instead of simply recapitulating the same sensibility and attitudes, the author delivers a fresh perspective on both the actors in the game and the social structures that support them. […] Van Eekhout’s scrupulously crafted language continues to flaunt that Zelazny-esque balance of demotic and poetic. I am also reminded of Steve Gould’s voice in the Jumper books. […Pacific Fire] comes to a highly satisfactory and resonant conclusion, while still keeping its face turned toward an open horizon of further adventures.”
Paul Di Filippo, Locus Online

“L.A. noir as dark as La Brea tar meets magic drawn from ancient bones.”
—Steven Gould on California Bones

“It’s got subterranean halls with pillars of bones, a magic sword, magical duels and some of the coolest bone magic ever, but that’s all interwoven with the taste of an LA burrito, the concrete waterways of Los Angeles, and the neon glow of the Ferris wheel on the Santa Monica Pier. Van Eekhout has written a 21st century alchemy.”
—Maureen F. McHugh on California Bones

January 24, 2015
Open thread 203
Posted by Abi Sutherland at 03:03 PM * 827 comments

So every now and then someone asks me for a link to something nice, or expresses so much stress in their life that I want to send them one. Usually, what I do is to Google “baby $animal” (where $animal varies depending on my mood), switch to image search, copy the link and clean up all the referrer crap, and send it on. It almost never fails to improve things.

But at the moment, my go-to link is not an image search; it’s a video of someone scratching capybaras until they bliss out. “Scratch me like one of your capybaras,” I found myself murmuring once. Don’t judge me.

What are your go-to links for the bad times?

January 23, 2015
“Why I Am Not a Maker”
Posted by Patrick at 10:02 AM * 100 comments

Deb Chachra, engineer, teacher, sometime Making Light commenter, on what’s wrong with the notion of “maker culture”, and why she doesn’t identify as part of it.

The cultural primacy of making, especially in tech culture—that it is intrinsically superior to not-making, to repair, analysis, and especially caregiving—is informed by the gendered history of who made things, and in particular, who made things that were shared with the world, not merely for hearth and home.

Making is not a rebel movement, scrappy individuals going up against the system. While the shift might be from the corporate to the individual (supported, mind, by a different set of companies selling a different set of things), it mostly re-inscribes familiar values, in slightly different form: that artifacts are important, and people are not. […]

[C]oders get high salary, prestige, and stock options. The people who do community management—on which the success of many tech companies is based—get none of those. It’s unsurprising that coding has been folded into “making.” […] Code is “making” because we’ve figured out how to package it up into discrete units and sell it, and because it is widely perceived to be done by men.

But you can also think about coding as eliciting a specific, desired set of behaviors from computing devices. It’s the Searle’s “Chinese room” take on the deeper, richer, messier, less reproducible, immeasurably more difficult version of this that we do with people—change their cognition, abilities, and behaviors. We call the latter “education,” and it’s mostly done by underpaid, undervalued women.

When new products are made, we hear about exciting technological innovation, which are widely seen as worth paying (more) for. In contrast, policy and public discourse around caregiving—besides education, healthcare comes immediately to mind—are rarely about paying more to do better, and are instead mostly about figuring out ways to lower the cost.

Worth reading in its entirety. Deb’s email newsletter Metafoundry, from which this was reprinted, is a constant stream of similar insight, and is thoroughly recommended.
January 16, 2015
The Just City: Spoilers, Arguments, and Speculations
Posted by Abi Sutherland at 03:19 AM * 117 comments

It’s all but a tradition here on Making Light now: shortly after the launch of a Jo Walton book, we’re in need of a spoiler thread. But for this one in particular, I think we need more than that. As both Liz Bourke and Amal El-Mohtar point out, The Just City is not only a fascinating book, but a set of arguments that invite arguing back. And judging by my Twitter stream, its premise is also a rich source of speculation.

So here’s a thread where you can indulge in all of these things with people who have either read the book, or don’t mind spoilers.

January 13, 2015
On sale today: Jo Walton’s The Just City, Book One of Thessaly
Posted by Patrick at 05:20 AM * 47 comments

TheJustCity_final.jpg On sale today in hardcover and ebook in North America, on January 15 February 28 in ebook in the UK and associated markets, and in print in the UK &c. in July.

Excerpt here. Author’s post about it (with FAQ!) on her own site, here.

From the author’s essay for the Tor-Forge newsletter/blog:

“One of the odd things about explaining what The Just City is about is people’s reactions. The Just City is a fantasy novel about a group of classicists and philosophers from across all of time setting up Plato’s Republic on Atlantis, with the help of some Greek gods, ten thousand Greek-speaking ten-year-olds they bought in the slave markets of antiquity, and some construction robots from our near future. What could possibly go wrong?

“Now I get two different immediate reactions to this. The first is from people who say ‘That’s insane, and I want it now!’ The second is from people who say they know nothing about Plato or philosophy in a kind of apologetic way, as if anything that touches on these subjects in any way would require background reading and be kind of boring….What I’ve written in The Just City is a utopia. No, a dystopia. No, wait, no…no, it’s not an ambiguous heterotopia either. But it’s about a designed society, and about human nature, and consent, and questioning. It’s about two women (and one god) growing up.”

Some reviews

“A remarkable novel of ideas…Superb. In the end, the novel does more than justice to the idea of the Just City.”
Booklist (starred review)

“As skilled in execution as it is fascinating in premise, The Just City doesn’t require a degree in classics…Although rich with philosophical discussions, what keeps this novel from becoming too chilly or analytical are its sympathetic female characters.”
Library Journal (starred review)

“Walton shines, as she always does, in the small and hurtful and glorious business of interpersonal relationships. Some of her children are forever scarred by slavery, others are lifted from it. Some find Plato’s teachings and philosophy to be a powerful force for happiness and satisfaction, others fare less well. The others around them—including, eventually, both Socrates and Apollo (who has incarnated himself as a mortal child)—reflect back their philosophical and human development, and show us the incredible beauty and the cruelty of utopian projects….Nobody writes like Walton. The Just City manages to both sympathize with social engineering at the same time as it demolishes paternalistic solutions to human problems. In so doing, this book about philosophy, history, gender and freedom also manages to be a spectacular coming-of-age tale that encompasses everything from courtroom dramas to sexual intrigue.”
—Cory Doctorow, Boing Boing

“A brilliant and haunting meditation on utopia, power, and consent—with deeply engaging characters and consummately clever worldbuilding. Jo Walton has given us another winner.”
—Susan Palwick

The Just City will be followed by Book Two of Thessaly, The Philosopher Kings, slated for June 2015, and Book Three, Necessity, currently being written, tentatively scheduled for mid-2016. Follow Jo Walton’s blog for updates.

January 08, 2015
Editorial work, 2014
Posted by Patrick at 07:38 PM * 9 comments

Or perhaps I should say, my editorial work that appeared in 2014. We’re always working on several years at once. What day is today?

Original hardcovers
What Makes This Book So Great by Jo Walton
Like a Mighty Army by David Weber
Working God’s Mischief by Glen Cook
My Real Children by Jo Walton
Severed Souls by Terry Goodkind
California Bones by Greg Van Eekhout
The Causal Angel by Hannu Rajaniemi
Lock In by John Scalzi

First softcover editions
The Fractal Prince by Hannu Rajaniemi
The Human Division by John Scalzi
Homeland by Cory Doctorow
Gaudeamus by John Barnes
Mending the Moon by Susan Palwick
The Third Kingdom by Terry Goodkind
The Incrementalists by Steven Brust & Skyler White
Dangerous Women eds. George R. R. Martin & Gardner Dozois

Original short fiction (all published on Tor.com)
The Eighth-Grade History Class Visits the Hebrew Home for the Aging” by Harry Turtledove
The Cartography of Sudden Death” by Charlie Jane Anders
Something Going Around” by Harry Turtledove
Unlocked: An Oral History of Haden’s Syndrome” by John Scalzi
Combustion Hour” by Yoon Ha Lee
The Devil in the Details” by Debra Doyle & James D. Macdonald
Sleeper” by Jo Walton
As Good as New” by Charlie Jane Anders
Midway Relics and Dying Breeds” by Seanan McGuire
Where the Lost Things Are” by Rudy Rucker & Terry Bisson
Father Christmas: A Wonder Tale of the North” by Charles Vess

2014 also saw the softcover edition of the reprint anthology Twenty-First Century Science Fiction, edited by David G. Hartwell and Patrick Nielsen Hayden.

What Makes This Book So Great, The Incrementalists, and “Father Christmas: A Wonder Tale of the North” were co-edited with Teresa. In addition, Teresa copyedited My Real Children, and edited the original hardcover Hawk by Steven Brust. She also edited Skyler White’s story in the Incrementalists universe, “Strongest Conjuration,” which appeared on Tor.com; and another book she edited, Burning Paradise by Robert Charles Wilson, saw its first softcover edition in 2014.

January 07, 2015
Juan Cole on the Charlie Hebdo murders
Posted by Patrick at 02:48 PM * 148 comments

Specifically, on why al Qaeda targeted a bunch of satirists and cartoonists.

Hint: It had nothing to do with outraged piety.

The problem for a terrorist group like al-Qaeda is that its recruitment pool is Muslims, but most Muslims are not interested in terrorism. Most Muslims are not even interested in politics, much less political Islam. France is a country of 66 million, of which about 5 million is of Muslim heritage. But in polling, only a third, less than 2 million, say that they are interested in religion. French Muslims may be the most secular Muslim-heritage population in the world (ex-Soviet ethnic Muslims often also have low rates of belief and observance). Many Muslim immigrants in the post-war period to France came as laborers and were not literate people, and their grandchildren are rather distant from Middle Eastern fundamentalism, pursuing urban cosmopolitan culture such as rap and rai. In Paris, where Muslims tend to be better educated and more religious, the vast majority reject violence and say they are loyal to France.

Al-Qaeda wants to mentally colonize French Muslims, but faces a wall of disinterest. But if it can get non-Muslim French to be beastly to ethnic Muslims on the grounds that they are Muslims, it can start creating a common political identity around grievance against discrimination.

I never cease to be amazed at how many people, including thoughtful, intelligent friends of mine, look at political events without ever considering the possibility that some actors might be doing things for reasons other than those they declare. My guess is that we’ve all become so chary of the dreaded wrongthink of “conspiracy theory” that we no longer have the common sense to extrapolate our everyday knowledge that people lie a lot into the world of larger affairs.

Back to Cole’s theory: Of course, it’s hard to imagine where Al Qaeda (or ISIS, or Name-Your-Band-of-Heavily-Armed Assholes) would get the idea that it’s possible to drive a prominent Western country into batshit behavior that would roil the entire Islamic world for years and decades to come. What an imagination!